Date ►►► January 31, 2006
Sheehan Demands Impeachment of Hillary, Kerry, Reid, Pelosi
Impeachment, conviction, removel from office, and that they all be tried for "crimes against humanity."
What, really? Well, perhaps Cindy Sheehan didn't even know that was what she was doing. But earlier today, in the little "alternative State of the Union" event sponsored jointly by CODEPINK and the Elves, Gnomes, and Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society, alongside fellow nutbags Ramsey Clark, David Swanson, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and like-minded souls, Sheehan declared that "anyone who said anything about Saddam and WMDs" should be impeached, removed, and tried for crimes against humanity. Cushlamochree!
I will be charitable and assume she meant only those who agreed with the CIA, the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, Downing Street, Jacques Chirac, Gerhardt Schroeder, and Vladimir Putin that Saddam Hussein actually did have WMD (which he did; we found tons)... not literally everyone who said anything (which would include people who denied it). But even so, that dragnet would scoop up nearly every prominent Democrat in the House and Senate leadership.
After the PINKFIZZ, Lynn Woolsey -- representative of Marin and Sonoma counties, a.k.a. "whine country" -- invited Sheehan to watch the actual State of the Union address (Gallery 5, seat 7, row A, if anybody cares), on Sheehan's parole not to do anything disruptive. Woolsey gave her the ticket, and Sheehad scuttled up to the House Gallery... whereupon she was promptly cuffed and busted for unlawfully demonstrating by unfurling her t-shirt, emblazoned with an anti-war slogan.
(I wonder how Rep. Woolsey feels now about wasting a precious ticket on Mother "I Can't Keep My Word For Two Minutes" Sheehan? And speaking of which -- when was the last time Sheehan saw her son? She has another, you know, besides Casey. Or her husband, for that matter.)
And now that you bring up Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union -- no word whether Zell Miller or his brother Dennis was to give the alternative Democratic response -- I had a hard time with one phrase Kaine used. I can't make out what it means; perhaps one of the commenters can enlighten me.
Kaine demanded that the government confiscate, through extra taxes, the "excess profits" of oil companies as a way to make gasoline more abundant. My question is, what exactly is an excess profit? Kaine must have had some formula in mind, but danged if I can suss it out from his statement. As a small business owner, I don't see any level of profit as "excess," however beyond my reach it may be.
Oh well. Just another day in the life of the reality-based party.
The Two-Edged Sword
In another rare disagreement with one of my favorite bloggers at my favorite blog, Power Line -- Paul this time, not John -- I have to take exception to what Paul calls the "Alito rule":
This was basically a straight party line vote -- 90 percent of the Democrats voted no. The vote changes the "rules" for confirming Supreme Court Justices. Under the Alito rule, Senators will vote against highly qualified nominee for no reason other than that they expect the nominee to rule contrary to their preference on major issues. Under the Alito rule, the president's party, in effect, must control the Senate in order for the president to have top-notch nominees of his choice confirmed. When the the president's party doesn't control the Senate, only compromise nominees acceptable to both parties can expect to be confirmed.
Typically, I find Paul more equivocal than I; but this time, our roles are reverse: I think Paul draws too sweeping a conclusion.
In fact, I believe that the Alito Rule -- party-line vote for Supreme-Court nominees in the Senate -- will apply in the future only when the president is a Republican. When a Democrat is in the White House and nominates a controversial but highly regarded leftist to the Court, the Republicans will be unable or unwilling to use the "Alito Rule" against him: they will vote for the nominee the same way they voted for Ginsburg and Breyer.
Republicans have proven over and over that on certain issues, they will take the high road, following their own consciences, whatever that may entail, even when the position is a political loser; in fact, even when it's political party suicide. Look at Sen. Arlen Specter calling for hearings into the NSA al-Qaeda-tapping program, or to conservative Republicans who vote against the president's position on any number of issues, from drilling in ANWR to reforming Social Security to banning partial-birth abortion.
Notwithstanding the foul, revolting Democratic revolt against Samuel Alito, in which they finally stooped all the way down to personal vilification and out and out slander -- if there were not an exception carved out for speeches on the floor of Congress, a number of Democratic senators would find themselves in civil court -- I see no evidence that Republicans plan on following suit the next time a Democratic president nominates another Ginsburg. Rather, they will complain bitterly, recall the Alito mini-fili and the near party-line vote, lecture the Democrats -- and then hold their noses and once again vote for the qualified but far-left nominee.
It's simply one element of the Culture of Clarity that permeates the Republican Party. And the Democrats know it... they would never dare push the envelope as they do if they thought the GOP would respond in kind.
Date ►►► January 30, 2006
Dynamics of a Smear
I always find it wryly amusing, the mental gymnastics that liberals will undertake just to "prove" that conservatives are really just racists. Which, of course, they knew all along; so it's jolly convenient that their studies keep proving it over and over.
For example, when sociologists decide to investigate whether there is a correlation between supporting George W. Bush and harboring ill will towards blacks:
For their study, Nosek, Banaji and social psychologist Erik Thompson culled self-acknowledged views about blacks from nearly 130,000 whites, who volunteered online to participate in a widely used test of racial bias that measures the speed of people's associations between black or white faces and positive or negative words. The researchers examined correlations between explicit and implicit attitudes and voting behavior in all 435 congressional districts.
The analysis found that substantial majorities of Americans, liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces -- evidence of implicit bias. But districts that registered higher levels of bias systematically produced more votes for Bush.
The fallacy here is, naturally, the error of predetermined causality: is the correlation between Bush voters and people who find it "more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces" due to innate racism? And if so, do racists just naturally tend to gravitate towards Bush?
Or could it be that when blacks learn that a Caucasian is a Republican, they direct such a torrent of hate and racial bigotry towards him that they virtually guarantee that he won't be able to associate his tormenters with "positive concepts?"
And what exactly constitutes a "positive concept" in the first place? Would the list include tolerance of those who believe differently, a belief that everyone should be treated equally regardless of race, and basic fairness? Why should we assume that every subculture in the United States is equally provisioned with these virtues?
If black leaders -- such as Harry Belafonte, Cynthia McKinney, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Barak Obama -- to the enthusisatic applause and cheering of ordinary, middle-class blacks, routinely show rampant and hysterical intolerance of anyone to their right; if they prattle incessantly about racial preferences and "reparations" for slavery; if bad employees who happen to be black constantly threaten an EEOC lawsuit whenever a company tries to let them go -- is it really a racist reaction for someone to have a hard time associating various "positive concepts" with blacks, given the recent history?
It's like showing pictures of Arab faces to Israeli Jews and concluding that the latter must be racially prejudiced, because they have a hard time associating "positive concepts" with Achmed, Ramzi, and Mohammed.
But if such wariness is a rational response, then this study shows only that districts that produce more Bush voters are likewise more rational; while districts that produce more Democratic voters are more likely to be living in a fantasy of cultural relativism, where every culture is equally good, and we cannot in fact even judge them except by their own terms.
For this to say anything about latent racism, we must first assume that Republicans have no more reason to be wary of blacks than do Democrats... which is of course patent nonsense: of course we do, because blacks are so much more likely to hate Republicans than Democrats (many blacks do not hate Democrats... they despise them, which is an altogether different emotional response, albeit no less ugly).
When prominent blacks make a point of not "hating Whitey," as David Horowitz titled a book he edited, then those blacks typically come under vicious attack by the civil-rights community as Uncle Toms and Aunt Jemimas -- and Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elderberry, Condoleezza Rice, and Michael Steel could all give you an earful about it.
I would bet that if the authors of this study were to ask the same questions of blacks, they would find an even larger percent of black Republicans who have a hard time associating those "positive concepts" with black faces. It would not, however, be "self-hatred" or prejudice, but rather post-judice: black Republicans have an enormous load of history to back up their angry reaction to most "brothers." How do you love someone who nakedly hates you?
But the Washington Post, which carried this article, wasted no opportunity to use the study as a stick to bash Republicans:
Jon Krosnick, a psychologist and political scientist at Stanford University, who independently assessed the studies, said it remains to be seen how significant the correlation is between racial bias and political affiliation....
"If anyone in Washington is skeptical about these findings, they are in denial," he said. "We have 50 years of evidence that racial prejudice predicts voting. Republicans are supported by whites with prejudice against blacks. If people say, 'This takes me aback,' they are ignoring a huge volume of research."
I'm sure... but how much is "research" like this study?
The Filly Buster Gets Busted!
I believe the era of the judicial filbuster is at an end... without the "nuclear option" ever being put into effect.
Just a moment ago, the ballyhooed Democratic filibuster against popular Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito -- the man that Ted Kennedy, John F. Kerry, and now Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, and Hillary Clinton declared their number-one target to keep off the Court -- collapsed ignominiously, when the Democratic radicals could not even muster the forty-one votes necessary even to force the Republicans to whip out their "constitutional option," a Senate rules change to forbid filibusters of judicial nominees.
In fact, they could only get twenty-five votes against cloture.
Majority Leader Bill Frist believes he has the votes to push the constitutional option through... but it can only be done if the Democrats successfully prevent cloture. If they can't even do that, there is nothing to change the rules about.
This doesn't mean they can't be changed at the beginning of the next Congress (January, 2007); in fact, that might be a better time anyway, since no special procedures would be necessary: at the beginning of each Congress (or perhaps each legislative session -- I'm not entirely sure), the Senate (like the House) must vote to renew its own rules. At that time, changes made are simply voted on, requiring a mere majority and no special parliamentary rulings from the president of the Senate.
While I would much prefer seeing the constitutional option enacted -- and not just for judicial but for every appointment, as the argument against filibustering John Bolton is identical to the argument against filibustering Samuel Alito -- the reality is that if fear of the constitutional option makes it impossible for the Democrats to filibuster the latter, their number-one target, they won't be able to filibuster anyone else, either. After the extremity of the rhetoric against Alito, how do the Senate Democrats justify filibustering the next nominee for any level of federal judge, from district to Supreme Court? Do they say the next target is not just Hitler, he's Hitler squared?
But the real losers here are the formerly rational-sounding Democrats, such as Dianne Feinstein and (heh) Hillary Clinton, who allowed Kerry and Kennedy to twist their arms into publicly supporting the doomed filibuster. Does anyone think this won't be brought up again and again in 2008, when the latter is running a presidential campaign that will be as doomed as was this last, desperate lunge at the brass Alito?
It will also be brought up repeatedly in adverts this year -- and while Feinstein is unassailable, the more radical the Democratic Party makes itself, the more close votes will fall on the Republican side in numerous states:
- Pennsylvania, where Republican Rick Santorum is strugling to hang onto his seat
- Florida, where Democrat Bill Nelson hopes to stave off Katherine Harris and Mark Foley
- Maryland, where an open Democratic seat is being challenged by rising-star Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele
- Minnesota, where Evacuatin' Dayton is not running for reelection, and Republican Mark Kennedy is poised to give Minne-So-Cold a clean sweep among the top offices
- Missouri, where Republican Jim Talent wants a full term
- Montana, where Republican Conrad Burns was nearly unseated in 2000
- North Dakota, where Democrat Kent Conrad, who thought he had dodged a bullet when Gov. John Hoeven decided not to run against him, might now find himself in danger again
- Nebraska, where Democrat Ben Nelson is running for reelection in a state that went for Bush over Kerry by thirty points
- New Jersey, where Jon Corzine's appointed successor, Robert Menendez, is up for his confirmation election against Tom Kean, jr, the son of the popular former governor
- Ohio where Republican Mike DeWine was mentioned earlier as a target of the Democrats
- Tennessee, where Bill Frist is stepping down, and the GOP has an open seat to defend
- Washington, where Maria Cantwell knocked off Republican incumbent Slade Gorton in 2000 but is now in a desperate fight herself for reelection
- West Virginia, where senile Democrat Robert Byrd is trying for his 74th term in the Senate
That this filibuster attempt works against the Democrats in the midterms in November is demonstrated by the fact that all five of the incumbent Democrats running for reelection in the above list voted for cloture, against the filibuster.
Why did they do it? Why were so many Democrats suckered into joining this foolish demonstration of their own radicalism? I can understand Patrick Leahy, who plays to the MoveOn/Soros crowd anyway... but Dianne Feinstein? She has never been seriously threatened in any of her reelection campaigns, and certainly there is no Republican with state-wide standing within California who can do so -- and the Cindy Sheehan "challenge" from the Left is simply ludicrous. Feinstein had nothing to gain and much to lose, in terms of her carefully built reputation as a moderate centrist -- in contrast to her wild-eyed colleague, Barbara Boxer.
And then of course... there's Hillary. For years, ever since at least 2002, Hillary Clinton has built a wall of moderation around her radical history, brick by careful brick. A wall that is now dashed to rubble around her feet, as she has thrown away any centrist image she might have generated among moderates and the Right by joining a filibuster against a nominee with 2-1 support among voters.
Nor will this gain her anything among the Sorosiacs: the fact that she has supported Operation Iraqi Freedom, both with her votes and, more important, her rhetoric, seals her fate with that crowd. If Cindy Sheehan thought she could get away with it, she would challenge Hillary Clinton as well as DiFi.
But that is the future; for right now, the fact is that Samuel Alito has just cleared the last procedural hurdle before being quickly confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice tomorrow (easily o'erleapt, actually -- at least seventeen Democrats voted for cloture, where Alito needed only five); and the Democrats have made themselves look foolish for nothing.
So what else is new?
Date ►►► January 29, 2006
New Iraqi Judge Takes Saddam, Lawyers In Hand
After the previous senior judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, left in a snit, following intense criticism across Iraq that he had allowed Hussein to seize control of his own trial and use it as a platform for his semi-coherent rants about how badly he was being treated, the new judge who replaced Amin appears to be a "new broom."
Raouf Rasheen Abdel-Rahman began his tenure by expelling one defendant and one of the defense lawyers for shouting at the court. When the entire defense team threatened to walk out, rather than placate them, Abdel-Rahman let them go, appointed temporary defense counsel for that day, and continued with the trial in the absence of one of the defendants and the defense team:
The session, which was the first since Dec. 22, rapidly degenerated into chaos. [Barzan] Ibrahim [Saddam Hussein's half brother] called the court "the daughter of a whore" and refused to sit down. Abdel-Rahman ordered him removed, and Ibrahim scuffled with two guards before they dragged him out of the courtroom.
Then defense lawyer Salih al-Armouti, a Jordanian, was forcibly removed from the court for yelling at Abdel-Rahman.
The entire defense team walked out in protest. "This is an unjust and illegitimate court," Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam's chief lawyer, told the judge on the way out.
At that point, Saddam Hussein began to rant, so he, too, was calmly ordered removed by the new judge. Three witnesses to Hussein's brutality gave their testimony, as the trial proceeded in relative peace. I suspect this entire charade was deliberately staged, in order to test the new judge and see if he would be as pliant as the old. Alas for the defense team, Judge Abdel-Rahman passed with flying colors.
I am much happier with this new judge than I was with Judge Amin -- who I felt gave Hussein and his grandstanding defense lawyers (including American traitor Ramsey Clark) too much latitude to turn the trial into a three-ring circus, or whatever Arabs say when they mean to say a circus... a forty-tent bazaar?
Hussein and his seven co-defendants face a possible sentence of death by hanging:
Defense lawyers criticized the tough approach, saying it was preventing Saddam and his seven co-defendants from getting a fair trial. The eight could face death by hanging if convicted in the killing of at least 140 Shiites after a July 1982 attempt on Saddam's life in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad.
Naturally, "critics" of the trial -- which means the Left in America and Europe -- are already denouncing the new Judge Abdel-Rahman for not giving the defendants a fair trial. They see the trial as a forum for their new innocent martyr, Saddam Hussein, to "testify" (by outbursts) against the "real villain," who should actually be in the dock instead of Hussein, in many leftists' opinions: George W. Bush. But clearly, Abdel-Rahman plans to keep the focus where it should be... on the question of whether Hussein and his henchmen tortured to death nearly a gross of innocent citizens of a town that had the unfortunate distinction of being the location of one of the assassination attempts of the dictator.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is part of Saddam's defense team but did not attend Sunday's session, denounced the court as "lawless" and repeated calls for it to be moved out of Iraq. [To where... the Hague? Or the International Court of Leftist Opinion at Harvard? - the Mgt.]
"Now the court is seated without the defendants' counsel of choice. This is wrong," Clark said, speaking from New York....
Richard Dicker, the head of the International Justice Program at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the failure to question the witnesses was "probably the most disturbing part of the day."
"The events take us further away from the basic practices of fairness that are necessary in any trial and especially in a trial of this significance," he said.
Ibrahim's comments were "clearly provocative and disrespectful," but Abdel-Rahman was "a little too trigger-happy," he told The Associated Press....
Critics have said the turmoil gives credence to claims that Saddam cannot get a fair trial in a country torn apart by ethnic, religious and tribal divisions and an insurgency comprising large numbers of his supporters.
Michael Scharf, an international law professor who helped train judges for the trial, said Abdel-Rahman has to walk a "tightrope" between maintaining order and fairness.
"The risk is that the judge's tactics will be viewed as too heavy-handed and therefore unfair," said Scharf, head of the international law center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Note that, despite Yahoo's insinuating description above, Michael Scharf does not appear to be one of those "critics." He has been blogging on the Case School of Law website, and his comments seem quite even-handed and temperate. See this entry from January 17th, for example:
This changing of the guard [after Amin quit but before a successor was named] should not be seen as a sign that Judge Amin had bungled the trial (as his critics have asserted). Despite the frequent (and sometimes successful) attempts by the defendants to disrupt and derail the proceedings, in just five trial days (October 19, November 28, December 5, December 21 and December 22), the prosecutor completed an opening statement, and fourteen witnesses testified and were cross-examined by the defense -- a very efficient pace even by American judicial standards. With forty witnesses still to go, the prosecution has already proven the scale of the atrocities, the direct involvement of several of Hussein's co-defendants, and the command hierarchy - the key elements necessary for a conviction in this case. And especially for those who understand Arabic, the testimony of Saddam's victims has been both moving and compelling....
Judge al-Hamash [originally thought to be likely to replace Amin, until al-Hamash came under suspicion of having himself been a secret member of the Baath Party] can use his new position to instill a greater degree of control on the proceedings. He can, for example, insist that for now on Saddam Hussein only speak through his lawyer, rather than address the court and the witnesses directly, except when it is the defendant's turn to testify as a witness on his own behalf. And Judge al-Hamash can enforce this by removing the microphones from the defendants' dock, so that the televised coverage does not pick up any disruptive outbursts....
In taking such actions, Judge al-Hamash must be extremely careful not to appear too heavy handed. If Judge al-Hamash yells at the defendants, for example, as Judge Richard May did during the Milosevic trial at The Hague, it will only play into the defense strategy of trying to cast the proceedings as unfair and illegitimate. As Judge Amin understood, in the long run, it is far more important that the trial be seen as scrupulously fair than for the judge to be seen as winning the battle of the wills against Saddam Hussein.
This strikes me as very fair commentary -- and not as the words of a mere "critic" of the trial, as Yahoo News painted Scharf.
So it appears that the trial is now back on course, after former Judge Amin showed himself a bit too accomodating to Hussein's erratic behavior. Hussein clearly imagines himself still president of Iraq. From the Yahoo News story:
When the [new] judge [Abdel-Rahman] ordered guards to remove him, Saddam — holding a Quran under his arm — became indignant, saying he was choosing to go and referring to his time in power.
"For 35 years I led you, and you say, 'Eject him?'" Saddam said.
"I am a judge and you are a defendant," Abdel-Rahman replied. "And you have violated order in the court. I am implementing the law."
I'm sure Hussein will not quit, however, nor will his unseemly defense team. Hussein will keep energetically trying to derail the proceedings. But as the expression goes, he can rest when he's dead.
Hillary Comes Crawling Back, Chapter Two
In the previous chapter, we met an anxious Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham furiously tacking left by denouncing Bush's international al-Qaeda surveillance program, indicating rather a bit of desperation in her quest for the Democratic nomination.
On Friday, she poured more gasoline on the doubt-fire by throwing in her lot with Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and JFK and joining the nascent filibuster against Judge Samuel Alito... a filibuster doomed to failure (on several fronts): not enough Democrats, no support within the rank and file, the certainty of the constitutional option if they manage to scrape up forty-one senators, and the strong popular support for Alito within the American voting public.
Sen. Hillary Clinton yesterday backed a rebel band of Senate Dems seeking to filibuster a vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito.
Democratic leaders had warned that filibuster efforts were going nowhere and would let President Bush score easy political points, but Clinton said, "I oppose his nomination and support efforts to block his confirmation."
"I do not think Judge Alito would advance the principles Americans hold most dear," she said, adding she would vote against a move to cut off a filibuster should one occur.
So after several years of positioning herself as a "centrist," the Semi-Divine Ms. C. is busily throwing all that work away in an increasingly hysterical tack to the left. This is not the action of a woman confident of the Democratic nomination, but rather one seeing it flutter out the window, as the Democratic Party lurches further into the fever swamp of Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, and Howard the Dean. This is a portrait of a woman astride a merry-go-round horse, on her last time 'round, seeing the brass ring pulling further into the distance behind her -- and she makes a last, desperate lunge for it....
And topples off onto the ground, dazed and stunned, wondering what just happened. Bye, bye, Blackbird.
As I said last time,
The fact that Clinton now finds it necessary to reassure the Democratic base that she does too suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome -- evidently a litmus test for nomination -- tells me that she is starting to get nervous about 2008, despite her likely easy win in her reelection this year. Look for the bipartisan "Sunday morning Hillary" to go MIA, and the shrill and screechy "Saturday night Hillary" to reappear from whatever limbo she has been banished to these last few years.
I don't think it will help; it will only solidify the belief, among both Left and Right, that she is just an opportunist who will say or do anything to get elected... and not even as good a one as her husband.
I see no reason to moderate or temporize this analysis, so I double down and let it ride.
Date ►►► January 28, 2006
The Delirious Democratic Dichotomy
In debate, there is a fallacy called the false dichotomy. This is best exemplified by the structure of the argument made by creationists (or followers of "intelligent design," which amounts to the same thing as creationism): creationists cannot prove their thesis, because it involves a one-time intervention by an "intelligent watchmaker" that isn't being repeated anymore. So instead, they content themselves with trying to poke holes in evolutionary theory (which they insist upon calling "Darwinism," even while they reject, with puzzlement, the label "Wilberforcism" for their own ideas). The structural theory of the argument runs thus:
Since there are only two possible alternatives -- evolutionary theory as of this moment or creationism -- then if we can "prove" that current evolutionary theory doesn't explain every, single observed fact, then logically, people must reject current evolutionary theory and take up creationism instead.
The fallacy, of course, is in the first subordinate clause: it's demonstrably false that "there are only two possible alternatives." For one thing, if indeed a fact is found that contradicts current evolutionary theory, then under the rules of science, the theory would be changed to accomodate the new observation; that is the way science always proceeds (and far from being a "weakness" of science, that is its greatest strength).
The revised theory would then be a third alternative to the first two. Hence, the fallacy of the false dichotomy.
It took a while for the penny to drop, but I finally understand why the Democrats argue the way they do. And if you've read up to this point, then you're probably way ahead of me: clearly, it is now the Democrats who operate under the same false dichotomy: Democrats have convinced themselves that the only alternative to George Bush is Harry Reid... so if they can get voters to dislike Bush or his policies, the voters must necessarily flock to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008.
This is why Democrats have not bothered putting forth any unique plans, agenda, or platforms of their own. There is no need, since, in the Democratic playbook, attacking Bush and the Republicans is the same thing as putting forth a positive Democratic agenda... and it's much easier and lot more fun.
Alas for the Democrats, if this were really a good argument, then the American people should have flocked to the Democrats in 2004; in fact, Bush not only got more voters than he did in 2000, he got a larger share of all the votes, a clear majority this time. And 2000 was before the Democratic campaign had such success in demonizing the president. More tellingly, Bush in 2004 got more votes than the Republicans got in 2002, when Bush's approval rating was still sky high from the 9/11 effect. Clearly, souring on Bush does not equate with supporting the Democrats.
Yet this year, they plan to run, once again, on the platform "we're not Republicans, and we hate Bush." Whoever is their nominee in 2008, his primary argument will doubtless be "I am the anti-Bush -- whatever Bush did I will undo, whatever he prevented I will promote and applaud." They may as well change their name to the Gainsayer Party.
Or the Kramer party. There was an episode of Seinfeld when a man collapsed from some medical ailment in Jerry's apartment; Jerry (I think) said, "quick, elevate his feet to get blood to his head!" Whereupon a hysterical Cosmo Kramer immediately shouted, "no, elevate his head to get blood to his feet!" That's Reid and Pelosi, on a nutshell.
The problem with this approach is, of course, just the same as with the creationists' argument: Bush and Reid are not the only two alternatives. And just as the response of evolutionary theory to a fact that doesn't fit is not to throw out the fact, but rather to remake the theory so that it does take that fact into account... so too is the most natural Republican response to voter rejection of some of Bush's agenda to remake the GOP agenda in ways different from those of George W. Bush, but still consonant with Republicanism.
This November, scores of Republican senators and representatives will agree with their constituents that Bush's proposals on X, Y, and Z issues won't work -- but will offer a different, yet still Republican-based proposal for dealing with them instead. If Bush is wise, he will embrace as many of these as he can, in order to meet more of his goals, albeit by different means.
And in 2008, not just the Democrats but also the Republicans will be running an anti-Bush campaign, to some extent. George Allen and John McCain will each be saying, anent some issues, "Bush's goals were laudable, but his specific policies failed... and here is how I will go about achieving those same goals differently." It will be a powerful argument, dashing Democratic hopes that as the American people turn against Bush (mostly because of false accusation), they will necessarily flip towards the Democratic Left.
The American voter has clearly demonstrated over the past few years that he thinks the Republican agenda is the worst one possible for the country... except for all the other parties' agendas. So it turns out, in the end, that the Republicans in Congress are no dumber than the American voter -- but the Democrats are.
Surprise, surprise, on the jungle cruise tonight.
Patterico Channels Big Lizards!
In this passionate and snarly post, Patterico rightly takes the L.A. Slimes to task for being unwilling to bring itself to call Hamas a terrorist organization (though they seem to have no trouble calling the Bush administration one).
Of course, Pat is right; he is nearly always right, excepting only when he disagrees with Big Lizards. But in this case, he may have taken his agreement with us too far -- actually manifesting symptoms of our own ridiculous affectation of bolding lots of phrases in order to emphasize the important bits, as if the esteemed readers were too dense to get them on their own.
Compare this passage of Patterico, for example, to virtually any Big Lizards post:
It is, quite simply, a murderous, terrorist organization. That’s not all it is, of course. It is also a selfless creator of hospitals and schools — just like that other selfless creator of hospitals and schools, Al Qaeda. But its creation of hospitals and schools doesn’t change the fact that it is a terrorist organization.
A news organization that can’t admit this — such your newspaper, Michael — has a real credibility problem. To call this “picking at minor issues of syntax and diction” is to trivialize a very serious complaint about the paper’s willingness to speak simple truths.
Kim Jong Il is evil. Hamas is a terrorist organization. If you can’t bring yourselves to acknowledge and articulate such obvious facts, how can you expect anyone rational to trust you?
Or even this:
Let’s say, hypothetically, that I were to write the following:Although Adolf Hitler has been branded by the Allies as a racist who has ordered massive genocide, he built autobahns, liked dogs, and was a vegetarian.
Big Lizards' insistance upon liberal use of boldface, or "paint," as we say in the business (and by "the business," I of course mean the industry), which most readers confidently cite as a sign of senile dementia on the part of the reptillian authors, has now infected what was once one of the highest regarded rocks of the blogosphere. Even worse than when Patterico allows the Mad Mollusk to guest post.
(In fact, Patterico does have a long history of bad taste in guest posters; we understand he used to allow some brain-shrivled Welshman to post on his site under the improbable nom de plume of "Dafydd ab Hugh.")
We worry that Patterico may begin to pick up some of our other nasty habits; soon we may find him dropping rocks and tree stumps on cars from a freeway overpass -- lying curled in an opium den on Los Angeles Street, visions of candied gallstones dancing in his head -- raising yak -- heading for Skid Row dressed as a lamp-post, waiting for a bum, and belting out a couple of choruses of "There's no business like show business like no business I know!"
If he continues emulating Big Lizards, he may soon quit his job and go to work as a male model, invest in Beano futures, regurgitate worms into the mouths of his children, vote for Hillary Swank, and attend random funerals in the Greater Los Angeles area wearing coral-pink cowboy boots, Groucho glasses, and a glow-in-the-dark "Disco Bigfoot" tie.
It's time for Patterico to take himself in hand. There is only one Big Lizards. Actually, there must be at least two, since the name is plural... but you know what I mean. Unless he's come to demonstrate his prowess on the 20-foot alpenhorn, he is better off eschewing the demented annoyances of Blog Lizards and working on some demented annoyances of his own. We have the patent on paint!
Date ►►► January 27, 2006
Freedom From Religion
So now we know:
Priest May Be Tried for Saying Jesus Existed
January 27, 2006
VITERBO, Italy — An Italian judge heard arguments Friday on whether a small-town parish priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed.
The priest's atheist accuser, Luigi Cascioli, says the Roman Catholic Church has been deceiving people for 2,000 years with a fable that Christ existed, and that the Rev. Enrico Righi violated two Italian laws by reasserting the claim....
"The point is not to establish whether Jesus existed or not, but if there is a question of possible fraud," Cascioli's attorney, Mauro Fonzo, told reporters before the hearing.
Cascioli says the church has been gaining financially by "impersonating" as Christ someone by the name of John of Gamala, the son of Judas from Gamala.
He has said he has little hope of the case succeeding in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy, but that he is merely going through the necessary legal steps to reach the European Court of Human Rights, where he intends to accuse the church of what he calls "religious racism."
Now we know what atheists really want: not freedom of religion, but freedom from religion... and to paracontextualize Erich Fromm, atheists want an "escape from freedom."
It's not that they simply don't want you to force your beliefs on them; they don't want you to have the freedom to have beliefs that contradict theirs in the first place... for if Cascioli wins his case, Christianity will be outlawed in Italy.
Thanks for the heads up, Mr. Cascioli!
Very quick predictions. No long explanations.
- Hamas will discover that having a thing is not so fine after all as wanting a thing. They are woefully unprepared actually to run a country -- or even the pseudo-kleptocracy of the Palestinian Authority -- and the PA will fairly quickly collapse into chaos... civil war between Hamas and Fatah, or worse: the Hobbesian war of all against all. The government will formally fall.
- The Palestinian economy will shatter.
- After a bloody few months, out of sheer necessity, a third party will arise, a professional political class. They will likely be ideologically fairly neutral -- sort of a Palestinian version of Kadima, call it Padima -- whose sole platform will be competence at the actual mechanics of governance.
- New elections will be called, and Padima will win a sweeping victory over both Hamas and Fatah.
- Hamas and Fatah will fade into complete political irrelevance, though they will still have armed factions (they'll end like Muqtada Sadr and his Mighty al-Mahdi Army).
- Padima will have significant success at restarting the economy; all it will take will be an infusion of a bit of real Capitalism, rather than Arafatist corruption and Hamasian Islamism.
- Eventually, one or two more real parties will split out from Padima, the way parties split out of the Federalists in the early 1800s here. These parties will be pragmatic politicians with somewhat differing ideologies... but the ideological differences will be akin to those between Likud and Labor, or the Conservatives and the Liberals, rather than murderous warfar as between Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, PIJ, and the PFLP. Then and only then will Palestine become an actual functioning democrazy.
I expect this process to take some time, but we will all live to see it. (Except those of you who choose to die abruptly in the next few years. But I can't help that!)
Soft! Slowest! Weakest! Meagre! Tepid! Tumbling!
I must assume you are all shocked, shocked to see that the MSM have leapt upon the "soft" economic figures from the Commerce Department like a starving chick gulping a juicy worm. (As a sad aside, it must be nerve-wracking to be an editor on a major newspaper -- having to spend all day, every day hunting for the least bit of bad news for Bush you can find, in a state of incipient panic that today something good might have happened... and might be wrongly attributed by the rabble to That Man.)
And I must also conclude the fellows who brought you the story assume you will not read beyond the first couple of paragraphs; because if you dare, you will wonder at the end how they got the headlines they did.
First, of course, those all-important headlines. I have added the necessary punctuation:
The U.S. economy ended 2005 on a surprisingly soft note as consumer spending grew at the slowest rate since 2001 and businesses were less eager to boost investment, a government report on Friday showed.
The Commerce Department said gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity within U.S. borders, expanded at a weak 1.1 percent annual rate in the October-December period -- little more than a quarter of the third quarter's 4.1 percent rate.
It was the weakest growth rate for any three months since 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002 and much below what Wall Street had anticipated, and initially sent stock futures and the dollar tumbling and bond prices soaring.
I'm not quite sure how 4Q05 can have grown "at the slowest rate since 2001" and also suffered "the weakest growth rate for any three months since 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002," but let that go. Either way, it means there has been at least thirty-six months of steady growth -- right? And pay attention to that keyword "initially" in the last paragraph.
A surprisingly tepid report on the U.S. economy brought new perils to President George W. Bush as he prepared to unveil his 2006 agenda and struggled to help vulnerable Republicans in a congressional election year.
The meager 1.1 percent gain in U.S. fourth-quarter gross domestic product, reported by the Commerce Department, threatened to undercut Bush's argument his tax-cutting policies had set the stage for a thriving economy.
The GDP growth was the weakest in three years and marked an abrupt slowdown from the third quarter's 4.1 percent pace.
I will continue to quote more or less randomly from these two stories without bothering to distinguish them; it's really just one story split in two chapters -- which the MSM believes should be titled Chapter 11 and Chapter 13, naturally.
I suggested you should pay attention to the word "initially," as in "initially sent stock futures and the dollar tumbling and bond prices soaring." Because the very next few grafs read:
But later data showing a pickup in new home sales in December, together with speculation that some of the fourth-quarter slowdown might prove temporary, helped stocks rally strongly as the day wore on.
The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 97.74 points at 10,907.21 while the high tech-laden Nasdaq composite index added 21.23 points to close at 2,304.23. Strong earnings reports by blue-chip companies Microsoft Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co. stimulated buying.
Bond prices steadied after early volatile trading. By the end of the day, the 30-year U.S. Treasury bond ahead 5/32 in price to yield 4.696 percent against 4.707 percent on Thursday.
Benchmark 10-year notes, which jumped as much as 10/32 after the GDP report, were 1/32 higher and yielded 4.519 percent, down from 4.525 percent late on Thursday.
This is the part where you are permitted to shake your head. Had the president been one of those D people, rather than an R, the headline would have read Early 2006 Economic News Boosts Moderate Fourth Quarter Growth. I still haven't figured out which players in the MSM actually still believe they are impartial and unbiased and cannot understand why anyone would say otherwise -- and which ones know they are as partisan as Ted Kennedy but just cynically believe they can maintain the charade for the rest of their careers.
There are of course reasons why 4Q05 would be soft -- the Hurricane Katrina aftermath being chief among them, but also residual effects (on industry) of the high gas prices in summer and fall. But it's really irrelevant: the economy moves up and down by its very nature, which is why we pay more attention to the annual growth rate, not the rate in a particular quarter. Over 2005, GDP grew at 3.5%, which is very healthy and respectable and in fact much more pleasing to the Federal Reserve than 2004's somewhat breakneck growth of 4.2%. The Fed is far less likely to raise interest rates again in March if growth remains between 3% and 4%.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Household Survey, total employment rose 2.6 million from December 2004 to December 2005 (an increase of about 2%); the percent of the labor force employed rose from 62.4% to 62.8%.
The Payroll Survey (a.k.a. the Establishment Survey) shows an increase in payroll jobs (this doesn't include the self-employed or those employed by recent startups) of 2.0 million jobs from December to December (seasonally adjusted) with every single sector of employment rising -- including manufacturing. This is excellent news; if it continues, Bush will finish his administration having added about 10 million new jobs -- despite inheriting a recession from his predecessor, inheriting bin Laden and 9/11 from his predecessor, and fighting two major wars.
John Snow is absolutely correct:
Administration officials rushed to play down the latest GDP number, with Treasury Secretary John Snow and White House economic adviser Al Hubbard hitting the airwaves to insist the expansion was solid, job growth was strong and businesses were healthy.
"By virtue of every index of economic performance, we're going the right way," Treasury Secretary John Snow told a Vermont talk radio show.
People will believe what they choose to believe. I know for a fact that many liberals literally believe "we're in the midst of the worst economic downturn since a Republican caused the Great Depression." But I suspect that when people and their friends and neighbors are all personally doing well and have been for years, that they will not attach much voting significance to the economy -- no matter what they have been brainwashed into believing.
National security, however, is another issue entirely... one that, once again, will be the major theme of the 2006 elections, to the distress of one side of the aisle and the delight of the other.
But I must end on a high note. I absolutely love this grudging admission:
"If the first quarter is weak as well, this could pose some problems for Republicans," said Kenneth Mayer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin. "There's a lot of latent unhappiness out there...."
Mayer noted that blows to the economy from Hurricane Katrina and higher energy costs could mean the GDP figure was little more than "blip" whose impact would be short-lived.
So far, he said, "We are not talking about a recession."
Well that's mighty big of you, Mr. Mayer... considering that what we are talking about is GDP growth: most folks still define a recession as having actual, you know, shrinkage -- and for three quarters in a row. So yes, I suppose I would be forced to agree that twelve straight quarters of economic growth would not normally be associated with a "recession."
No matter what Howard Dean will have said by October.
Date ►►► January 26, 2006
Centrifuge "Spin Cycle"
All Europe is abuzz with Iran's recent tock towards the Russian proposal (following a tick against it, an earlier tock, and the original tick; I may have missed a few cycles of incoherence in there).
The Russian proposal, which I was originally somewhat attracted to myself, until I recently read the Guardian report discussed below, is that Iran cease all Uranium enrichment in exchange for being supplied with low-enriched Uranium by Russia. The Russian Uranium would be enriched enough to work in a power plant but not enough to function as a nuclear warhead.
Uranium is enriched in a centrifuge, and according to the Wall Street Journal, Iran admits to a casade of 164 of them at their Natanz pilot enrichment facility, above-ground. Currently, many of them appear not to be working, though "maintenance" (upgrading? building more of them?) continues.
A gas centrifuge is used to separate out the stable (barely-radioactive) 238U from the fissionable 235U. (235U has three fewer neutrons to "glue" the nucleus together, so is less stable -- which is what being "radioactive" means.)
(I had originally written "non-radioactive" above, but a commenter complained that 238U was, in fact, radioactive... which it is -- but so trivially that for practical, non-technical purposes, one may as well consider it not radioactive.)
Gas centrifuges spin UF6 [Uranium Hexaflouride] gas at high speeds creating a centrifugal force that separates the isotopes by forcing the heavier U-238 further outward in the centrifuge. Gas centrifuges have been used in Europe for about 30 years for enriching uranium.
A "cascade" consists of a series of such centrifuges hooked together, one after another, to force the percent of 235U to larger and larger percentages. The 235U isotope naturally occurs at a concentration of about 0.7% in Uranium ore; the concentration needs to be raised more than fivefold to 3%-5% in order to be used for fuel in a light-water reactor; but actual weapons-grade Uranium needs a concentration as high as 85%.
A crude nuclear warhead can be built with a 235U concentration of 20% ("weapons-usable" Uranium); below that, the critical mass would have to be so large, the warhead could not be put upon a launch vehicle or even transported.
Theoretically, it's possible to run the UF6 through the above-ground (admitted) cascade at Natanz enough times to get the 235U concentration up to at least 20%; but a 164-centrifuge cascade would take in the vicinity of ten years to produce enough fissile material for one, single bomb. It would also be pretty clear what Iran was doing at Natanz, if the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, currently headed by Mohamed ElBaradei) were doing any monitoring at all.
So a proposal to supply Iran with 3% low-enriched Uranium would apparently solve the problem.
But the accent is on "apparently;" because if a report in the Guardian (and elsewhere) from August, 2005 about thousands of secret centrifuges underground at Natanz is even remotely accurate, it makes a dog's breakfast of the Russian proposal:
Meanwhile, it was claimed today that Iran had secretly manufactured around 4,000 centrifuges capable of weapons grade uranium enrichment - 25 times the quantity it has admitted to the UN.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, an exiled Iranian dissident who in 2002 helped to uncover almost two decades of covert Iranian nuclear activity, said the centrifuges - rotating machines used in separation processes - were ready to be installed at Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz.
Mr Jafarzadeh, who runs Strategic Policy Consulting, a Washington-based thinktank focusing on Iran and Iraq, said the information - which he described as "very recent" - had come from sources within the Tehran regime that had proved to be accurate in the past.
"These 4,000 centrifuge machines have not been declared to the IAEA, and the regime has kept the production of these machines hidden from the inspectors while the negotiations with the EU have been going on over the past 21 months," Mr Jafarzadeh told the Associated Press.
The Wall Street Journal article linked above gives us some numbers:
The two main halls at the Natanz complex are buried beneath the sands of central Iran, and have room for some 50,000 centrifuges -- enough to produce a year's supply of low-enriched fuel for Iran's Bushehr power plant, or high-enriched uranium for 25 to 30 bombs annually. Iran, which has yet to master the intricacies of centrifuge production and large-batch enrichment, is believed to be years away from that.
Assuming linearity -- though I really don't know whether a series of centrifuges follows a linear model -- if 50,000 centrifuges could produce enough weapons-usable Uranium for 25 to 30 bombs annually, then 4,000 centrifuges would be able to produce enough for at least two bombs per year. Alas, the WSJ doesn't say whether they're talking about full weapons-grade Uranium (a 235U concentration of 85%) or just "weapons-usable" Uranium (20%). If they mean weapons-grade, then a 4,000-centrifuge cascade could produce enough usable Uranium for eight to ten bombs per year (again, assuming these estimates are all roughly linear).
The WSJ goes on to reassure us a bit that Iran is "years away" from "centrifuge production and large-batch enrichment;" but since they don't give us a source for that, we don't know if it's solid or simply denial.
But clearly, before any proposal like the Russian one is accepted by the EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany), who are negotiating with Iran in a (probably futile) last-ditch diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis without resorting to sanctions or military action, we need to get better intelligence on the claim by Jafarzadeh of an army of secret centrifuges.
Since the CIA is too busy on its long-running, critical-priority operation to produce regime-change in the United States, and thus has no time to deal with such side issues as Iranian nuclear yields, perhaps we should ask the Israeli Mossad for help on this "burning" question.
Filibuster Count: Two to Go
With today's pro-Alito declarations by Democratic Senators Tim Johnson (somewhat expected, given that Bush carried South Dakota by more than twenty-one points) and West Virginia's Robert Byrd, of all people, brings the total number of Democrats declaring they will vote for Samuel Alito, including Nebraska's Ben Nelson, to three.
One presumes that a senator willing to vote for Alito will likewise refuse to filibuster against him.
Thus, there are a minimum of three Democratic votes against filibustering Alito. While it's possible that some Republicans will vote against him -- keep an eye on the usual suspects -- I doubt any will go along with a filibuster. Thus, we need only consider Democratic votes for such a procedural brick wall.
There are 45 Democrats, counting Jumpin' Jim Jeffords (I-VT) as one of them (since that is the party with which he caucuses). They need 41 votes to sustain a filibuster, not taking the constitutional option into account. Thus, at the moment, the best they can get -- if every other Democrat cooperates -- is 42.
So if just two more Democrats declare support for Alito, it will, for all practical purposes, be impossible to filibuster Alito's confirmation vote... and that will likely open the floodgates. If the party crosses that threshold during debates, then all or nearly all will vote for cloture. In the actual vote, Alito will probably get about 60 senators voting for him.
But if no other Democrat declares between now and the vote, there might be a serious attempt to mount a filibuster -- not because they think they'll win, but rather to keep sucking up to the radical Left that increasingly controls the Democratic Party. We'll see an attempted filibuster that is broken (either by peeling off a couple of Democrats during the actual cloture vote or via the constitutional option immediately afterward), and Alito might end up with no more than 51 or 52 senators, claiming (or tying) the dubious title of narrowest Supreme Court confirmation ever (currently held by Clarence Thomas at 52-48).
So which hand will they choose? Will the Dems pull back from the brink? Or will they, like buffalo stampeded by "environmentally friendly" American Indians, charge blindly off the cliff, snorting and bellowing all the way down?
"Pretty," as Byrd might say; "pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty!"
On Those Dadburned Elections In Arafatistan
As long-term Lizardites know, although I'm a big fan of Netanyahu, I completely support the Sharon plan of disengagement from the Palestinians by withdrawing settlements from Gaza and the West Bank.
The typical argument people make supporting the position of the incapacitated Ariel Sharon and his uncertain party Kadima is that by withdrawing from the occupied territories, the Palestinians will be mollified by the gesture and will reciprocate with peace and love and brotherhood. In fact, I utterly reject this argument -- I support the policy for other reasons discussed below -- and I have dismissed this wishful thinking ever since I first discussed the situation in Crystal Gaza on Captain's Quarters, back in August, 2005.
With Hamas's landslide victory yesterday in the Palestinian elections, my prediction -- that following withdrawal, Israel will have a freer hand for military response -- may finally be tested. In fact, the victory of Hamas is more complete than the victory of Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party Canada... Hamas won an absolute majority in the Palestinian parliament and will completely control the Palestinan Authority. As they insist they will maintain the party plank to destroy Israel, and they will not disband the military wing of Hamas, they have one of two choices:
- They can be hypocrites, calling for Israel's destruction but steadfastly refusing to do anything that Israel could take as casus belli; or,
- They can be honest, launch an attack on Israel, and be utterly crushed in the ensuing debacle.
Note that Mahmoud Abbas remains the elected president of the PA, having been separately elected last January, and will presumably remain so until the expiration of his term, whenever that is. (History is encouraging for Abbas, as the previous president's term in office appeared to be eternal... at least he himself met his own expiry date.) Abbas does become largely powerless and irrelevant with this election, and he might resign. Who knows?
I'm not surprised by this result; I was actually quite startled yesterday, when all the newsies were claiming that Fatah had won a narrow victory over Hamas, as that seemed highly unlikely. Today's clarification makes far more sense than yesterday's equivocation. In fact, my theory of the Middle East is better served by a Hamas victory in this election than the continued charade of the "peace process."
The existence of an alleged "road map to peace" (President Bush's biggest foreign-policy blind spot) drove the Israelis into continued negotiation and interaction with the Palestinian Arabs (nearly all Moslem). Because the Palestinians have the equivalent of a psychic allergy to Jews, blaming them for everything that has gone wrong in their lives and history, the continued forced intimacy of negotiations, checkpoints, patrols, and settlers kept the Palestinians in a state of continual hysteria and incipient panic. Imagine if Republicans exuded a pheromone that automatically tripled the level of adrenaline in nearly every Democrat they met, causing a perpetual anxiety attack. (Oh, wait -- we don't need to imagine that.)
In such a case, the only possible solution is complete and total disengagement: the Israeli settlers should remove themselves from the occupied territories -- and the Democrats should remove themselves from the United States (I would suggest Madagascar, but it may sound a bit too much like "NASCAR" for their comfort.) So disengagement in the Middle East serves a double purpose: it removes the Jews from the sight of panicked, irrational Arab Moslems, and it also clears the decks for a massive Israeli response in the event of an attack... which is actually very likely now.
I don't know Dennis Prager's reaction to this vote, but I would suspect he at least appreciates the "clarity" (his favorite word), and that is my position, too. Fatah was every bit as terrorist as Hamas in its means and every bit as genocidal in its goals; it simply wore a mask of humanity, pretending to support freedom, liberty, and tolerance. Hamas is more open but otherwise indistinguishable from Fatah.
...Except in one other particular: because of their openness, Hamas may well be driven by the excess of its own rhetoric to formally declare war on Israel, or else to launch a naked attack across the border -- not simply sponsoring suicidal murderers in Netanya or Tel Aviv, but actual masses of Hamas militants charging into Israel, à la 1948, 1967, and 1973. At which point, the legitimate purpose behind disengagement will be manifest: without thousands of hostages behind enemy lines, Israel will be able to respond as any sovereign nation would to invasion from another, without let or hinderance.
If Hamas has a sudden "road to Damascus" conversion and decides it loves life more than it hates the Jews, wonderful. But if they follow true to form, follow the will of the Palestinian people -- a "will" they have put there themselves through relentless propaganda -- and believe their own PR about Allah drawing his sword and fighting alongside the Hamas warriors to exterminate the Jews (in revenge for the Jews being the first to reject Mohammed as the final prophet), they will actually launch a war... and Israel will swiftly and convincingly pound them into little bits.
If the mullahs of Teheran are mad enough to join with them, they too will be defeated... and this would also give unassailable cover for Israel and the United States jointly to strike at Iran's nuclear power facilities and at the mullahs themselves.
Then -- and possibly only then, alas -- will real peace become possible... at least for ten or twelve years. Until the madness once again strikes the Palestinians, and we must go through the whole belly-dance of a "peace process," followed by a war process, followed by another temporary peace.
Wilhelm Reich famously dissected the Mass Psychology of Fascism; I wonder if he ever considered the Mass Bipolar Disorder of the Moslems?
Regardless, as Sachi often says, the absence of open war is not the same as peace. And sometimes, you just have to roll the dice.
Date ►►► January 25, 2006
With the Goo-Goo-Googley Eyes
Now let me see if I have gotten this bull by the tail, so I can look the facts in the face.
Google -- the search engine guys we all know and loathe -- made a big to-do earlier this month about refusing to cooperate with the United States government when the feds wanted to do some data-mining to see how many kids were accessing porn sites:
The exception among major search engines was Google Inc., which said it would "vigorously" fight the government's requests.
The government had asked Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., for a broad amount of data, including a million random Web addresses and records of Google searches over any week, the Associated Press reported....
Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., Yahoo, Sunnyvale, Calif., and AOL, Dulles, Va. unit of Time Warner Inc., said they provided the data without handing over personal information on subscribers.
"We did comply with their request for data in regards to helping protect children in a way that ensured we also protected the privacy of our customers," MSN spokesman Adam Sohn said in a statement. "We were able to share aggregated query data, not search results, that did not include any personally identifiable information at their request....”
While it appeared the government was not seeking personal data that would identify individuals, there was still reason for concern, Sullivan said. [Danny Sullivan is an editor of Search Engine Watch.]
"Nothing suggests that they wanted to know who did the searches in any way," Sullivan said. "Having said this, such a move absolutely should breed some paranoia. They didn't ask for data this time, but next time, they might."
All right, I can understand that; Google simply doesn't want to compromise its "Don't be evil" corporate motto (I rib you not) by climbing into bed with a government, rather than catering to its user base. Um... except when some real money might be at stake, that is. Then, they're willing to bed the Devil himself:
Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin said his company's decision to self-censor its Chinese search system followed a change of heart over how best to foster the free flow of information.
Google said on Tuesday it will block politically sensitive terms on its new China search site and not offer e-mail, chat and blog publishing services, which authorities fear can become flashpoints for social or political protest. Those actions go further than many of its biggest rivals in China....
"There is no question. Google would tell you that going into China is about making money, not bringing democracy," John Palfrey, author of a study on Chinese Internet censorship and a law professor at Harvard Law School, on Google's action.
Some uncharitable folks might purport to see some sort of dichotomy here: Google makes a big show about refusing to cooperate with the American government -- which won't punish them, even financially, for their petulance -- but they wriggle like a puppy for the Chinese government, which would have blocked them completely if they hadn't agreed to be, let's say, a little bit evil. Think of the money they would have lost by refusing just that miniscule bit of evilness!
But of course, Reuters hastens to reassure us, it's not just the Chinese who demand (successfully) that Google cooperate with censorship: there's Germany, France -- and of course the Great Satan of Censorship, George W. Bush and the Americans:
In different political circumstances, Google already notifies users of its German and French search services when it blocks access to material such as banned Nazi sites in Europe.
"France and Germany require censorship for Nazi sites, and the U.S. requires censorship based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). These various countries also have laws on child pornography," he said.
The DCMA law requires U.S. Internet service providers to block access to Web sites violating copyrights on materials such as music or movies.
Yeah, sure, Google is helping China block political sites, speech, and thoughts that might discomfit the one-party Communist dictatorship, maybe even opening the eyes of Chinese subjects to freedom and democracy. But America is just as bad, since they insist Google not participate in theft of copyrighted materials or the distribution of child pornography. Surely you can see the parallel!
Um, Mr. President Sergey Brin? Perhaps it's time to amend that corporate motto.
(Any readers of Big Lizards who would care to suggest a new, updated, and more accurate motto for Google, please leave a comment to that effect... bearing in mind the Reptillian Comment Policy, of course!)
Hillary Comes Crawling Back
After tacking far to the right of the Democratic Party by supporting (however limply) the Iraq War, Hillary is now trying to tack back leftward by lambasting Bush for the NSA international surveillance program. Yet she manages to demonstrate some of the same incoherence her husband used to do.
Here is her main complaint:
"Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that's our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way," the New York Democrat said.
All right; so her objection is that Bush should have followed the law. But wait....
Clinton, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, told reporters she did not yet know whether the administration's warrantless eavesdropping broke any laws. But the senator said she did not buy the White House's main justifications for the tactic.
Say, that's a pretty tricky balancing act: eavesdropping on al-Qaeda is bad because Bush didn't follow the law, but she's not actually sure whether Bush followed the law.
Here is another curious argument, referring to the attorney general's argument that Article II of the Constitution gives the president the authority to conduct surveillance for national-security purposes:
"Their argument that it's rooted in the Constitution inherently is kind of strange because we have FISA and FISA operated very effectively and it wasn't that hard to get their permission," she said. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established by Congress to approve eavesdropping warrants, even retroactively, but Bush has argued that the process often takes too long.
The existence of FISA may well be an argument against the policy (a bad argument against the policy), but it certainly has nothing to do with the question of whether "the Constitution inherently" gives that authority to the commander in chief. This is logical gibberish... it's like saying that the argument that the right to bear arms is inherently rooted in the Second Amendment is "kind of strange" because we also have federal laws allowing the FBI to carry guns. It's a non-sequitur.
She buttresses her claim that the Article II argument is "kind of strange" by adding that the argument that the congressional Authorization of Miliary Force also confers that authority is "far-fetched." Under such withering legal reasoning, I'm not sure Bush has any alternative but to end the program immediately! Oh, wait... after she "blast[ed]" Bush for the program, she mysteriously failed to call for him to end it. Like the rest of the Democratic Party.
Clinton also demonstrated her Criswell impersonation:
Clinton talked to reporters after addressing the mayors in a speech that criticized Bush's health care, economic and anti-terrorism policies.
Pointing the Democratic-leaning crowd to the president's State of the Union address on Jan. 31, she said his message amounts to "You're on your own."
Hm. Isn't that speech about six days in the future? I know the White House hands out advance copies -- but isn't that usually earlier on speech day, or at most the night before? I'm a little skeptical that Bush is actually going to stand up on Tuesday and announce, "mayors -- you're on your own!"
The fact that Clinton now finds it necessary to reassure the Democratic base that she does too suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome -- evidently a litmus test for nomination -- tells me that she is starting to get nervous about 2008, despite her likely easy win in her reelection this year. Look for the bipartisan "Sunday morning Hillary" to go MIA, and the shrill and screechy "Saturday night Hillary" to reappear from whatever limbo she has been banished to these last few years.
I don't think it will help; it will only solidify the belief, among both Left and Right, that she is just an opportunist who will say or do anything to get elected... and not even as good a one as her husband.
More On Cindy Sheehan
From Yahoo news: US anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan hails Venezuela's Chavez
...Is she still here?
Who Let the Dawgs Out?
This post was actually hatched by Lee R. Porter.
You've seen me mention Lee before, and I might even have discussed his "Parable of the Chained Dog." He's one of my oldest friends, and I value his insight and input on most issues of the day. Except when he disagrees with me, in which case his ideas are completely weird and wrong.
Fortunately, this is a case where he agrees with me -- and is therefore absolutely correct. So without further dithering...
The Parable of the Chained Dog
It seems there was an old dog on a chain out in his owner's yard. Every day, all day long, the dog was kept on that chain.
Many of the people in the neighborhood knew why that dog was chained up: some time back, it had chased a kid down the street, knocked him down, and bit him. But because the mauling didn't seem severe, and because the dog's owner agreed not to let the dog run loose, neither the victim's family nor the community at large insisted that the dog be destroyed.
Time passed, and things changed in the neighborhood. The boy who had been bitten... well, his family moved away, and so did some other families. New neighbors moved into those houses.
As events tend to do, the biting incident receded in people's memories; and most of the folks who were new to the neighborhood never even heard about it in the first place. Within a couple of years after the victim's family had moved away, people who saw the poor, old dog on his chain began to feel sorry for him.
The owner started to get some complaints about his inhumane treatment of the animal. The owner tried to explain why the dog was chained up, but people told him sure, maybe the dog bit that kid; but after all, that was a long time ago, and it only happened once. Others wondered whether the kid had somehow incited the dog to attack him, and still others suggested -- in an accusatory way -- that the dog had probably been mistreated as a puppy.
A lot of the people doing the complaining didn't even live in that neighborhood, but eventually they got their way. The dog was taken off his chain.
We all know what happened next. That poor little girl; what a senseless tragedy. Why was it so difficult to remember the reason for the chain?
Why is it so hard, even impossible, for some people to understand?
© 2005 Lee R. Porter, all rights reserved
Iraq Rebuilding Is Either Going Badly -- Or It Isn't
Reading through this New York Times article is like decoding a secret document... a secret document that was somehow leaked to the Times (of course).
The New York Times believes the rebuilding effort in Iraq is "badly hobbled;" but the picture that actually emerges from the article (once one decrypts it) is a royal mess that still somehow managed to finish most of the projects it planned, even while dodging terrorist activity, Shiite uprisings, and bureaucratic infighting.
The leaked document is a "highly preliminary" report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, formerly known as the Coalition Provisional Authority Office of Inspector General (CPA-IG). The spokesman from the IG's office, Jim Mitchell, says the report is "incomplete.... It could change significantly before it is finally published." But caveats will never deter the Times from reporting some bad news, when it thinks is has some.
Lost in the article, however, is any context. We've rebuilt countries before, notably Japan and Germany. By all accounts, the former went much better than the latter; which, if either, does the current effort most resemble?
In fact, it's a hybrid: in terms of having to deal with a persistent terrorist and insurgency factor, it's closer to what happened in Germany under international control; but in terms of effectiveness and rate of completion, it resembles the Japanese reconstruction, which was almost entirely American. This seems like quite a remarkable success story, given the environment.
So what exactly is the problem?
In the document, the paralyzing effect of staffing shortfalls and contracting battles between the State Department and the Pentagon, creating delays of months at a stretch, are described for the first time from inside the program.
The document also recounts concerns about writing contracts for an entity with the "ambiguous legal status" of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the question of whether it was an American entity or a multinational one like NATO.
Seemingly odd decisions on dividing the responsibility for various sectors of the reconstruction crop up repeatedly in the document. At one point, a planning team made the decision to put all reconstruction activities in Iraq under the Army Corps of Engineers, except anything to do with water, which would go to the Navy. At the time, a retired admiral, David Nash, was in charge of the rebuilding.
So there are too many competing authorities: State versus DoD, Army versus Navy, NATO versus American officials. In addition, Iraqi ministries got into the contracting game as well, handing out contracts to be paid for with other people's money (ours, mostly).
Basically, there are too many captains on the boat, and it's easy to see why this is a problem. However, this is hardly news; the same conclusion could be drawn about hurricane relief, intelligence gathering, and the normal operation of the United States Congress.
And surprisingly, even before this story saw the light of day, President Bush had already taken measures to address this very issue:
The Corps of Engineers has been given command of the severely criticized office set up by President Bush to oversee some $13 billion of the reconstruction funds.
The shift occurred days before Mr. Bush said the early focus of the rebuilding program on huge public works projects - largely overseen by the office, the Project and Contracting Office - had been flawed.
So what exactly does the NYT want to tell us? First, that the significant problems were in the contracting phase, not in the actual "construction and completion." And second, that there were too few personnel in the main contracting authority, the CPA.
"The impression you get is of an organization that had too little structure on the ground over there, that it had conflicting guidance from the United States," Mr. Hamre said. "It had a very difficult environment and pressures by that environment to quickly move things."
A situation like that, Mr. Hamre said, "creates shortcuts that probably turn into short circuits."
Hamre is president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a sort of "Council on Foreign Relations Lite," with very "State Department/September 10th" thinking. And naturally, by "shortcuts," Hamre means the Left's favorite shibboleth:
The Army appropriated $1.9 million in November 2002 to create a "contingency plan" for what to do if Iraqi forces damaged or destroyed the nation's oil complexes and pipelines. That "task order," under a running contract, went to Kellogg, Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary. The Army later used that task order as a justification for awarding the company a new $1.4 billion noncompetitive contract to restore oil equipment, a program that became one of the most criticized moves of the conflict partly because Vice President Dick Cheney was once the top executive at Halliburton.
Nobody complains about the job they did, by the way; it always boils down to the fact that the job of restoring oil equipment wasn't put up for public bidding... but was instead restricted to the handful of companies that could actually do it, like KB&R. That's like complaining that the contract to put out the oil-well fires after the Gulf War was handed to Red Adair, rather than allowing the wells to burn while McDonalds, Microsoft, and Mercedes-Benz bid on it.
What we are trying to do in Iraq is a huge task in the great unknown, complicated by Zarqawi, Sadr, and other forces of chaos. We need to constantly adjust to the fluid situation in Iraq, and it's hardly surprising that our initial approach to rebuilding was inadequate: nobody really knew how to go about it, because undertaking a Marshall Plan while still fighting high-tech terrorists and unstable Shiite imams has never been done before. But we're working on it, and we're learning: that's all this report is really saying.
And yet, despite all those problems, 1,636 projects of 2,265 originally planned by the office have been completed. That should be the real story... but of course, that would require the Times to stop looking for trouble and start seeing the ongoing solutions.
Date ►►► January 24, 2006
Hillary Will Never Be the Presidential Nominee
...Not in 2008, not ever.
[Special: note that my emphasis has changed; the main argument here is that Hillary won't be nominated because she is not particularly electable, due to her baggage, her position as a senator, and because she cannot rally the leftist base. Today, I emphasis the base part: she is not likely to be nominated even more directly because the base has steadily soured on her and the "co-presidency" with her husband.
[Everything here is still operative: Democrats have actually come to believe that progressives are more electable these days than moderates. But today, I would reverse the priority order, putting her conflict with the leftist base first.
[Without further comment, here we go, reposted from July 11, 2005, on Captain's Quarters. -- The Mgt.]
I absolutely believe, conventional wisdom notwithstanding, that Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham will never be the Democratic nominee for president. (She might not even be a candidate, if she thinks she's going to lose; but her ego may compel her to try, just as John Kerry's did.)
The reason is fairly simple: because she simply cannot win election, and she will be tainted by the Kerry Kurse. Bluntly put, senators are simply not elected president unless they have achieved a position closer to the idea of a chief executive of the country... such as a governorship or the vice presidency.
There have been only two exceptions since 1900: Warren Harding, and of course, John F. Kennedy. And at least in the case of the latter, the election was razor-thin, even against Richard Nixon, a man who was violently hated by half the country even as early as 1960 (due to his work on the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and to his outing of Helen Gahagan Douglas as a Red). Harding was the last convincing senatorial win, crushing the former governor of Ohio, James M. Cox, in 1920.
This is not an accident. A senator is simply one of a bunch of people (currently 100), not single-handedly responsible for "governing" any large governmental organization... and Americans, by and large, do not see the presidency as an entry-level job. Would it make sense for a Fortune-500 company to hire a CEO who had never even been a high-level manager?
But there is an even more basic reason senators tend not to get elected: by the very nature of the job, a senator is a deal-maker... that is, a compromiser. They do not decide, they debate; they do not govern, they negotiate, they cut deals, they sacrifice one principle for another.
Senators are not leaders; even the so-called leadership is not what most folks think of as leading: it's more like herding cats, or trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.
A senator inevitably votes for a bill that is anathema to his constituents -- in exchange for a colleague's vote on a bill that the first senator's constituents want; and both senators pray nobody finds out until after re-election.
But during a presidential campaign, at least in recent years, every least controversial vote of a candidate when he was in the House or Senate is pored over, dissected, deconstructed, and vacuum-molded into an attack ad by his opponents, first in his own party's primaries, then in the general by the even more brutal nominee of the opposite party. You must remember... we saw this exact dynamic in both the 2000 and the 2004 elections: in 2000, Gore was able to rise above his Senate past by pointing to his eight-year stint (seems like eighty) as vice president. He nearly won!
But in 2004, JFK was utterly and irrevocably defined by his Senate career: a mediocre hack who grandstanded his way through the decades, lurching from one outrageous statement to another, and never actually running anything in his entire life... not even his own finances, since his fortune came from inheritance and then a pair of fortuitous marriages. The only things he ever did apart from legislative politics was a very brief stint as a prosecutor, and of course his even briefer stint as a Swift-Boat commander.
Aside from that last, everything I wrote above applies equally to Hillary Rodham... except, of course, that it isn't "decades" in her case but, by 2008, less than a single decade. Other than that, during which she has done nothing of any significance (also like Kerry), her only important jobs were as head of the Legal Services Corporation... and as Bill Clinton's wife.
Every position she obtain after that marriage was "inherited" from her husband, from her disasterous foray into socialized medicine (the Mussolini-esque "Task Force on National Health Care Reform") to her election as a senator from a state she had never lived in her life, procurred for her by her hubby's election team.
Amazingly, she managed, during this period, to rack up the highest negatives that any first lady has ever suffered... another reason she will never be the Democratic presidential nominee. Her nomination would be catastrophic for the party, as it would galvanize Republican voters against her like nothing before, eclipsing even 2004 -- and especially Republican women, who Hillary has scorned and dissed from Day-1. This at a time when the only way the Democrats can hope to win the presidency is if Republican voters are apathetic and fail to turn out; for Ken Mehlman has already proven that when both sides turn out heavy, the Republican wins.
It might be different if there were absolutely nobody to carry the banner of the Democratic Left. She might be nominated then, though she would still lose the general election. But that simply is not the case; there are any number of better-qualified liberals willing to run, starting right at the top with Howard the Dean. Despite his promise not to run if he were chosen as chairman of the DNC, there is actually no law against it. And he is a governor and a former presidential candidate with a proven base of support. Then there is also Gephardt, Biden, Gore, and possibly even Tom Daschle. Slightly more moderate Dems like Mark Warner will probably appeal to the crossover constituency that Hillary is comically trying to woo at the moment.
I believe that Hillary will end up being the forgotten women in 2008. Her borrowed cloak of power will be moth-ridden and threadbare, and she will be "just another senator," one of a hundred, and not a very powerful one at that.
And she will not be the Democratic nominee -- then or ever.
Time to Move On, Hillary
Real Clear Politics has run several posts recently on Hillary's chances of being the Democratic presidential nominee -- and her chances of winning the general election. We certainly agree (John McIntyre, Tom Bevan, and Big Lizards) that she has little likelihood of winning election as president: there simply is no indication that she would pick up any more Democratic support than any other Democratic nominee, and no evidence that she will appeal to Republican moderates, despite her attempst to appear "centrist" over the past couple of years: for exactly the same reason that her ardent supporters assume that, whatever she may say, she is still the same, leftist Hillary, her vehement critics (which include virtually all Republicans) assume the same.
Where we part company is on the probability that she will win the nomination in the first place. On this, RCP is starting to come round to my longstanding position. Today, Tom sneaks up on it thus, then shies away at the last moment, like a horse that just can't jump the fence:
I agree that Hillary isn’t as much of a lock to win the nomination as she was a year ago, but I’ll stick to my analysis of last week that if she is truly going to be denied the nomination I have to believe it will be to someone like Mark Warner. It's plausible Democrats could make a cold decision to move beyond the Clintons and nominate a candidate they feel has a better chance to win in November, but they won't pass over Hillary to nominate someone to her left who would be slaughtered in the fall of 2008.
Au contraire, as our greatest friends, the French, would say; I myself believe that is precisely what the Left will do.
First, you have to understand that this argument -- nominate a "centrist," because he can actually win the election -- has been made by the moderate "DLC" Democrats every, single election since 1988. The Democratic Leadership Council is the centrist group founded in 1984, after the shellacking "progressive" Democrat Walter Mondale took at Reagan's hands, to steer the party away from radical or progressive positions back into the American mainstream. The DLC (which has included both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, both of whom claim to be among the founders) argues that progressive Democratic candidates cannot be elected anymore and urges the nomination of Democratic centrists -- like Gore circa 2000 and John Kerry. (For purposes of clarity, please visualize scare quotes around all subsequent uses of the word "progressive.")
And of course, the problem with this argument should be immediately apparent: both of the last two moderate Democratic candidates were defeated; and even Clinton's victories were less than inspiring, as he was elected by a small minority in 1992 (his minority was just bigger than Bush-41's minority) and by just 50% in 1996... over the largely ridiculed Bob Dole, the oldest man ever to run for the office as a major-party nominee and who found a way to hurl himself off the podium during one of his campaign events. This track record for DLC candidates hardly screams "electability."
Worse, most Democrats react with such visceral hatred and revulsion towards Bush that they can only assume that is everybody else's reaction, as well; they really do think the majority of Americans hate Bush -- but held their noses and voted for him because they were even more disgusted by the cowardice of the DLCers.
This is not mere supposition on my part; I am on a bulletin board comprised mostly of liberals -- not bomb-throwing radicals (at least they weren't ten years ago), but what should be the core support for Hillary Clinton -- and this is just exactly what they argue. They really do believe this line, I rib you not. And when they talk about candidates they want to see, Hillary's name rarely if ever comes up. They are so unhappy with her that it's hard to fathom; evidently, they do not buy the idea that she is a committed, dyed-on-the-sheep leftist in a moderate's blue dress. They see her as either a sell-out or, more commonly, a soulless, unprincipled opportunist who will say anything to get elected. Oddly, I find myself in agreement with the Left, for once.
These liberals -- literate, educated, published authors -- now argue that Gore and Kerry lost precisely because they "ran away from the Democrats' natural constituency," the poor, towntrodden, huddled masses yearning to breath the heady air of socialism. They cheer on Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia, pointing to them as evidence that the world is turning progressive, and that now is the time to throw off the masque of moderation and run as what they are: people concerned about the terrible destruction wrought by Capitalism, people who want to see America go the way of more compassionate States -- Sweden, the Netherlands, and the rest of the European Union.
This tide has grown with every election failure by the supposedly more electable centrists. And indeed, if the argument of the DLC is "cast off your ideology so you can be elected," it cannot but be undermined when they cast off their ideology -- and lose anyway!
Those few DLCers left who argue that path to the White House (most have already been converted) say that running a progressive in 2008 will result in certain defeat. The mass of the liberals on that board respond that even if that happened, it would still finally strip the rot of appeasement and accomodation from the party. Once the heresy was staked once and for all, they exclaim, the passion of the Left will carry them to victory in the 2010 midterms and the 2012 presidential election... a victory that will actually be meaningful.
That is, the Left now believes that it's the very equivocation of the DLC that has led to apathy among naturally progressive voters, hence to failure at the ballot box. And the cure for this disease, they claim, is to get back to the roots of the party: FDR and Johnson (without Vietnam), the New Deal and the Great Society. They truly believe that the American people are ready for a little radicalism, and by golly, that's what they plan to give them. And they expect there is a possibility that 2008 is a lost cause anyway, since the DLC has so undermined support by embracing the enemy; but they consider the loss worth it to finally destroy the now-hated Democratic Leadership Council.
And that is why I have maintained since last July that Hillary will not be the Democratic nominee this November... or ever. The Left never bought into the "electability" argument; they don't buy the secondary claim that Hillary is really "one of them," but she has to hide her leftism under a Bush just to get elected; and the embarassing failure of the DLC to elect a Democrat, even against a president that most Democrats see as a manifestly stupid, drooling chimpanzee, has undercut the only argument the moderates ever had.
In fact, the Left argues that even when the DLC did manage to squeak out a victory in 1992 and 1996, what did they get? War, welfare reform, "don't ask/don't tell," and a Republican Congress! They say that they may as well have had a Republican in office: they would have gotten the same policies, but they could at least have blamed the GOP when the inevitable "backlash" occurs (yes, they expect the American people to rise up and demand European style socialism any day now).
All the money and energy is on the progressive side; the question will be whether Howard Dean jumps in as the man denied the presidency, not by a scream in Iowa, but by the dirty tricks of Clintonistas such as Wesley Clark, Lanny Davis, and yes, Hillary Clinton... or whether it will be some other candidate (Clark, Gore, or some new face) running on the MoveOn.org - George Soros - Micheal Moore - John Murtha - Nancy Pelosi - Harry Reid -Dick Durbin ticket. (In fact, that hypenated label itself should give pause to those expecting the co-presidents to be nominated again; that list of fever-swamp critics comprises not only all the cash and jazz but most of the elected Democratic leadership.)
But I strongly believe that the least likely result will be to nominate the queen to the king of "triangulation," which most Democrats now see as "Billery Clinton gets the White House, and we get the shaft."
(In my next post, I will republish my July 11th, 2005 post from Captain's Quarters about Hillary's chances.)
Canadian Vote a 7.2 On the Political Richter Scale
The magnitude of the just-concluded vote in the Great White North is more stunning that most of us realized, and certainly of more moment than the American newsies have admitted. Consider this: before the vote, when the last government of Paul Martin was dissolved, the Liberals led the Conservatives by thirty-five seats: 133 to 98.
But the best guess, with nearly all the votes tallied, is that in the new government, the Conservatives will lead the Liberals by twenty seats, 123 to 103. That means a swing of twenty-seven and a half seats from Liberal to Conservative, out of a total parliament of 308 seats... a flip of nearly 9%. (The "half a seat" is just an artifact of having more than two parties in parliament.)
The equivalent in the U.S. House of Representatives would be seventy-eight seats going from one party to the other... something that has happened only once in my lifetime: in the 1994 election that swept out the Democrats in favor of the Gingrich Republicans, fifty-four seats switched party; but that's out of 435 representatives, which is 12.4%... bigger than this election, but not by that much.
Even though Stephen Harper will not have an absolute majority -- that would be 155 -- he has a very strong plurality and can probably form a stable government for at least a couple of years. And as Bush's first term showed, a lot can happen in two years.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that the Liberals don't simply dig in their heels and try to prevent any legislation at all from occurring, as the Democrats are doing here. It would be decent to give Harper at least one chance to make good.
Date ►►► January 23, 2006
Even Atlas Shrugs
In a rare faux pas from John Hinderaker at Power Line, he draws a conclusion about the NSA surveillance controversy that is both paralogical and unwarranted (er, sorry about that; it was irresistable).
In another excellent Power Line post discussing today's speech by former National Security Agency director LG Michael Hayden, John picks up on some of the Q&A that followed. Here is one in particular:
QUESTION: Yes, Wayne Madsen, syndicated columnist. General, how do you explain the fact that there were several rare spectacles of whistleblowers coming forward at NSA, especially after 9/11, something that hasn't really happened in the past, who have complained about violations of FISA and United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, which implements the law at the agency?
GEN. HAYDEN: I talked to the NSA staff on Friday. The NSA inspector general reports to me, as of last Friday, from the inception of this program through last Friday night, not a single employee of the National Security Agency has addressed a concern about this program to the NSA IG. I should also add that no member of the NSA workforce who has been asked to be included in this program has responded to that request with anything except enthusiasm. I don't know what you're talking about.
So whoever the NY Times sources were, they didn't work for NSA.
But how does this follow? Madsen asks Hayden about the NSA (or former NSA) whistleblowers -- Russell Tice, for example, who has actually come forward and admitted he was one of the New York Times' sources -- and Hayden responds that nobody in the NSA complained about the program to the inspector general, and that everyone involved was enthusiastic about the program when he was invited to participate.
Alas, neither of these facts (taking Hayden's answer at face value) implies the conclusion that John draws, that none of the "whistleblowers" -- that is, the media sources -- worked for the NSA. In fact, we know that at least one did (Tice was subsequently fired, but nobody denies that he did work for the NSA during a time when these intercepts were occurring, though he was not on that program).
All that Hayden's answer implies is that if there were critics of the program within the Agency, they did not make their objections known in the proper way but instead took them straight to the New York Times.
(Hayden's other statement is truly a non-issue, as even if the sources were actual whistleblowers, in the proper meaning of the word -- which I doubt -- it would still be plausible that they would come to the program enthusiastic, only becoming disenchanted when they hypothetically saw rampant illegality.)
Sorry, but neither of these two statements by LG Hayden is dispositive on the question of whether the leakers were NSA members, former members, or never members. That question is as open today as it was yesterday.
One, Two, Three, Yer Out!
John Hinderaker at Power Line, my favorite blog, bar none -- not even my own -- waxed eloquent in high dudgeon (does anyone ever wax, or perhaps wane, in low dudgeon?) over the tendentious sloganeering by "reporter" Michael Isikoff over "the Other Big Brother," which turned out to be a mild and inoffensive report by the Department of Defense about some anti-military, anti-American protest before the gates of Haliburton.
The piece is great, as usual, but John includes a section that reminds me of something completely unrelated, having nothing to do with the foregoing paragraph. And how's that for a segue?
John notes that Isikoff's primary source, William Arkin, is a rabid Bush hater; but the tagline description of him fails to note that fact, which could conceivably color Arkin's response to the DoD program:
So William Arkin is a bitter anti-Bush partisan; yet Newsweek takes his words at face value and describes him only as "a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who writes widely about military affairs."
This reminded me of the three strikes that caused me to sever my subscription to the Los Angeles Times lo these many years ago. (Patterico, are you listening?) They were of the same sort: articles by or about persons who have significant baggage on certain subjects -- without the Times troublling to note that baggage, perhaps afraid of confusing the reader with too many relevant facts.
- The Times printed a review of the anti-Clarence Thomas book Strange Justice, by Jill Abramson and Jane Meyer. The review was written by Nina Totenberg... but the Times tagline identified Ms. Totenberg only as an NPR reporter -- without noting that she was, in fact, a principal in the Anita Hill attack on Thomas, having plotted extensively with Hill, Hill's main corroborating witness "Judge" Susan Hoerchner, and staffers for Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Totenberg clearly had a huge battleaxe to grind with Clarence Thomas, so it was hardly a surprise that she loved the book. Strike one!
- The Times ran a review of a book on Capitalism and economics; the review was penned (or processed) by Professor Eric Hobsbawm ... and the Times found it sufficient to mention only his academic affiliation -- without bothering to reveal that the good professor Eric "the Red" Hobsbawm is a notorious, unregenerate Communist, which some might think relevant to his review of a book on Capitalism. Strike two!
- Finally, the Times published an opinion piece castigating the Los Angeles Police Department for its investigation of a homicide case. The author of the piece? Orenthal James Simpson. The Times' entire description of this op-ed author? "O.J. Simpson lives in Los Angeles." (This was, of course, after the criminal case.) Strike three, and I will not take the L.A. Times for at least twenty-five years to life.
So now you know why.
While You Were Visiting Little Nemo In Slumberland...
I have been remissssssssss, and I humbly slither in the dust of contrition. It's been weeks since I last gave a recap of the scintillating, scaley susurrations of the days of the Bringer of Age and the Bringer of Light. So here's yer lousy weekend update:
Saturday, January 21th, 2006: February creeps on little cat feet...
- Look What You Made Me Do!
In which sundry points of interest point, perhaps, to a slight tilt to the sinister on the part of the mainstream "news" media and supply a possible clue to how such a bias might play itself out.
- He Got One
A clap on the back, as I fluently paean Dr. Rusty Shackleford of the Jawa Report for has bravura job at helping to nab a nattering nabob of nuclear nastiness.
Sunday, January 22th, 2006: ...drawing ever nearer the dreaded day of chocolates and roses
- John McCain: Th'Inconstant Loon
Wherein the Lizards turn jaundiced eyes on the "maverick" of the Senate, who might more properly be call the Congressional PushMe-PullYou.
- The Meet & Greet Crashers
So what signifies five photos of President Bush shaking hands with superfelon Jack Abramoff at gigantic White House functions? About as much as whether Bush is wearing a black or navy blue suit.
And that's all she (and I) wrote. Such a production I make!
No Bout Adoubt It - I Mean No Doubt About It
Intel gathering is so much easier when the subjects "out" themselves!
American analysts have dithered for a couple of years now whether Moqtada Sadr, the buffoonish son of an honored Shiite cleric, was in fact in bed with the mullahs of Iran... or whether he just happened to have a lot of friends east of the border (who all happened, by merest chance, to join the same private army together). Well, waffle no longer, chums, because here comes Sadr himself to clarify things:
The Iraqi cleric who once led two uprisings against U.S. forces said Sunday that his militia would help to defend Iran if it is attacked, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Of course, there will always be wiggle-room for the intentionally blind:
Muqtada al-Sadr, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with the top Iranian nuclear negotiator, said his Mahdi Army was formed to defend Islam.
"If neighboring Islamic countries, including Iran, become the target of attacks, we will support them," al-Sadr was quoted as saying. "The Mahdi Army is beyond the Iraqi army. It was established to defend Islam."
But in a curious slip-up for the Associated Press, more commonly found declaring "on the other hand, on the third hand, on the twenty-third hand," they appear to admit that this is a risible fiction:
The comments could be seen as a message that Tehran has allies who could make things difficult for U.S. forces in the region if Iran's nuclear facilities are attacked.
Finally, in the Famous Last Words category, we have this nominee:
Al-Sadr's backing of Iran, a Shiite majority nation, follows a hint from Israel's defense minister that the Jewish state was preparing for military action to stop Iran's nuclear program. A few days earlier, French President Jacques Chirac said France could respond with nuclear weapons against any state-sponsored terror attack. The comments were seen by some as a reference to Iran.
"I don't see any threat against Iran," Iran's nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said after meeting with al-Sadr. "Iran is big and strong and it is a hard target."
Of course. Almost as big, strong, and hard as Iraq.
In any event, I think we can now deposit the burning question of Sadr's actual loyalty into the box of "known knowns," as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might put it. And that, at least, is "helpful."
Date ►►► January 22, 2006
The Meet & Greet Crashers
Now it's Time Magazine's turn to make a silk purse out of a molehole.
The screaming headline -- When George Met Jack -- promises all the hot, dripping scandal of a National Enquirer cover story:
White House aides deny the President knew lobbyist Abramoff, but unpublished photos shown to TIME suggest there's more to the story
by Adam Zagorin and Mike Allen
Jan. 22, 2006
As details poured out about the illegal and unseemly activities of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, White House officials sought to portray the scandal as a Capitol Hill affair with little relevance to them. Peppered for days with questions about Abramoff's visits to the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan said the now disgraced lobbyist had attended two huge holiday receptions and a few "staff-level meetings" that were not worth describing further. "The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him," McClellan said.
The President's memory may soon be unhappily refreshed. TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush's aides have downplayed.
Of course, the very next sentence is "While TIME's source refused to provide the pictures for publication, they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them." Is anybody surprised?
And that has been a fear of the Bush team's for the past several months: that a picture of the President with the admitted felon could become the iconic image of direct presidential involvement in a burgeoning corruption scandal like the shots of President Bill Clinton at White House coffees for campaign contributors in the mid-1990s.
Nevertheless, even without being able to show us the money shots, Time's description of them makes it brutally clear that, like most bank robbers, all it can pull out of its pocket is a hand with some fingers on it. Here is the damning evidence of the intimate conspiracy between Jack Abramoff and George W. Bush:
[Page 1] In one shot that TIME saw, Bush appears with Abramoff, several unidentified people and Raul Garza Sr., a Texan Abramoff represented who was then chairman of the Kickapoo Indians, which owned a casino in southern Texas....
[Page 3] Through his spokesman, Garza said that during the session, Bush talked about policy matters and thanked those present for supporting his agenda, then took questions from the audience of about two dozen people.... No evidence has emerged that the Bush Administration has done anything for the Kickapoo at Abramoff's behest.
The other four photos are simply the sort of meet & greet photos that everyone who attends any White House event takes with the president -- literally tens of thousands every year:
Another photo shows Bush shaking hands with Abramoff in front of a window and a blue drape. The shot bears Bush's signature, perhaps made by a machine. Three other photos are of Bush, Abramoff and, in each view, one of the lobbyist's sons (three of his five children are boys)....
Most of the pictures have the formal look of photos taken at presidential receptions. The images of Bush, Abramoff and one of his sons appear to be the rapid-fire shots--known in White House parlance as clicks-- that the President snaps with top supporters before taking the podium at fund-raising receptions. Over five years, Bush has posed for tens of thousands of such shots--many with people he does not know. Last month 9,500 people attended holiday receptions at the White House, and most went two by two through a line for a photo with the President and the First Lady. The White House is generous about providing copies--in some cases, signed by the President--that become centerpieces for "walls of fame" throughout status-conscious Washington.
And that's it! Really, that's the entire scandal: that Jack Abramoff, a high-powered lobbyist who also raised some money for Bush, was invited to (or crashed) at least one White House reception at which he -- and the hundreds of other attendees -- filed past President Bush and got an assembly-line photo of Bush shaking hands (in Abramoff's case, he crassly demanded another photo with each of his three sons... and Bush was gracious enough to comply).
Next week, it will be Newsweek's turn to treat us to the Bush scandal du jour: documentary evidence will emerge -- which, we'll be told, is the worst nightmare of Bush aides -- that Bush on several occasions deliberately gave speeches, without disavowing his connection, before groups of students attending institutions that at one time in their past denied entry to women... such as West Point, Anapolis, and the Air Force Academy.
"An intellectual carrot... the mind boggles!"
John McCain: Th'Inconstant Loon
O, swear not by the moon, th'inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.
○ John McCain, April 6th, 2000, voting against ANWR drilling:
Voted YES on killing budget for ANWR oil drilling. (Apr 6)
○ John McCain, 2000, voting in favor of ANWR drilling:
Voted YES on preserving budget for ANWR oil drilling. (Apr 2000)
○ John McCain, 2002, supporting filibuster against ANWR drilling:
Mr. President, I have thought long and hard about this debate and the vote that I will cast. I still hope we can achieve a more balanced national energy strategy, but I am not convinced that a key component of that policy should be to drill in ANWR. I will vote against the motions to invoke cloture on these amendments.
○ John McCain, 2003, opposing inserting ANWR drilling into un-filibusterable budget bill:
Six of the Senate's 51 Republicans, including former presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona, on Friday announced they would not go along with a plan to tack ANWR drilling language onto a massive spending bill this spring that would enact the new 2004 budget for the federal government....
In addition to McCain, the letter was signed by Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois and Mike DeWine of Ohio. The six were part of a group of 8 Republicans who crossed the aisle last year to vote against ANWR drilling.
○ John McCain, March 16th, 2005, voting against ANWR drilling:
Arizona Sen. John McCain joined a failed Democratic attempt on Wednesday to bar oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
McCain joined six other moderate Republicans and most Democrats in looking to stop proposed ANWR drilling.
○ John McCain, March 18th, 2005, voting in favor of budget that included ANWR drilling:
The three anti-drilling Republicans who voted against the budget, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Mike DeWine of Ohio, were joined by George Voinovich, who supported drilling Wednesday. The four Republicans who voted for the budget after voting against oil development Wednesday were John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.
○ John McCain, December , 2005, voting against filibuster of ANWR in Defense Appropriations bill (lefty blogger's angry reaction):
I should note that "moderate environmentalist" McCain complained about the move by Ted Stevens to attach ANWR drilling to the defense appropriations bill - and then went right ahead and voted to end the filibuster. Which, of course, would have virtually guaranteed passage of ANWR drilling into law. Once again, why is he a hero of some on the left?
○ John McCain, January 22nd, 2006, arguing for oil independence:
McCain: U.S. Can't Be Held Hostage for Oil
A top Republican lawmaker said Sunday that America must explore alternate energy sources to avoid being held hostage by Iran or by "wackos" in Venezuela - an apparent reference to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's populist president.
Sen. John McCain, a potential presidential contender in 2008, said recent action by "Mr. Chavez" and by Iran's leaders make it clear that the United States will be vulnerable as long as it remains dependent on foreign energy.
"We've got to get quickly on a track to energy independence from foreign oil, and that means, among other things, going back to nuclear power," McCain said on Fox News Sunday.
"We better understand the vulnerabilities that our economy, and our very lives, have when we're dependent on Iranian mullahs and wackos in Venezuela," said McCain, who challenged President George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.
○ John McCain: right yesterday, right tomorrow -- wrong yesterday, wrong today -- right today, wrong tomorrow.
Truly a man for all seasons!
Date ►►► January 21, 2006
He Got One
A slightly belated but nevertheless hearty Yo Ho Ho to Dr. Rusty Shackleford at the Jawa Report for helping to capture and convict a would-be terrorist -- Mohammed Radwan Obeid, a Jordanian who fraudulently entered the United States and was (he claimed) trying to set up a terror cell that would carry out an attack that would make 9/11 feel like a "headache."
Because Dr. S. discussed Obeid and published his e-mail address (which Obeid had unwisely left in a plea for conspirators on a jihadi website), a reader began corresponding with Obeid and succeeded in gathering enough evidence to interest the FBI. Obeid eventually pled guilty to lying to investigators and will receive (we all hope) the maximum five years... before being deported back to Jordan.
Have some virtual champagne on Big Lizards, Rusty! And accept this laurel and hearty handshake for a job well done.
Oh, and happy blogiversary, too.
Look What You Made Me Do!
This AP article, ostensibly about Karl Rove's speech, has a very peculiar characteristic... sort of a "what is wrong with this picture" scenario. See if you can spot it (I will refrain from my usual bad habit of bolding the important bits):
The admonition reflects growing concerns among senior Republicans that ethics scandals in the Republican-led Congress could hurt the party in November, even among staunch GOP voters who may begin to blame corruption for Congress' runaway spending habits....
The investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff threatens to ensnare at least a half dozen members of Congress of both parties and Bush administration officials. His ties to GOP congressional leaders and the White House pose a particular problem for Republicans.
I wish I could put a button here that would play the Final Jeopardy theme; perhaps you can envision it. Enhearing it, whatever... just imagine it! The answer is after the jump. Or if you're reading this on the archive page, it's just below!
Yeah, that's what I thought, too: if the scandal ensnares "at least half a dozen members of Congress of both parties," then why does it pose a "particular problem for Republicans?"
It's almost as if corruption is so endemic in the Democratic party that the voters are utterly blasé about it; they've already factored it in. But they would be shocked and angered to find similar levels of malfeasance among Republicans. Is that really the impression AP wants us to take away?
Or perhaps they mean us to absolve the Democrats because, childlike, they simply follow the lead of the more mature Republicans, so cannot be held responsible for their actions. This is like a kid sister, caught bloody-handed robbing the cookie jar with her older brother, pointing and saying "look what you made me do!"
But the whole article is replete (do you like that word?) with such odd pieces that don't quite fit. Like this one:
Rove, making a rare public address while under investigation in the CIA leak case, joined Republican Party chairman Ken Mehlman in warning GOP leaders against falling prey to the corrupting nature of power.
Has Patrick Fitzgerald called a press conference to announce "the noose is tightening" around Karl Rove? Has anyone specified Rove as a target? Yes, the case is still under investigation... but is there any evidence, other than liberal hatred, that the focus is Karl Rove? This strikes me as a perfect example of "it must be true because it would be so wonderful if it were true!" Here it comes again:
The special prosecutor's inquiry is still under way, leaving the fate of other senior White House officials, notably Rove, in doubt.
Why Rove more notably than anybody else? Does AP have some insight into the direction of Fitzgerald's investigation? Is someone in Fitzgerald's office illegally leaking secret information from the probe, a felony? If they have a "whistleblower," why doesn't AP crow about it?
This, by the way, is the real way that leftist media bias works. It's not that the MSM suddenly lapses into Kossack Talk (they save that for their columnists); it's just a subtle but inexporable pressure: the knowing wink; the slight smirk; the conclusion jumping, whispering, the significant glance... all pointing the same direction: well, you know how those Republicans are; there's so much I could tell you, if only I could shed this straightjacket of "objectivity." You'll just have to fill in the blanks; read between the lines, gentle reader....
But even after priming us to dismiss anything Rove says -- that well-known unindicted co-conspirator -- the writer (Ron Fournier) is unable to dim the power of Rove's words. Here he is explaining why the Republicans must run on the GWOT in the 2006 elections:
"Republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world. And Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world," Rove told Republican activists. "That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong - deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong...."
"The United States faces a ruthless enemy - and we need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity that American finds itself in," Rove said. "President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many Democrats."
He said some Democrats want to abandon Iraq too soon, which would cause enemies to "laugh at our failed resolve." Rove added: "To retreat before victory would be a reckless act - and this president and our party will not allow it. This is worthy of a public debate."
Direct. Blunt. Unanswerable. That is the essence of profundity.
De profundis ad astra! Or at least to continuing control of Congress. (I am still predicting that the Republicans actually gain at least one net seat in the Senate; at the moment, I am alone of all pundits in making such a prediction, but we'll see.)
Whoops, I seem to have lapsed into unlicensed clinical diagnosis again; that's my kid sister's job. Look what you made me do!
Date ►►► January 20, 2006
Aliens and Elves Finally Indicted
For many years -- under previous administations -- the United States has dithered about eco-terrorism, on the one paw condemning it, but on the other paw being unwilling to label it actual terrorism. But today, the Bush administration dropped the other two paws, coming down firmly on the side of labeling a wolf a wolf and not just a sheep having a bad wool day. The fur -- and indictments -- have finally begun to fly:
WASHINGTON — Eleven people were indicted in a series of arsons, claimed by the radical groups Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, in five Western states, the Justice Department said Friday.
The 65-count indictment said the suspects are responsible for 17 incidents in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, including sabotaging a high-tension power line, in a conspiracy that dates back to 1996. The indictment was returned Thursday by a federal grand jury in Eugene, Ore., and unsealed Friday.
Arson is the favorite tactic of ALF and ELF: whenever they, in their lordly wisdom, decide that some industry, housing complex, or other property is insufficiently respectful of gnatcatchers or banana slugs, or even when they just get mad that we actually build houses out of wood (instead of mud and old tires), they arrogantly burn the place down. Then they brag and smirk on their various websites about their bold "heroism"... secure in the knowledge (now a bit out of date) that nobody is really going to treat them like the terrorists they actually are.
Neither ALF nor ELF is particularly concerned about potential human victims of their fires and tree-spikings; like most enviro-wackos, they love all animals except the hairless bipeds, and their misanthropy is so severe that they're willing to risk killing any number of innocent humans -- folks who had the bad luck to be present when the aliens and elves had one of their fits -- in order to "protect" (in a very patronizing way) some non-sentient animals.
Oddly, they don't even seem concerned that one of their arson fires at, say, a forest ranger station might spread and spark a huge forest fire, killing many of the very animals ALF and ELF pretend to care about. In fact, as typical with terrorists, it's never really about the "cause," whatever that happens to be. The act of terrorism is really all about the terrorist -- his colossal ego, his solipsistic obsession with himself, his total disconnect from the real world and retreat into fantasy and delusions of grandeur.
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!
Well, it turns out this administration takes terrorism -- even on behalf of cute, furry little critters -- a heck of a lot more seriously than did the previous two. Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight. Perhaps after a few more rounds of such indictments, resulting in a number of shocked, shocked "heroes" finding themselves locked in cold, cold cells, other teens and young males will find less violent and dangerous ways to act out their little psychodramas.
Scream therapy might be attractive.
(And on a personal note, what offends me more than anything else are the names they chose. Throw the book at 'em!)
Don't Cry For Me, Abidjan
When we forcus too much on one image, we tend to lose perspective. Critics of the Iraq war call our effort a "disaster," a "quagmire," or both. But for a textbook example of a disastrous quagmire, take a gander at the French-led UN peacekeeping operation in the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire).
Following the failed coup d'etat on September 19th, 2002, the rebels, led by renegade soldiers from the Cote d'Ivoire army, took over the northen part of the country. In November 2004, the strongman president of Cote d'Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, ordered airstrikes. Whether by accident or design, one of the bombs in Bouaké fell on the French, killing nine soldiers; Gbagbo had complained for two years that the French were actually taking the side of the rebels against him.
The French troops -- gotta love 'em -- responded by destroying virtually the entire air force of Cote d'Ivoire, sparking massive (and violent) anti-French rioting.
In the last year, according to BBC, the situation has detereorated, if that's possible to imagine:
After three days of protests the crisis is escalating, with youths surrounding UN and French buildings in Abidjan, the main city, a BBC correspondent says.
Gbagbo supporters are angry at attempts to dissolve parliament.
International mediators this week recommended that parliament, whose mandate has expired, be discontinued...
Following the mediators' move, the ruling party pulled out of the transitional government and UN-backed peace talks, and called on the 10,000 French and UN peacekeepers the peace to leave. [sic]
The UN mediators were supposed to host a democratic election last October; but it had to be postponed due to instablility in the country... unlike a certain other country we all know and love. After almost two years of intervention, Cote d'Ivoire balances now on the knife-edge of civil war. And from the looks of it, the UN and the French will have to withdraw.
The UN decided to abandon the base and the peacekeepers were being withdrawn to the demilitarised zone further north, Capt Combarieu said.
This is no surprise to Kinshasa On The Potomac
No one in the right mind can fault the peacekeepers for protecting themselves. And, maybe if they - and the French troops stationed there (who wiped out the Cote d'Ivoire airforce in 2004) - were even more proactive, than Gbagbo and his bully boys and the rebels would stop this stupid conflict and finally come to terms. Or, alternately, the world community can just kill off the current generation of thugs and see if there are some reasonable people who might want to run the country and not fight over the scraps.
So, next time you hear the term "failed operation," think of the Ivory Coast, think of the UN, and most of all, think of our friends, the French, masters of diplomacy.
Al Gore Fiddles While Intercepts Burn
Victoria Toensing has an illuminating commentary in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (who says day-old news is stale?) that vindicates one of our own prominent bloggers, though I don't know if she -- or he -- realizes it yet.
In "Terrorists on Tap" (available to WSJ subscribers only, but you can find it here, though I don't know for how long... read it quick! I'll wait), Toensing addresses the failings of FISA, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which she describes as "technologically antediluvian."
It was drafted by legislators who had no concept of how terrorists could communicate in the 21st century or the technology that would be invented to intercept those communications. The rules regulating the acquisition of foreign intelligence communications were drafted when the targets to be monitored had one telephone number per residence and all the phones were plugged into the wall. Critics like Al Gore and especially critics in Congress, rather than carp, should address the gaps created by a law that governs peacetime communications-monitoring but does not address computers, cell phones or fiber optics in the midst of war.
The "killer arg" that Democrats keep raising, each time as if it were brand new and had never before occurred to anyone, is best exemplified by our erstwhile vice president and pretender to the throne, Albert J. Gore, jr. In his speech before the Liberty Coalition on Martin Luther King Day (January 16th, 2006), Gore began pitching curve balls at the administration. But his pitches simply pinwheeled into the stands or burrowed into the dirt as if trying to bowl over a cricket wicket:
The discovery that the FBI conducted this long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life was instrumental in helping to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.
And one result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, often called FISA, which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there was indeed a sufficient cause for the surveillance.
It included ample flexibility and an ability for the executive to move with as much speed as desired. [This emphasis, and indeed all emphasis in this post, is added by Big Lizards]
Gore, of course, has never actually had to fill out a FISA warrant application nor deal with the problems of obtaining "sufficient cause" to maintain an electronic intercept, or any other activity that an actual law-enforcement official would understand. Naturally, he believes this makes him an expert on the subject.
But I want to focus on the last line of that excerpt above -- that the FISA process allows "the executive to move with as much speed as desired." I'll take it as read that we all understand how important speed is in electronic surveillance of terrorists: the moment the terrorists know or even suspect that a phone number has been burned, they will drop it in the nearest trash can and break out a new disposable cell phone with a different number. So the only time available to gain useful information are those scant hours between capturing a live cell phone and other terrorists realizing what has happened.
Hours, even minutes may make the difference.
Let me first turn the mike over to John Hinderaker, who analyzed the "72 hour exception" of the FISA rules so oft cited by Democrats as the reason why there was "no need" to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance of phone calls and e-mails from al-Qaeda to persons in the United States. (Hinderaker aptly framed the point with his paraphrase of a George Bush quotation: "if al-Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why.")
John had earlier discussed the legality of the National Security Agency electronic intercept program here, here, and again here. But in a subsequent post -- 72 Hours: Who Could Ask For More? -- John takes on the Democratic claim that Bush could simply have used the "72-hour [emergency] provision of FISA" instead of issuing a presidential directive to surveil without passing through the FISA court.
We've been getting emails from liberals demanding to know why we haven't written about the 72-hour provision of FISA, which, they say, definitively proves that there couldn't possibly have been any need to go outside the FISA structure for purposes of speed. Actually, there are quite a number of FISA provisions that we haven't written about, but, since the left seems to be putting so much emphasis on this one, here goes: why the 72-hour clause doesn't eliminate the problem of FISA delay.
John then quotes extensively from FISA itself; long boring legalese snipped to avoid brains turning to tapioca.
[A] FISA application is no simple document, and Sec. 1805(f), notwithstanding that it contemplates an "emergency," provides no relief from the full filing requirement of Sec. 1804. The government has 72 hours from the time when a telephone is found in, say, Afghanistan, and the Attorney General gives the order to begin surveillance, until a FISA judge actually signs the order based on the government's application. How does that compare to the length of time it normally takes to obtain a FISA order? ...
Byron York wrote on ths subject last month: ...People familiar with the process say the problem is not so much with the court itself as with the process required to bring a case before the court. "It takes days, sometimes weeks, to get the application for FISA together," says one source. "It's not so much that the court doesn't grant them quickly, it's that it takes a long time to get to the court. Even after the Patriot Act, it's still a very cumbersome process. It is not built for speed, it is not built to be efficient. It is built with an eye to keeping [investigators] in check...."
If it takes "days, sometimes weeks" to assemble a FISA application, then 72 hours is not long enough to be confident the process can be completed. Anyone who thinks that it is easy for multiple lawyers and officials to collaborate on a set of documents, present them to a federal judge and have the judge sign the order within 72 hours has, I'm afraid, no experience whatever at obtaining orders from federal judges.
And note what happens if the 72 hour deadline is missed. Suppose that the government gets the FISA application to a judge on time, but the judge has not yet signed the order when the 72nd hour expires. At that point, there is a forfeiture: the surveillance is to be terminated immediately, and information gained from the surveillance during that key 72 hour period cannot be used for any purpose--not even communicated to federal anti-terror employees--without a certification that it "indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm to any person."
Given the complexity of the process, and the uncertainty whether a judge will actually sign an order on short notice even if it is presented to him in a timely fashion, the 72 hour "emergency" provision is completely inadequate to assure that surveillance can be initiated promptly, approved in a timely fashion, and continue without interruption.
With that in mind, compare what Victoria Toensing wrote -- remember her? her column is actually the subject of this convoluted post! -- about the physical reality of obtaining a FISA warrant, which she often had to do in her capacity as deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration with the "terrorism portfolio."
And to correct an oft-cited misconception, there are no five-minute "emergency" taps. FISA still requires extensive time-consuming procedures. To prepare the two-to-three-inch thick applications for non-emergency warrants takes months. The so-called emergency procedure cannot be done in a few hours, let alone minutes. The attorney general is not going to approve even an emergency FISA intercept based on a breathless call from NSA.
For example, al Qaeda agent X, having a phone under FISA foreign surveillance, travels from Pakistan to New York. The FBI checks airline records and determines he is returning to Pakistan in three hours. Background information must be prepared and the document delivered to the attorney general. By that time, agent X has done his business and is back on the plane to Pakistan, where NSA can resume its warrantless foreign surveillance. Because of the antiquated requirements of FISA, the surveillance of agent X has to cease only during the critical hours he is on U.S. soil, presumably planning the next attack.
I am very impressed that Hinderaker's analysis of the actual statute itself, and his personal knowledge of how long it takes judges to shift themselves, dovetails perfectly with Victoria Toensing's real-world experience filling out such FISA applications in actual terrorism cases. As Hannibal Smith says, "I love it when a plan comes together." Or in this case, when legal analysis and practical application buttress each other.
But John Hinderaker continues:
There is a second, even more fundamental reason why FISA's 72-hour provision does not solve the "speed" problem. Note that even under a 72-hour "emergency" application, the government must certify that "factual basis for issuance of an order under this subchapter to approve such surveillance exists...."
Now let's apply that standard to what must be a common situation where electronic surveillance is important: our forces capture a terrorist overseas who has a cell phone. Let's pretend that there are no procedural problems with the 72-hour provision, and that our soldiers can immediately begin intercepting communications to that cell phone in expectation of a warrant to be issued later. That won't do them a lot of good. There may be some incoming calls, but there will be no conversations to monitor since presumably our soldiers won't be answering the phone. So what they will be able to obtain is a list of phone numbers--numbers taken from incoming calls, and numbers recorded on the cell phone as having been called by the terrorist before he was captured. What we really need to do, to roll up the cell of which the captured terrorist was a member, it to begin monitoring those other phone numbers. Those are the telephones on which the other terrorists will be talking; among other things, they will be wondering what happened to their comrade.
But, as far as I know, the fact that a particular phone called a terrorist's (or suspected terrorist's) phone does not provide probable cause to believe that the owner of that phone is the agent of a foreign power. It could be the terrorist's mother; it could be his tentmaker or his landlord, dunning him for rent.
And, like a tennis ball, back we fly to Ms. Toensing:
Even if time were not an issue, any emergency FISA application must still establish the required probable cause within 72 hours of placing the tap. So al Qaeda agent A is captured in Afghanistan and has agent B's number in his cell phone, which is monitored by NSA overseas. Agent B makes two or three calls every day to agent C, who flies to New York. That chain of facts, without further evidence, does not establish probable cause for a court to believe that C is an agent of a foreign power with information about terrorism. Yet, post 9/11, do the critics want NSA to cease monitoring agent C just because he landed on U.S. soil?
So much for Al Gore's risible claim that the FISA rules allow "ample flexibility and an ability for the executive to move with as much speed as desired." Once again, Hinderaker and Toensing are perfectly in synch, despite writing separately more than a week apart; and only the man who would be king is left twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.
Simply put, the NSA electronic surveillance is not just the law, it's also a good idea. It is, in fact, a necessary, urgent, and irreplaceable arrow in the quiver of intelligence-gathering to thwart terrorist attacks.
Date ►►► January 19, 2006
10,000 McCainiacs... - UPDATED
...won't be enough.
UPDATE: See below.
"H-Bomb" over at Ankle Biting Pundits considers whether John McCain is "gaining more steam" among conservatives for the presidential nomination (hat tip Paul Mirengoff at Power Line). He (I don't know the gender, so I'll stick with the neutral "he") notes that originally, the only movement towards McCain was among "Beltway conservatives;" but recently, a conservative friend of his from New Hampshire told him he would support McCain -- but asked H-Bomb not to reveal his name.
I find this unconvincing in the extreme (to be fair, H-Bomb seems less than convinced himself). First of all, McCain already won New Hampshire when last he ran in 2000... so it's hardly surprising that some people in New Hampshire support him -- even if they didn't in 2000.
First, some disclosure: I have never been a fan of John McCain; so factor that into your assessment of my assessment of his chances. But let's take a look anyway at McCain's strengths and weaknesses in the 2008 primaries to see if there is anything to this "steam."
McCain's greatest asset in the general election (if he were the nominee) is simultaneously his greatest weakness in the primary: his status as a "maverick" within the Republican Party. Time and again, he has moved against the interests of conservatives... only to turn right around and bite moderates on the ankle.
Being a maverick means McCain has no natural power base within the party.
Moderates have several very significant problems with John McCain:
- Moderates hate the fact that he is strongly anti-abortion, the litmus test among liberal Republicans as it is among all Democrats.
- He's also pro-Iraq War, going even farther than the administration in calling for hundreds of thousands of additional troops to be sent in to un-Iraqify the fight and turn Iraq once more into a protectorate (would be bring Paul Bremer back to serve as permanent colonial governor of Mesopotamia?)
- He also supports Bush's attempt to pick judges who would move the federal courts towards judicial conservatism, rather than activism; the Souter wing of the Republican Party, like the Democrats, sees an activist court as the great bulwark against the hated conservatives.
But on the conservative side, McCain fares even worse:
- He opposes tax cuts.
- He pushed through the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), better known as McCain-Feingold in the Senate, which most conservatives see as a terrible assault on freedom of speech.
- He was the primary organizer of the so-called "Gang of Fourteen," which conservatives see as having thwarted their chance to formally reject judicial filibusters by changing the rules of the Senate.
- He has attacked, belittled, and smeared George W. Bush many times since 2000, blaming Bush for a scurrilous attack on McCain during the South Carolina primary. Even after campaigning for Bush in 2004, McCain has made it clear in many ways that he still blames Bush for the push-poll.
I have yet to hear from a single conservative who believes Bush himself, rather than some local campaigner operating on his own, was actually responsible for the nasty "push-poll" that implied McCain had fathered a "black child." Bush has never campaigned that way before or since, and it makes no sense that he would do so then, when it was already unlikely that McCain's New Hampshire momentum would carry over into the South -- when running against a popular Southern governor.
- He reflexively and viciously attacked the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth when they began to question John Kerry's fabricated heroism in Vietnam; some see this as one Vietnam vet sticking up for another -- but mostly I've heard conservatives seeing this as one senator sticking up for another (McCain is almost fanatical about Senate power and prestige).
- A lot of conservatives want to see the U.S. begin to withdraw from Iraq, turning over more and more of the responsibility for protecting that country to the Iraqi army... while McCain wants to send massive numbers of troops to retake the country as an American protectorate, canceling all the democratic gains of the last year. There is even the suspicion that McCain has a secret plan to reinstitute the draft in order to get an Army big enough to do so.
To me, at least -- though I'm more of a libertarian from the Right than a conservative -- it seems as though the Democrats want Iraq to be Vietnam so we can lose again... while McCain wants Iraq to be Vietnam so we can win it this time... but in Vietnam style, i.e., to destroy Iraq in order to save it. But I don't want to refight Vietnam on anybody's terms; I want us to fight -- and win -- in Iraq on the terms we have chosen: democratizing Iraq as the first step in democratizing the Middle East. McCain would set foreign policy back thirty years.
"Outsider" Primary Voters
Without a base on either the moderate or conservative side, where can McCain turn for support in the primaries? Certainly not to any huge influx of new voters, as Arnold Schwarzenegger got in California (running as a maverick Republican in the recall of Gray Davis) or as Jesse Ventura got in Minnesota (running as a Perotista). There are several factors working against McCain becoming the sort of "movie-star candidate" who has been elected before (Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, Schwarzenegger, and Ventura):
- First is McCain's temperment: he is widely seen as one of the biggest hotheads in Washington, which is saying quite a lot. He also holds a grudge, and he comes across as a mean man.
- One factor rarely mentioned: McCain's age. In 2008, he will be 72 years old. The oldest man ever elected to his first term as president was Ronald Reagan, of course; he was 69, but he looked much younger. (Reagan was 73 when he ran in 1984, but that was for reelection, after a widely successful first term. Different species entirely. Yet even so, his age became an issue in his reelection until he deftly defused it in his first debate with Walter Mondale.) McCain, by contrast, definitely looks his age, with snow-white hair and a skin condition. Folks may argue that this is an unfair criterion... but "politics ain't beanbag," appearance counts, and it will become an issue.
The only person older than McCain to run for his first term was Sen. Bob Dole... and he lost to a scandal-ridden and politically self-destructive Bill Clinton in 1996... not a good precedent for McCain.
- His status as a four-term senator from Arizona, who will have served nearly twenty-two years in the Senate by the time of the 2008 primaries, forever closes the door to him being considered a "Washington outsider." He is a consummate insider.
Note: McCain is a senator with no experience as an executive at any level of government. Although this makes it very tough to win in the general election, it's not a drawback in gaining the nomination, oddly enough: of the fifteen presidential elections since World War II, six have included a Democratic or Republican nominee whose highest political office was as U.S. senator.
Likewise, it's not particularly a problem that he's already a primary loser; in those same fifteen elections, at least five eventual nominees had previously run and lost in a presidential primary campaign: Al Gore ran for president in 1988 but lost the nomination to Michael Dukakis; Bob Dole ran for president in 1980, as did George H.W. Bush -- both later became nominees (in 1996 and 1988, respectively). Ronald Reagan made a serious play for the nomination in 1976, almost dislodging the incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford. And of course George McGovern ran in 1968, losing the nomination to Hubert Humphrey (also coming in behind Eugene McCarthy).
So let's take those two canards off the table: they're important for the general election -- only one senator (Kennedy) and only two former presidential-primary losers (Reagan and Bush-41) actually won the office... but they don't mean Jack in the primary.
However, I simply cannot see how McCain gets nominated:
- If primary voters are looking for a Washington outsider, a maverick, a dark horse candidate with a strong emotional appeal, they already have a better one: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
- If they're looking for a conservative, they have several to choose from, particularly Sen. and former Gov. George Allen of Virginia and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.
- If they want a moderate, there is always Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
- If it looks as though 2008 will be the Year of the Woman, then perhaps Kay Bailey Hutchison will throw her head into the ring. Besides, McCain probably looks terrible in pumps and a dress.
- And if, perversely enough, the GOP primary electorate is desperate for a Washington insider and deal-maker... well, there's always Bill Frist of Tennessee.
There simply is no compelling reason to think that McCain can prevail over all these gentlemen, except for the fact that the mainstream media love him; he's their favorite Republican. But that can hardly be considered a mark in the plus column!
UPDATE: In this piece on the 2008 nomintion, I tackled the question "will he be?" My old blogmate Captain Ed asks the other side of the issue: "should he be?"
In Does John McCain Stand For Anything?, the Captain lands in the "No" column with a resounding smackdown. This is a must read!
Date ►►► January 18, 2006
Corruption of the Blood
It's sad and pathetic that after our Predator drone struck the al-Qaeda not-so-safehouse in Pakistan, the local Pakistanis -- likely Pashtuns who share tribal affiliation and ideology with the Taliban, hence al-Qaeda itself -- descended upon the smoking hole like creepsie thieves in the night, spiriting away the bodies in the belief that this would prevent us from identifying who we had killed.
And it worked -- for a couple of days. Long enough for Democrats and their accomplices in the mainstream media to humiliate themselves by crowing that the strike was a total failure because it failed to kill Zawahiri.
But the magical absurdity of such hide-and-seek games is that we don't need the bodies to identify the bloody dead. One thing you can say about Hellfire missiles: they spread a goodly amount of blood, flesh, spinal fluid, and shredded hair around the impact site. And the forensic abbreviation for all of those components is DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, the identifying nucleus of biological cells.
Naturally, with so many body byproducts spread to an even thickness across the ground, it takes a few days to sort one DNA molecule from another, and then to run matches on every individual pattern to find a consanguineous match. But it happens; like the law, forensic gene-matching moves at an orderly pace. And so we now know, bodies or no bodies, that we sent Midhat Mursi "Abu Khabab" al-Sayid 'Umar (the Five Million Dollar Man), Abdul Rehman Al-Misri al Maghribi, and Obaidah al Misri on to Paradise, where they can collect their seventy-two sloe-eyed raisins.
One of the dead was said to be Abdul Rehman Al-Misri al Maghribi, a son-in-law of Zawahri. Maghribi was responsible for al Qaeda's media [propaganda] department.
Another was Midhat Mursi al-Sayid 'Umar, an expert in explosives and poisons who carried a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head under the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Rewards for Justice program....
The third man identified by Pakistani intelligence officers was Abu Obaidah al Misri, al Qaeda's chief of operations in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, where U.S. and Afghan forces regularly come under attack from militant groups.
Just imagine Goebbels, Speer, and Himmler.
But let's keep this between ourselves and the oven, all right? Let the tribesmen think they've stymied our intelligence collection by hiding the cookie crumbs under the Persian carpet. No matter: the corruption of their blood cries out its guilt.
With 'er 'ead tucked underneath 'er arm,
She walks the bludy Tower;
With 'er 'ead tucked underneath 'er arm,
At the midnight hour!
Kaboom, Abu Khabab.
Ideological Crazy Quilt
A follow-up to and expansion of my previous post, Offered For Your Approval.
Today, on Daniel Weintraub's usually excellent Bee-blog California Insider, under the title Ideological samplers, he opined the following anent Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham:
It's one thing to waffle, straddle or flip-flop, and both Clinton and Schwarzenegger have done some of that at times. But that is not the same thing as being an ideological sampler, picking and choosing positions from across the partisan spectrum. The critics would do well to note the difference. [Emphasis added]
Pardon my frankness, but this is absolute rot. And I'm surprised at Daniel for falling for this line; he is, I believe, a Democrat, and I'm sure he has been hearing this claim -- that the Democrats are not wafflers, they're ideological samplers -- ever since 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for office. It's the standard dodge to rationalize voting for the $87 billion before voting against it.
There are two ways to go about deciding one's positions on important issues. The wise way is first to decide what you really believe, deep down in your soul: what are your core principles? What animates your philosophy?
For example, some of my core beliefs are:
- Human liberty is the most important goal.
- Decent life is precious, but it is not infinitely precious.
- We must have the courage to fight for what we believe.
From just these three animating principles (three among many others), I can draw a conclusion: we must fight to preserve and expand human liberty, even if the fight puts our own lives at risk. I would have been a patriot in 1776, not a loyalist. But this is a conclusion, not a core principle: it is derived from core principles.
I can also conclude that it's morally right for us to fight to liberate the Iraqis -- hence, that this war is honorable. Someone else might conclude the opposite, that since there is little chance (he may believe) that this fight will be successfull, we'll simply squander precious lives and put our own liberty at risk (by drawing counterattack, he decides, which would cause our government to curtail our liberties for the sake of our lives). Each of us draws valid conclusions from the same core principles (depending on our view of the facts on the gound), even if our conclusions are polar opposites.
When a person derives his conclusions from core principles, it shows: he is consistent, articulate, and even stalwart, because unless one of his core principles is that he is more important than anyone or anthing else in the universe, he will be willing to lay down his life to achieve critical goals derived from his core principles: protecting his family, defending his country, fighting for liberty and freedom, even -- in the case of jihadis -- dying to destroy the infidels who threaten the souls of the faithful. The principle, whatever it is, comes first; the policies are derived from the principles.
But there is another way to arrive at one's positions on the major issues... and that is the method here defended by Weintraub. If a person has no animating principles, he can simply pick one position from column A and two from column B, selecting them based upon expediency, the nature of the Now. The ideological sampler becomes an ideological crazy quilt, "a thing of shreds and patches" hastily stitched together, the banal seascapes sewn right up next to the hellish glimpses of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
In this mad worldview, the position du jour is the primary source, and any "principles" must simply be deduced from what the subject does. Sensationalism, sensualism, solipsism, and nihilism are the four main branches of this epistemology; its followers comprise adrenaline junkies, decadent dilettantes, ultimate egoists, and visionaries of the Void. Nowhere is coherence. All is higgledy-piggledy:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
(From W.B. Yeats, "the Second Coming," emphasis added)
It's easy to justify voting for it before voting against it, because in between Then and Now, the wind shifted: Then, the forces of wartime solidarity prevailed; but Now, the elections loom and Democrats seek ways to differentiate themselves from George W. Bush and the Republicans.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we oppose same-sex marriage, because the American people have our ear; but on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the Advocate and GLAAD are more strident, so we applaud Gavin Newsom and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. "Saturday night Bill" and "Sunday morning Bill" -- Dick Morris was specifically talking about Bill Clinton, but the strange interlude serves as metaphor for the entire Democratic Party, with a tiny number of exceptions (Joe Lieberman, Zell Miller, that lot).
Alas, as a Democrat -- or at least, a liberal Republican à la Lincoln Chafee -- Weintraub cannot see that a country founded upon core principles and moral certitudes cannot be run as an ideological crazy quilt, any more than a naked atheist can be the pope.
When we have peace and prosperity, we can indulge the crazy quilters... for a short while. But in times of national stress, whether military, sociological, or economic -- well, like Paris Hilton, they simply become too high maintenance to afford.
Offered For Your Approval
At least the provincial government of the "semiautonomous tribal regions bordering Afghanistan" now admits that there were, in fact, "four or five foreign terrorists" present in one or another of the three houses in Pakistan that we hit with a missile attack a couple of days ago. They also now agree that the compound (when was the last time a normal, residential house was referred to as a "compound?") was a routine meeting place for terrorists, both foreign and Pakistani, and that a large number of foreign terrorists, including Ayman Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda Number Two (perhaps Number One now), had been invited to the celebratory dinner there:
The statement, citing the chief official in the Bajur region where the Damadola is located, said its findings were from a report compiled by a "joint investigation team" but gave no specifics on who was included in the team.
"Four or five foreign terrorists have been killed in this missile attack whose dead bodies have been taken away by their companions to hide the real reason of the attack," the statement said.
"It is regrettable that 18 local people lost their lives in the attack, but this fact also cannot be denied, that 10-12 foreign extremists had been invited on a dinner," it said.
In Washington, a U.S counterterrorism official said Monday it was not yet known if al-Zawahri was killed.
This brought to my mind the earlier reaction by the American Left when local Pakistanis -- probably Pashtun tribesmen -- gleefully announced that Zawahiri was not among those present or killed by the attack (a claim as yet unverified). The Democrats' response was to call the attack a failed attempt to kill Zawahiri, as if the only purpose of such an attack was to get one particular man... and if he were still sucking air, then the entire attack was a miserable failure.
For some reason, this reminded me of the response by the Democrats to the entire invasion of Iraq: they call it a colossal, wasted distraction from what we should be doing, which is to pour every man and woman in the Army into Afghanistan to scour the Tora Bora mountain range looking for Zawahiri and his boss, Osama bin Laden. The image is absurd: hundreds of thousands of soldiers tramping around a sheer-faced moonscape, looking under every rock and behind every scrubtree for a man who would by then be five hundred miles away. But that is what the Democrats demanded.
So I had two points before me: an attack that was a failure because it didn't get Zawahiri, and a front of the global war on terrorism that was a distraction from the war on terrorism. Something must connect these two responses. I sought some "theory of everything" solution.
After a day or so thinking about it, I believe I finally understand the connection. Both sentiments arise from a common understanding among Democrats of what the GWOT is and how it should be prosecuted. The Democratic version of the GWOT is actually just the WOT, because it is decidely not "global;" I'll call it the DemoWOT. On a nutshell, the DemoWOT understanding is that:
- We were attacked on 9/11 by a criminal organization named al-Qaeda;
- Al-Qaeda consists of a handful of people: bin Laden, Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and just a few other associates;
- Our primary duty is to round up the masterminds of al-Qaeda, arrest them, and put them on trial;
- Because they're international "criminals," they must be tried by an international body: the International Court of Justice (World Court) at the Hague, Belgium's War Crimes Law, or the International Criminal Court (also at the Hague but distinct from the World Court);
- If found guilty, the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks should be imprisoned, perhaps for life, but not given the death penalty -- because that would "make us no better than they are;"
- Once they have been brought to justice, we can all go home, because the war on terrorism will be over.
We can party like it's (still) 1999!
The crowd that shares this understanding of the GWOT today encompasses virtually every Democrat in a leadership position in either house of Congress, all Democratic presidential aspirants (except Joe Lieberman), and swirls around Chairman Howard Dean and the big supporters (and drivers) of the party, such as Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, George Soros, the Hollywood crowd, and the New York intelligensia; it's about as universal as it's possible to be in a modern political party, rivaling the unity of understanding among the top members of the GOP that lower taxes are good.
The DemoWOT Understanding -- it sounds like a Robert Ludlum title; and that's appropriate, because it strikes me as quite childish, a way of minimizing and trivializing the very real war we find ourselves in, of turning it into the Phil Donohue or Steven Spielberg version: the Democrats make the actual GWOT simplistic, narrow, legalistic, and most important, a fight that has a "magic bullet" that will make it all go away very soon, allowing everyone to slide back to September 10th, when the issue of greatest moment was whether Bush was going to roll back the environmental "gains" of the Clinton administration... and the only American ground troops abroad wore either NATO patches or blue UN helmets.
Every attempt to expand the GWOT to include countries other than Afghanistan, no matter how logical or how well connected they are to terrorism (not only Iraq but Iran, Indonesia, Syria, North Korea, and now Venezuela, which has begun to ally itself with the lunatics in Teheran, embracing Holocaust denial and nuclear threats against America), provokes a visceral reaction among the American Left to the effect that it's all just a further distraction from the real job -- which is to scrub those Afghan mountains and arrest bin Laden.
This, I believe, is the GWOT manifestation of the core Democratic void: without universal animating principles, they are left with an ideology that is just a hastily stitched patchwork quilt, where no thought is given to an overall pattern, or even whether adjoining patches match or clash violently. But this is likewise true of the membership of the modern Democratic Party itself: members are special interests first, and Democrats only second. In that sense, fragmentation is the "natural manure" of the Democratic Party, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson.
They've buttered their bread, and now they have to sleep in it. This political pointillism, more than any other defect of the Democratic Party, will keep them out of power in this country for the forseeable future.
Date ►►► January 17, 2006
The Year of The Police - a Follow-Up
In my earlier post, Who Polices the Police?, I noted that the American military was increasing the number of military-police advisors to embed with and train the Iraqi Police.
The Iraqi army was our first priority; but now that we're closing in on our goal there, it's time we turned our attention to the Iraqi cops: while the army is most important for pursuing and destroying terrorist cells, rolling up the foreign jihadi invaders, and sealing the border, the police are essential to follow investigative leads internally, keep the peace, and restore a semblance of justice in Iraq that has not been seen since the days of the British-established Hashemite kingdom -- before first the Iraqi army took over in 1958, then the Baath Party in 1963.
Todays New York Times reports a little more in this subject:
About 80,000 local police officers across Iraq are now certified as trained and equipped, more than halfway toward the goal of 135,000 by early 2007.
But senior commanders, including Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American officer in Iraq, have vowed to make 2006 "the year of the police" in a tacit acknowledgment that corruption, ineptitude and infiltration in the Iraqi police forces stand in the way of any plan by the Americans to draw down troops this year...
Soldiers from the 49th Military Police Brigade, an Army National Guard unit with headquarters in Fairfield, Calif., will be assigned to police stations in nine major Iraqi cities - Baghdad, Ramadi, Falluja, Najaf, Babil, Kirkuk, Baquba, Samarra and Mosul - as well as to dozens of provincial and district headquarters.
We're ramping up our embeds among the Iraqi police from today's "500 international civilian police advisers" by adding 2,000 MPs -- a fourfold increase. This will of course put a lot more Americans in harm's way, but the danger still pales compared to the danger of allowing Iraq, through corruption, to sink back into the terrorist haven it was under Saddam Hussein. Safety is important, but we do have a mission to perform.
Quite a few of our reserves and National Guardsmen's civilian jobs are with the police, making a perfect mesh. The Iraqis can learn about rights and duties, treating people with respect, but never allowing personal feelings, corruption, or tribal affiliation to get in the way of the disinterested administration of justice.
Lets hope the Iraqis will learn the true meaning of universal law that constrains both prince and peon alike. That is what transformed the ancient Hebrews from a tribal to a national culture, and there is no reason to suppose that it won't have the same effect on another group of nomads wandering the great deserts of the Middle East.
Don't Harsh My Jihad, Dude
I think I've written ad nauseum about the obsession the American Left has with the National Security Agency intercept program (i.e., "if al-Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why," as John Hinderaker of Power Line put it):
- How they have convinced themselves it's a political winner ("the Republicans will do anything it takes to protect America, so vote Democratic!");
- How they dismisss as irrelevant trivia whether the president may actually have the constitutional authority, apart from any act passed by Congress, to order intercepts of foreign terrorists communicating with their American agents;
- How they bray like donkeys at the very idea that a law authorizing the use of military force might likewise authorize such intercepts of foreign intelligence;
- How they dismiss out of hand the difficulties of trying to run a war with a federal court (however friendly) having to sign off on every military decision...
- And of course, the biggie: the fact that no major Democrat who screams and complains about the NSA electronically peeking at e-mails and phone calls from al-Qaeda is actually calling for it to stop: they want so very much to have their peek and beat on it, too.
But at the risk of inducing seasickness, I want to note that someone, at least, is finally doing something to stop this terrible depradation of our most fundamental civil liberty, the right to clandestinely communicate with terrorist groups abroad: the ACLU, CAIR, Greenpeace, and the Center For Constitutional Rights (plus some individual plaintiffs, including one celebrity, of a sort) have gone to federal court to shut down the NSA intercept program:
Federal lawsuits were filed Tuesday seeking to halt President Bush's domestic eavesdropping program, calling it an "illegal and unconstitutional program" of electronic eavesdropping on American citizens.
The lawsuits accusing Bush of exceeding his constitutional powers were filed in federal court in New York by the Center for Constitutional Rights and in Detroit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The New York suit, filed on behalf of the center and individuals, names Bush, the head of the National Security Agency, and the heads of the other major security agencies, challenging the NSA's surveillance of persons within the United States without judicial approval or statutory authorization.
(Not that the Associated Press would ever pre-judge a case, of course.)
One surprising side point is the identity of one of the plaintiffs:
At a news conference, Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Bill Goodman portrayed the president as a man on an unprecedented power grab at the expense of basic democratic principles.
He said the public was starting to understand the assertion that the erosion of individual rights is a slippery slope that lets the government "brand anyone a terrorist with no right to counsel, no right to be brought before a judge and no right to privacy in communications...."
Plaintiff Rachel Meeropol, an attorney at the center, said she believes she has been targeted. "I'm personally outraged that my confidential communication with my clients may have been listened to by the U.S. government," she said.
And who is Rachel Meeropol? Well, Law.com mentions only that she's "at the forefront of national civil rights litigation," mentions some of her lawsuits against America, and notes that:
In addition, Meeropol is the co-vice president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; a co-editor and primary author of the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook, a reference guide for prisoners without an attorney to learn their rights; and the editor of America's Disappeared: Secret Imprisonment, Detainees, and the "War on Terror."
Her profile from Equal Justice Works adds one tantalizing hint to the above:
Rachel's interest in prisoners' rights work stems from her family's firsthand experience with the destructive impact of the criminal "justice" system on communities and individuals.
But you only find out Rachel Meeropol's actual claim to fame by turning to the ultra-leftist groups that have no interest in dissembling such a fine pedigree as hers. For example, a broadcast by Democracy Now:
The Rosenberg Execution 50 Years Later
A Democracy Now! special with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's sons Robert and Michael Meeropol, granddaughter Rachel Meeropol and co-defendant Morton Sobell.
(Hat tip to the blog Sweetness and Light, and to my friend Lee Porter for calling it to my attention.)
So "her family's firsthand experience with the destructive impact of the criminal 'justice' system on communities and individuals" consists of being tried for, convicted of, and executed for passing the secret of the atom bomb to the Soviet Union. Yes, I can definitely see how that might tend to have a "destructive impact."
Apart from such celebrity plaintiffs, the organizations behind these lawsuits make for some odd bedfellows (or perhaps not so odd, if one isn't obliged to accept at face value their descriptions of themselves): side by side with the American Civil Liberties Union is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a radical Arabist group that has many members who have been suspected, indicted, and even convicted of abetting jihadi terrorism; Greenpeace, which in fact engages in aggressive "action directe," such as trying to ram Navy vessels attempting to test defensive anti-missile systems.
And of course, let's not forget the Center for Constitutional Rights, a group that is probably further to the left than Michael Moore, having been co-founded by Communist and radical lawyer William Kunstler; having defended in court terrorists such as El Sayyid Nosair, a member of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman's terrorist group which attacked the World Trade Centers in 1993; and supporting such other radical notables as Lynne Stewart, who was indicted and recently convicted of several terrorism-related charges:
On 10 February 2005, Stewart was convicted of providing material support, through a press conference and allowing access by her translator, to a terrorist conspiracy to kill persons outside of the United States and conspiring to defraud the U.S. government when acting as counsel to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who was convicted in 1996 of plotting terrorist attacks against various sites in the New York City area.
(An engaging but rather biased-to-the-right profile of the Center can be found on the Wikipedia, here.)
To be blunt, we have a number of radical, pro-terrorist, anti-American groups allying with what purports to be a civil-liberties group -- running to the courts to remake American military policy in the middle of a war.
I expect two things:
- The original district court that hears this case will rule in favor of the radicals and will order the president to shut down the NSA program; I'm sure the plaintiff have shopped very carefully for exactly the right Clinton- or Carter-appointed judge to decide this case.
- The appellate court will overturn the decision, and the Supreme Court will either deny certiorari or will take the case and affirm the appellate court... because the Court is going to be very reluctant to dive into a case that obviously infringes on the power of the executive -- excuse me, the dreaded unitary executive -- to function as commander in chief.
But we'll see. Perhaps they'll misjudge their first judge, and he'll actually dismiss the case outright, as he should... on standing (can any of these people show he was actually among those recorded?) or else on the basis of the earlier decisions cited by, e.g., John Hinderaker at Power Line.
In any event, this is definitely one case to watch!
Date ►►► January 16, 2006
The Not So Quick and the Nearly Dead
Desperation mounting, the enemy now realizes they have only one last chance. Defeated on the field of arms, they must turn to their secret weapon... their tongues, inspired by the cause, must lure the infidels and crusaders into such guilt and despair that they come to believe they've lost a war that they've already won, persuading them to flee the field in the nick of time -- before the enemy loses everything.
But the enemy is unsure of its allies; they're not very reliable. Many of the Sunni rejectionists, the only ones who could validly make the claim to be real "insurgents" and gain thereby the sympathy of the world, are now rejecting the path of the enemy: they're laying down their arms and joining in the hateful democracy of the infidels.
Worse, the enemy's other allies -- the foreign jihadis -- have proven so bloodthirsty and ineffectual that they have utterly lost the hearts and minds of their Arab brothers in the heart of Mesopotamia.
The enemy is nearing the end. They have nothing left to give, having given it all for their cause. At last, in near despair, the enemy turns to one of its earlier, revered sheikhs, a man renowned during his tenure as only the elect of the prophet can be... a man who still has such a following among the enemy that they hush when he approaches, and they come as close to bowing as they can for any man (other than themselves, for the enemy has an egocentric streak as wide as the limousines in which they're driven by their lackeys). They beg the Great Sheikh, the erstwhile leader of the cause, to speak, to bring back the magic of the Elect one more time.
And Uncle Walter is moved by their devotion... for speak he does:
"It's my belief that we should get out now," Cronkite said in a meeting with reporters....
"We had an opportunity to say to the world and Iraqis after the hurricane disaster that Mother Nature has not treated us well and we find ourselves missing the amount of money it takes to help these poor people out of their homeless situation and rebuild some of our most important cities in the United States," he said. "Therefore, we are going to have to bring our troops home."
And among the enemy, a ragged cheer breaks forth, quickly swallowed in the holy solmnity of the moment. The Great Sheikh won perhaps the most magnificent victory of the cause, but so many years ago, in 1968. Those among the enemy, the Anointed, who are old enough still to remember the glory days bow their heads and smile at the terror that the Great Sheikh inspired in the quavering hearts of the infidels and crusaders:
Cronkite said one of his proudest moments came at the end of a 1968 documentary he made following a visit to Vietnam during the Tet offensive. Urged by his boss to briefly set aside his objectivity to give his view of the situation, Cronkite said the war was unwinnable and that the U.S. should exit.
Then-President Lyndon Johnson reportedly told a White House aide after that, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."
The bitter, hated leader of the crusaders at the time was so disheartened by the magic of the Great Sheikh that he fell into despair and gave up his mighty emirate, wasting his few remaining days in penance and regret, a bootless attempt at expiation for his monstrous crime. But the Anointed wasted no pity on the wretch: he had been one of them, until he fell into apostasy, espousing the cause of the Great Satan and even extending its reach against the Holy Land of the Caucasus -- for a time, until the might of the Great Sheikh cowed him, defeated him, and rolled back the satanic victory, returning the conquered land to the Vision: Indochine was once again part of the ummah of the Anointed.
Surely the cause would smile upon the Great Sheikh again today. Surely his words will work the same magic as before! After all, are not the Elect every bit as devoted to the cause as they were in 1968? And that must count, even in the eyes of the infidels and crusaders who make up the armed forces and the execrable "democracy" of the Great Satan even today. Surely that blind devotion must count for something!
Talking Sunnis Down From the Ledge
You wouldn't know it from reading the American mainstream news, but for the last year or so, the U.S. military has quietly been negotiating with various militant Sunni tribes in Iraq to give up their arms and participate in the political process.
We've known for some time that a rift is growing between the Sunni rejectionists and the foreign al-Qaeda terrorists. Our military has exploited this rift to isolate the jihadis.
Our rationale is that the more militant Sunnis give up fighting and join the democratic Iraqi community, the fewer enemies we ultimately have to face in the final confrontations. At a bare minimum, the Sunni won't interfere while we exterminate those al-Qaeda, Zarqawi and his cohorts, who make a last stand -- which we all know must come eventually. If we could convince some of the militant Sunni that it is to their tribe's benefit to cooperate with us, they may give us valuable intelligence on their erstwhile allies... or even fight alongside us, as their brother Iraqis who accept democracy are doing today.
The strategy is paying greater dividends than we imagined. The Belmont Club has compiled a list of recent conflicts between al-Qaeda and Sunni rejectionists; the fault line between them has widened so much that some formerly militant Sunnis are actually helping the U.S. and Iraqi armies conduct military operations.
The Albu Mahal tribe is now an ally of the Iraqi government, and provides the majority of the troops for the Desert Protection Force, which is a organization of the local tribal fighters that provide for local security and act as scouts for Iraqi Army and U.S. Marines operating in the area.
Unsurprisingly, the international media considers this successful strategy of ours to be a betrayal of President Bush's “stay the course” policy. Through an absurdly literal reading of the metaphor, in which "the course" must always be a straight line, and any deviation left or right is tantamount to a complete repudiation, the Asian and European press agencies crow that America has surrendered -- when in fact, we stand on the threshold of historic victory.
For example, Gereth Porter opines in Asian Times that if the world "understood" our current strategy of persuading former Sunni rejectionists to throw down their guns and support democracy in Iraq, it would cause us "serious political problems":
The Republican Party has just unveiled a new television ad attacking Democratic Party chair Howard Dean for suggesting that the war in Iraq cannot be won.
Renouncing victory over the Sunni insurgents therefore undercuts the president's political strategy of portraying his policy as one of "staying the course" and attacking the Democrats for "cutting and running"…
The new soft line toward the Sunni insurgents is a belated administration response to the conclusion of the US military commanders in Iraq last summer that the Sunni insurgents could not be "defeated" and that there must be a political settlement with them.
Of course, what the commanders actually concluded was that they could not be defeated by military means alone, that there had to be a political component to the push; not only is Bush not "belatedly" accepting this idea, it has been the administration's plan from Day One of the invasion: we always planned to democratize Iraq as the long-term goal for rendering it no longer a threat to America.
In a stunning speech delivered on November 6th, 2003 to the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush made explicit the Bush Doctrine, which calls for democratizing the hellholes of the world -- in particular, the Middle East -- as a way of securing America and liberating the captive peoples across the globe.
In Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council are also working together to build a democracy -- and after three decades of tyranny, this work is not easy.... And we're working closely with Iraqi citizens as they prepare a constitution, as they move toward free elections and take increasing responsibility for their own affairs....
This is a massive and difficult undertaking -- it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.
We do not come late to the table of Middle-East democracy.
Contrary to Porter's overwrought accusation, negotiating the terms of your enemy’s surrender is not a sign of defeat. It is a sign of victory. We are not the ones giving up fighting in favor of peaceful participation in the political process. We are not the ones outing our former allies' hideouts and attack plans.
To see who is winning and who is losing, let's apply the simple test of asking "cui bono?" Who benefits? Clearly it is the American policy of democratizing Iraq, not the jihadi cause of returning Iraq to tyranny, that benefits from rejectionists giving up the fight and running for office.
Mr. Porter makes like he does not understand that in war, the wise general has many different plans working in parallel. Many are secret; we certainly don't make a habit of sharing our plans with the world -- unless some CIA or NSA snitch drops a dime to the New York Times! (Defense Secretary Rumsfeld would call that strategy "unhelpful.") But that doesn't mean we have no plans.
Cajoling the enemy into abandoning the fight, even while we engage in battle, is not a contradiction: unless our intention is to kill every last Sunni who has ever opposed us, which is absurd on its face, neutralizing the enemy by negotiation is always in order.
One more reason Mr. Porter considers our policy to be proof of "defeat" is that the militant Sunni keep trying to suggest a timetable for our withdrawal:
The insurgents can also increase the pressure on Bush by making public their offer, reportedly made by insurgent leaders to Arab League officials in Cairo last month, to deliver al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Zarqawi, to the Iraqi authorities as part of a peace agreement involving a US withdrawal timetable.
But the Sunni can offer anything they want; it's up to us to decide whether the offer is good enough for us to accept. If we do, it will be because what we gain is more valuable than what we give up; this is no more a "defeat" than it is when you and some seller come to an agreement on a piece of real estate: neither of you is a loser; you're both getting something more valuable to you than you had going in... it's a win-win situation, just as it is when the Sunni propose various incentives for us to leave, and we weigh each one and decide to accept or reject the offer. The final decision is ours, not theirs.
We still have the winning hand, and the rejectionists know it. Last December, when President Bush had pointedly refused to issue any timetable for Coalition withdrawal, the Sunnis still showed up at the polls in unexpectedly strong numbers (a higher percentage of all Iraqis, Sunni, Shia, and Kurd, than showed up for our own vote a month earlier). The Sunni flatly rejected Zarqawi’s threat to escalate his terrorism if Iraqis voted.
Most Sunni rejectionists now understand that they are not in a position to make demands; the best they can do is cushion their fall somewhat. In the fight against the American military, the rejectionists, both Sunni and Shia, have been defeated. They know we can continue this war for at least the next three years, reducing their tribal lands to rubble if we so choose. Therefore, timetable or not, they will in the end have to meet our terms; they must choose whether to live -- or to die.
By and large, they are choosing to live. And that is the ultimate vindication of our winning strategy in Iraq.
Date ►►► January 14, 2006
Michael, not Gerhard -- though of course I have no problem with dumping the latter from the Russian payroll, too.
Daniel Weintraub, on his excellent Sacramento Bee-blog California Insider, says that the former chairman of the California Republican Party -- did you know there was one? -- is urging Cal-GOP to dump Gov. Schwarzenegger and support someone else for the governor's race this year:
Former California Republican Party chairman Michael Schroeder says Schwarzenegger should not run again, and if he does, the Republican Party should withdraw its endorsement. He was, Schroeder says, a "longshot who failed to work out."
I'm thinking Dan Lungren is ripe for another turn around the block, or maybe we should see if Bill Simon or Matt Fong is interested. Perhaps we could offer an inducement -- an annual pass to Disneyland and Universal Studios, say -- and attract some interest from Alan Keyes. But of course, there are numerous cookie-pedaling Girl Scouts, middle-school kids in Needles, and marauding marsupials in the LA Zoo who haven't had their shot yet (and who would probably do better against Phil Angelides than any of the Republicans that Schroeder prefers).
I should note for those outside the Golden State that if the Cal-GOP's position had prevailed, and their preferred candidate, Tom McClintock, had been the only Republican running in the 2003 recall, that almost certainly means we would have Gov. Cruz Bustamante today -- along with species-neutral marriage, no capital (or non-capital) punishment, a state income tax higher than the federal one, and a state Department of UFOs, Bigfoot, and Other Cryptozoological Phenomena. We would currently be negotiating with President Vicente Fox over whether we kept Sacramento or returned it to Mexico with the rest of Southern California. (Bustamante is a rotten negotiatior: Fox's position would prevail, and we would be forced to keep it.)
Great strategy, Schroeder! If we carefully follow your advice from here on out, I'm sure we can move from being a minority party to a nonexistent party in just a few short months. So the Cal-GOP leadership is proficient in at least one area -- fratricide!
UPDATE: One of the Freds notes that Schroeder's op-ed on the subject, which I didn't notice that Daniel Weintraub had linked, is This governor should be terminated (free registration required). Thanks, Xrlq!
Date ►►► January 13, 2006
The Bear Has a Bite!
I heartily second this plea from N.Z. Bear for a leadership that is not tainted by Abramoff and some meaningful rule changes to reduce the power of lobbyists. I personally would like to see:
- A ban on former members of Congress lobbying on the House floor
- A ban on earmarks; failing a ban, I like a proposal that some House member had that was discussed on Brit Hume yesterday: treat each earmark as an amendment that must be voted upon by the full House before it can be inserted into a bill (as opposed to the current system, where it can be inserted by the joint conference committee without other members being informed)
- Full reporting on the Web of every trip, every gift, every meal, everything received by every Congressman; I want to be able to click on, say, Adam Schiff's name and see a list, sorted by monetary value, of all the squeeze he has collected since the last election
I don't want to see a total ban on trips or gifts -- so long as they're public and they cannot result in an earmark unless a majority of the full House goes on record supporting it.
The Democrats are in such disarray that if the GOP moves swiftly, they will probably have a sweeping reform bill circulating through the House gathering co-sponsors before the Democratic caucus can even agree whether to expel all Republicans or just take away their voting rights.
But in the meanwhile, at the very least, all representatives and senators who have accepted anything from Jack Abramoff or Michael Scanlon should come clean, reveal all, and announce what they plan to do about it: return it, donate it to charity, or keep it.
About Poor King Charles' Domestic Spying Conducted Without a Warrant
Among the oddest observations of a very odd twelvemonth of politics is the increasing obsession that liberals (in politics, in the media, in academe) have with the NSA intercept program, which they insist upon referring to as "Bush's domestic spying which he conducted without a warrant."
Apart from the fact that it is an international, not domestic program, that it consists of intercepts, not spying, and that numerous circuit courts have held that warrants are not necessary (and none has held that they are), I suppose there's nothing wrong with this formulation. But it does seem to creep into everything!
Those of us ancient enough to have gone to school when pupils were actually required to read works of English literature like David Copperfield might remember the character Mr. Dick, who was similarly obsessed with the execution (or murder) of Charles the First, king of England. Speaking of Mr. Dick and his endless "Memorial" account of himself to "the Lord Somebody or other," David says:
I found out afterwards that Mr. Dick had been for upwards of ten years endeavouring to keep King Charles the First out of the Memorial; but he had been constantly getting into it, and was there now....
Every day of his life he had a long sitting at the Memorial, which never made the least progress, however hard he laboured, for King Charles the First always strayed into it, sooner or later, and then it was thrown aside, and another one begun. The patience and hope with which he bore these perpetual disappointments, the mild perception he had that there was something wrong about King Charles the First, the feeble efforts he made to keep him out, and the certainty with which he came in, and tumbled the Memorial out of all shape, made a deep impression on me.
Bearing this in mind, read the following paragraph from an AP story about the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings and see if it doesn't strike a chord:
While Judiciary Committee Democrats praised Alito for his intellect, they questioned statements early in the nominee's career on abortion, as well as later rulings on civil rights. Democrats also said they were not satisfied with Alito's responses about presidential powers, especially in light of the Bush administration's expanded domestic spying that has been conducted without warrants.
Aside from the suspicion that someday, somehow this is going to end up before the Court, and that Alito will be sitting on it, and that therefore he might make a judgment -- does the NSA intercept program have any connection whatsoever with Judge Alito? He never worked for the NSA, he never worked for President Bush, he has never been involved in any intelligence agency, so far as I know. He has never heard a case about the NSA intercept program, hence he likely has no particular judicial opinion on it; any opinion he has is just the same as any other well-informed lawyer might have reading news stories and (perhaps) blogposts on the subject.
But we knew that poor King Charles the Martyr would sooner or later stray into the questioning of Alito by Democratic senators, despite the feeble efforts they made to keep him out:
As lawmakers launched Alito's confirmation hearings Monday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee made clear they had added another item to their list of top-tier issues confronting the New Jersey jurist: whether Alito would permit President Bush to maintain his surveillance of people within the United States, including American citizens, without first seeking warrants from a the federal courts....
"Under the president's spying program, there are no checks and balances," alleged U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "There is no outside review of the legality of this brazen infringement on the civil rights and liberties of the American people."
The NSA intercept program has become the great Democratic obsession of 2005/2006. It crops up in the most unlikely places. One reason Democrats gave for refusing to reauthorize portions of the Patriot Act was poor King Charles' head. King Charles also made an appearance in the Abramoff scandal, as Democrats tried to find a way to tie Charles the Martyr's domestic spying conducted without a warrant to members of Congress accepting golfing trips to Scotland (did poor King Charles golf?)
With the looming Senate hearings that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has already promised, investigating the precise details of how and why poor King Charles lost his head (and exactly what year it was -- did you say 1649? that seems much too long ago), I don't anticipate any respite. I'm sure that despite heroic efforts, King Charles will creep his royal way into the elections this year, and his martyred head may even be the centerpiece of the Democratic Party's agenda, such as it is, for the next two years.
The Democrats are unfazed by the fact that the last president likewise had no warrant when he cut off poor King Charles' head; in fact, President Clinton's own domestic spying conducted without a warrant -- Echelon -- severed far more heads than Bush's much more limited expanded domestic spying conducted without a warrant. But that, I suppose, is totally different.
Perhaps, if I show that I can get through at least this penultimate paragraph without any mention of poor King Charles' head -- was that 1649, you said? is that in the histories? -- the Democrats will follow suit for the rest of this year.
Oh dear... I'm afraid I shall never keep him out!
Date ►►► January 12, 2006
The Spirit Was Willing...
Something meaty to chew on:
Scientists: Donner Family Not Cannibals
By Scott Sonner
Jan 12, 2005
Cannibalism has been documented at the Sierra Nevada site where most of the Donner Party's 81 members were trapped during the brutal winter of 1846-47, but 21 people, including all the members of the George and Jacob Donner families, were stuck six miles away because a broken axle had delayed them.
No cooked human bones were found among the thousands of fragments of animal bones at that Alder Creek site, suggesting Donner family members did not resort to cannibalism, the archaeologists said at a conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology in Sacramento, Calif.
All I can say is -- thank God the tiki bar is open!
In Defense of (Some) Elitism
The only charge against Judge Samuel Alito that seemed, at the end, to animate the Democrats crouching on the Senate Judiciary Committee was the revelation (should we say confession?) that he was a member once of a group called the Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), which he described in a November 15th, 1985 job application to be Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Reagan administration (duh), as "a conservative alumni group" (page 3).
Naturally, this charge is meaningless without an included charge that CAP itself was disreputable somehow. CAP's raison d'etre was to demand that Princeton rebuild the ROTC building after ungrateful radicals burnt it down. The Princeton Board of Trustees had refused to rebuild, presumably out of exaggerated deference to campus radicals, which appeasement was then occurring at many elite higher institutes, according to Robert Bork.
Of course, few today would hold it against a man that he was a member of a group that supported rebuilding a fire-bombed ROTC building (unlike in the early 70s, when such membership would be a black mark indeed); so the Democrats had to scratch somewhat deeper.
CAP was a very traditionalist social-conservative group, and they opposed other changes: for example, they opposed quotas for racial minorities. But again, this is currently a pretty mainstream opinion, hardly conducive to ginning up a lynch mob against Judge Alito. The Dems dug hard and deep.
Besides being pro-ROTC and anti-racial-minority-quota, CAP also demanded that "every humanities and social science department include one or two conservatives," according to a New York Times article of 1974, available only as a smeary pdf, unless you're anxious to fork over some money to "Pinch" Sulzberger.
The group is calling for a more active alumni role in decision-making, a greater representation of conservatives among the faculty, more regulations governing students' academic and social lives and more-favorable treatment of athletes by the Admissions Office.
But again, little of this agenda seems destined to rouse the peasants to descend, with sharpened torches and burning pitchforks, upon the Capitol steps demanding the exile of Judge Alito. Sens. Biden (D-DE), Schumer (D-NY), and especially Kennedy (D-Margaritaville) kept up the spadework, finally breaking out in China, where they dangled upside-down from the hole they'd dug. No matter, they had found their final line of attack.
Back in 1969, Princeton -- until then an all-male Christian university -- began to admit some women. As a compromise, however, they required that 800 admission slots be reserved for men -- a male quota. As total admissions were likewise capped, this amounted to a de-facto ceiling above which the number of female admissions could not rise.
But in January 1974, the Board of Trustees voted to remove the reserved slots for men. As the Times put it:
The subsequent adoption of an equal-access admissions policy last Jan. 19, along with the decision to retain undergraduate population at current levels, are expected to result in a decrease in the number of males matriculating each year.
CAP opposed this change to the traditions of Princeton, as its founders had opposed the original decision five years earlier to admit women at all (though CAP did not yet exist at that time). CAP was pro-quota for males (and the spawn of Princeton alumni), but anti-quota for racial minorities... which the Democrats of 2005 see as a contradiction. (They are of course untroubled by Wellesley College or the racially separtist Congressional Black Caucus, but that isn't the point here.)
The past is prologue; this line of attack by the Democrats on Judge Alito failed, producing only one direct casualty (Mrs. Judge Alito, who was driven from the hearing room in tears by the calumnies flung at her husband by weasels) and likely several indirect casualties come November. I'm more interested in the underlying question: is there a non-racist, non-sexist argument in favor of the CAP position?
Actually, I have no difficulty coming up with one -- which paradoxically relies upon the central organizing principle of the contemporary Democratic Party. I argue that exclusivity -- elitism -- is an essential element of a commitment to "diversity."
A libertarian of the Right would argue that the only diversity that matters in an anti-racist, anti-sexist society is diversity of thought. Unless the Left is formally willing to embrace pure racism and racial separatism, they would be forced, however reluctantly, to agree.
But thought does not arise in a vacuum. It is not encoded in our chromosomes how we'll think about certain issues: some identical twins think alike, but others do not, which clearly implies the relationship is more complex than simple genetic determinism might suggest. This is just a roundabout way of saying that how you think is to some extent a product of your raising... the environment in which your thought processes form.
Environment comprises many layers: there is the overall "gloss" of being a human being; call that Layer 0. Overlaid upon Layer 0 is one's time in history (people in 1506 think differently than people in 1006 or 2006), one's country and language, and one's general social and physical stature. Call these collectively Layer 1. But beyond these macro-layers, there are also more localized micro-layers, from state and city to neighborhood, family, friends, to the university faculty and fellow students, in the present case. Let's call this Layer 2.
And finally, there is Layer 3, which is one's individual "self," the Ego that uniquely identifies each person. For shorthand, we can call these the universal, class, local, and individual layers of environment, respectively.
The problem is that it's unclear how these layers interact, or even whether they interact in roughly the same way for each person or wildly diverge from individual to individual. But it's clear that Layer 0 is completely unchangeable without massive genetic engineering of the species; Layer 1 is uniform for vast gulps of people (in the millions or tens of millions); and Layer 3 is pretty much beyond the reach of the Princeton Board of Trustees.
And that leaves only Layer 2, the Local Layer, that can be affected by university policies; in particular, by the selection of an individual student's professors, classmates, and the staff with which he must deal.
The first, naive method for creating diversity of thought that typically occurs to folks is to require that every university's staff, faculty, and student population exemplify diversity of thought. In other words, trying to hire one of each school of thought for each department.
The problem with the simplistic method is that some philosophies (usually socialist) are specifically designed to be extraordinarily attractive on first glance; it's only later, after hard, rigorous thought, that the implicate flaws and absurdities emerge. Alas, the untrained mind of a typical university freshman is not inclined to do the heavy mental lifting required to achieve enlightenment. As the old saw puts it, a man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart; a man who is still a socialist at forty has no head.
Too, since flavors of leftism tend to bifurcate endlessly, eventually there are hundreds of branches. Conservatives are by nature conservative (duh again), so they tend to shun schismatics. Thus, trying to represent every school of thought that claims independence usually means the faculty includes fifty-seven varieties of socialist, from Stalinist to Bakuninite to Kropotkian to Keynesian to Deaniac to Kerryite to bush-league collectivists like Hillary Clinton -- versus one center-right conservative à la Walter Williams. Sheer weight of numbers overwhelms one whole school of thought.
But there is a better way to establish diversity of thought in the nation: encourage universities as universities to develop a "way of thinking" that is similar across the campus -- and then encourage a diversity in these various similiarities. Thus, there would be a "Yale" way of thinking, a "Harvard" way of thinking, and a "University of Chicago" way of thinking, each (one hopes) significantly different from the others. Kids and their parents could select the style of thought they will be encouraged to adopt by selecting the particular university to attend.
Since the university would hire according to this mode of thought, most of the faculty would represent it. Thus, even if the philosophy were not immediately accessible without serious pondering, the faculty would work together to force students at least to think hard enough about it to have an informed reaction: if the economics program at the University of Chicago pounds the ideas of Milton Friedman into its students' heads long enough, they'll at least understand monetarism well enough to accept or reject it on its merits, rather than because "hey hey ho ho Western Civ has got to go!"
The biggest danger to this technique is if all the schools begin to think alike. Then you have, not universities, but uniformities.
At the moment, and even more so back in 1974, the normative mode of university thought was liberal: pro-racial minority, anti-white, pro-female, and anti-male. (It was never "pro-equality of opportunity;" that's a myth. Liberalism always chose sides.) As Layer-1 environmental glosses, a student's sex and racial/ethnic background likely have an impact (at least) on how he thinks. Hence, an all girl campus, an all boy campus, and a co-ed campus will likely have differing modes of thought. Similarly, campuses that are mostly white, mostly black, mostly Hispanic, mostly Jewish, and racially and ethnically mixed will probably have notable differences in their cultures of thought.
So CAP could argue that they were trying to preserve at least one university as a bastion of white, Christian, male thought, in order to increase diversity by giving students an opportunity to choose to attend Princeton instead of, say, Yale or U.C. Berkeley.
I actually have a lot of sympathy for this effort, though I suspect it's doomed: universities will always more or less reflect the Layer-1 worldview of the larger society surrounding them; as King Canute demonstrated, you cannot command the tides. But it's not always clear whether certain changes are actually a "tide," or merely transient fads and whims: it's best to fight vigorously for any university's unique character, even if some others find it repugnant, to retain it as an option for future generations of student body.
(The only exception would be modes of thought that our society finds so dangerous that we really do want to eradicate them: an all-male student body doesn't equate to misogyny, and a mostly white student body doesn't equate to racism; but an explicitly misogynous or racist campus -- one that teaches that women or minorites are inferior -- is something that should be obliterated. But that does not describe the Princeton that existed in 1968, which is the Princeton to which CAP wanted to return.)
If a certain thought pattern become discredited enough, applications to its schools will plummet, and they'll go out of business; so it goes -- it's a free market. But until that happens, it's an extraordinarily stupid idea to artificially limit our diversity of thought by pushing for uniformity among universities -- stripping uniqueness in the name of "relevance" and "access."
Date ►►► January 11, 2006
"Softly Softly" Accuses U.S. of "Harshly Harshly"
Does anyone else see the irony in this Reuters story, British officer blisters US Army in Iraq critique?
The U.S. Army has displayed damaging cultural insensitivity in Iraq, while being blinded by unrealistic optimism and predisposed to use maximum force, a senior British officer wrote in a blistering appraisal in a U.S. military publication.
The essay by British Army Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who served with U.S. forces in Iraq from December 2003 to November 2004, appeared in the latest edition of the magazine Military Review, published by the U.S. Army.
(Just as an aside, was it culturally sensitive enough of us to allow Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster to hock and spit in our own Army publication? Would the Brits have returned the favor?)
The British Army's primary area of responsibility has been southern Iraq, and in particular, Basra Province. But Basra is precisely the area where Iranian-backed Shiite militias have taken over the police forces, right under the noses of the Brits.
Back in September, pro-Iranian militiamen in Basra kidnapped two British soldiers and held them hostage. In a daring and successful raid that defied the normal "softly, softly" approach by Great Britain -- hence, in all likelihood, was planned and executed at a level below flag rank -- British troops stormed the Basra police station to rescue their comrades. They discovered they had been moved to the militia headquarters in the city; so the troops then stormed that location and successfully rescued the hostages, killing several Shiite terrorists and arresting others in the process.
Whereupon the British government promptly apologized to the Iran-connected city council and agreed to pay extortion money to keep the council from instigating an anti-British riot. (The AP links have expired, alas; but they can probably be resurrected via Google's cache facility, if one is so inclined.) As we reported back in October:
The joint statement said: "We regret the incidents that took place in Basra on 19 September 2005 at the Serious Crimes Unit.
"We also regret the casualties on both sides and the material damage to public facilities.
"The British government is prepared to pay valid claims for compensation for casualties and material damage in the well-established manner."
The British "softly, softly" policy -- which is just chock-full of cultural sensitivity, brimming over with European pessimism (sorry, "realism"), and predisposed to humbly apologize for any use of force against the enemy -- has been by and large a disaster. They allowed Iranian controlled militias and actual Iranian agents to infiltrate Iraq all the way from Basra to Sadr City; they were next to useless in dealing with Muqtada Sadr; and they wasted a lot of time and squandered moral clarity by complaining that American troops were "insensitive" by, e.g., wearing helmets instead of berets.
I have heard from many sources that the ordinary British soldiers and the junior to mid-level officers are terribly frustrated by their weak posture and wish that their own brigadiers had as much spine as ours... or even as much as their own majors and colonels.
Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster is a textbook example of what is wrong with Europe today -- and of how creeping Euroism is making significant inroads into Great Britain's military, particularly at the senior officer (political) level.
Blow That Whistle, Beat That Drum!
One of the New York Times "official sources" on the NSA intercept story has outed himself in an ABC interview, turning out to be (as expected) a disgruntled employee of the National Security Agency -- currently an ex-employee, but evidently still working for the agency when he spoke to the Times more than a year ago, as he was not fired until May.
Russell Tice, a longtime insider at the National Security Agency, is now a whistleblower the agency would like to keep quiet....
But now, Tice tells ABC News that some of those secret "black world" operations run by the NSA were operated in ways that he believes violated the law. He is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the NSA in the post-9/11 efforts to go after terrorists.
ABC tries desperately to resurrect this dead horse for another trot around the track by making it appear as though Tice will testify that the intercept program was huge and indiscriminate:
President Bush has admitted that he gave orders that allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on a small number of Americans without the usual requisite warrants. [Tendentiousness alert! That the warrants were "requisite" is a fact to be proven -- not a stipulation. -- the Mgt.]
But Tice disagrees. He says the number of Americans subject to eavesdropping by the NSA could be in the millions if the full range of secret NSA programs is used.
"That would mean for most Americans that if they conducted, or you know, placed an overseas communication, more than likely they were sucked into that vacuum," Tice said. [Emphasis added]
Sure, it "could be," if. But that's not the question, is it? The question is whether it was so huge and indiscriminate... not whether the NSA has the technological capability: recording every international conversation that used any of a list of key words is completely unworkable, since there are too many times that innocent conversations include those words, each of which must be analyzed... and because it's easy for spies and terrorists to use code words instead: "from now on, Achmed, when I say jack in the box, Junior Mints, or jellyfish, I really mean that other J-word."
So sure, the NSA could have ensnared millions indiscriminately to no avail, wasting the agency's own time and producing hundreds of thousands of hours of audiotape that not even the NSA has sufficient personnel to review. But did they? We certainly don't know from ABC.
Many commenters seem focused on the last paragraph of the article; and admittedly, it's a doozy that puts everything Tice says into a different context:
The NSA revoked Tice's security clearance in May of last year based on what it called psychological concerns and later dismissed him. Tice calls that bunk and says that's the way the NSA deals with troublemakers and whistleblowers. Today the NSA said it had "no information to provide."
They call me mad, mad I tell you!
If in fact it's true that Tice was having psychological problems, then it's hard to know how much of his accusation is accurate, and how much is, to put it bluntly, delusional or at least the result of a paranoid personality disorder, hence not reliable.
But the mere fact that Tice was discharged on the NSA equivalent of a "Section 8" is not proof that he is crazy, because that would happen in either case: whether he's paranoid, or whether they really are trying to silence a whistleblower. It's not dispositive.
Instead, I want to focus like a laser beam (as Bill Clinton used to say) on a different sentence, one that explains, all by itself, why this story, which the Democrats still cling to like a sick kitten to a warm brick, is the biggest possible loser for them politically:
[Tice] is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the NSA in the post-9/11 efforts to go after terrorists.
"The mentality was we need to get these guys, and we're going to do whatever it takes to get them," he said.
There it is on a nutshell: "We're going to do whatever it takes to get [the terrorists]." So long as that is how the NSA "scandal" is framed, it can only help the Republicans and President Bush; and the longer it runs, the more it helps the GOP and Bush.
It's my bet that Americans want us to do "whatever it takes to get them." And the fact that the Democrats, by and large, still haven't figured that out reconfirms every bad thing we've heard about the inability of Democrats and liberals to get serious about the war in Iraq, the war on jihadi terrorism, and national security in general.
They simply don't get it. Even now!
The Bush administration should adopt the Tice accusation as its mantra. Bush should say the following in his next speech, and every speech thereafter:
One of those who says he leaked the details of the al-Qaeda telephone intercept program, Russell Tice, made an accusation against this administration. He said, in an interview with ABC, that where we went wrong in our war against al-Qaeds was when we decided, and I quote, "we're going to do whatever it takes to get them."
My fellow Americans, to this charge, I plead guilty, guilty, guilty! Those who leaked this program were absolutely wrong to do what they did; they compromised national security because of personal objections to communications intercepts.
But if what bothered them was the idea that my administration was going to do, quote, "whatever it takes" to stop al-Qaeda and other terrorists who plan to attack America... then in that belief, they were absolutely right: we are -- and we will.
Now it's up to you: do you want a government full of people who will do whatever it takes to protect the American people from attack? Or do you want a government full of people who will stop short of that standard because they're more worried about the civil liberties of al-Qaeda spies inside the United States? In November of this year, you'll get your chance to answer that question.
The fact that the Democrats are still, to this very moment, licking their chops in anticipation of Congressional hearings on the NSA program and demanding to know where Judge Samuel Alito stands on this terrible "scandal" tells me that the penny still hasn't dropped... they still think they're going to win by pointing at Osama bin Laden and Musab Zarqawi and saying "those poor victims of American imperialism and tyranny!"
All right. Old saying: never interfere with your enemy when he's in the process of destroying himself. I'll just stand over here and hum.
Date ►►► January 10, 2006
An Early Contender For Best Quote of the Year - Update and Bump
UPDATED -- see below.
I know, I know; some of you may think January 3rd is a smidge too early to be nominating anyone for Best Quote of the Year -- particularly for a quotation from two days ago, on New Year's Day! But I cannot resist... especially as the candidate is one of my three favorite bloggers on my favorite blog, Power Line (the title refers to a different Power Line post).
In the course of a post on President Bush's defense of the NSA intercept program, John Hinderaker typed the pithiest summing-up I've yet read of all the arguments in favor of the program from a policy perspective, which also happens to be the most unanswerable argument on this subject from anyone, in the blogosphere or in the government itself. The Bush administration is nuts if they don't work this line into every speech by the president over the next eleven months:
When asked what Bush has to say to those who are concerned about their civil liberties, he responded along the lines of, "If al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why. I think that's reasonable."
Modest John will likely argue that he was only quoting Bush; but his own words show that not to be true. He wrote that Bush said something "along the lines of" that quote. I would have to say that the brilliance of the quotation belongs to John, not to the president.
So keep this one in mind, folks, in case someone braces you a year from now to ask for recommendations for some Webbie-like award, in the category Pithiest Pronouncement.
UPDATE January 10th, 2006: Thanks to Bill Faith in the comments of a different post, we now have the Bush original... and as I remembered, John's version is pithier and sharper.
Here is George Bush's actual quotation "from a Q&A session after he visited Brook Army Medical
Center on January 1st," according to Mr. Faith: "Ed, I can say that if somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why."
And now John's version: "If al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why."
So the honor is still to Mr. Hinderaker.
Of Human Bindage
From Local6.com News, via Drudge:
Some Of Nation's Best Libraries Have Books Bound In Human Skin
The practice of binding books in human skin was not uncommon in centuries past, even if it was not always discussed in polite society.
Sometimes it's best not to say anything at all.
Four of a Kind
Sam Alito listens to Sen. Patrick "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT).
Sam Alito listens to Sen. "Slow" Joe Biden (D-DE).
Sam Alito listens to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Margaritaville).
Sam Alito listens to his iPod.
The New York Times Needs to Read Power Line
The New York Times today reports that the interrogation of Judge Samuel Alito today focused on a formerly obscure concurrance by a Supreme Court justice in 1952... in a case that has already been thoroughly analyzed, in far greater depth, by the tribunes at Power Line.
(Haven't we been down this road before? It's like déjà vu all over again!)
The case they refer to is Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company v. Sawyer 343 U.S. 579 (1952), and Paul Mirengoff at Power Line first discussed it back in late December, anent the NSA intercept program that has just been outed by anonymous "officials." Paul only laid out the basics of the particular concurrance by Justice Robert H. Jackson that is now, more than two weeks later, the "focus of [the] hearings" into Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.
On New Year's Day, John Hinderaker took a whack at the Jackson formulation in a much longer piece.
The basics of the case -- and why lefties think it applies to President Bush and the NSA intercepts -- are quickly recounted in the Times piece:
The 1952 opinion, a concurrence by Justice Robert H. Jackson, rejected President Harry S. Truman's assertion that he had the constitutional power to seize the nation's steel mills to aid the war effort in Korea. Whether and how Justice Jackson's analysis should apply to broadly similar recent assertions by the Bush administration, notably concerning its domestic surveillance program, will plainly be a central theme when questioning of Judge Alito begins Tuesday morning....
In 1952, the Supreme Court faced a set of clashing interests in the Youngstown case broadly similar to those in the current surveillance controversy. That April, President Truman seized the nation's steel mills to prevent an expected labor strike, saying that national security during the Korean War required uninterrupted access to steel.
In June 1952, in a 6-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court rejected the various legal rationales offered by the Truman administration for the seizures. Many of those rationales have echoes in the justifications offered by the Bush administration for its detention of enemy combatants, harsh interrogations and domestic surveillance without court approval.
"Echoes in the justifications..." wait, what did the Court actually decide in the Youngstown case?
Writing for the court, Justice Hugo L. Black said the president's power was extensive but not unlimited.
"Even though 'theater of war' be an expanding concept," Justice Black wrote, "we cannot with faithfulness to our constitutional system hold that the commander in chief of the armed forces has the ultimate power as such to take possession of private property in order to keep labor disputes from stopping production. This is a job for the nation's lawmakers, not for its military authorities."
Ah, of course: seizing private property to prevent a strike. Yes, I can see how that's "broadly similar" to the National Security Agency intercepting phone calls from al-Qaeda to their agents in the United States. And I can definitely hear those "echoes in the justifications" offered by President Bush why he should be able to hold enemy combatants in military detention.
To its credit, the Times does admit that the "broadly similar" facts seem oddly dissimilar:
There are, of course, obvious differences between the Youngstown case and recent efforts to combat terrorism. The seizure of the steel mills, for instance, was a wholly domestic matter. The surveillance program, by contrast, monitors international communications between the United States and other nations.
Um, yeah. Also, Truman tried to seize the steel mills in order to prevent a strike that he thought might interfere with the war -- whereas the NSA intercepts are direct warmaking actions to gather enemy intelligence: as Hinderaker said earlier (more or less paraphrasing the president), "If al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why."
Justice Jackson's concurring opinion set up a formulation for the strength of a president's power:
1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate....
2. When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain....
3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter.
(The Left claims, of course, that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) forbids any "wiretapping" without a warrant -- but see below -- and that therefore, the president's power is Type III: "incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress," thus "at its lowest ebb.")
"It is not entirely clear why Justice Jackson's concurrence has had such a lasting impact," disingenuously muses the Times; for it is completely obvious why: because that concurring opinion is all that the Democrats have to throw against the commander in chief's obvious Article II power to fight wars. Therefore, they're going to keep waving it as a bloody shirt to urge on the masses.
Returning to Hinderaker's post on Justice Jackson's concurring opinion and its possible application to the NSA case, John begins his analysis so:
In my opinion, reliance on this analysis by critics of the NSA programs is misplaced, for several reasons.
The reasons he cites are quite persuasive:
- It was a concurring opinion that no other justice joined.
- The decision in Youngstown was a no-brainer: "if a President's constitutional powers allowed him to formulate and carry out domestic policy, including the seizure of private property, by executive order, then the President really would be a dictator," sayeth Brother John.
- The argument turned more on the president's charge to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" than his powers as commander in chief.
- It isn't clear that Jackson's discussion and his three-scenario formulation were ever meant to apply to the president's war-fighting powers: "Jackson lays out his three categories before he specifically addresses any of the executive's Article II powers, then begins by talking about the President's exercise of 'the executive Power.'"
- The Court rejected the claim that Truman's powers as commander in chief allowed him to seize the steel mills on the grounds that that was a purely domestic action -- but the NSA intercepts are of foreign-originating calls and e-mails.
Even Justice Jackson himself appears to agree with Hinderaker on that last point. As John quotes from Jackson's opinion...
(Note: for reasons known only to themselves and perhaps God, the fine fellows at Power Line have taken to using three asterisks [ *** ] instead of the normal ellipsis [ ... ] to indicate words clipped out. They don't mean such passages are attended by three footnotes!)
There are indications that the Constitution did not contemplate that the title Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy will constitute him also Commander in Chief of the country, its industries and its inhabitants.***That military powers of the Commander in Chief were not to supersede representative government of internal affairs seems obvious from the Constitution and from elementary American history.***
We should not use this occasion to circumscribe, much less to contract, the lawful role of the President as Commander in Chief. I should indulge the widest latitude of interpretation to sustain his exclusive function to command the instruments of national force, at least when turned against the outside world for the security of our society. But, when it is turned inward, not because of rebellion but because of a lawful economic struggle between industry and labor, it should have no such indulgence.
Finally, one last comment. The Times article concludes with a backhanded legal opinion on FISA that appears, facially, to be utterly false:
The third category is where the president takes action at odds with the will of Congress. A 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, appears to require court approval before monitoring of the sort the administration has acknowledged.
In fact, it says no such thing, as John pointed out in yet another Power Line post (I feel so inadequate):
UPDATE: If the program is as the President described it, and the interceptions are carried out overseas, then it is outside the scope of FISA. See the definition of "electronic surveillance" to which that statute applies, 50 U.S.C. Sec. 1801(f):
John then lists the four-part definition of "electronic surveillance," as used by FISA, no part of which appears to apply to the NSA intercepts, assuming we have been given correct information by the White House. The "electronic surveillance" that has been "acknowledged" by the Bush administration does not, thus, "require court approval" or warrant of any kind.
So the entire New York Times take on the NSA intercepts is wrong on its face, and needn't even reach the question of whether an act of Congress (such as FISA) can override the president's residual, plenary powers as defined in Article II of the Constitution.
More DeLay DeLights (and Lowlights)
This is one of the most amazing and complex smears I've yet read from the Associated Press. I would like to say "there's less here than meets the eye," but I've used that exact phrase too much lately, and I'm tired of writing it. I wonder if Movable Type allows me to create a macro?
Today's hit-piece subject is Tom DeLay, and this is the first DeLay smear in the new Abramoff category that I've read (as opposed to the stale, old Ronnie Earle category). This one wants to leave you with the impression that DeLay took a bribe from an Indian tribe to close down a rival tribe's casino... but as usual with such pieces of "journalism," they haven't the guts (or permission from Legal) to actually come right out and say it, since there isn't any actual evidence, as such. So they talk around it and hope the reader will leap to the conclusion the writer wants to insinuate.
Let's try to untangle these threads, shall we? Here is the basic charge on a nutshell:
DeLay Tried, Failed to Aid Abramoff Client
by Suzanne Gamboa
Jan 10, 2005
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay tried to pressure the Bush administration into shutting down an Indian-owned casino that lobbyist Jack Abramoff wanted closed - shortly after a tribal client of Abramoff's donated to a DeLay political action committee, The Associated Press has learned.
The Texas Republican demanded closure of the casino, owned by the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas, in a Dec. 11, 2001 letter to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. The Associated Press obtained the letter from a source who did not want to be identified because of an ongoing federal investigation of Abramoff and members of Congress....
[The letter was] also signed by Texas Republican Reps. Pete Sessions, John Culberson and Kevin Brady.
Sessions' political action committee received $6,500 from Abramoff's tribal clients within three months after signing the letter....
The letter was sent at least two weeks after the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a tribal client of Abramoff's, contributed $1,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC [well, actually thirteen days; but who's counting? -- the Mgt.]. That political action committee is at the center of the campaign finance investigation that yielded money laundering charges against DeLay and forced him temporarily out of the majority leader's job....
At the time of the letter, Abramoff was working for the Louisiana Coushatta and had portrayed the Alabama-Coushatta's Houston-area casino as a threat to his client's casino.
Wow, sounds like an airtight case. No need for a trial -- just fling DeLay into jail and be done with it! Airtight until one closely parses the "evidence," that is.
Let's start with this: the "tribal client of Abramoff's" who "donated to a DeLay political action committee" two weeks before this letter went out -- the Mississippi Choctaw -- do not appear to be connected to the Coushatta (Koasati) at all, so far as I can tell. I'm certainly by no means an expert in American Indian tribes and their connections; but aside from both tribes originally being mound-builders in what is now the South, there seems no connection.
Unless, that is, the "connection" in Ms. Gamboa's mind is that DeLay helped some Injuns after Injuns who were clients of Abramoff donated money to TRMPAC -- and since one Injun is the same as any other Injun, there must be a connection. To the rest of us, this sounds remarkably like saying former German Chancellor Gerhard Schreoder was obviously working for French President Jacques Chirac, because as soon as Schreoder left office he was hired by the Russian company Gazprom. Hey, one European country is the same as any other, right?
So we have DeLay and some other Texas politicians lobbying to close an Alabama-Coushatta casino over alleged violations of Texas law -- after they received a fairly trivial $1,000 from a different and unrelated tribe which (so far as we know) was not feuding with the Coushatta.
But wait -- there was a tribe that was feuding with the Alabama-Coushatta over that casino, and who were also clients of Jack Abramoff: the Louisiana-Coushatta. Yet there is no evidence that the Louisana branch contributed any money to DeLay, Sessions, Culberson, Brady -- or TRMPAC.
(Oh, don't be so picky: you say Choctaw, I say Coushatta....)
The letter-signers claim they only wanted it shut down because the Alabama-Coushatta were violating various state laws:
A spokeswoman for Sessions said he considers gaming a state issue. She said the tribe was circumventing state law and Sessions signed the letter in defense of Texas laws.
But of course, they would say that, wouldn't they? Who are you going to believe -- Republican members of the "culture of corruption," or a crusading journalist who is one of the passel assigned by AP to taking down Tom DeLay?
Well, how about a federal court that actually heard the evidence in the case?
Ashcroft never took action on the request. The Texas casino was closed the following year by a federal court ruling in a 1999 lawsuit filed by the state's attorney general, John Cornyn, now a U.S. senator.
Hm... Sessions' DeFense was that they were trying to get the feds to shut down the casino because it was "circumventing state law." This was two years after the state attorney general filed a federal case to do the same thing (to a different casino, however -- though presumably for the same reason; what other reason would be a legitimate cause of action?)... and a year after the letter was sent, a federal judge came to the conclusion that the (other) casino was engaged in such egregious illegal action that it had to be shut down.
Finally, what firm conclusions does this story draw that would merit the clear attempt to implicate Tom DeLay in Jack Abramoff's massive bribery scheme?
The contributions are not necessarily illegal, but DeLay's association with Abramoff is under scrutiny. DeLay has taken overseas trips paid for in part by Abramoff, and his national political action committee used a skybox leased by Abramoff to treat donors to a concert.
Well, who could argue with that?
Curiously, some of the specific implications in this AP story contradict an earlier AP story by the same writer (hat tip to Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff, who is probably unhappy that I'm using his post to attack Gamboa's insinuation): Gamboa's current story clearly implies the lawsuit was filed against the Alabama-Coushatta; but her earlier story makes clear it was actually filed against a different Indian tribe, the Tigua of El Paso, and the Coushatta shut-down was just fallout from that:
Cornyn, now a Republican U.S. senator, had filed a lawsuit in 1999 to shut down a casino operated by the Tigua tribe in El Paso, saying it violated the state's limited gambling laws. In 2002, federal courts shuttered the Tiguas' casino and Cornyn used that ruling to shut down the Alabama-Coushuttas' casino.
This Gamboa story tries very hard to connect Sen. Cornyn to Abramoff through Ralph Reed:
In 2001, Abramoff was working as a lobbyist for the Louisiana Coushatta tribe to prevent rival gaming casinos from siphoning off its Texas customers. He paid Reed as a consultant, and Reed lobbied to get the Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua casinos closed in Texas.
Reed sent Abramoff an e-mail saying he had gotten fifty conservative pastors who opposed casino gambling in Texas to meet with Cornyn, who had already filed his lawsuit two years earlier. Reed then bragged to his boss that he had "choreographed" Cornyn's response:
"We have also choreographed Cornyn's response. The AG will state that the law is clear, talk about how much he wants to avoid repetition of El Paso and pledge to take swift action to enforce the law," Reed wrote. "He will also personally hand Ed Young a letter that commits him to take action in Livingston."
Apart from a "prediction" that even the Amazing Criswell could have made -- "the law is clear," "take swift action to enforce the law" -- the only specific mentioned in this e-mail is that Cornyn would hand Young a letter. The reader only finds out later in the that not only Cornyn but also Young deny any such letter existed, and that there is no evidence from anybody else that it does, either.
So let us review the betting in this game of journalistic Texas Hold 'Em:
- The Texas attorney general -- who has never been shown to have any connection with Jack Abramoff -- files a lawsuit to shut down a Texas casino (owned by a Texas tribe) for various illegalities.
- Two years later, an unrelated Mississippi tribe that has hired Abramoff contributes money to TRMPAC. (They had hired Abramoff to lobby for them; but so had almost everybody, including the Illuminati, South Pacific headhunters, and Koko the Gorilla.)
- Two weeks after that, four Texas politicians -- one of whom was connected with TRMPAC when it was founded -- write a letter to Ashcroft urging him to shut down a casino owned by an Alabama tribe; Ashcroft does not respond, and so far as we know, the congressmen do not pursue it further.
- Around this same time, a bunch of anti-gambling pastors urge the state attorney general to also shut down the Alabama tribe's casino as well as the Texas tribe's casino he's already trying to close.
- An Abramoff consultant, Ralph Reed, seems to have set this up; but there's no evidence the pastors knew anything about his connection to Abramoff, or the fact that Abramoff had as client the Louisiana branch of the Coushatta tribe, or that he evidently intended to get himself hired by the Alabama Coushatta after their casino was closed to lobby to reopen it.
- A year later, the federal court closes the Texas tribe's casino in response to the lawsuit; the attorney general uses the ruling also to shutter the Alabama tribe's casino.
Forgive me if I fail to see any clear line connecting these various entites spread across four states, whose only connection appears to be that they were all pursuing goals that Abramoff was able to use to enrich himself. Ah, but there's a Tom DeLay scandal in there somewhere, and by golly, we're going to insinuate it!
I should get some sort of commendation or a free meal out of this (possibly at Signatures, Abramoff's congressional-comping restaurant)... I read these things so you don't have to. I call Ms. Gamboa's latest raise; let's flip over the cards and see if she was bluffing.
Date ►►► January 9, 2006
Even Right-Wingers Have a Lot of Catching Up to Do
I was listening to Michael Medved opining on the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito, and I finally just had to turn it off. After perhaps the fifth or sixth time that a caller complained about Alito's decision in this or that particular case -- straight off Chuck Schumer's talking pionts -- and Medved had to respond "I don't know the specifics about that particular case, but....", I realized that Medved is so far behind the times on Alito that he could not effectively argue the case for confirmation.
The maddening thing is that every case cited as an example of Alito's treachery to the Constitution has already been thoroughly dissected, debated, and debunked in the blogosphere -- but Medved seems completely unaware of that. The last caller I listened to raised the case where the Left claims that after the cops "strip searched a ten year old girl," Judge Alito cheered them on, applauding them for brutalizing a child. What a thug he must be!
But this myth was long ago put under the spotlight here in the 'sphere. The first analysis I read was by John Hinderaker at Power Line back on Halloween; then Patterico also analyzed the same case, Doe v. Groody.
The case before Alito had nothing to do with the policy of strip searching anyone, including children; had the warrant explicitly said the cops could do so, nobody would have disputed that the search was valid. The sole question before the Third Circus Court, on which Judge Alito then sat, was whether the police were acting in the reasonable belief that the warrant they received gave them the power to order that search (by a police matron, of course), and therefore whether a lawsuit against them should be dismissed.
Two judges on the court held that it was not reasonable to believe the warrant authorized that; Alito dissented. But even in his dissent, he expressed great reluctance over the policy, while admitting it was likely necessary, so long as drug dealers use children to hide drugs:
I share the majority’s visceral dislike of the intrusive search of John Doe’s young daughter, but it is a sad fact that drug dealers sometimes use children to carry out their business and to avoid prosecution. I know of no legal principle that bars an officer from searching a child (in a proper manner) if a warrant has been issued and the warrant is not illegal on its face. Because the warrant in this case authorized the searches that are challenged – and because a reasonable officer, in any event, certainly could have thought that the warrant conferred such authority – I would reverse.
As it happens, Hindrocket concluded that the warrant did, indeed authorize such a search, and therefore the officers should not have been subject to a lawsuit; while Patterico concluded that the warrant did not authorize that search, but that the officers reasonably believed that it did, and therefore should not be subject to a lawsuit. I am sure that other attorneys in the blogosphere probably believed that the officers' actions were unreasonable; a Google search would likely turn some up.
But the point is that clearly it never so much as occurred to Michael Medved, who is an attorney himself, to look to blogs for analysis of the major cases used against Alito by the Schumerites: Doe v. Groody; Alito's dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where he voted to uphold a law requiring spousal notification before an abortion; and the other cases cited by opponents of Alito's confirmation -- for example, as detailed in Wikipedia, whose list appears to have been taken directly from People for the American Way's analysis (PAW is a great proxy for the liberal position on most issues; the ACLU is good specifically to find out what liberals are saying on legal questions).
Many of these decisions have already been analyzed by attorneys and con-law specialists in the blogosphere... but Medved appears completely unaware of this treasure-trove of deep and detailed discussions. One would imagine that, while preparing for an hour-long segment on Alito's confirmation on his top-rated radio show, he would take at least a cursory glance at previous writings on the small number of cases cited to attack Alito.
One would be wrong.
As a talk-radio host (with his own website) and an attorney, the obvious thing for Medved to do would be to spend some time and identify five or six blogs blogs authored by lawyers and legal scholars he could turn to; these blogs would give him a quick start to analysis of legal controversies, and he could take it from there, doing his own analysis and drawing his own conclusions. Heck, I'm not even a lawyer, and I can cite six such blogs right off the bat: Power Line, Patterico's Pontifications, BeldarBlog (possibly defunct; no posts since last October 19th), the Volokh Conspiracy, Hugh Hewitt, and SCSU Scholars.
Sadly, not even the new-media Right has fully internalized the existence of blogs and how that changes communications in the twenty-first century.
Date ►►► January 8, 2006
A Shiite Sandwich
Sometimes, spelunking through a mainstream-media report on Iraq to locate the real story requires a helmet, headlamp, pick, rope, and other caving gear; it's a major expedition into the deepest, darkest depths of the media closet.
The classic technique for burying good news which should be the lede is the mirror image of what a blunt friend of mine, a master of the delicate phrase, always referred to as (I sink into euphemism) a "turd sandwich." (You can guess what he actually said, but please don't post your guesses here, thanks!) When you want to criticize someone, but you want him not simply to tune you out, you must encase the criticism within a sandwich of praise on each side: "your screenplay has excellent character development and flows well; if it has any flaw, it would be that the plot completely falls apart in act three... but I really liked your visual imagery."
The MSM uses the reverse technique: all of the good news is buried in the middle, unmentioned in the headline, and surrounded on both sides by as bad a set of facts as they can report with a straight face. In print, the media will use what media critic Patterico calls the Power of the Jump™: they put nothing but bad news on the first page of a story, saving any good Iraq news for after "the jump," the part following the phrase "continues on page 23," knowing most readers won't.
I call as my fortieth witness the following article from AP.
The most urgent and important news in this story is that the Shia, Sunni, and Kurds have already reached general agreement on a tripartisan government that will be formed by the middle of February, much faster than back in January, 2005 -- and with none of the rancor that marred the earlier election:
Iraq's fractious political groups, meanwhile, could form a coalition government within weeks, Talabani said Saturday....
[Note and remember that I elide one paragraph here; I will return to this point at the end.]
Meeting with Straw in Baghdad, Talabani said Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political groups had agreed in principle on a national unity government that could be formed within a few weeks. Western diplomats in Baghdad have speculated that a government could be in place by the second half of February.
Notice the telltale word "meanwhile" in the first quoted paragraph above. That is a dead giveaway that this was not the first graf of the article, as it should have been. This is great news! But you wouldn't know it unless you read into the middle-end of the story... because the headline is actually a completely unrelated story: 12 Thought Dead After Copter Crash in Iraq.
Sachi was the first to point out this technique to me. When the Associated Press (or any MSM source) wants to bury the lede, their most common technique is to surreptitiously shoehorn it, in the dark of a moonless night, into an article that would give no clue to the reader of the guilty, little nugget of good news buried inside. (Congress uses a similar technique, hiding a provision to spend $300 million of taxpayer money on the Sen. Ima Tachs Hogg Congressional Library within an agricultural bill for Nebraska locust relief.)
The AP story opens describing the terrible deaths of twelve brave Americans whose Blackhawk helicopter crashed; no word yet whether it was due to mechanical failure, weather, or enemy action, and no word as of this writing whether it was full of soldiers or civilians. (The New York Times reports that "Bad weather was thought to have played at least some role.")
AP then segues seamlessly into an account of the three Marines killed today and the two slain yesterday, lingering over the current American military death clock.
The story next dwells with some relish upon the various civilians killed in Iraq today (five), and upon a mosque that we raided (complete with an accusatory quote from the Association of Muslim Scholars, a group that often works hand-in-glove with the terrorists). It discusses a French hostage who was just released and waxes rhapsodic over the number of civilians who have been kidnapped in Iraq since the war began.
Oh, did you know the United States and the Iraqi government have been talking to a very large number of Sunni rejectionists, and that there has been "a recent 'uptick'" in the number of such groups now willing, since the December elections, to enter into discussions to rejoin the greater Iraqi community and turn their backs on the terrorists, further isolating the latter? You'd never know it unless you read deep into this completely unrelated story about a helicopter crash.
And only after all this do we finally come to what should be the real lede, the only piece of actual "news" in this entire article (unless you count the "uptick" as a newslet): negotiations on forming the new, elected government are going much better than anyone expected -- and better than anyone has hitherto reported. AP casually drops the good-news bombshell in paragraph twenty-nine out of thirty-seven.
But then, at the very end -- just to make sure to leave a bad taste even in the mouths of those hardy souls who read deep into what appears, at first glance, to be a typical "bad day in Baghdad" story -- the AP piece ends with the phrase "In other violence Sunday:"... followed by a list of various people shot today.
And there you have it: a good-news sandwich, where the surrounding bread is made up of every piece of bad news AP can find to disguise, bury, and minimize the real story -- the imminent creation of Iraq's first truly democratic, inclusive "national unity government," and the uptick in the number of militant Iraqi groups willing to lay down their arms and join the political process instead.
Oh, and the elision I committed in the quoted paragraphs above, marked by the "...." ellipsis? AP was so bubbling over with bad news they considered more important than the remarkable political story, they even found occasion to insert some right into the middle of the few grafs describing the formation of the government:
Talabani, a Kurd, offered a timeframe on the formation of a government after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who said Iraqis remain optimistic despite a violent week that saw nearly 200 people killed in two days.
...Just in case you'd forgotten in all the excitement.
Date ►►► January 7, 2006
Hm, I Wonder Why
The powerhouse witness against Samuel Alito, the one who was to testify that Alito was a member of a "racist and sexist" organization while at Princeton, has been inexplicably dropped from the witness list.
Stephen Dujack was set to testify that the group Alito claimed membership in when he applied for a political job in the Reagan White House, Concerned Alumni of Princeton, had the temerity to oppose affirmative action quotas, which clearly -- in Dujack's reasoning -- made it the moral equivalent of the Nazis. Then fate intervened, and the Democrats removed his name from the list.
"[It] wasn't immediately clear why Dujack was removed from the Democrats' witness list," writes the Daily Princetonian. But perhaps we can suss it out, kind readers.
Could it have had something to do with a previous comparison Dujack made between a different group of people and the Nazis, in a column Dujack wrote for the Los Angeles Times? That earlier group of people comprised everone who eats meat:
Like the victims of the Holocaust, animals are rounded up, trucked hundreds of miles to the kill floor and slaughtered. Comparisons to the Holocaust are not only appropriate but inescapable because, whether we wish to admit it or not, cows, chickens, pigs and turkeys are as capable of feeling loneliness, fear, pain, joy and affection as we are. To those who defend the modern-day holocaust on animals by saying that animals are slaughtered for food and give us sustenance, I ask: If the victims of the Holocaust had been eaten, would that have justified the abuse and murder? Did the fact that lampshades, soaps and other "useful" products were made from their bodies excuse the Holocaust? No. Pain is pain.
Back to the Princetonian:
On Friday, the office of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a strong Alito backer, circulated copies of the column. By that evening, Dujack's name had been removed from a full list of witnesses released by the judiciary committee.
There is, however, no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the two events have any causal connection. Just another example of "the lattice of coincidence that lies on top of everything."
Not that Dujack will give up his crusade to keep off the Supreme Court anybody who doesn't embrace the most extreme form of "affirmative action" -- and veganism. He fights on:
The column has not been specifically cited as the reason for Dujack's removal from the witness list, and he said he still plans to submit written testimony about the alumni group to the judiciary committee to tell senators "how awful this organization was."
"I'm going to want to explain why those of us who know the organization can be filled with revulsion at hearing that a person who was selected to go our nation's high court was proud of his membership in that organization," Dujack said in an email.
But at this point, I think the Democrats are desperately looking for someone to sit on Dujack's head during the hearings. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Margaritaville, would be an ideal candidate for this leadership position: he has a firm grasp of the fundamentals.
About Those Minnesota Republicans...
Just a quick, cheap-shot response to John Hinderaker's Power Line post about the Minnesota Republican congressional contingent joining the call for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) to step down as House majority leader, a call he heeded today (much to my dismay; in this sense, Quixotic Democratic D.A. Ronnie Earle won: he forced DeLay from his leadership position, even if the entire, trumped-up case against DeLay collapses before trial).
Two Minnesota Congressmen, Jim Ramstad and my own Representative, John Kline, are supporting the petition....
There aren't a lot of people whose judgment I defer to on principle, but John is one of them. If he thinks a change in leadership will be good for the party, the Congress and the country, that's good enough for me.
Well, I suppose. Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that DeLay's DeParture now opens up the second-highest leadership position in Congress, on which DeLay had a DeLock until now... and that the two top candidates to replace him are Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) and former Republican Conference Chairman John Boehner (R-OH)... both fellow Midwesterners of Ramstad and Kline (and incidently Hinderaker), as opposed to DeSoutherner, DeLay.
But I'm sure we can rely on their national stature not to allow regional chauvinism to DeCide their positions on the leadership fight!
About That Wiretapping Poll...
The Associated Press is touting its own AP-Ipsos poll purporting to show a significant majority of Americans opposes the Bush administration on warrantless tapping of al-Qaeda phone calls originated abroad to their terrorist agents in the United States. But as typical these days, there is much less here than meets the eye.
The poll in today's story is very similar to the "generic congressional poll" results announced yesterday purporting to show a massive shift in Americans' support for Democratic control of Congress, a seismic shift that would signal that the Democrats are poised to seize back the House; that poll found that if the mid-term election were held today, 49% of Americans would want to see the Democrats win, while only 36% would want to see the Republicans win. Besides both polls showing a big surge towards Democrats, they have other similarities:
- They have exactly the same age breakdown;
- They have exactly the same employment breakdown;
- Same educational breakdown;
- Same marriage breakdown;
- In fact, every, single demographic question is identical on the "two" surveys.
- And oddly enough, they were even conducted over the same days, by the same pollsters, with the exact same number of respondents.
One might almost conclude that this was really the very same poll -- just mendaciously reported twice, in two different contexts, to make it appear as though there were a trend moving in the Democratic direction, a rising crescendo of criticism of George W. Bush. But of course, it would be dishonest for AP to do that without noting the fact, so it can't be true. It must simply be an eerie coincidence.
Another point the "two" polls share: they both wildly overpolled Democrats -- 52% of the respondents were Democrats, 40% were Republicans, and 8% were independents; that is, they polled almost a third more Democrats than Republicans.
How can this affect results? Well, it's hardly surprising that there would be a very significant difference between the responses of Democrats and Republicans to a question put so clearly in the context of partisan politics as this:
Should the Bush administration be required to get a warrant from a judge before monitoring phone and internet communications between American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists, or should the government be allowed to monitor such communications without a warrant?
In the first place, why mention the name of the current president if you really want to know what the respondent thinks of presidential power in general? The answer is fairly clear: to make it a party issue. Democrats will immediately understand the context is Bush's Fascist depredations against civil liberties and answer accordingly.
For example, if the respondents took their cue from the reference to Bush, and if 75% of Democrats answered that Bush should have to get a warrant, while 66% of Republicans said he should not, and the paltry few independents they polled split 50-50, you would get a result strikingly similar to what they got. This doesn't prove that is how it fell out; but it's certainly not an unreasonable guess.
Second, notice the tendentious phrasing of the fact situation: the administration has repeatedly noted that the monitoring is done on al-Qaeda phone calls coming from outside the United States to persons typically not American citizens or even American persons. Occasionally, the recipient of the phone call (or e-mail) might be an American person; but the communication still originates abroad... and it is that foreign communication that is intercepted without need for a warrant. In order to monitor communications between two phone numbers both in America, a warrant is still needed... which may explain why the Bush administration has requested more than 5,600 warrants from the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court since 9/11.
As John Hinderaker put it some days ago, "if al-Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why."
That makes the NSA program not a "domestic wiretapping" case, as the Democrats and the mainstream media have repeatly and falsely claimed, but a foreign intelligence operation, for which very different legal and constitutional rules apply. Yet in this same question, respondents are asked about warrantless surveillance of electronic communications between "American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists," which implies a completely different fact situation: tapping the phones, without warrant, of American citizens making calls that originate and terminate in the United States. Heck, even I would probably say No to that suggestion.
- So the question is tendentious, in that its purpose is to elicit a negative response rather than probe the actual beliefs of Americans; in fact, it is very close to being a "push-poll," a sleazy campaign activity in which one party conducts a false poll whose purpose is to insinuate certain erroneous facts with the goal of changing people's opinions, rather than measuring them.
- It is partisan, in that is clearly signals that this is a "party vote" question.
- And it is argumentative, in that it subtlely alters the fact situation from what is actually happening to a different circumstance that is much less justifiable, legally and morally.
Against that backdrop, it matters very much indeed that it also significantly overpolled Democrats -- and that the respondents comprised "adults," rather than "registered voters" or "likely voters." That last is especially relevant to the other component of the same poll, the generic congressional vote. Whoops, I mean that "other" poll that has no relation to this one, despite being taken at the same time by the same pollsters of the exact same pool of respondents, of course. My bad.
This is just a longwinded way of echoing John Hinderaker's point yesterday in a post discussing the Minnesota Republican delegation to Congress joining the bandwagon calling for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) to step down as Majority Leader; at the end of the brief post, John added:
By the way, the AP/Ipsos poll referred to in this article, which gives the Democrats a 13-point lead on the generic Congressional preference question, is worthless. The poll included 52 percent Democrats and only 40 percent Republicans, so it's hardly a shock that respondents favored Democrats by the same margin.
The Nutcracker Sweet
I've been sort of following off-and-on the story of the honeymooning couple on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship: she was found passed out "on a floor in a corridor far from the couple's cabin;" he wasn't found at all. A blood trail ran from the balcony of their cabin to the lifeboats, but she claims no memory of what happened after a vicious argument they had in the bar.
One witness claims that the argument escalated to the point where "she," Jennifer Hagel-Smith of Cromwell, CT, hauled off and kicked "him," George Allen Smith IV of Greenwich, CT, in the yodel-a-hee-hos:
[Witness Margarita] Chaves said she was in the bar with her friends when another group introduced them to Smith and his wife. She said the couple was heavily intoxicated and Hagel-Smith was leaning on a male passenger.
"We were afraid a fight was going to start," Chaves said. "She was flirting with him."
Dominick Mazza, a 24-year-old auditor from New Jersey, said Hagel-Smith was leaning on him because she was drunk, but he did not believe she was flirting.
Smith then began calling his wife names, the witnesses agreed.
"She kind of pushed him away lightly and suddenly stood up and kicked him in the private [sic] and stumbled out of the bar," Mazza said.
The next day, "he" was found missing.
I know this is just tacky tabloid talk, but I find it fascinating. I clearly remember our own honeymoon in Hawaii: we flew into Honolulu, then took an island hopper to Maui. We stayed a few days there, snorkeling and lounging on the beach (or around the pool; after six or seven Mai Tais, I don't remember).
We went to a luau. Then we flew to the Big Island, where we wandered up to take a look at Mt. Kilauea, where I interviewed one of the vulcanologists there.
We had rented a Jeep, and we drove around the island until we got to the site of a recent lava eruption; we wanted to hike out to get a real close look at the lava.
we started wandering vaguely in the direction indicated by a few other tourists. Just then, we noticed a passel of Germans beetling out in the same direction, following a guide who seemed to know what he was doing. Despite not having paid the guide a dime, Sachi and I followed after as "free riders."
Alas, the guide was tall and the German tourists were uniformly twenty-three, blond-haired, and six-foot five, or so it seemed (even the girls): we had to practically run after them. As we were sprinting over solidified lava flow laced with leftover lava tubes that collapsed the moment one stepped upon them, this was a treacherous undertaking. But we realized that if we ever let the guide get too far ahead, we would be stranded there in the middle of (ahem ) an active lava flow field, which didn't seem particularly romantic.
We busted a gut, but we kept up. It's a miracle neither of us broke an ankle. But eventually, we began to feel distinctly hot; we also started to hear a dull roar. Then finally, the guide stopped and pointed. "That's it," he said, pointing directly forward.
We stared eagerly, looking for some red running river... but the lava was actually silver, not red -- and we almost missed it. In fact, if the guide hadn't stopped, we might well have actually stepped into the molten stuff! It was virtually invisible, just another vein of rock -- until a closer look revealed that the rock was flowing.
Just to make sure, I picked up a hunk of obsidian and heaved it into the silver stream. Sure enough, where the volcanic glass penetrated was bright red, just a rouge hole in the silver lining.
The heat was terrific! We were downwind from the flow, and even standing fifteen or twenty feet away was scorching my eyebrows and burning my face. On the other side of the molten river, a different group of tourists went right up to the edge of the stream, leaning over for a real close look. If the wind had changed, I'm quite convinced some of them wouldn't have made it out alive.
We finally headed back... and I was surprised to discover, when we finally made it back to the lava information desk (yes, there was one), that Sachi and I were less tuckered out that the tall, thin German tourists. Since we were neither tall nor thin (nor German), I thought it a major accomplishment. And we got some great pictures, though the edges are a little crispy.
We moved on from there to Kauai, where we did some hiking, then took a boat ride around to the other side of the island and did some more skin diving. It was here that a sea turtle swam too close to me. I latched onto its shell and let it tow me a for a bit; but it eventually figured out why it was moving so slowly, and it dove very deep (about forty feet, which is a lot when one is simply holding one's breath). I let go and stroked to the surface.
Sachi had unwisely allowed herself to be talked into taking a noodle to float on; she had been fine until then, but bobbing up and down like a cork made her seasick.
We had a great time. The food isn't all that special in Hawaii, but we managed to find edible restaurants. On that trip, we steered clear of Honolulu, except for having to utilize the airport. The last time we were there was entirely spent in the Honolulu area... and I discovered why I'd wanted to skip that city the first time: it's just a medium sized city with nothing spectacular, nothing "Hawaiian" about it.
All in all, I'd say our honeymoon was an unqualified success. And you know what? In the entire two weeks we were there, not once did Sachi ever kick me in the yin-yangs, and neither of us turned up missing.
I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get a little suspicous in the Smith/Hagel-Smith case.
Upcoming on Big Lizards
We just put up our first movie review in the Movies section of the website; but regular readers of Big Lizards have already seen it.
It's my review of the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong, appropriately titled King Kong Died For Your Sins. I also added a new drop table on all of the pages in the Movies section to take you to the Dragon's Eye Movie Reviews page or Der Krapp, and a drop table under the Dragon's Eye to take you directly to various reviews as they're ready. (Naturally, it only takes you to Kong right now; "patience the way of the Jedi is.")
Our co-author, Brad Linaweaver, has just become the publisher of a magazine called (I think he said) Cult Monsters, which I imagine must have sprouted from Cult Movies -- though I'm really not sure. He is currently in the process of negotiating the electronic rights to his several decades of political and other nonfiction writings that have appeared in the National Review, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Chronicles, and many other publications. As he gets permission to do so, we will be adding these articles to the Big Lizards website as part of the Memorial Brad Linaweaver Historical Preservation Project.
And this weekend, we'll be adding Sachi's "Underway" travelogue to the English-language travelogue pages under the Sachi-Land section of the website. I will be flogging the poor girl until she gets busy translating her wonderful Grand Canyon travelogue, hitherto only available in Japanese, to English for the rest of us. I'm dying to read it myself... I want to know what happened to us!
In the meanwhile, we just came back from the pseudo-Danish village of Solvang (right next to Buellton, home of Anderson's Split-Pea Soup), where we spent a very pleasant couple of days and took lots of pix, testing out our new Nikon D50 SLR digital camera (for which we just got a 2 GB memory chip). We ate at A.J. Spurs, where they served me the best steak I've ever eaten.
We took a memorable horseback ride for a few hours through the hills and forest about thirty miles south of Solvang; it included too much trotting for Sachi, but she might write a post about it this weekend anyway. Here is a visual sample to whet your appetite:
Sachi ready for the roundup at the Triple R
Busy times here at Lizard Central!
Date ►►► January 6, 2006
Two? Why Not Two Hundred?
Rachell Zoll, religion writer for the Associated Press, reports that two stations are refusing to air a new NBC series, the Book of Daniel, about an evidently delusional, apostate priest and his irreligious family:
Two television stations are refusing to broadcast a new NBC series about an Episcopal priest who abuses painkillers, has a gay son, a promiscuous straight son, a daughter who deals marijuana, and a wife who drinks too much.
I should note that I am not a Christian; I am a very secularized, agnostic Jew. But even I have become appalled over the past ten or twelve years at the increasingly disreputable and slimy attacks on Christianity on television. My own recent example is the show Seventh Heaven on the Dubya-Bee, which I started watching from the first episode. At first, I was quite happy, as the Camden family was portrayed as actually religious and not hypocritical -- good heavens, what a concept: a minister who actually believes what he preaches! Liberal but sincere in their faith.
Within short order, however, the WB corrected this oversight. They started giving the family one liberal crisis after another: drugs, sex, slutty attire for the girls, a sudden attack of Vagina-Monologue feminism in the mother, Catherine Hicks, and various crises of doubt for the minister father, Stephen Collins, that began to rack up like Jan Brady's schizopheric attacks of identity crisis on the Brady Bunch.
Finally, when the gal who played the eldest daughter, Jessica Biel, posed naked for Gen-Next nudie magazine Maxim and denounced everyone on the show for being insufficiently New Leftist, and when the young male sibling (Simon, played by David Gallagher, I think) was made over into a Menudo-aged teen stud, I just tuned out. I'd had my fill; my hypocrisy meter was pegged.
Except for those few shows actually executive-produced by sincerely religious people (Highway to Heaven, for example), religion on the tube has become so grindingly tendentious that it's unwatchable, at least by me.
Here is an exchange reported by Ms. Zoll about the new NBC show, all emphasis added by me:
In a statement Thursday, NBC said, "We're confident that once audiences view this quality drama themselves, they'll appreciate this thought-provoking examination of one American family."
But the American Family Association said the series was another sign of NBC's "anti-Christian bigotry." Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, an anti-defamation group, called the series the "work of an embittered ex-Catholic homosexual."
The show's creator and executive producer, Jack Kenny, said he drew on the emotionally guarded family of his male partner for the series. He said his goal was to depict how "humor and grace" help a flawed man struggle with his faith and family. He said the writers never meant to mock religion or Jesus.
However, Bob Waliszewski, of Focus on the Family's teen ministries, said the show portrayed Christ as a "namby-pamby frat boy who basically winks at every sin and perversity under the sun."
(Note that Zoll herself does not come to this issue with clean hands; she wrote a very dismissive piece about Mel Gibson's the Passion of the Christ that quoted several Jewish and Christian groups denouncing the film but did not quote any supporting it, not even Gibson... she only paraphrased their responses, a favorite trick for biasing a story.)
Considering that most Americans are religious and very large percentages already believe that Christianity in particular, and religion in general, are under attack, one would think that somebody at NBC might have raised a few questions about why the television world needed yet one more show depicting a priest as a hypocrite who has "regular chats with a robe-wearing, bearded Jesus" who essentially says that sin is no big deal.
And one would think even if no one at the network even thought about it, that more than two affilliates would refuse to carry such a show, assuming they're not masochists who actually enjoy hemorrhaging viewiers. But one would be wrong, wouldn't one?
Date ►►► January 5, 2006
Although I hope Ariel Sharon recovers fully, I highly doubt that will eventuate. Unless a literal miracle occurs, Ariel Sharon is gone from Israeli politics, even if he eventually makes a full medical recovery: it's unlikely that he would be able to tolerate the enormous stress of being the prime minister of Israel, especially at such a time.
So the world must face the question of what comes after Arik. As I see it, there are only three plausible choices:
- The party that Sharon founded, Kadima, wins the election anyway, and Sharon's deputy PM (and former mayor of Jerusalem), Ehud Olmert, who followed Sharon into Kadima, becomes the new prime minister. This is possible, and a "snap poll" indicated that at this point, that is a very strong possibility:
(If Shimon Peres seizes the leadership of Kadima, most predict that will simply kill the party. Despite the sympathy vote mentioned below, nobody really wants Peres back as prime minister, not Likud, not Labor, and not the Israeli people.)
A snap poll Thursday showed an Olmert-led Kadima would still win 40 of 120 seats, similar to the results under Sharon. Under former Prime Minister Shimon Peres [who quit the Labor Party to join Kadima], the party would get 42 seats, according to the Channel 10-Haaretz poll. The number of people polled and the margin of error were not given.
Actually, we now have half this missing information; according to Haaretz, for whom the poll was conducted:
The survey covered 650 people representing the general public, and was conducted less than one day after Sharon suffered a severe stroke.
But Israelis are still in shock, and such polls at this time are completely meaningless. As even Haaretz acknowledged,
The impact of the survey is limited, as it was conducted in the eye of the storm, at the height of uncertainty, polling a public awash in sympathy for Sharon, who is fighting for his life. Anyone who said Thursday they would vote for Kadima was still saying they would vote for Sharon, even though it is clear he will no longer head the party he founded just weeks ago.
The prevailing assumption among Kadima members is that their party will lose altitude in the polls over the coming weeks and the only question that remains is: Where will it stabilize? A senior Kadima official said Thursday that the victory line for the party was 30-32 seats. According to him, if Kadima gets 32 seats on March 28, it will form the next coalition and the party's leader will be prime minister.
As the election won't be held for almost another three months, the electorate will have plenty of time to grow disenchanted with a Kadima that isn't led by Sharon -- especially one experiencing a leadership fight between Olmert, Peres, and perhaps others in the brand-new party. To the voters, as I understand it, Kadima was Sharon, and Sharon was Kadima; separate them, and the party does not necessarily inherit the mantle of destiny. I suspect that 32 seats is wishful thinking, and seats that would have gone to Kadima under Sharon but don't will mostly go to Likud.
Even if Kadima does poll enough to form the next government, it would be well advised to ally with Likud, not Labor... and not with the tiny religious and other parties that make strange demands out of proportion to their size, once they realize how vital their presence in the coalition is (and who often get in a snit and pull out without warning, collapsing the government).
- Kadima could collapse, with all the top officials returning to the parties whence they came, and either Likud or Labor winning the election.
This is already being pushed by Likud and Labor, who are trying to woo back their lost lambs. But it's unlikely that Kadima will recieve no support, and it will likely still be a player that cannot be dismissed (except in a "grand coalition" of Likud and Labor... which would be hard to pull off right now, considering how far apart they are on the central, even existantial issues of the day.
- One of the other "players" in Israeli politics -- likely Benjamin Netanyahu -- might offer to join Likud to Kadima and run on a joint ticket, in exchange for keeping the major Kadima players in the cabinet and sticking to at least the core of Sharon's agenda: accepting fait accompli of the pull-out from Gaza and even engaging in a partial pull-out from the West Bank.
There are sound strategic reasons for removing Israeli settlers and the troops that guard them from hard-to-defend locations where they are surrounded by literally millions of hostile Palestinians, who focus their perpetual rage upon the local Israelis. I have articulated these before: notably, scarce resources are not eaten up defending the settlers; and with the thousands of ready-made hostages gone, the entire region becomes a potential target, allowing a much more aggressive and vigorous response to terrorism than would be practical if Israel were still in occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The advantage of this approach is that it would result in the greatest continuity at a time of the greatest danger to Israel: the imminent development of nuclear-tipped missiles by Israel's worst enemy, Iran, at a time when Iran is ruled by a Supreme Leader who allows a Holocaust-denying maniac like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to literally threaten to "wipe Israel off the map." The advantage to the members of Kadima and Likud is that it allows them to remain in control: Sharon may have left Likud, but he certainly did not join Labor... the aged Shimon Peres, the highest-ranking Laborite in Kadima, was already halfway out the door when Sharon rescued him.
Labor outpolled Likud in that "snap poll," but that is because Kadima sucked up all the oxygen in the room; what that vote really shows is the weakness of Labor. The Baptist Press has a more complete accounting:
According to a poll released Jan. 4, Kadima would win 40 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, while Labor would win 19 seats in the balloting and Likud 14, with the remainder split among other smaller parties that might have provided Sharon enough support to form a government without needing Labor or Likud on board.
The poll shows that if, as expected, most members of Kadima would vote Likud (Sharon's former party) if Kadima were not available (they're Arik Sharon fans), that means Labor is close to the weakest it has ever been; Sharon left Likud because of looming leadership fights between him and Netanyahu, not because Sharon was shifting to the left.
I don't know if Likud and Kadima can smooth out their differences, but I believe they should try: it's the most likely route to stability and strong action against Iran, if necessary... while any alliance with Labor invites the sort of disaster exemplified by Ehud Barak's offer to give the Palestinians nearly everything they wanted in negotiation in exchange for empty promises. This was a negotiating posture that so smacked of weakness that the greedy Palestinians rejected it and commenced the Second Intifada instead, thinking they could just bully Barak into giving them the rest -- probably including (at least in Yassir Arafat's mind) all the Jews voluntarily marching into the sea to drown.
If Kadima is Sharon, and Sharon is out of the picture, then Kadima's only viable long-term survival option is to ally with one of the more established parties; and of the two, only Likud can actually attract most of those who defected to Kadima. And even then, only if Likud is willing to embrace at least some of Sharonism, instead of fighting viciously against it, as they have done for years now.
Sharon's plan seems to have worked, at least in the short run, which is more than any of the Likudnik hardliners expected of it. I think it worth pursuing; after all, Likud's intransigence has only a marginally better track record than Labor's appeasement.
The great news out of Pennsylvania today is that football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann has announced, as widely anticipated, that he will run for the governorship of that state, diving into the race to challenge Democratic incumbent Ed Rendell.
Swann, who played for the Steelers for nine years, helping them win four Super Bowls, hasn't opened up much about his political philosophy; but he has dropped some hints:
Swann has so far revealed little about his political philosophy or the initiatives he would pursue as governor. He has advocated reducing certain business taxes and said he opposes abortion rights.
I think it safe to say he's a Republican more aligned with Rick Santorum than with Lincoln Chafee.
And speaking of Sen. Santorum (R-Endangered Species List), I can't help but think that if Swann gets the nomination, his candidacy will help Santorum, who faces the electoral fight of his career this November. Swann is a very attractive candidate: he's exciting, he is doubtless beloved in Pennsylvania, and if elected, he would be the very first black governor in that state's history -- all of which should draw a lot of folks into the race to vote for him who ordinarily would not be voting at all, or would be voting for the Democrat... just as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did in 2003. And if Swann campaigns with Santorum by his side, as I'm sure he will (assuming he survives the primary -- if there is one), some of that luster could fall upon Santorum, perhaps giving him just enough juice to defeat state treasurer Bob Casey, jr, the moderate, pro-life Democrat who is also the son of two-term, popular former Governor Bob Casey, sr.
Frankly, I would love to see the PA GOP endorse Swann over Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton III. It would probably avoid a primary fight and allow Swann to focus his campaign on the Democrat, rather than fellow Republicans. A quick glance at the two campaign-website photos should tell you everything you need to know about which candidate would run the most energetic campaign:
Candidates Lynn Swann (top) and Bill Scranton III (bottom)
In any event, Swann's entry into this race will energize the Republicans and give Pennsylvanians something to talk about other than whether Rick Santorum is too conservative for the Keystone State.
The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out
Today, in the endless game of Whack-a-Mole plaguing America's intelligence war against al-Qaeda, yet another former NSA official wants to play "whistleblower," revealing code-word classified operations to a breathless (and gormless) Congress. From a Washington Times story by the inestimable Bill Gertz:
A former National Security Agency official wants to tell Congress about electronic intelligence programs that he asserts were carried out illegally by the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Russ Tice, a whistleblower who was dismissed from the NSA last year, stated in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he is prepared to testify about highly classified Special Access Programs, or SAPs, that were improperly carried out by both the NSA and the DIA.
Tice had nothing to do with the particular intercept program revealed by the New York Times; this is a different urgent program that disgruntled ex-NSA folks want to destroy.
The [supposedly illegal] activities involved the NSA director, the NSA deputies chief of staff for air and space operations and the secretary of defense, he stated.
"These ... acts were conducted via very highly sensitive intelligence programs and operations known as Special Access Programs," Mr. Tice said.
Highly sensitive programs Tice now feels compelled to blow.
Tice relies upon the "1998 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, which makes it legal for intelligence officials to disclose wrongdoing without being punished." Perhaps it's time to revisit that act and make clear that outing a legitimate program simply because a liberal agent disagrees with the president's policy does not qualify.
If not, we'll continue to play this game until our hand falls off, and al-Qaeda is able to declare "all your base are belong to us."
(The title of this post refers to one of a series of stories by Reginald Bretnor starring Papa Schimmelhorn, the most unlikely inventor ever invented.)
Date ►►► January 4, 2006
Steyn On Ice
I have just finished reading Mark Steyn's lengthy but fascinating essay, carried in OpinionJournal.com: It's the Demography, Stupid; the real reason the West is in danger of extinction. (It was flagged by Hugh Hewitt, fortunately.)
Steyn argues that the demographics of population growth heavily favor the Moslem cultures over the secular, "post-Christian civilizations" of Europe; the EU's population shrinks as the ummah's population rises. At the same time, post-Christian secularists in the West are increasingly unwilling to physically (or even verbally) defend their culture. As a result, concludes Steyn, most of Western Civilization -- at least in Europe -- will inevitably collapse, to be supplanted by a resurgent Islamic funamentalist one:
Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There'll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands--probably--just as in Istanbul there's still a building called St. Sophia's Cathedral. But it's not a cathedral; it's merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West.
The essay is brilliant, persuasively argued, and displays the passion Steyn has for Western Civ. Fortunately, it suffers from one terrible flaw that spoils everything: it is a classic example of discredited static analysis.
Oh, I suppose I must detour into a brief explanation. Dynamics is the mathematical study of things that move (calculus and related modes of analysis); by extension, statics is the study of things that are immobile, such as geometry, trigonometry, and algebra. Generalizing, analysis is dynamic if it presumes that events will interact with -- and alter -- each other; it is static if it assumes that each event is discrete and does not significantly alter other events.
In the real world, the distinction most often arises in economics. Imagine you have a marginal income tax of 40% above a certain level of income; assume this brings in $600 billion in revenue. Now suppose the government is experiencing a bad budget deficit of (by coincidence) exactly $600 billion.
Under static economic analysis, the obvious "solution" is to double the marginal tax rate to 80%... which, by this reasoning, should bring in an extra $600 billion dollars, saving the day.
In reality, of course, we all know that a marginal income-tax rate of 80% would not bring in double the tax revenue; in fact, it would be a miracle if it generated even as much revenue as the earlier, 40% tax: such an incentive-killer would result in a massive change in behavior away from productive (taxable) investment. In other words, we instinctively understand that such a huge change in the tax rate will cause a correspondingly huge change in behavior; this, as you likely already know, is an example of dynamic economic analysis.
So too with Steyn's analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations. His analysis depends upon the West not reacting at all to its own collapse, even when that collapse manifests itself in macroscopic changes. For example, Steyn notes that the replacement-rate for population is about 2.1 live births per woman (the extra .1 makes up for children who sadly die before having their own children, or who decide never to have children, or who cannot for medical reasons do so). Without at least 2.1 kids per mother, population declines, not taking immigration into account.
Then he notes that Spain's birthrate is only half that level:
But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation.
(This is faulty math, by the way, since folks live longer than a single generation. Spain's population is 40 million, and there are about 400,000 live births per year; so let's assume there are 800,000 deaths per year (twice the birthrate). That's a deficit of 400,000 per year; in a twenty-five year generation, this amounts to a loss of 10 million -- which would not cut Spain's population in half but rather by one quarter. Still bad, but not as catastrophic as Steyn's claim.)
He reasons from this drop in population to the conclusion that Spain, along with other EU countries, will eventually be overwhelmed by Moslem cultures... this is particularly vivid in the case of Spain, because Moslems do indeed consider it still part of the ummah: Spain was once largely conquered by the Moors, who called it al-Andaluz; and once in the ummah, always in the ummah... thus, Osama bin Laden whined at one point about the "crusaders" who had stolen Spain from the Moslems (disregarding the fact that the Moslems stole it from the Christians). So it's at least plausible that Spain could be reconquered.
But what would be the effect on Europe and America were Spain actually to be taken over by Islamic fundamentalists, who would institute sharia law and rule it as the Taliban ruled Afghanistan? Steyn must assume there would be no impact at all; by contrast, I believe the effect would be galvanizing... just as was the conquest of the Holy Land in the 7th century, which sparked the crusades.
- Spain was eventually liberated from the Moors by King Ferdinand and Queel Isabella in 1492 (it's no coincidence that Columbus was financed by the royal pair that same year).
- Thirty-seven years later, in 1529, the mighty Ottoman Empire besieged Vienna and was turned back, the first time that had happened. They tried again in 1683, and this time the Turks were catastrophically defeated. They fled back around the Mediterranean, and their empire began to collapse.
- The Barbary pirates had plagued shipping in the Med for centuries, starting in the late Middle Ages; operating from their bases in Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, they raided European Christian nations, hauling off loot and slaves. But at the beginning of the nineteenth century, American and European (mostly British and Dutch) forces rallied and sacked and looted the Barbary coast, destroying the pirates by about 1815.
What do these histories have in common? They are all examples of the Western world rallying itself, fighting back against the Moslems, and defeating them -- for only a short time in the case of the crusades, but permanently (or at least until the present day) in the other three illustrations.
Note the point: for centuries, Western Civilization has reacted to Moslem conquest by waking up from its lethargy, fighting back, and eventually winning. There is no reason to assume, as Steyn necessarily does to reach his thesis, that this history abruptly ends now, with this particular demographic conquest... that this will be the one incursion that will spark no social survival sense, no pushback, and will be permanent.
Too, Steyn seems to assume that demographics, in the sense of sheer numbers, is by itself dispositive of civilization. But the time is long past where the biggest army necessarily wins; intel, technology, strategy, and training -- intelligence, that is, in the broad sense of "smartness" -- act as force multipliers to make scientifically advanced Western nations far more powerful than numerically superior but technologically inferior Islamic nations. This is why Israel has been attacked again and again, yet always prevailed against seemingly overwhelming odds.
Even in pure economics, Steyn's analysis is strongly static:
What will London--or Paris, or Amsterdam--be like in the mid-'30s? If European politicians make no serious attempt this decade to wean the populace off their unsustainable 35-hour weeks, retirement at 60, etc., then to keep the present level of pensions and health benefits the EU will need to import so many workers from North Africa and the Middle East that it will be well on its way to majority Muslim by 2035.
What astonishes me is that Mark Steyn -- who writes his columns using a word-processing program on a laptop or desktop computer, I presume -- would have so little expectation of technological improvement -- over thirty years! Is it really too difficult to imagine human labor being supplanted by automation, such that national wealth does not suffer from a reduced population?
Is it really hard to envision a time when improving technology makes the 35-hour work week and retirement at 60 as commonplace as 40-hour work weeks and retirement at 67 today? Recall that not too long ago, people routinely worked all day, every day, excepting only Sunday during church, and "retired" when they became too sick (or too dead) to continue slaving away. In many parts of the world (including most Moslem countries), this is still the norm.
Do we really agree with Steyn that --
[D]emographics is a game of last man standing. The groups that succumb to demographic apathy last will have a huge advantage. [Emphasis added]
Do we really agree that our only route to economic success is to have more babies, so we'll have more worker-bees to labor at mind-numbing assembly-line jobs and stoop labor? That we'll always need those "hewers of wood and drawers of water" on which to build the prosperity of the elites?
I choose not to believe that scientific progress is an illusion, or that life is static, except to the extent that it all goes to hell. The material world may not be perfectable (we cannot immanentize the Eschaton), but that doesn't mean it's not improvable, and drastically so: after all, haven't we drastically improved life since the Middle Ages? "What Man has done, Man can aspire to do."
Mind, I do think Steyn makes a great many good and valuable points in this essay; for example, his clarion call for the EU to realize, however belatedly, that they cannot simpy continue to import labor from cultures fundamentally at odds with theirs, refuse to assimilate or acculturate them -- and expect that they will remain content to be the modern equivalents of indentured servants. The riots in France should be the first alarm of that pending conflagration. But the solution isn't to stop immigration... it is to assimilate each new generation of immigrants, or at least their children, into thinking of themselves first as citizens of their new nation, not the old.
I will not accept any macro-analysis of civilization that fails to take technological innovation into account. It's like a teenager trying to predict his income in ten years by a straight-line projection of how much he earns working at McDonalds today. Nor will I sit still for futurism that assumes Western decadence and suicidal social policies a priori.
It is Mark Steyn's despair I reject. I have seen nothing to make me believe that the most powerful culture ever invented by humans, Western liberal democracy, having risen up and defeated the Moslem jihadists the first five hundred times, will simply roll over and die on the five hundred and first. And that is the crack in the marble that splinters the beautiful edifice of Mark Steyn's thesis: Western Civ will survive because we have been socially evolved as winners and survivors for millennia; we will prevail because we refuse, in the end, to accept any other result.
And even the Europeans will awaken from their slumber of multi-culti "tolerance" when they realize that a dhimmi must work even longer than 35 hours in a week... and doesn't even get August off!
Hedging Their Bets
I suppose the Associated Press can be excused for an excess of caution, presumably driven by the terrible error in falsely reporting that the trapped miners in West Virginia had been found alive, when in fact all but one had died. It's hard to imagine what else could have produced the headline in this AP story about Ariel Sharon's massive cerebral hemorrhage today:
Yes, let's not be hasty now... those Israeli brain surgeons can be pretty tricksy sometimes!
Who Polices the Police?
The Romans asked, Qvis Cvstodiet Ipsos Cvstodes.
A number of people who visited Iraq recently said that they were impressed by the quality of Iraqi Army.
For example, CNN's Anderson Cooper, who was in Iraq during December 2005 election, noted on Laura Ingram’s radio show how impressed he was with the Iraqi army units he accompanied.
The Iraqi army excels because they were trained by the U.S. military. Although they don't have as much equipment as we, they make up for it with training, confidence, coolness under fire, and a positive attitude. (See A Few Good Iraqi Men.) Cooper felt safe with them in an unarmored truck with just a single 50-caliber machine-gun mounted on the back.
However, the Iraqi police, under the control of the Interior Ministry, are a totally different story. Cooper got the distinct impression that the police were not professional at all and did not seem to know what they were doing. Corruption and abuse have been serious problems among the Iraqi police since long before Saddam Hussein; it was the Iraqi police, not the army, that ran those wretched Shiite prisons where the U.S. military discovered Sunnis being routinely abused and even tortured -- in the correct meaning of that word -- by Shiite police commandos.
Finally, the American forces have decided to tackle these problems. I don't think they were dilatory; they consciously decided that it was more important to focus first on the army, and only when that was functioning smoothly did they turn to the police problem: law-enforcement requires a functioning nation of consistent laws, which was only possible after the Iraqi and Coalitiion armies gained control of the country.
Dec. 29 - American commanders are planning to increase significantly the number of soldiers advising Iraqi police commando units, in part to curtail abuse that the units are suspected of inflicting on Sunni Arabs, a senior commander in Iraq said Thursday.
Under the plan, which the officer said he expected would be formally approved in a few weeks, the number of advisers working with the Iraqi units would be greatly expanded. The advisers themselves would be under the command of American officers.
American advisers now accompany commando units as part of the vast effort to train and equip security forces to take over the fight against the insurgency and to maintain order.
At first blush, this might seem to contradict our policy of turning more control over to the Iraqi security force. But before we can hand anything over, we first must make sure that Iraqis are capable of assuming that responsibility. That is our primary duty, as only a functioning and responsible Iraq can keep up the fight against international terrorism.
Currently, only seven of the nine police commando units have advisors and none in the regular police stations. Under the new plan, all the units, commando (SWAT teams) and regular police, will have advisors. Also, the total number of advisors will increase by several hundred; in one case, an entire American battalion with more than 500 soldiers will be attached to one particular Iraqi police brigade.
This raises an obvious question: if we're going to be drastically reducing the number of troops in Iraq this year, how can we simultaneously increase the number of police unit advisors by such large numbers? The answer is that we are going to fundamentally shift our tactics, now that we have entered the end-game of nation-building.
The Fourth Infantry Division, which is now preparing to deploy in Baghdad and central Iraq, is being given a substantially larger piece of Iraqi territory than the unit it is replacing, and with fewer troops. The Americans are hoping that Iraqi units can pick up the slack; Iraqi forces operating more or less independently now are in charge of securing 60 percent of the capital.
The troops who are freed up from going on anti-terrorist patrols, thanks to newly trained Iraqi army units, will now be available to become advisors to the police units. I suspect we will see U.S. troop responsibility shift from active combat towards an advisory position, as the Iraqi government stabilizes. This is good for several reasons: first, less combat means fewer American and Coalition casualties; second, a less visible foreign presence (and consequently more Iraqi units patrolling instead) will calm fears that Iraq will be turned into an American colony... the Iraqis can begin to feel free not only from the crushing yoke of Saddam but also from the much milder leash of the "crusaders." Presumably, fewer Iraqi youths will feel alienated and driven towards terrorism and jihad if they don't see as many foreign soldiers walking the streets.
The toughest challenge our military advisors face is the culture of Iraqi police. Unlike the army, the police are often an extension of local tribes, more used to keeping the peace in the local community and supporting the local tribe than enforcing national Iraqi laws. The difficulty comes when local custom and national law clash, or when different tribes go to war -- as we have seen recently in the Gaza strip, where police from one tribe attacked a police station held by another tribe. Tribalism rivals jihadism as the major problem of the Arab (and Persian) Middle East.
Many years ago, I heard an odd story: two immigrants here in America from a third world country got into a fight, and one man killed the other. The killer was arrested and charged with murder; but a few days later, the victim’s family showed up in the police station and said "everything's all right now, you can release him."
Surprised, the DA asked why they didn't want the man who killed their loved one prosecuted. "Because," they patiently explained, as if speaking to an idiot, "the assailant’s family paid compensation for the death, and the whole incident is settled."
Neither family ever did understand why the American police refused to release the suspect... because they simply did not understand that it wasn't just a crime against the tribe, it was a crime against all of the people of the state -- and it could not be "settled" with a monetary payment. He had to stand trial.
This is going to happen over and over in the next few years, as Iraq suffers the slow and often painful growth from a collection of warring tribes to a modern nation-state. The only thing we can do is remind them again and again why they need to make a commitment to nationhood: because losing control over the police means a replication all over Iraq of the situation in Basra, where militiamen with strong ties to Iran and Moqtada Sadr terrorize the citizens and rule as cruelly as the Baath Party did. (Sad to say, the British troops, who had responsibility over this area, really dropped the ball; their "softly, softly" approach was perceived as "weakly, weakly," and they lost their face.)
In the end, the Iraqi people will have to make that choice: tribalism or modern nationhood. But I am confident that with the example of the United States before them, Saddam behind them, and Syria and Iran on either side, they will choose wisely.
Date ►►► January 3, 2006
Not Sweating Even a Little
I may be the only person here still very unconvinced that the "Casino Jack" Abramoff scandal is going be a significant factor in November. The ever-industrious Michelle Malkin quotes from the Christian Science Monitor about the fear that is spreading through D.C.:
Political players with ties to Abramoff and his network, who knew the lobbyist was preparing to cut a deal, have been sweating for months. Now they're sweating harder.
I'm sure there are many individual members of Congress who are suffering what Rich Galen calls "projectile sweat." I suspect most of them are actually innocent -- they may have received contributions from Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, but that doesn't mean it was a bribe -- but worry they'll spend their entire campaign fighting false charges of corruption. One or two others may actually have accepted bribes and may be in worse trouble than a tough campaign.
But as an issue to change the face of the Senate and House, or even to cause Republican losses, I think the Abramoff scandal is vastly overrated.
Consider: the point of this scandal is that members of Congress took campaign contributions, then voted the way the contributer wanted as a direct quid pro quo. So let's try a little gedankenexperiment, as Einstein (and probably Rich Galen) would put it... there are 535 members of Congress (435 House, 100 Senate); out of these 535, how many do you think have, at least once in their careers, accepted a campaign contribution and then done something they would not ordinarily have done because of it?
(Cue the "Final Jeopardy" theme....)
If anybody here did not answer "why, all of them, of course," I want to know who it is; I think we should put the person in a museum as the last person in America still not jaded and cynical about Congress.
In other words, all that the Abramoff scandal will do is reconfirm to the American people that Congress is crooked. But the fact that both Republicans and Democrats are involved -- the CSM claims that "Republicans received 64 percent of that money," which implies (by my calculation) that 36% of it went to Democrats -- means that nobody gets an advantage; nobody is going to care that "more money" went to corrupt Republicans than went to corrupt Democrats; ordinary people will simply roll their eyes and sigh. If they think about it at all, they'll conclude that the deciding factor was not that Republicans are innately more corrupt but that they're legislatively more powerful.
(This will become crystal clear when Republicans begin digging into the campaign contributions made by other lobbyists who lean more to the left -- such as lobbyist and former official of the FAA Linda Hall Daschle.)
Every election boils down, in the end, to a contest between two (or occasionally three or four) people; you don't get to have a choice between a named Republican and an unnamed Democratic saint. Unless one of the candidates has actually been charged in the case, the opponent slinging mud will just get mud slung right back, and the mud (deserved or undeserved in both cases) will cancel itself out.
If a particular person gets indicted -- Bob Ney (R-OH), for example, is in a lot of danger -- he will probably resign from Congress to deal with it. Then everything depends upon the governor of the state (Republican Bob Taft, who has his own corruption problems, in the case of Ohio); the governor in each case will name someone of his own party who never took any money from Abramoff, and who will then run as a quasi-incumbent -- but not much of one, since the investigation will take some months -- in the November election.
At that point, what will matter is how safe the seat is: in Bob Ney's case, according to Michael Barone's Almanac of American Politics, 2006, Ney has won by over 60% in the last four elections (in 2002, the Democrats didn't even bother to field a nominee against him), and the eighteenth district of Ohio went for George W. Bush by 14% in both 2000 and 2004. This is a safe Republican seat, and the Republican will likely win this year, whether it's a battle-scarred Bob Ney or someone else.
And that is part of the secret: unless there is a confluence of indictment or much greater than run-of-the-mill congressional corruption for a particular incumbent and one of the tiny number of truly competitive seats and a squeaky clean challenger, this sort of financial scandal simply doesn't have much impact. It is very different from a political scandal, like Watergate, that actually calls the ability to govern into question.
Anybody remember the Keating Five? It was one of the biggest scandals to rock Congress in the 1980s. The "five" were Sen. Alan Cranston (D-CA), Sen. John Glenn (D-OH), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), and Sen. Don Riegle (D-MI). The scandal erupted in 1989. Quiz: how many of the Keating Five were defeated in the election following the scandal?
Answer: none, of course. Three chose to retire: Cranston (who was diagnosed with prostate cancer), DeConcini, and Riegle; the two who actually ran for reelection, McCain and Glenn, were both reelected. One could argue that the scandal persuaded the retirees not to run, but that's a tricky case to make.
The House banking scandal broke in early 1992 and ensnared far more members (over 350) than can possibly be caught up in the Abramoff scandal... and a greater percentage were Democrats. In addition, the minority leader was Newt Gingrich, far more dynamic and exciting than is Nancy Pelosi today. And back then, there were also a lot more competitive seats. So what happened in the election that year? The Democrats lost 9 seats in the House -- and gained 1 seat in the Senate, completely in keeping with the typical electoral play in those days.
But in the 1994 election, which hinged not on a scandal but rather on the Republican "Contract With America," as well as the performance of the Clinton White House and the Democratic Congress, the Democrats lost 52 seats in the House and 9 Senate seats.
And of course, the political result of Bill Clinton's impeachment for perjury was that his approval rating skyrocketed in 1998. Yeah... scandal.
I think it's pretty clear which has more impact: a scandal among the incumbent party, or the challenging party having a positive political agenda in line with the voters' own beliefs, with the incumbents having either an out of step agenda -- or no agenda at all.
Today, we have less play; I would be pretty shocked if the Abramoff scandal at its worst affected more than two or three House seats -- and any Senate seats at all.
So relax. Let's get the bad guys; we don't want them anyway, especially if they're Republicans. But don't bite your nails to the quick, worrying that this will cause significant damage to the Republican Party. It may increase the cynicism of the American voter (if that's even possible), which is pretty bad by itself. But neither party is going to come off clean enough to benefit from it.
Speaking of FDR...
I was reading through the Wikipedia entry for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and I stumbled across the following paragraph about the president's five surviving children:
Their postwar careers, whether in business or politics, were disappointing. Two of them were elected briefly to the House of Representatives but none attained higher office despite several attempts. One even became a Republican.
Talk about "disappointing!"
Keep Talking, Rep. Big-Moutha!
On Friday, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), saved another couple of seats for the Republicans in 2006.
He was once again denouncing the Iraq War, which he has called both unwinnable and morally wrong, and the following exchange occurred, per Reuters:
"Would you join (the military) today?," he was asked in an interview taped on Friday.
"No," replied Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending and one of his party's leading spokesmen on military issues.
"And I think you're saying the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying 'I don't want to serve'," the interviewer continued.
"Exactly right," said Murtha, who drew White House ire in November after becoming the first ranking Democrat to push for a pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as it could be done safely.
Perfect. Excellent. So not only are the Democrats opposed to this war and want us to yank the troops out -- quickly, quickly, before we accidentally win -- but they're also now urging Americans not to join the military.
I particularly love this snide aside by Reuters:
Murtha did not respond directly when asked whether a lack of combat experience might have affected the decision-making of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their former top deputies.
This "chickenhawk" charge by a party that has been nakedly anti-military for decades is becoming the biggest running joke of now four electoral cycles. First, I suppose the fact that Donald Rumsfeld's service as a fighter pilot in the Navy began in 1954, the year after the Korean War ended, means it doesn't count for anything.
Second, would Reuters ever dare suggest that President Franklin Roosevelt's "lack of combat experience" -- or indeed any military service whatsoever -- affected his "decision-making" in World War II? Of course not: this is a charge reserved for the handful of leftist Democrats with some military background to hurl indiscriminately at every Republican they dislike, including those who served honorably (I don't recall it coming up in 1996, when Bill Clinton ran against Bob Dole, or in 1992, when Clinton ran against George H.W. Bush).
Republican Party chair Ken Mehlman couldn't have scripted the Murtha interview any better. Between Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace), and Rep. John Murtha, the Republicans won't have to actually write a single campaign commercial before the election: all they need do is just playback the hundreds of bitterly anti-military, anti-defense, anti-American comments made by prominent Democrats and applauded by the rank and file members of the Party.
Assad On the Griddle
Everybody and King Kong's uncle has already commented on this, so I'll try to give it the Big Lizard Twist (which really ought to be a dance craze). Today, Detlev Mehlis, the U.N. prosecutor investigating the assassination of erstwhile (and expired) Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, renewed his demand that he be allowed to interrogate the Big He himself, Bashar Assad, the trivial son of erstwhile (and expired) Syrian strongman Hafez al-Assad.
Mehlis tried before and was rebuffed; but since then, a former Syrian vice president, Abdel-Halim Khaddam, has admitted to al-Arabiya TV that Assad himself personally threatened Hariri with death if he didn't support unconstitutionally and illegally extending the tenure of Lebanon's puppet president, Emile Lahoud. Hariri refused, and shortly thereafter found himself ascending to the pearly-gated community in the sky.
The Syrian parliament, in a fit of impotence, voted to try Khaddam (in absentia) for capital treason... and worse, to drum him out of the Baath Party. Khaddam, currently living in Paris, appears unafraid -- at least now that the riots have stopped.
But none of this to-and-fro changes the tempo of the investigation, which contracts like an anaconda tighter and tigher around the cockeyed ophthalmologist who runs Syria. He may well not be able to avoid being questioned now -- or suffering sanctions from the U.N. Security Council (France is on board this time, since they had good relations with Lebanon before the Syrian invasion; time and the franc are on our side).
The quandry for Bashar Assad, stuck between Iraq and a hard peace, is that allowing himself to be interrogated like a common street thug by, of all people, a German would humiliate him. In a tribal world where perception of strength is often the difference between life and death, to be jerked around by the U.N. may quite easily cost Assad what little confidence the Party and the military had in him.
Like Kim Jong Il, Assad's only claim to the Damascene throne is that he is his father's son (his second son; the eldest, Basil -- I rib you not -- had the ill grace to die in a car crash in 1994). He actually had no interest in Syrian politics, as faulty Basil was the anointed successor to Papa Hafez; in the '94 flash of steel and glass, Bashar's whole life changed... and he was not prepared.
His rule has been tentative and uncertain. The assassination of Hariri was a blunder of monumental proportions, which has already resulted in the Syrian army being ejected from its thirty-year occupation of Lebanon -- which must have enraged the generals. If Bashar Assad is now humiliated by being dragged in for questioning, I suspect he will be forced out.
And in the tribal politics of Syria, "forced out" generally means horizontally, or at least into prison -- as former president Salah Jadid discovered when he tried to oust Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad in 1970.
The United States could fairly easily destabilize Syria even further and hasten the day of Bashar Assad's ignominious departure from the corridors of power: we could simply slide some of our Anbar Province troops northwest and seize a 15-20 mile strip of Syrian land adjoining the border with Iraq. We would announce that, since Syria has professed itself incapable of interdicting the "insurgents" (terrorists) flocking from Damascus to Anbar and Nineva, we were doing Bashar Assad a favor by interdicting them ourselves.
And if Syria runs to the U.N. to complain about their sovereignty being debased by the invasion and occupation of some desert area inhabited only by tribes that make their living smuggling arms, munitions, drugs, and terrorists across the border... we just respond "(cough, cough) Lebanon (cough cough)." They'll get the message.
Date ►►► January 2, 2006
Back Lot Iraq
When mountaineers climb a mountain, they begin by setting up a base camp, then a series of camps at higher altitudes, so that they can acclimate to the thin air and the cold. For the same reason, US soldiers headed for Iraq spend two or more months training in Kuwait, in order to get acclimated to the brutal environment before heading into the area of operations.
But in fact, by the time they head for Kuwait, our troops have already gone through a much more intense "acclimation" back home in the U.S.: they must first immerse themselves in the Iraqi culture that will soon surround them like water around a fish.
At Fort Dix, New Jersey, the Army runs a 30-acre re-creation of Iraq:
For two months, the group of 157 veterans and rookies has lived on Tiger Base, a 30-acre re-creation of Iraq at Fort Dix, one of two bases in the United States that offers an immersion course for new security forces, said Lt. Col. Norberto Cintron, who is in charge of the training.
They awaken before 5 a.m. and hear Muslim prayer calls five times a day. They eat flavorless food, use portable toilets and sleep on cots, 12 to a tent. In military exercises, simulated grenades and improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, explode, and soldiers like Specialist Kavanaugh dramatize severe or fatal wounds.
I first heard about this training camp a couple of years ago. At that time, the Army hired American actors to play the roles of Iraqi citizens. Our soldiers were mainly training for crowd control in confusing urban situations then. Evidently, that part of the training is still ongoing:
Every day, convoys from the 654th roll through a makeshift Iraqi city with hidden threats. When the men see the sign "The City of Balad Welcomes You," gunners grasp their M-249's and 50-caliber machine guns.
The convoys pass a blue mosque and aluminum shipping containers made to look like buildings, each spray-painted with Arabic or English phrases like "Go home USA." Sometimes snipers shoot blanks at the Humvees, inciting a simulated firefight.
Civilians, including Iraqis living in the United States, occasionally linger in the streets like movie extras. Some are instructed to look friendly and wave, others to grimace and yell in Arabic.
The camp at Fort Dix has improved its simulation, making it both more accurate and immersive since it was first created. We now have many returning servicemen who can contribute their own "lessons learned," as well as more Iraqi-born Americans to stock the town.
I am always amazed by our military's ability to adapt and improve. This seems to be a hallmark of a free society, that the military leaders (uniformed and civilian) value the opinions not only of the officers but also the men and women with stripes on their sleeves. Contrast this attitude to the heirarchical, top-down Russian command... how many years have they been losing the same war in Chechnya? They seem to have learned nothing from that combat; in fact, they still haven't learned the lessons from Afghanistan -- why they lost, and why we won.
I believe that this kind of innovation is exactly why our military will stay on top: America looks to the future, not the past.
Date ►►► January 1, 2006
Reaching For the Scars
"There you go again."
Coming back to the well of paranoia for the 537th sip, the New York Times now reports, with ominous, minor-key music in the background, that the Bush administration had to suspend some parts of the NSA intercept program for a few months due to concerns of legality raised by Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey. This is presented by the Times as yet more evidence of the perfidy of Bush and his tyrannical, Dick-Durbinesque Gestapo.
According to the story,
A top Justice Department official objected in 2004 to aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and refused to sign on to its continued use amid concerns about its legality and oversight, according to officials with knowledge of the tense internal debate. The concerns appear to have played a part in the temporary suspension of the secret program.
That "top Justice Department official" was Comey, according to those officials -- who evidently were not even named at birth:
The concerns prompted two of President Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program's future and try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.
The unusual meeting was prompted because Mr. Ashcroft's top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying central aspects of the program, as required under the White House procedures set up to oversee it.
But let's take a deep breath and ask what this really means. First, it's pretty clear that Comey is just not comfortable with 9/11 thinking. Reading his farewell address (he left in August 2005, probably because Alberto Gonzales, not James Comey, had been named attorney general to replace John Ashcroft), it's very clear that Comey is a "9/10 guy."
He describes the various duties of the Department of Justice, mentioning every sort of crime they investigate and task they're responsible for... but he only brings up terrorism twice: once en passant, the other time merely to commiserate with the victims of 9/11. He never says even a single word about the Justice Department's role in the actual war against terrorism. My sense is that he doesn't see it as a war but just one more law-enforcement operation, like investigating bank robbers and Social-Security defrauders.
Feeling the pain of victims is nice, and I'm glad there are nice people at Justice; but it has nothing to do with combatting terrorism... and that is what the NSA program is designed to do. I'm really not surprised that such a nice guy as Mr. Comey was uncomfortable with it.
But much more important is the part that the Times just glosses over in a glib three paragraphs. I suppose the writers might just have missed it... but considering that one of them is Eric Lichtblau, who has had his paw prints on nearly every anti-Bush story to burst out of the paper recently, I have a bit of a hard time believing the "coincidence" excuse. Again.
What was the president's response to the concerns of Comey? He sought the blessings of Comey's boss, Attorney General Ashcroft. And regardless of the outcome of that hospital conversation -- which even the Times admits its informants don't know -- Bush suspended the controversial parts of the NSA program for "several months" to reexamine it:
What is known is that in early 2004, about the time of the hospital visit, the White House suspended parts of the program for several months and moved ahead with more stringent requirements on the security agency on how the program was used, in part to guard against abuses....
The audit examined a selection of cases to see how the security agency was running the program. Among other things, it looked at how agency officials went about determining that they had probable cause to believe that people in the United States, including American citizens, had sufficient ties to Al Qaeda to justify eavesdropping on their phone calls and e-mail messages without a court warrant. That review is not known to have found any instances of abuses.
After noting this, Messrs. Lichtblau and Risen immediately return to the central theme of all of the stories about the NSA intercepts: that it was a "warrantless domestic eavesdropping program." (Say, Bush is just like Nixon, and the Iraq War is just like Vietnam! Do we detect a nostalgic pattern here?)
Initially, it was focused on communications into and out of Afghanistan, including calls between Afghanistan and the United States, people familiar with the operation said. But the program quickly expanded.
As in previous stories, the Times fails to disclose exactly how it "expanded"... to what? Intercepting purely domestic phone calls from one American citizen to another? From one citizen to the local Pizza Hut? White House plumbers planting hidden microphones in DNC headquarters? That appears to be the conclusion they want readers to draw, but they've never actually specified what they mean, beyond the already-reported fact that by tapping some terrorist's cell phone, the NSA occasionally picks up a conversation between two U.S. persons within the United States.
As yet, I do not recall "America's newspaper of record" coughing up a single physical person whose rights have been abused. One would expect that if this program were as indiscriminate as the Times would have us believe, they should be able to produce victims by the sackful.
Thus, yet again we're left with a vaguely disquieted feeling, some nervous anxiety, an increased fretting about Big Brother watching us -- but without the Times' fingerprints being found on any actual, specific claims of abuse that can be verified by anyone... even by Sen. Arlen Specter's upcoming inquisition. The New York Times may not be able to define "warrantless domestic eavesdropping," but they sure know it when they manufacture it.
Upcoming Horrors From Big Lizards
As if the world were not frightening enough, now comes a brand new novel from the Big Lizard himself... and I'm actually going to use the blogosphere to help me sell it!
In my dark and checkered past, I used to be a novelist; I still think of myself as such -- I'm just slumming with all this political stuff. I managed to get eighteen novels published, God knows how. Many were Star Trek books, and of course I co-authored the four Doom novels with Brad Linaweaver (not the novelization of the movie; that's erstwhile cyberpunk John Shirley, I think... remind me someday to tell the story about how Shirley said the most offensive and insulting thing anyone has ever said to me).
But I also tricked various publishers into bringing out seven completely original novels, all long out of print: two fantasies (Heroing and Warriorwards), two science fictions tarted up as fantasies (Arthur War Lord and Far Beyond the Wave), and three young-adult adventure novels (Swept Away, Swept Away: the Mountain, and Swept Away: the Pit, from Harper YA).
But none was a hard-core science fiction, and I longed to write one (since that's what I like most). I finally got a contract and began writing the Pandora Point. Alas, part way through the book, the publisher went belly-up, and I was stranded. I got to keep the signing half of the advance (I never turn down honest money), but what I wanted was publication. I went ahead and completed the book anyway, figuring someone else would pick up the contract.
The Pandora Point takes place on an O'Neill colony, a self-contained cylinder in orbit, rotating to give some artificial gravity and housing several hundred thousand people. It was kicked into a highly eccentric orbit a long time ago... and now it only approaches the Earth once every 400 years. It's doing so now -- but nobody on the station has ever seen the Earth, or even the sun except as a pinpoint star in the sky. As the space colony approaches and the star (our sun) gets bigger and hotter in the viewports, all hell breaks loose... literally.
Fair warning: there is a lot of politics, though I don't let it get in the way of the action. There is also some, um, peculiar sex, and some violence. And some sports -- it helps if you were a fan of American Gladiators!
Double-alas, the reason the publisher went bankrupt was the same reason that nobody wanted to publish the Pandora Point: the SF publishing world decided that nobody wanted to read real science fiction anymore -- so they no longer publish it. Even such stalwarts as Gregory Benford, I hear, have hung up their jump-jets and declared they're out of the business.
The New York Science Fiction Literary Mafia declares that none of you is interested in reading books with original science-fictional ideas. They say that the readers would rather get their science fiction by watching Battlestar Galactica and Firefly/Serenity and no longer have any interest in the printed word.
I say that's a load of fertilizer. I love TV and cinema science fiction... but that doesn't stop me from liking to read, too! I say it's the science-fiction publishers who are no longer interested in original SF ideas... and they're just projecting their own tastes onto the readers (which, to be fair, is really all they have to go on). Since they don't publish any really original SF, it's not difficult to prove it "doesn't sell."
I predict that if someone were to publish real science fiction, written in contemporary literary style, but with the same hopeful, pro-futurist point of view that SF used to have -- and of course, with actual original science-fictional ideas, interesting in and of themselves (even apart from the books that contain them) -- that there would still be a market for it.
Like all my predictions, I'm prepared to test this one in open court. I'm in the process of negotiating with a publisher friend of mine who runs an "instant press" to bring out the Pandora Point in a few months.
The way instant press works is that they typeset the book, but they only print copies "just in time" in response to orders. They usually don't appear in bookstores, but they're available on Amazon.com. The advance is pretty low; but I already got an advance the first time it was sold; and the royalties are larger than normal, which can make up for it, if the book is successful.
When you buy such a book, it's the same as any other book you buy from Amazon: it will be either hardcover with a dust jacket or a trade paperback; it will have a nice cover painting (if we can find a good artist), be professionally printed, copy-edited, and so forth. The only difference is that you can only get it through Amazon (or directly from the author or publisher, of course).
My secret weapon for selling more copies than are normally sold by instant presses -- is the blogosphere; yup, you guys! In a little while, when the printed copies are available, I will start sending review copies to a number of authors of influential and widely read blogs. I want to stress I'll be looking for straightforward and honest reviews: if the blogger hates the book, that's the review he should write... though I hope he would explain why he hates it: he might hate it for the exact reason someone else will love it.
Because the reviews will be honest and uncoerced (yeah right, coerce the blogosphere), if a blogger says he loves it, you can trust him; credibility is everything in our world, so nobody is going to "do me a favor" by writing a good review for a bad book.
Once some reviews begin appearing, it will be up to you guys... and I'm counting on you. If the Pandora Point sounds (from the reviews and the sample chapters I'll put up here on Big Lizards) like something you'd enjoy reading, please order it through Amazon. There will of course be a link on every page of Big Lizards, possibly ads on other blogs (depending how much ad budget I can wheedle out of the publisher), and I might even get the link tattooed on my forehead.
I'm hoping to demonstrate Hugh Hewitt's maxim that blogs are the new paradigm for sales and merchandising -- and of course to make some honest bucks for myself at the same time.
And let's show the SF Literary Mafia where they can stick it!
(While I'm at it, I think I'll also talk to Alan about bringing those out-of-print books linked above back into print... why not?)
Thanks, and I'll keep you apprised as this project progresses.
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