Date ►►► April 28, 2006

Dubai Mulligan: Bush Sinks a Fifty-Footer

Hatched by Dafydd

More than a month ago, in Bush Gets a Dubai Mulligan!, Big Lizards gave readers a loud shout of "fore!" about another deal where a company owned by the government of Dubai wanted to purchase a British company that was in charge of something that made Republicans squeamish.

Today, President Bush made his final sign-off on the new deal -- but this time, after intense consultation with Congress, a preliminary 30-day review, and a full-blown 45-day in-depth review, with cabinet members personally signing off at every stage. And just as we predicted, this time, there does not seem to be any furor from either Left or Right -- at least not so far.

Last time, Dubai Ports World bought the British firm P&O, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (the name of which was changed to P&O because it no longer had anything to do with peninsulas, the word "Oriental" is politically incorrect now, they don't drive boats with steam, and nobody brags about the ability to navigate, because it's all just GPS these days). P&O operated cargo terminals at various seaports around the world, including six major ones in the United States.

The company this time is Dubai International Capital, and they're buying a U.S. subsidiary -- Ross Catherall U.S. Holdings Inc. -- of British-owned Doncasters Group Ltd. To quote ourselves,

Doncasters is an aerospace company that does extensive work on American airplanes, notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. (The F-35 JSF is a joint venture between the United States and Great Britain, and it is expected eventually to replace the Harrier, the Hornet, the Fighting Falcon, and -- well heck, practically every fighter/attack plane we and the Brits have, it seems.)

Arab and US officials are growing nervous at the prospect of a second congressional uprising against the acquisition of American assets by a Middle Eastern-controlled company in the wake of the Dubai Ports World debacle.

A person familiar with the thinking of both the US and United Arab Emirates said officials were concerned that the pending investigation of Dubai International Capital’s £700m ($1.2m) purchase of Doncasters, a privately-held British aerospace manufacturer that works on sensitive US weapons programmes, including the Joint Strike Fighter, could provoke a similar backlash and further damage the relationship between the two countries.

Big Lizards was unworried, however. The problem with the original deal was not that the deal itself was bad; most serious analysts, no matter what their original opinion, eventually ended up supporting the deal after they really looked into the details:

  • Dubai Ports was only trying to buy the cargo operations, not port security;
  • If the deal had gone through, they would still use all the same American union longshoremen and dockwallopers;
  • The Emirate of Dubai (and Dubai Ports World) has been a tremendous help to the United States in the war on Islamic terrorism;
  • And a strategic alliance between the U.S. and Dubai, and indeed the whole United Arab Emirates, would be very useful to us in confronting Iran -- since the UAE controls the gates of the Strait of Hormuz.

The problem was that the deal was seen as so routine, that it was never even kicked up to the cabinet level, let alone a level that would require a direct presidential briefing and decision. If somebody had demonstrated a scintilla of political acumen and done so, red flags would have gone up all over the place. President Bush himself would have realized that top Republican senators and representatives had to be brought into the process early and often.

If the low-level staffers at the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) had done this last time, there would have been no uproar... because the brouhaha flowed from bad information, which the total lack of information coming from the Bush administration made inevitable.

Once burned, twice shy: we predicted at the time that Bush would learn from his administration's foolish mistake last time, and the Dubai International Capital/Doncaster's deal would receive much more scrutiny... and a boatload more cooperation with Republican (and even Democratic) leaders:

The administration will, I predict, bring Congress in early -- Republicans and even some Democrats -- and work it all out with the liberal Congressal chairmen of the two Homeland Security committees: Pete King (R-NY) in the House and Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate, the ones who led the revolt last time.

This time, Bush appears to have followed our advice (the president must read Big Lizards). From the Reuters article:

In the earlier ports dispute, Bush found himself sharply at odds with members of his own Republican Party as well as Democrats. The lawmakers were angry they had not been consulted about a contract they said had obvious security implications.

This time, the administration went to lengths to brief both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, officials said.

Associated Press is more specific about the consultation:

Initial reaction from Capitol Hill was favorable. "This investigation was a significant improvement over what happened before," said House Homeland Security Chairman Peter T. King, R-N.Y. "It's been much more thorough, much more detailed."

King was referring to the political firestorm over the proposed takeover of operations at several major U.S. ports by another Dubai-owned company, DP World. The company announced last month it was selling its interests in the ports to an American buyer after lawmakers protested that DP World's running of the ports posed an unacceptable security risk.

Besides gaining the support of Rep. Peter King -- who was the real firebrand instigator-in-chief of the revolt last time -- I'm quite sure the president also got the approval of Sen. Susan Collins, the instigator junior-grade, though nobody has specifically said anything. But if she objected, I'm sure she would have interrupted her task of trying to blame Bush for the hurricane season in order to run to the sound of the microphones and denounce him for this, too.

The review was quite lengthy, a combined review time of 75 days:

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Friday that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the 12-agency panel that reviews transactions involving national security, went through an unusually lengthy review of the proposed deal.

He said CFIUS, which drew fire for its approval of the Dubai port deal, conducted both a 30-day review beginning on Jan. 28 and a 45-day investigation before recommending the sale to the president.

''The committee specifically considered the fact that a U.S. subsidiary of Ross Catherall is a single source supplier of turbine engine blades for the Department of Defense,'' McClellan said in a statement. He said the Dubai company had made a commitment that there would be no interruptions in supplies to the Pentagon.

Put it all together, and we'd have to say that President Bush took good advantage of his "Mulligan." He learned from his missteps, and this time he crafted a solid consensus in favor of the deal before making any final decision. None of the usual suspects has lambasted it yet; heck, even Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) likes it!

Frank Gaffney opposes it, naturally. But he cannot offer a single coherent reason why it's a problem -- other than his usual anti-foreigner bias:

Too little attention has been paid for far too long to the growing dependence of the U.S. military on foreign suppliers for key components of weapon systems and support equipment. Particularly troubling is the prospect that such dependency could cause us to rely upon a foreign state with a checkered record of support for terrorism.

Gaffney does not elaborate what he means by "a checkered record of support for terrorism." For years, the Emirate of Dubai has been our closest partner in the Middle East in fighting jihadi terrorist groups -- and one of our closest partners worldwide. Nor does he enunciate any particular danger in this case, other than existential angst about foreigners... will very tiny terrorists hide themselves in the parts boxes being shipped to the Army, then jump out and attack?

Ross Catherall makes turbine blades used in the cooling systems of Abrams tanks; if rampaging terrorists infiltrate Dubai International Capital, and through them Ross Catherall, and start manufacturing break-away blades, we wouldn't suffer any significant effect for months, since we have many such blades already in the pipeline or in storage.

During that time, I suspect we could find another company who could make the darned turbine blades.

However, we have yet to hear from the critically important Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). We are all on tenterhooks....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 28, 2006, at the time of 9:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Distributed Denial of Service Attack

Hatched by Dafydd

There was a DDoS attack on Hosting Matters today. I wasn't trying to get on at the time, so at first, I had no idea we had been caught in the crossfire... twice!

(Or maybe the second time was when they were transferring domains to other servers; I don't know.)

Did anybody here have difficulty getting onto this site? Our SiteMeter is a little lower than normal today, but I don't know if that is related.

The attack originated in Saudi Arabia, and the target was a blog called Aaron's CC (which I've never read)... but it also hit Power Line, Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt, Captain's Quarters, Michelle Malkin, and lots of other fry like Big Lizards. My pal Stacy (that is, the brilliant and beautiful technician who always fixes problems when I mess something up on Big Lizards) explains:

Today, 11:46 AM This morning at approximately 10:00 AM Eastern time, we noted a sudden abnormal surge in traffic to the network.

Shortly thereafter, our upstreams confirmed that one of the servers within the network was the target of a massive DOS attack.

We worked with the NOC and the upstreams to further identify the target and steps were taken to isolate that target from the rest of the network.

Recovery on all segments except that target segment is complete. The target of the attack will not be brought back online and will be removed from the main network in the event they are the target of future attacks, so as not to negatively impact other clients.

We are currently working to address clients who may be on that same segment of the network to bring them back online.

Stacy - Hosting Matters, Inc.

(Hat tip to Michelle Malkin, who hates me, I think. She never links, she doesn't write... oy, such a gantseh makher, she should go in good health.)

One hopes the problem is (finally) resolved.

Isn't there some diabolically clever way to finally lick this problem of DDoSes once and for all? Maybe some sort of really, really fast switch that can actually handle millions of sockets at once, just checking to see if there is a DDoS-like pattern... and if so, shunting the offending pings into the bit bucket and the real pings on to the server?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 28, 2006, at the time of 9:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Who Blew the Big Blow - More Details Than You Can Shake a Stick At

Hatched by Dafydd

The easiest way to present the charges of incompetence, bureaucratic entanglement, and screw-ups from the Senate Homeland Security Committee's report on Hurricane Katrina is to post a couple of charts. Each of these charts was taken from the 20-page Executive Summary of the committee's report; I have included the page number of each "attaboy" or accusation entered on these charts, for those obsessive enough to double-check me.

The first chart, labeled "Cheers," comprises the few things about the response that the report praised.

Note an interesting fact that went unreported by the Associated Press's wretched hit piece on the president... in fact, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina was praised far more than were the responses of either the City of New Orleans or the states of Louisiana or Mississippi:

Cheers
New Orleans Louisiana and Mississippi Fed. Agencies White House
Primary responsibility
(p. 3-4)
Secondary responsibility when city requests help
(p. 3-4)
Teriary responsibility when state requests help
(p. 3-4)
Declared emergency two days before landfall (p. 5)
  Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries did great job (p. 8) FEMA: videoconference to warn of risk; DHS warned of levee overtopping or breaching (p. 5) President Bush personally called Gov. Blanco to urge mandatory evacuation
(p. 8)
    FEMA pre-positioned "unprecedented amount of relief supplies" before landfall (p. 7)  
    National Guard and DoD mobilized before landfall
(p. 7)
 
    Largest National Guard deployment in U.S. history --50,000 troops from 49 states
(p. 11)
 
    DoD streamlined process for moving National Guard and active duty troops to area (p. 11-12)  

Not surprisingly, the second chart is labeled "Jeers," and it consists of all of the specific charges leveled at any level of government -- city, state, or federal. Omitted from this chart are both vague claims (that "leadership" was lacking, for example) and also any specific accusation that was applied equally to all levels of government -- for example, lack of funding for emergency-preparedness departments.

Notice first that the Jeers table is much longer than the Cheers table; the report was very negative. But second, far from "ripp[ing] the White House" or the "Bush administration," in fact the feds came in for slightly less roughing-up than did either the city or state authorities... and the Bush White House in fact was the only entity that received more praise than condemnation.

The boldface entries are those whose genesis is long-term, not specifically related to the individuals in office at the time of the disaster:

Jeers
New Orleans Louisiana and Mississippi Fed. Agencies White House
Mayor Nagin failed to request help from state
(p. 6)
Gov. Blanco made no specific request for fed. help in evacuation
(p. 6)
FEMA "at no time in its history" able to handle storm of this size (p. 6) Directed fed response from Crawford until two days after landfall
(p. 8)
Unprepared to help people evacuate
(p. 8)
"Senior state official" said no unmet needs
(p. 6)
Michael Brown failed to properly direct pre-postitioned supplies (p. 7)  
Allowed hundreds of buses to be submerged
(p. 8)
State transportation secretary ignored emergency plan (p. 6) DHS head Chertoff failed to personally supervise before landfall (p. 7)  
Failed to arrange for drivers of buses that were available (p. 8) Widespread communications failures in Louisiana and Mississippi (p. 9) FEMA failed to provide boats for S&R teams (p. 9)  
Allowed police stations, vehicles, emergeny equipment, and ammunition to be destroyed (p. 8) Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development failed to follow state emergency plan (p. 10) Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) failed to adequeately inform president and secretaries
(p. 9)
 
Fire department owned no boats; police only owned five (p. 9) Gov. Blanco unable to commandeer school buses
(p. 10)
Poor communication between DHS, DoD, and HSOC (p. 9-10)  
Mayor Nagin opened Morial Convention Center as a "second refuge of last resort," but failed to stock it with food or water
(p. 12)
Federal and state electronics equipment incompatible
(p. 10)
500 buses sent by FEMA arrived late
(p. 10)
 
Nagin did not communicate to state or federal agencies about Morial Convention Center
(p. 12)
Louisiana and Mississippi had trouble getting supplies "the last mile"
(p. 10)
FEMA lacked supply-tracking database
(p. 10)
 
Top city officials inflamed public perception of lawlessness by "erroneous statements"
(p. 12)
In Louisiana, National Guard could not carry supplies to those in need (p. 10) Federal and state electronics equipment incompatible
(p. 10)
 
Police presence on the streets inadequate
(p. 12)
Lack of portable toilets in Louisiana
(p. 10)
Federal law-enforcement assistance slow to arrive (p. 13)  
Office of Emergency Preparedness inadequate
(p. 13)
Louisiana unable to process offers of help from other states
(p. 11)
   
Rank and file cops unfamiliar with emergency-operations manuals (p. 13)      

Particularly noteworthy is the comparison of the "net evaluation" of each of the three branches of government; I define this as the number of accusations of failure combined with the number of accolades for success for a net failure or success score. Here are the figures:

  • City of New Orleans: 12 failures + 1 success = 11 net failures;
  • States of Louisiana and Mississippi: 11 failures + 2 successes = 9 net failures;
  • Federal agencies: 10 failures + 6 successes = 4 net failures;
  • White House: 1 failure + 2 successes = 1 net success.

Compare this record from the actual Executive Summary itself with the claim by AP that --

A Senate inquiry into the government's Hurricane Katrina failures ripped the Bush administration anew Thursday and urged the scrapping of the nation's disaster response agency. But with a new hurricane season just weeks away, senators conceded that few if any of their proposals could become reality in time.

The bipartisan investigation into one of the worst natural disasters in the nation's history singled out President Bush and the White House as appearing indifferent to the devastation until two days after the storm hit.

By "appearing indifferent," it's clear that what AP really means is that Bush was directing the federal response from his Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, TX, rather than from the White House itself. To the Associated Press, this is "indifference."

Need we say more?

This is perhaps the most egregiously biased and slanted Katrina story since the first days after the storm itself, when the antique media blithely repeated ludicrous and lurid rumors of rapes, murders, and cannibalism -- and laid it all at the doorstep of the White House.

Media "madness" is indeed the proper phrase for it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 28, 2006, at the time of 5:33 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Vuja-De

Hatched by Dafydd

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Bedlam) issued a stern warning today to President Bush:

Addressing the president in absentia, Sen. Byrd began by warning that Congress retains all its original powers under the Constitution.

"You better read that again in the Constitution," Byrd said, declaring that the Senate's powers include "serving as a court of impeachment....

"If the House impeaches you, the Senate will try you. The Senate, don't forget it, serves as a court of impeachment and has an equal say with the House on legislation."

Well... yeah. By golly, he's right!

And Byrd should know; after all, he was there the last time.

And the first time, too.

"I can hear the cuckoo singing in the cuckooberry tree...."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 28, 2006, at the time of 1:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 27, 2006

A Beesting On A Crying Face

Hatched by Sachi

I normally do not want to write anything bad about our military. But when it comes to mistreatment of our veterans, I have to speak up.

Anyone who has worked for the feds has a horror story or two about the cement-heads who cut the checks (or often fail to cut the checks, leaving employees and their families twisting slowly in the wind). But this is the worst yet: ABC news reports that the Army has been dunning wounded soldiers to pony up money they were overpaid -- because the green-eyeshade lackwits at the DoD personnel office couldn't change the soldiers' status quickly enough and continued to pay them as if they were in a combat zone... when in fact, they were in hospital.

You can watch the video by going to ABC website and clicking Financial Friendly Fire. (Transcript from Iraq Terrorists or Resistance?)

The report highlights some horror stories:

Army specialist Tyson Johnson of Mobile, Ala., had just been promoted in a field ceremony in Iraq when a mortar round exploded outside his tent, almost killing him. "It took my kidney, my left kidney, shrapnel came in through my head, back of my head," he recounted....

His injuries forced him out of the military, and the Army demanded he repay an enlistment bonus of $2,700 because he'd only served two-thirds of his three-year tour. [! -- the Mgt.]

When he couldn't pay, Johnson's account was turned over to bill collectors. He ended up living out of his car when the Army reported him to credit agencies as having bad debts [!!], making it impossible for him to
rent an apartment.

"Oh, man, I felt betrayed," Johnson said. "I felt like, oh, my heart dropped."

And there are many more like Johnson. Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelly lost his leg in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.

He didn't realize it, but the Army continued to mistakenly pay him combat bonus pay, about $2,000, while he was in the hospital rehabilitating, and then demanded that he pay it back. He, too, was threatened by the Army with debt collectors and a negative credit report.

Since this whole thing is the military's fault, they should completely forgive all such debts and do whatever it takes to restore the soldiers' credit score. The total military debt incurred among wounded servicemen is a paltry $1.5 million. It is nothing compared to the entire cost of the war.

I don't care if the soldiers weren't technically supposed to receive that money. How would they know that? It's not a soldier's responsibility to figure out how much his monthly salary is, particualrly when he's lying in a gurney missing a kidney and pieces of his skull. He has a few other things to worry about.

In Japan, this sort of garbage is called "a beesting on a crying face," 泣きっ面に蜂: when you're already crying, a bee flies over and stings you. It means a bad thing happens when you are already suffering from another bad situation. (In America, I think you say "adding insult to injury" -- which is literally true in this case.)

How could we let this happen? These are our bravest young men, and they put their lives on the line to protect our country. For our military to treat them like this is unconscionable.

It turns out these problems are due to data-entry errors and the sluggish work habits of the personnel employees (probably civilians). Since the wounded soldiers are evacuated so quickly, the accounting office doesn't keep up with the status change. The five-sided castle claims that the problems are being addressed; of the two soldiers in the story, the Pentagon say that "much of their debt" was forgiven.

Much? How much? And why not all of it?

It's not clear from ABC's reporting how many of these cases exist; they claim "thousands." However many there are, the DOD must make it a top priority to correct these despicable and degrading financial hits on men and women whose only crime was not to rise up out of their hospital beds to research whether the Army was overpaying them.

Congress will hear the case tomorrow; but Secretary Rumsfeld should beat them to the punch by immediately ordering the problem to be fixed per above.

We are asking these young people to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to make sure that their transition from the combat zone to hospital to everyday life is as painless as possible. At the very least, when soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are wounded and need to be sent home, we should at least appropriate the doctors' motto, primum non nocere: first, do no harm.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 27, 2006, at the time of 10:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Who Blew the Big Blow?

Hatched by Dafydd

Associated Press has a piece about the Senate Homeland-Security Committee's report on Hurricane Katrina, assigning blame and (to some extent) suggesting changes for the better. The thrust of Lara Jakes Jordan's story is accurately summarized by the headline and first two paragraphs:

Katrina Report Rips the White House Anew

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Senate inquiry into the government's Hurricane Katrina failures ripped the Bush administration anew Thursday and urged the scrapping of the nation's disaster response agency. But with a new hurricane season just weeks away, senators conceded that few if any of their proposals could become reality in time.

The bipartisan investigation into one of the worst natural disasters in the nation's history singled out President Bush and the White House as appearing indifferent to the devastation until two days after the storm hit.

The AP story is hard-hitting, incisive, and merciless in reporting how the Senate report castigates the White House. But it is one other thing: the story is a complete fabrication.

Jordan's audacity is breathtaking. I will have more to say about this in the next post, after I finish reading the executive summary. But from the first half (all I've read so far), the report actually lodges far more serious accusations against the State of Louisiana and Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and against the City of New Orleans than against any federal agency, though you would never know it from the AP story.

Even in the case of the feds, about half the most serious problems in the federal response are long-term (multi-president) failings that certainly do not constitute "singl[ing] out President Bush and the White House." (For example, not building better levees in New Orleans.) Jordan does her best imitation of Mary Mapes in this piece.

In fact, the worst accusation made against Bush in the report so far is that for the first two days after landfall, he directed the federal response from his Crawford ranch, rather than from Washington D.C.

It just occurred to me that whenever a senator or representative leaves D.C., he is either on vacation, on a junket, or campaigning. Co-chairs of the report Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) may literally not understand that when Bush goes to the Prairie Chapel Ranch, he is in communication and control just as much as he is at la Casa Blanca. He's not on holiday; he's working at the branch office.

More, and more specifics, anon. This is in the way of an "incoming" for y'all not to believe everything you read in the papers!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 27, 2006, at the time of 9:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hero's Father, Flight 93

Hatched by Sachi

David Beamer, the father of the best-known hero of Flight 93, Todd "Let's Roll" Beamer, has some nice things to say about the new movie, Flight 93, which opens large tomorrow. (Hat tip Ace of Spade)

There are those who question the timing of this project and the painful memories it evokes. Clearly, the film portrays the reality of the attack on our homeland and its terrible consequences. Often we attend movies to escape reality and fantasize a bit. In this case and at this time, it is appropriate to get a dose of reality about this war and the real enemy we face."

Mr. Beamer does not believe it's "too soon":

It is not too soon for this story to be told, seen and heard. But it is too soon for us to become complacent. It is too soon for us to think of this war in only national terms. We need to be mindful that this enemy, who made those holes in our landscape and caused the deaths of some 3,000 of our fellow free people, has a vision to personally kill or convert each and every one of us. This film reminds us that this war is personal.

Flight 93 should have been made much sooner. If the war-on-terror happened under Clinton, there would have been a movie made within a year of the attacks. (Had it happened under FDR, every studio would have abandoned every other project to churn out two hundred pro-America movies by 2004!) But because this is "Bush's war," Hollywood still hasn't made up its mind whether it's with us -- Flight 93 -- or with the terrorists -- Syriana.

Flight 93 has everything a movie should: heroism, drama, love of country, love of family, and the perfect tag-line: “Let’s Roll!” It's unbelievable that such a story took this long to be made. And people are complaining about being too soon?

We needed this movie three years ago, when we were contemplating going to Iraq. It would have helped some people to make up their mind whether we were going to stand up and fight terrorism, by whatever means necessary, where it is born -- in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, and Venezuela -- or from a defensive crouch, at a time and place of the terrorists' choosing:

The passengers and crew of United 93 had the blessed opportunity to understand the nature of the attack and to launch a counterattack against the enemy. This was our first successful counterattack in our homeland in this new global war--World War III.

This film further reminds us of the nature of the enemy we face. An enemy who will stop at nothing to achieve world domination and force a life devoid of freedom upon all.

The complacency that David Beamer writes about frustrates many of us. Some people live eternally in September 10th. (Some even earlier... a quarter of the country wants to party like it was still 1999.)

But however painful the memory is, we should always be reminded how we felt that day, as Darryl Worley so eloquently sang in "Have You Forgotten?":

They took all the footage off my T.V.
Said it's too disturbing for you and me
It'll just breed anger that's what the experts say
If it was up to me I'd show it every day
Some say this country's just out looking for a fight
After 9/11 man I'd have to say that's right

No, we should never forget it. This movie and many more movies like it must be made. "Let a thousand flowers bloom."

We must always remember to remember.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 27, 2006, at the time of 4:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Time To Ex-Specterate?

Hatched by Dafydd

According to the Associated Press, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has fired George W. Bush and declared himself the new President of the United States:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said Thursday he is considering legislation to cut off funding for the Bush administration's secret domestic wiretapping program until he gets satisfactory answers about it from the White House.

"Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress at the moment," Specter, R-Pa., told the panel. "If we are to maintain our institutional prerogative, that may be the only way we can do it."

Specter said he had informed President Bush about his intention and that he has attracted several potential co-sponsors. He said he's become increasingly frustrated in trying to elicit information about the program from senior White House officials at several public hearings.

Ooh, I'll bet he has attracted some co-sponsors: I'm guessing he's got about 45 of them, including Sens. Ted Kennedy, Dick Durbin, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Harry Reid, and of course Russell Feingold.

Wait, let me check: no, I was right... Sen. Specter's name isn't listed here. And while I don't want to judge before all the facts are in, I would have to venture a guess that if his name isn't listed on the official list of members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, then he's probably not a member of that committee.

So if he's not on the Intelligence Committee, nor on Armed Services, nor on Homeland Security, then why the heck should he be briefed on that ultra-secret program?

Oh, wait, of course: he chairs the Judiciary Committee... which has oversight and responsibility over the judiciary, the courts, and especially over conducting hearings of and either recommending or rejecting federal judges nominated by the president before being sent to the full Senate.

(Which, by the way, Arlen Specter appears not to have done too good a job at, considering that some nominees have waited years for their hearings, such as Brett Kavanaugh and William James Haynes.)

Maybe it's just me, but I can't quite fathom why chairing the J-Com would qualify him to be briefed on intelligence-gathering programs. He's not a member of the federal judiciary, much as he may imagine it's his job to enforce the law.

Specter is also a member -- though not in a leadership position -- of the Appropriations Committee. But that can't be the basis of his authority for making this threat, since the chairman of that committee is Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), who hasn't said a word about this.

So what is Specter really arguing? Since he demands to be briefed on the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, even though he has no connection to Intelligence, Armed Services, or any other terrorism-related committee or subcommittee... then what Specter must actually be demanding is that the Bush White House fully brief each and every single senator on all classified aspects of the program.

Oh, and surely Specter can't be saying that the Senate should be briefed, but not the other side of Congress! So he likewise calls for a complete classified briefing about every last element of the program for all members of the House of Representatives, as well.

Sen. Arlen Specter threatens to cut off all funding for one of our most vital intelligence operations unless all 535 members of Congress are fully briefed on all operational details. Is he a fool? Or is he a madman?

The New York Times and several NSA officers revealed the existence of the program and briefly sketched the sort of people who would be monitored. But the vast majority of the program is still well concealed: the bad guys don't know the precise methodology, techology, and who exactly has been surveilled. Which is very good, because knowing that would allow them to skirt around the surveillance in the future and would tell them who has been compromised and must be cut off from important communications.

How long does Arlen Specter think those secrets would last if they were handed over to Cynthia McKinney, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Ron Dellums, Bernie Sanders, and John Murtha -- or even on his own side of the Dome, to Patrick Leahy, Ted Kennedy, Dick Durbin, Mark Dayton, and John Kerry?

Wait a minute, ab Hugh; you're just jumping the gun. Sen. Specter is a reasonable man; he couldn't possibly mean what you're saying he means.

Fair enough. But then, what does this mean?

According to a copy of the amendment obtained by The Associated Press, it would enact a "prohibition on use of funds for domestic electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes unless Congress is kept fully and currently informed."

"Congress" clearly means more than just the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence or the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, since both are already being fully briefed on the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program. I can only conclude that keeping "Congress" "fully and currently informed" must mean a complete briefing for all members of both houses of Congress:

  • A list of all past and current surveillance targets, so the Democrats can be reassured that Bush isn't spying on Russell Feingold, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton, as Feingold's new campaign ad claims;
  • Plus a full and complete briefing on the methodology used at every stage, so opponents of the war on terror, such as Kucinich, Durbin, and Specter, can determine whether we're violating the sacred constitutional rights of al-Qaeda members here illegally.

It's very clear what is really going on here: Sen. Specter is simply trying to seize operational control of the program away from President Bush and put it instead where he imagines is belongs... in the hands of Congress. This is very similar to congressional actions during the Civil War, when Congress tried to seize operational control of the armed forces, ordering armies here and there and trying to run the war themselves.

It was a disaster then -- President Abraham Lincoln had to fight a two-front war, one against the Confederates, the other against egomanical Congressmen -- and it would be an unalloyed calamity now.

I've been on the fence about Specter for some time, owing to his antics on the J-Com. But now, with him trying to capture control of American intelligence policy (which has nothing whatsoever to do with any of Specter's four committee assignments, the other two being Veterans' Affairs and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education), I believe there is no option but for the party to vote to remove him from his chairmanship -- which appears to have addled a once-fine brain. Let him cool his fevered head on the back bench for a while.

Fortunately, the House will probably save us from this insanity:

Specter's announcement came a day after the House passed an bill 327- 96 to dramatically increase spending on intelligence programs. In the process, Republicans blocked an amendment to expand congressional oversight of the NSA's warrantless surveillance program.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said allegations that NSA domestic wiretapping operations are abusive or unconstitutional are outrageous and that Congress is committed to vigorous oversight of the program.

(The chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence? Piffle. Now if Rep. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the mighty House Judiciary Committee, were to speak out, that might carry some weight!)

It's equally outrageous that we have to rely upon one chamber of Congress to protect us from the other... first the Senate Republicans give us the Gas Price Relief and Rebate Five Year Plan, and now this. If Specter gets any Republican co-sponsors other than Lincoln Chafee (RINO-RI), then we're doomed, doomed.

As President Bush said, you're either with us, or you're with the terrorists. Sen. Specter does not appear to be with us.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 27, 2006, at the time of 2:20 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 26, 2006

Three-Judge Monte

Hatched by Dafydd

Want a preview of what the Supreme Court would be like if a Democrat won the presidency in 2008? Check out this gang-mugging of Florida Assistant Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Snurkowski and U.S. Justice Department lawyer Kannon Shanmugam. The subject: whether even lethal injection is too "cruel and unusual" a method of execution:

Several Supreme Court justices on Wednesday grilled state and U.S. government lawyers about whether lethal injections as currently administered for executions caused excruciating pain.

"Your procedure would be prohibited if applied to dogs and cats," Justice John Paul Stevens told Florida Assistant Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Snurkowski.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also asked whether the method currently used involved the risk of a death row prisoner dying an excruciating death....

Several justices questioned whether the state had investigated the method of lethal injection to make sure it was administered in the most humane and painless way possible.

Justice Stephen Breyer said states could administer more sodium pentothal to ease the pain or could have a doctor present at the execution. "That doesn't seem too difficult," he told Snurkowski.

We notice which three justices constitute "several": Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer. Quelle surprise!

Breyer is being utterly disingenuous, of course. He knows very well that a requirement that a doctor be present at the execution -- thus assisting it, even if he never touches the condemned -- is the same as banning all executions... because doctors are absolutely forbidden by the code of ethics of the AMA to assist at executions in any way, and any doctor who did so would be in danger of losing his license to practice medicine. The most a doctor is allowed to do is to be brought in after the execution is over to examine the corpse and officially declare it dead.

Justice Breyer is well aware of this; he's not an utter fool. It's quite explicit in the American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics:

E-2.06 Capital Punishment

An individual’s opinion on capital punishment is the personal moral decision of the individual. A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution. Physician participation in execution is defined generally as actions which would fall into one or more of the following categories: (1) an action which would directly cause the death of the condemned; (2) an action which would assist, supervise, or contribute to the ability of another individual to directly cause the death of the condemned; (3) an action which could automatically cause an execution to be carried out on a condemned prisoner.

Physician participation in an execution includes, but is not limited to, the following actions: prescribing or administering tranquilizers and other psychotropic agents and medications that are part of the execution procedure; monitoring vital signs on site or remotely (including monitoring electrocardiograms); attending or observing an execution as a physician; and rendering of technical advice regarding execution.

In the case where the method of execution is lethal injection, the following actions by the physician would also constitute physician participation in execution: selecting injection sites; starting intravenous lines as a port for a lethal injection device; prescribing, preparing, administering, or supervising injection drugs or their doses or types; inspecting, testing, or maintaining lethal injection devices; and consulting with or supervising lethal injection personnel.

By contrast, of course, the AMA has no policy against partial-birth abortion... even in the ninth month of pregnancy... though it does suggest that third-trimester abortions not be performed unless the doctor really thinks it necessary:

According to the scientific literature, there does not appear to be any identified situation in which intact D&X [partial-birth abortion] is the only appropriate procedure to induce abortion, and ethical concerns have been raised about intact D&X. The AMA recommends that the procedure not be used unless alternative procedures pose materially greater risk to the woman. The physician must, however, retain the discretion to make that judgment, acting within standards of good medical practice and in the best interest of the patient.

There appears to be no opportunity for a doctor to participate in an execution, however -- even if he really thinks it necessary.

We've been through this before:

As a friend of mine used to say, "same car, different plastic."

This is the back-door method that the Left hopes to use to ban all executions -- regardless of the will of the people. The whole "Project Innocence" tactic turned out to be a big bust: they thought that if they could find even a single person executed who might have been innocent, then America would turn away from capital punishment in national revulsion.

But it turns out Americans are more sophisticated than Democrats thought. Most people already believe that innocent people have occasionally been wrongfully executed:

Caryl Chessman, executed in 1960 for being the "Red-Light Bandit," is probably one such; the evidence against him was pathetic, and his trial was a mockery of justice. Bruno Hauptmann, executed in 1936 for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby, may well be another.

Alas for the anti-execution fanatics, citizens have already factored this likelihood into their support for the death penalty. They understand that justice is never perfect, and innocent people are convicted, sent to prison, and some even die in prison, only to be exonerated posthumously.

Sadly, some innocent people (at least innocent of the particular murder) have been executed... and others will surely be executed in the future. It's guaranteed. But more innocent people will die if murderers are not executed than the tiny number of innocents wrongfully executed... and Americans (unlike liberals) comprehend this fact.

The anti-execution Left finally understands that it will never turn Americans against the death penalty, or at least not in the forseeable future. So they turn to their most reliable weapon in their war against the people: the federal courts. They got hanging banned as a method of execution because it was "cruel and unusual;" it was replaced by Old Sparky, until that was banned; electrocution was replaced by the gas chamber -- until that, too was banned for causing pain.

The final replacement was lethal injection, the most gentle and painless method imaginable for putting a murderer to death. And now lethal injection is under the same assault... for the same reason: somebody might get hurt -- before he dies.

Fortunately, we have a breath of fresh sanity on the Court:

On the other side, Justice Antonin Scalia, a strong death penalty supporter, said the Supreme Court has never held that a state must use a method that causes the least amount of pain.

"Hanging was not a quick and easy way to go," Scalia said.

Perhaps this goes a long way towards explaining this disturbing trend on the Left. From RealClearPolitics Blog:

The Coordinated Attack on Scalia

As Ronald Cass wrote three weeks ago on RealClearPolitics, expect to hear the call for Justice Scalia to recuse himself to continue as liberals try and find ways to silence the conservative justice....

I hope conservative Republicans come to their senses -- and come back to the party. As much as they believe George W. Bush is not a conservative (and to be fair, he made it clear in 2000 that he was something related but different, a "compassionate conservative"), his judicial appointments have been stellar compared to those of his predecessor -- and compared to those we know would come from a Democratic successor.

And the worst possible thing we could do to promote a sane and rational judiciary (along with every other desirable policy, from less spending to border control to national defense) is help elect more Democrats to Congress... either by voting for them ourselves, or even by sitting home and sulking on November 7th.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 26, 2006, at the time of 5:12 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Shakespearian Epiphany

Hatched by Dafydd

Try this on your English-Lit prof.

William Shakespeare wrote a number of plays in which girls disguise themselves as men (not too many where men drag-up as chicks). I have a theory why this worked then but seems absurd today.

I actually developed this thesis long before the movie She's the Man -- an updating of WS's Twelfth Night, or What You Will -- came out; but it's a good example. So is the Merchant of Venice, in a more serious vein.

But why did this plot device work so well in 1600, yet seem so ludicrous today? Why would anyone have believed Viola could get away with posing as her brother (albeit twin brother) Sebastian in Twelfth Night, or Portia posing as Balthasar in Merchant? You and I have no difficulty telling a hart from a hind... couldn't people do the same ca. 1600, when those two plays were written?

I started pondering this in 2002, when I saw a play by French 18th-century novelist and dramatist Pierre de Marivaux (actually, Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux), a contemporary of Voltaire. In this play (first printed in 1732, I think), a princess inherits a throne that she thinks rightly belongs to a self-exiled prince, who she secretly loves. The prince has renounced romantic love, and he resides in a compound with an old philosopher and his old sister -- the only woman in the joint.

To worm her way inside, the princess masquerades as a young man. What amused me was that she easily fools the old philosopher and sister... but the younger men quickly realize she is a woman disguised as a man and begin not-so-subtlely courting her. Why, I asked myself (silently, for which other theater patrons thanked me, or would have, had they only known) why do the cross-dressing gals in Shakespeare always get away with it, while in Marivaux, they're seen through as easily as a "pro-defense" Democrat?

And then it struck me: back in Shakespeare's day, there were no woman actors in the theater. The role of Viola in Twelfth Night and Portia in the Merchant of Venice were played by men. (You all saw the movie Shakespeare In Love, right?)

So in fact, what you had was a man cross-dressing as a woman cross-dressing as a man... or (snipping out the unnecessary intermediary) a man pretending to be a man. Even I would have no trouble believing that! Certainly, it would seem perfectly normal that the noble Olivia would fall in love with the fake-Sebastian -- who is, in fact, played by a man: a woman falling for a man is easily believed.

But today, when that play is staged, Viola (hence the fake-Sebastian, when she disguises herself as her brother) is played by a woman, of course: the über-sexy Amanda Bynes in She's the Man, and a woman in every production of the play itself that I've ever seen, probably at least a dozen. So when we contemporary audience members watch Twelfth Night, and Viola hams it up as her brother, it looks obvious, and we conclude that Olivia is either a moron or a metrosexual. But back in the day, it made perfect sense: Viola looked just like a man because "she" was a man!

But I believe that by Marivaux's day, 140 years later, in the French Comédie Française and Italian Commedia dell'arte, the female roles were probably played by actual women. So when the princess in the Triumph of Love butches up, she's still obviously a woman.

(In fact, Marivaux might be slyly mocking Shakespeare, as Cervantes both mocked and bowed to the romantic, chivalric novels of his day in Don Quixote.)

Since the audience sees her as a woman dressed as a man, any character who fails to figure that out is supposed to be a dolt. Which is just how Marivaux played it: the inability of the philosopher and his sister to notice tells us that they're classically over-educated, intellectual eggheads who can't balance a checkbook or remember their telephone numbers. We're supposed to laugh at them, not with them.

At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 26, 2006, at the time of 4:36 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 25, 2006

Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack

Hatched by Dafydd

This is a modification of Iran Strategies 0: Re-examining the "Default Assault". The first four Iran Strategies (in order of posting) were:

  1. Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
  2. Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo, and
  3. Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"
  4. Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike

In Iran Strategies 3, we discussed "an all-out attack on all known and suspected nuclear sites, in an effort to utterly destroy Iran's entire nuclear program." Iran Strategies 5 is an "add-on" to this approach.

We start with the premise that Iran will surely retaliate for any strike on them (of any magnitude) with everything they have. Fortunately, they don't have much... not yet; the longer we dither, the more they will have available to strike back. Therefore, we must preemptively take out their retaliatory capability at the same time we take out their nuclear sites.

There is very little chance for Iran to attack us militarily. Although there are a bunch of Americans just across their border with Iraq and just across their border with Afghanistan, it would be suicidal (in the non-martyrdom-operation sense) for Iran to send its regular army streaming across either of those two borders.

Presumably, we ourselves would know that we ourselves were about to attack, and we would put our own troops on the absolute highest alert: Iran would have to send its tanks and APCs into the teeth of full-blown American and British resistance, under an airspace that we would totally dominate. It's unlikely that any Iranian armor columns full of old Soviet tanks would survive, and any warplane they sent into the region would be swiftly shot down.

(They do have a monstrous strategy utilizing the Basij: suicide attacks against enemy forces that may include masses of children strapped with bombs charging directly at us. They count on Americans being so sentimental about children -- as quite evidently the Iranian mullahs are not -- that we would find ourselves unable to shoot at them, even knowing that they will blow us all up -- along with themselves.

(But I frankly doubt we would be so self-destructive. If we shoot them, they might die; if we fail to shoot them, they will assuredly die, along with us. I believe our military would grit its collective teeth and open fire.)

So what is left? The only tactic Iran has available by which they might realistically expect to hurt us is terrorism. Although they are connected with several terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, their primary terrorist arm is Hezbollah, which was created by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1982 to fight the Israelis in Lebanon... and also as an internal parasecurity organization to enforce strict Islamic law. Hezbollah is completely in the pocket of Iran and Syria and would be expected to retaliate anywhere in the world that they could against America, the "Great Satan," in the event we strike Iran's nuclear sites.

But they will also "retaliate" against the "Little Satan," Israel, regardless of whether Israel was involved in the attack. They will strike at Israel just on general principles: they're Jews; they're American allies; they're Jews; they stand in the way of Iranian hegemony over the region; they're a free democracy; and they're Jews.

In other words, Israel will be struck in retaliation if they join us -- and also if they don't. Therefore, there really is no downside to joining us... and potentially a lot of upside.

This points the way to a joint-strike strategy. Simply put:

  • America strikes at all of Iran's nuclear sites, those that we know and those we only suspect, in an effort to cripple or destroy their entire program;
  • Israel strikes the primary Hezbollah incarnations: both in Gaza and also in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, which snuggles up between the Lebanon Mountains and Syria. Not in Iran; they're too dispersed... it would be needless bombing of civilian targets to no military purpose. But Hezbollah outside Iran, which represents the bigger threat anyway;
  • These attacks must be conducted simultaneously; the blow to Iran (and Syria) must be staggering.

The idea, of course, is not only to take out Iran's nuclear capability -- but also cripple its terrorism retaliatory capability. Of course, they wouldn't even be able to complain to the UN about that part of the attack, since officially, they don't admit that Hezbollah in Lebanon or in Gaza has anything to do with them... although in reality, they control it through Syria. (They'll complain plenty about the main strike, though; so whining about Hezbollah won't even be missed!)

Syria won't be able to complain, because officially, they've already pulled out of Lebanon. Anyone left behind is simply a Lebanese citizen with no connection to Syria... and it's just an amazing coincidence that Hezbollah in the Bekaa seems to do exactly what Syria wishes they would do.

Lebanon itself will probably hollar, since it's their own homeland getting bombed; but it will be a sotto voce scream: the new Democrats of the Cedar Revolution will not be crying into the beer they're not supposed to drink at death and destruction being rained down upon the heads of their bitterest enemies, Hezbollah. As a value-added inducement, Israel's attack there will probably also kill scores of Syrian intelligence agents who are hiding out among Hezbollah, waiting for the right time to usher into Lebanon a new "protective engagement" by Syria.

We kill two birds with one stone. (Alternatively, we flush... well, let's skip that metaphor.)

Would the Israelis go along with it? Under Sharon, the answer would have been "absolutely." Alas, I'm not 100% sure of Ehud Olmert, particularly since he plans to name former "firebrand" militant unionista Amir Peretz as Minister of Defense. Still, I suspect that Israel is not going to change its official line that Hezbollah and Iran represent an "existential threat" to the nation of Israel.

So I do believe they would go along with it. The United States Congress would not be involved, as this would be an airstrike ordered by President Bush in his capacity as Commander in Chief -- Congress doesn't come into play... though like the Iranians, they'll scream bloody, blue murder once it's over. They may even try to initiate impeachment proceedings against Bush (we can always hope!)

It might be a good idea not even to warn Congress that we're about to do it, for fear that the Democrats will rush to leak the upcoming operation to the press, so that Iran can do a better job of defending itself. They would argue, "so that, once we see the operation will be futile, we'll call off this attack which clearly violates international law." I'm quite sure that John Kerry would defend such a leak (they would be leaking something that was "true")... as would Kate Martin, one presumes. Let's be charitable and not put temptation in Jay Rockefeller's way.

I wonder if we've even broached this possibility to the Israelis? I sure as heck hope they've at least kicked this can around.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 25, 2006, at the time of 8:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Silence of the Saint

Hatched by Dafydd

The silence of St. Mary of Langley continues; since Mary O. McCarthy was fired on Friday, April 21st, 2006, four days have passed in which she has refused to come forward herself and flatly state that she did not leak any classified intelligence.

She has her shills: Rand Beers yesterday, issued a carefully composed "non-denial" denial; today, Mr. Senior Intelligence Official (he sure gets around!) and Thomas S. Blanton fill that role. And she has her mouthpiece:

A lawyer representing fired CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy said yesterday that his client did not leak any classified information and did not disclose to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest the existence of secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe for suspected terrorists.

The statement by Ty Cobb, a lawyer in the Washington office of Hogan & Hartson who said he was speaking for McCarthy, came on the same day that a senior intelligence official said the agency is not asserting that McCarthy was a key source of Priest's award-winning articles last year disclosing the agency's secret prisons.

But look at what the attorney did not say, or at least is not quoted as having said: he did not say "Mary McCarthy told me that she had not leaked any classified information;" he simply asserts that she didn't. And he said she didn't "disclose" the supposed existence of the prisons; but did she confirm it?

Why is this important? Because Mary O. McCarthy is a Clintonista. She was very close to the former president; he personally picked her to be his special assistant for intelligence. And what were the Clintons, both of 'em, know for most?

They were infamous for careful slicing and dicing the language to imply a lie without actually saying the lie.

  • "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Mr. Clinton claimed he didn't consider certain activities to be "sex," and he cited the Bible as authority;
  • "I was never alone with Miss Lewinsky." He's right: there were always plenty of other people in the White House at the time... just in other rooms;
  • "It depends what the meaning of 'is' is." No comment.

They were also known for constantly sending people out to lie for them... but it wasn't really a lie, because the sock-puppet defenders (say, just like Michael Hiltzik's ficticious commenters!) could always say they were just expressing their "faith" in the Clintons' innocence.

And that's what the peculiarly named Ty Cobb can say. Even if she did, in fact, leak tons of classified intelligence, all Mr. C. has to say is, "she never said that to me -- I just looked at her face, and she looked so innocent, I knew she couldn't have done it." That may be bad judgment, but bad judgment is certainly not a disbarrable offense (while flatly lying might be).

What about the other shills? They fall into two categories:

The Ubiquitous Anonymous Supporter:

Though McCarthy acknowledged having contact with reporters, a senior intelligence official confirmed yesterday that she is not believed to have played a central role in The Post's reporting on the secret prisons. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing personnel matters.

Well! Who can argue with that? A person who must speak on the condition of anonymity because of personnel matters (as in, "I would be fired if they found out"), but who the Washington Post assures us is senior, says that she didn't play a central role -- how can we doubt her for even a minute?

Is Mr. Senior I. Official actually involved in the investigation? The Post doesn't say. Is he/she speaking for the investigation, or just offering a personal opinion? No comment. Is he or she a partisan of one side or the other? The WaPo shrugs.

It makes no difference. They've planted the meme; it will grow in fertile soil.

The External Expert Who Never Met the Saint (but can tell she's innocent):

Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental research institute at George Washington University, said he does not think the Post article includes the kind of operational details that a prosecutor would need to build a case.

"It's the fact of the thing that they're trying to keep secret, not to protect sources and methods, but to hide something controversial," he said. "That seems like a hard prosecution to me."

Kate Martin, executive director of the Center for National Security Studies, said that "even if the espionage statutes were read to apply to leaks of information, we would say the First Amendment prohibits criminalizing leaks of information which reveal wrongful or illegal activities by the government."

Translation: it's all just political, she didn't damage anything, and besides, all the programs she damaged were illegal anyway.

How does Blanton know whether revealing the information (if it's accurate) does or does not compromise "sources?" It certainly reveals methods -- imprisoning people in a jail in Eastern Europe is a method, and presumably it would be easier to break people out of a prison if you knew approximately where they were being held.

And what makes Ms. Martin say that these secret prisons (which may or may not exist) are "illegal?" Has she studied the program? Is she cleared for that information? Can she cite caselaw on the subject?

Is she even a lawyer?

And what the heck does it mean to say that "the First Amendment prohibits criminalizing leaks of information which reveal wrongful... activities?" Does that mean that anytime a CIA agent thinks a CIA operation is "wrongful," he has carte blanche to leak it to the press? Maybe Kate Martin should change the name of her group to the Center for International Insecurity Studies.

And in all of this, McCarthy has yet to make even a pro-forma appearance to personally deny her own guilt. She doesn't even have to take questions; she can simply read a statement. She could just stand up, look the public in its lidless eye, and say "I categorically deny that I ever leaked any classified information to any reporter, anytime, anywhere. I am completely innocent, and I will be exonerated by this investigation." If she really is innocent, then how could it possibly hurt her case to emphatically and personally enunciate her innocence?

She could; but she hasn't. The silence of the saint continues.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 25, 2006, at the time of 3:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 24, 2006

Beers For St. Mary of Langley

Hatched by Dafydd

At last, fired CIA analyst from the Inspector General's office speaks out, denying that she leaked any classified intelligence. Well... actually, not quite.

Instead of speaking herself, she sent out one of her mentors, Rand Beers -- the man who would be Condoleezza (under President John F. Kerry) -- to deny it for her. As her other mentor is Clintonian National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, her choice of senseis leaves a bit something to be desired:

The fired official, Mary O. McCarthy, “categorically denies being the source of the leak,” one of McCarthy’s friends and former colleagues, Rand Beers, said Monday after speaking to McCarthy. Beers said he could not elaborate on this denial and McCarthy herself did not respond to a request for comment left by NEWSWEEK on her home answering machine.

Oh, yes, I can just envision that conversation:

Beers
Mary, my little protégée vixen, surely you didn't do this terrible thing, did you? You weren't the source for that secret-prisons story at the Post... were you?
Saint Mary
Well... I wasn't the source, Master; a couple of friends from the Agency also talked to --
Beers
Aha, just as I suspected: the divine Mary McCarthy categorically denies being the source of the leak! So go on, push off -- and let that Isikoff guy into the office on your way out, so we can have a more private conversation....

Several things about this "non-denial denial" intrigue me:

  • The words were parsed very thinly, as above: is she saying she wasn't any of the sources, or just that she wasn't the only source?
  • By not denying that she leaked, she leaves open the possibility that, even if she weren't a source on the secret-prisons story, she may still have been a source on some other hysterical Bush-bashfest.
  • She did not even issue the denial herself, in person. Any normal, innocent person accused of leaking classified intel would at a minimum step forth and personally insist that she was innocent of all charges.

The more Mary O. McCarthy tries to deny without really denying that she is guilty, the more convinced I am that she is just exactly that: guilty.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 24, 2006, at the time of 11:53 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Kerry Me Back to Old Baghdaddy

Hatched by Dafydd

I just heard this on Hugh Hewitt (guest-hosted by the perpetualy bemused Jed Babbin). Surely this must rank right up there with "I actually voted for the eighty-seven billion before I voted against it," if not quite up to the caliber of his "Genghis Khan" accusation of war crimes against the entire Vietnam-era military.

I wish I knew what show this was on; anybody out there in Lizardland who can point me to a transcript, I will be very appreciative and will correct any mistakes in the quotation below [quotation corrected; the comments have the two versions side by side, so readers can judge how close my remembered version was to the actual words. The show was This Week With George Snuffleupagus]. But here is what I heard him say to the best of my recollection, in his very own Boston-Brahmin, ersatz-Kennedy monodrone:

But there is no excuse three and a half years later for American troops to be driving by IEDs and getting blown up. Are you telling me that they can’t drive a truck?

Yeah, that's the problem -- the soldiers are getting blown up by IEDs because they have poor "defensive driving" skills.

If only we had listened to Sen. John Kerry (D-Beacon Hill) and shipped a few thousand high-school Drivers-Ed teachers over to Iraq, the whole problem would be cleared up before you could say "Boston baked beans." When the explosion began, our boys could simply swerve dexterously around it, just like in the movies.

Say, you do know that JFK is making another run for la Casablanca in 2008 (or perhaps starting this year), right? Boy, that gives us Republicans a nice, warm feeling.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 24, 2006, at the time of 5:21 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

No Samurai Spirit Here!

Hatched by Sachi

The crisis is over -- at least for the moment. But the problem still festers, like an open sore. According to the English-language Japanese newspaper Daily Yomiuri:

Japan and South Korea reached an agreement Saturday that says if Tokyo cancels a planned maritime survey near the Takeshima islets, Seoul will not propose naming seafloor topography around the disputed islets at an international conference in June. [Note: they don't promise never to bring it up; just not in June. -- the Mgt.]

Administrative Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi and Yu Myung Hwan, South Korean first vice minister for foreign affairs and trade, reached the agreement to settle the row over the islets in Seoul after their two-day meeting that started Friday...

The two officials agreed to three points:

-- South Korea will not propose Korean names for the seafloor topography around the Takeshima islets, which Seoul calls Tokdo, at the international ocean mapping conference to be held in Germany in June.

-- Japan cancels the maritime survey for the time being.

-- Japan and South Korea will resume by the end of May negotiations by ministry bureau chief-class officials to finalize the borders of their exclusive economic zones.

What I don't understand is why Japan itself doesn't bring up this issue at the maritime conference. It seems to me that Japan should just have let Korea propose renaming the seafloor topography, just so that Japan could protest and bring the whole matter out into the open. Send the survey ship and see whether Korea really has the guts to try such a blatant land-grab in the sight of a million eyes.

My Japanese friend thinks this is a wonderful resolution. He insists that South Korea never had any intention of physically attacking the Japanese survey ship (even though the ROK has in fact seized Japanese ships, taken sailors hostage, and even killed Japanese in that area over the past fifty years).

Republic of Korea President Roh Moo-hyun is facing re-election, my friend says, and he just wanted to talk tough because of the extreme anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. Japan's truce offer gave Roh an excuse to back down, says Mr. Japanese Friend. This was settled as a result of the level-headed actions of Japanese politicians, and he is proud of Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi.

I say "baloney!"

I totally disagree with this assessement. In this negotiation, South Korea lost nothing; they just agreed not to do something they hadn't done yet anyway. It was Japan who suspended the survey ship that was already en route. And why shouldn't Japan be able to survey international waters? Whatever happened to "freedom of the seas?"

They avoided a shooting war for now, but it's only a Band-Aid. The fact is that South Korea still surrounds Takeshima island and considers itself legally and morally justified to threaten any Japanese ship -- fishing boat or scientific survey ship -- that comes near to "their" island. Besides, South Korea did not permanently give up renaming in Korean the seafloor topography around the disputed islets; they only posponed it.

It seems to me that the only side backing down here was Japan. Japan has a very strong Navy... but the biggest gun in the world is only as strong as the will to pull the trigger.

Japan has lost its will, its spirit, and any moral claim to any territory at all. If you won't defend it -- you don't deserve it.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 24, 2006, at the time of 6:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Contemplation and Cogitation On Chatty Canaries, Cages, and Current Classified Controversies

Hatched by Dafydd

I've been thinking about "canary traps" for the last couple of days, ever since Rick Moran of Right Wing Nuthouse suggested the possibility that the "secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe" story was just such a thing -- though he did not use that specific term (he said "sting"). It's actually a fascinating subject that lends itself to logical extrapolation.

What the heck is a "canary trap" anyway?

Suppose you believe you have a mole or leaker in your organization, and you want to find out who it is. Let's say you've narrowed it down to two suspects (the base-level canary trap).

You approach each suspect separately and give him supposed specifications on a new fighter jet the company is designing. You tell each suspect -- call them Fred and Barney -- that this information is absolutely top-secret, and they're to divulge it to nobody, inside or outside of the company. "Aviation Week would pay millions for these specs!"

In reality, however, there is no such airplane; you just made it up.

Label the specs you give to Fred "Specs-F;" Barney gets "Specs-B." Specs-F and -B each describe an advanced fighter jet, and they are substantially similar to each other... except that in Specs-F, there is a performance summary that says:

The Bat-Jet has a very high ceiling, but its real advantage is that it can fly at Mach 3.2 for brief periods of time.

But in Specs-B, the performance summary says:

The Bat-Jet is as fast as the fastest current fighter, but its real advantage is that it can operate up to altitudes of 175,000 feet above mean sea level.

Now you keep reading Aviation Week assiduously: when the article appears, if it includes the datum that the plane can fly Mach 3.2, then you know that Fred is the leaker; if it says the plane can fly up to 175,000 feet, then you know it's Barney. If both "facts" appear, then you fire both those two clods!

Let's generalize: if there are a twenty possible suspects, you prepare twenty different versions, each of which is substantially the same except for particular "enticing" details, something no journalist could resist including. If there are a hundred different suspects, you prepare a hundred versions: the mail-merge ability of word processors make this fairly easy: you need only keep the unique paragraphs in a database, along with a link to the person who received it. When the details appear, the inclusion or exclusion of various (invented) facts point the finger at the leaker -- or leakers.

In this case, we can suppose that Porter Goss may have distributed, say, ten different versions of the secret-prison story to ten top Agency employees -- those who had already been identified as likely leakers on the basis of earlier, actual classified intelligence that found its way to the antique media... with the list of suspects possibly filtered on the basis of obvious political biases of particular CIA employees.

If Goss did this, then the version Mary O. McCarthy got -- and leaked -- had some uniquely identifying details not found in any other version. When those details showed up in Dana Priest's story, Goss knew that McCarthy was the leaker... it remained only to focus the investigation on her until they could prove it.

Who would use such a weird tactic?

Canary traps have become ubiquitous in fields ranging from Hollywood screenplays to computer-software error-trapping. Studios use them to discover who has been copying scripts and selling them to rival production companies: each suspect gets a slightly different version of the script, and your own mole inside Colossal Pictures makes a copy of the version that arrived there: et voilà, you know who leaked it.

I have used canary traps myself in debugging the simplistic, clunky, and useless programs I've written for myself. In this case, I'm not trying to find a "leaker;" I'm hunting for the particular program object that is crashing the application.

I program each object in the code to print out its name before doing whatever it's supposed to do. When the program crashes, the last name on the screen is the module in which the crash occurred. (There are cleverer ways of doing this, but they require cleverer programers than I!)

Police use them, businesses use them; canary traps have shown up as plot devices in TV shows such as Mission: Impossible. You can even use them yourself, if one of your friends is gossiping about you behind your back. Because of how the practice has spread, it's tough to track the provenance of the term "canary trap" itself; many people say Tom Clancy originated it in his novel Patriot Games, but I vaguely remember seeing the term long before 1987, when that book was published. Has anybody ever asked him?

Hasn't the CIA already admitted the story was true?

John Hinderaker of Power Line is skeptical that the secret-prisons story could be a canary trap, among other reasons because some high-ranking CIA officials have "confirmed" that such prisons existed. But actually, that's not good evidence.

One point about a legal- or intelligence-related "canary trap" is that you can never admit it was a canary trap. In the present case, that fact would be known only to Porter Goss and perhaps one or two people he trusts utterly, the ones who helped him concoct it. The reason is twofold:

  • First of all, if the defense attorney found out that the intel leaked was concocted, then he would argue that it constituted "entrapment," making it that much tougher to get a conviction. Is this dirty pool? Perhaps... but not as dirty as leaking critical classified intelligence to the Post or the New York Times, for our enemies to read (I mean al-Qaeda, not Reid and Pelosi).
  • Second, the attorney would argue that since the leaked intelligence wasn't real, it couldn't have harmed national security; this might get his client off the hook. The fancy lawyer could always argue that the defendant knew it was fake all along and would never, ever have leaked real intelligence!

    Of course, if that were true, then the attorney would already know it was fake, and he would make that argument even if the prosecutor didn't tell him. It only makes a difference if the defendant really thought it was real, but his lawyer plans to lie about it.

So Goss will never willingly reveal that it was a canary trap, whether it was or wasn't.

Instead, the basics of the story (secret prisons) must be circulated department-wide as if they were true, because the suspect -- let's use "Mary McCarthy" as a name chosen at random -- will surely nose around first and try to find corroboration before leaking it to anyone.

Even if McCarthy doesn't suspect a trap, she may still suspect the ubiquitous bum intel that permeates any huge government bureaucracy like the Agency. If she hears the same story from five or six colleagues, however, she'll believe it and will be ready to pass it along to the Washington Post.

Thus, most of the story (let's say 90%) is circulated to everybody in the CIA who would be likely to know about such prisons if they really existed. Naturally, this list includes some high-level people: only the fine details would change from suspect to suspect.

And therefore, when the scandal breaks and top CIA personnel are hauled before Congress and questioned, nearly every one of them, from the bottom to almost the very top, will corroborate the basics of the story... because they actually think it's true. Even those two or three officials who know for a fact that it's false will nevertheless pretend it's true, just to maintain cover.

Note that this is not proof that the whole story was a canary trap, of course; but the mere fact that high-ranking officers believe it's true is likewise not proof that it is.

So is it is, or is it ain't?

Certainly, I have never heard any CIA agent claim actually to have been inside one of these secret prisons; nor have any guards been produced, nor administrators, secretaries, or even janitors. No buildings have been found, and you'd think a building as big and solid as a prison wouldn't be moved around very often.

None of the people who claim to have been held there as prisoners can lead investigators to a site or identify any of their captors or interrogators. If even the Europeans are saying there is no evidence -- when we know they're predisposed to accept "evidence" that would be laughed out of an American court -- that raises huge, huge suspicions. These suspicions are not insurmountable... but they're darned close.

Which Hinderaker himself notes, asking if "this is one secret the CIA has actually been able to keep, but for the leak."

At first, I was very skeptical of Rick Moran's canary-trap hypothesis; but now I'm only somewhat skeptical... and the only reason I'm still "somewhat skeptical" is that it would be such a Christmas gift if the whole story were concocted just to catch the chatty canary -- and I don't believe in Santa Clause.

But I sure I wish some reporter would just stand up and ask Director Goss flat out, "Porthos, old friend, tell us true: was the 'secret prisons in Eastern Europe' story just a canary trap?" On video; I want to see his facial reaction!

So how do you think he would react? Would he freeze just for a moment before sliding into a speedy denial? Would he show a reaction that Decker would notice in the movie Blade Runner? Or would he be so smooth, studied, practiced, that we would be left groping in the dark, as we are today?

I don't know, but I'd sure like to find out.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 24, 2006, at the time of 3:42 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 23, 2006

Sidebar Problem Resolved

Hatched by Dafydd

Turns out there were a couple of unclosed div tags -- not in the templates (which was where I was looking) but in the posts themselves... where I never thought to look.

The problem shouldn't return, because Stacy at Hosting Matters explained an easy diagnostic technique to use to find such "broken" posts: you look at the permalink (which is the "individual" archive, in this blog's case) of the most recent post; if the sidebar is where it should be, you go backwards to the next permalink, and keep doing this until you find a permalink that shows the same symptom as the main blog: the sidebar is moved. That post will be the one that has an unclosed tag.

Now that we know how to do that, we can avoid or swiftly fix such problems if they crop up in the future. So kudos to Stacy!

-- the Mgt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 23, 2006, at the time of 7:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ghost In the Marine

Hatched by Dafydd

I can't believe I'm actually writing this. But then, I can't believe I actually read it... in Associated Press, no less -- the news service known far and wide for hard-headed, no-nonsense, unbiased, justhefaxmaam journalism.

Oh well, from one kind of spook to the other....

Some nutburgers in a club called the Rhode Island Paranormal Research Group (RIP-RaG?) have begun haunting the aptly named Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum, in (oddly enough) Mystic, CT, in search of -- ahem -- a ghost. There, I said it. I'm not proud, but there it is.

A five-member team from the Rhode Island Paranormal Research group visited Mystic Seaport on Friday night to spend time on the Charles W. Morgan, a wooden whaling ship where several visitors have reported seeing the apparition....

The Rhode Island Paranormal Research Group became interested in the Morgan after receiving reports from three different groups of people about the apparition.

The visitors said that while touring the ship last summer, they saw a man in what appeared to be 19th-century clothing working below deck. They said the man, who had a pipe in his mouth, nodded at them but did not speak.

When they went returned [nice editing, AP] to the main deck and asked a museum interpreter what the man was doing, they were told that no one was down below and that no one was assigned to be on the boat that day. [oooOOOOoooh]

Ah, but lest you think RIP-RaG is just chasing after phantoms, this is a serious investigation. Yes-siree. It's not like they went haring after the ectoplasmic alien just on the basis of a single tale of a mystery man... heck no; they had three separate reports of the same inexplicable, impossible, unfathomable, creepy occurrance: a guy in an old-fashioned peacoat:

"I automatically questioned it [you skeptic, you!], but they insisted they saw something down there," Andrew Laird, founder of the paranormal research group, told The Day of New London.

He said that when he asked the three groups for more details, they responded with the same accounts. The three groups were from Massachusetts, Arizona and New York and did not know each other....

"The fact that we had three reports that were the same made everyone's eyebrows go up," Laird said.

That eyebrow thing would have been pretty funny; wish I had a video.

Tell you what: let's put on our thinking caps and see if we can't crack this mystery. We have:

  1. A maritime museum that wants more visitors;
  2. In a town called "Mystic;"
  3. Offering a tour of an old whaling ship;
  4. With a deep, dark, spooky hold;
  5. Where three different groups of people saw the same old gaffer in a peacoat;
  6. Who didn't say anything to them, only nodding sadly;
  7. But the museum official insists -- there was no one down there. [Cue the theremin]

All I can say is -- at least the "ghost" actor in the engine room of the Queen Mary, on the tour in Long Beach, got to say a few miserable lines. I guess Mystic, CT doesn't have a big enough budget to afford a speaking role.

(Irrelevant side point: you haven't lived until you've gone on the Queen Mary "ghost tour" with a girlfriend who believes absolutely 100% in ghosts and is terrified by them. And who is 5'11" and has a very strong grip. And is none too particular about what body part she's got hold of at the time.

(I never before realized that the Vulcan death grip actually worked.)

Laird said that 90 percent of the time, his group finds a natural explanation for what people are experiencing, whether it's an animal making noise, something structural in the house or a hoax.

I wonder how often they actually conclude some paranormal event is a "hoax?"

RIP-RaG, save your money. Just find the nearest carny and ask them what a "shill" is.

Yeesh. Thanks, AP; now if only you would take the same serious investigative reporting that you brought to bear on this story -- and apply it to figuring out who leaked word of the NSA al-Qaeda intercept... then maybe we could make the country a little safer.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 23, 2006, at the time of 5:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Right Sidebar Keeps Dropping Down Below Main Column

Hatched by Dafydd

The right-hand sidebar hasn't vanished; it just keeps dropping below the main (center) column. We're trying to figure out why this is happening. It doesn't do it all the time; just off and on. Sometimes, if you click the permalink, the sidebar on that page will be in its proper place; you can try that, at least.

It began around the same time Hosting Matters switched us to a new server, though I don't know if that has anything to do with it. We have a help call into Hosting Matters, and we're hoping they'll be able to figure it out.

In the meantime, any webheads among our readers are welcomed -- nay, encouraged! -- to make useful suggestions of things to check. (There are no open divs; we already checked that. The only div that remains open when the center column div ends and the right column div begins is a div called container, which sets fonts and suchlike... and that is closed at the end before the end of the body.)

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Thanks,

-- the Mgt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 23, 2006, at the time of 12:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 22, 2006

St. Mary of Langley

Hatched by Dafydd

Actually, I suppose Mrs. McCarthy should be St. Mary of Bethesda. At the time of her little difficulty, she had long since left the monastic environs of CIA headquarters in Langley, VA for the spiritually elevated atmosphere of Washington D.C., where she served as a senior intelligence aid to the National Security Council and as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton. So she was still CIA, but she had left the hive.

But that's neither here nor there: the canonization of Mary O. McCarthy -- the CIA leaker -- has already begun.

She didn't do it...

The New York Times published a hagiography of Mrs. McCarthy, somewhat hilariously titled "Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by Rules" -- well, with one or two exceptions, it appears. In the piece, the writer interviews some of Mrs. McCarthy's colleagues, who paint her as a brilliant, hard-working, career woman who could not possibly be the leaker because she has such a refined conscience:

"We're talking about a person with great integrity who played by the book and, as far as I know, never deviated from the rules," said Steven Simon, a security council aide in the Clinton administration who worked closely with Ms. McCarthy....

Larry Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who worked for Ms. McCarthy in the agency's Latin America section, said, "It looks to me like Mary is being used as a sacrificial lamb."

Hm... didn't these same folks say the same thing about Clinton's former National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger?

Berger was Mary McCarthy's mentor, by the way; and now Friend Lee wants to know whether she has any idea what was in Sandy Berger's pants. One presumes Lee doesn't mean as a general rule, but rather on that fateful day when Mr. B. strolled out of the National Archives with a few documents tucked down the old trouser leg.

She didn't actually confess to doing it...

Mrs. McCarthy's reputed admission that she was, indeed, the one who leaked the information to Dana Priest at the Washington Post is not seen as an obstacle to her defense, according to spook-chums:

Government officials said that after Ms. McCarthy's polygraph examination showed the possibility of deception, the examiner confronted her and she disclosed having had conversations with reporters.

But some former C.I.A. employees who know Ms. McCarthy remain unconvinced, arguing that the pressure from Mr. [Porter] Goss [Director of the Central Intelligence Agency] and others in the Bush administration to plug leaks may have led the agency to focus on an employee on the verge of retirement, whose work at the White House during the Clinton administration had long raised suspicions within the current administration.

Yeah, that's the ticket; she was tortured into confessing to a crime she did not commit. Porter Goss probably had Mrs. McCarthy waterboarded!

And even if she did it, it was the right thing to do!

But even if she is the leaker, her buds are still down with her. After all, she wouldn't have done such a thing without a darned good reason:

Others said it was possible that Ms. McCarthy — who made a contribution to Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004 — had grown increasingly disenchanted with the methods adopted by the Bush administration for handling Qaeda prisoners.

Ms. McCarthy, who began attending law school at night several years ago and was preparing to retire from the C.I.A., may have felt she had no alternative but to go to the press.

If in fact Ms. McCarthy was the leaker, Richard J. Kerr, a former C.I.A. deputy director, said, "I have no idea what her motive was, but there is a lot of dissension within the agency, and it seems to be a rather unhappy place." Mr. Kerr called Ms. McCarthy "quite a good, substantive person on the issues I dealt with her on."

Bush leaked... why shouldn't I?

A separate straight news article in the Times (to the extent that any article in the Times can ever be considered "straight news") concocts a novel defense for Mrs. McCarthy; call it the Scooter Neuter:

Laws forbidding CIA agents from leaking classified data to the press are rendered null and void, since President Bush himself declassified parts of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and ordered Scooter Libby to deliver them as background to various news sources, which some CIA analysts choose to call "leaking."

Here is how the Times advances the argument; note the ubiquitous anonymous sources -- a sure sign that the writers, David Johnston and Scott Shane, are just making it up:

Several former intelligence officials — who were granted anonymity after requesting it for what they said were obvious reasons under the circumstances — were divided over the likely effect of the dismissal on morale. One veteran said the firing would not be well-received coming so soon after the disclosure of grand jury testimony by Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff that President Bush in 2003 approved the leak of portions of a secret national intelligence estimate on Iraqi weapons.

"It's a terrible situation when the president approves the leak of a highly classified N.I.E., and people at the agency see management as so disastrous that they feel compelled to talk to the press," said one former C.I.A. officer with extensive overseas experience.

(Hat tip Captain's Quarters.)

The former CIA officer spoke anonymously and without permission, of course... which some CIA analysts choose to call "leaking." Fortunately, being a former officer, he's probably off the legal hook.

The Washington Post already declassified it

The MSM itself still to retains the right to determine what is and is not "classified." Recall how the New York Times justified spattering operational details of the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program across the face of the grim Grey Lady: they had sat on the story, editors insisted, for almost a year before publishing; surely that should more than satisfy pedants with stuffy ideas about classified intelligence!

In this case, the Washington Post sings from the same hymnal:

Leonard Downie Jr., The Post's executive editor, said on its Web site that he could not comment on the firing because he did not know the details. "As a general principle," he said, "obviously I am opposed to criminalizing the dissemination of government information to the press."

"Obviously."

And besides -- you tricked us!

Captain Ed notes that Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse is suggesting the amusing possibility (did you follow that Byzantine syntax?) that the entire story about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe (Poland and Romania, to be specific) could have been a set up, what Tom Clancy calls a "canary trap."

That is, Moran offers the possibility that there never were any such prisons. In this scenario, Porter Goss knows that someone in the Company is leaking to the press. He deliberately disseminates ultra-highly classified, double-secret probation intelligence to a handful of people.

Each person gets the same basic information, except for one or two unique elements for each suspect. When the leak appears in the media, the quoted details point the finger at one specific leaker.

Moran admits he has no evidence to support this theory. On the other hand, nobody seems to have found a shred of evidence that there were ever any secret CIA prisons, either. So there.

Prepare yourselves for the onslaught. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Mrs. Mary O. McCarthy come bubbling up right next to Mother Sheehan and try to wrest away control of Camp Cindy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 22, 2006, at the time of 11:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What's Out Of Place In This Picture?

Hatched by Dafydd

Iraqi National Assembly meets, everyone more or less agrees on a unity government. This is really good news, though I'm still a bit suspicious about soon-to-be-prime-minister-elect Jawad al-Maliki. The other top slots are filled, nearly all by acclamation.

There is a government now in Iraq. This is deeper than the antique media want to admit; this is what we've been waiting for these last four months. Did we mention Ibrahim al-Jaafari is out?

But what about that mainstream media? Take a look at the first few paragraphs of the AP story. See if you can spot the incongruity, the Thing That Doesn't Belong. I hope I'm not giving too big a hint:

After months of political deadlock, Iraq's parliament convened Saturday to select top leadership posts, launching the process of putting together a new government aimed at pulling the country out of its sectarian strife.

Before the session, Shiite lawmaker Ridha Jawad Taqi said all sides were agreed on a package deal for the top spots: Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, would remain as president for a second term, with Sunni Arab Tariq al-Hashimi and Shiite Adil Abdul-Mahdi holding the two vice-president spots.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, would become parliament speaker with two deputies - Khalid al-Attiyah, a Shiite, and Aref Tayfour, a Kurd.

Suspected insurgents, meanwhile, set off two bombs in a public market in northern Iraq, killing at least two Iraqis and wounding 17. The second blast was timed to hit emergency crews arriving at the scene.

On Friday, the Shiite alliance nominated a tough-talking Shiite politician, Jawad al-Maliki, as prime minister in a move that broke the long impasse over forming a new government.

Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians signaled they would accept al-Maliki, clearing the way for parliament to elect top leadership positions, including the president.

Did you spot it?

All right then, riddle me this. The headline of the story is Iraqi Lawmakers Meet to Choose New Leaders. It's 27 grafs long.

Nine of the first ten paragraphs are, in fact, about the Iraqi politicians meeting and electing people to various positions. One paragraph is about a couple of Iraqis being killed in "northern Iraq" -- that is, 60 miles from Baghdad, where the parliament is meeting.

What does that paragraph have to do with the story? It's like saying Mandy, who lives in Colorado Springs, had a trigonometry test today; she had studied well, and she earned an A-, which was her best grade all semester. She told all her girlfriends about how well she did. A man was murdered in Tampa, Florida. Mandy's parents were so proud of her score on the trig test that they celebrated by going out to dinner.

Just as an experiment, I ploughed through this boring story about early voting in the city elections in New Orleans. Can you guess what I didn't find? Right you are: I didn't find a single word about the guy in Los Angeles who shot himself yesterday after a high-speed pursuit. Oddly enough, not a word about that in the New Orleans vote story.

Is it just me?

About halfway through the Iraqi parliament story, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (the writer) plunges into a dizzying fugue that attempts to catalog every single death that occurred in Iraq on the same day the National Assembly met. The only purpose I can imagine for this is to reassure AP's natural audience that they needn't worry -- no matter how much progress was made forming a unity government, it was still a wretched, horrible day in Iraq. Thank goodness!

Then the story abruptly lurches back onto the rails, discussing the actual subject for the remaining nine grafs.

This is the execrable tactic of the antique media: no matter how good the news from Iraq is, it must be leavened with layers of awfulness, regardless how incongruous they may be to the subject at hand. Like Mr. Dick in David Copperfield, the newsies may set out to write a straight news story; but sooner or later, poor King Charles's head must creep into it... leaving them puzzled and a little sheepish, since they don't even remember how they ever thought they were going to tie together parliament meeting in Baghdad with a firefighter killed in Muqdadiyah.

What seems to be misplaced is the lost journalists' ethic of simply conveying the relevant facts -- rather than trying to force a certain reader reaction (of despair, in this case), no matter how inappropriate it may be.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 22, 2006, at the time of 7:07 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

A Rock And a Hard Peace

Hatched by Sachi

A standoff has developed over the past year between Japan and South Korea (there is another one between Japan and China, but that is a subject for another day). Each claims possession of a small, rocky, uninhabitable island that the Japanese call Takeshima, and the Koreans since the 1950s call Dokdo.



Takeshima Island

Takeshima Island, garden spot of the Sea of Japan

(The island is also called Liancourt Rocks; you can read all about it here.)

Neither country really wants the rock. What they want is the surrounding sea, which is teeming with shellfish and seaweed, and is also rich in natural resources, including natural gas potentially worth billions of dollars.

Japan has been backing down and kowtowing to the Koreans and Chinese for decades now; but they simply cannot allow South Korea to formally absorb Takeshima Island without completely losing their face. If they are to get any respect in the world, they must stand up to Korea, even to the point of exchanging gunfire with the South Korean coast guard, if that's what it takes.

Obviously, I have a personal bias, since I was born a Japanese. Maybe the Koreans have a much better argument than I've seen so far. But even in that case, some neutral party must adjudicate this; the Republic of Korea cannot simply say "it's ours, now," and take possession.

Japan has sent a survey ship towards the island; but South Korea threatens to seize the ship and hold all the personnel hostage if it comes anywhere near Takeshima. They have also driven away Japanese fishermen whose families have fished there for literally centuries. Yet not a single international body has ever recognized South Korea's right to the area: the Koreans simply took it by force.

First, some background:

Ever since Japan lost the war back in 1945, countries such as South and North Korea and China have been using Japan's past wrongs -- committed by different people in a completely different government that was destroyed in 1945 -- as an excuse to kick Japan around. They long-ago realized that Japan is too cowardly to stand up for itself. It's hard to blame the Republic of Korea; if a person or a country is too afraid to fight for his own property, then he doesn't deserve any.

Historically, Japan and Korea have had a lot of bad blood between them. Japan tried to invade Korea many times over the past millennium; and of course, Japan's terrible occupation of Korea during WWII thing didn’t help, either. However in recent years, the relationship between the two countries was warmer, because of trade, sports, and most significantly -- Korean entertainment.

The popularity of Korean TV shows and movies in Japan has exploded in the last five years. Just watching TV in Japan, it seems like 20% of all daytime soap operas are actually made in Korea. Korean heartthrobs have mesmerized middle-aged Japanese ladies (like my mom!) Korean actors, such as Bae Yong Joon (affectionately called "Yon-sama" or Prince Yong in Japanese), make personal appearances that literally pack a baseball stadium.

In South Korea, the locations used for Korean movies have become Japanese tourist Meccas. This whole phenomenon is called Hanryu-boom, which I would translate as "Korean fad." (Notice that in Japanese, "boom" means fad; that is because it's another American word that was incorporated into Japanese.)

Unfortunately, the Korean people and their government have become so obsessed over these stupid islands that they've forgotten all of this in the wink of an eye. The bad blood is boiling over again.

Takeshima was undisputed Japanese territory for several centuries. It's not known when exactly Japan first made a claim; but back in 1656, the new Japanese shogunate issued some Japanese subjects a travel permit to the island. By World War II, Takeshima had been under Japanese sovereignty for almost three hundred years.

In 1905, Japan incorporated Takeshima into Shimane prefecture; this was internationally recognized at the time. Until very recently, not even South Korea disputed this historical fact.

The problem began in the aftermath of Japan's defeat in the war. The Allies' General Headquarters/Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers suspended Japanese territorial control over many of the small islands surrounding the Japanese "mainland" (which actually consists of four islands -- Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu). Takeshima was one of the islands suspended.

But those islands were never given to any other country; the Allies simply prevented the Japanese from exercising authority over them for several years. In particular, they certainly were not handed to Korea (as it was called until the 1948 partition). Most of the islands included in the suspension list were later returned to full Japanese control, though it's not clear whether Takeshima was one of them.

However, in 1954, the South Korean navy took Takeshima by force; two years later, the first president, Syngman Rhee, declared "Dokdo" to be theirs... and therefore also the surrounding ocean’s fishing rights. Since then, the Republic of Korea has physically controlled Takeshima. Japan has protested the annexation as "Korean aggression" ever since; they consider Takeshima still to be part of Shimane prefecture. But Japan has not been able to get a hearing.

The current blowup started in 2005. For the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Shimane prefecture’s incorporation of Takeshima, Shimane passed legislation declaring February 22nd to be a “Day of Takeshima.” This made South Korean officials irate. They increased the number of Coast Guard ships and started intimidating Japanese fishing boats, sealing off the island and the nearby waters from any Japanese.

In response, the Japanese government decided to send a maritime survey group to the international waters near Takeshima in the Sea of Japan. This stirred up South Korea like a typhoon.

The reaction to this survey was nothing short of hysteria. Korean "sister cities" to Japan denounced their friendship; soccer matches were cancelled; and President Roh Moo-hyun declared that the Republic would not hesitate to use force to stop the Japanese survey group.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has said Seoul does not view the survey as an isolated event but rather a part of Tokyo's refusal to show contrition for harsh colonial rule over the peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Korean activists burned Japanese flags... then stood in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul and cut off their own fingers as a protest.

A South Korean official said Seoul expected [Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro] Yachi to convey a pledge from Japan not to conduct the survey while the two countries sought a diplomatic solution, Yonhap news agency reported.

"We are trying to avert a physical confrontation, but we can't run away from the problem," Yu [Myung-hwan Vice Foreign Minister of South Korea] was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

Tokyo has offered to call off the survey if South Korea drops a plan to register Korean names for seabed areas near the islands at a June international maritime conference.

President Roh's threat to use force to prevent the Japanese from approaching an island still technically theirs -- and in international waters anyway -- veers close to "casus belli." Ownership of Takeshima has been disputed since 1954; the Republic of Korea has no authority to rule the matter closed without even a trial in some international tribunal; they cannot be both a litigant and the judge at the same time.

Neither do they have any right to prevent Japan from fishing or surveying in international waters; this is a matter of "freedom of the seas." The simple dispute should be resoloved in some international court, not by force of arms.

If the ROK continues this blockade, Japan must respond in a similar manner. Since South Korea threatens to use force, Japan should send a military escort along with the survey group and call their bluff.

This is a sovereignty test for Japan. If they want to regain international respect, they are going to have to stand up for themselves. If they back down here, the Republic of Korea is going to start "naming" every island between them and Japan with Korean names.

In order to resolve this territorial dispute without a war, Japan should file suit in some international court. But time is running short; South Korea has already started calling the Sea of Japan by a Korean name. If Japan does nothing, then before they know it, Korea will have a Korean name for Honshu, and Japan will literally be wiped off the map (like those Arab maps that don't even show Israel).

It's time for Japan to finally show some backbone.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 22, 2006, at the time of 2:08 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 21, 2006

Gander Getting Sauced

Hatched by Dafydd

I am actually pleasantly surprised that this bombshell story is finally getting some "face time" in the major media. The blogosphere has, of course, been following it for weeks. The top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee has been forced to resign from that assignment owing to ethical violations... in particular, the disturbing possibility that he has actually been accepting bribes:

Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, facing questions about his finances, stepped down on Friday as the top Democrat on the ethics committee of the scandal-rocked U.S. House of Representatives....

The Wall Street Journal reported on April 7 that federal prosecutors had begun a review of Mollohan's finances, and it raised questions about so-called earmarks -- provisions put in big spending bills -- that Mollohan had helped direct to nonprofit groups in his state in recent years.

On the same day, the conservative National Legal and Policy Center announced it had filed a complaint against Mollohan in February with the U.S. attorney's office in Washington. The center cited a sharp increase in Mollohan's assets in recent years and charged he had violated ethics law.

Reuters doesn't go into any detail on that last point; fortunately, we always have Rich Galen, author of the widely-read (especially within political circles and at the White House) "cyber column" Mullings:

I've just about had it with everyone. First of all we have these continuing stories of Members of Congress acting badly. Either they are guilty of outright bribery and corruption, or they are acting in a way that is so close to the edge that they make the Duke Lacrosse team look like a Brownie troop selling Thin Mints in the garden center parking lot.

This thug Mollohan from West Virginia is typical - remember he's the guy who, on an annual salary of about $160 k managed to grow his net worth from about $100,000 to something on the order of $14 million in just five years - but he's certainly not alone.

And as much as the Democrats wish they could say it's all the Republicans; I wish I could say it's all the Democrats.

It's both. Not all, but both.

(I've long corresponded with Mr. G. and even had lunch with him; some day I hope to be elevated to the exalted rank of Mullpal...)

Rich is right; and I understand his anger. He has worked in government as a Republican operative for many, many years -- and while he's not crying in his beer about how poverty stricken he is, he is certainly no millionaire... and he doesn't take bribes.

But on the political front, I cannot share his distress when Democrats get caught with hands in c. jars these days. House Minority Squeaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight Ashbury) has practically made a career out of screeching about "the Republican culture of corruption." Every time some high-ranking Democrat gets nailed (and the irony of Rep. Mollohan's position as ranking donkey on the Ethics Committee is too delicious not to savor), it undercuts the Pelosi claim that corruption in Congress is uniquely Republican.

And it makes it less and less likely that such charges will affect any congressional races this winter, except of course for those actually caught up in a real, bona-fide scandal -- and who haven't had the decency to exit.

Please don't mistake me; I have no soft spot for corrupt Republicans. Rather, I hate them more than their counterparts across the aisle. I want all corrupt Republicans to be expelled, prosecuted, and jailed.

I'm simply irate at the arrogant and malicious claim that Republicans are peculiarly corrupt, while Democrats -- being members of "the party of the People" -- are naturally pure as the driven dandruff.

There is certainly a "culture of corruption" in Congress; but Rich is right: it affects Republicans and Democrats equally. And I demand that the news finally begin reporting that critical fact.

This article is a very good start; keep it up, boys!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2006, at the time of 6:32 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

CIA Growing a Spine?

Hatched by Dafydd

Huh, has Langley suddenly become the eighth wonder of the world? According to, well, everybody, the CIA has actually identified one of its agents who has been leaking highly classified information to the antique media -- in particular, to the Washington Post, probably for the "secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe" story, for which Mrs. Dana Priest just won a Pulitzer Prize.

And at last, the CIA has taken such a leak seriously: it has fired her and opened a criminal investigation. Land sakes, the Central Intelligence Agency is actually starting to act like -- an intelligence agency:

"The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information," Gimigliano said. "That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA."

Citing the Privacy Act, the CIA would not disclose any details about the officer's identity or what that person might have told the news media.

However, a law enforcement official confirmed there was a criminal investigation under way and said the CIA officer had provided information that contributed to a Washington Post story last year saying there were secret U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe. The law enforcement official spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

(I expect everyone who blogs on this will point out the irony: the details about the criminal investigation of the agent fired for leaking came via a leak. So it goes....)



Send this palace to camp!

This is either the Sidney opera house, one of Saddam's palaces,
or the new CIA headquarters in Langley, VA


This revelation raises a number of interesting questions:

  1. Did Ms. X act alone (NBC reports that the agent is named Mary McCarthy), or is there a whole ring of blabbermouths?
  2. Related: can Ms. X be "squeezed" into ratting out her pals?
  3. Did Ms. X leak this information in order to force an end to the program? Is this political? Or was it just a personal hit against the president?
  4. Did the Washington Post pay Ms. X?

And of course, I'll ask John Hinderaker's question for him (I have no doubt he has already asked it himself on Power Line, which I haven't read yet today); this may be the most important one, because it affects how many of these dreadful leaks we'll have in the future.

  1. Will Dana Priest or any other reporter at the Post be prosecuted as well, under the Espionage Act?

I would think that question 5 would be a lot more likely if the answer to question 4 were "yes;" personally, I think the Post as a corporate entity and also the individuals involved -- writer, editors, and publishers -- should be prosecuted regardless of whether they paid Ms. X; but the reality is that, unless the feds have actually grown, not just a spine, but a pair of "brass ones," then they will only prosecute if money changed hands.

Reuters has a bit more on the story than AP:

NBC News identified the accused officer as Mary McCarthy, and said she worked in the CIA Inspector General's office before being "marched out" of the spy agency on Thursday....

The CIA would not say what the leak involved, and declined to identify the officer or describe the officer's duties at the agency, saying that such disclosures would violate the Privacy Act of 1974.

So much for the "secret European prisons" story. But what about the far more damaging leak of the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program? The New York Times claims that it was NSA officers themselves, not CIA, who leaked that story (which makes sense); but I would hope that all these investigations would be investigated in parallel, with everybody sharing information. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I believe this current leak is just a part of an organized political program to destroy our ability to gather information in the war on terror.

I believe the program is being carried out across the spectrum of intelligence agencies, from CIA to NSA to DIA to the FBI Counterterrorism division; and I believe it is a true conspiracy, comprising:

  • Agents who hate the whole war on terrorism and want to get back to the "Great Game" of the Cold-War era;
  • Agents who just get high on the power of leaking such huge and damaging secrets to the news;
  • A tiny number of agents who are bona-fide spies for our enemies, in the pay of foreign powers.

Regardless of the exact mix of motives, I suspect it's organized by the first category: policy dissidents within the CIA who still have a State Department, September 10th mentality and think they own the joint, President Bush and Porter Goss merely being temporary distractions.

The CIA, at least, does not think Ms. X is the only person or case involved:

Meanwhile, the CIA said its own internal investigation into leaks was continuing. The probe began in January.

CIA Director Porter Goss made a strong case against media leaks before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in February.

"I'm sorry to tell you that the damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission. I use the words 'very severe' intentionally. That is my belief. And I think that the evidence will show that," Goss said.

At the very least, I'm hoping that a vigorous prosecution of Ms. X after her firing will put the fear of God into some of the traitors within the Company who are leaking because of policy opposition or just for thrills. If there are actual moles in the CIA -- working for Iraq or Iran, for North Korea or China, or even being directly paid by al-Qaeda -- then an actual criminal prosecution might cause them to take more precautions; but such professionals have already steeled themselves to the possibility of arrest and trial or even just quiet liquidation. They will not stop until they are physically stopped, one way or another.

But simple Bell-curve thinking tells me that most of the leakers would not be actual paid agents of a foreign power, and they may be more easily deterred. At least, let's hope so.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2006, at the time of 5:53 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Maliki On the March - Maybe

Hatched by Dafydd

According to the BBC, the UIA has chosen Jawad al-Maliki, the deputy leader of the Islamic Dawa party, as its new nominee for prime minister of Iraq:

Mr Maliki, a close ally of Mr Jaafari, recently headed a committee which purged members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party from public life, raising fears his nomination might be rejected by Sunni factions.

He has been acting as spokesman both for the Daawa party and for the broader coalition of seven Shia factions which make up the strongest parliamentary bloc and, therefore, has the right to nominate the premier...

He has been in charge of the Daawa party's internal political organisation and has taken an active part in helping formulate the four agreements which Iraqi politicians have already reached on the platform and other structures to underpin a new national unity government.

I think the BBC is being disingenuous here. While it's true that Maliki might be rejected (see below), it wouldn't be because he "recently headed a committee which purged members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party." That's a snide and churlish suggestion, implying that all Sunni were big fans of Saddam and wish the Baathists were back... and quite typical of the British "yellow journalists," who are, if anything, even more desperate to see a real civil war in Iraq than their American counterparts -- as well as perhaps just a bit too cozy with Iran themselves.

Great that Jaafari is gone; but I'm a little concerned about that "close ally of Mr Jaafari" jazz. Does this mean that Maliki is also a close ally of Muqtada Sadr? Did Jaafari get permission from the master to throw in the towel because he knew the fix was in for another Sadr sock puppet to rule?

The best indicator will be the response of the Kurds and the Sunni. They certainly know better than any of us whether an Iraqi politician is controlled by Sadr -- or directly by Sadr's own bosses in Teheran.

Iraq the Model is skeptical:

However, the question remains that; will the real problem be solved by this agreement on the top posts?

I guess not because if any of the two new candidates gets to be the new PM, Iraq will–in my opinion-continue to descend for the next four years in the same way it's been doing since the interim government was installed last year. And after all, the UIA's decision to replace Jafari with al-Adeeb or al-Maliki is a solution designed for preserving the brittle unity of the UIA and not for the creation of a unity government because they know very well that the rest of blocs were hoping to see Abdul Mahdi replace Jafari and maybe the UIA is twisting arms with this new nomination and betting on splitting the lines of the anti-Jafari mass thinking those would not be willing to prolong the deadlock by refusing the new candidates.

Will we see a surprise in tomorrow's session? Will the deadlock remain? Could it be that the Kurds, Sunni and secular blocs are just trying to trick the UIA into approving a presidency council and get the dispute to the parliament to overthrow the UIA's candidate(s) and force their own candidate?

This is what we'll find out tomorrow.

Let's assume Omar is right; how would this work? The National Assembly might vote on all the other positions first, stocking the government except for the prime minister.

If they then reject Jawad al-Maliki, the nominee of the plurality party (the UIA), it's my understanding that other parties are then free to nominate their own candidates. Suppose the Sunni, the Kurds, and the secular Shiite parties were all to nominate the same guy -- Adel Abdul Mahdi of the SCIRI? Even though the SCIRI is a part of the UIA, and Abdul Mahdi was not the UIA nominee... they may decide to vote for their own party member anyway, reasoning that Maliki had his shot and was rejected; he wouldn't be elected in any case.

If the SCIRI joined the Kurds, Sunni, and seculars, that would probably be enough to elect Abdul Mahdi over the objections of the Islamic Dawa Party. But since he is still Shia, presumably he should still get strong support as the elected prime minister from Dawa and the other parties in the UIA. He could be a true "unity leader."

Best of all, Abdul Mahdi is well known as about the bitterest opponent of Sadr and Iran among the well-known Shiite politicians.

As Omar says, we should have a good idea what's happening tomorrow.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2006, at the time of 4:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shia Voting on Next PM Candidate

Hatched by Dafydd

It looks like nearly everyone in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the 130-seat Shiite bloc in the Iraqi National Assembly, is more or less assuming that the next candidate for the UIA will be somebody other than Ibrahim al-Jaafari:

Representatives of the seven parties within the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition, were to meet after Friday midday prayers to discuss a replacement for al-Jaafari, whom the Sunnis and Kurds refused to accept to lead a unity government.

Shiite officials said it was unlikely the alliance committee would agree on a single candidate at the meeting and would instead focus on the mechanism for choosing a nominee. If the choice is made by the 130 Shiite parliament members, the committee must decide whether the winner needs two-thirds support or simply a majority, officials said.

Such a vote would probably take place Saturday before an afternoon session of parliament.

Everyone, that is, except Jaafari's "senior advisor":

Adnan al-Kadhimi, a senior adviser to al-Jaafari, said the prime minister was still a candidate. "It is up to the alliance to decide who is its candidate, but that does not mean that the alliance will not nominate al-Jaafari again, " al-Kadhimi told The Associated Press.

Well... yes it does, Mr. Kadhimi; that's pretty much exactly what it means.

Stay tuned to Big Lizards -- same moonbat time, same moonbat URL -- for all the latest moves in the Mesopotamia Mambo!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2006, at the time of 6:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Finished (I Hope!) Fooling Around With Comments

Hatched by Dafydd

I just need to check whether trackbacks work; here goes.

-- the Mgt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2006, at the time of 6:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 20, 2006

Comments Should Be Working...

Hatched by Dafydd

...But we're still trying to figure out what went wrong with the anti-spam thingie. Haven't implemented it yet; we just restored to the original configuration.

Next time, I'll warn y'all before horsing around with anything!

-- the Mgt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 20, 2006, at the time of 6:14 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Big Lizards Monkeying With Comments and Trackbacks!

Hatched by Dafydd

I know, I know; you can't leave comments. Hang on, don't shed your skin; we've been trying to implement anti-spam techniques, and they're not quite working as advertised!

They'll be up soon, and you can go back to raking us over the coals....

-- the Mgt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 20, 2006, at the time of 5:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Clinic Budget Shortfall in Iraq

Hatched by Sachi

Last night, I was watching the ABC evening news (sorry, I like to flip). They were talking -- finally -- about American reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

That's a nice change isn't it? We've been complaining about the near blackout of coverage of all the good things that are happening in Iraq. But then, since ABC is still part of the antique media, they dropped the hammer: they didn't talk about how many schools were built or how many clinics were opened. Instead, they focused like a laser beam on how Americans have squandered reconstruction money by bad planning and incompetency.

This seems to be the media's new counterattack on our criticism. Early this month, the Washington Post reported that we are running out of money to build clinics in Iraq... after "only" completing 20 out of 142 planned clinics:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A reconstruction contract for the building of 142 primary health centers across Iraq has run out of money, after two years and roughly $200 million, with no more than 20 clinics now expected to be completed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.

The contract, awarded to U.S. construction giant Parsons Inc. in the flush early days of reconstruction in Iraq, was expected to lay the foundation of a modern health care system for the country, putting quality medical care within reach of all Iraqis.

Parsons, according to the Corps, will walk away from more than 120 clinics that on average are two-thirds finished. Auditors say its failure serves as a warning siren for other U.S. reconstruction efforts coming due this year.

But wait -- we did build twenty clinics as part of this one project... right? When was that reported? I sure don't remember seeing anything about it; at least, not until it could be framed as another American failure.

And more to the point... while the Post clearly wants us to believe that those clinics will never be built -- "walk away from more than 120 clinics" -- what about this statement that immediately follows the one above?

Brig. Gen. William McCoy, the Corps of Engineers commander overseeing reconstruction in Iraq, said he still hoped to complete all 142 clinics as promised and was seeking emergency funds from the U.S. military and foreign donors.

"I'm fairly confident," McCoy said.

So we're not talking about a failure; we're talking about a potential failure... one that the federal government is already aware of, already tracking, and already moving to turn into another success. So why all the anger and defeatism?

According to the Post, the reason for the money shortage is that our initial plan did not account for the high cost of security:

Violence for which the United States failed to plan has consumed up to half the $18.4 billion through higher costs to guard project sites and workers and through direct shifts of billions of dollars to ramp up Iraq's police and military.

Granted, we did not correctly assess the danger and cost associated with the security measures. We went overbudget.

But what defense contract doesn't go overbudget? (The entire DOD computer system comes to mind, something about which I'm personally familiar, as well as those multi-hundred-dollar toilet seats... which I'm not personally familiar with!) After all, Iraq is a war zone; nothing is predictable. It's unreasonable to expect us to anticipate everything.

True: some people "predicted" that there would be a huge "insurgency" that would overwhelm us and drive us out of Iraq (Saddam Hussien predicted it, for example). But those same people also predicted that we would be stuck in a "quagmire," that tens of thousands of our soldiers would be killed, and that the urban warfare, the house-to-house fighting would eat our Army alive: they didn't (and still don't) have a good track record, but even a broken clock can be right twice a day.

An editorial in the New York Times argues that we should have forseen everything:

There appears to be plenty of blame to go around for the health clinics fiasco. High on the list comes the Bush administration's stubborn refusal to factor the deteriorating military situation into reconstruction planning. By the time this contract was awarded, in the spring of 2004, it should have been clear that special security measures would be needed in many areas.

But we know about those increased costs now; we've known about them -- and been "factor[ing]" them into "reconstruction planning" -- since 2004, more than a year and a half before the Times' editorial from Monday.

This is what happened: for about a year in 2003-2004, we were trying to train the New Iraqi Army to stand on its own feet; the training was under the direction of Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, and it was a disaster -- not necessarily because of any failing on Eaton's part. But the Iraqi Army was pathetic, incompetent, corrupt, prone to desertion, and especially likely to flee in the face of the enemy or let enemy fighters slip through the noose even when they were surrounded.

This was the period during which the terrorist threat grew, and also the threat from home-grown (but Iranian controlled) "insurgents" like Muqtada Sadr. The response of the Iraqi Army at First Fallujah (April 2004) was typical: many soldiers panicked and fled, and the terrorists were allowed to slip away.

It is totally false for the Washington Post to say that we "failed to plan" for post-war violence. We did plan; our plan was to train-up the New Iraqi Army... it just went badly at first.

We made some adjustments, and now it's working much better; but the damage had been done. By Spring of 2004, the security situation in Iraq had become a lot worse.

We recognized that our training system had completely broken down; in May of 2004, shortly after First Fallujah revealed the deep problems in the Iraqi Army, the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) was rolled into the new Office of Security Transition (OST). Maj. Gen. Eaton retired, and Maj. Gen. David Petraeus (commander of the 101st Airborne during major combat operations in Iraq) was promoted to Lt. Gen. and put in command of the OST. The OST expanded to include not only training the New Iraqi Army but also the police forces.

(Ironically, Maj. Gen. Eaton is one of the retired generals demanding Defense Secretary Rumsfeld resign. Is it possible that Eaton's own replacement and retirement in 2004 was not completely voluntary? I don't know, but it's probably worth thinking about, since some of the other "griping" generals have personal grudges against Rumsfeld.)

Either because of these changes, or maybe just because the Iraqis themselves started to realize their own survival depended upon the Iraqi Army becoming professional, from that moment, the training began to turn around. The difference was easily seen just six months later, in November 2004, when the Iraqi Army performed so much better at Second Fallujah.

Once the Iraqi Army began to flourish, grow, and become much more effective, the "deterioration" of security leveled off, and now things are getting better. Not only are U.S. casualties and deaths lower, so are civilian deaths in Iraq. So maybe Brig. Gen. William McCoy of the Army Corps of Engineers has good reason to believe the rest of those clinics will be completed.

Even the Washington Post had to admit (at the very end of the article) that we've had many notable achievements:

The Corps of Engineers says the campaign has renovated or built 3,000 schools, upgraded 13 hospitals and created hundreds of border forts and police stations.

So, what does this all mean? Despite difficulities, our guys are doing a heck of a job. OK, so we need more money. But now that the new Iraqi security forces are becoming more and more reliable, and the new government is finally -- I hope! -- going to be formed, the prospect is good. From NYT:

Let it not be said that thousands more Iraqis died needlessly because America walked away from its promise of health clinics with less than 15 percent of the job done.

Hey, the New York Times and I finally agree on something!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 20, 2006, at the time of 5:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ibrahim al-Jaafari Ready to Muck His Hand?

Hatched by Dafydd

Today, Transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari as much as threw in the towel.

Although he has not resigned, nor has he taken his name out of contention, he agreed to send his nomination back to the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) for a revote.

The dramatic announcement was made shortly before a planned session of the Iraqi parliament to try to jump-start formation of a new government. The Shiites asked that the session be postponed until Saturday or Sunday, after they resolve the issue of al-Jaafari's nomination, said Shiite official Ridha Jawad Taqi.

Jawad al-Maliki, spokesman for the prime minister's Dawa party, told reporters that "circumstances and updates had occurred" prompting al-Jaafari to refer the nomination back to the alliance "so that it take the appropriate decision."

Al-Maliki said the prime minister was not stepping down but "he is not sticking to this post."

This is a stunning breakthrough. I wonder who was big enough to lean on Jaafari and push him outside the tent?

The nomination of Jaafari is what has held up the formation of a permanent government for four months after the December elections, in which a National Assembly was chosen. Fixing a permanent government is the first giant stride in stabilizing Iraq: with a real, elected government and an Interior Ministry not corrupted and controlled by Jaafari's puppetmaster, Muqtada Sadr, all the forces of order -- military and police -- can be focused on stopping the tit-for-tat violence and killing or driving out the terrorists.

The move represents the first sign that al-Jaafari has abandoned his quest to keep the prime minister's post, only a day after he had repeated his steadfast refusal to step down.

Last time, Jaafari won the nomination within the party by a single vote... and that was before the Sunni, the Kurds, the seculars, and even the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- the largest party within the UIA itself -- decided that Jaafari was utterly unacceptable under any circumstances.

With a revote, it's virtually impossible that he will be renominated: I firmly believe the nomination of Ibrahim al-Jaafari to be prime minister of Iraq is dead... and with it, the caliphate ambitions of the barely-literate, untutored, barbaric "cleric," Sadr -- he and his al-Mahdi Militia. The nomination will go to someone else in the Islamic Dawa Party (Jaafari's group):

[Jawad] Al-Maliki and another leading Dawa politician, Ali al-Adeeb, have been touted as possible replacements for al-Jaafari.

It won't be Adel Abdul-Mahdi of the SCIRI, the man Jaafari barely edged out last time; that would be too humiliating to the Dawa Party. Dawa and the SCIRI have more or less come to a tacit agreement that if Jaafari leaves, his replacement will also be from Dawa; this is to prevent the UIA from splitting apart at the seams.

Once it's clear Jaafari is sidelined, that clears the decks for various other appointments:

Resolution of the prime minister issue could smooth the way for filling other posts, including the president, two vice presidents, parliament speaker and the two deputy speakers. The Shiites could block Sunni and Kurdish candidates for those positions in retaliation for the standoff over al-Jaafari.

They could, but they won't; fewer Sunni voted in the last election than their percent of the population... and if the UIA cannot form a government, that task will either devolve to one of the other, non-Shiite parties -- or else there will be another election. If there is another election, the Sunni will probably get more seats at the expense of the Shia... and that's the last thing the UIA wants. They won't do anything to rock the boat after Jaafari leaves.

Let's wait until there is a formal announcement, possibly Saturday or Sunday (Iraq time), before popping the champers. The fat lady hasn't actually sung yet... but it sure sounds like she's warming up the old voicebox.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 20, 2006, at the time of 4:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 19, 2006

Still Strong Iraqi Spirits

Hatched by Sachi

This morning I read an article titled “Two teachers killed in front of students” A subsequent article changed the claim to a school security guard and a teacher being killed; but the most recent news is that both the local Iraqi police and U.S. forces investigated, but neither could find any evidence that such killings had taken place at all:

The Iraqi government said militants killed two people at elementary schools in a mainly Shiite district of Baghdad on Wednesday, but police in the neighborhood denied any attack occurred.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson also said American military teams went to both schools and found no evidence that any violent incident had taken place at either. It was unclear why the ministry released the statement.

How fleet of foot is rumor, especially when the tall tale is music to the ears of the antique media: horrific violence in Iraq! Bush a miserable failure! Video at eleven!

Then I read this tragic news from Iraq the Model: their brother-in-law was assassinated.

The victim was a doctor who received a degree in a foreign country, then came back after Hussein’s regime fell. He could easily have stayed on safe foreign soil, making a comfortable living with his wife and two children. Instead, he came back to help rebuild his country; he worked at a clinic for poor people who otherwise cannot afford medical care.

Since I started reading Iraq the Model, I cannot help feel like we're friends, even a large extended family. I feel great empathy towards the brothers, Mohammed and Omar; through their blog and others like it (including the blog of their other brother, Ali, which I couldn't get to today), I started to think of the Iraqi people as our brothers and sisters.

They are no longer just strangers in a strange and far-away land. So when something like this happens, it hurts me personally, almost as if I actually knew him.

He was not affiliated with any political party or movement and spent all his time working at the hospital or studying at home and he was dreaming of building a medical center for his specialty to serve the poor who cannot afford going to expensive private clinics.

We didn't know or anticipate that cruel times were waiting for a chance to assassinate the dream and kill the future.

These victims of terrorism -- doctors and schoolteachers (if not the fictional schoolteachers of the Ministry's announcement, there are plenty of others who were real) -- had nothing to do with politics. They were killed for no reason, just for doing something good for the Iraqi people.

Terrorists cannot allow Iraqis to have a stable society; they worship only death, chaos, and destruction. We cannot afford to lose people like Mohammed, Omar, Ali, and their brother in law. Iraq security forces must protect the citizens of Iraq... and for that, we need a stable government immediately, like yesterday!

A good news is that the Iraqi people are strong. Certainly our friends Mohammed and Omar are not giving up; they will continue to fight for Iraq's future.

The terrorists and criminals are targeting all elements of life and they target anyone who wants to do something good for this country…They think by assassinating one of us they could deter us from going forward but will never succeed, they can delay us for years but we will never go back and abandon our dream.

We have vowed to follow the steps of our true martyrs and we will raise the new generation to continue the march, these children of today are the hope and the future.

Unfortunately we cannot say the same thing about Iraqi politicinas. Acting Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari obstinately refuses to step aside, and the gridlock continues. There is something very peculiar about his obsession; Jaafari must know he can never be confirmed, even if every Shia voted for him (which they will not all do). So why is he so adamant in his refusal to withdraw his name?

We believe it has something to do with the future plans of Jaafari's boss, renegade cleric Muqtada Sadr, who controls the largest private militia in Iraq, the Mahdi. For some reason, Sadr seems terrified of somebody else gaining control of the government... including the Ministry of the Interior, which controls the police and prosecutors.

We can all draw our own conclusions... but there is still that untried murder charge hanging over Sadr's head. If the Iraqis wanted him out of the way, and if someone other than Sadr's sock puppet controlled the criminal-justice system, wouldn't that be a convenient way to do it?

The brothers refuse to arm themselves, but I hope they change their mind. There is no shame in protecting their lives with a little help from Colonel Colt. Even so, may God protect our friends in Iraq.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 19, 2006, at the time of 6:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Country Rocks!

Hatched by Sachi

Ever since the 1980s, hip-hop and rap have dominated the charts. I never liked them much, but some of the early artists were fun, like Run-DMC and MC Hammer: although there was generally no main melody, at least the rhythm and the lyrics were interesting, full of syncopation and wordplay.

But when the trend veered towards faux gangsta-rap, it lost me completely. I could never get into that kind of hateful and raunchy mentality, even as if came to dominate the pop charts and music-video channels. So I haven't paid any attention to pop music for a long time.

In Early 2002, I had an opportunity to spend three weeks in the South. The undisclosed location was far away from everything, and there were only four music stations and on the radio: three were country, the fourth was boomer-rock. The TV music video station only showed country.

Until then, I had not been a country-music fan at all, and at first, I was really annoyed by the lack of choice. This was shortly after 9/11, and the whole nation was stilll mourning the tragic loss. Country music's warm, personal, "real-folks" sound and patriotic lyrics touched me deeply. It was about ordinary people, not the weirdoes who inhabit most contemporary rock'n'roll songs. By the time I left, three weeks later, I had become a big country music fan.

Apparently, I am not alone. Fox News Roger Friedman reports:

I heard a weird rumor a few weeks ago: Clear Channel was telling its stations that by the end of this year, hip-hop and rap would be "over." They were making significant changes at their radio stations that would emphasize pop music and songs again.

Look at this week's top 20: There are only three hip-hop CDs — LL Cool J, NeYo and T.I. Six of the top 20 albums are by country artists, including Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood. Kelly Clarkson, Shakira and Pink represent female pop.

James Blunt and Daniel Powter are on the male side. Four CDs are actually for children. That leaves Nickelback as the lone rock entry and a collection of pop singles, "Now That's What I Call Music, Vol. 21," rounds it out.

Is it a trend? Have the yodeling, sampling, scatting, indecipherable packaged hoods finally been sent packing after a generation of pulling the wool over the public's eyes? One can only hope this is the case. Maybe it's a sign that today's kids actually want more out of their music.

You could say that rock is also vanishing, but that probably isn't the case. Rascal Flatts' CD is as much rock as it is country, with a decidedly more mainstream sound than most of the music that comes out of Nashville.

But what's really interesting is the proliferation of pop — just as it was described for me — already swamping radio.

Six country CDs out of the top twenty makes country music the plurality: country rocks!

Despite Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, country music has always been associated with the conservative heartland of America. But as it becomes more mainstream, more liberals may start to like and even play it. That could mean good news for the always irritating Dixie Chicks, who have been shunned by country music fans (low sales and shut out of the awards) since 2003, when Natalie Mains used a foreign stage to denounce America.

But the rise of country might also spread conservative values to a wider (and younger) audience than ever before... and that would be good news for the rest of us!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 19, 2006, at the time of 5:51 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

The Perfect Swarm

Hatched by Dafydd

Captain Ed has up a fascinating post on an issue near and dear to our reptillian hearts: the future of energy production.

The good captain quotes from an article by Anne Applebaum at the WaPo, as we in “the business” call the Washington Post (actually, I’m not in “the business;” but the Post has given me the business many times). She notes an interesting phenomenon: anti-nuclear, anti-coal, and anti-oil activists appear to have merged and metastisized into generic anti-energy fanatics... so much so that they now attack even alternative sources of energy: solar, biomass or biofuels, indeed everything that could possibly make any physical object move, shake, or create anything.

Even wind power, which used to be the ultimate dream of "environmentalists." Her clever title, "Tilting At Windmills," perfectly encapsulates both the insanity and futility of the New Luddites.

One “wind-power executive” has even coined a new term to describe this rage against the machine -- any machine. Riffing off the well-known “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard), the exec calls this new madness BANANAism: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

It’s a fit acronym, as it no longer seems to matter what sort of energy-producing facility one proposes or where it is to be built; activists will swarm in to attack from all four corners of the globe (in their flat-Earth, “globes” have corners).

Captain Ed, as usual, does a bravura job of covering the substance, those who reflexively oppose any form of generating energy... though he focuses on power generation itself. There are other aspects that also deserve mention: the motivation behind the Luddites, alternative solutions that could be pursued, and of especial interest to Big Lizards, how it all plays out in the electoral arena half a year hence.

So let's dive right in.

Motivation of the BANANAmites

This is actually the easiest question to answer, because it hasn't really changed since dim Ned Ludd was appropriated by the Luddites as a pretext to smash the looms.

Technological advance means change. The prospect of change produces raw terror in many people.

Robert Anton Wilson divides the entire world into neophobes and neophiles; the former, those who fear the new, can become Luddites at the extremes: people who attempt to destroy technology in order to arrest Time. We've all known people who are afraid to touch a computer, for example; every technological advance -- cars, telephones, microwave ovens -- is fought by some of the more extreme neophobes.

However, starting in the late 1960s, the New Left allied itself with the environmentalist movement sparked by such fearmongers as Ralph Nader, Barry Commoner, Rachel Carson, and so forth.

Some of this anti-technology activism was probably driven by a phobic fear of nuclear catastrophe left over from the 1950s... "phobic" because it found expression in irrational ways, such as demanding unconditional American surrender, unilateral disarmament (same thing), or in a wild example from my own alma mater, UC Santa Cruz, student followers of Dr. Helen Caldicott who demanded that the university stock enough suicide pills for the entire student body.

UCSC was supposed to dispense these suicide pills to anyone who asked (student, staff, faculty), in the event some terrible calamity occured that drove simpletons to believe that nuclear attack was imminent -- such as the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 for example (after which, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its "doomsday clock" hands to one minute before midnight). After all, in such a dreaded nuclear exchange, "the survivors would envy the dead!"

But in the late 1960s, the wacko environmentalists lay with the Neo-Stalinist Left of Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, and that lot; the fruit of that unnatural congress was a Democratic Party almost pathologically opposed to any new technology. Especially energy production, which the New Environmentalist Left rightly understood to underpin all technology. They turned the planet into a goddess, Gaea/Gaia, and literally began worshipping Her.

(The neopagan movement took off about this same time, ten years or so after Gerald Gardner invented or revived Wicca and around the time the Reformed Druids of North America were formed.)

That is where we're at now: even Democrats who have drifted back towards the center -- after their halcyon university days, when they were screaming in the streets -- are made terribly uncomfortable by even the thought of energy production of any kind. They envision a pastoral Eden, where everyone lives in the back of the woods, and little, furry animals hop up and munch granola out of the Democrats' hands. It is a mythical world where there is no industry at all -- but where the fruits of such industry are omnipresent.

It's all very Randroid, as Ayn Rand described (and decried) in Atlas Shrugged. You should read it; it pretty much covers the whole "motivation" topic better than I can (among other reasons, because even I can't write a 300,000-word blogpost!) Instead, we move on to....

Aggressively high-tech conservationism

While we completely support increased power generation -- pumping more domestic oil, more refineries, more nuclear plants, even such long-term goals as orbital solar-power satellites, which is the ultimate solution -- there is another tack to take while fighting against the New Luddites: that is to aggressively develop methods of dramatic energy savings, using our advanced technological edge over the rest of the world.

We've already been doing this. Computers use far less energy now than they did twenty or thirty years ago. This trend should continue as smaller and smaller chips are used... or even some computing medium other than silicon.

But we need to do the same for larger types of machinery. For example, we've already talked here about switching from the internal combusion engine (both in cars and in electrical generators) to a high-temperature ceramic engine that would burn gasoline at 5,000ºF, rather than the paltry 1,350ºF the typical ICE uses now. That could result in a huge increase in gasoline mileage without any corresponding drop in available power and acceleration. See The Wishing Ring, part 2 and Wanted: High-Efficiency Gasoline Engine X-Prize.

Other techniques include some sort of flywheel to absorb and "store" the forward momentum of a car: as the car brakes, much of the decelerative force comes from spinning up the flywheel, rather than applying brake pads. The linear momentum is transferred to angular momentum, rather than being dissipated as waste heat. When the light turns green and you start out again, much of your acceleration is imparted from the flywheel, spinning it back down again.

The result is to significantly mitigate the gigantic energy loss that occurs in stop-and-go driving, where you just build up a good head of steam (rather, gasoline vapor), and then at the next intersection, you have to throw it all out the window. Tailpipe, whatever; you know what I mean. Less waste means more efficiency; more efficiency means more MPG.

Heat is also wasted in industrial applications. In fact, most heat is waste. Unless the heat is actually used -- to warm food or the consumers thereof, or melt metal, or something -- it's just energy in its most entropic state, energy that could have been used to move, shake, or create.

But heat can be reconverted into useful form (with a loss, of course, but less than 100%). Every factory, power plant, and transportation system should be designed to channel waste heat into some form of power-generating "rebreather"... a gas turbine, say.

We also need much better battery technology. Our current batteries are pathetic. We need batteries that weigh about what a normal car batter weighs, but which could power a vehicle at Ferrari speeds for several hundred miles (however much electricity it would take to do that). That requires fundamental physics breakthroughs in battery technology. Get cracking!

There are many other such ideas floating around:

  • Better jet transport technology;
  • Artificially intelligent cars that drive themselves faster and more efficiently;
  • Star-Trek-like "replicator" technology (which is already in progress) to manufacture material items with less wasted energy -- it takes a lot of energy to melt steel;
  • Shifting more of manufacturing to information -- a really readable, portable electronic book, for example;
  • Nanotechnology, and so forth.

Each of these requires a lot of government investment, or corporate investment with government tax incentives, because the developmental technology is expensive and the projects require years of basic scientific research. So let's pour some money into it.

And that brings us to....

The politics of it all

The rise of BANANAism within the Democratic Party has the potential to hand the election to Republicans on a silver oil-barrel. The basic political formula runs as follows:

  1. Conservative Republicans and pro-energy Democrats caucus together and come up with four or five good ideas for energy production, plus some basic research for aggressive, high-tech conservationism.

For example, increased domestic oil drilling, building more refineries, building modern, safe nuclear power plants, some shale-oil plants -- and specifically exempting these projects from the decades of environmental gridlock that are normally used to obliterate any new power plant.

  1. Republicans need to move them through committee to the floor, even if some have to be sent without recommendation.

We can't let them get bogged down by RINOs; they must go to the floor with all or nearly all the committee Republicans backing them, along with the Republican leadership. Consult with the "dirty dozen," the handful of prominent liberal Republicans and even moderate Democrats who have sometimes approved of power generation or are particularly close to industry. Make it clear this is going to the floor... where it will either be voted on or filibustered by the Democrats.

The House tends to be better about passing controversial legislation than the Senate; the Republicans in the Committee on Energy and Commercehave a six-seat majority; and one of those GOP committee members is Majority Whip Roy Blunt... the man specifically responsible for keeping Republicans in line. Presumably he would be even more effective in that task for his fellow committee members. I think the package could be pushed through committee in the House.

The Republicans on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources have a 12-10 advantage; but in addition, two of the Democrats on that committee are in tough re-election fights this year: Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and appointee Robert Menendez (D-NJ). One or both might join in a vote for energy independence, worried about being tagged as a wacko environmentalist. I think the same package could be pushed through the Senate committee, too.

  1. Then on the floor, every Republican who supports energy production gets up and denounce every Democrat voting against the package as being in thrall to "foreign oil," opposed to American industry, opposed to union workers, and wanting American drivers and consumers to be forced to pay higher prices as a way of forcing conservation by deprivation.

This especially goes for Cantwell and Menendez: if they oppose the energy bill in committee or on the floor, go after them hammer and tong: make them out to be hypocrites and spoilers. Maybe we can defeat one or both at the polls!

Fight hard to get to cloture; but even if a measure (or the whole bill) gets filibustered, that's politically all right too... so long as the ringleaders of the filibuster are clearly seen to be Democrats. We can run against them in November on that very issue.

Remind everyone of the endless gas lines of the 1970s, "odd and even days," and note that the Democrats voting against energy production want to bring those days back.

Make the election about energy production; that's an issue supported by a very healthy majority of Americans. Bring up all the stories showing that the same people who oppose gasoline refineries and nuclear power plants also oppose solar power, geothermal power, and even windmills! (You like how I neatly tied that all up?) Paint them not as "environmentalists" but as people who want America to just dry up and blow away.

And then remind voters of China... which is massively industrializing at the same time these Democrats want America to de-industrialize. Ask the Democrats, "who do you want to be the economic powerhouse of the twenty-first century: America or China?" Ask them how high they want gas prices to rise -- how much of a "tax on driving" is enough? Appeal to teamsters, manufacturers, farmers, and to soccer moms driving the carpool to school.

Make the election about energy, in addition to being about judges and about whether we're going to win in Iraq, or just call off the game and run home, like the Democrats want. Energy is something that hits home to everyone; we all use it, want it, need it. The Republicans must paint the Democrats as the the men standing in the power-plant door, saying "no, you can't have any! Go away!"

It worked in California in 2003 to oust "Grayout" Davis; there is no reason it would not work equally well in 2006. New Environmentalist Leftism is on the wane; it's time we recognized that and made energy production an integral part of the Republican campaigns for 2006 and 2008.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 19, 2006, at the time of 5:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A Good Kinda Pro-Choice

Hatched by Dafydd

The burning question on everybody's mind -- besides "is Kelly Pickler really that brainless a bimbo, or is it just a sympathy act?" -- is which election scenario will prevail on November 7th.

The Democrats insist with brio that the election will be a referendum on the president... a vote of confidence in George W. Bush, as it were. I suspect that in their minds, the election has already happened; they have already taken control of House and Senate; and the foofoorah in six months and a fortnight is but a formality, grudgingly engaged in just to keep the masses in line. (This is no great prophecy on my part; that's what the Democrats think every election.)

Most Republicans believe with equal ardor that the election is a choice, not a vote of confidence; each of the 469+ national contests, plus each state legislator vote and governor's mansion, is a choice between one Republican and one Democrat, compared and contrasted side by side.

If the Democrats are correct, then it makes no difference that they have not troubled to put forth any plans, "contracts," or agendas... it's just thumbs-down or -up for Mr. Bush, or perhaps the incumbent -- thus, since Bush's approval rating is below 40%, "he" will lose; which means the Republican members of Congress and suchlike lose, because Bush himself isn't running ever again.

But if the Republicans are correcter, then when voters go to the polls, they will see a choice between a man with a plan (or a dame with a game) on the one hand, and on the other, a candidate who can't pull anything out of his pocket but a hand with some fingers on it. In that case, the Republicans win, they hold both houses, they may even break even or pick up a seat or two.

So that is the fault line: if it's a referendum, Democrats win; if it's a choice, Republicans win. But which will it be? Not even the voters know at this point how they'll feel. Is there any way we can glimpse enough of the future to place our bets before the window closes?

A couple of April Rasmussen polls may go a long piece towards answering the question. Let's take the California gubernatorial race first (and hat tip to Dan'l Weintraub's Bee-blog California Insider).

If the electorate is in a referendum mood, then the vote for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should more or less line up with his job-approval rating, which is about the same as Bush's (but with lower negatives). The most recent poll I can find on Schwarzenegger's job approval is a Field Poll from March 1st; in that poll, he stood at 40% approve, 49% disapprove. The governator has fluctuated between the mid-thirties and 40% for months now, since last June (see page 2 of the PDF).

Thus we would expect to see Schwarzenegger getting 40% of the vote, and either of the two main Democratic challengers (Phil Angelides and Steve Westley) getting somwhere between 50% and 60%. But here is what Rassmussen Reports reports:

For the first time in Election 2006, Governor Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has opened a significant lead over his Democratic challengers.

The latest Rasmussen Reports election poll in California shows Schwarzenegger leading State Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) by double digits, 49% to 36%. The candidates had been neck-and-neck in our previous polls.

The Governor leads State Comptroller Steve Westly (D) 48% to 40%. Schwarzenegger and Westly were essentially even in March. In February, Schwarzenegger led Westly 39% to 34%.

In fact, Schwarzenegger is polling much stronger than his approval number (40%) -- and both Democrats are polling much weaker than Schwarzenegger's disapproval number (49%). That doesn't match the pattern of a "vote of confidence;" that reads more like voters making a choice among specific candidates.

And here is another one. In Washington state, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) is running for her first reelection, after squeaking past former Sen. Slade Gorton -- one of those races in 2000 where we almost had to wait until 2001 to find out how it ended. But despite a lackluster performance mostly noted for being unnoticed, Cantwell has a surprisingly high job-approval rating:

Cantwell is viewed favorably by 58% of voters, unfavorably by 40%. A month ago, those numbers were 60% favorable and 35% unfavorable.

Yet instead of being ahead by a similar margin, she only leads her relatively unknown opponent, Mike McGavick, the CEO of Safeco Insurance, by single digits: 48% to 40%. She had a 13% - 15% lead over McGavick for five successive Rasmussen Reports; but now it's down to 8%. Again, it appears that Washington voters are making a choice -- not simply voting to support or reject the incumbent.

Just two data points out of many; but at the very least it shows that it's not going to be a nationwide vote of confidence on incumbents or on the president: some contests, at least, will be choices. And that has got to panic the Democrats.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 19, 2006, at the time of 5:31 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 18, 2006

Uricane Oogo

Hatched by Dafydd

Unelected Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez remains in his position only by dint of an "election" in 2000 that even Jimmy Carter declared invalid, and a recall election in 2004 where exit polls showed Chavez losing 60-40... but when Chavez's team finished counting the ballots, they discovered, mirabile dictu, that he had won by 60-40, instead.

Today, he steadfastly maintains that the United States is plotting to assassinate him, invade Venezuela, and steal Caracas. Or all the oil... we're there to steal something, that's for sure. And now he adds a new chapter to the annals of his reign (which double as university textbooks for abnormal psych).

Hugo Chavez now declares that the Caribbean Sea is off limits to American warships; we must leave and not return. In this, he presumes to speak not only for Venezuela, long a victim of American running-dog imperialism, but also for Cuba, long a victim of Castroite running-nose poverty:

President Hugo Chavez, who accuses Washington of planning to invade Venezuela, said on Tuesday recent deployment of U.S. warships in the Caribbean Sea threatened his country and its ally Cuba.

Four U.S. warships, including an aircraft carrier, and 6,500 sailors, are in a two-month deployment in the Caribbean Sea dubbed "Partnership of the Americas" by the U.S. Navy.

"They are doing maneuvers right here," Chavez told a student meeting in the country's west. "This is a threat, not just against us, against Venezuela, against Cuba."

He is particularly irked that we dropped anchor at Aruba, which he appears to believe he owns. (We await the inevitable "all your base are belong to us.")

Hugo Chavez has also revealed the military plan by which his citizen militia will repel America's inevitable invasion of fair Caracas:

Chavez, who has created a civilian reserve to resist the assault he says Washington is planning, has threatened to repel U.S. forces with arrows coated with poison.

You'd think he could at least borrow some Brazillian blowgunners.

Needless to say, I strongly suspect that we will not honor his demand. We will continue projecting American might (including our naval vanguard, Royal Caribbean cruise ships) into Aruba and many other islands. (As a side issue, in my one cruise in the Caribbean, we did, in fact, dock in Caracas, Venezuela. It was just a city back then, not the socialist paradise it is now, the envy of the world, and the concerted target of the Lexus of evil, the United States of America. After conducting intelligence-gathering operations for the Navy, I rejoined my parents and we continued on to Grenada.)

One wonders how long it will be before Hugo's head bursts open like a cocoon... and what, exactly, will come slithering out.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 18, 2006, at the time of 7:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Politics As Unusual

Hatched by Dafydd

The newest wrinkle in the "Seven Days In April" (Tony Blankley's term) conspiracy of generals to unseat Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (and hurt Republicans in the November elections) brings the essentially political nature of the rebellion into sharp focus. Oddly, though it's a day old, it's still not being reported in American mainstream news media -- at least not as I write this.

Brit Hume mentioned on Special Report yesterday that the newest addition to the Griping Generals is none other than former NATO commander and former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. But I can't find that news on any American news feed (via Google News search; I don't subscribe to the hideously overpriced LexisNexis)... not even on FoxNews.com.

It's reported in foreign news sources, however. ABC News Australia:

A former commander of NATO, Wesley Clark, has joined six other retired United States generals in calling for the resignation of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

He says Mr Rumsfeld has also lost the confidence of some serving officers, because of his handling of the war in Iraq and because they believe Mr Rumsfeld does not listen to advice.

General Clark, who was a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2004, said Mr Rumsfeld had pushed the US into war in Iraq, before the diplomatic process had ended.

But you won't find it by searching abcnews.go.com here.

The Guardian has it, though they fail to note the political significance:

Mr Rumsfeld's position became more tenuous after six retired generals called for him to quit, followed by the revelation he was "personally involved" in "degrading and abusive" treatment of a Guantánamo Bay detainee, according to an internal military inquiry. On Saturday General Wesley Clark became the seventh ex-commander calling for him to go.

The Guardian misses the fact that Clark is not just an "ex-commander," he was also a candidate for president on the Democratic ticket.

And here's the Beeb, which highlights what the Guardian skipped:

Ex-Nato commander Gen Wesley Clark, who ran for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2004, backed calls for Mr Rumsfeld to resign....

Gen Clark said in a television interview: "I believe secretary Rumsfeld hasn't done an adequate job. He should go."

Gen Clark said he believed Mr Rumsfeld, along with Vice-President Dick Cheney, had helped push the Iraq invasion when there was "no connection with the war on terror".

Gen Clark said the secretary had lost the confidence of some officers in the military who were asking for "somebody in the military chain of command who will listen".

Gen Clark has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

So what is the political component here? Why do we say the addition of Candidate Clark changes the complexion of the criticism? Because it makes it clearer than ever that this is a political revolt against Republican policy, driven by the Democratic Party -- not the concerns of unbiased military professionals.

The leadership role played by Gen. Anthony Zinni -- who, according to Fred Barnes, organized this political stunt by actually telephoning generals to talk them into joining the rebellion -- already pointed towards the real core of dissent, as opposed to the stated reasons: they're unhappy with the 2004 election results and hope to do better in November.

Big Lizards has noted the intensely political nature of Gen. Zinni's opposition to Rumsfeld from our first post on this subject. Zinni is widely expected to be Rumsfeld's replacement if John Kerry wins election in 2008; other Democrats might also consider him. Zinni opposed the "unnecessary" Iraq War from Day-1; he has repeatedly said that sanctions against Saddam Hussein were working and keeping him "in his box."

In 2000, Zinni himself said that Iraq had WMD, active WMD programs, and that there was a danger that terrorists could get WMD from Iraq and other state sponsors of terrorism. But starting just before the 2004 election, Zinni began claiming the opposite, that the Bush administration manipulated pre-war intelligence on WMD to manufacture casus belli.

We noted how the Democrats immediately began using the talking points generated for them by the Gripers to attack the Bush administration. And now the mask is off: a once and Democratic candidate openly joins the ranks of the Gripers.

I believe the Democrats have once again overplayed their hand, as at the Paul Wellstone memorial. When the Gripers only comprised generals who had actually served under Rumsfeld, they could be portrayed as simply worried and concerned that Rumsfeld was screwing up the war.

When General Zinni emerged as the ringleader, however, that started to make clear the political motivation of the group (as well as making the generals themselves seem like sock puppets)... but only to those who followed politics closely enough to know who Zinni was in the 1990s and could be in 2009.

And with the emergency of Wesley Clark, light dawns. Even the most casual follower of current events should remember that Clark ran for president as a Democrat in 2004 then withdrew and campaigned for John Kerry; that he was the preferred candidate of Michael Moore and most of the Hollywood lefties; that he opposed the Iraq War even before it began, testifying against it before Congress in 2002; and that he touts himself as a "progressive" from Little Rock, Arkansas.

Clark should now seize the mantle of "spokesman" from Zinni; Clark is unquestionably the best-known member of the Grumbling Gripers, and one would think that he can get "face time" more easily than Zinni. But the curious reluctance of the antique media even to mention that Clark is now part if the mob seems peculiar... does it mean the MSM realizes how this changes the tenor of the revolt from concerned-but-loyal troops to partisan hacks feeding talking points to the Democratic Party? Or are they just being slow on the uptake, as so often in recent years?

Since the 1960s, the New Left has followed a deliberate policy of infiltration and subversion of great American institutions, twisting them into front groups for "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party": newspapers and television news, movies and television entertainment, schools (public and private), the clergy of several major religions, the Girl Scouts (they're still trying to get inside the Boy Scouts), corporate America, the Civil Rights movement, the AMA and APA, and so forth.

In this, they are only following in the footsteps of the Master, for such subversion was an integral part of the worldwide Communist subversion of the 1930s through the 1950s, the Stalinist period. (The red-diaper babies of the New Left, from the Port Huron Statement on, have basically been Luddite Stalinists, more radical than their pro-industry Communist parents. Their "useful idiots" are progressives, such as Zinni, Clark, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), and the like.)

It is now clear that they have infiltrated and subverted at least some portion of the military, reaching all the way up to the highest rank (Zinni and Clark are both four-stars). There exists now a slice of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps that is in fact the military branch of the Democratic Party. They serve the Party, not the country; although the public face comprises entirely retired general officers, they claim they have many allies within the active-duty ranks... and there is no reason to doubt that they do.

Certainly Tony Blankley buys it, per a column from which I got that catchy phrase "Seven Days In April" up top (hat tip, Scott Johnson at Power Line). Blankley references and quotes from a Washington Post column by former ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke:

First, it is clear that the retired generals -- six so far, with more likely to come -- surely are speaking for many of their former colleagues, friends and subordinates who are still inside.... Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, who was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the planning period for the war in Iraq, made this clear in an extraordinary, at times emotional, article in Time magazine this past week when he said he was writing "with the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership." He went on to "challenge those still in uniform . . . to give voice to those who can't -- or don't have the opportunity to -- speak."

Holbrooke is a relentless Democratic campaigner; President Clinton seriously considered him for Secretary of State to replace the retiring Warren Christopher (Clinton picked Madeleine Allbright instead). Holbrooke goes on in that column to insist the generals "are not newly minted doves or covert Democrats." He does not claim, however, that they are not overt Democrats; and indeed, the two ringleaders assuredly are. The rest repeat earlier Democratic talking points (such as that there was "no post-war planning"). [Hat tip to commenter jd watson, who spotted an error in the succession order of Clinton's two Secretaries of State. - the Mgt.]

Holbrooke makes clear his own sympathy with this group of revolting retired and active-duty generals:

The major reason the nation needs a new defense secretary is far more urgent. Put simply, the failed strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be fixed as long as Rumsfeld remains at the epicenter of the chain of command.

Tony Blankley wonders whether a conspiracy among active-duty generals to retire, one by one, and then immediately denounce the Bush administration and the Secretary of Defense, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Republicans in general might constitute a crime, either under the federal civilian law or the UCMJ:

A "revolt" of several American generals against the secretary of defense (and by implication against the president)? Admittedly, if each general first retires and then speaks out, there would appear to be no violation of law.

But if active generals in a theater of war are planning such a series of events, they may be illegally conspiring together to do that which would be legal if done without agreement. And Ambassador Holbrooke's article is -- if it is not a fiction (which I doubt it is) -- strong evidence of such an agreement. Of course, a conspiracy is merely an agreement against public policy.

Big Lizards is less concerned about that aspect (does Blankley suggest that Alberto Gonzales begin issuing arrest warrants?) than we are curious whether anyone will actually believe in such a drip, drip, drip of sudden and "independent" resignations and denunciamentos -- or whether, with each new "falling star," the public will grow more and more skeptical of the political independence of the group.

Especially when it is led by Wesley Clark, the man who would be president.

Big Lizards anticipates the latter: as we implied a few posts ago and mention supra, the Democrats have yet again overplayed their hand. But then, like the scorpion and the frog, it is their nature to do so.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 18, 2006, at the time of 4:51 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 17, 2006

Persian Flippers

Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, the Scotsman newspaper published an article triumphantly announcing that Tony Blair's Britain will refuse to join any military action against Iran. But what I find fascinating is how the stated rationale for the refusal hinges on the crackpot idea that Iran can be negotiated into democracy by clever diplomats:

While the sense of crisis over Iran has been escalated by the fiery rhetoric between Tehran and the West - particularly Washington - many within the British government are now convinced that the impasse can be resolved by repeating the same sort of painstaking diplomatic activity that returned Libya to the international fold.

But would such "painstaking diplomatic activity" have had any effect at all, absent the invasion and overthrow of Baathist-occupied Iraq and the capture of Saddam Hussein? Do these diplomats recall that those events only occurred because the United States defied the same international diplomatic bodies that object just as vehemently today to a strike against Iran?

Yes, Col. Muammar Qaddafi did finally agree to give up his nuclear weapons programs, after the United States and Great Britain conducted secret talks with Qaddafi beginning in March of 2003; but those talks were going nowhere until December 19th of that year. Not-so-coincidentally, American troops had captured Saddam Hussein just six days earlier.

But the connection between the overthrow and occupation of Iraq, and especially of the capture of Hussein himself, and Libya's surprise announcement seems to have fallen down the rabbit hole, as far as Tony Blair's "favourite think-tank," the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC), is concerned:

"The only long-term solution to Iran's problems is democracy," said Alex Bigham, co-author of the FPC report. "But it cannot be dictated, Iraq-style, or it will backfire. Iran may seem superficially like Iraq but we need to treat Iran more like Libya. Diplomatic engagement must be allowed to run its course. There need to be bigger carrots as well as bigger sticks."

Bigger sticks? Since, in the same breath, the FPC takes all possible "bigger sticks" off the table in favor of negotiations alone, what they actually appear to suggest is a massive bribing of Iran -- a policy former President Bill Clinton followed to rather unfortunate effect.

It is not, I suspect, purely coincidental that four liberals in the U.S. Senate -- Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Dick Lugar (R-IN), the last being chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading RINO in the Senate -- chose this moment to issue a call for the United States to reject the military option, cease demanding sanctions, stop saying nasty things about serial assassin and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad... and instead to initiate bilateral talks between the Iranians and us [free registration required to read the Los Angeles Times story].

Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and three Democratic colleagues called for direct U.S. talks with Iran to defuse political tension about its nuclear capability and address global concerns about energy supplies.

Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut also endorsed talks.

Ever since the Clinton administration, "bilateral talks" has been considered code for offering Iran monetary and political concessions in exchange for the promise to cease nuclear-weapons research. But such agreements from Iran, as from North Korea, are "pie-crust promises," as Mary Poppins might say: "easily made and easily broken." (The Israelis could tell us something about that approach.)

It appears to be a full-court press: liberal American senators urge us to drop everything and offer bribes to Iran for the promise of peace; while at the same time, our best allies in the world, the British, tell us that we're on our own; they won't aid an attack on Iran in any way.

Despite all the forces arrayed against us, and unlike the guys at Power Line, I believe we will attack Iran's nuclear sites if it becomes clear that the internationales have no intention of stopping Iran by any other means. We have three great advantages that cannot be neutralized: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and President George W. Bush.

Time is on the Iran's side, but the "tide in the affairs of men" is on ours. Let us take that tide at the flood.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 17, 2006, at the time of 5:43 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Bride of "Glad to See the Back of Him"

Hatched by Dafydd

Just a fast addendum to our previous post, Glad to See the Back of Him: Sami al-Arian has indeed offered a guilty plea; but in addition to deportation, he has also agreed to serve some prison time... and he has admitted to a series of facts that clearly and unambiguously prove that al-Arian was, in fact, an operative for the Jew-hating terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

WARNING: The New York Sun has a very grabby and aggressive website; if you leave this article open even long enough to read it, the Sun will transfer you to its homepage, so you can see its "breaking news." It will do this every couple of minutes or so, even if you minimize the page and are working on other pages -- such as Movable Type's "Edit Entry" page (ahem).

It will even do it if you save the article as a file and load the file instead of the actual web page; you might have to turn off Java and JavaScript.

I am in awe of the sheer audacity and colossal narcissism of the New York Sun: it is the Bill Clinton of newspaper websites.

Back to Sami al-Arian:

Prosecutors and Mr. Al-Arian agreed that he should be sentenced to between 46 and 57 months incarceration on one count of conspiracy to assist a group or individual on a federal government terrorist list. The judge overseeing the case, James Moody Jr., has agreed to impose a sentence in that range at a hearing still to be scheduled.

Since al-Arian has already been in custody without bail for 38 months, he should serve between eight and nineteen more; but with "a reduction for 'good time,'" which I think is like time off for good behavior, he may get an additional six months off. The earliest he could be released is June, but he might be held longer, depending on the actual sentence imposed.

He did not admit to being a leader or founder of PIJ. But among the facts he did admit to were these, each of which he steadfastly denied through his trial:

  • That he was, in fact, "associated with" Palestinian Islamic Jihad;
  • That he "performed services for" PIJ;
  • That he definitely knew that Ramadan Shallah, Bashif Nafi, and Mazen Al-Najjar were all associated with PIJ; these men worked for al-Arian's "think tank," the World & Islam Studies Enterprise;
  • That he lied to a reporter from the St. Petersburg Times about Shallah's connection with PIJ, and al-Arian's knowledge of that connection, after Shallah fled the country when he was named PIJ's secretary general.

Perhaps, at long last, those on the Left who have adamantly maintained the complete innocence of Sami al-Arian -- if they have a shred of decency left -- will finally 'fess up that al-Arian duped them. That he played them like a cheap mijwiz... thus calling into question (cough) the sagacity and judgment of said lefties.

Say, is that a Sus scrofa cristatus tooling along through the heavens?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 17, 2006, at the time of 2:33 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

All Right, Shinseki Can Keep His Epaulettes

Hatched by Dafydd

Upon reading this story in the New York Times, I will revise my previous statement that Gen. Shinseki should have been drummed out of service for blabbermouthing to Congress his personal position on how many troops were needed for "peacekeeping" in Iraq.

First, the set-up. Everybody agrees on this much:

General Shinseki, who commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, testified before Congress in February 2003 that peacekeeping operations in Iraq could require several hundred thousand troops, in part because it was a country with "the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

Why was Shinseki wrong to say this?

First of all, generals and other staff (civilian and military) express their opinions privately; they are privately evaluated, and then the President of the United States (POTUS) decides. The content of such privileged communications cannot be divulged: what happens with POTUS stays with POTUS. Without such privacy, policy advisors will be reluctant to give their candid assessments, because they might leak out with unpredictable results.

Second, once a decision is made, the generals do not have the right to tell Congress that the decision is wrong. (And telling Congress is functionally equivalent to calling a press conference and telling the world, because somebody in Congress is sure to do so.)

Such congressional testimony inevitably becomes a political meme that will cause no end of problems forPOTUS and his entire administration. The opposition party will seize upon it (right or wrong) as "evidence" that the Commander in Chief is incompetent, use it to undermine his leadership and stir up anti-war sentiment across the country... which in turn can severely undercut congressional support for the mission.

The Pentagon planners, the service secretaries, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and President George W. Bush had already determined that we needed a smaller peacekeeping force (for good reason: see below) than Gen. Shinseki wanted.

Shinseki's congressional testimony called all that into question, as 535 "armchair Commanders in Chief" got to hear Shinseki's views -- but not the reasons why they were ultimately rejected.

For, third, as it happens, Gen. Shinseki's position was flatly wrong. He was only looking at the immediate military goal. There was a reason why Bush and Rumsfeld decided to do it the way they did.

Bush's overall plan -- enunciated in the January, 2003 State of the Union speech and other speeches before the Iraq war began -- was to democratize the Middle East, starting with Iraq. He believed, and rightly so, in my opinion, that there was no other way to drain the fever swamps, the centuries of accumulated moral filth, poverty, hopelessness, despair, and desperation that bred terrorism the way literal filth breeds disease.

For decades, we followed a policy of "stability, not liberty." But Bush came to believe (again, rightly) that the lack of liberty had not led to stability but its opposite -- chaos and madness, which had its demonic Omega in the 9/11 attacks.

Bush chose, as president, to follow instead a path of liberty -- not stability. Hence, the goal of Iraqi self-reliance was equally or more important than crushing a post-Hussein "insurgency."

You cannot set a country on the path to self-reliance by colonizing it. Had we inundated Iraq with "several hundred thousand troops," not only would that have offered many more American targets without a corresponding increase in effectiveness (we would be sending less-trained personnel and couldn't properly rotate them out, forcing them to stay for much longer tours)... but also, it would infantalize the Iraqis, leading not to self-reliance but greater dependency. We would simply substitute one despotic, condescending ruler for another... ourselves.

I'm sure we would have been an improvement over the Baathists. But we would not have advanced one iota towards the urgent goal of democratizing the region.

So what Gen. Shinseki said was wrong on three counts:

  • He had no authority to reveal the privileged communications between the Commander in Chief and his military and civilian staff;
  • Because Shinseki's recommendation was at odds with the final decision, it became a political football and damaged the president's leadership and public and congresssional support for the mission;
  • And the advice Shinseki gave was simply wrong, because he only understood the military goal... not the equally important, long-term political goal.

What he did was insubordinate. But I now think it likely that he was merely stupidly insubordinate, rather than mendaciously so. This, in particular, is the passage that caught my eye and slightly softened my stance:

General Myers said he believed that news media coverage had overblown the confrontation and had failed to take note that General Shinseki had been "put in a corner" in questioning before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"General Shinseki was forced to make that comment under pressure, pulled a number out, wasn't wedded to it," General Myers said. He also said General Shinseki did not push for more troops after giving his Congressional testimony.

All right, Myers was presumably there; he probably knows the sequence of events. But he is wrong in one particular: Gen. Shinseki was not "forced" to answer that question. He could have refused... just as he would have had some Congressman asked for operational details of the upcoming invasion.

There are some questions you do not answer... and a four-star general who is the Army Chief of Staff is expected to know what those questions are.

I suspect Myers likes Shinseki and is miffed that one of his colleagues got (mildly) chewed out for doing something really stupid. But he still got off easy. As I now believe it was not deliberate politicking but simple dumbth, I agree he should not have been fired (as he was not).

He should have been reprimanded.

Shinseki should have gotten a letter in his file. No one else need see it; he was retiring anyway. But he should have retired knowing that he did something really, really stupid that damaged support for the war by making it seem futile and mismanaged, when in fact all the decisions made were reasonable and had right reason behind them.

Instead, all he got was a mild oral rebuke:

Days later, Mr. Wolfowitz, then the second-ranking official at the Pentagon, called the estimate "wildly off the mark," a sentiment that Mr. Rumsfeld repeated in comments that were widely interpreted in Washington and within the Pentagon as a rebuke of General Shinseki.

Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld then had to go to Congress and do damage control. And to this day, the president still has to defend himself against disingenuous accusations of sending too small a force... mostly from people who wouldn't have invaded Iraq at all.

I believe I understand why everybody behaved the way they did: Shinseki had a brain fart; Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld were trying to undo the damage Shinseki's brain fart caused; Bush felt loyal to Shinseki and did not want to damage his career or push him into premature retirement; Myers is in a loyalty tug-o-war between his duty to his former commander and his friendship with Shinseki.

But the reality is that Gen.Shinseki got away with a "senior moment" that should have exacted payment more dear.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 17, 2006, at the time of 5:02 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 16, 2006

"Retired Generals," Democrats Join Forces Against Bush

Hatched by Dafydd

In a move that shocked exactly no one, Democrats have run with the ball that the "retired generals" handed off to them, accusing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush of incompetence and mismanagement of the war -- and citing the generals, of course, as representing the entire active-duty military:

"My view is that the secretary should step aside," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, told CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "Besides the fact that the Iraq war has been mismanaged... we should listen to what these generals are saying...."

Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said the critical comments from the retired generals could be considered a reflection of current senior officers not permitted to criticize Rumsfeld or Bush.

"We need a new direction in Iraq," he said. "We're looking at some incompetency in addition to the arrogance issues that have been raised. ... (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice talked about a thousand tactical mistakes the other day in Iraq the other day. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement."

Once again, we're offered a proxy measurement for morale -- rather than simply asking soldiers about their morale. This is very similar to what the Zogby poll did in February (and which Big Lizards discussed here and here). Dodd assumes that the retired generals who criticize Rumsfeld are representative of "current senior officers" -- but those retired generals who praise Rumsfeld speak only for themselves.

If anybody were in any doubt about the crassly political aspect to those "retired generals," we need only wait a few days to see if any of them now speaks out against having his deeply held, a-political convictions hijacked by the Democratic Party. Since we know they're not shy about voicing their opinions, if they say nothing about Democrats seizing upon their carping to urge people to vote against the Republicans, I think we will have our answer.

Anybody making book on whether a single one of these six retired generals will say, "hey, wait a minute -- I didn't mean everyone should vote Democratic; I just want us to send another 300,000 men to Iraq, even if we have to draft them!"

A man (or woman) who makes general is not stupid... and he is not a political naif. He knows how his words and deeds will be interpreted, because if he didn't, he would have been weeded out long before.

When a bunch of generals, led by persistent Bush critic Anthony Zinni, come forward and all demand that Donald Rumsfeld be fired, they are well aware that the Democrats and the press will seize the golden opportunity. When Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) then do exactly what everyone expected them to do, it's difficult not to conclude that the griping generals have gotten just what they wanted.

But Richardson may have pushed his attack a little too far for credulity:

"What you're seeing is deep frustration in the military," he said, "deep frustration within our troops who are not getting enough armor. ... It is obvious that Secretary Rumsfeld did not listen to them. ... That's why we're in this morass."

Yes, Governor, that's it; the Iraqis have been unable to form a unity government so far because our troops have to muddle along with last month's body armor.

Look for more of these stunts as the election looms, each one dutifully reported by the media as yet another example of the military rising up in righteous rebellion against the hated tyrant.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 16, 2006, at the time of 11:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 15, 2006

Glad to See the Back of Him

Hatched by Dafydd

Our old pal, former professor and PLO apologist Sami al-Arian, has evidently agreed to plead gulity to one of the counts still remaining against him and accept deportation, rather than risk trial on the nine remaining counts. Last year, a federal jury acquitted him on eight terrorisim-related charges but deadlocked on nine more.

The St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune both reported Saturday that Al-Arian had agreed to be deported after he pleads guilty to one charge.

Any plea agreement would have to be approved by a federal judge. The U.S. Attorney's office in Tampa refused to comment on the report, the newspapers said.

This trial that showed yet again why terrorism cannot effectively be fought in the courtroom: evidence must be made public, or at the very least shown to the defendant... and that may be so potentially damaging that the government simply refuses to present it -- and the defendant walks.

This is why terrorism cannot be fought as a police action.

In any event, I will be very glad to see al-Arian out of the country, having pled to at least one terrorism-related charge... which no innocent person would ever agree to do. Any faint doubts I had about his guilt will be answered if he goes through with this plea bargain.

Adios, al-Arian. Now go away.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 15, 2006, at the time of 3:25 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Captain Veers Off Course

Hatched by Dafydd

Captain Ed appears to join the Ignatius Chorus calling for Bush to throw Rummy overboard "in order to bring Congress back in line on the war and to reassure the electorate that fresh eyes will review the military plan for it."

From deep 'neath the crypt of St. Giles...

Honest to goodness, this is about the rummiest idea I've ever seen on an otherwise excellent blog. I mean, this is bonkers.

I admire Rumsfeld greatly, and wish that the situation did not bring us to this question. But if replacing Rumsfeld with another SecDef with a better relationship with Congress and higher credibility with voters can assure our full and unified commitment to the war on terror, then bringing in John McCain or Joe Lieberman may be the best move for the war.
Came a shriek that resounded for miles...

First of all, the very idea that Bush can regain momentum and swing Congress to his side by caving in to the liberals is nutty. When has showing weakness and appeasement ever helped a president?

Check out John Hinderaker's insightful addendum to a Paul Mirengoff post on (duh) Power Line (I've reparagraphed it, because I have a phobia about big lumps of text):

Here is why I think so many liberals are anxious for President Bush to replace Rumsfeld: they have staked a great deal on the proposition that the Iraq war has not gone well, and, in fact, has been a disaster. But they are troubled because they are not at all sure that is true.

By any reasonable standard, casualties have been low and Iraq's progress toward democracy has been impressive. This doesn't mean the project couldn't still go off the rails; it clearly could. But it is also possible--likely, I think--that the Iraqis will succeed in forming a government, violence will continue to decline, our troops levels will be substantially reduced, and, in a year or two, the consensus will be that the war was pretty successful after all.

This, I think, is what liberals fear most. They want President Bush to stipulate, in effect, that the war has been poorly conducted and has been a failure. That's the way in which firing Rumsfeld would rightly be interpreted.

This would largely insulate liberals against the consequences if the war does, in fact, turn out to be successful. The same logic, I think, explains why liberals are always hectoring President Bush to "admit his mistakes." What they fear, deep down, is that the President's policies haven't been mistakes at all.

The vicar said, "gracious"...

John's point is well taken: where do David Ignatius and Captain Ed get the idea that keelhauling Secretary Rumsfeld would be seen as anything but a complete capitulation to Harry Reid -- as well as the tacit admission that the Democrats have been "right" all along?

Everyone, and I do mean every Man Jack of them, Jack, would take such an action as a sign that the war was a fraud and a terrible failure, the last three years a "complete waste," and that all those soldiers died in vain.

McCain would immediately send an additional several hundred thousand troops, trying to refight Vietnam (and this time winning it, by Jiminy!) Lieberman would sit and stare, a deer in headlights.

It would be an unmitigated political disaster of the first division.

Has Brother Ignatius...

But more to the point, if we step away from politics for a bit -- what makes anyone think that either McCain or Lieberman has the slightest ability to actually run the Department of Defense? It's one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world, full of hotheaded generals (every one of whom knows how to really win this war), with a budget in the hundreds of billions, employees in the millions (including civilians), dealing with tens of thousands of defense contractors, hundreds of other countries (scores of them our enemies), liasing with every other department in the country, and with responsibilities ranging from guarding the White House to housing NORAD and US Strategic Command in Cheyenne Mountain, whence we could unleash nuclear devastation upon the entire world.

And upon that single entity rests the continued existence of the United States of America.

My God, it was bad enough when Clinton stuffed Les Aspin and Bill Cohen into the job (William Perry was at least qualified on paper). I don't care how long somebody has served on the House friggin' Armed Services Committee; that doesn't make him eligible to run the Pentagon. Not even during peacetime.

Rumsfeld was ambassador to NATO and then Chief of Staff to the President of the United States before he was Secretary of Defense the first time -- and even he was arguably unqualified (on paper) back then, though he proved his mettle by successfully fighting Hammerin' Hank Kissinger in a turf war -- and beating him. He was far more qualified in 2001, when Bush appointed him; besides his previous stint as SecDef, he had served as CEO of several multinational corporations by then, as well as on many Defense-oriented administrative boards, commissions, and committees.

Oh, and have we forgotten that Donald Rumsfeld was eight years in the Congress? Obviously, being a Congressman does not automatically mean you can get along well with your colleagues: neither McCain nor Lieberman seems to have much cachet with his own party these days.

Forgotten the bishop has piles?

This is silliness compounding silliness. Let's see if we can all stop panicking long enough to recognize that Donald Rumsfeld is no more a liability today than he was five years ago... and that he has now won two wars, is currently winning one and a half peaces (I only give him half a star for Afghanistan), and has almost singlehandedly -- and successfully -- instituted the biggest change in how we fight wars since Ulysses S. Grant.

Let the man alone to do his job, please.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 15, 2006, at the time of 1:48 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 14, 2006

FEMA Rising

Hatched by Dafydd

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, Richard L. Skinner, has released a long-awaited report on the federal response to Hurricane Katrina; and while the report found a number of areas where FEMA needs improvement, it also completely undermines the major Democratic attacks against the Bush administration.

In general, the report brings much well-deserved praise for the speed and effectiveness of the federal response to the most devastating American hurricane since Galveston was hit by a killer storm in 1900 --

During the response to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA provided record levels of support to victims and emergency responders. Life saving and life sustaining commodities and equipment were delivered to the affected areas; personnel increased significantly in a short period of time to support response efforts and provide assistance to victims; and assistance was provided quickly in record amounts, sometime through innovative means....

-- even while it highlights the need for significant changes, most of which were already being implemented before the DHS Inspector General released this report:

However, a lack of asset visibility in the resource ordering process, inexperienced and untrained personnel, unreliable communications, and insufficient internal management controls demonstrate a continued need for improvement in how FEMA supports its response activities and delivery of assistance.

Curiously, very little of what the IG's report finds wrong with the FEMA response matches the unsourced and bizarre charges hurled against the Bush administration by the Democrats. It's as if they come from two different universes.

The most serious accusations leveled by Democrats against the administration's "dangerously incompetent" response to Katrina were:

  1. That they "were warned" that the levees were going to break;
  2. That they were too slow to react before Katrina made landfall;
  3. That they were "shell shocked," and did not react after the hurricane hit;
  4. That they tried to "blame the victim" (the state of Louisiana) for FEMA's own failures.

By and large, the suggestions made in the report are good and should be implemented ASAP. But most were already in process before the report was published -- and some of the suggested changes were actually underway even before Hurricane Katrina hit.

And on these key charges lodged by Democrats, where the report speaks at all, it tends to exonerate President Bush and FEMA Director Michael "Brownie" Brown.

First, let's get one charge out of the way:

FEMA "was warned" that the levees would break

The Inspector General's report does not address this particular issue. However, Big Lizards has already debunked this false claim earlier: Into the Breach, Dear Friends!, and AP Doubles Down on Katrina Falsehood.

Now, on to the business at hand....

Too slow to react before Katrina hit

Two days and one day before the hurricane made landfall, President Bush declared emergencies in all three states, allowing FEMA to pre-position resources:

[F]ederal emergency declarations were issued for Louisiana on August 27, 2005, and for Mississippi and Alabama on August 28, 2005, authorizing FEMA to begin pre-positioning commodities and emergency management personnel.

And in fact, FEMA did just that, pre-positioning not only water, food, medicine, blankets, and other commodities but also four Urban Search and Rescue teams, emergency-ops vehicles, emergency communications and other support personnel.

In addition, many National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) teams, including Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams, and Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams were activated and pre-staged in the region for deployment as soon as conditions permitted.

Pre-staging areas were set up at NAS Meridian in Mississippi, Maxwell AFB and Craig Field in Alabama, and Camp Beauregard, Barksdale AFB, and the New Orleans Superdome in Louisiana... plus more staging areas in nearby states (Georgia, Florida, and Texas).

FEMA had an extraordinarily active response prior to the hurricane making landfall, regardless of what Democrats later tried to claim.

Too slow to respond after Katrina hit

The report identifies a staggering number of rescue operations conducted by FEMA and other federal personnel under the direction of the DHS, many of which went unreported (or underreported) at the time and have been forgotten in the aftermath of recrimination and finger-pointing:

Rapid Needs Assessment teams were sent into afflicted areas as soon as the winds died down; rescue operations began immediately by national Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) teams, Coast Guard, and active-duty military; these rescue missions saved over 50,000 victims of Hurricane Katrina. Without them, tens of thousands would have died, rather than 1,326.

The USCG performed more than 30,000 rescues in the first week alone -- "more rescues than it performed in all of 2004."

Medical Needs Assessment Teams from FEMA Regions IV and VI were deployed to assess medical needs in the affected area. Over 50 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams were deployed.... Three National Medical Response Teams, five Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams, and three International Medical Surgical Response Teams were activated also.

There certainly were some problems, areas where FEMA needs significant work. But for the most part, these are areas that nobody has been talking about; they were never among the most serious charges made against FEMA Director Michael "Brownie" Brown or President Bush by overanxious Democrats.

For example, the report notes that FEMA lacked an "asset visibility program," by which they appear to mean a database that would allow federal, state, and local responders to know what commodities and personnel were available or on the way. This would certainly be a huge help for future disasters... but I don't recall Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) or Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco complaining about the lack of a database.

What about those levees? The biggest lapse in FEMA's response was indeed with regard to the levees; but it came in the form of a communications breakdown between the field offices and headquarters:

DHS’ Secretary and key FEMA officials said that they did not learn of the first breach of the New Orleans levees until almost 24 hours after it occurred. FEMA staff learned of the breach the morning of August 29, 2005, at the FEMA Operations Center and, separately, through Public Affairs staff that afternoon. The HSOC also received the report through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, the information was not included in the DHS Situation Report until the morning of August 30, 2005, and in the FEMA National Situation Update and National Situation Report until August 31, 2005.

Regardless of when the breaches formally found their way into FEMA reports, it's clear that "boots on the ground" were well aware of the flooding and were dealing with the situation almost as soon as it happened.

Hurricane Katrina made its first landfall in Florida on August 26th at 6:30 pm; it was only a Cat-1 hurricane at that time, and there was little damage. Then it careened back out to sea and picked up strength.

It made its second landfall (the big one) on August 29th at 7:10 am in southeast Louisiana, this time as a Cat-4. Two hours later, the levees were breached. But as soon as the winds died down -- which was right around the time the levees broke -- federal emergency search and rescue, evacuation, and medical teams were already on the ground.

While federal and state coordination in Louisiana was bad (and the New Orleans emergency response was abysmal), Democrats just cannot argue that the federal response was slow. The feds were already on the ground, pre-positioned, and they began rescue operations as soon as it was physically possible to do so... as this report makes brutally clear.

The failures that did occur were higher-order problems that would only become apparent in the aftermath of a catastrophe the size of Katrina.

That they tried to shift responsibility to the states

In fact, FEMA's response in Mississippi and Alabama was markedly better than in Louisiana, and the report indicates (delicately) that this is mostly due to the competent response in the first two -- in contrast with the marked failure of Louisiana's state and local responders to coordinate with FEMA. What we have here is failure to communicate:

Incident command system (ICS) structures and unified command were implemented with varying levels of success in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana during the response to Hurricane Katrina. Mississippi immediately implemented a comprehensive ICS structure and integrated federal, state, and local personnel at all levels in a unified command. Alabama implemented an ICS structure, but at a smaller scale because Hurricane Katrina did not cause the level of damage in Alabama that it did in Mississippi and Louisiana. Louisiana experienced difficulty with fully implementing an ICS structure and establishing a unified command with federal, state, and local officials.

In particular, the Superdome fiasco is emblematic of the state and local failure in Louisiana:

Prior to landfall, FEMA pre-staged five trucks of water and two trucks of MREs at the Superdome. In addition, we were told, a few trucks of commodities were delivered to the Superdome after landfall. However, the unexpected large number of evacuees arriving at the Superdome and other locations within the city was not anticipated nor adequately planned for by state and local authorities. The limited commodities quickly became depleted, people with special needs were not addressed, various stages of civil unrest ensued, and FEMA responders pulled out of the Superdome until order and security could be restored.

Contrast this with the responses in Mississippi and Alabama, the other two states hit hard by the hurricane. Mississippi, under Gov. Haley Barbour (former chairman of the Republican National Committee), did the best:

FEMA’s FCO [Federal Coordinating Officer] and Mississippi’s State Coordinating Officer immediately established a unified command with a comprehensive ICS [Incident Command System] structure. Prior to landfall, FEMA’s Emergency Response Team-Advanced arrived at the state’s EOC [Emergency Operations Center] and began coordinating commodities and personnel for the response. FEMA and state officials told us that after landfall, federal, state, and local counterparts integrated and worked side-by-side to manage the response....

The ICS structure established in Mississippi [by the state] included geographic branches and divisions, and authority was delegated to personnel at the division level. In addition to establishing a unified command with federal, state, and local response personnel, the structure allowed FEMA, state, and local emergency management officials to manage Hurricane Katrina response efforts even though existing resources were overwhelmed according to FEMA and state officials.

Alabama did well too; under Republican Gov. Bob Riley, the state was prepared and flexible in its response to Hurricane Katrina:

FEMA and Alabama Emergency Management Agency personnel worked from the beginning to establish joint objectives and priorities. Joint incident action plans were developed also. Alabama’s FCO recognized that Department of Defense assistance would not be required and, two days after landfall, released the Defense Coordinating Element so it could move to Mississippi for future support operations.

Given the extreme difference in the state responses of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, it is perfectly fair to note that Louisiana, under Gov. Blanco and New Orleans under Mayor Ray Nagin were particularly inept, sluggish, and confused. While not every problem was Louisiana's fault -- there were federal problems, and many of the travails of that state were beyond the control of any mortal -- Louisiana state and New Orleans local governments must shoulder the lion's share of the blame... not the feds, who have never been the primary actors in natural disasters.

What's it all mean?

In the end, the report found many areas where FEMA in particular and the entire federal disaster response in general needed improvement; but they agreed with Big Lizards and most of the rest of the right-side of the blogosphere that the particular charges by Democrats that the Bush response was "dangerously incompetent" were just flatly wrong.

They of course expressed no opinion on the motives of Democrats in bearing such false witness... but I think rampant BDS and the Permanent Democratic Campaign Mode are the most likely suspects.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 14, 2006, at the time of 7:48 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Party's Over, Start Dressing For the Next One

Hatched by Dafydd

With today's announcement by Italy's Interior Ministry that inexplicably lowers the number of disputed ballots in the recent election from 82,850 to 5,266, there is now virtually no chance that the preliminary election results can be overturned... although lame-duck Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is still fighting.

The ministry has no explanation for why they initially gave such a higher number or what made them change the number so drastically:

Earlier this week, the ministry announced there were 82,850 contested ballots in both houses of Parliament — a number that left some room, if not a lot, for Mr. Berlusconi's claim that he won.

In the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, the two men were separated by roughly 25,000 votes, and the initial interior numbers showed 43,028 contested ballots.

But today, the Interior Ministry said the actual number of disputed ballots in the Chamber of Deputies was only 2,131 — a number that could in no way give a victory to Mr. Berlusconi. In the upper house, the Senate, the number was 3,135, a number that also could not change Mr. Prodi's provisional victory.

A statement by the ministry blamed an unexplained "material error" for the incorrect original numbers.

Berlusconi is not suffering defeat gladly, however; he is mulling ordering a massive recount of all one million or so ballots "that were either blank or disqualified." In addition, Mirko Termaglia, his Minister for Italians Living Abroad, has complained about "irregularities" in the ballots of those voters so significant that he wants a revote among them.

While I admire a fighting spirit, there comes a time when the battle becomes more damaging to the country than accepting the vote, stepping down, and fighting to force quick elections again; Italy is a parliamentary democracy, and it's an accepted part of the system to try to force a vote of confidence to "bring down" a government.

It is not accepted, contrariwise, to refuse to accept the results of an election. (Or to take the Al Gore route and try to sue your way into another term... which so far, nobody has suggested, thank goodness.)

Much as I prefer Silvio Berlusconi to fellow-traveler Romano Prodi, who will doubtless severely damage Italy's economy by kowtowing to the two distinct Communist Parties in his Union coalition, it's time for Berlusconi to stop fighting and start campaigning.

Fight on from the loyal opposition; the Union is fragile and likely will not last. Prodi will certainly will lose the people's confidence quickly, as they realize that the Communists, Socialists, and other assorted fruits, nuts, and flakes in his leftist coalition will never allow him to make the economic reforms that he promised during the election.

But the proper place to carry out that fight is from the minority, not by brushing aside the election itself... which is more appropriate to a Latin American banana-republic than a country in the heart of Western Europe.

There are signs that light is beginning to dawn:

Another possibility is to create a question of legitimacy that could make it even more difficult for Mr. Prodi, who holds only a slim majority in Parliament anyway, to govern.

On Thursday, Roberto Maroni, the welfare minister, suggested as much when he dared Mr. Prodi's coalition "to govern if it can. Our aim is devise means by which to ensure that such a government falls as soon as possible."

Berlusconi is losing allies just at the time when he needs to cultivate them. The Prodi government could fall within months, with such a closely divided electorate. But too stubborn a refusal to accept electoral chastisement can end up doing to Silvio Berlusconi what precipitously pulling out of Ariel Sharon's cabinet did to Benjamin Netanyahu: destroy his reputation, torpedo his political career, and leave him ballot-box poison.

Silvio Berlusconi... it's time for you to go.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 14, 2006, at the time of 4:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 13, 2006

Grumbles, the Coincidental Coda

Hatched by Dafydd

If you read the previous post to this, Grumbles From the Griped, you shall understand how amused I was this evening.

After racing to finish that post -- and making the utterly witless mistake of ascribing Gulliver's Travels to Daniel Dafoe instead of Jonathan Swift (duh), may UC Santa Cruz (my alma mater) and Trinity College, Dublin (his) forgive me -- Sachi and I went to the theater to see Shaw's Arms and the Man, which neither of us had seen staged before.

In the second act occurs the following bit of byplay between the Lady Catherine (Bulgarian gentry) and her daughter's fiance, Major Sergius:

CATHERINE
You look superb--splendid. The campaign has improved you. Everybody here is mad about you. We were all wild with enthusiasm about that magnificent cavalry charge.
SERGIUS
(with grave irony)
Madam: it was the cradle and the grave of my military reputation.
CATHERINE
How so?
SERGIUS
I won the battle the wrong way when our worthy Russian generals were losing it the right way. That upset their plans, and wounded their self-esteem.

I jumped, of course. I felt almost like Wilson, in the play Harvey, when he looks up Pooka in the encyclopaedia -- and the entry reads:

P-O-O-K-A --- Pooka -- from old Celtic mythology -- a fairy spirit in animal form -- always very large. The pooka appears here and there -- to this one -- and to that one -- a benign but mischievous creature -- very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?

I feel very dramatic today.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 13, 2006, at the time of 11:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Grumbles From the Griped

Hatched by Dafydd

I must admit, I am less than impressed by the gaggle of retired Army generals (and a couple of ex-Marines) who have lambasted Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recently, as recounted by Thomas Ricks in the Washington Post -- which is sure to be scrupulous about finding any contrary evidence, we all believe.

I noticed several things right off:

  1. These generals appear to be mostly from the Clinton era. Why is that important? Because, while progression through the rank of Colonel is more or less based upon military performance, elevation to flag rank is by direct presidential appointment. They are, in a sense, Clinton appointees.

Typically, presidents don't hand out stars to people who object to their philosophies; think of LBJ and Gen. William Westmoreland. So the first assumption is that if President Bill Clinton elevated an Army colonel to a Brigadier General -- or made him Commander in Chief of CentCom (paging Anthony Zinni) -- that general is probably a Clintonista.

  1. All generals have been in the service for decades. For decades, we have refought World War II -- in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia, and Kosovo... by which I mean using more or less the same tactics (mass bombings, invasion by massive, centrally commanded divisions, and so forth). Those at the warfare styles to which these generals were long accustomed.

Even before the Iraq War, Secretary Rumsfeld embarked upon a revolutionary reformation, not only of how we fight wars but also the entire organization of our military forces. He is pushing towards smaller units, more unit independence (moving command decisions down the ranks), much greater reliance on Special Forces, and a reorganization of units to be self-sufficient rather than specialized.

It's hardly surprising that some men who have invested so much of their lives in one particular way of running a war would be angry, rebellious, and confused by a completely different way of running a war... or that some of them would lash out at the symbol of that change. They are no different from vice presidents at General Motors or IBM who furiously denounce splitting those companies into self-reliant business units instead of the normal corporate divisions they've had for twenty years.

Here are a few snippets from the Washington Post article that I believe tend to prove my case:

[Retired Army MG John] Batiste said he believes that the administration's handling of the Iraq war has violated fundamental military principles, such as unity of command and unity of effort. In other interviews, Batiste has said he thinks the violation of another military principle -- ensuring there are enough forces -- helped create the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal by putting too much responsibility on incompetent officers and undertrained troops.

Unity of command and unity of effort

Literally, the first means a soldier (of any rank) has one and only one commanding officer above him; but when combined with unity of effort, it implies not only bottom to top heirarchy but top to bottom. That is, at each level, the soldier makes only the little decisions and leaves the big decisions to his CO.

From Chapter 4 of the United States Army Field Manual FM 100-5:

Unity of command obtains that unity of effort which is essential to the decisive application of full combat power of the available forces. Unity of effort is furthered by full cooperation between elements of the command.

Wikipedia expands this slightly:

Unity of Command – For every objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort. At all levels of war, employment of military forces in a manner that masses combat power toward a common objective requires unity of command and unity of effort. Unity of command means that all the forces are under one responsible commander. It requires a single commander with the requisite authority to direct all forces in pursuit of a unified purpose.

This has more or less been standard military doctrine for centuries, from Julius Caesar through Washington, Napoleon, Eisenhower, and Westmoreland.

However, in the modern era with modern communications and intelligence technology, this doctrine sometimes leads to soldiers being "over-officered," as in Vietnam -- where a platoon might have a lieutenant in command with them, a major in constant communication from a nearby command truck, a colonel giving direct orders from back at the base, and a general flying overhead demanding to know the situation on the ground every five minutes.

It also can make militaries unwieldy and too slow to react, like the Soviet officers who had to clear every attack with the Kremlin, no matter how urgent it was.

One of Secretary Rumsfeld's reforms is, without question, to bend this doctrine without actually breaking it. Thus, rather than have one fellow ultimately directing every operation in Afghanistan and Iraq, Rumsfeld wants units to operate more or less independently and on their own initiative -- while keeping in contact with the other units around them and bearing in mind the ultimate goals. Rumsfeld believes that the lieutenant, captain, or major on the ground -- or in many cases, the first or master sergeant -- is in a better position to respond quickly and appropriately to situations that can literally change by the minute.

The Colin Powell Doctrine of Overwhelming Force

I'm sure the Powell Doctrine is what MG Batiste means by the principle of "enough forces."

The Powell Doctrine simply asserts that when a nation is engaging in war, every resource and tool should be used to achieve overwhelming force against the enemy. This may oppose the principle of proportionality, but there are grounds to suppose that principles of Just War may not be violated. [Emphasis in original]

Again, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush reject this doctrine as outdated with today's warfare/statecraft challenges... hence, though we used a half a million troops to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), we used a scant 200,000 troops to take over the entire country of Iraq -- though it would have been about 220,000 if the 4ID had been able to traverse Turkey and invade Iraq from the north.

Each doctrine has its attendent advantages and disadvantages; but Secretary Rumsfeld has concluded that contemporary warfare is better handled with the "small footprint" of OIF than the "overwhelming force" of the Gulf War. Clearly, MG Batiste completely disagrees... which is why he felt compelled to leave the Army rather than fight under Donald Rumsfeld.

But the fact that an old general dislikes the new style of warfare is not a refutation of that style. It just means MG Batiste is "Old School." But Old School is not necessary the best school.

Back to the New York Times article:

Last month, another top officer who served in Iraq, retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he called Rumsfeld "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically." Eaton, who oversaw the training of Iraqi army troops in 2003-2004, said that "Mr. Rumsfeld must step down."

Um... wasn't 2003 and 2004 the period during which our training of the Iraqi Army was completely botched? There was a lot of controversy at the time among those who thought we should have just kept the Baathist Iraqi Army and put new commanders in charge. The training during this period was a disaster, with Iraqi Army units literally fleeing in panic from the insurgents and the terrorists, the first Fallujah campaign (where the Iraqi Army let Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia escape), and so forth.

I don't grant MG Eaton much credibility to talk about what Rumsfeld is doing wrong!

"The problem is that we've wasted three years" in Iraq, said [retired Marine Gen. Anthony] Zinni, who was the chief of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, in the late 1990s. He added that he "absolutely" thinks Rumsfeld should resign.

Zinni is the epitome both of an Old School general and a Clintonista. To say we've "wasted three years" in Iraq is so absurd and demeaning to the troops -- including Marines -- that only politics can explain (but not excuse) it.

I know the Left is going to make much of this; but citing this as a "scandal" is just another iteration of their tired, old approach: find a controversial issue -- then quote only one side, to make it appear as if the other side is indefensible. In closing, I quote myself quoting Robert Anton Wilson channeling Lemuel Gulliver as could have been written by Jonathan Swift:

And so these Learned Men, having Inquir'd into the Case for the Opposition, discover'd that the Opposition had no Case and were Devoid of Merit, which was what they Suspected all along, and they arriv'd at this Happy Conclusion by the most Economical and Nice of all Methods of Enquiry, which was that they did not Invite the Opposition to confuse Matters by Participating in the Discussion.

Wilson, Robert Anton, "The Persecution and Assassination of the Parapsychologists as Performed by the Inmates of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Under the Direction of the Amazing Randi," Right Where You Are Sitting Now, And/Or Press, 1982, p. 67.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 13, 2006, at the time of 7:51 PM | Comments (49) | TrackBack

Argument By Redefinition - Again

Hatched by Dafydd

So now we have a new "civil war," according to the creative redefinition of the New York Times. This one is in India, of all places -- and the other side of the supposed "civil war" are the Maoist guerillas in the northern mountain regions in the Himalayas, hard up against war-torn Nepal, and the poor, indiginous, central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

The comparison with Nepal is instructive. This is from the introductory paragraph from the Nepal entry of the CIA's World Factbook:

A Maoist insurgency, launched in 1996, has gained traction and is threatening to bring down the regime, especially after a negotiated cease-fire between the Maoists and government forces broke down in August 2003....

In October 2002, the new king dismissed the prime minister and his cabinet for "incompetence" after they dissolved the parliament and were subsequently unable to hold elections because of the ongoing insurgency....

Citing dissatisfaction with the government's lack of progress in addressing the Maoist insurgency and corruption, the king in February 2005 dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency, imprisoned party leaders, and assumed power. The King's government subsequently released party leaders and officially ended the state of emergency in May 2005.

Gentle readers, that is what a real civil war plus Communist insurgency looks like. So what does the fighting in India look like, according to the Times?

Mr. Markam's ragtag forces, who hew to Mao's script for a peasant revolution, fought a seemingly lost cause for so long, they were barely taken seriously beyond India's desperately wanting forest belt. But not anymore.

Today the fighting that Mr. Markam has quietly nurtured for 25 years looks increasingly like a civil war, one claiming more and more lives and slowing the industrial growth of a country hungry for the coal, iron and other riches buried in these isolated realms bypassed by India's economic boom.

While the far more powerful Maoist insurgency in neighboring Nepal has received greater attention, the conflict in India, though largely separate, has gained momentum, too. In the last year, it has cost nearly a thousand lives.

"Mr. Markam" is Gopanna Markam, "company commander" of some Maoist guerilla gang that even the Times admits is "ragtag." Yet Markam and his "company" are the subjects of this puff piece, which reads almost like the Times has become a PR firm for the Indian Communist insurgency. The "article" begins thus:

The gray light of dawn broke over the bamboo forest as the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army prepared for a new day.

With transistor radios tucked under their arms, the soldiers listened to the morning news and brushed their teeth. A few young recruits busied themselves making a remote-control detonator for explosives.

The company commander, Gopanna Markam, patiently shaved.

"We have made the people aware of how to change your life through armed struggle, not the ballot," said Mr. Markam, who is in his mid-40's, describing his troops' accomplishments. "This is a people's war, a protracted people's war."

The rest of the piece drips with respect, even awe at the sincerity and success of this band of brothers:

Mr. Markam and his Maoist forces appear undaunted. They drill in their forest redoubts. They haul villagers to propaganda meetings. They build their own weapons, including crude pistols and mortars.

To see them in their jungle camp, sleeping on tarpaulins, armed with antiquated rifles and pistols, with no real territory under their full control, it is difficult to fathom how they have maintained their movement for so long, let alone expanded it across such a wide swath of the country.

Throughout, the writer -- Somini Sengupta -- takes at face value every wild claim of the Communists, as well as the equally fanciful and agenda-driven claims of local cops hoping for national funding from New Delhi. Whenever he describes some atrocity committed by the Communists -- using "child soldiers," for example -- he partners it with some similar atrocity committed by local anti-Communist insurgents; he plays the "moral equivalency" card like the ace of trump.

Mr. Sengupta's argument is simply to assert that the low level of violence and mayhem caused by the Maoists "looks increasingly like a civil war"... which he can only maintain by redefining the meaning of the term "civil war," just as other liberals do for Iraq.

Here, from the CIA World Factbook's entry on India, is the only reference to "Maoist insurgents." It's found at the end under Transnational Issues:

India maintains a strict border regime to keep out Maoist insurgents and control illegal cross-border activities from Nepal.

Note there is nothing here about the Maoists "threatening the bring down the regime" or India being "unable to hold elections because of the ongoing insurgency."

Is India in an actual "civil war" with the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army? What evidence does Mr. Sengupta muster? After all, if "attacks have become more brazen and better coordinated," as he claims, what kinds of attacks are we talking about?

  • The Maoists "robbed two banks and looted arms from a police station" last June;
  • In November, they "orchestrated a jailbreak," freeing 300 prisoners and murdering (Mr. Sengupta writes "executing") nine security guards;
  • In February, they stole 19 tons of explosives from a government warehouse, again murdering (Mr. Sengupta writes "killing") nine security guards.
  • Later that month, they set off a land mine under a truck convoy, murdering 28 people (at least this time, Mr. Sengupta uses the word "butchering;" but then, this time the victims weren't security guards).

Pardon my local pride, but Southern California street gangs, from the Crips to the Bloods to MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha), have done worse than that (albeit with guns, not land mines) in the last eight months... and California has a total population of 36 million, only 3% that of India.

Mr. Sengupta somberly informs us that "in the last year, it has cost nearly a thousand lives." Later, he refines that calculation: "so far this year, the conflict has killed nearly two Indians a day" (which would be something less than 730). I'm not sure how "nearly" 730 becomes "nearly" 1,000 -- perhaps he has created a new version of addition to compliment his new definition of "civil war." In any event, 730 people killed in India -- even in the sparsely populated regions of the countrh -- is considerably below any threshold of "war" that I would accept, civil or otherwise.

This is the state of debate in what is allegedly the premier news source of the entire class of antique media: there is a "civil war" in India because the Times says so; there is a "civil war" in Iraq because the Old Gray Lady thinks it fit to print that there is. When words are redefined to mean anything you want, they instead wind up meaning nothing at all.

Yes of course; deliberately evocative of the famous "G.K. Chesterton" quotation (which he actually never said, appropriately enough, though he more or less implied it):

When a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t then believe in nothing... he believes anything.

-- Anonymous

Nobody would deny that Communist terrorists in India are a serious problem; nobody would deny that it's a crime when an innocent person is murderd, whether by militant Islamists, by Communists, or even by counter-insurgency forces overreacting.

But if we lose the ability to discriminate between the low-level, low-intensity terrorist campaign in India, the bloodier but even less coherent string of terrorist attacks in Iraq -- and the full scale civil wars found in Nepal, Bosnia, and Rwanda, then we lose the ability to respond appropriately to each challenge. Imagine a person who could not discriminate between being verbally insulted, being pushed, and being shot.

Arguing with a liberal is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. They move the goal posts; they lower the bar; they simply cannot help themselves... it's in their natures. See Æsop's fable "the Scorpion and the Frog" -- which, true to the rest of this post, is not actually one of Æsop's fables.

But at least on this side of the aisle, we're honest about our lies!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 13, 2006, at the time of 5:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dashed, Slashed, Trashed, and Crashed

Hatched by Dafydd

The last hope of Democrats has just been smashed that the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was going to produce some smoking gun implicating President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or Evil Overlord Karl Rove in l'affaire Plame.

In the latest filings from Libby's lawyers, they explicitly say that nobody told Libby to release or discuss the Plame name:

Libby's lawyers underscored that point in their response last night. "Consistent with his grand jury testimony, Mr. Libby does not contend that he was instructed to make any disclosures concerning Ms. Wilson by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or anyone else,'' they said.

Look for Democrats simply to drop the argument without regret, explanation, admission, or apology and just change the subject -- their usual response to refutation -- to the new smear du jour. This case is closed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 13, 2006, at the time of 2:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 12, 2006

Something Added to This Picture

Hatched by Dafydd

This bizarre Italian election story just got bizarrer.

In the New York Times' story about the recount underway in the Italian elections -- where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (our best pal in continental Europe) is clinging to power by a thread that may snap at any moment -- the Times glosses over a rather startling piece of news.

First, here is what Reuters said yesterday:

Among the possible problems were 43,028 "disputed" votes in the lower house count that official scrutineers had decided to annul despite their doubts as to whether the ballots had really had been spoilt or not.

Berlusconi said he wanted those disputed votes reviewed.

As well he should. But the job just quietly got bigger. Here is today's Times:

Today, the Italian Interior Ministry said that a re-examination had begun on about 80,000 disputed ballots, the first step toward a final result that may soon clarify a troubling moment of uncertainty here.

How did 40,028 turn into "about 80,000" -- in a single day? And doesn't this merit some notice, maybe even an explanation?

This is really starting to get interesting. But if Warren Christopher and his entourage begin packing their bags, I think we should impound their passports.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 12, 2006, at the time of 6:34 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Something Missing From This Picture

Hatched by Dafydd

Pore through this small story on the election yesterday in the California 50th congressional district, which Big Lizards covered in Legacy of a Duke: Republicans Rock!

Here is the New York Times' entire discussion of the vote results. See if you can guess the missing piece:

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting early Wednesday, Busby had 56,147 votes, or 44 percent. Bilbray had 19,366 votes, or 15 percent, followed by Roach, a political newcomer who spent $1.8 million on his own campaign, who had 18,486 votes, or 14 percent, according to unofficial results.

Notice anything missing? (Audioize the Final Jeopardy theme running in the background.)

Suppose you're a casual reader, and you want to predict whether the Democrats or the Republicans will win the seat in the June runoff. What would you calculate? "Hm... the Democrat got 44%, but the Republicans, even added together, only got 29%. Obviously, this race is a lock for the Democrats!"

The "missing link" is the Times' failure to report that besides Bilbray and Roach, there were a dozen other Republicans... and that in reality, if you add together all the Republican votes, they got over 53% for an absolute majority. But you'd never know it if all you read is the New York Times.

Lest you think this is merely an oversight, the Times did manage to find one (1) Republican voter to quote:

John Towers, a 51-year-old Republican who voted for Roach, said he felt betrayed not only by Cunningham, but by the policies of the Bush administration.

''I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of Republicans are so disgusted they just stay home,'' said Towers, of Cardiff.

"Media Madness" indeed!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 12, 2006, at the time of 4:52 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Legacy of a Duke: Republicans Rock!

Hatched by Dafydd

No, not the Duke; the other Duke, disgraced and convicted former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, once R-CA.

Yesterday, an election was held to fill the congressional seat vacated by Cunningham (on the specious grounds that a criminal can't serve in Congress -- as if that hadn't happened before!) The race was touted as an important bellwether of the fate of the Republican majority in the Congressional elections next November.

Let Jay Cost of Real Clear Politics explain the importance of California's 50th District:

If the Democrats are going to net 15, they are going to have to do very well with the open seats. There are only about 7 of them, including CA 50, that are on the table for the Democrats. Unseating incumbents is a very difficult job these days. They will need to take all 7 of these open seats to take the House - thus, they will have to take CA 50. Losing CA 50 means that they will have to defeat 11 to 14 incumbent Republicans. That sounds easy, but putting together an 11- to 14-person list entitled "Republicans Who Will Definitely Lose" is very hard to do.

This is not to say, however, that CA 50 is a sufficient condition for the Democrats to capture the House. In other words, winning CA 50 is not a sign that the Republican majority is doomed, or even is in serious jeopardy. [Emphasis added]

Cost notes several points in the Democrats' favor in CA-50... advantages which make the district atypically likely to flip from R to D (which is why it means little for the Democrats to win but a lot if they lose):

  • The district used to be strongly Republican; but lately, it has barely trended above the national average of Republican sentiment. Thus, the other seats Democrats must take to regain the House are by and large more conservative than is CA-50.
  • This is a district (as we all know) whose Republican representative turned out to be a crook... as in indicted, pled guilty, sentenced, currently enjoying a hundred-month stretch in Butner Fed. Obviously, that should tend to depress the Republican turnout; even if the Democrats take it this year, they could easily lose it again in 2008.
  • Finally, here's one that Jay Cost didn't note. I don't know where he lives, so perhaps he doesn't know that the California Republican Party is peculiarly incompetent; it comprises the most bumbling bunch of simpletons of any state GOP in the United States.

    It's a biannual astonishment that they even manage to win their safe seats, let alone the difficult ones. They are not representative of Republican Parties in other states, whose leaders don't actually pick fleas off each other and peel bananas with their feet, as ours do.

There was only one strong Democrat running in the race, Francine Busby, a member of the Cardiff School Board. The other Democratic candidate, Chris Young, barely registered in polls.

There were a bunch of Republicans, however: fourteen to be exact. Because of multiple candidates, there were only two likelihoods:

  1. Francine Busby might win more than 50% of the vote; if so, she would be elected immediately to fill the remainder of the term.
  2. Busby might win only a plurality; in this case, there would be a runoff on June 6th -- the same day as the primary for the November election.

Possibility (1) was the best hope for the Democrats, of course, since they would have the seat immediately; while (2) was the best that Republicans could hope for: with so many of them running, there was no chance that any would get more votes than Democrat Francine Busby. The real question, however, was how many votes would fall to each party.

For example, it was entirely possible that Busby might win only a plurality... but her votes combined with Chris Young might top 50%. Alternatively, it's possible that the Democrats, Libertarian, and Independent might together deny the Republicans a majority. Either of these would have made the June 6th runoff very dicey indeed, as the top Republican would have to pull votes from other parties to have a chance of winning.

The final results are now available; note that we have highlighted all the Republican candidates in bright blue type:

Results of California 50th District Special Election (100% precincts counted)
Candidate Party Percent of the Vote
Francine Busby Democratic 43.92
Brian P. Bilbray Republican 15.15
Eric Roach Republican 14.46
Howard Kaloogian Republican 7.45
Bill Morrow Republican 5.39
Alan Uke Republican 4.00
Richard Earnest Republican 2.15
Bill Hauf Republican 1.59
Scott Turner Republican 1.43
Chris Young Democrat 1.32
William Griffith Independent 0.82
Victor E. Ramirez Republican 0.66
Paul King Libertarian 0.60
Jeff Newsome Republican 0.43
Scott Orren Republican 0.24
Delecia Holt Republican 0.19
Bill Boyer Republican 0.15
Milton Gale Republican 0.04

Here is the breakdown by party:

  • Libertarian: 0.60%
  • Independent: 0.82%
  • Democrat: 45.24%
  • Republican: 53.33%

This party breakdown tells us two things: first, that the "third parties" in fact played no role at all in this election; their performance was less than pathetic. But second and most important, in the race between the Democrats and the Republicans, the GOP outpolled their rivals by more than 8%.

In fact, even if we only count those Republicans who finished ahead of the number-two Democrat, that still adds up to an absolute majority of the vote (51.62%). This bodes very well for the Republicans retaining the 50th District of California... hence, by Jay Cost's analysis, of retaining the House of Representatives.

The runoff will be between Francine Busby (D) and Brian Bilbray (R), the two top vote getters; if the Republicans rally behind Bilbray, the seat is easily held.

If the Democrats cannot collectively get to 50% -- or at least hold the Republicans below 50% -- in a district that is so stacked in their favor as this one is... they will have a long, uphill battle ahead of them to capture Congress.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 12, 2006, at the time of 5:11 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 11, 2006

Israeli Gears

Hatched by Dafydd

Everytime I hear Fred and Mort, or Michael Medved, or any of (it seems) an endless parade of "pundents" opine that we don't need to go after Iran ourselves, because we can just leave it to Israel to take out those pesky nukes... all right, I cringe. I admit it.

This is what I call the Magical Israel Syndrome: the quasi-spiritualist belief in the godlike, supernatural power of the tiny nation of Israel. All they need do is wave a magic yarmulke or toot a mystical shofar, and send the Persian walls a-tumblin' down!

The reality is that the United States is probably the only country in the world that has a chance of hitting nearly all Iran's nuclear research and development sites -- admittedly with intelligence help from the Jewish state. Only we can damage them enough to set them back a few years.

Such a strike requires a coordinated air attack of hundreds of planes and missiles over several days: some to knock out the air defenses, some to jam enemy communications, others to look down upon the battlefield and coordinate the attacks, to engage and destroy enemy fighters, to assess damage after it's over... wait, I'm forgetting something; oh yes -- and actual bombers to drop bombs, since no way would a missile barrage be sufficient. (Necessary but not sufficient.)

It would be much larger than Clinton's 1998 bombing of Iraq (Operation Desert Fox), which used Navy and Marine Corps planes flying off the USS Enterprise, Air Force fighters and B-52 heavy bombers, and a British contingent. The Iran strike will probably be similar in size to the air attacks that preceded the Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Israel has absolutely no experience doing any of this. When was the last time they were at war with a nation that had relatively sophisticated air defenses -- the Yom Kippur War of 1973? They certainly don't have to think about any such coordinated attacks when they shoot a Hellfire missile at the operational leader du jour of Hamas or PIJ. Nor did they use any significant air power when they swept through the West Bank a few years ago, or when they move into Gaza these days.

Israel's 1981 bombing of Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor consisted of eight F-16 Fighting Falcons (a total of sixteen one-tonne bombs) and six F-15 Strike Eagles; it just wasn't in the same universe as what we're talking about against Iran, where there are a score of sites that have publicly been revealed -- plus (I've heard) potentially hundreds of other facilities that should be hit at the same time, else they would simply move the nuclear development to one of them.

We are the only country on the planet with recent experience in such massive attacks; I don't think Great Britain's experience in Dresden (or the Falklands) would be much help.

Israel got its "magical" reputation because of the War of Independence, the Six Day War, and the Yom Kippur War; but the most recent of those was 33 years ago. Besides, those were primarily ground-force battles with troops and tanks. The Israeli Air Force did destroy the Egyptian airfields at the start of the Six Day War, to prevent the handful of Egyptian [Soviet] Badgers from obliterating entire Israeli tank divisions with their huge 20,000-pounders; but Egypt had few sophisticated air defenses... and I believe what they had, they had turned off for some reason.

Folks, Israel is not some gigantic war machine that can just grind through Iranian air defenses and do our dirty work for us. Israel will be invaluable in such an assult; their large number of human spies on the ground in Iran can give us targeting information that we couldn't get any other way, along with alerting us to facilities we might never have known existed. But we will have to do all the heavy lifting ourselves.

Forget Magical Israel Syndrome. If anyone is to attack the Iranian nuclear sites -- it will have to be the United States of America, possibly with British backup, fighter escort, and other ancillary aid. We cannot shuffle our battles off onto the Israelis.

It's like in To Kill a Mockingbird: when the time comes, Atticus Finch has to shoot down the mad dog himself. He can't call the cops or ask Scout to do it for him.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2006, at the time of 11:56 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Clams Got Legs! Well... Maybe Not

Hatched by Dafydd

This is one of the few times I cannot legitimately add this post to the category "Media Madness," because on this occasion, the antique media has actually done a pretty creditable job.

The first point to note is that the glib simplification "Iran's gone nuclear!" misses a critical mass of distinctions. What Iran announced today is that they have enriched Uranium Hexafluoride gas (Hex) to about 3.5%.

Yet it is a setback for President Bush, who declared on Monday that one of his goals was to make sure that Iran never obtained the knowledge of how to enrich uranium, even at research-scale levels. They appear to have already passed that point. And if the Iranians have achieved what they said, they clearly would eventually be able to expand the process on an industrial scale and, if they were determined to do so, enrich the uranium to levels that could produce an atomic weapon.

But so far the quanitities that the country has produced appear to be miniscule, and the enrichment level they announced today — 3.5 percent — is far short of what would be required for a weapon.

As we discussed before, there are two kinds of Uranium, only one of which -- 235U -- is really useful in a bomb (because it's less stable). To make a useful bomb (or nuclear power plant), you have to increase the percent of 235U in the sample from its natural level of 0.72% to some higher percentage. Typically, a reactor uses nuclear fuel enriched to 3% - 5%, and a modern-day nuclear weapon uses fuel enriched to 85% - 90%. It is possible, however, to make a "quick and dirty" nuclear bomb that will explode with only slightly more than 20% enrichment -- the threshold for Highly Enriched Uranium.

(Between 2% and 20% is considerered Low Enriched; 0.9% to 2% is Slightly Enriched; and below 0.9% is Natural Uranium.)

The other component of Uranium is 238U; the little, superscripted number to the left refers to the isotope's atomic weight. Since 238U is slightly heavier than 235U, they are often separated by putting the Hex into a cylinder and spinning it really fast; some of the heavier 238U will separate from the lighter isotope. The device that does this is called a gas centrifuge... and the more you have, the faster you can enrich Uranium.

Typically, a country will use many gas centrifuges, and will run the enriched gas through the separation cycle again and again, leading to higher and higher levels of enrichment. This is called a "cascade," at which Iran has been beavering away for at least the last seven years, and probably since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

If Iran is telling the truth about their level of enrichment, what it has gotten now is a very small amount of Uranium enriched to reactor level... but far below bomb level. That is, however, a big "if." Since Iran has repeatedly lied throughout this crisis -- and since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knows very well that admitting to enrichment any greater than 3% - 3.5% would force the entire world to admit that Iran was headed for nuclear weapons -- he would likely say "3.5%" whether it was really 3.5% or really 7.5%.

So Iran may be a lot closer to bomb-grade Uranium than they're willing to admit.

Even so, it seems highly doubtful they could possibly be anywhere near even the 20% enrichment necessary for a crappy nuke, let alone the 85% needed for a more effective, modern bomb. Still, this announcement makes it very clear there's no stopping them... at least not diplomatically. We had better be prepared for military action -- and sooner rather than later:

Mr. Ahmadinejad also said that Iran was treading a path for the production of industrial fuel and that the country's nuclear activities have been "under complete, unprecedented" supervision by the I.A.E.A.

"Today we are interested to operate under I.A.E.A. supervision what has been achieved. And what is going to be achieved in the future is within the framework of the rights of the nation."

Translating from Ahmadinejad-ese, I think he is asserting that Iran has the right to do whatever it wants within its own borders. Which might be a reasonable argument -- if this were a question of "rights" (of nations or otherwise). But we're less concerned about what "rights" Iran may have than we are with our own national security; one way or another, President Bush will not allow Iran to "go nuclear" (in the nuclear-bomb sense) on his watch:

President Bush on Monday repeated his determination to block Iran from gaining the kind of technical expertise from small-scale enrichment that could become the basis for a larger program capable of producing weapons. "We do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon," he said.

We're not the only ones worrying about this, of course. But the international bodies that could actually do something effective about the problem (short of a military strike) -- if they had the will -- are yet again trapped by their own internal tug-of-angst, just as they were anent Iraq....

On Wednesday night, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, is scheduled to arrive in Tehran to make another appeal for the country to halt its enrichment program and avoid a confrontation with the West. Iranian officials said that Mr. ElBaradei would face a changed situation, and American officials say they suspect that Iran's strategy is to portray its effort as a fait accompli that cannot be reversed.

Here is the situation on a nutshell, as Big Lizards sees it:

  1. Iran admits they have a working gas-centrifuge cascade that can enrich Uranium;
  2. However, they only admit to the 164 centrifuges at their Natanz Research Facility (aboveground);

The latest on this point came from former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani:

Earlier in the day, Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who is the head of an important national security council, told the Kuwait News Agency that Iran's nuclear scientists had enriched uranium using a cascade of 164 centrifuges.

An official at the I.A.E.A., who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the announcements appeared to refer to an older cascade at the nuclear center at Natanz. That cascade would be able to enrich uranium by the small amount needed for use as fuel in a nuclear reactor, but producing weapons-grade uranium would require a far larger installation, he said.

Rafsanjani, however, is not the final word; we have reason to believe the Iranians are lying about this, too.

  1. The United States and the United Kingdom, contrariwise, believe that the Iranians are working on a much larger, belowground facility at Natanz, one that houses as many as 4,000 gas centrifuges.

This disturbing claim comes via to the left-wing Guardian newspaper of Great Britain (what used to be the Manchester Guardian):

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.

If true, this completely changes all the calculations about how fast Iran could actually spin-up their Hex to actual weapons-grade Uranium.

  1. The Iranians admit to enriching only up to reactor-grade, 3.5%;
  2. But since negotiations began in earnest in 1998, the Iranians have consistently lied, been caught, admitted the lie, and then lied again -- often about the very subject they just got caught lying about last time. We cannot trust any of their claims;
  3. However, we probably have a reasonably good idea ourselves (or through intel from Israel, which has a lot more spies in Iran than they ever had in Iraq) of how much enrichment Iran has actually achieved;

Since John Bolton, our representative to the United Nations, is not literally running around with his hair on fire, which he would be if Iran had achieved anything close to 20% -- well, all right... metaphorically on fire -- I think it safe to conclude that it's somewhere between 3.5% and, say, 7% - 8%. Probably on the lower side of that divide (maybe 5%?)

Still, there is absolutely no doubt about it: it's toll the tocsin time. I sure as heck hope the reports are accurate that we have "advanced plans" for attacking Iran... because at this pace, we're gonna need 'em within months, not years.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2006, at the time of 7:03 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Strange Doin's In the City of Seven Hills

Hatched by Dafydd

The controversy over the Italian elections continues apace. First of all, according to the Associated Press, although the counting of votes from Italians living abroad is not yet completed, the Interior Ministry has already leapt to allocate four of the six Senate seats those votes decide to Romano Prodi, giving him a plurality of seats in the Senate of the Republic -- 158 out of 322.

In the Senate, the Interior Ministry assigned Prodi's coalition four of six seats chosen by Italians voting abroad. The tally gave Prodi a total of 158 seats to 156 for Berlusconi, leaving Prodi the minimum necessary to claim majority the house. The ministry assigned the seats on its Web site, even though full returns from overseas polling stations weren't completely tabulated.

Now perhaps it's mathematically impossible for Silvio Berlusconi's House of Liberty coalition to win three seats; but it's still rather unseemly for an official government organ to assign seats on the basis of a projection of the vote.

Second, Reuters reports that more than 43,000 ballots were not counted, even though election officials weren't actually in agreement that they were spoilt:

Among the possible problems were 43,028 "disputed" votes in the lower house count that official scrutineers had decided to annul despite their doubts as to whether the ballots had really had been spoilt or not.

Berlusconi said he wanted those disputed votes reviewed.

He also said there were "many irregularities" in votes from Italians living abroad. This foreign vote proved crucial in the Senate, enabling Prodi to claim his eventual lead.

Prodi's declared victory in the Chamber of Deputies was by only 25,000 votes; if officials counted those disputed 43,000 ballots, and if Berlusconi won 80% of them, he would have a sliver of plurality over Prodi... another sense in which these Italian elections are like the Florida 2000 contest, where absentee ballots from Florida soldiers were deliberately excluded by Democratic election officials (on the basis of a memo from the Democratic Party instructing election boards in various ways that military ballots could be annulled).

We (here in America) don't yet know why those ballots were excluded, who decided to exclude them, where they're from, and how likely they are to support Berlusconi so heavily. I'm not sure the Italians even know that much yet. But until those questions are answered, a great cloud hangs over this election.

There is time to settle much of this before Prodi attempts to form a new government. Reuters:

Parliament is due to convene for the first time on April 28 and under the Italian constitution it is up to the president to nominate a new government after consultation with party leaders.

But the transition process is further complicated by the fact that [Italian President Carlo Azeglio] Ciampi's mandate expires next month and he wants his successor to oversee the appointment of the next administration.

Political analysts say that even in a best case scenario, it might take two months for a government to be sworn in.

That is actually more time than it took us to resolve the 2000 election dispute -- and that included two decisions by the Supreme Court of Florida and two decisions by the United States Supreme Court, overturning the scofflaw SCOFLA.

If it's not resolved one way or another fairly soon, a revote may be in the offing.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2006, at the time of 2:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Roma Rinse Repeat

Hatched by Dafydd

The Italian elections are eerily reminiscent of our own contest of 2000, when Gov. George W. Bush prevailed over Vice President Al Gore by the narrowest of margins -- a total of 537 votes in Florida. With 5,962,657 votes cast in Florida's presidential contest, Bush's margin of victory was 0.009%.

The results of the ballot count shows Romano Prodi's leftist coalition, called the Union, taking a very narrow lead (49.80% to 49.73%) over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's House of Liberty coalition in the lower house of Italy's parliament, the Chamber of Deputies.

But partial results show House of Liberty leading by one seat in the upper house, the Senate of the Republic (155 to 154). There are, however, six Senate seats voted upon by Italians living abroad; if the Union wins 4 of them, they will be ahead in the Senate as well as the Chamber of Deputies. It the vote ends up with the House of Liberty ahead in the Senate, it will be a rare split vote.

In order to form a government, one coalition must win both houses; a split vote typically means a caretaker government of "technocrats" rule until a new election can be held.

While the margin in Italy's vote, which mostly concluded yesterday, is not quite Florida close, it's close enough that current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Bush's best bud in continental Europe, is calling for a recount:

Even though votes from Italians living abroad remained uncounted, and results showed Mr. Berlusconi ahead in the upper house of Parliament, Mr. Prodi appeared just before 3 a.m. to his supporters in central Rome to claim victory.

"We've won," he said. "Now we have to work to change Italy. We have to work for the unity of this country."

But Mr. Berlusconi's chief spokesman, Paolo Buonaiuti, said the celebration was premature. "The House of Liberty contests that the center-left has politically won the elections," he said in a statement, referring to Mr. Berlusconi's center-right coalition.

There are currently eleven parties in the Union, ranging from the Daisy-Democracy Is Freedom party to the Federation of the Greens (a Socialist political party, not an association of golf courses) to a couple of flavors of Communists: the Communist Refoundation Party and the Party of Italian Communists (no word whether the People's Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front will be invited in).

However, I cannot find out which party in particular Prodi belongs to; he seems to be member at large of the coalition itself. Silvio Berlusconi is the head of the Forza Italia ('go ahead Italy") party, which he founded in 1994; FI belongs to the House of Liberty center-right coalition.

There is not much more to say until the final votes come in. Prodi's current margin in the Chamber of Deputies is about 25,000 votes; and there are those six outstanding Senate seats to be decided by the votes of Italians living abroad. After a recount -- with or without hanging chads -- and after the final Senate seats are allocated, we will know Berlusconi's fate.

In 1996, then Prime Minister Berlusconi was defeated by a coalition called the Olive Tree -- headed by Romano Prodi.

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

-- "the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon," Karl Marx, 1852

It's worth noting, however, that the polling was very, very off in this election... in the Left's favor, as it typically is here:

During the campaign — a particularly ugly one by Italian standards — polls consistently showed Mr. Berlusconi as much as five points behind....

The first voter surveys on Monday seemed to show that his reign was over: Two polls showed Mr. Prodi's coalition taking both houses with margins of 5 percent, and center-left leaders walked right to the edge of jubilation....

But as actual results began flowing in from Italy's 20 regions, victory for Mr. Prodi seemed far from clear.

The question is, did Berlusconi actually have a sudden surge of support at the very end of the campaign, when he proposed eliminating a property tax? Or was the polling biased against him all along?

In any event, if Berlusconi dodges the bullet this time, and there is a revote, it may be good for him. With the polls consistently showing him losing to Prodi, voters who might otherwise have supported Berlusconi may have stayed home, discouraged.

But if the pair split the vote and there is a revote called, those voters might come home, giving Berlusconi more of a victory than he would have if he slightly edged Prodi's Union coalition in a recount of the last vote. Although he would have the same number of votes in the Chamber of Deputies -- Italian election law gives the winner 341 out of 630 seats, regardless of the margin of victory -- his coalition would be more stable.

If Prodi's win in the Chamber of Deputies is confirmed and he also wins the Senate of the Republic, he will form a Leftist/Communist government. But in this case, many are predicting it won't last more than six months.

Of course, it's Italy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2006, at the time of 7:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 10, 2006

A Few More Good Men (and Women)

Hatched by Sachi

Back in September 2005, the antique media emitted a collective primal scream about the Army facing the "Worst Recruiting Slump in Years," as the Associated Press put it (rather triumphally).

So why is it that this good news gets hardly any attention at all? Could it be just because -- it is good news?

USA Today reports that in the first six months of this fiscal year (October 1st, 2005 through March 31st, 2006), the Army had an incredibly good soldier-retention rate (15% above the re-enlistment goal) plus new recruit numbers that actually slightly exceed the recruitment goal, even with the new, higher recruitment targets:

The Army was 15% ahead of its re-enlistment goal of 34,668 for the first six months of fiscal year 2006, which ended March 31. More than 39,900 soldiers had re-enlisted, according to figures scheduled to be released today by the Army.

Strong retention has helped the Army offset recruiting that has failed to meet its targets as the war in Iraq has made it harder to attract new soldiers. The Army fell 8% short of its goal of recruiting 80,000 soldiers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, although it is exceeding its goal this year. Army recruiting figures for the first half of the year are to be released today.

Note an interesting point: the Army missed its new recruitment goal last fiscal year by 6,400 soldiers. But in fact, since they retained an extra 5,000+ soldiers over the reenlistment target, the actual shortfall was only about 1,000 soldiers. This year, they're meeting their target of 80,000 new recruits -- and if reenlistment rates keep up this pace, the Army will likely have as many as 10,000 more experienced soldiers than they planned.

That would more than make up the slight shortfall of 2005... which means they'll probably have to stop accepting new recruits sometime in the next few months: no vacancy!

In fact, Army retention numbers have been exceeding the goal for the last five years. Bear in mind, these are the guys who actually have been to the war zone and fought there (the Marines have always exceeded their enlistment targets; the Army was the only short service among active duty branches). These reenlisted soldiers know what to expect... and evidently, they want to stay and fight.

That says a lot more about our troops' morale than any number of misleading Zogby surveys.

Soldiers like the Army, "and the war is not causing people to leave," says Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman. Through March, 2,325 U.S. troops had been killed in Iraq; 1,593 were Army soldiers.

When I had a chance to talk to a Navy captain back in February, he said the same thing: there are actually too many sailors reenlisting, and he had to turn away many.

Not only is the war "not causing people to leave," it's attracting recruits and reenlistments in droves. Our military now has a higher percentage of experienced and motivated warriors than any time since directly after World War II. And we're still getting plenty of young kids, as well; the Army is not turning into the "fat, gray line," as many feared we would. We still have many "citizen soldiers;" it's not an army of nothing but career professionals.

The future of our military is very bright, indeed.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 10, 2006, at the time of 9:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Dear Stephen Laffey of Rhode Island:

Hatched by Dafydd

Can I call you Steve? All right, sorry.

Mr. Laffey, have I got a campaign spot for you. Please use this in your upcoming primary race against Sen. Lincoln Chafee (?-RI) for the Republican nomination.

As we all know, Lincoln Chafee is the RINO-in-chief of the Senate: he voted against the Iraq War. He voted against confirmation of both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. He has openly flirted with joining Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) in his doomed effort to censure President Bush for the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program.

Lincoln Chafee has been a thorn in the eyes of the Republican Party ever since his appointment to the Senate in 1999 (following the sudden death of his beloved father, former Rhode Island governor, former Secretary of the Navy, and four-term United States Sen. John Chafee -- a real, albeit moderate, Republican, respected and liked by everyone on all sides of the debate).

Heck, Lincoln Chafee wouldn't even vote to reelect his own party's president in 2004. He made a snotty point of writing in President Bush's 80 year old father, former President George H.W. Bush, instead. And he bragged about it to the press!

"Linc" is the most reliable Republican senator on the Hill: that is, Lincoln Chafee can be relied upon to vote against Republican interests in every clutch situation.

I agree with Hugh Hewitt: I would rather see you get the nomination, Mr. Laffey, even though it likely means the seat goes Democratic: the loss of "Linc" wouldn't make any difference in Congress.

So here's your ad, Mr. Laffey. Just a very quick spot with you speaking to the camera. You are addressing Lincoln Chafee directly. And you say:

Lincoln Chafee, I knew John.

John was a friend of mine.

Senator... you're no John Chafee.

And with that -- the nomination is yours for the plucking. At that point, I will give you the campaign ad that will win you the Senate seat itself.

Sincerely,

Dafydd ab Hugh

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 10, 2006, at the time of 6:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

While You Were Cursing the IRS...

Hatched by Dafydd

...Tearing out the few strands of hair you had left, sticking two-inch nails into your Gender-Neutral Tax Auditer voodoo doll, and calling down the wrath of heaven upon anyone who would ever vote for a tax-hiking liberal, you might have missed these wonderful posts from Big Lizards week-end edition:

Saturday, April 8th, 2006: Saturday's 1040 has you on the floor...

  • Democrats' Hopes Dashed. Again.

    Wherein Democrats wake up to the painful realization that court records in the Scooter Libby case in fact show that Bush did not tell him to leak the Plame Name.

  • Dogfight In the O.K. Mosque

    In which Sachi speculates that the real perpetrators in the recent horrific mosque bombing that killed at least 85 people might have been... the Sadr-Jaafari faction of the Shia, not al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Sunday, April 9th, 2006: Sunday's 1040 has lies galore!

  • Liking Leaking

    Where the Washington Post abruptly announces that Bush Was Right to leak the CIA's National Intelligence Estimate that showed Smiling Joe Wilson was a snake-oil salesman (whoops, atrocious analogy alert!)

  • Be Off, Or I'll Kick You Downstairs!

    In which Venezuelan strongman and all-around yahoo Oogo Chavez threatens to expel the American ambassador for the crime of being stalked by baseball hooligans.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 10, 2006, at the time of 5:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Peru Flirts With Chavez-Lite...

Hatched by Dafydd

...But none of the twenty presidential candidates is even close to a majority, so a runoff is almost unavoidable.

According to AP, Peruvian populist Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala likes to style himself in the mold of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez; his deepest support comes from the rural, Andean mountain provinces once controlled by Peru's "Shining Path" Communist insurgency, which has been more or less moribund for nearly fifteen years now. This part of Peru is still a hot-spot for Marxist-Leninism, as well as virulent anti-white racism.

Humala managed to score a plurality in the presidential elections; but he did not achieve a majority. He will face a runoff against either a center-right former congresswoman, Lourdes Flores, or against center-left former failed Peruvian President Alan Garcia. Both Ms. Flores and Mr. Garcia are much lighter-skinned than Col. Humala, which may play a roll in Peru's racial-charged electorate.

Humala threatens to rule like Chavez; Flores and Garcia promise to maintain Peru's fairly Capitalist economy.

Humala had 27.3 percent of the vote with 46.2 percent of the ballots counted. Pro-business former congresswoman Lourdes Flores had 26.5 and Alan Garcia, a center-leftist ex-president, got 26.1.

But Humala had a wider lead in an unofficial voting sample more representative of the nation. Those results, from the widely respected election watchdog Transparencia, showed him with 29.9 percent of the vote, while Flores and Garcia had 24.4 percent and 24.3 percent respectively. The projection, based on 928 voting tables, had an error margin of less than 1 percentage point.

Assuming that these numbers hold up -- and that whoever takes the second slot (Garcia or Flores) starts with at least the same base of voters as he or she had on the first ballot -- that means that to win against Humala, the Capitalist candidate will need to take about 56% of the vote of those who voted for one of the eighteen other candidates. Since both Garcia and Flores consider Humala anathema -- and assuming their followers by and large do as well -- there is a very good chance that one or the other will be elected instead of the Leftist, authoritarian light-colonel.

  • Lourdes Celmira Rosario Flores Nano has been a member of the Partido Popular Cristiano (Popular Christian Party) for her entire adult life. She is very well known in Peru, having run for president in 2001 and having served for several years in the Congress of the Republic. She was also one of the constitutional commissioners who helped write the new constitution after President Alberto Fujimori threw out the 1979 version.
  • Alan Garcia served a catastrophic term as president. As Wikipedia puts it:

    Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez (born May 23, 1949 in Lima) was President of Peru from 1985 to 1990. His presidency was marked by bouts of hyperinflation, social turmoil, human rights violations, increasing violence, increase of blackouts in Lima, international financial isolation, a failed attempt to confiscate the 2 main banks and economic downturn.

    Other than that, though, he did a great job. His argument today is that his wretched decisions, corruption, and power-drunk dictatorship were all the result of youthful exuberance and high spirits.

Big Lizards is keeping its claws crossed for sanity -- and Ms. Flores -- to prevail in the runoff election. The last things that Latin America needs right now are another Hugo Chavez... or another Jacques Chirac.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 10, 2006, at the time of 5:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 9, 2006

Be Off, Or I'll Kick You Downstairs!

Hatched by Dafydd

Mentally unstable Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is now threatening to expel U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield from the country... for the crime of having been hounded by a Venezuelan mob.

No, really. This isn't a rib. Yesterday, an independent mob of independent protesters independently decided to chase after Brownfield's motorcade, pelting his car with independent eggs and independently thumping on the windows whenever the vehicle was slowed by traffic. A police car tailed the independents, doing nothing to stop them... but of course, there was no connection between the hooligans and the Chavez government; they are totally independent.

And today, Chavez went on TV to publicly threaten to punish our ambassador to Venezuela by expelling him:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the U.S. ambassador was "provoking the Venezuelan people" and threatened Sunday to expel the American diplomat, whose convoy was chased by pro-government protesters.

"I'm going to throw you out of Venezuela if you continue provoking the Venezuelan people," Chavez said in a nationally televised speech addressed to U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield.

And how, exactly, did Ambassador Brownfield provoke the Venezuelan people?

Brownfield had visited a ballpark in Caracas' Catia slums, a Chavez stronghold, to donate baseball equipment to a youth league.

The Los Angeles Times, hardly a chum of President Bush or his ambassadors, gives a few more details about Ambassador Brownfield's crime spree (hat tip Captain Ed):

Brownfield was handing out baseball gloves, bats and catchers' equipment to 140 youths at a sports stadium when several dozen protesters showed up and began throwing objects at the ambassador, U.S. officials said.

An official who identified himself as police commander Luis Villasana then approached Brownfield and ordered him and his staff out of the stadium.

Brownfield was accompanied by two former Major League Baseball players from Venezuela and had addressed a crowd that included the youths' parents. Before leaving, he told reporters at the scene that his intention had been to show baseball "as transcending politics."

Protesters on about 12 motorcycles then chased the ambassador's motorcade after he left the stadium and continued to throw objects at the car and pound on it when his vehicle became stuck in traffic, witnesses said.

This particular riot was witnessed by many Venezuelans. Presumably most of the country then writhed as they suffered through the spectacle of el Presidente threatening to expel an ambassador for his perfidy in handing out baseball equipment to a local youth baseball league.

If they follow the news, they must also know that Chavez repeatedly accuses the United States of sundry bizarre plots and conspiracies against his life (exploding cigars, perhaps?) They know that their President-for-Life has danced as close as he can to initiating a war with the U.S. without actually declaring one. He has openly buddied up to North Korea, Iran, and al-Qaeda; he foments Communist revolution throughout Latin America; and he makes constant threats to attack America with the mighty Venezuelan Army. Back to AP:

Chavez says the United States [is] plotting against him, an accusation American officials deny. The United States, however, has said Chavez is stifling democracy.

His subjects must be wondering "what have we gotten ourselves into?" I suspect they live in perpetual fear that someday, somebody is actually going to take the wild, Tourettes-like outbursts of their leader seriously.

Huh. Maybe Hugo Chavez is a Democrat, after all!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 9, 2006, at the time of 4:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Liking Leaking

Hatched by Dafydd
President Bush was right to approve the declassification of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq three years ago in order to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. Presidents are authorized to declassify sensitive material, and the public benefits when they do. But the administration handled the release clumsily, exposing Mr. Bush to the hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy that Democrats are leveling.

So sayeth... the Wall Street Journal? The Washington Times? George Krauthammer? Charles Will?

None of the above: so sayeth the Washington Post, in an editorial [free registration required] -- not an opinion piece, not a column, but an official, unsigned editorial -- in today's paper.

[Say... when was the last time an editorial in the Post began with the four words, "President Bush was right?"]

That is the opening paragraph, and it just keeps getting better and better:

There was nothing illegal or even particularly unusual about that; nor is this presidentially authorized leak necessarily comparable to other, unauthorized disclosures that the president believes, rightly or wrongly, compromise national security....

Each time the [Joe Wilson] case surfaces, opponents of the war in Iraq use it to raise a different set of charges, so it's worth recalling the previous iterations. Mr. Wilson originally claimed in a 2003 New York Times op-ed and in conversations with numerous reporters that he had debunked a report that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium from Niger and that Mr. Bush's subsequent inclusion of that allegation in his State of the Union address showed that he had deliberately "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraq threat." The material that Mr. Bush ordered declassified established, as have several subsequent investigations, that Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth. In fact, his report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium.

The editorial goes on to note that, contrary to the wild (should I say "hyperbolic?") claims by Wilson that Bush leaked the Plame Name to take revenge on Sneaky Joe -- for speaking truth to power, no doubt -- Special Council Patrick J. Fitzgerald "has reported no evidence to support Mr. Wilson's charge," despite years of investigations.

This is about as close as a newspaper concerned about liability can come to saying what I will say openly: Joe Wilson is a liar; his wife is a liar; they lied about every particular of this case; and everybody who supported them was either a liar or a fool (more accurately, a tool -- a tool of the Left's obsession with "getting" George W. Bush).

If the epicenter of Bush Derangement Syndrom is the 2000 presidential election in Florida, then l'Affaire Plame is at least the center of the biggest aftershock. It is truly momentous for the Washington Post, of all papers, to finally come out and admit that the charges were nothing but lies wrapped in falsehoods surrounded by mendacity.

Is the liberal left beginning the slow path to recovery? Alcoholics are urged, first of all, to admit they have a problem; without taking that first step, you cannot be cured. Think of Cynthia McKinney (D-Pluto), who has still not even admitted yet that she personally did something wrong. (Her tearful "apology" was almost entirely in the passive voice, as if the "misunderstanding" simply sprang from the ether around her, emanations from her rather wide penumbra.)

In this editorial, the Post at long last begins to diagnose the sickness that permeates the Left, the miasmic fever that by now afflicts most of the Democratic Party with delusional ravings and conspiracy mongering that would embarass even Louis Farrakhan.

Let us hope this is the first step on their road to recovery; that they will find their wits about the great issues of the day -- in particular, the war against jihadi terrorism. I want to hear the Democrats acknowledge, as do those on the Left who are actually honest (such as Chris Hitchens), that the Taliban were psychotic theocrats and Saddam Hussein a fascist dictator... and that overthrowing both was just and necessary. I would feel far less apprehensive about the Democrats in Congress if they admitted that we were right to dethrone Hussein, and they complained only about the particular strategic decisions -- which can be discussed rationally and by presenting evidence on both sides.

Then I wouldn't worry that one bad election could doom America to decades of horrific terrorist attacks.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 9, 2006, at the time of 3:14 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 8, 2006

Dogfight In the O.K. Mosque

Hatched by Sachi

"Sectarian" (meaning "al-Qaeda") violence kills scores!

That's what newspaper headlines scream. But wait; something seems a little peculiar about this specific mosque attack:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Three suicide bombers dressed as women killed at least 71 people at a Shi'ite mosque on Friday, the bloodiest attack in Iraq for at least three months.

At least 140 people were also wounded in the attack in north Baghdad, the latest proof of how Iraq's leaders have been unable to tackle sectarian violence as they struggle to form a government.

But why assume the violence is "sectarian" (Shia vs. Sunni)? There's no evidence of that; and there is a simpler explanation the Reuters story fails even to consider. (Good thing the mainstream media don't have a bias.)

What's odd is that this mosque is not one of the million or so "holiest sites in all of Iraq," not like the Golden al-Askariya Mosque in Samara. It is, nevertheless, an important gathering place, though more for political than religious reasons: imporant to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), to be specific. This mosque is one of the SCIRI's headquarters.

The SCIRI is the largest Shiite party in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA); they are rivals of the Islamic Dawa Party, whose candidate, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is the appointed prime minister and is running for election under the new, permanent government.

We've had a thing or two to say about Jaafari before:

Iraq the Model explains the connection:

But that's not the most important thing because this mosque is of considerable political significance, the preacher in this mosque is Jalal Addin al-Sagheer, a cleric from the SCIRI who was the first SCIRI member to publicly urge Ibrahim al-Jafari to withdraw his nomination for office.

This mosque is one of the headquarters of the SCIRI and its clerical wing in Baghdad, even that Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem's son Ammar al-Hakkem preaches occasionally in this mosque when sheikh Jalal is not available.

Well, taking that into consideration, we cannot simply assume the culprits are al-Qaeda. It looks like there might be a stronger suspect. Consider the way the attacks were organized (again from Iraq the Model):

Let's also take a look at the planning for the attack that is very well studied too, the suicide bombers did not start striking during Friday prayers when the place is usually heavily guarded and security personnel are at high alert but the first strike came more than 15 minutes later when an attack is less expected and after guards felt they accomplished their mission in protecting the worshippers during the main ceremony to be followed by the other two bombings that took advantage of the state of panic created by the first bombing. This in addition to the use of disguise has of course made the breach easier to make.

It seems that the killers, those who organized the bombings, knew entirely too much about the practices and procedures of a Shiite mosque. They knew just when the guards would relax, allowing them to strike for maximal damages.

We cannot say for sure, of course; but if we had to guess who really is responsible for this attack, renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr actually stands to gain more from an attack on SCIRI headquarters than does Musab Zarqawi, still the military head of al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia (Iraq). Sadr, and his sock-puppet Jaafari, have openly threatened the groups which did not support Jaafari, especially the SCIRI. Could this be a message that they're deadly serious about this power struggle? “Don’t oppose Jaafari!”

But if this is true, this is all the more reason not to confirm Jaafari. If his method of running for office includes killing off the opposition, we can guess how he would rule the country. Iraqis and Americans cannot afford to have this man to become full prime minister.

The Iraqi authorities must vigorously investigate who is behind this attack; if it turns out to be the Mahdi Militia, not al-Qaeda, it would help Iraqis understand that Sadr ain't nothing but a pooch for Iran -- and Jaafari is just Sadr’s lap dog.

Call this case the dogfight at the O.K. mosque

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 8, 2006, at the time of 11:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrats' Hopes Dashed. Again.

Hatched by Dafydd

In a stunning setback, Democrats have had to come to grips with the terrible news that court documents in the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial do not, in fact, show that Bush authorized the release of Valerie Plame's name, identity, or body weight:

Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in Libby's case, wrote that Libby "undertook vigorous efforts to rebut" the ambassador's attack on Bush's argument for war.

Fitzgerald wrote that Libby told a grand jury that Vice President Dick Cheney told him that Bush had authorized the release of portions of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.

The court documents do not suggest that Bush approved the release of Plame's identity, and the NIE did not contain references to Plame.

Scrambling for a scandal, crestfallen Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) latched onto the best he could get: sure, the president had the authority to declassify intelligence from the NIE; and yes, Reid agrees that Bush indeed set that ball in motion. But the background briefings began a few days before the declassification was formally completed -- and that makes President Bush a criminal:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, speaking on the Senate floor Friday, called it "shocking news" that Libby "may have acted on direct orders from President Bush when he leaked classified intelligence information to reporters."

"It is an understatement to say that this is a serious allegation with national security consequences," he said. "It directly contradicts previous statements made by the president. It continues, in my opinion, a pattern of misleading America by this Bush White House. It raises somber and troubling questions about the Bush administration's candor with Congress and the American people."

I'm not precisely sure what the "national security consequences" are of telling reporters that Lyin' Joe Wilson had fabricated the story he was retailing around the talk-show circuit. But the interesting point is that Reid seizes upon the idea that, since the background briefings started (according to Libby) on July 8th, 2003; and since the formal declassification procedure wasn't complete until July 18th; that therefore Bush was "leak[ing] classified intelligence information."

I mean, isn't that like saying that if you mail in your tax return on April 17th (this year's deadline), but the Post Awful doesn't deliver the mail until April 20th -- that you're therefore a tax evader?

This is a tempest in a mole hole. The president clearly decided to declassify portions of the National Intelligence Estimate, and he so ordered. He told Vice President Dick Cheney to get the process started. It's as irrelevant as irrelevant can be how long the dang CIA took to shop the order around for all the relevant department heads to sign, because it's the president who has the authority.

By the way... has Sen. Harry Reid ever condemned those in the NSA who leaked information about an ongoing intelligence operation -- the NSA al-Qaeda intercepts -- with much more chilling "national security consequences" than the NIE? Did he ever rail against anyone at CIA who leaked information about our alleged secret terrorist prisons in Europe? His outrage seems just a tad selective....

So why would Sen. Reid make such a big to-do out of this? Well, two reasons:

  • First, the Democrats had already reacted to the initial CNN report that falsely claimed the documents showed that Bush approved the leak of Plame's name -- so now they were committed to being outraged about the issue. They had to say something!
  • Second, I reckon it's one more day that the Democrats don't have to come up with an election agenda.

Never underestimate the power of positive stupidity: it's one of the few things we have going for us in this election. The congressional GOP may be lazy, off-course, even suicidal; but it's never beyond the Democrats' reach to snatch defeat from the jaws of apathy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 8, 2006, at the time of 3:38 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 7, 2006

A Modest Proposal

Hatched by Dafydd

A number of people (such as Charles Krauthammer) have proposed that we build the wall first, and then, only after it's shown to be working, legalize the illegals already here.

All right; let's set aside, for the time being, any talk of legalization of those already here. What about the other, forgotten issue of reforming legal immigration?

My argument all along has been that there is no wall so strong that a million people pushing on it won't knock it down. I say that if honest men can enter through the front door in God's own daylight, then only thugs, goons, and terrorists will try to enter in the Devil's night through the window. These are arguments about legal immigration and legal guest workers -- they have nothing to do with regularizing those already here.

Not even Tom Tancredo can say that rationalizing our legal immigration policy is "amnesty." (Amnesty for what?)

So here is my modest proposal. I wonder if Krauthammer, or anybody else who says he is only against illegal immigration, will join me in this?

  1. We start building the wall immediately. Not "start the process," but start sinking steel poles and laying concrete. We just grab the map the House used for its 700-mile proposal and start construction. (We can start on May Day, just to freak out the Left.) With me so far?
  2. At the same time, we rationalize the legal immigration process. I don't mean make it easier or drop any requirements; heck, I might want to add requirements for legal immigration. By "rationalize," I mean a set of rules that lead automatically to a Green Card and eventual citizenship, no matter how many years it takes (within reason -- 80 years is right out). All I want to see is: "if I follow these steps, I will get permanent residency; if I then follow these other steps, I will become an American citizen."

    Not "then maybe I'll get a Green Card," or "I might be allowed to be a citizen." A flat, automatic system: jump through the following hoops, whatever they are, and you've got it automatically, without the immigrant having to petition the USCIS and hope they decide in his favor (the USCIS can stop a particular case if something serious comes up).

  3. At the same time, put into place a guest worker program... for which the alien can only apply from his country of origin, not from within the United States. This is to prevent people currently here illegally from piggybacking onto it (unless of course they sneak back across the border and apply from Mexico; but how could we even know that?)
  4. We drop the hammer on companies still employing illegals, notwithstanding the guest worker program; we detect violations by whatever means we choose to put into place.

Notice something? No legalization of current illegals at all! Didn't even bring it up. This is entirely and completely about securing the border, rationalizing our current legal immigration, and setting up a system to bleed off those folks who just want to come here and work and are willing to do so legally. The latter two points are designed to take pressure off the wall so it will work... the "spillway in the dam," as I have characterized it.

After this has worked for a while (assuming it does), only then do we talk about legalizing the illegals.

How about this? Is this acceptable to hard-core immigration conservatives?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 7, 2006, at the time of 10:31 PM | Comments (53) | TrackBack

Goodbye D.C., Hello Baghdad

Hatched by Dafydd

I cannot, will not join in this Snoopy dance of glee at the complete inability of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to come to agreement on a very fair and reasonable immigration compromise. Every single substantive objection on either side can be fixed. The fixes are not difficult to find. There is only one objection that is insurmountable: liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans appear have allied to force the bill to collapse.

One of those two groups is rationally pursuing its own self interest; it will actually benefit at the ballot box if the effort collapses completely. Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) is not in that group. The reality is that if this bill ends up collapsing, it will cause Republicans to lose seats in the House and Senate in November... which hurts conservatives in Congress a heck of a lot more than it hurts Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) or Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas).

It's unfathomable to me that men and women who belong to the world's most exclusive club, what it pleases them to call "the greatest deliberative body in the world," are congenitally incapable of deliberating. Instead they posture, the proclaim, they throw hysterical tantrums. They act more like the Shia in the Iraqi National Assembly than like grown-up adults who actually care about America. Goodbye, D.C., and hello Baghdad.

The deal has collapsed (at least for the moment) because of conservative Republican attempts to amend the bill (two amendments in particular) and the Democrats' filibuster of those amendments. So let's start with the amendments themselves.

In theory, they're not bad; but the devil once again lurks (as usual) in the details:

One amendment would have required the Department of Homeland Security to certify that the border was secure before creating a guest worker program or granting legal status to illegal immigrants. Another would have had the legalization program bar illegal immigrants who had deportation orders or had been convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors. Democratic critics of the proposals said they were intended to ensure that the legalization process would never be implemented.

Gosh, who could argue with those? What possible reason could there be not to -- all right, let's actually think a second time about each:

Require certification of border security before implementing immigration reform

Fine. I have no objection to the theory, but -- how exactly does the amendment define "secure?" Does this mean the DHS has only to certify that the wall and fence have been properly built? Or does it mean he must guarantee that it's impossible for even a single illegal to cross the border? If the latter, that could not be legally certified in a hundred years.

Do conservatives offer this amendment in order to advance the issue, or to kill the entire bill? If they're being honest about it, they will be willing to negotiate exactly what constitutes "secure" enough for the DHS to certify. They will offer standards that can actually be satisfied within a reasonable timeframe, say two to three years. Honest Democrats are willing to negotiate those standards, to make sure they allow certification within two or three years -- not thirty or forty, or never.

But if either side simply wants to collapse the entire effort, it's easy enough: just insist upon the impossible -- either a level of security that can never be achieved, or refuse to require any such certification whatsoever, which is equally unreasonable.

Permanently bar from citizenship illegals who have been deported or been convicted of felonies or multiple misdemeanors

Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this idea; but it can easily be turned into a poison pill. For example... do they include under the deportation clause immigrants deported for no reason other than having been caught? If so, it's absurd: this part of the bill is already directed solely at persons illegally in the country. Are they really saying we only want as citizens those illegals clever enough not to have been nabbed? What is it, a proxy IQ test?

Or by "deported," do they mean those deported for reasons much stronger than "you were caught here illegally?" If they mean the latter, then conservatives must spell out exactly what deportation reasons provoke the permanent ban.

And felonies are one thing; but three misdemeanors? Do they really mean that if an immigrant was a stupid teenager twenty years ago, and if he went on a one-night spree knocking over garbage cans and got convicted of three counts of malicious mischief, that he is forever barred from becoming a citizen? That is quite literally insane.

If conservatives have any interest at all in actually coming to some agreement, they must be willing to negotiate exactly what criminal convictions and reasons for deportation will permanently bar citizenship.

Democrats who want a bill will be willing to allow a vote on such a list of crimes. This requires all Democrats to go on record either saying they want to let murderers and rapists into the country... or else accepting that some people won't qualify for citizenship because of bad character. But moderate Democrats will agree to both amendments (or at least agree to vote on them), if they are reasonable and spelled out in detail.

Who's got hand?

The distinction is this: if the liberal Democrats negotiate in bad faith and manage to force a collapse, they win at the ballot box. If the conservative Republicans force collapse through sheer pigheadedness and refusal to compromise... then they lose in November.

But the conservatives are driving the bus right now; they've got the upper hand. If they negotiate in good faith, they have the power to force a successful resolution. The moderate Republicans are already on board, and 55 Republicans need only five Democrats to stop a filibuster.

In the last test on Wednesday night, an even tougher vote against cloture on the Democratic version of immigration reform got (surprise!) four moderate Democrats and one Democratic nutcase to vote with the Republicans:

Voting against cloture were all 55 Republicans (including co-sponsors McCain and Specter) and five Democrats, who stiffed their own party boss, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace): Robert Byrd (WV), Ben Nelson (NE), Bill Nelson (FL), Kent Conrad (ND), and Byron Dorgan (ND). Of this group, only Sen. Dorgan is not running for reelection this year... and he may have felt obliged to support his fellow NoDak, Kent Conrad, who is.

So here is the stark choice:

  1. If conservative Republicans are willing to negotiate their amendments in good faith, they'll be joined by moderate Republicans and enough moderate Democrats to overcome any filibuster, allowing reasonable changes to strengthen enforcement in the immigration reform bill.
  2. Contrariwise, if the conservatives insist upon unreasonable amendments, they won't get the Democrats; in which case, they will be unable to amend the bill at all, because they can't break Harry Reid's filibuster without Democratic votes.
  3. Without amendment, the bill collapses... which benefits only the liberal Democrats -- not the conservatives, the moderate Republicans, or even the moderate Democrats.
  4. Victory or defeat is entirely in the hands of conservatives: if they will negotiate in good faith, they (and the country) will win. If they insist upon "my way or the highway," everybody loses -- except Reid and Pelosi, of course.

People must understand that conservatives are a minority in Congress, as they are in the country. They cannot simply cram a pure-enforcement bill down everybody's throat. It's not in the cards; it won't happen.

If they try hard, however, they can gain enough support to make reasonable changes:

  • Define what it means for the border to be "secure" and make it reasonable enough that it's just two or three years away -- not thirty or forty.
  • Define exactly what crimes bar citizenship, so we don't end up with mass numbers of people being denied for trivial offenses that even many sitting members of Congress have committed.

With those amendments and perhaps a few others -- emphasis on reasonable -- they can get on with the negotiation and light this candle. They can actually achieve something.

Or they can clench their fists and refuse to back down even an inch. They can become the most Do-Nothing Congress since the 80th in 1948, as Hugh Hewitt likes to say. Like the Shia in Baghdad, they can bring democracy to a screeching halt.

Until November.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 7, 2006, at the time of 6:34 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Continental Divide

Hatched by Dafydd

There are two basic camps on immigration; the camp you choose typically determines your positions and priorities.

  • Illegal immigrants are essentially criminals.
  • Illegal immigrants are essentially thwarted freedom-seekers.

There is an interesting geographic dispersal about these camps: the first is primarily found in states that have very few illegal immigrants, the second primarily in states that have a very large illegal population -- though of course there are campsites of each in each type of state.

To characterize the first camp:

Illegal aliens are line jumpers. Lacking either patience or any sense of the rule of law, unwilling to wait alongside others equally anxious to become Americans, they simply steal into the country unasked, like arrogant burglars.

They have no respect for private property. They pretend to want only freedom and liberty, but what they really want is a better material life: jobs in America pay more than in Mexico or the rest of Latin America. There is nothing wrong with materialism... but it must be bought, not stolen. Others have waited longer; the illegals push them aside and just take what everyone else has to earn.

They carry their culture with them and disdain ours. Most have no interest in being Americans; they just want to leech off of America to send money to their relatives back home -- and to bring those relatives here like parasites to sponge off of Uncle Sugar.

Even legal immigrants bother me when they make plain they don't think much of America, except as a cow to be milked. Assimilation has been a dismal failure; illegal aliens are just more direct about what they want. Look at the protesters -- see how many Mexican flags and how few American flags!

They don't belong here. We should never reward burglars simply for being devious enough to avoid discovery for five years. They should leave. If they won't leave voluntarily, it's our duty to make them leave by any means necessary.

It's our country, native-born and naturalized citizens... not theirs, not yet. First take back our territory, and then maybe we'll discuss what to do about those already here illegally.

And I'll also characterize the other camp -- to which I note I firmly belong:

Illegal immigrants are caught in a bind. They are more sinned against than sinning.

If we had rational immigration laws that evaluated each immigrant on a case-by-case basis, making plain what he needs to do and to refrain from doing, then most of them would be legal immigrants. They are "illegal" because our laws are archaic and arbitrary, not because they are inherently dishonest.

Most came here seeking only freedom of the individual and a better life for their families. If we give them half a chance, they will join America fully, assimilate, learn English, and be as good a resident and eventually citizen as the European immigrants who came before them.

Of course, some illegal immigrants don't fit that description. Some are merely here to work; those should be guest workers, not on the citizenship track. And some are just criminal thugs whom we should exclude from the country or deport if they manage to slip through. But they constitute a tiny minority of all those who immigrate here illegally.

All we need do is rationalize the system so a would-be immigrant knows what is expected of him -- and what he can expect, of a certainty, if he plays by the rules. If he knows that by following a prescribed procedure, he can eventually become an American citizen... then he will lose all interest in sneaking across the border and living a lie.

Give them a chance; they are no different than your grandparents and great-great grandparents. Only our government has changed, becoming harder and less tolerant of the engine that drove us for more than 130 years before the clampdown.

So which camp are you? It's a good proxy measurement for whether you support or oppose the current Senate compromise legislation.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 7, 2006, at the time of 4:29 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 6, 2006

Patterico's Brilliant Idea

Hatched by Dafydd

Over on Patterico's Pontifications, Patterico has a great idea for a codicil to be added to immigration reform pending in both the House and Senate:

We will never deport the millions of illegals currently residing in the country. But, as I have previously argued, we can use our scarce enforcement resources to target violent criminals. [All emphasis added by BL]

While many illegals are hardworking folk, some are robbers, kidnappers, rapists, violent gang members, and murderers. Police officers often know who these individuals are — yet they have their hands tied by local policy.

Targeting violent illegals makes good sense.

Patterico hasn't been posting much lately; I suspect he's in trial on some major prosecution. It's good to see him back today, and with an excellent suggestion for an amendment to the bill in Congress.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 6, 2006, at the time of 4:36 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Breaking: Senate Compromises On Immigration Reform

Hatched by Dafydd

In a shocking example of comity, the Senate -- including most Democrats -- appears to have coalesced around the compromise bill of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; the Democrats appear to have dropped their objections both to the "no felony convictions" rule for citizenship, and also to the lack of guaranteed re-entry for those illegals who have been here less than two years: they're still obliged to return to their countries of origin and apply for readmission, but under this bill, they can be denied for any of a number of reasons.

What may have turned the Senate around is the decisive, crushing rejection of the original McCain-Kennedy-Spector bill passed out of the J-Com. In the vote to end debate (cloture vote on a filibuster), the bill needed to get 60 votes. It garnered 39, less than two-thirds what it needed. In fact, in a bipartisan mauling of Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Edward Kennedy (D-Margaritaville), 60 senators voted against ending debate.

Voting against cloture were all 55 Republicans (including co-sponsors McCain and Specter) and five Democrats, who stiffed their own party boss, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace): Robert Byrd (WV), Ben Nelson (NE), Bill Nelson (FL), Kent Conrad (ND), and Byron Dorgan (ND). Of this group, only Sen. Dorgan is not running for reelection this year... and he may have felt obliged to support his fellow NoDak, Kent Conrad, who is.

Slipping a bit on the bloodstained Senate floor, Reid then rushed to express support, late last night, for the Frist bill; as Big Lizards predicted late last night (early this morning, for you sun people), "this is one of those rare occasions where both sides really do want a bill."

As we noted, the Frist bill is almost the same as the one rejected, except for introducing a three-part classification of illegals:

  1. Those here five years or more need not return to their home countries; they can apply for guaranteed legal status in situ (after paying back taxes, paying a fine, and only if they can show they have continuously worked -- no welfare, I think this means -- and if they don't have any felony convictions already). This group comprises about 60% of the 11 million - 12 million illegals, according to Dr. Sen. Frist, or 6.6 to 7.2 millions.
  2. Those here between two and five years do have to return to their countries of origin and apply for readmission; but they are guaranteed re-entry if they meet the requirements above. I have seen no figures on how big a percent this group is of the remainder.
  3. Those here less than two years have to return (if they want legal status), but they are not guaranteed re-entry. If they don't, they're subject to deportation (if caught).

We're not particularly happy about that last category; the most likely response is that most of those in Camp Three won't return or legalize at all. But since the bill also heavily increases border security -- I'm sure there is a virtual fence, and I think the bill authorizes a physical fence across some of the southern border, but don't hold my feet to the grindstone on that one -- and also coils like an anaconda around businesses that hire illegals, it will be significantly more difficult for illegals to operate here with the sort of impunity they have enjoyed for decades.

This could actually work... because in addition to a fence (virtual or physical), and in addition to regularizing those already here, the bill also sets up a guest worker program for future in-and-outers and clarifies the path to citizenship for future immigrants; this means decent people who want to come here for honest reasons have a legal way to do so -- and therefore no reason to pay a coyote to sneak them past the border.

This takes a lot of the pressure off the system and allows us to vigorously enforce the border laws: when customers with legitimate business can enter through the front door in broad daylight, it's much more acceptable to drop the hammer on people slithering in through the window at night.

The House earlier passed a bill that was all cop and no compassion: straight, heavy-handed border protection, including declaring that those here illegally, however long, were guilty of a felony, and could therefore never become citizens. The House version didn't even offer a nod to those who desperately want to become Americans, or even just work here honestly for a while, but who cannot, for various reasons, navigate through the labyrinth of immigration law.

This House bill (or a substitute) will have to be reconciled with the Senate's bill in the joint committee... but House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) has already signalled that it would be possible for the House to support a compromise bill, so long as it also contains tough enforcement measures -- which the current Senate version does.

So we at Big Lizards have very high hopes for this version of immigration reform: it's a solid bill, it has strong backing that is even (I can't believe I'm typing this word) bipartisan; and the president is eager to sign it.

This will go a long way towards allowing the Republicans to do well in the November elections. If nothing else, they can point to this major bill, the most significant immigration reform in two decades (and a lot better than Reagan's amnesty program, since this bill is not amnesty -- except for those right-wingers who redefine the word "amnesty" the way lefties redefine "civil war"). I presume they'll also confirm a few more conservative judges and will probably vote to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. That presents a flurry of action on issues important to Republicans and will bring them out to vote.

The senators finally stopped "foaming at the mouth" and got down to brokering a deal. Good job, fellows!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 6, 2006, at the time of 3:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Heck, Big Lizards Can Break This Silly Logjam

Hatched by Dafydd

According to AP, there are now two competing Senate immigration-reform proposals, one pushed by Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas), the other by Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Nashville). Hey, it's Lounge vs. Country!

They're both pretty similar at this point. Here's AP:

In general, both bills would increase border security, regulate the flow of future immigrants and offer legal status to many of the men, women and children who came to the United States unlawfully or overstayed their visas.

The rival plans differ on the details, though, and so far, at least, attempts at a bipartisan compromise have failed.

Each side is filibustering the other's bill; that means each bill has to get 60 votes to move on, you'll pardon the phrase. Since there are only 55 Republicans and only 45 Democrats (counting Jumpin' Jim Jeffords as a Democrat, since that's who he caucuses with), without some crossover voting, neither side can budge an inch. It's an impasse!

So what exactly are these demonic "details" that evidently contain the Devil?

In general [AP seems to like that meaningless prepositional phrase], the measure backed by Democrats would grant most of the 11 million immigrants legalized status and the opportunity to apply for citizenship after meeting several conditions. They include payment of a fine and any back taxes, passing a background check and learning English.

By contrast, the Republican approach requires illegal immigrants who have been in the United States between two years and five years to return to their home country briefly, then re-enter as temporary workers. They could then begin a process of seeking citizenship.

Illegal immigrants here longer than five years would not be required to return home; those in the country less than two years would be required to leave without assurances of returning, and take their place in line with others seeking entry papers.

If we were brokering this debate, we'd have a workable compromise in about two minutes. We warned about this "poison pill." Remember what Big Lizards wrote in an earlier post?

And even here, the main bone of contention seems to be pretty simple: the McCain-Kennedy camp wants to be able to regularize them in situ, after they pay a fine and all back taxes; but the Cornyn camp wants them to do all that, but still be required to return to their country of origin and then be readmitted here legally.

I think the reason the McCainiacs (which includes me on this one, special issue) are so opposed to forcing the illegal immigrants -- and I do mean immigrants, not workers -- to return and then try to be readmitted is their sneaking suspicion (which I share) that what the Cornynites really want is to trick them into returning to their countries of origin... so they can say "ha ha, you're never getting back in... never!"

Clearly, that same fear will occur to illegal immigrants. Without some sort of legal assurances, they won't leave; they would rather stay here illegally than return "home" without any hope of being allowed back into what they consider their real home, the United States.

If your goal is to get illegal immigrants to exit and then be readmitted legally, you must guarantee they will, in fact, be readmitted, assuming nothing disqualifying arises during the reentry security checks. Without such assurance, the reentry provision is just a poison pill to kill the whole deal, and the demand for it is dishonest.

The fix appears pretty simple. Here is the compromise bill that could gather 35-40 of the Republicans and maybe half or more of the Democrats (that's a low of 57-58 in favor, if you're counting; close enough that they can probably break the filibuster -- since this is one of those rare occasions where both sides really do want a bill):

The Senate should go with the Frist bill, with one change: those illegals who have been here less than two years still have to exit and re-enter the country legally... but they're guaranteed readmission, unless the background check turns up something really bad, like a felony conviction.

One interesting side issue: earlier today, Sen. Reid threatened to filibuster against an amendment, offered by Johns Kyl (R-AZ) and Cornyn (R-TX), to permanently refuse citizenship to illegals who were convicted of a felony. Power Line covered this; here is the pertinent passage:

This is astonishing: Blog of the Week Right Wing News notes that Senate Democrats have successfully blocked an amendment to the immigration bill now under consideration that would have prevented aliens convicted of felonies from becoming citizens:

Democrats said the amendment would "gut" the immigration bill under consideration in the Senate and refused to allow a vote on it.

So now the Democrats are using the filibuster to protect the "right" of convicted felons who have emigrated to the U.S. illegally to become citizens. How can they possibly justify that, you ask? Beats me:

"I do not have to explain in any more detail than what I have as why I don't want to move forward," Mr. Reid said. "I don't agree with the amendment. I don't think it's going to benefit this legislation that is pending before the Senate and I'm going to do what I can to prevent a vote on it."

Later, Mr. Reid added, "We're not going to allow amendments like Kyl-Cornyn to take out what we believe is the goodness of this bill."

Big Lizards has sussed this one out, too: in the poisoned atmosphere of the Senate, Sens. Reid, Kyle, and Cornyn are simply not talking to each other... and Harry Reid believes that the "felony" rule, in conjunction with the House bill making it a felony to be in the country illegally at all, is meant to sneakily bar all illegal aliens from ever becoming citizens.

So how about restoring the felony rule for re-entering illegals... but write right into the clause that it only applies to felonies other than being in the country illegally or "smuggling aliens" -- which Right Wing News notes is actually one of the felonies in question. (Smuggling aliens could be interpreted to mean an illegal alien bringing his wife and kids into the United States along with himself.) Maybe we could bar professional "coyotes" but not aliens who "smuggled" in other aliens for non-monetary, non-felonious reasons.

That legal assurance should allay Democrats' fears that this is just a backdoor way to bar all illegals from re-entering once they've left in order to re-enter -- which would be a dirty trick indeed, and would make Republicans look just like the racists the Democrats always accuse us of being.

There. Problems solved. It's amazing how easy this all is... when you're not a thin-skinned, hysterical, hyperpartisan, foaming-at-the-mouth D.C. politician on the warpath, I mean.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 6, 2006, at the time of 5:48 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 5, 2006

When Civil War Is Too Darn Civil

Hatched by Dafydd

I had thoughts about the supposed "civil war" in Iraq, but I decided not to bother posting them. I thought nobody would be interested, because -- I assumed -- the claim was so tortuous that it would just be a passing fad.

Boy howdy, was I wrong about that. Here's former Democratic nominee John Kerry, that man who would have been president (but for three hundred thousand votes), tooting the "civil war" horn in his op-ed piece in today's New York Times:

We are now in the third war in Iraq in as many years. The first was against Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction. The second was against terrorists whom, the administration said, it was better to fight over there than here. Now we find our troops in the middle of an escalating civil war.

So maybe I was also wrong that nobody would be interested in my civil-war ruminations. Here was my point:

What bothers me most about the claim that Iraq is in a civil war is the mendacious motive behind it all. If a fellow were using a consistent definition of civil war for some sociological, political, or military purpose, and that definition was a little looser than I would like, it wouldn't really irritate me. But those who sling around the claim, like Sen. Kerry (D-MA), have a very shifty purpose in mind.

The technique is to redefine some common but horrific term to scoop in far more cases than it ought... but still rely upon the frisson of the original meaning to make readers think the situation is more dire than it is.

For example, the late gender-feminist Andrea Dworkin (Rush Limbaugh would definitely call her a "feminazi") redefined "rape" to include all heterosexual sex. PETA routinely redefines the word "murder" to include the killing of animals, even for food. Both rely upon the very real horror people feel when the contemplate the normal and usual definitions of those words to manipulate them into feeling the same horror for perfectly ordinary activities.

And now "civil war;" I have seen some very wide, obtuse definitions that could apply to virtually any conflict on any level, so long as the fighting takes place all in one country. One writer I know even claims that America in the late 1960s was in a "civil war."

(He refers to the protests and street action against the Vietnam War -- for example, the ructions surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which spawned this infamous mangled explanation by Mayor Richard Daley the elder: "The police in Chicago are not here to create disorder, they are here to preserve disorder!")

In some circumstances, such open-ended definitions can be useful. We can talk about infighting within a club as a civil war, or we can say "John and Mary's divorce turned into a civil war." We could talk about the Basque terrorism in Spain as being a "low-level civil war." And if we made plain how we were using the word and didn't try to imply anything stronger, we'd be on terra firma.

But the Democrats know very well what most people will imagine when they hear that "Iraq is in an escalating civil war": they think of Rwanda, with its hundreds of thousands butchered by machetes. They think of Bosnia or Kosovo; they think of Vietnam, where millions were killed.

Perhaps the more historical minded think of the bloody civil war in Russia after the Czar was deposed, the war between White and Red Communists, or the terrible civil war in Spain between the Fascists, the Communists, and the Anarchists. Americans probably think of Antietam and Shiloh and Gettysburg.

Clearly this is what John Kerry wants us to think, for in his very next breath, he is espousing near defeatism and calling on us to threaten to pull out immediately -- and in any event to leave by the end of the year:

Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion.... [that we might win]

Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military....

If Iraq's leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year's end.

When John Kerry says "civil war," he may have in his mind something like what France is undergoing right now -- riots and general strikes -- plus some terrorism. But it's what he knows is in your minds that is offensive: deliberately relying upon the revulsion that average Americans feel towards actual, full-blown civil war, which would imply total failure of our effort, is undeniably a lie by inuendo.

It's like saying a man is a rapist and murderer, when what you really mean is he beds his wife, and he sometimes kills his own chickens for eats.

It's a vile, craven, boorish debater's trick that plays upon people's natural assumption that distinguished senators don't lie... and it makes me shake with retroactive terror at the thought that Kerry very nearly found himself ensconced in the Oval Office.

I know it's a tiny point, the logical fallacy of using one peculiar meaning of a word, knowing your audience will infer a quite different and much more apocalyptic meaning. There probably isn't even a Latin phrase for it. It's cheap and shoddy; it's the ultimate in "gotcha" arguments. And it is meaningless, except insofar as it may mislead the mentally weak.

So was it even worth bringing up at all? I'm still not sure.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2006, at the time of 11:59 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Lest We Forget

Hatched by Dafydd

In case any of us was in danger of forgetting the real agenda of the Democratic Party, Phil Angelides, one of the two California Democrats a-joust to oust Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in November, has openly called for a staggering, massive state tax increase of between $8 billion and $10 billion to "balance the budget"... and to pay for a huge increase in public spending.

According to Daniel Weintraub's Bee-blog California Insider:

Phil Angelides made news today by directly and strongly attacking his opponent in the Democratic primary, Steve Westly. His main point: Westly stood with Schwarzenegger when Angelides was standing up for “the people.” That’s what will probably lead the newspaper stories tomorrow. But I think he made even more substantive news in a quick question and answer session with reporters afterward. In response to a question, he laid out, for the first time, a plan to raise between $8 billion and $10 billion in taxes to balance the budget and pay for his priorities in expanding it.

For any of you who disliked the wild spending of the Republicans so much that you're toying with the idea of just sitting out this election -- remember Phil Angelides. If you sit out 2006, you will only help the Democrats get more of their folks into Congress. And if you think spending is bad now under the Republicans, you will be in absolute medical shock when you see how fast the liberals can fling money out the window.

Folks who complain that the Republicans "spend more than the Democrats did in 1993-1994" are not really taking the huge growth in the gross domestic product into account. According to Steven Slivinski of the Cato Institute,

Total government spending grew by 33 percent during Bush’s first term. The federal budget as a share of the economy grew from 18.5 percent of GDP on Clinton’s last day in office to 20.3 percent by the end of Bush’s first term.

But his own numbers show that despite this increase, total federal expenditure in 2005 remains significantly below that of 1993, as a percent of GDP: 21.4% in 1993 compared to 20.3% in 2005.

There is no question that since 2001, Republicans have proven to be almost as big a batch of overspenders as the Democrats of the early 1990s; but proposals made by current Democrats indicate that this is still far below what we would have had under the Democrats of the 2000s. And if those Democrats -- the ones from today, not from a dozen years ago -- get back in power, you will see the spending and taxation curves bend almost asymptotic, like an F-16 Fighting Falcon taking off on full afterburner.

As Hugh Hewitt is fond of saying, "if you're worried about too much spending, electing more Democrats is not the answer."

Just ask Phil Angelides.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2006, at the time of 6:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Clinton Campaign Tough-Love Letter

Hatched by Dafydd

It's spring, when a young journalist's thoughts lightly turn to campaigning for the Democrats. Here is one such campaign commercial for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY -- "have carpet, will travel"), masquerading as a "news article." But if this is a love letter, it's a bit of tough-love:

It was a case of Clinton deja vu. "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right about America," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady who seems to be aiming for a return to the White House, said Wednesday as she wrapped up her speech to a Hispanic organization.

Excuse the crowd if they had heard it before. The New York Democrat, who clearly took good notes, had very slightly revised her husband's old standard, from his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1993.

"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America," President Clinton told the nation then.

Note, however, that we cannot accuse Sen. HIllary of plagiarism: she did not say that "there is nothing wrong with American that cannot be cured"... she said "that cannot be fixed." See the difference, the originality?

Here's the campaign part in the story (written by Donna Cassata and Ron Fournier). Alas for Sen. Hillary, it's mostly campaign nostalgia:

Policies aside, the Clintons' political skills and style were on display Wednesday.

The former president's smoothness - even rival Republicans marveled at it through two terms - quickly captured his crowd. Conversational, self-deprecating, largely extemporaneous, he was part tutorial, part lecturer, part comedian.

With one hand in his pocket and the other for gesturing, he joked that he missed his introduction because he was "backstage and half deaf" and recalled John Quincy Adams' dismissive comment that "there's nothing so pathetic as a former president...."

He explained that an inability to play on golf's senior tour, limited saxophone skills and a hardworking ethos forced him to created the William J. Clinton Foundation to take on the challenges of global interdependence.

Alas for Sen. Hillary, Ms. Cassata and Mr. Fournier can't find a whole lot to praise about Milady's delivery; they pass along broad, "nudge nudge wink wink" hints for her to pick up and run with:

Addressing the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's legislative conference, the former first lady held the side of the podium or rested her hands on a folder containing notes or texts. In the first few minutes, she looked down to find a number or a name in a speaking style that resembled a law school professor....

About halfway through the speech, she stopped touching the podium. Her hands came together in the form of a steeple but often broke free to gesture. She did not do the famous Bill Clinton thumbs-up, but she held both her hands out, palms up - a gesture that seemed to be an invitation to join her on the stage.

The pair even gently try to steer Milady towards the issues that (they believe) are the Democrats' strong suits for 2008:

She focused on the major problems facing the country - immigration, global competition, health care - that she said Republicans have not tackled....

She revisited the better economic days of her husband's presidency, arguing that work needs to be done after President Bush's term ends.

Yep, that's the burning issue that animates the voters of America today: global competition! Health care for immigrants! And there's yet another backward-look, yearning for the glory days of Bill Clinton -- let's all party like it's still 1999.

The writers gloss over this final point, but I think it's really the core of the story and should have been the lede. This is very, very bad for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's prospects in the presidential race:

Deep into a speech with several partisan riffs, she delivered her first significant applause line, saying immigrants are hardworking, law-abiding people who deserve our respect.

Let's ponder that: Sen. Hillary was only able to get a "significant applause line" when she was "deep into [her] speech." And how amazing it was to get applause for praising immigrants -- when speaking to the legislative conference of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Ouch.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2006, at the time of 3:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Big Lizards' Iranian Skepticism Confirmed!

Hatched by Dafydd

A couple of days ago, in I'll Believe It When I Believe It, we were very skeptical about Iran's claims of a whole series of "super new weapons" (now expanded to include an invisible "flying boat" -- hmm... could that refer to a hovercraft, you think? Like the one Sachi and I took to cross the English Channel ten years ago? Or maybe just a low-flying, ground-effect airplane?)

We're very please to see that ThreatsWatch now confirms our skepticism.

If you were wondering what that "Fajr-3 missile" was -- the one "which can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads," as AP breathlessly quoted (quoting a general in Iran's Revolutionary Guards) -- it turns out it wasn't exactly what we thought. We wrote:

And this "supermissile" they're talking about sounds remarkably like a 1960s or 70s era cruise missile... either from Russia or France.

In fact, it was less than that. The Pentagon has determined that it was a Soviet Scud-C, developed in 1965. From ThreatsWatch:

Last week, it was noted that there was no word from NORAD nor the US Military in-theater of a ‘ballistic’ missile launch detection in Iran. Today, we get that word. The Pentagon is saying now that Iran tested an older version of the Scud missile family last week and not any new ICBM development. What was launched in last week’s much publicized Iranian media event was, in fact, a Shahab-2 with a range of 310 miles. The Shahab-2 is the Iranian designation for the Scud-C variant of the Russian design.

Oh, and that super-torpedo, the one that would make all defensive shipborne measures obsolete?

Here's what we wrote:

Let's try it another way: the most plausible explanation is that Russia has given Iran some older Shkvals, and the Iranians repainted them.

This has not yet been verified; but the claimed speed of the Iranian Hoot torpedo -- 223 mph -- is almost exactly the speed clocked by the Russian Shkval: 230 mph. This is far too close a match to be coincidence, especially as they both use the same boutique technique, supercaviation, to achieve those speeds... at the sacrifice of both range and maneuverability: they cannot be steered once fired, so their effective range is much less than the raw range of 7,000 m. The Soviets played around with them from the 1960s through the 90s but finally gave them up as relatively worthless in combat.

So we repeat our final point from last time:

If ever the elite media can stop quaking in their Birkenstocks, perhaps they can interview some American experts on Iran's missile force as to what these missiles likely are, where they came from, and whether we have techniques for dealing with them.

Unless, that is, such facts won't fit the story the media has already drafted.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves!

The "story" the antique media prefers is that America has met its match, bitten off more than it can chew, and is going to be humbled. The Third World powers are using asymmetrical warfare to stymie the great American imperialist warmongers, and that will show that darned President Bush! Anything that undercuts the story is a bigger threat than a Hoot missile and must be suppressed.

Don't look for AP to correct its mistakes; they never retract the really big ones.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2006, at the time of 6:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 4, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities

Hatched by Dafydd

I won't say this is my last word on immigration reform, because something interesting might crop up. But I'll be loath to post anything more unless I think of a totally different angle.

An article by Herbert Meyer (via RealClearPolitics blog) notes a distinction I only recently internalized: the difference between immigrants and guests.

The distinction is simple to explain but profound in its implications:

  • An immigrant wants to renounce his citizenship in his country of origin (usually birth but not always) and become an American;
  • A guest wants only to visit for a time; this includes tourists, students, and workers (legal and illegal). A guest worker, of course, wants to come here and work, then go back home.

These two groups create two radically different "cities," which can exist in the same physical space: on the right hand, a city of foreigners who are really just Americans in training, who think and act as much like Americans as they can; and on the left hand, a city of foreigner who like being foreign, who don't like America or Americans, who may even seethe in resentment that the American Southwest was "stolen" from Mexico (to which it actually never belonged) -- a city of people marching in the streets waving Mexican flags and holding signs that say "this is MY continent!"

The immigration debate, then, is a tale of two cities; and which city you see determines which side you're on. But if we look a little closer, close enough to determine fine distinctions, we discover that it's really one city after all. Only then can we slip carefully through the barbed wire to create a plan to satisfy both camps in Congress.

Terrorists are rarely immigrants; there is too much scrutiny, too many background checks. They normally come as tourists or students, or they just sneak across the border. Guests are the biggest security risk; immigrants, even when here illegally, are the most valuable of the people seeking admission to the country.

The most important issue related to any of this is protecting the border. While I believe that no wall can work without first separating out those people -- immigrant and guest -- who come here for benign reasons from those who come here for malicious reasons... it is equally true that no such reformation of the rules can work unless you control the borders. Otherwise, everyone you don't want to admit will just sneak in anyway. Realistically, the two programs must be done simultaneously, like lifting ourselves by tugging on our own bootstraps.

Once the borders are better controlled, though, my first concern is towards regularizing and rationalizing our immigration system; doing the same for guests (including guest workers) can come later. So if we had to drop one or the other from the bill currently slithering its way through the Senate, I would prefer to lose the guest-worker program than immigration reform.

Ideally, I want all four programs: border security, immigration reform, a better managed guest-worker program -- and regularization of those immigrants already here illegally, but whom we would otherwise be happy to admit under the reformed immigration system. But the guest-worker program is least important of those four.

Which is good, because it appears one of the most contentious. I doubt that anyone, not even Tom-Tom Tancredo, would raise a serious objection to rationalizing the immigration system: making a clear path to citizenship encourages exactly the sort of committed immigrants we need. Nobody can be in favor of an arbitrary system where applicants have no clue what they're supposed to do to become citizens.

And the only people who could possibly oppose better border control are politicians who hope to be reelected on the illegal votes of non-citizens (the Sanchez Sisters spring to mind).

The big divide occurs over the last two problems: guest workerss and people already here illegally (guests or immigrants). These are two partially overlapping groups, but it's easiest to split them into three groups: guest workers here legally; illegal workers; and illegal immigrants:

  1. How many legal guests should we allow? All who want to come; only those who we determine, to the best of our ability, are not threats; a predefined number of those we determine are not threats; or none at all?
  2. What do we do with people who are already here illegally but have no interest in living here permanently?

I don't believe there is much to argue about these two categories. First, we come to agreement on how many legal guest workers to admit; any question of numbers can be compromised (that's what Congress does best).

After settling that point, it's easy to deal with the next: if enough guest workers can enter legally, then we can drop the hammer on employers who hire people still coming illegally. That should drastically reduce this group, because if the workers can't get jobs, they'll go home (where it's much cheaper to live).

The big, tough question is the third:

  1. What do we do about the millions of people who are here illegally -- but only because our immigration system is so screwed up, they can't get in legally, even though there is nothing wrong with them: they're sane, decent, honest, hard-working people who only want a better life for themselves and their families. This number is far less than the 12 million we hear about, because many of those are Cat-2 (illegal workers), not Cat-3 (illegal immigrants).

We're talking here about people who would be happy to immigrate here legally, following all the rules and jumping through all the hoops -- except that we have such a wretched system, they can't figure out what to do. They keep being rebuffed, but nobody will tell them why or what they can do to fix the problem or make themselves more attractive applicants. In desperation, they sneak in or overstay a student or tourist visa.

And even here, the main bone of contention seems to be pretty simple: the McCain-Kennedy camp wants to be able to regularize them in situ, after they pay a fine and all back taxes; but the Cornyn camp wants them to do all that, but still be required to return to their country of origin and then be readmitted here legally.

I think the reason the McCainiacs (which includes me on this one, special issue) are so opposed to forcing the illegal immigrants -- and I do mean immigrants, not workers -- to return and then try to be readmitted is their sneaking suspicion (which I share) that what the Cornynites really want is to trick them into returning to their countries of origin... so they can say "ha ha, you're never getting back in... never!"

Clearly, that same fear will occur to illegal immigrants. Without some sort of legal assurances, they won't leave; they would rather stay here illegally than return "home" without any hope of being allowed back into what they consider their real home, the United States.

If your goal is to get illegal immigrants to exit and then be readmitted legally, you must guarantee they will, in fact, be readmitted, assuming nothing disqualifying arises during the reentry security checks. Without such assurance, the reentry provision is just a poison pill to kill the whole deal, and the demand for it is dishonest.

The traditional response, that guaranteeing readmission provides an incentive for future immigrants to come here illegally, is a non-sequitur; since we're rationalizing the process anyway, it's easier for a person of good character to come legally than sneak across and hope for another piece of legislation down the road. And if the person is not of good character, they wouldn't be readmitted anyway.

Assuming everybody is honest, here then is a broad outline of a bill that would actually pass:

  1. We control the borders by a combination of a real wall, an electronic wall created by advanced technology, and beefed up border- and law-enforcement agencies.
  2. We decide how many guest workers (who can pass the threat firewall) we will admit legally, then make it easier for them to move through the steps than it currently is. The number should be higher than it is right now, since the number of illegal who can get jobs here indicates we're not admitting enough legals.
  3. We tighten the noose around employers who hire illegals anyway... those not satisfied with cheap legal guest workers and want to maximize profits by hiring even cheaper illegal workers. We require employers to verify the status using the systemI wrote about earlier (like verifying a credit-card payment but with embedded photo and biometric information).
  4. We rationalize the path to citizenship for immigrants. It can be long and arduous, but so long as they can see that they're making progress, they'll continue along it. Remove all race-based and country-of-origin-based quotas; if you want to control the numbers, use a point system based upon individual attainments or family situations.
  5. Finally, we make all illegal immigrants first exit the country and then apply for readmission legally (after paying appropriate fines and back-taxes)... but we guarantee that if nothing untoward pops up during the reentry security checks, they will be readmitted; otherwise, they have no incentive to leave.

And with that, I believe you can get sixty senators and a majority in the House.

Big Lizards: solving society's scaley conundrums in the blogosphere!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 4, 2006, at the time of 7:42 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

"The Hammer" - a Class Act to the End

Hatched by Dafydd

As you all probably know by now, Tom DeLay (R-TX) has decided not to run for reelection; in fact, he is resigning from Congress very shortly.

Naturally, the Democrats prefer to spin this as some sort of vindication of the charges filed against DeLay by liberal Democratic thug Ronnie Earle, D.A. of Travis County, TX; but in fact, there has been no movement whatsoever in the case in the last two or three months, nothing that would have changed DeLay's mind.

The Democrats are also crowing that this must be due to the looming scandal of disgraced and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff:

DeLay is under indictment in Texas as part of an investigation into the allegedly illegal use of funds for state legislative races.

Separately, the Texan's ties with lobbyist Jack Abramoff caused him to formally surrender his post as majority leader in January, within days after the lobbyist entered into a plea bargain as part of a federal congressional corruption probe.

This is intentionally deceptive -- more even than usual with the liberal news media... because AP's David Espo knows or should reasonably be expected to know that DeLay surrendered his majority leadership not because of anything to do with Jack Abramoff, but because he was formally indicted ("ham sandwich" style) by Earle, and because the Republicans had reinstated the rule requiring members to resign from any leadership position if indicted.

There is a word for intentionally misleading readers in an effort to bear false witness against a person; I'm sure we all know that word by now, having watched the moral contortions of the Democrats and their journalistic "plumbers" for many years now.

The real reason that DeLay is stepping down now is so simple and honorable, the Democrats cannot fathom it. They have no experience with such matters. But in fact, Tom DeLay spelled it out in simple English:

"I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative personal campaign," DeLay said. "The voters of the 22nd district of Texas deserve a campaign about the vital national issues that they care most about and that affect their lives every day and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me...."

In an interview Monday with The Galveston County Daily News in Texas, DeLay said his change of mind was based partly on a poll taken after the March Republican primary that showed him only narrowly ahead of Democrat Nick Lampson. "Even though I thought I could win, it was a little too risky," the paper quoted him as saying.

DeLay wants the GOP to hold his Houston seat... and he knows that's tricky, if the Democrats make it all about Tom DeLay: after years of smearing him with every charge short of mopery with intent to gawk, and with an indictment, however bogus, hanging over his head, the Republican vote in his district might have been depressed if he were the nominee.

So he has stepped aside to allow the party to choose another Republican to run for that staunchly Republican seat -- thus neatly taking one potential pickup off the table for the Democrats. (When they get over their glee at seeing the back of Tom DeLay, they may eventually realize how he outfoxed them to the very end. They'll probably hate him twice as hard.)

The seat will remain Republican. The Texas redistricting will remain in place. And the dirty tricksters will be thwarted once again.

Thanks, Tom; you were a hard man, but an honorable one. You cut corners where everybody else did, because those were the rules of the game (your gerrymander of Texas simply replaced the previous Democratic gerrymander... and it had the advantage of at least restoring voice to the Republican majority of Texas.) And you always campaigned hard for your party, whether you personally liked the candidate or not; even the Left has to admit that, however grudgingly:

And while he was a conservative, he raised millions of dollars for the campaigns of fellow House Republicans regardless of their ideology, earning their gratitude in the process.

Just as they also quietly admit their perennial Abramoff smear is based upon absolutely nothing in DeLay's case:

More recently, former DeLay aide Tony Rudy said he had conspired with Abramoff and others to corrupt public officials, and he promised to help the broad federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud that already has resulted in three convictions.

Neither Rudy, Abramoff nor anyone else connected with the investigation has publicly accused DeLay of breaking the law, but Rudy confessed that he had taken actions while working in the majority leader's office that were illegal. [In fact, Abramoff went farther, telling friends he had no negative testimony about Tom DeLay whatsoever. -- the Mgt.]

They lodge the same charge, in reckless disregard for the truth, against every single Republican running for election.

But in the end, even without any fire, the cyclone of smoke blown by the Democratic hit squad threatened to completely obscure the real issue, which is winning the war against jihadi terrorism. We cannot allow the Democrats to capture the House, because they will undo everything Bush has done in the last six years -- and spend the next two in a futile, tit for tat impeachment "show trial" of George W. Bush.

So Tom, a good man, "came to the aid of his party," and took himself out of position as Target Number One. This makes it that much less likely that Democrats can succeed at sabotaging the war, the economy, the military restructuring, rebuilding our intelligence capability, and every effort at reforming the government that Bush has proposed or enacted.

Vaya con Dios, Congressman Thomas Dale DeLay; you'll be missed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 4, 2006, at the time of 5:33 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 3, 2006

Wounded Vets Hit the Slopes

Hatched by Sachi

Because of advanced medical technology and superb evacuation techniques, many soldiers who would have died of their wounds in earlier eras now survive. That is one reason we have so few deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan: we're sending more wounded solders home alive.

The downside is that there are now many more veterans with serious, life-changing injuries, soldiers who face a difficult adjustment back to society. I've been wondering how we're taking care of these brave souls who sacrificed so much for our freedom.

It's wonderful to learn about a program like this:

Amputees being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center wrapped up the third annual Vail Veterans Program here yesterday, having taken another step ahead in their rehabilitation and more convinced than ever that they have the support of the American people.

The 24 veterans, who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, spent three days here at this world-class ski resort, courtesy of Vail Mountain and the Vail community. While enjoying the red-carpet treatment with free lodging, meals, ski gear, lift tickets and lessons, they skied and snowboarded their way to new emotional and physical milestones.

Such training not only helps the veteran’s physical recovery, it helps his psychological recovery and improves his morale:

Army Lt. Col. Barbara Springer, chief of Walter Reed's physical therapy service, said it's exciting to watch the transformation that takes place on the slopes. "I've seen a lot of people turn the corner," she said. "By the end of the first day, you could see the big smiles... [and] the sense of accomplishment on their faces."

That accomplishment will have a long-term effect on the wounded servicemembers' recovery, she said. "Once they build up their confidence to the point where they can face a challenge and meet that challenge, then they feel like they can do anything after that," Springer said.

Lets give a round of applause to the program organizers, and to the ski-resort employees of Vail, who went out of their way to make wounded vets feel welcome.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 3, 2006, at the time of 9:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Paean to Power Line

Hatched by Dafydd

John Hinderaker's got another great post up on my fave blog. This has some of his best writing since he recast Bush's defense of the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program ("if al-Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why").

He's on about the new Paul Verhoeven movie, Basic Instinct 2, which is tanking like Soviet iron: the powerhouse BI2 simply owns the number 10 slot on its opening weekend. When Verhoeven saw the numbers, his response was to blame America's puritanical values for his woes:

"Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States," said the Dutch native. "Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends."

Yeah, that's why there are so few Christians in the world today:



World Religions By Population

World Religions By Population (from Wikipedia)

John finds this explanation a bit thick:

Apart from the obvious humor value, here are two more or less serious observations: One, what gives with people who say American culture is "Puritanical"? Are they writing from prisons in Albania where they've been confined since 1956? Do they not own computers with internet connections? Do they avert their eyes when they go past magazine racks in airports? Don't they have cable TV?

I love the smell of sarcasm in the morning! This is really good stuff... anybody who walks through this country with his eyes open has probably noticed that sex sells, and there's an awful lot of out there selling every minute of every day. What has Verhoeven been smoking? (Oops, nevermind that last one... "forget it, Jake; it's Hollywood.")

Hollywood also explains the "why" of Verhoeven's absurd claim, according to John:

Here's another theory: maybe Hollywood is indeed so depraved that the normal American culture, sex-drenched though it may be, looks Puritanical by contrast. Scary, if true.

Two: the film directors quoted in this story are presumably not idiots, yet they say things--it's the Bush adminstration's fault when sexy movies fail, since sex has been "banned"--that are obviously stupid. Why? Perhaps because in their world, equally stupid attacks on President Bush are not unusual. Several prominent Hollywood figures have recently suggested that Bush orchestrated the September 11 attacks. Blaming the President for everything from global warming to terrorism is, I think, commonplace in film-industry circles. So maybe it made sense for them to think that they could blame President Bush for the fact that people aren't flocking to see Basic Instinct 2 without getting laughed at. [Emphasis added]

If anyone has ever wondered why I say Power Line is what got me interested in blogging... now you know.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 3, 2006, at the time of 4:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Shiite Alliance Splits

Hatched by Sachi

A couple of weeks ago, Dafydd reported in Al-Jaafari - Teetering On the Edge? that there was a strong indication that the Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), may split over the controversial nomination of Muqtada Sadr's ally, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, as prime minister.

Jaafari is currently the prime minister by appointment, but still under the old Transitional government; he was not elected under the recently approved Iraq constitution. Sadr is, of course, the renegade "cleric" whose Mahdi Militia has gone to war against the Coalition many times in the past three years.

SCIRI (Abdul-Mahdi's party within the UIA) may be about to split from [the Islamic Dawa Party] (al-Jaafari's party) on the question of the prime minister nominee, joining with Kurds and Sunni to form a majority coalition that can nominate Abdul-Mahdi and elect him to the post. This would break the logjam, were it to occur, and the government could finally form.
It seems we were right about that. On Sunday afternoon, as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw paid a surprise visit to Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) announced the split:

It was not clear whether the joint visit by Ms. Rice and Mr. Straw, the top emissaries of the two countries that led the invasion of Iraq three years ago, played a direct role in the fracturing of the Shiite bloc and whether that split would lead to forward movement on forming a new government, which has been stalled for months.

But the developments suggested a new phase in Iraq's convulsions may have started by opening a possibly violent battle for the country's top job between rival Shiite factions, which both have militias backing them up. The incumbent prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, has said he will fight to keep his job, and his principal supporter is Moktada al-Sadr, a rebellious Shiite cleric whose Mahdi Army militia has resorted to violence many times to enforce his wishes

I do not believe their visits directly influenced the split, since the SCIRI was never happy with the nomination; Jaafari won by a single vote within the UIA party caucus, amid many violent threats by Sadr against anyone who opposed his candidate. But pressure from both the American and British governments might have been the last straw for Shia who are fed up with a nominee who has no interest even in unifying the Shia, let alone all Iraqis.

Of course the splintering will cause problems for the Shia, especially the religious ones. The UIA does not have a majority of seats in the National Assembly (it has 128 out of 275 seats), but it's the biggest kid on the block. If it fractures, with its largest piece (the SCIRI) pulling out, it will become just another minority party... particularly so if the SCIRI takes the closely allied Badr Organization (Badr Brigade) with it when it leaves.

The SCIRI will have to form an alliance with Kurdish, Sunni, and secular Shiite parties -- such as the Iraqi National Accord, led by Dr. Iyad Allawi, another former prime minister (this time of the Iraq Interim Government, which predated the Transitional National Assembly government).

The eruption among the Shiites could also completely redraw Iraq's political coalitions, if some Shiite politicians leave the bloc amid the feuding to side with other groups in the 275-member Parliament. That would weaken the religious Shiites.

The most likely candidate arising out of such a realliance would be current Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, the man Jaafari barely beat in the UIA caucus. Both Kurds and Sunni have signalled acceptance of Abdul Mahdi. If one or both of those parties could be persuaded to withdraw their current nominees and send Abdul Mahdi's name up, then the anti-Sadrites within the UIA could vote for him without having to split the party itself. If not, then the SCIRI will have to break away and nominate him.

Sadr’s faction will not stand by quietly as their power base erodes further. They will step up the violence and may even try to assassinate candidates opposing Jaafari, such as the SCIRI's Abdul Mahdi or the Iraqi Democratic Movement's Kassim Daoud (the IDM is another party within the UIA bloc).

Sadr's only power is his ability to kill and threaten to kill; he has considerably less of an ideological following today than he did while he was carrying out his (briefly) successful "rebellion" against the occupying forces in Najaf. Take away that ability, and Sadr will fall.

One possibility is that Coalition and Iraqi forces could keep Sadr's Mahdi Militia busy by raiding even more of the Mahdi thugs’ offices. Once an Iraq unity government is established with a more patriotic and moderate prime minister -- one not beholden to Sadr, as Jaafari is -- Sadr might see the writing on the wall (a very appropriate metaphor, since ancient Babylon was where Iraq is now) and flee to his patron, Iran.

If Sadr splits, I am convinced his Mahdi Militia will disband. Some of the members will surely follow Sadr into exile; others will slide seamlessly into other militias (such as the Badr Brigade, now called the Badr Organization), so they can continue fighting against the Sunni terrorists led by the Jordanian Musab Zarqawi. The rest will probably just fade into the background and try to pretend they were never there.

But that constitutes the best-case scenario, which means the odds are against it: it's the Middle East, after all. Let's keep our fingers crossed that at the very least, Jaafari is forced out as prime minister, and someone else takes over who can actually rally all the democratic factions behind him.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 3, 2006, at the time of 2:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Moussaoui Eligible for Death - Blog At 11:00

Hatched by Dafydd

Well, probably later this afternoon, after some longish MSM pieces are up and I can digest the story. In the meanwhile, at least, unlike the army band of General Charles Cornwallis when he surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, we needn't begin playing "the World Turned Upside-Down," as Friend Lee worried. Associated Press:

A federal jury found al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui eligible Monday to be executed, deciding that his lies to FBI agents led directly to at least one death in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

More:

According to Fox News, the next step is that the same jury, which just determined that Moussaoui's actions led to at least one death -- making "death a possible sentence in this case," as a prosecutor just said on the radio -- will sit through a second penalty phase... this time so they can actually decide whether he does, in fact, get the death penalty or life without parole.

But that's not the end: if the jury recommends the death penalty, then left-leaning Clinton Judge Leonie Brinkema will have the final say. If she decides to ignore the jury and keep poor Mr. Moussaoui alive, she can do so. (I believe that if the jury decides against the death penalty, she cannot impose it over their objections).

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 3, 2006, at the time of 1:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

I'll Believe It When I Believe It

Hatched by Dafydd

Let's see... the Iranian regime -- known far and wide to be liars and braggarts ("wipe Israel off the map," indeed) -- now claim to have developed, in a scant six years, a super missile that is invisible to any radar and also a super torpedo that can destroy any American warship with a single shot and is as fast as the fastest torpedo ever created, the Russian Shkva.

Note, however, the provenance of all these frightening claims:

Iran conducted its second major test of a new missile within days on Sunday, firing a high-speed torpedo it said no submarine or warship can escape at a time of increased tensions with the U.S. over its nuclear program.

The tests came during war games that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have been holding in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea since Friday.

On the maneuvers' first day, Iran said it successfully tested the Fajr-3 missile, which can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads.

"Iran said." All this information comes from only one source: from the Revolutionary Guards missile-force spokesmen; not from any unbiased, third-party expert. The Guard tells AP, and AP tells the world.

And we're supposed to believe this? We're supposed to believe that, although we can evade Russian and Chinese radar, and our subs can evade detection by all the civilized nations of the world, nevertheless, a third-world basket case with a military technology borrowed from Russia, Red China, and NoKo, has out-innovated the United States, by golly.

A country that is years behind even Pakistan at developing a nuclear weapon says it's now the preeminent designer of missile and torpedo technology that renders obsolete all current countermeasures: jamming, evading, and intercepting. Mirabile dictu!

Sure. I'll buy this when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei eats a BLT for brunch.

This all comes at a time when Iran knows we're gearing up for a major strike against them, which would necessarily involve maneuvering our warships into the Gulf of Oman, through the Strait of Hormuz, and into the Persian Gulf (almost certainly with support from the United Arab Emirates, just across the strait from Iran -- assuming we haven't angered them too much between now and the attack by systematically squashing every potential commercial contract with them for anything).

Do you think Iran might possibly have a national interest in making the world, and in particular the United States and Israel, believe that they have developed superweapons that would prevent any such attack?

The new "Iranian" torpedo has a speed almost exactly that of a decade-old Russian fish (flying fish, actually):

The Hoot's speed would make it about three or four times faster than a normal torpedo and as fast as the world's fastest known underwater missile, the Russian-made VA-111 Shkval, developed in 1995. It was not immediately known if the Hoot was based on the Shkval.

Let's try it another way: the most plausible explanation is that Russia has given Iran some older Shkvals, and the Iranians repainted them. And this "supermissile" they're talking about sounds remarkably like a 1960s or 70s era cruise missile... either from Russia or France.

The VA-111 Shkval was developed by Russia primarily for use as an anti-torpedo torpedo, or more properly, anti-torpedo underwater missile: the Shkval ("squall") gets its tremendous speed by using supercavitation:

Supercavitation is the use of cavitation effects to create a large bubble of gas inside a liquid, allowing an object to travel at great speed through the liquid by being wholly enveloped by the bubble. The cavity (i.e., the bubble) reduces the drag on the object and precisely this makes supercavitation an attractive technology: drag is normally about 1,000 times greater in water than in air.

In 1977, Soviet engineers developed the first projectile to use supercavitation: the VA-111 Shkval ("Squall") torpedo. This can travel at 230 mph (100 m/s) underwater, compared to the top speed of about 80 mph (35 m/s) for conventional aquatic craft, but it is reportedly not steerable. Even faster speeds of about 310 mph (ca. 140 m/s) and higher have also been rumored. News of the device reached the West in the 1990s.

Here is the point, though: not being steerable, you only get one shot: the Soviets, then the Russians, meant to use it against an enemy torpedo, or failing that, an enemy submarine. Since many torpedoes use a trailing wire to steer towards the target, forcing the enemy sub to swerve and move would probably sever the wire, making the enemy torpedo easy to dodge.

But such advanced techology requires an equally advanced submarine force, crews that spend months honing their skill in real-world simulations... as we routinely do with sea-based missile interceptors, for example. Even if Russia has shipped some Shkvals to the mullahs (or China has, since they also have a bunch, and they have even more reason to arm Teheran against America than Russia does), they're not likely to have sent entire sub crews along as part of the deal... especially given the terrible consequences of being caught. Advisors, yes; actual crews, I doubt the heck out that.

And that means the Iranians with Shkvals are like gang bangers with AK-47s: they're likely more dangerous to bystanders than the intended target.

But we should look for several more such announcements in the next few months, each one eagerly lapped up by the ghouls at the antique media, eager for the exciting possibility of sunken US warships and a crippled and humbled United States. Maybe we'll hear some of these claims:

  • A new super-synthetic-aperature radar that can easily spot any of our "stealth" aircraft;
  • An anti-missile shield that will destroy the birds while they're still halfway out of their ship-based launch tubes;
  • Particle-beam technology that will disintegrate entire carrier battle groups in a few seconds -- the scene in Mars Attacks! was actually footage from a real Iranian test that the mullahs graciously allowed Tim Burton to use;
  • Corner-turning bullets;
  • Hezbollah cyborgs;
  • Several real, live Djinns from bottles dredged up in the Persian Gulf;
  • And of course, get ready for the Iranians to inform the American news media that they've developed nuclear "doomsday" weapons, which have been secretly buried under every major city in the United States. "Touch one single centrifuge at Natanz," President Ahmadinejad will warn, "and all your base are belong to us!"

If ever the elite media can stop quaking in their Birkenstocks, perhaps they can interview some American experts on Iran's missile force as to what these missiles likely are, where they came from, and whether we have techniques for dealing with them.

Unless, that is, such facts won't fit the story the media has already drafted.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 3, 2006, at the time of 5:32 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 1, 2006

Um... What Am I Missing?

Hatched by Dafydd

Scott Johnson of Power Line -- who is both useful and intelligent -- quotes a fellow who is neither in a recent post. He turn his gimlet eye on the maundering of the head of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (the DFLP -- should that be pronounced "deaf-lip?"). Without further ado:

This past week Melendez has been hurling brickbats again, digging deeply to find ground on which to take offense. Speaking to College Republicans at Mankato State University in support of Kennedy's senate campaign and other Minnesota congressional campaigns, Republican Rep. Gil Gutkneckt sought to emphasize the importance of the midterm elections and inspire the students' efforts on behalf of Republican candidates. In his remarks Gutknecht invoked the legendary heroism of the First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment that saved the day at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, by filling a momentary gap in the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. As reported by the Mankato State University student newspaper, Gutknecht said:

"We're asked to stand in that gap and there are big stakes in this election. I'm not asking you to make the kind of sacrifices that were made on July 2, 1863 by those brave Minnesotans, but I am asking you to make your best effort."

Melendez purports to have found Gutknecht's motivational talk deeply offensive; he demands an apology to "Democrats across the country." And isn't the reason obvious? If Gutknecht's analogy is pursued, the Democrats stand in the shoes of the Confederate forces (or "slaveholders," as asserted in the heading of Melendez's press release) who were charging the Union line. Thus Melendez says:

"To compare beating Democrats to defeating the Confederate Army is either an absurd display of historical ignorance or an insult to the intelligence of Minnesota... [Gutknecht] should be ashamed of himself for stooping so low..."

Mr. Melendez? But... the Confederates were Democrats. Right?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 1, 2006, at the time of 4:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Jill Carroll Now Says Statement Was Coerced

Hatched by Dafydd

Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was taken captive in Iraq in January and just released on March 30th, now says that the statement she made saying her captors had never threatened her was coerced, and that she spoke out of fear for her life.

She now says they threatened her life many times:

In a video, recorded before she was freed and posted by her captors on an Islamist Web site, Carroll spoke out against the U.S. military presence. But Carroll said the recording was made under threat. Her editor has said three men were pointing guns at her at the time.

"During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed," she said in a statement read by her editor in Boston.

"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not."

The kidnappers then "released" her... but what they literally did was transport her to the offices of the Iraqi Islamist Party in Baghdad, a Sunni political party. My guess is that she felt there might be some sort of connection between the party and the terrorists -- in which she is probably correct and probably has better information than any of us, being a reporter working in Iraq. When the Iraqi Islamist Party interviewed her, seeking her statement that the kidnappers had treated her well, she likely believed that the wrong answer might put her right back where she was before:

"At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear I said I wasn't threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times," she said. "Also, at least two false statements about me have been widely aired: That I refused to travel and cooperate with the U.S. military and that I refused to discuss my captivity with U.S. officials. Again, neither is true."

I hope that all those in the blogosphere who criticized Ms. Carroll for praising her captors even after she was supposedly "free" will correct themselves, noting that she was, in fact, not yet free when she made those statements. (Of course, if anyone can find similar statements she made after she got into the Green Zone or Germany, those would be much harder for her to justify; but I haven't seen any such evidence yet.)

If it turns out that she was condemned solely on the basis of statements made while still in the clutches of the Iraqi Islamist Party -- which might have been a party to the original kidnapping -- then she was very shabbily treated indeed... by American blogs.

Every time something like this happens, it's another slice in the 'sphere. It's another little piece of evidence the Antique Media can trot out to make blogs look less professional. So that we don't end up suffering the death of a thousand cuts, please, let's try to "think a second time" before posting! I know some of you have very itchy trigger fingers; but accuracy is more important than raw speed.

We're never likely to beat the time of the MSM; they have correspondents under every bed. So let's make up for our slower pace by being the thoughtful ones.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 1, 2006, at the time of 3:04 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

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