Date ►►► May 31, 2006

What Samuelson Didn't Tell You About What the Senate Didn't Tell You - UPDATED

Hatched by Dafydd

How many immigrants over the next twenty years?

UPDATE: See below.

Captain Ed posted an intriguing mystery today about the projected increase in legal immigration under the just-passed Senate immigration bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (CIRA). This has been the forgotten story of immigration reform; and the mystery, of course, is how much of an increase there will actually be.

(This is a "numbers" thing, so I'm in hog heaven -- meaning no offense to our kosher viewers!)

Any comprehensive bill that passes through both the Senate and the House will certainly not entail the same increases in immigration as projected for the CIRA; the House will surely cut back on a lot. But it's likewise undeniable that there will be some increase in legal immigration even in the joint bill. Thus, CIRA represents the high end of the range of immigration increase.

The low end is what we would get if nothing else passes, just under current law. The actual projected number will be somwhere in between these two figures.

The Captain's Quarters post links both to the celebrated Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation -- who has recalculated his estimates, but is still wildly overheated in his fear of excess immigration -- and also to a columnist for the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson, giving us dueling Bobs.

The Rector link is to the same article we linked earlier (twice); Rector has simply added the following correction at the top:

(Update: On Tuesday, May 16, the Senate passed Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-NM) amendment to S. 2611 that significantly reduced the number of legal immigrants who could enter under the bill's "guest worker" program. As a result of this change, our estimate of the number of legal immigrants who would enter the country or would gain legal status under S. 2611 falls from 103 million to around 66 million over the next 20 years.)

Rector doesn't give us any explanation of how he arrived at his figure of 66 million new immigrants. But I think we can suss it out from the innards of his article.

Rector notes in the original part of the article that:

The figure of 103 million new legal immigrants is based on the assumption that immigration under the guest worker program would grow at 10 percent per year.... If immigration under the H-2C program did not increase at all for two decades but remained fixed at the initial level of 325,000 per year, total legal immigration under CIRA would be 72 million over twenty years....

(He links to some cool and colorful charts here, for the visually minded.)

But of course, not only did the Bingaman amendment stop the automatic increases in the H-2C guest worker program, it also lowered the number per year from 325,000 to 200,000. When I apply this reduction to the 72 million figure, using Rector's own figures for H-2C workers plus their spouses and children, I get an increase in immigration of 64 million (to which Rector added a couple of million to grow on, I reckon).

However, another amendment, also by Bingaman, which passed on May 27th, caps the total number of work-related green cards to 650,000 per year, including spouses and children; Rector had earlier estimated that number as 990,000 per year, which knocks another 4.6 million off the total.

Thus, using the Rector Ratios, using his analysis modified for the two Bingaman amendments, total immigration under CIRA would increase by 59.5 million, not 66 million (or his original estimate of 103 million).

So much for Rector. What about Samuelson?

Robert Samuelson -- whose main interest appears to be selecting for high-skilled instead of low-skilled immigrants -- veered off today to fret about total immigration levels in general. He is not as alarmist as Robert Rector, but he still estimates a much larger increase in legal immigration than does Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA, 96%), writing for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about which more anon.

Here is Samuelson in the current column:

The Senate passed legislation last week that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) hailed as "the most far-reaching immigration reform in our history." You might think that the first question anyone would ask is how much it would actually increase or decrease legal immigration. But no. After the Senate approved the bill by 62 to 36, you could not find the answer in the news columns of The Post, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Yet the estimates do exist and are fairly startling. By rough projections, the Senate bill would double the legal immigration that would occur during the next two decades from about 20 million (under present law) to about 40 million.

So Rector calculates 66 million; his own figures, when one includes the second Bingaman amendment, actually work out to 59.5 million; and Samuelson comes in with a modest 40 million. Under current law, without any immigration reforms, most believe there would be about 20 million new immigrants in the next 20 years.

We've started to set our boundaries: the increase in immigration over the next two decades, assuming comprehensive immigration reform passes, will be more than 20 million (that's just under current law) and less than 66 million. If we believe R. Samuelson instead of the somewhat hyperventilating R. Rector, it would be less than 40 million, giving us a range of 20 million.

But where did Samuelson get the 40 million figure he touts?

The doubling of legal immigration under the Senate bill that I cited at the outset comes from a previously unreported estimate made by White House economists.

Alas, that estimate remains unreported, because Samuelson does not give any citation for it. He also mentions the CBO estimate, but he doesn't report that even to the extent of quoting it. That one, however, I was able to find.

Sen. Charles Grassley is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and he took a look at the expected cost of the CIRA, as an official resource for members of Congress to use before voting on any final bill. As part of that estimate, he needed to project how many new immigrants would arrive due to the bill.

UPDATE: This part of my calculation was off, because I failed to notice that Grassley was only looking 10 years, not 20 years forward. It's off, thus, by about 7.8 million, which I will add here....

Grassley -- no friend of CIRA, which he voted against -- estimated for the CBO an increase of 7.8 million [actually, 15.6 million] new immigrants over and above the 20 million who would come here under current law. That would give an upper bound of [35.5 million], and a range of [15.5 million].

Thus, if we believe Charles Grassley, we're only talking about adding an additional [35.5 million] new legal immigrants under CIRA, against the background of 20 million we would add even without CIRA. That means an increase of about [78%] -- significant, but hardly the catastrophic level projected by Rector, and even below the figure estimated by Samuelson.

(Captain Ed is concerned not only about immigration but about the total increase in United States population; he writes:

That level of immigration [the Samuelson numbers -- the Mgt] would be the equivalent of adding eight Minnesotas to the nation within a generation without adding any more territory, and that doesn't even take into account the concomitant growth through births.

(However, the concomitant growth through births is zero, since we're hovering at exactly replacement rate right now, 2.09 births per mother; since that number is probably dropping -- though it's not likely to hit the historic low of 1.77 in 1980 -- we might end up actually losing native-born population... were it not for immigration, the US could eventually find itself in the same dilemma as Europe, with too few people to sustain their GDP -- although we're unlikely ever to be as bad off as they are now, with fertility rates in the 1.6s.)

So there you have it. The likely range, I believe, is the low-end one, since the Samuelson projection is invisible (you can't find out any information about it), and the Rector projection uses highly dubious assumptions, each of which tends to push the total up to ludicrous heights.

Thus, we should expect the actual increase of legal immigration due to reform to be somewhere south of [15.5 million] over two decades, assuming a comprehensive bill actually passes. That is the projection that appears to be both rational and defensible. Make of it what you will.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 31, 2006, at the time of 7:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Poisoning the Well

Hatched by Dafydd

Most of us learned in grade school that animals breath in air primarily for the oxygen, which they uptake and use, exhaling carbon dioxide (CO2); while plants need that CO2, uptaking it and "exhaling" (releasing) O2, oxygen.

We have also been inundated by an endless parade of globaloney prophets who tell us that we're producing more and more CO2 by industrial use of carbon-based fuels -- oil, wood, natural gas. They argue that as carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere, it creates a so-called "greenhouse effect" which raises the mean global temperature (MGT) of the earth ("mean" as in average, not as in cranky).

For many years, a large number of atmospheric scientists have argued that there are positive aspects to this "greenhouse effect" as well as negative ones: true, global temperature is rising slightly -- though it's by no means clear how much is due to anthropogenic (human-caused) factors and how much is simply a natural cycle... since we don't know all the natural cycles; in the past, there have been wild swings of MGT stretching back millions of years.

The good aspects of the "greenhouse effect," just as the name implies, include much faster, healthier, more robust, and larger plant growth. Simply raising the CO2 level in an enclosed, air-tight, laboratory greenhouse leads to dramatically greater yields of virtually any crop you plant.

Well, the globalonistas have finally caught up to this idea; they have finally embraced it... but the only example they can think to focus on -- is new research suggesting that even poison ivy grows much better in a high-CO2 environment!

Another reason to worry about global warming: more and itchier poison ivy. The noxious vine grows faster and bigger as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise, researchers report Monday.

And a CO2-driven vine also produces more of its rash-causing chemical, urushiol, conclude experiments conducted in a forest at Duke University where scientists increased carbon-dioxide levels to those expected in 2050....

Compared to poison ivy grown in usual atmospheric conditions, those exposed to the extra-high carbon dioxide grew about three times larger - and produced more allergenic form of urushiol, scientists from Duke and Harvard University reported.

Begging the question, if poison ivy grows so much better in a high-CO2 environment... why not wheat, corn, and rice? Why not apples and strawberries, cucumbers and kumquats?

In fact, voluminous research shows that every, single crop grows much better in a high-CO2 atmosphere: not just faster and bigger, but more resistent to pests (so you need use less pesticide). In addition, food crops respond better to higher carbon-dioxide than do most weeds.

At the same time, humans and other animals are still able to extract plenty of oxygen; we use only a small fraction of the O2 that we inhale with each breath; even with a lower partial-pressure (the percent of the air that is oxygen), we would still have plenty for breathing; it's unlikely that even asthmatics would notice any difference. Air pollution is a much more dangerous phenomenon that affects breathing far more than a slight increase in the partial pressure of CO2 in the air.

The total rise in MGT that even the primary globalonistas, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predicts is about 1.4 °C to 5.8 °C over the next hundred years. But bear in mind, their own models routinely overpredict the warming that actually occurred in the twentieth century; so it's likely they're doing the same for the 21st, and that the warming will be closer to the left end of that range than the right.

1.4 °C is 2.5 °F... so we're talking a rise in mean global temperature of somewhere around 2.5 °F -- which even the IPCC agrees will mostly occur during winter nights in the coldest regions of the planet. Even the IPCC admits that the temperate regions (where people actually live) will see much a lower rise in temperature, according to their own general circulation models (GCMs).

In exchange for that, we can feed the starving everywhere, because crops will grow better in every "corner" of the globe, from Africa to Southeast Asia to Europe to the Americas. Not only will the civilized parts of the world grow more food to help out -- the areas of the globe that are most prone to mass starvation will themselves produce more crops. (And no, the oceans will not rise dozens of feet; that's a movie. The total sea-level rise would be closer to a couple-three inches per decade, even at the maximal temperature rise predicted by the notoriously overpredicting GCMs.)

Alas, we will have to put up with more poison ivy, too. Perhaps sometime in the next century, we can invent better Calamine lotion.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 31, 2006, at the time of 3:22 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 30, 2006

A Warrior's Perspective

Hatched by Sachi

Black Five referred us to Owen West's Op Ed piece in the New York Times. Owen West, a reserve Marine major who served in Iraq, is the founder of Vets for Freedom.

He thinks the warriors who are actually doing the fighting are tired of mean-sprited political bickering by both sides:

One party is overly sanguine, unwilling to acknowledge its errors. The other is overly maudlin, unable to forgive the same. The Bush administration seeks to insulate the public from the reality of war, placing its burden on the few. The press has tried to fill that gap by exposing the raw brutality of the insurgency; but it has often done so without context, leaving a clear implication that we can never win.

I don't think West is being fair to the president; rather, he seems to bend over backwards to blame both sides equally -- even when one side is clearly more culpable than the other. Although Bush has refused to take the MSM bait to expound on "the fifty most deadly errors you've made in your presidency," he has certainly been willing to change strategies and tactics in the Iraq War.

For example, by uparmoring Humvees and then substituting Strykers wherever possible; by changing commanders who were not getting the job done; by vigorously prosecuting those who engaged in crimes (such as at Abu Ghraib); and most especially, by completely revamping the training for the New Iraqi Army and for focusing at last on equivalent training for the Interior Ministry police forces.

Still, I can certainly understand West's frustration. He thinks the reason ordinary Americans are not rallying behind the troops like they did during WWII is that our military is too insulated from public. Our troops are all volunteers... which means a few sectors of the country (such as the South), where military service is a tradition, contribute the lion's share of the troops. Many people, especially in the more liberal districts that we most desperately need to bring into the fold, don't even know a single serviceman:

In the past, the American public could turn to its sons for martial perspective. Soldiers have historically been perhaps the country's truest reflection, a socio-economic cross-section borne from common ideals. The problem is, this war is not being fought by World War II's citizen-soldiers. Nor is it fought by Vietnam's draftees. Its wages are paid by a small cadre of volunteers that composes about one-tenth of 1 percent of the population -- America's warrior class.

The insular nature of this group -- and a war that has spiraled into politicization -- has left the Americans disconnected and confused. It's as if they have been invited into the owner's box to settle a first-quarter disagreement on the coach's play-calling. Not only are they unprepared to talk play selection, most have never even seen a football game.

In the past, we relied upon the draft to force even those who would not ordinarily think of military service into the Army. While it led to terrible conflicts (in Vietnam, but even in World War II), it also created a shared experience of service to society. Everyone in the country had either served himself or had relatives or close friends who had served. Everyone knew who the soldiers were: the soldiers were we, ourselves.

But today, in many parts of the country, soldiers, Marines, airmen, and sailors are aliens from another planet: most people living in San Francisco or Chicago or the entire state of Vermont don't know what a soldier is or what he (or she!) does; they don't know why he does it; and they certainly can't imagine what he thinks and worries about while doing it.

In a related vein, people have no idea how modern war is fought. All they see are bits and pieces of confusing, bloody pictures; if you probed, you would probably find that 50% of Americans think that war means the indiscriminate killing of everyone in some geographical area. If they think about military aviation at all, they imagine jet-powered B-29s obliterating entire cities in a single night.

But we don't fight like that anymore. We have conventional ordnance (MOABs, Massive Ordnance Air Blast, a.k.a., the Mother Of All Bombs) that can destroy 10 city blocks; but what we actually do nearly all the time is call down Hellfire and brimstone on a single building, leaving the structures on either side virtually untouched. Our weapons are smart; our targets are targeted. It's not that we're the most moral people in the world (though we are)... we don't want to waste explosive power on people who aren't threatening us.

Americans don't know soldiers; and too often, they don't know us. When we read about American troops being killed, we don't find out what killed them until two thirds of the way through the article; only then do we read that two American troops were killed in a terrorist ambush -- in which, by the way, 80 terrorists were slain, 30 wounded, and a dozen high-value targets captured.

America's conscience is one of its greatest strengths. But self-flagellation, especially in the early stages of a war against an enemy whose worldview is uncompromising, is absolutely hazardous. Three years gone and Iraq's most famous soldiers are Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England, a victim and a criminal, respectively. Abu Ghraib remains the most famous battle of the war.

Soldiers are sick of apologizing for a sliver of malcontents who are not at all representative of the new breed. But they are also sick of being pitied. Our warriors are the hunters, not the hunted, and we should celebrate them as we did in the past, for while our tastes have changed, warfare -- and the need to cultivate national guardians -- has not. As Kipling wrote, "The strength of the pack is the wolf."

I wish West had completed that couplet from Kipling's "the Law of the Jungle," from the Jungle Books:

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

It signals that as much as America needs her warriors, they need, just as desperately, an American culture that accepts and understands them. We cannot allow the "warrior class" to exist as anything but rhetoric; if they become an actual "class" separate from ordinary Americans, then it's only a short leap until they believe that they're better than "Americans."

Contrariwise, it would take only a little shift in perspective for American civilians to believe that the "wolves" are too wild to live. Our only salvation is if everyone is a wolf, and the pack comprises all of us.

This was always the case in America from the Revolution, and it's still true today... though the silver thread that connects "the men on the wall" to those within the city gates is stretching very thin indeed.

Finally, today's debates are not high-spirited so much as mean-spirited. To allow polarizing forces to dominate the argument by insinuating false motives on one side or a lack of patriotism on the other is to obscure long-term security decisions that have to be made now.

We are clashing with an enemy who has been at war with us in one form or another for two decades. Our military response may take decades more.

West is being too short-sighted here: our enemy has been at war with us for more than a dozen centuries!

Our enemy is a militant jihadi version of Islam that believes it has the moral duty to put everyone on Planet Earth to the choice of "convert or die;" they are at war not just with America, not even just with the men of the West; they are at war with modernity itself. For our enemies, they are always riding across the desert of the world "in perilous fight," with Mohammed himself leading the charge.

This is not all Islam; but it is a piece of Islam that cannot be reconciled with the rest of the world, and which seems to grow stronger with every passing year... and will continue to do so until we deal it the decisive blow that sends it reeling backward -- for a few decades. Until the next time.

If we do not understand and embrace those who defend us today, there may be no one left to defend us tomorrow. Let's sweep all the partisan bickering under the rug and focus on what all real Americans support: the defense of the West and modernity -- the virtues and values of this culture -- against those for whom history ended more than a millennium ago.

Surely that's a fight worth prosecuting; even for Democrats.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 30, 2006, at the time of 11:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Deliberating On Mistakes

Hatched by Sachi

According to Omar at Iraq The Model, a CNN report on May 27th that quoted Iraq's foreign minister about Iran's nuclear program seriously mistranslated the comments from Arabic to English.

Here is what CNN reported:

Iran has a right to develop nuclear technology and the international community should drop its demands that Tehran prove it's not trying to build a nuclear weapon, Iraq's foreign minister said Friday....

"Iran doesn't claim that they want to obtain a nuclear weapon or a nuclear bomb, so there is no need that we ask them for any guarantee now," Hoshyar Zebari said after meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki.

But Omar listened to the audio, and he says this is completely wrong. He supplies his own translation:

We respect Iran's and every other nation's right to pursue nuclear technology for research purposes and peaceful use given they accept [giving] the internationally required guarantees that this will not lead to an armament race in the region…

This is almost the polar opposite of what CNN reported, raising the dilemma of whether we trust Omar of Iraq the Model -- or the scion of Ted Turner. (Silly question.)

If it turns out CNN mistakenly reported, out of sheer incompetence, the opposite of what Zebari said, they should fire the translator.

But if the mistranslation were deliberate, rewriting the official statements of Iraqi officials to hew more closely to what CNN would prefer they said, then -- well, then that's just the traditional MO of the mainstream media, isn't it?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 30, 2006, at the time of 4:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Kappes In Their Hands

Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times reports the imminent return of "storied operative" Stephen R. Kappes to the CIA fold.

In his old office at the Central Intelligence Agency, Stephen R. Kappes once hung a World War II-era British poster that announced, "Keep Calm and Carry On." He ignored this admonition 18 months ago, when he resigned in anger after bitter clashes with senior aides to Porter J. Goss.

But now Mr. Goss has been forced out as the agency's director, and Mr. Kappes is poised to return, with a promotion. He would become deputy director, under Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who won Senate confirmation on Friday.

A man of military bearing and a storied past, Mr. Kappes would become the first person since William E. Colby in 1973 to ascend to one of agency's top two positions from a career spent in the clandestine service. General Hayden has said that his return would be a signal that "amateur hour" is over at the C.I.A., which has seen little calm since Mr. Kappes's departure.

Kappes departed rather explosively in November, 2004 after "clashing" with Porter Goss aide Patrick Murray... and that itself is the subject of much angst and hand-wringing... why exactly did Kappes resign?

Many on the right are dreadfully worried about Kappes. They worry that he may have resigned in protest against Goss's attempt to terminate the CIA's long-running war against the Bush administration, fought mostly via leaks to Dana Priest and her colleagues at the Washington Post; Priest, you will recall, wrote the bizarre story about secret CIA prisons in Europe at which terrorist suspects were tortured, killed, and eaten (the bones too; nobody has found a trace of them).

She won a Pulitzer Prize for this reporting -- which was based entirely on anonymous leaks from within the Agency. Her story sparked a continent-wide investigation by Europeans intent upon ferreting out these evil American gulags; alas, they never could find any evidence of them, beyond rumor and the Post story... causing Big Lizards to speculate that the information could perhaps have been a "canary trap" designed to smoke out the leakers.

Longtime and very high ranking CIA analyst Mary O'Neil McCarthy was outed as one of the likely sources; she was terminated -- though not "with extreme prejudice" -- and remains under criminal investigation, though she has not yet been indicted or charged with any crime.

Back to Kappes. The vital question remains: does he represent the same "old guard" at the CIA that Mary McCarthy represents -- the group that refuses to shift out of its Cold War, September 10th mentality -- the group that is fighting a war against the Bush administration? Was Kappes fired because he was an obstacle to reform at the CIA?

Or does Kappes oppose this internecine warfare... and was he fired merely because he had a problem with the allegdly "abrasive" leadership of Murray? This is a question of monumental importance; understandably, the Times comes down on Kappes' side and argues that it's the latter:

The incident that directly led to his resignation occurred in November 2004, shortly after Mr. Goss took over at the agency. Patrick Murray, who was Mr. Goss's chief of staff, ordered Mr. Kappes to fire his deputy, Michael Sulick, after Mr. Sulick had a testy exchange with Mr. Murray.

Mr. Kappes, who at the time was in charge of the C.I.A.'s clandestine service, refused and chose to resign instead.

However, this is not very good evidence, because the Times would likely respond the same way whether they thought he was fired for the reasons stated -- because it embarassed Porter Goss, who was never a friend of the Times -- or they thought he was fired for supporting the leakers, because the New York Times loves the leakers. Defense from the antique media doesn't tell us anything about the circumstances of Kappes' resignation.

I've been trying to track down the source of the meme that Kappes was Leader of Leakers, or at least supported them against the Bush administration; but I'm having little luck. In an article in the Daily Standard from the same month which saw Kappes leave, Stephen F. Hayes, who I respect greatly, talked around the question of why Kappes left. Here is Hayes' only reference to Kappes in that contemporaneous piece:

According to the Post, top advisers to Goss are "disgruntled" former CIA officials "widely known" for their "abrasive management style" and for criticizing the agency. One left the CIA after an undistinguished intelligence career and another is known for being "highly partisan."

On the other side, though, are disinterested civil servants: an unnamed "highly respected case officer," and Stephen Kappes, deputy director for operations "whose accomplishments include persuading Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to renounce weapons of mass destruction this year." (Persuasion? Were the Iraq war and subsequent capture of Saddam Hussein mere details?)

With this description of the participants is it any wonder that the anti-Bush-administration leakers often choose the Washington Post?

Hayes clearly indicates that the Post is on the side of the leakers; but he says nothing about Kappes' position on the matter.

Last Monday, Hayes returned to the issue. In the intervening eighteen months, he has become more anti-Kappes... but he still can't seem to muster any believable evidence that Kappes supports leakers or the undeniable war waged by the CIA against Bush. First, Hayes expands upon the departure of Kappes a year and a half ago:

On November 5, Goss's new chief of staff Patrick Murray confronted Mary Margaret Graham, then serving as associate deputy director for counterterrorism in the directorate of operations. The two discussed several items, including the prospective replacement for Kostiw, a CIA veteran named Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. Murray had a simple message: No more leaks.

Graham took offense at the accusatory warning and notified her boss, Michael Sulick, who in turn notified his boss, Stephen Kappes. A meeting of Goss, Murray, Sulick, and Kappes followed. Goss attended most of the meeting, in which the two new CIA leaders reiterated their concern about leaks. After Goss left, Murray once again warned the two career CIA officials that leaks would not be tolerated. According to a source with knowledge of the incident, Sulick took offense, called Murray "a Hill puke," and threw a stack of papers in his direction.

Goss summoned Kappes the following day. Although others in the new CIA leadership believed Sulick's behavior was an act of insubordination worthy of firing, Goss didn't go quite that far. He ordered Kappes to reassign Sulick to a position outside of the building. Goss suggested Sulick be named New York City station chief. Kappes refused and threatened to resign if Sulick were reassigned. Goss accepted his resignation and Sulick soon followed him out the door.

Stephen Hayes is normally direct to the point of bluntness and meticulous in documenting his claims with evidentiary citation (though he inexplicably failed to include much in the way of footnoting in his otherwise excellent book the Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America). But note how vague he gets in defending Murray: "others in the new CIA leadership believed." Which others? Were they present at the meeting? Did they listen to both sides, or just to their chum (and boss) in the "new CIA leadership," Patrick Murray?

This vagueness becomes a pattern in Hayes's article.

My problem is that I can easily see both sides of this. I've had experience with bosses who came in with an agenda -- an agenda I agreed with and thought was a great idea -- but who were so personally abrasive that they alienated everyone around them. When I worked at Ashton-Tate, we got a new VP of Technology, or somesuch, brought in from the European side of the company. He was number two in our management heirarchy, second only to the slimey CEO, Ed Esber. He called a meeting of all the tech writers and informed us that we were "a necessary evil," and that "in a sane world, we could just fire all of you."

Upon later reflection, I figured out what he meant: he meant that the software itself should be designed to be self-explanatory. Anybody who has ever used dBASE knows how far we were from that ideal! But Mr. VP's method of expressing that idea left rather a lot to be desired, and it led to an open rebellion against him among many long-term employees... even those who agreed that dBASE IV was notoriously hard to use.

So it's entirely possible that Kappes might agree that ""C.I.A. needs to get out of the news, as source or subject" -- and yet still erupt with anger at high-hatted management tactics, such as "warning" senior, senior officials that they'd better not leak... as if he already suspected them of being behind it all.

On the other hand, I can also see the possibility, though I think it very small, that Kappes might support the traditional bureaucracy über alles, and might even support the war against Bush. The problem is we don't know, and nothing Stephen Hayes says resolves this dilemma:

It remains unclear why the White House would think that the selection of Kappes, who left the CIA after his public dispute with Goss, might reassure members of Congress, especially Republicans, eager to reform the Agency. Former colleagues say that Kappes is a smart and savvy veteran of the Agency's operations side. He is not, however, a reformer. They describe Kappes as an ardent, sometimes reflexive, defender of the CIA bureaucracy.

"Former colleagues?" Would that include Patrick Murray and the aides he brought with him? What is this supposed to tell us?

Hayes notes that bringing Kappes back is clearly a repudiation of Goss... but for what -- his goal of purging the CIA of leakers, or the actual effect of driving out many others due to a lousy management style?

ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross, guest-hosting the Charlie Rose show Monday night, interviewed former deputy CIA director John McLaughlin. Ross said that people he had spoken with "said that the selection of Kappes indicated the purge that Porter Goss had attempted was over, that it was back to business as usual as it had been 20 months ago." Ross asked McLaughlin: "Is that accurate?"

McLaughlin praised Kappes and replied, "Yeah, I think--I think that's basically an accurate assessment."

John McLaughlin rose to Deputy Director of the CIA under the Clinton-Tenet tenure, continuing under the Bush-Tenet period. When Tenet was booted, McLaughlin was named acting Director of Central Intelligence. It's entirely possible McLaughlin expected he would be named the actual DCI; when Porter Goss was named instead, McLaughlin retired from the agency a couple of months later -- right around the time Kappes resigned.

It's reasonable to suspect that, for reasons entirely personal, John McLaughlin may have a grudge against Porter Goss. So it's hardly surprising that McLaughlin would feel a bit of Schadenfreude at the return of Kappes and the discomfitting of Goss. Still, "business as usual as it had been 20 months ago" means right in the middle of McLaughlin's own tenure as acting director... so he probably doesn't think that's a slam.

Nevertheless, Hayes concludes by drawing a very large mountain out of a very noncommital molehill:

So it's business as usual at the CIA. The White House took on the Agency. And the Agency won.

But where is the evidence that Kappes supports the CIA's war against Bush? If Hayes had anything more explicit, wouldn't he have told us?

I have a serious problem with the basic idea. I find it nearly impossible to believe that President Bush would appoint a director who supported the CIA's war on Bush himself; and I find it equally hard to swallow that Director Michael Hayden, who presumably does not support the war on Bush, would nevertheless bring back a top CIA employee (with explicit White House urging) who supported the revolt. It's a fundamentally absurd premise.

Of course, absurd things can happen, especially in politics. But we shouldn't assume that only absurd things happen; therein lie the "black helicopters."

So until I see somebody present evidence a bit more compelling than what has come forth so far -- a couple of rumors attributed to unnamed "former colleagues" and "people [ABC's Brian Ross] had spoken to" -- I'm going to give Kappes the benefit of the doubt. Let's see if the leaking abates over the next six months... or whether it proceeds full scream ahead.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 30, 2006, at the time of 4:34 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Lying About Lying About Lying

Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times has taken upon itself the man-sized task of resurrecting Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA, 95%) from the political graveyard... and the paper has decided that the best way to do that is to refight the war Kerry lost against the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. (Hat tip to Scott Johnson at Power Line.)

Worse, the Times appears to have decided to refight that war the old-fashioned way: by lying about it.

At the linked page, on the left-hand side, under the caption Multimedia, you will see a link rather misleadingly titled "Graphic: Kerry's New Evidence." Clicking it pops up a handy chart of all the stunning new evidence that sinks the Swift Vets to the bottom of the Mekong River... at least in "Timesland."

The first point to note is that the pop-up is entirely graphic: it's impossible to copy and paste any of the text... so I must laboriously type in what they wrote in order to respond to it. Already, I'm getting aggravated.

Let's take these claims of stunning new evidence one at a time....



John Kerry Stunned

Intro Nitro

The sidebar in the Times article begins with this casually explosive claim:

Senator John Kerry's supporters have gathered new documents and photographs to rebut some of the accusations that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth lobbed during the 2004 campaign.

As so often I do, I lunged for my Webster's Third New International Dictionary by Merriam Webster. The relevant definition of "rebut" is:

To contradict, meet, or oppose by formal legal argument, plea, or countervailing proof; to expose the falsity of: contradict, refute.

So in order to refute the charges of the Swift Vets, the Kerry Krew would need to offer actual "countervailing proof." If the content of this sidebar is what the Times envisions as "proof," then the editors are in serious need of remedial instruction in rhetoric.

The Bronze Age

For example, here is the new Bronze Star photographic evidence; first, the Times "quotes" the Swift Vets' claim, then the alleged refutation:

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claimed that Mr. Kerry was "never wounded or bleeding from his arm" during the incident in March 1969 for which he was awarded the Bronze Star, but that he had a self-inflicted wound in his buttocks after he and another sailor threw grenades into a cache of rice.

Mr. Kerry says this photograph shows him celebrating with others on St. Patrick's Day -- four days after the incident -- with a bandage on his arm. [Emphasis added]

Let's begin with the nitpicky stuff. The Swift Vets claim -- as does John Kerry himself -- that the chap with whom JFK "threw grenades into a cache of rice" was none other than Jim Rassmann, the one Kerry later plucked from the water... who was a lieutenant in the Army Green Berets... not "another sailor." This obviously isn't a big deal; but it does go to show the scanty attention to detail at the Times (all those layers of "fact checking" and whatnot).

Second, when the Times writes that the Swift Vets said that Kerry was "never wounded or bleeding from his arm," they clipped off a very significant part of that quotation. Here are the two sentences in full, from John O'Neill's and Jerome Corsi's book Unfit For Command, page 87 of the Regnery hardcover:

Notwithstanding the fake submission for his Bronze Star, Kerry was never wounded or bleeding from his arm. All reports, including the medical reports, make clear that he suffered a minor bruise on his arm and minor shrapnel wounds on his buttocks.

In other words, everybody agrees that Kerry was injured on his right arm; the Swift Vets say it was merely a contusion, as do the medical records (sayeth the Swift Vets). I have personally read an account by the doctor who says he treated Kerry, and that there was nothing worse on Kerry's arm than a contusion (bruise). JFK claims that his arm was wounded by shrapnel from a mine that exploded near his Swift Boat, PCF 94 (an explosion that many others at the scene do not even remember occurring).

The only dispute is how much of an injury Kerry actually suffered. And the fact that Kerry chose to wrap a bandage around his arm does not tell us who is right. If Kerry were exaggerating the extent of his injuries in order to look more heroic, bandaging himself is the very first thing he would do. Who would think to tug the wrapping off his arm to peek underneath?

Thus, this "new evidence" -- a photo that may or may not show a bandage on Kerry's arm, which pic may or may not have been snapped on St. Patrick's Day 1969 -- in fact proves absolutely nothing... which should have been apparent even to the New York Times.

The actual, complete claim by the Swift Vets is important, because it offers an easy avenue for verification: why not simply check the medical records, which John Kerry has supposedly released? If they indeed show a serious cut that would require a bandage on Kerry's arm, as the photo perhaps depicts (it could also be a sweatband, for all I can tell), then the Times would have the Swift Vets by the dingleberries, wouldn't they?

I highly doubt that the Swift Vets would make such a strong claim about being backed up by the medical records if they really weren't... because with the level of scrutiny they could expect from Team Kerry (backed up by tens of millions of dollars, some of it actually coming from a source other than Teresa), there is no way such a false claim would go unrefuted -- and when I use the term, I do actually mean "refuted."

Yet no such refutation was ever offered. Nobody ever said, "I examined those medical records, and danged if they don't show a serious laceration on Kerry's arm."

But the Times chooses not to examine the records that they, themselves must surely have picked up back during the election: instead, they leave this supposed "refutation" hanging in the air like the sulphur stink in Yellowstone. Thus, they insinuate without actually saying "the Swift Vets were liars." They win the Golden Chutzpah award. Nevertheless, this is strike one in their at-bat trying to discredit the Swift-Boat Vets.

Western Stars Light Up the Sky

The next "rebuttal" offered by the Times in its sidebar concerns the Silver Star incident, where Kerry shot somebody or other on the shore. Here is the Times' account:

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth said the enemy whom Mr. Kerry shot and killed in the incident for which he won the Silver Star was actually a wounded and fleeing teenager “in a loincloth.”

Mr. Kerry says his photographs show the body of a man fully dressed and lying face up, suggesting, he says, that the man was shot while approaching.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claimed that the boy who was shot was probably not armed and “was hardly a force superior to the heavily armed Swift boat and its crew and the soldiers carried aboard.”

Mr. Kerry says another photograph shows him holding a loaded B-40 rocket launcher that he and others say was taken from the man who was shot. In a 2001 letter to Mr. Kerry, one of his crew members recalled a photograph “at the spot where you took out the B-40.” A Bronze Star citation for another sailor for the same incident notes that the boats “came under heavy fire.”

Let's start with this: the Times' statement that "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claimed that the boy who was shot was probably not armed" is a flat lie.

The Swift Vets say no such thing. Here is what O'Neill and Corsi said in Unfit For Command, pp. 83-85:

A young Viet Cong in a lincloth popped out of a hole, clutching a grenade launcher which may or may not have been loaded, depending on whose account one credits....

Whether Kerr's dispatching of a fleeing, wounded, armed, or unarmed teenage enemy was in accordance with the customs of war....

While Commander [George] Elliott and many other Swiftees believe that Kerry committed no crime in killing the fleeing, wounded enemy (with a loaded or empty launcher)....

Not once in the entire account of the Silver-Star incident do O'Neill or Corsi say that the VC that Kerry killed was either unarmed or even "probably not armed;" they carefully express no opinion. Whoever at the Times wrote that sidebar literally made up that claim out of whole cloth.

The Times repeats the false accusation in the body of the article:

Mr. Kerry's supporters have also frozen frames from his amateur films of his time in Vietnam and have retrieved letters and military citations for other sailors to support his version of how he won the Silver Star — rebutting the Swift boat group's most explosive charge, that he shot an unarmed teenager who was fleeing his fire.

What can one say about this? That the New York Times would so casually lie to discredit Kerry's enemies -- and such an easily refuted lie! -- tells us two things:

  1. They're riding pillion behind Sen. John F. Kerry for another turn on the roundabout;
  2. They think the rest of us are complete idiots who cannot even read.

I don't know which is more disturbing.

In any event, since the Swift Vets do not claim the VC was unarmed (they even agree that he had a B-40 rocket launcher -- the only dispute being whether it was still loaded), clearly a photograph taken who-knows-when of John Kerry holding a loaded rocket launcher (I'm certainly not familiar enough with the species to tell whether it's a B-40) is as meaningless as the photo of him with an unbloodied bandage on his arm. Even if he pried it from the warm, dead fingers of the Viet Cong, it does not contradict anything said about the incident by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. So we move on.

Much is made by Kerry (and by "Pinch" Sulzberger Public Relations, LLC) about the claim that the VC Kerry shot was "in a loincloth;" but this is at least fair, since O'Neill and Corsi repeat that claim several times. The emphasis by the Times simply matches the emphasis by the Swift Vets.

We take it as read that there is some significance to the claim. What about the substance?

The "new evidence" offered by Kerry on this point shows what appears to be a dead guy lying on his back wearing clothing. All right... but so what? How do we know this is from the same incident, the same place, the same time, the same VC? We have only John Kerry's own word on that, which has been the problem all along.

As "evidence," this might be admitted in court; but opposing council would tear it to bits, as there is no indication in the photo that Kerry himself is even present!

A tall, thin man slouches in the foreground; but his back is to us. It could be Kerry; it could be somebody else. But if it is Lt.j.g. Kerry, then he changed his garments sometime between that photo and the one of him holding the rocket launcher that he supposedly grabbed from the slain VC: in the first photo, the unknown person in foreview wears a light, probably khaki shirt (it matches his trousers) under a flak jacket; in the second, Kerry is wearing a very dark sweatshirt or longsleeve t-shirt and dark, matching trousers (barely visible).

Thus, either the two pictures (a) were taken at different times, or (b) are of different people, or (c) Kerry carried a wardrobe with him aboard PCF 94 for just such occasions. The most likely explanation to me seems to be (b): the person in the foreground of the picture with the dead VC is someone other than Kerry.

Which means we do not even know whether this is the same incident. We do know that another boat was operating in the same area with Kerry's boat, and that this boat turned first into the attack from the shore. Both Kerry's boat and this other had many Army and South Vietnamese soldiers aboard; the first boat's crew and Army compliment jumped onto the beach first and pursued a number of Viet Cong soldiers, killing quite a few.

Kerry's boat turned ashore "slightly downstream" (p. 83) and was struck in the stern by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Thus, there were two distinct firefights occurring more or less simultaneously: the big batch of Viet Cong, who were routed by the troops on the first boat; and the VC that Kerry shot who toted a rocket launcher (either loaded or unloaded). A photograph taken afterwards of a dead VC could have been from either group.

As Kerry admits he brought his camera along -- snaps of bloody corpses being all the rage in Beacon Hill bean suppers that year -- it's not unreasonable to suppose that he would have taken many pictures after that engagement. Thus, we know that at least one of the dozens of Viet Cong killed that day wore clothing.

After 37 years, how could even John Kerry himself know whether that shot was of the man he killed or one of the other VC killed on that same beach that same day? As "new evidence," this is absolute rot.

Finally, Kerry claims that since the body in the picture appears to be lying on its back, the VC cannot have been fleeing when Kerry shot him.

Even assuming that VC is the same one that Kerry shot, this is nonsensical. The body is arranged very straight: legs stretched out; I cannot tell whether the arms are straightened too, because the picture (as reproduced by the Times) is too fuzzy... but it certainly would not be remarkable if someone had examined the body to see whether it was really dead and weather it had any weaponry. There is no evidence that the body in the photo has not been moved. (What would we expect... a chalk outline?)

Thus, a body lying on its back in a photograph taken some unknown time after the shooting offers us no "new evidence" that the body was shot in the front, rather than the back. Even if it is the same VC. Strike two.

Cambodia Or Bust!

The biggest piece of blarney uttered by John Kerry is unique... in that he has copped to it being false. He repeatedly claimed throughout the 2004 campaign -- and for many years before that -- that he had spend Christmas 1968 in Cambodia, in defiance of congressional mandate and putting the lie direct to "Richard Nixon's" claim that we were not in Cambodia:

So [Mr. Kerry's friends and former Swift boat crew members] have returned, for instance, to the question of Cambodia and whether Mr. Kerry was ever ordered to transport Navy Seals across the border, an experience that he said made him view government officials, who had declared that the country was not part of the war, as deceptive.

This is the incident that Kerry said was "seared, seared" in him:

In March 1986, Kerry said, during a speech on the Senate floor, that, "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared — seared — in me...."

But Kerry had retailed the story much earlier, back at least as far as 1979 -- just eleven years after the Kerry incursion supposedly occurred -- in a review for the Boston Herald of the Francis Ford Coppola movie Apocalypse Now, released that same year; here is an account from Fox News, since I cannot get into the Boston Herald website at the moment ("routine maintenance" on their database, sayeth they):

In an Oct. 14, 1979, letter to the editor of the Boston Herald, Kerry wrote: "I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."

The absurdity may have been real, but any proclamation by "President" Richard Nixon in 1968 certainly is not; Nixon did not become president until January 20th, 1969. But it's possible Kerry meant that Nixon, once he became president, subsequently denied we were in Cambodia... and Kerry thought it was absurd, remembering that he had been there some months earlier. That may be stretching it -- and it's rather crass to indict the Republican who wasn't yet president while ignoring the Democrat who was -- but we'll give Kerry the benefit of the doubt.

Evidently, this act of "searing" has addled his brain, because Kerry no longer claims that he spent Christmas in Cambodia; he now claims that he was about 35 miles on the Vietnam side of the border that day... but he claims that he was actually in (or maybe near) Cambodia on some other occasion in February, 1969.

So much for searing as a memory aid.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused Mr. Kerry of falsely claiming to have been on missions to Cambodia, in paritcular on Christmas Eve in 1968. the group said Mr. Kerry got no further than Sa Dec, about 55 miles ffom the Cambodian border. And it said Mr. Kerry had no proof that he had ever gone to Cambodia with Navy Seals.

Mr. Kerry says coordinates for his boat in archived reports show it closer to Cambodia than Sa Dec, around the area of Cao Lanh, 35 miles from the border, on Christmas Eve. Coordinates from February 1969 show the boat running missions along the Cambodian border, north of Ha Tien, and a report indicates that Mr. Kerry’s boat “inserted Seals.”

Kerry first said (in 1979, or perhaps earlier) that he spent Christmas in Cambodia; now he says he was only in Cao Lanh, which is 35 miles shy of the Cambodian border. I think I'd have to say Swift Vets 1, Kerry 0 on the claim that was seared (seared) in John F. Kerry.

But what about February 1969? Notice how artfully this is worded: first, note that the Times has only Kerry's word about these "coordinates;" he evidently didn't show them to the paper: "Mr. Kerry says" he was "along the Cambodian border." There is no indication he ever showed these supposed reports to the New York Times.

But even if he did sneak across the line, so what? His real claim is that he was ordered across... and he has never tried to show the slightest scrap of a scintilla of a smidge of evidence that anybody in his chain of command ever said, "John-Boy, why don't you pop across the border for a pint."

According to the Times, "a report indicates that Mr. Kerry’s boat 'inserted Seals.'" A report by whom? By Kerry himself, or by someone else? Can't we know who wrote it? For heaven's sake, even if this were a crime, surely the statute of limitations has run by now, nearly forty years later!

The claim by the Times also founders on the fact that at various times, Kerry has told remarkably varying stories about his Cambodian adventures. For example, his famous "magic hat" was given him, not by a SEAL, but by someone in the CIA, he claimed.

Nicely, Whizbang has a wonderful round-up of the bipolar fantasies spun by John Forbes Kerry about where he was, when he was, and why he was (and what happened when he did). Warning: reading them in rapid succession can cause brainlock.

Far from being "new evidence," Kerry's claim of having "coordinates" from a "report" that he was near-but-not-in Cambodia repudiates his own scores of earlier claims that he was actually in, not just near, Cambodia! The only new evidence here is evidence for the Swift Vets, who always claimed Kerry was lying about having been in Cambodia... and who now have John Kerry's own word to the New York Times that the Swift Vets were right all along.

Strike three, and John Kerry is O-U-T -- taking the entire Times dugout down with him.

After Action, After All

This is so trivial, I'm tempted to just ignore it. But being the completist that I am, I cannot. The last item in the sidebar:

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claimed that Mr. Kerry had drafted his own action reports and embellished them so he could win his military awards.

Mr. Kerry says his researcher pulled the original spot reports, which feature a box indicating the name of the drafter. It is not Mr. Kerry’s name but a “Lieutenant Gibson.”

Does anybody even care?

But leaving aside the mystery of the Anonymous Researcher -- who on earth is "Lieutenant Gibson?" After-action reports are (presumably) written by somebody involved in the action. Let's consider his Bronze Star engagement. The Swift Boat commanders during that incident were:

  • Jack Chenoweth
  • Dick Pease (whose boat was actually blown up)
  • Larry Thurlow
  • John Kerry

Each of these men was either a Lieutenant or a Lieutenant junior grade, entitled to be called "lieutenant."

  • In addition, Lieutenant James Rassmann was riding on John Kerry's boat (PCF 94)

So whence Lieutenant Gibson?

The only possibility is that there was a Lt. Gibson back at the Swift Boat base, and he actually wrote the report. But even if that is so, it merely means that someone told Gibson the story about how John Kerry heroically faced a hale of machine-gun fire for two and a half miles along both banks of the river to rescue Rassmann; and that someone could only have been John Kerry, because the other skippers insist they didn't... and they all dispute the account that got Kerry his Bronze Star, his third Purple Heart, and his ticket back home.

So perhaps Kerry didn't write his own after action reports. He merely dictated them.

Valedictory

I thought it would be amusing to examine this alleged "new evidence" that goes so far "to rebut some of the accusations that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth lobbed during the 2004 campaign." Instead, it has turned out to be sad, creepy, and pathetic... sad how an old man must cling to his dreams as desperately as he clings to life itself.

John Forbes Kerry has become nothing but a tire, old man, his face lined with years of lies and self-serving fairy tales, knowing that he couldn't even beat a president who had suffered through four years of the most relentless negative propaganda campaign since the one aimed at Abraham Lincoln. Kerry must have burned with humiliation as he realized he had done even worse against George Bush than did Al Gore -- running before the Iraq War, before Abu Ghraib, before the recession of 2000-2003, and even before Bush v. Gore (of course!)

So now, just as liberals of a certain age insist upon replaying Vietnam in their heads in response to any use of American forces anywhere, for any purpose, Kerry seems intent upon replaying the 2004 election again and again... hoping that this time, things will be different; this time, the American people will make the right choice.

Sen. Kerry... it's time for you to stand down -- and just fade away.



Kerry Adios

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 30, 2006, at the time of 5:13 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 27, 2006

Matthew Dowd: Americans, Republicans, Conservatives Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Hatched by Dafydd

Matthew Dowd, GOP poller extraordinaire, writes that the ultra-hardline conservatives who insist that the American people demand "enforcement only" and hate the "amnesty" of the Senate bill have it exactly backwards. In fact:

Dowd's memo says that an internal RNC poll conducted by Jan Van Louhuzen finds that "overwhelming support exists for a temporary worker program. 80% of all voters, 83% of Republicans, and 79% of self-identified conservatives support a temporary worker program as long as immigrants pay taxes and obey the law."

More, from the RNC internal poll: "When voters are given the choice of other immigration proposals, strengthening enforcement with a tamper-proof identity card (89% among all voters, 93% among GOP), various wordings of a temporary worker program (the highest at 85% among all voters, 86% among GOP), and sending National Guard troops to the border (63% among all voters, 84% among GOP) score the highest among both all voters and Republican voters."

Also: "Voters don't consider granting legal status to those already here amnesty."

Hm. So... you mean that maybe the hysterical Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL, 96%) might actually be misinformed when he says that he speaks for "the base?"

Captain Ed posted on this; that's where I saw it. But it doesn't seem to be getting much coverage from most of the conservative bloggers.

And that's too sad; isn't it better to confront the strongest arguments against one's position? Isn't truth more important than any one person's "position" on an issue?

I think a principled response from someone who opposes the Senate bill would be to say something like:

"All right, it may well be true that the GOP is listening to its base on this issue, that this really is where the GOP is today. But it's up to the party leadership to lead, to teach people how wrong initial impressions can be. The Senate Republican leadership is not living up to its responsibilities by showing Republicans how this bill attacks the very foundations of conserative ideology, blah blah blah."

I don't buy this argument; the GOP rank and file understand the core of the immigration dilemma much better than the enforcement-only gang, perpetually gnashing their iron teeth like Baba Yaga, making a sound like a thousand pots and pans clattering down the chimney.

It turns out that polling by Dowd and also his analysis of major media polls aligns very well with the principled compromise that Big Lizards has advocated for months; it seems that we, not some other blogs, truly had our finger on the pulse not only of America, not only of the Republican Party, but even of self-described conservative Republicans. Not bad, even if we are toasting our own kazoo.

I think we should listen to the base... but not because they agree with me. In fact, it's the other way 'round: I changed my mind on several points of this discussion because people I respect -- members of the Republican base -- offered arguments that made a lot of sense to me.

One of the interesting points that Dowd found was that hardly anyone considers an earned path to citizenship to be "amnesty" for illegal immigrants:

Voters don’t consider granting legal status to those already here amnesty. Seventy percent (70%) of voters say illegal immigrants who have put down roots in the U.S. should be granted legal status after they go to the back of the line, pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and have a clean criminal record; just 25% say that would be amnesty and we should instead impose criminal penalties on illegal immigrants in the U.S. Republican and conservative opinion is only slightly lower—68% of conservatives and 64% of Republicans support granting legal status over criminal penalties.

Voters want comprehensive reform, including a temporary worker program and legal status, not inaction. When voters are given the choice between a comprehensive reform plan of getting tough on border security and a temporary worker program or no reform at all (below), 71% choose comprehensive reform and 19% choose no reform. Support for comprehensive reform is even higher among GOP base voters—80% of conservatives and 72% of church-going Protestants want comprehensive reform over no reform.

It's certainly possible for a principled conservative to reject Hagel-Martinez (actually, whatever bill comes out of the joint conference), regardless of how popular it is, not only among Republicans but among conservative Republicans. But at the least, such opponents should recognize and admit that an enforcement-only stance, or a "status quo" stance, will likely damage Republicans in 2006... rather the buoying them up, as some have suggested.

Americans, Republicans, and conservative Republicans actually support comprehensive immigration reform, and they will not take it lightly if the enforcement-only crowd burns down the bill, rather than acquiesce in creating a path to citizenship for the illegals already here -- as supported by 80% of Americans and over 75% of Republicans.

Cud for thinking.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 27, 2006, at the time of 6:31 AM | Comments (68) | TrackBack

Ex-Squeeze Me, Mr. Hastert?

Hatched by Dafydd

Okay, somebody's going to have to explain this one to me:

House leaders acknowledged Friday that FBI agents with a court-issued warrant can legally search a congressman's office, but they said they want procedures established after agents with a court warrant took over a lawmaker's office last week....

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., concurred: "I am confident that in the next 45 days, the lawyers will figure out how to do it right."

Wait -- am I hallucinating again? I was sure I remembered Hastert saying... oh, here we go:

Earlier in the week, Hastert lodged a protest directly with Bush during a meeting at the White House and demanded that the FBI return the materials. Bush struck a compromise Thursday, ordering that the documents be sealed and turned over to the custody of Solicitor General Paul Clement until congressional leaders and the Justice Department agree on what to do with them.

Didn't Denny Hastert say this was a clear and unambiguous violation of the Constitution? That it was a "separation of powers" question, and that offices in the House of Representatives (and presumably the Senate) were absolutely inviolate?

But now, all they really need are the proper "protocols," and everything is just fine?

In an editorial page article in USA Today on Friday, Hastert said he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have directed House lawyers "to develop reasonable protocols and procedures that will make it possible for the FBI to go into congressional offices to constitutionally execute a search warrant."

Blink.

Blink.

Blink blink.

Pardon my deer-in-the-footlights impersonation. So why exactly did Hastert have to make such an assl out of himself, dragging the GOP through the muck along with him? Why did he have to hurl himself across the room to take the bullet for Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA, 80%), thereby permanently preventing the Republicans from using the massive corruption of the aptly named representative (recalling former President William Jefferson Clinton) as a bludgeon against the Democrats' "Kulture of Korruption" kampaign?

"What's all this I hear about shaving the whales? Can't we just leave those poor creatures with what little hair they have, without shaving them?"

Any day now, Speaker Emily Hastert will smile and say... "Oh! That's very different... nevermind!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 27, 2006, at the time of 3:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 26, 2006

Big Lizards Has No Opinion. Yet. UPDATED - Hey, It's a Fast-Breaking Story!

Hatched by Dafydd

But plenty still to say...

UPDATED: See bottom of post.

Everyone by now must be aware of an investigation by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service of a number of possible civilian deaths in Haditha last November. Alas, nearly everyone is leaping to a series of conclusions before the investigation is complete.

Some conclude that the Marines committed a war crime, a massacre of up to two dozens civilians, including women and children, just because the Marines got angry. Others conclude that the whole charge is a slanderous lie invented by anti-war activists like Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 50%). Both sides are drawing conclusions far beyond the available data.

The fact is that we don't yet know the facts. The dribs and drabs we've gotten from Murtha, from the Los Angeles Times, and from other antique media are anything but illuminating; they critically depend upon anonymous sources, and they conceal weasel-words like "may be," "could be" behind a veil of unfounded certainty:

U.S. Marines could face criminal charges, including murder, over the deaths of up to two dozen Iraqi civilians last year, a defense official said on Friday.

The case could prove a further setback for President Bush who described the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal as America's "biggest mistake" and admitted saying "bring 'em on" to insurgents in 2003 may have "sent the wrong message."

Note two arrows in the quiver of journalism's jihad against Bush and the war:

  • First, that the Marines "could" face murder charges. Here is what Reuters' "defense official" actually said -- though you only get this by reading a different article; the explanatory context is dropped from the first article linked:

    The defense official noted that criminal investigations into deaths could lead to murder charges, but was not more specific about possible charges.
  • Second, the usual Tourette's-like eruption of irrelevant but negative commentary about Bush, designed to taint the sample... and therefore make people more likely to believe the worst.

(I've come up with a neologism to describe that last tendency: I shall call it Spurette's Syndrome, a portmanteau word formed by combining "spurious" and "Tourette's.")

What the Defense Department official clearly said was that one of the possible charges resulting from such an investigation would be murder... which should be obvious, as the claim (by an Iraqi "human rights" organization) is that the Marines wantonly killed unarmed women and children. Clearly, if -- a very big "if" -- if the investigation reveals that this is even partially true, all those involved should be charged with murder... and if they're convicted, I want to see them swing.

Yes, even if they are Marines; and even if they were upset by the IED-death of one of their own, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas. There is no excuse, no mitigating factor, no conceivable rational explanation for executing children in front of their parents -- which is what the Hammurabi Organization for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy alleges they did.

Any Marine who did such a thing -- if any of them really did -- has so dishonored the uniform and the Corps that he should first be dishonorably discharged and then hanged by the neck until dead... and everybody in the unit, indeed every Marine we have (via closed-circuit TV), should be forced to watch the hanging.

I don't know when is the last time we executed a member of the military; but if this allegation turns out to be true (I'm still very dubious), we should resurrect the practice.

But how likely is it? What do we actually know? Darned little:

  • So far, we have Iraqi civiilans who died, though the number is disputed;
  • We have a politician (John Murtha) claiming it was a massacre, but who is also known as a serial liar whose primary purpose has become to accuse American military personnel of committing atrocities and war crimes on a Kerryesque campaign;
  • And we have a videotape.

Reuters says it received a videotape of the alleged victims from the abovementioned Hammurabi human-rights group:

A video of people killed in the incident, given to Reuters in March by Iraq's Hammurabi Organization for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, showed corpses lined up at the local morgue with bullet wounds in the head and chest.

The video showed houses with bullet holes in the walls, pieces of human flesh, pools of blood, and clothes and pots scattered on floors. Residents described a rampage by Marines.

That's what we know (I don't believe Reuters is lying). But what don't we know?

  • We do not know whether the corpses in that video are actually from the incident at Haditha.
  • We do not know whether the gunshots are actually executions -- or shots fired from a distance that hit innocent bystanders.
  • We do not know whether the "bullet holes in the walls, pieces of human flesh, pools of blood, and clothes and pots scattered on floors" betoken deliberate executions or a massive firefight.
  • We do not even know whether those bullet holes were made by M-16s or some other American weapon -- or whether they were made by AK-47s.

None of this information has been released, and no MSM report that I have seen even attempts to show evidence filling these vital lacunae. Here is how the Los Angeles Times luridly describes the supposed incident... and note especially how they characterize the provenance of their information:

Marines from Camp Pendleton wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha, military investigations have found.

Officials who have seen the findings of the investigations said the filing of criminal charges, including some murder counts, was expected, which would make the Nov. 19 incident the most serious case of alleged U.S. war crimes in Iraq.

Which officials are those? Would they include Rep. Murtha and others of his ilk? Note that the LA Times does not even go so far as to say "military officials," which implies to me that the officials are not military; the Times is perfectly capable of using the longer term when they choose, to make their point stronger -- as here:

Marine officials also confirmed Thursday that an investigation had been opened into an April 26 incident in which troops allegedly killed a civilian in the town of Hamandiya, west of Baghdad.

Though the Times admits -- once -- that their entire source for the content of the report is the Ubiquitous Anonymous Informant, who did not even show editors or writers a copy of the report (the article is based upon what "officials said"), the entire rest of their piece is written in simple, declarative, absolute statements, expressing utter certainty about their story:

An administrative inquiry overseen by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell found that several infantry Marines fatally shot as many as 24 Iraqis and that other Marines either failed to stop them or filed misleading or blatantly false reports.

The report concludes that a dozen Marines acted improperly after a roadside bomb explosion killed a fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas.

Looking for insurgents, the Marines entered several homes and began firing their weapons, according to the report.

What they actually mean is, "according to what some civilian somewhere in the government said about the report, which he claims to have read, but won't show us." But besides being cumbersome, that wouldn't fit the "story" as the LA Times conceives it.

Again, we want to caution: Big Lizards is certainly no more prepared to say that the Marines are innocent than we are to say that they are guilty. We're agnostics on this... but we're militant agnostics: we don't know, and neither do you, dang it!

And neither will anyone know, save a handful of people, until the reports are actually released. Until then, as you read increasingly tabloidesque stories in the elite media, bear in mind not only what you have been told but what you haven't been told... particuarly about the source or sources of this story.

UPDATE, a few minutes later: a story in the New York Times gives more specificity to the allegations, though it adds nothing to the provenance: all is still attributed to anonymous "officials":

Congressional and military officials say the Naval Criminal Investigative Service inquiry is focusing on the actions of a Marine Corps staff sergeant serving as squad leader at the time, but that Marine officials have told members of Congress that up to a dozen other marines in the unit are also under investigation. Officials briefed on the inquiry said that most of the bullets that killed the civilians were now thought to have been "fired by a couple of rifles," as one of them put it....

All of those who discussed the case had to be granted anonymity before they would talk about the findings emerging from the investigation.

So it emerges that the investigation is centered around one or two rogue Marines who may have gone on a several-hour long rampage, and also upon several other Marines, probably to determine whether they tried to cover up the incident -- which would of course depend on whether they knew (or reasonably should have known) that what they were reporting was false. Assuming, that is, that it was false.

If true, this is still an atrocity; but rather than indicting the entire Marine Corps, the investigation appears to have narrowed the focus.

I still believe that if this is true (we're no further on that question), those convicted should be hanged and the rest of the Corps forced to stand at attention and watch. But we're still going to wait for the results to be released, and they certainly will be released publicly, before leaping to either conclusion.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 26, 2006, at the time of 5:50 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Welcome Power Line Readers....

Hatched by Dafydd

Paul Mirengoff was kind enough to post about our immigration-bill exchange. In the post, he noted that I "don't defend it in [my] email."

That is true. One of the joys of having a blog is that I needn't repeat the same arguments over and over in every missive... I can point people to Big Lizards! I wish I had done this in my e-mail to Paul, but I'll do it here.

We have discussed this issue, and in particular the Hagel-Martinez Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, in many, many posts... supporting the basic idea but often bashing particular provisions: for example, importing a permanent class of foreign workers instead of just expanding the number of actual immigrants we let in legally.

And we have also noted important changes that should have been in the bill but don't appear to be (in either the Senate or House version), such as a reform of the legal immigration system to make it less capricious and arbitrary and more rational and fair.

Here is a list:

  1. A Tale of Two Cities
  2. Heck, Big Lizards Can Break This Silly Logjam
  3. Breaking: Senate Compromises On Immigration Reform
  4. Patterico's Brilliant Idea
  5. The Continental Divide
  6. A Modest Proposal
  7. First Impressions: Bush's Speech On Immigration
  8. A Specter Is Haunting the Blogosphere...
  9. The "Cost" of Illegal Immigration - and Rhetorical Dissimulation
  10. Excellent Amendment: Criminals Can't Become Citizens
  11. Please Fence Me In, Part Deux
  12. Will Robert Rector Recalculate?
  13. Perm the Temps
  14. Plenty of Room for Improvement - Updated
  15. Senate Passes Bill... Will Conservatives Play Dog-In-the-Manger?
  16. You Are Getting Sleepy, Sleeeeeeeepy....

As you can see, Big Lizards has certainly not been ducking this issue! Sixteen posts arguing our position probably stacks up reasonably well to Power Line, especially considering that they have three brilliant folks arguing their side, and I'm the only member of the Big Lizards team arguing ours (Sachi is more interested in Iraq and country music).

It's not that we have no arguments for our position; it's just that I didn't want to try to shoehorn them into an e-mail.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 26, 2006, at the time of 3:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 25, 2006

You Are Getting Sleepy, Sleeeeeeeepy....

Hatched by Dafydd

I reckon we have to add a new category: argumentum per repetitio, or the Snark Syllogism, from the famous Lewis Carroll poem (which Carroll subtitled "an Agony in Eight Fits"):

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."

Or, in some cases, five times in a single paragraph:

The problem is not just the bill's amnesty provision, though the amnesty provision is profoundly unjust and misguided. Thomas Sowell, for example, has explored the amnesty issue in what is now a series of three devastating columns: "Bordering on fraud (1)," "Bordering on fraud (2)" and "Bordering on fraud (3)." Moreover, as the Meese column demonstrates, the current amnesty proposal repeats the framework of the 1986 amnesty that helped bring us to our present pass.

Toss in a bracketing pair of amnesties on top and bottom, and that makes seven times. Whew!

Let's have a show of hands... can anybody here guess what one word Scott would use to describe legalization of illegal immigrants? Take your time....

As the doddering former Sen. Foghorn Leghorn -- sorry, I meant Fritz Hollings -- might have said, "they's too much, Ah say, they's too much amnestyin' goin' on roun' heah!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 25, 2006, at the time of 4:57 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Senate Passes Bill... Will Conservatives Play Dog-In-the-Manger?

Hatched by Dafydd

Although the Senate has passed its version of the immigration bill, we really have no idea what the final product will look like. The House bill is so different that the resulting merger will be barely recognizable as the offspring of either.

Some, however, don't want the problem addressed at all. If they can't get everything they want, the prefer everybody gets nothing at all. Sen. Jess Sessions (R-AL), for example, would much prefer there be no border fence at all, if the price is that illegals already here ever get normalized:

“We’ve had some good debate in the Senate,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who is a fierce critic of the measure. “But it’s still not fixed, in my opinion, in a whole number of ways. What really needs to be done is for the bill to be pulled down.”

Here is something for the critics to ponder... if this bill is not enacted this Congress, it will be enacted in the next, which begins in January. But the 110th Congress will be more liberal than the 109th -- and especially so if the 109th fails to enact immigration reform.

Time is not on your side. Negotiate now in strength -- or be prepared to haggle tomorrow from weakness.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 25, 2006, at the time of 3:59 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

What IS Speech?

Hatched by Dafydd

Today, the House approved (by voice vote) a Senate bill that bans protests at national cemetaries during the burial of fallen soldiers. I can't imagine President Bush not signing it.

The bill is aimed squarely at the vile and notorious Fred Phelps (whom I will not refer to as "Reverend," because whatever church ordained him should take it back). Phelps has been showing up with his groupies at military funerals, screaming "God hates fags," calling the dead solders "abominations," and carrying signs reading (no joke) "THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS." (You can see the sign at the link; we're not putting the picture up here.)

Under the Senate bill, approved without objection by the House with no recorded vote, the "Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act" would bar protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

The sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said he took up the issue after attending a military funeral in his home state, where mourners were greeted by "chants and taunting and some of the most vile things I have ever heard."

"Families deserve the time to bury their American heroes with dignity and in peace," Rogers said Wednesday before the House vote.

Like the anti-flag-burning bills, this one will be wildly popular... yet raise profound constitutional questions. Phelps, of course, sees it as his holy duty to announce that soldiers are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan because America hasn't yet rounded up all the homosexuals into internment camps, and that such a ban violates his civil liberties:

In an interview when the House bill passed, Phelps said Congress was "blatantly violating the First Amendment" rights to free speech in passing the bill. He said that if the bill becomes law he will continue to demonstrate but would abide by the restrictions.

And see if you can guess who is leaping into the fray... and on which side:

More than a dozen states are considering similar laws to restrict protests at nonfederal cemeteries. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against a new Kentucky law, saying it goes too far in limiting freedom of speech and expression.

I have absolutely no idea how the courts will rule on this; I think the $100,000 fine is probably excessive... but restrictions on protests (moving them some distance away from an event, for example) have been upheld before. I think it will hinge, in the minds of judges and ultimately justices, whether the purpose of the act is to suppress expression.

A number of conservatives, seeing themselves more or less as free-speech absolutists, oppose criminalizing these protests, despite being appalled by the message; on one point, they are correct: we certainly cannot have one law for protests we support and another for protests that disgust us. But to me, that isn't the end of the question; it's the beginning.

What, exactly, is the "speech" that is protected by the First Amendment? There has been a lot of discussion about the mechanism of "speech," whether something nonverbal like nude dancing qualifies; the money of speech, whether campaign contributions qualify as free speech in favor or (or opposed to) a candidate; and at least a million words have been expended in the blogosphere debating the motives of a ban, whether McCain-Feingold bans political speech in order to protect incumbents from having to answer inconvenient questions in the final days of a campaign.

But what about the targets of speech? Does freedom of speech include the right to target anyone, anytime, anywhere?

As a universal rule, certainly not; it's ludicrous to uphold protesters blaring their message via bullhorn in a residential neighborhood at 4:00 am. Freedom of speech is never absolute; even libertarians agree that you don't have to right to tell a potential buyer that your car only has 50,000 miles on it when in fact it has 150,000. But where do you draw the line, and how fuzzy is it?

"Freedom of speech" is actually shorthand for two distinct but equally vital rights:

  • The right to say what you believe;
  • The right to listen to what others are saying.

But just as the right to "speak" includes the right to stand silent, then right to "listen" includes the right to plug your ears.

People have a right to be let alone by demagogues; this must be balanced with the right of even demagogues to engage in demagoguery... but it's a balance, not an absolute. By forcing your speech upon people who have no interest in hearing it and no rational relation to the object of the protest, you have violated the Freedom of Speech of your targets far more egregiously than moving you farther away would violate yours.

There must be some rational relationship between the object of the protest and its target. It is manifestly irrational to protest the Iraq war by sending 10,000 people to picket in front of a Mom & Pop shoe store in Hoboken, NJ. There is no reasonable connection, no reason why the shoe store should be commercially obliterated (which is what would happen) if they are not in any position to do anything about the war in Iraq, and are in fact simply bewildered at being so honored.

I go back to first principles. The purpose of the First Amendment was always to protect the right of the people to speak out against injustice (as they saw it) in order to move people to do something to change it. For example, to speak out against the tyranny of George III, or against slavery, or against Jim Crow; to move Congress to outlaw booze and to try to influence a court to find a defendant not guilty (or guilty); to persuade Congress to immediately make all illegals citizens -- or persuade 'em to deport them all and put soldiers on the border.

Whether or not you may have the right to urinate on the American flag -- and I think you should have -- you certainly have no right to run after me and shove it in my face. In that respect, your "speech" is limited by my right not to observe it... the target, too, has rights.

What about public places, like national cemetaries, during particular events, such as funerals of soldiers? The conservatives and libertarians who object to such a ban are certainly right in one respect: Phelps' protest is overtly political in nature: he wants laws passed to segregate and perhaps incarcerate homosexuals. He is as political as Tom Metzger or David Duke.

But these protests fail the critical "rational relation" test, in my opinion: there is no explicable connection between the parents of a soldier killed in action in Iraq -- and laws criminalizing "sodomy."

  • The protesters make no claim that the specific soldier killed was gay;
  • They don't claim the parents are gay-rights activists;
  • They don't claim the funeral itself is a celebration of homosexuality;
  • They don't even claim that the military is a significant defender of gay rights.

There is no rational connection between the object of the protest and its target. None. And even if the protesters belated start making these claims, that doesn't make them any more reasonable. This sort of crap is much more like the 10,000 picketers in front of Fred's Shoes than it is like peeing on a flag on the steps of the Capitol.

The "reasonable relation" test should dramatically affect the balancing act between the right of speakers to speak -- and the right of the unwilling audience not to have to listen. Where there is a reasonable relation between object and target, freedom to speak should predominate; but where there is no such relation, then the freedom not to listen to the repugnant is the higher principle.

If we applied this uniformly, I think we would get some interesting results: flag burning in public places would not be affected by such a rule, since there is a clear and obvious connection between the American flag and policies of the United States (we "pledge allegiance to the flag... and to the republic for which it stands," after all); but protesting the Iraq war by stripping naked likely wouldn't pass muster, because there is no rational connection between the one and the other.

Contrariwise, stripping naked en masse at a beach to protest the arrest of some skinnydippers would at least pass the "rational relation" test -- though it may run afoul of other restrictions beyond the scope of this post.

There are an infinity of avenues left for Phelps and his mob of perverts to protest in favor of sexual-preference apartheid, many far more rationally related to the subject than this. I really don't see how such a ban violates their freedom of speech (part I) when weighed against the freedom of speech (part II) of the families and friends of the dead soldiers; and I'm surely not inclined to stretch for a reason, as the ACLU is.

(I do wonder, though: if the funeral disrupters were members of International ANSWER, screaming "capitalist pig!" and "baby killer!" at gold-star parents -- that is, if the protesters shamed and humiliate the Left, rather than the Right -- would the ACLU be so speedy about jumping into the fray?)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 25, 2006, at the time of 3:31 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Beautiful Pictures from Iraq

Hatched by Sachi

Black Five featured several photographs taken by Staff Sergeant Russell Lee Klika. His photographs are simply amazing. The first feature is here, and the second here. Enjoy.

To whet your appetites, here are a couple samples....



UAV at Sunset    Kids of Iraq

"Soldiers of Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, launch a UAV prior to a mission from Camp Hope near Sadr City, Iraq" (L); children of Iraq (R) -- courtesy Black Five

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 25, 2006, at the time of 1:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 24, 2006

Stop the Party - Crack Those Books!

Hatched by Dafydd

We neglected to comment on the May 12th decision by a goofy California state judge to overturn the rule in the public schools requiring students to pass an "exit exam" before they can receive their high-school diplomas. (It was the press of other issues, honest!)

High school seniors who flunk the controversial state exit exam may be able to graduate next month anyway, according to a judge's tentative ruling issued late Monday.

Setting the stage for heated debate in court today between supporters and opponents of the California High School Exit Exam, Alameda Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman said he is likely to rule that the test cannot take effect this year as scheduled....

The court's preliminary injunction against the state would allow students to graduate this year if they've met all requirements for graduation - other than passing the test of basic math and English skills. It would mark a huge setback for state officials, who are eager to implement the test they see as the cornerstone of California's school accountability system.

What's worse, the judge refused to stay his own ruling while an appeal was heard. He clearly hoped the wheels of law would grind so slowly that it would be impossible to require the class of 2006 to actually know what they had been taught.

The basic problem, according to Judge Freedman, is that the test is "discriminatory" -- because predictably, different groups will perform differently on the test. But this same argument can be made for any test in any class, any grade, any imaginable method of evaluating the progress of students: some students will perform well, others will not.

Any evaluation whatsoever is fundamentally based upon "discrimination": discriminating between those who have learnt the knowledge and those who have not. And sadly, so long as different racial subgroups have different, culture-based attitudes about schooling -- and so long as boys are different from girls -- those differences among students will tend to clump into racial and gender classifications.

To be perfectly blunt about it, black and Hispanic male students whose subculture is less oriented towards sedentary study and more towards aggressive, even violent interactions will not do as well on the test (as a group) as Asians, and Jews, whose subcultures are precisely the opposite on this issue... or even black and Hispanic female students, who perform markedly better at this level. The performance of white students will be somewhere in the middle. So far, at least, nobody has found a way to change this.

(The standard caveat: there is always more variation within a group than between groups: there are plenty of individual black and Hispanic boys who are very scholarly and individual Asians and Jews who hate school and never study. But once you aggregate into groups, those kids turn out to be minorities within minorities.)

Thus, for any academic test, Asians and Jews will perform the best (again, as a group), whites and black and Hispanic girls in the middle, and black and Hispanic boys at the bottom. But often, teachers are appalled at the pattern they see... and they use grade inflation to make up for this disparity. Many teachers -- perhaps unconsciously, perhaps in response to school rules -- will "re-norm" black and Hispanic male students upwards, awarding them grades that they do not deserve by their individual performance.

Many of those unfairly re-normed students (and of course individual, poorly performing whites, Asians, and Jews as well) have gone all the way through 13 grades of kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools, received a high-school diploma -- yet have been unable to read, write, or compute at even a middle-school level.

The solution of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit is to keep doing that, but more and harder:

If the tentative ruling stands, "this will be a historic ruling for all children in California because Freedman is telling the state, 'You cannot deny a student a diploma if they have not received adequate classroom materials,' " said Arturo Gonzalez, a San Francisco attorney representing students who have failed the exit exam but passed all other graduation requirements.

"You just can't do that," he said. "Its unfair, and it's illegal."

One of the major purposes of the California exit exam is to serve as a last chance to smoke out those students who have managed to duck education for years... aided and abetted by soft-hearted, soft-headed parents, teachers, and school administrators. When these kids fail the exit exam and realize they won't be graduating until they learn the material, it puts huge pressure on these students to take remedial classes and actually bring themselves up to the standards.

That good benefit was lost when Judge Freedman removed the requirement; he became the chief "enabler" of the cultural rejection of learning. Fortunately, however, some of the adults in the California judiciary are less interested in enabling destructive attitudes that in making sure kids are actually, you know, educated. Today, the California State Supreme Court itself issued a preliminary stay on Judge Freedman's ruling... and they did so in plenty of time to make the requirement possible for this year (since the test has already been given).

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated the state high school exit exam as a graduation requirement for this year’s senior class, leaving 47,000 high school students who failed the test in danger of not graduating.

The high court ordered a state appeals court to hold hearings in the case, but with schools ready to hold commencement ceremonies as soon as this weekend, a resolution appeared unlikely before then....

This year's class was the first in which passing the test of 10th grade English and eighth grade math and algebra was required for graduation.

Five of the seven justices sounded very skeptical of Freedman's decision:

Still, the justices said they were not convinced that Freedman ruled correctly. "At this juncture this court is not persuaded that the relief granted by the trial court's preliminary injunction ... would be an appropriate remedy," five of the seven justices wrote.

The case itself was not decided; it still must work it way through the appellate courts, and only then will one side or the other appeal it to the Supreme Court. But this still is very encouraging; such a clear signal that the State Supreme Court is likely prepared to strike this decision down should make the appellate court less sanguine about upholding it.

Accountability and responsibility must be integral parts of education; because in the end, education is not about teachers teaching... it's about students learning.

Keep your fingers dry and your powder crossed....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 24, 2006, at the time of 4:51 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Plenty of Room for Improvement - Updated

Hatched by Dafydd

In defending the basic outline of the Hagel-Martinez immigration bill, Big Lizards does not want to leave the impression that we think the bill is perfect. In fact, we eagerly await negotiations with the House of Representatives; there are elements in the House bill that we hope prevail.

For example, the House bill authorizes 700 miles of fence, rather than the slightly less than 400 miles in the Senate bill. The Senate bill, however, adds 500 miles of vehicle barriers: the best of both bills would be 700 miles of fence plus 500 miles of barriers.

Second, Real Clear Politics Blog reports that the repayment of back taxes allows illegals to get by with only repaying three years of back taxes... even if they have a longer history of tax evasion.

Tom Bevan quotes a column of sorts by Charles Grassley, which he posted on his website (I guess that makes it more like a blogpost!):

Taxes -- Under the bill, illegal aliens get an option to only have to pay three of their last five years in back taxes. Law-abiding American citizens do not have the option to pay some of their taxes. The bill would treat lawbreakers better than the American people. The bill also makes the IRS prove that illegal aliens have paid their back taxes. It will be impossible for the IRS to truly enforce this because they cannot audit every single person in this country.

I'm not sure about the last couple of sentences; they seem completely incoherent. But we certainly agree with the firebrand (who hates any sort of bill beyond mass deportations) that illegals who haven't been paying their taxes should be held to account for all of them, not just the last three years.

(Assuming this is true, of course; I haven't read the bill, and due to past behavior, I'm not necessarily willing to trust Grassley to stick to the truth in a debate.)

And of course, we'd rather see the "guest workers" be actual immigrants, people whose intent is to live the rest of their lives in the United States and become citizens... rather than a permanent underclass of foreign nationals imported as cheap labor, as Europe is doing. True, Mexicans are not much like Algerians or Moroccans or Philippine Moslems; but they're also not much like Americans.

There is great room for negotiation on this bill, many things that can be -- and should be -- changed. But there is no chance for dropping any of the big three:

  • Secure the border with a real fence;
  • Allow more people to enter the country, either as guest workers or immigrants, to continue doing jobs that need doing, but that Americans won't do (the "spillway");
  • Do something to regularize the millions of illegals already here.

No bill that excludes any of these three has a prayer of passing through Congress... and not to act at all would be a catastrophe of both policy and politics.

So instead of railing against those elements that are deal-breakers, let's focus on trying to make the bill better: to increase whatever part you see as beneficial to make the bill, on the whole, a deal we can live with.

UPDATE, a few minutes later: Mary Katharine Ham, guest blogging on Hugh Hewitt, reports on a teleconference between Ed Meese and a group of conservative bloggers about the immigration bill, and about Meese's New York Times op-ed today opposing it, "An Amnesty by Any Other Name ...." The conference was run by Matt Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation.

Let's see if we've grasped the essentials here: a group that opposes what it's pleased to call "amnesty" for illegals invites a speaker who opposes what he calls "amnesty" to speak to a bunch of conservative bloggers -- who oppose what they call "amnesty." And by golly, after thrashing out those differences, they finally all concur that they must oppose what they call "amnesty" for illegals!

It seems that Big Lizards must once again resort to the all-purpose, industrial-sized Robert Anton Wilson, "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.

Wilson channels the voice of Lemuel Gulliver, supposed author of Jonathan Swift's classic Gulliver's Travels:

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.

Though we did like the fact that Meese came out in favor of rationalization of the legal immigration system:

Meese agreed that the goal of any plan should be to make our legal immigration process quicker and more able to meet needs of immigrants and employers. He also stressed that immigrants don't come into the country bearing hats that indicate whether they're dangerous or not, so increased enforcement has to be part of the plan.

One out of two ain't bad. For a ballplayer, batting .500 would be spectacular!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 24, 2006, at the time of 1:51 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Criminal, Schriminal - We're Talking PRIVILEGES Here!

Hatched by Dafydd

United States Constitution ~ Article I ~ § 6 ~ ¶ 1:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

I think it was Paul Mirengoff over on Power Line who wondered how long it would be before the blatant bribery case against Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), was sent to the back of the bus while yet another accusation of George W. Bush's "unilateral approach to the use of [executive] authority" hopped into the driver's seat instead.

In other words, who cares whether Jefferson took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes... George Bush violated Congressional protocol. B'gad, but we must keep a sense of priorities here; what could possibly be more important to the republic than the privileges of members of Congress?

(It is always amusing to note, at this juncture, the etymology of the word "privilege." It comes roundabout from the Latin: privatus, private + lex legis, law or statute... a private law for a particular group of people. In this case, private law for those who pass general laws on the rest of us.)

In Culture of Oops..., we told you about Rep. Jefferson's embarassing adventure, caught on videotape accepting $100,000 from a business associate in a hotel lobby who was in fact working with the FBI in a sting operation. Searching Jefferson's house later, the FBI found $90,000 hidden in food containers in his freezer; the money was the same money that had been handed him in the hotel. We then noted:

The feds recovered $90,000 when they searched Jefferson's house; they subsequently searched his office, probably looking for the rest of the cash as well as incriminating documents -- a horrific violation of Jefferson's civil liberties, sayeth his lawyer, calling the office search "outrageous." (Yes, they already had Jefferson dead to rights; why did they need to humiliate the criminal by searching his office as well?)

Democrats and Republicans alike are up in arms. Outrageous. Astonishing. Oh, not that a congressman would be stuffing wads of cash into his briefcase; that has happened so often lately, it has become positively humdrum.

No no, Speaker of the House Denny Hastert (R-IL), House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Deputy Majority Whip Eric Canter (R-VA), and more congressmen (and senators!) than you can shake a bag o'cash at are in full cry against "the Bush administration's assertions of executive power" in searching congressional offices for criminal cash.

Even with a warrant. Oh yes, lest we forget: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales duly obtained a warrant from a federal judge, based upon probable cause, to conduct this search. Nevertheless...

After years of quietly acceding to the Bush administration's assertions of executive power, the Republican-led Congress hit a limit this weekend.

Resentment boiled among senior Republicans for a second day on Tuesday after a team of warrant-bearing agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned up at a closed House office building on Saturday evening, demanded entry to the office of a lawmaker and spent the night going through his files.

The episode prompted cries of constitutional foul from Republicans — even though the lawmaker in question, Representative William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, is a Democrat whose involvement in a bribery case has made him an obvious partisan political target.

Now, unlike 98% of the blogosphere, neither of us here at Big Lizards is a lawyer... though Dafydd sometimes plays Philadelphia lawyer in blogposts. And we understand that caselaw can determine the actual meaning of statutes and even constitutional doctrine. But we've always thought that the essence of conservative jurisprudence was that, when the actual words used in a piece o'legislation or in the Constitution had a plain meaning, that the plain meaning should prevail.

Or maybe we misunderstood.

But it would seem that the plain meaning of "they shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same" is that members of Congress cannot be arrested during a session, or on their way to the session or from it.

It seems a bit of a stretch to say that "privileged from arrest" means "...and you also can't search their offices." (The other part has the plain meaning that you cannot interrogate them about some speech they made.)

Logically, if we were to take their assertions of blanket immunity from search and seizure at face value, then what is the House, from Republican Speaker Hastert down to the lowliest Democratic mouse, saying?

They are saying that if Marion Barry were elected to Congress, he could sit there in his congressional office, in full view of God and Man, openly smoking crack and shooting up heroin... and the FBI, the DEA, and the Capitol Police could only stand helplessly watching. So long as he kept his stash in the office, he needn't even hide it -- because Congress has a private law that says "what happens under the Dome stays under the Dome."

The Times hints at a somewhat narrower concern: a number of House members have recently fallen afoul of corruption investigations; thus, Congress -- which Mark Twain declared America's only "native criminal class" -- may suddenly perceive a class interest in preventing the executive from searching the hollowed halls of the Capitol building or the Executive Office Building. At least, not without a warning view halloo, to give members time to "tidy up" just a skosh.

Now, I'm just a private schlub. But I think the Times, which clearly sides with the prickly House members (rather, I suspect the Times sides with whomever opposes Bush, for whatever reason), nevertheless touched it with a needle (rem acu tetigisti) when they wrote:

[General Gonzales] and other officials suggested that the search had been made necessary by a lack of response to an earlier subpoena. "We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the Department of Justice is doing its job in investigating criminal wrongdoing, and we have an obligation to the American people to pursue the evidence where it exists," Mr. Gonzales said.

Members of Congress are mindful that much of the public is not familiar with the speech and debate clause, which, among other things, requires that lawmakers be "privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same." Many people may wonder why a Congressional office cannot be searched in a criminal case and what members of Congress are complaining about.

To many lawmakers, that is secondary to the larger separation-of-powers principle they see at risk.

Yup, I think that about covers it. The Lords of the District are offended that they may actually be required to suffer under the very laws they enacted for the peóns. How crass and vulgar! The "larger separation of powers principle" evidently also takes precedence over the people's business -- bills on immigration, confirmation of judges and the Director of the CIA, the war, taxes, energy exploration, and every other piece o'legislation that was let hang fire while Congress roared about laws that were a bit too universal.

The American people don't understand that. But even if you explained it to them, which do you think would concern them more: that Congressmen got their knickers in a twist over being searched (with a search warrant)? Or that Congressmen were taking massive bribes to conspire against the general welfare?

Our old pal John Boehner sums up two centures worth of privilege aroused:

"I clearly have serious concerns about what happened," Mr. Boehner said, "and whether the people at the Justice Department have looked at the Constitution."

Ah. Well, Mr. Boehner... we have serious concerns whether the Republicans in Congress have looked in a mirror recently.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 24, 2006, at the time of 3:52 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 23, 2006

Fake Soldier Exposed

Hatched by Sachi

This is the "Winter Soldier Project" all over again... but this time, the guy who is pretending to be an Iraqi veteran was exposed as soon as his video interview was made public.

I found this story at Belmont Club. Evidently, there is a video interview of one "Jesse Macbeth" circulating in the blogsphere for the last couple of days. Macbeth claims to have been an "Army Special Force Ranger" (his words, not ours); in his interview -- posted at a website called SocialistAlternative.org (five points to Slytherin if you can guess their political orientation) -- Macbeth talks about horrific atrocities supposedly commited by him and his Army Special Forces Ranger Marine Airborne SEAL Green Beret Afrika Korps unit in Fallujah and other parts of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Belmont Club has posted a complete transcript of the interview, but here's as much as we can tolerate:

Jesse Macbeth, formerly a Special Forces Ranger in Iraq, is now active with Iraq Veterans Against the War in Tacoma, Washington. The Rangers are elite units sent door-to-door in Iraq to combat the insurgency. They were also sent into Fallujah to crush all opposition to the occupation of that city. Justice recently interviewed Jesse....

What did your division do?

I was in the Third Ranger Battalion. Our job was to strike fear in the hearts of the Iraqi people.

We would go into people's houses and plow down entire families. We would interrogate people. If we didn't like the answers that they gave, then we would kill the youngest child. If they gave more answers that we didn't like, then we'd move on to the rest of the family. They could've been innocent people. [They could have been innocent. Maybe. Dunno... we're not really sure about those youngest children; maybe they were Fedayin Saddam.]

We would leave the bodies in the streets and blame it on the Shi'ites or the Sunnis. [In Fallujah] we were ordered to go into mosques and slaughter people while they were praying. I won't go into full detail because I'm still haunted by the memories. [It's seared, seared in him.]

Before even reading his outragous claim, his title -- a "Special Forces Ranger" -- did not ring true to me. I thought Special Forces and Army Rangers were two different things... and it turns out the Army thought so, too (see below). In any event, a few short hours after this video was posted, a million milblogs had already ripped this guy to shreds.

First of all, his appearance is riddled with errors: his beret is wrong, his patch is funny, the way he rolls up his sleeves is Marines, and numerous other bits and pieces of his uniform are simply wrong. Black Five has the hilarious picture.

If Just Citizens is correct, the Army has no record of Mr. Jesse MacBeth either.

This is a direct quote given to me by Army spokesman John Boyce:

Initial research by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg shows no Soldier with the name of Jesse Macbeth having ever been assigned to the Special Forces or the Army Rangers -- which are, in fact, two separate disciplines.

This appears to be some sort of hoax. No Soldier by that name at Fort Lewis to our knowledge, in the past, either. Of course, the line about "go into the Army or go to jail" is vintage TV script not heard since the 1960s.

There are also numerous wear and appearance issues with the Soldier's uniform -- a mix of foreign uniforms with the sleeves rolled up like a Marine and a badly floppy tan beret worn like a pastry chef. Of course, the allegations of war crimes are vague, as are the awards the Soldier allegedly received.

It seems this isnt' the first time MacBeth had told this tale; he's been dining out on it for more than two years now. According to Smash of the MilBlogs forum on Mudville Gazette, this guy has been pretending to be an Iraq vet and telling lies about committing war crimes as early as November of 2003.

An article in the Eastern Arizona Courier, dated November 3, 2003, begins with the following paragraphs:

The war in Iraq was officially called to an end a few months ago, but according to Private First Class Jesse MacBeth, 19, of Pima, the turmoil has just begun.

MacBeth, a ranger in the U.S. Army, returned to the states two-and-a-half months ago after sustaining an injury in his back. He spent 14 months serving in the Middle East -- first in Afghanistan and then in Baghdad. Formerly from Tucson, MacBeth now resides in Pima, where he has family, friends and a fiancé. He said that small-town life is the perfect remedy for the various traumas that he suffered during his service in the Middle East.

If true (and it clearly isn't), this would mean that MacBeth had returned home from Iraq in mid-August (coincidentally, about the same time I returned from my deployment). This was long before either of the two major actions in Fallujah.

We've seen likes of him before, haven't we? I remember a couple of plastic "soldiers" in this war alone. Macbeth might have gotten away with it, back in the Vietnam era; after all, the Winter Soldier guys were hailed as heroic whistle blowers... until half the people in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War were exposed as "stolen valor" fakes.

Say... maybe in a few years, Macbeth will pop up as a candidate in an election, salute, and say "Corporal Macbeth, reporting for duty!"

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 23, 2006, at the time of 11:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Hayden Surprise Symphony

Hatched by Dafydd

So in the end, after all the blather and hysteria, with the spectacle of Democrats leaping atop tables, clutching their skirts, and screaming like they'd seen a rat... Gen. Michael Hayden was passed out of committee, with a strong recommendation to confirm as the 20th Director of Central Intelligence, quicker than beets through a baby's behind.

The vote was a crisp 12-3, the three rabid lefty naysayers being Evan Bayh (D-IN, 90), Ron Wyden (D-OR, 100), and Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100).

The other four Democrats voted to confirm: Jay Rockefeller IV (D-WV, 90), Carl Levin (D-MI, 100), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 100), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD, 100).

I'll bet you're wondering about those numbers I'm including in the party/state designation. Aren't you?

Hayden, 61, who would replace Porter Goss as CIA director, is widely expected to win confirmation in a Senate vote that could come as early as Thursday. Goss was forced from his job after clashing with U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte and is expected to leave the agency on Friday.

There were two reasonable criticisms -- frets, actually -- raised against Hayden... and a really, really silly one. The silly one was that he wears a uniform: the undischarged assumption was that an undischarged serviceman would necessarily be a toady to Donald Rumsfeld.

Contrariwise, a moment's research revealed that Hayden was a protege of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, Rumsfeld's primary disputant on intelligence matters -- and a lifelong civilian. If Hayden comes down anywhere on the Pentagon vs. Langley dispute over who should control intelligence, it will be on the side of the civilians.

The reasonable worries were:

  • His background at the National Security Agency might predispose him towards signals intelligence (SigInt -- spy satellites, communications intercepts, and such) and away from human intelligence (HumInt -- actual spies on the ground infiltrating terrorist organizations).
  • He might be less eager to crack down on the CIA leakers, so to avoid suffering Porter Goss's fate.

The first is a bit up in the air, though Hayden did seem to indicate that he understood the CIA was woefully void of actual spies. The second worry, however, was very well addressed by Hayden during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: he explicitly and bluntly told the CIA that the agency should not get involved with reporters:

The general's portrait of the C.I.A. he would like to preside over seemed to be one of esprit, imagination and discretion. "C.I.A. needs to get out of the news, as source or subject, and focus on protecting the American people by acquiring secrets and providing high-quality, all-source analysis," he said.

There are eight Republicans on the committee: Chairman Pat Roberts (KS, 92), Orrin Hatch (UT, 96), Mike DeWine (OH, 68), Christopher Bond (MO, 96), Trent Lott (MS, 96), Olympia Snowe (ME, 60), Chuck Hagel (NE, 87), and Saxby Chambliss (GA, 96). By and large, they gave Hayden fairly easy questions, though Olympia Snowe was somewhat more concerned about the NSA al-Qaeda interception program than was, say, Chairman Roberts.

Still puzzled? What are those weird numbers?

But the hearings were nothing at all like the roughing-up that we expected from the initial hue and cry about Hayden... not just from the Democrats but many Republicans as well, including Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 100). In fact, this turned out to be yet another brilliant appointment by the "powerless" and "impotent" President Bush.

Will Republicans give him any credit for this, or for any of the other excellent conservative policies he has promoted, from tax cuts, to a robust military and defense of the country, to partial privatization of Social Security, to a pro-life position on abortion, partial-birth abortion, and even cloning and embryonic stem-cell research?

Or does the litmus test applied by conservatives change from day to day, reflecting the "what have you done for me lately" attitude of that faction?

All right, ab Hugh... if you don't cough up the explanation for those goofy numbers right now, you're going to be looking for your front teeth two blocks up Skid Row!

I thought you'd never ask. It's a new policy that may or may not continue past this post, since it's an annoying bit of work.

  • The numbers in parentheses after Democratic politicians are their ratings from the Americans for Democratic Action... a very liberal group, usually considered the sine qua non of liberalism. This indicates how liberal the senator or representative is.
  • The numbers after Republican names are their ratings from the American Conservative Union, indicating how conservative they are.

As you can now see, five of the seven Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee rate a 100% liberal score from the ADA. The other two get 90%, for an average "liberalness" of the Democratic side of the Intelligence Committee of 97%.

By contrast, the eight Republicans on the committee range in "conservativeness" from a high of 96% to a low of 60%, with a mean average of 86%.

In other words, on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Democrats are very significantly more liberal than the Republicans are conservative.

This brings up a serious problem in Congress: the Democrats see all congressional committees in purely political terms. Since the party is left-liberal, they will pack every committee with ultra-liberals, even when those liberals are congenitally incapable of fairly or honestly doing their duty: the anti-intelligence-collection Sen. Feingold springs easily to mind, as does the virulently anti-military former Rep. Ron Dellums, who served as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Republicans, however, see important governing committees more in policy terms; so they tend to install people who have expertise in certain areas, regardless of their politics. This, too, can cause problems, when some of the more liberal Republicans use their committee assignments to push politics ahead of policy; but by and large, it works out a lot better than the Democratic approach... where not only is the personal political, but so is every other aspect of human life.

This tends to be true in presidential appointments, too; consider the difference in credibility and seriousness between Attorney General Janet Reno on the one hand -- clearly appointed for pure politics, whose highest previous position was as the very liberal prosecutor in Florida's most liberal county (like Ronnie Earle in Austin) -- and Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, the former having been state attorney general of Missouri (and then governor and senator); the latter being the former secretary of state in Texas, then serving on the Texas Supreme Court, and of course was a White House counsel.

The disparity becomes even more marked when considering Clinton's first two picks for attorney general, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, neither of whom appears to have had any qualifications whatsoever for being United States Attorney General... until you realize that Clinton was simply bound and determined to pick a woman.

Note that there was not a single issue on which Reno disagreed with Bill or Hillary Clinton, including about whether independent counsels should be appointed to investigate well-founded accusations of criminal activity within the Clinton White House. By contrast, John Ashcroft as senator very much opposed some policies Bush later supported -- for example, national educational testing, NATO expansion, and especially spending -- while Alberto Gonzales was known to be pro-choice and much more favorable to "affirmative action" than Bush.

The Hayden appointment is a case in point: I cannot imagine any Democratic president picking someone like Michael Hayden to head the CIA; they go for folks like Anthony Lake (a pure State Department guy who had written books attacking Republicans), John Deutch (who had no prior intelligence experience prior to being appointed by Clinton), and James Woolsey (ditto).

(George Tenet was promoted by Clinton from Deputy Director to Director only after Clinton was forced to withdraw Anthony Lake, due to Republican objections.)

By contrast, Republicans name people like Porter Goss, former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House chair of the Joint 9/11 Intelligence Inquiry, and Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency, then principal Deputy NID, with a long career primarily in military intelligence.

The "seriousness gap" between the parties is the great, unreported story of the last several decades.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 23, 2006, at the time of 6:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

80 Taliban Exit World

Hatched by Sachi

In 87 Taliban Killed In Setback For U.S, Dafydd pointed out how AP often portrays our victories as defeats in disguise. Perhaps they've been reading Big Lizards -- here is the headline from today’s article, “Up to 80 Taliban Dead in U.S.- Led Strike.”

Are they sure “80 Taliban,” not "80 people” or “80 innocent civilians including women, children, and girly-man journalists?”

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) - A U.S.-led nighttime airstrike against Taliban rebels in southern Afghanistan killed up to 80 suspected militants, the coalition said Monday. The local governor said 16 civilians were killed and 16 wounded....

In a statement, the coalition said it had confirmed 20 Taliban killed in the attack on the village in Kandahar province late Sunday and early Monday, while there were "an unconfirmed 60 additional Taliban casualties."

Yep, they are Taliban all right. So aside from the usual confusion between deaths and casualties, that means in the last few days, Afghan soldiers and Coalition forces have killed about 170 bad guys. Not bad.

In an update to the story a little later, Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry upped the ante:

"The Taliban has suffered extraordinary losses in the last three or four weeks - several hundred Taliban killed in the field," he said. "We're the ones that are moving. They're the ones who are trying to hold."

"Several hundred" killed likely means four times as many wounded, many of whom won't make it (due to poor medical care for terrorists hiding in caves). So we have likely taken at least a thousand terrorists out of action in the last month alone.

Of course this being AP, they're not quite willing to admit these events are successes; from the earlier story:

The airstrikes brought the death toll of militants, Afghan forces, coalition soldiers and civilians to as many as 285 since Wednesday, according to coalition and Afghan figures. The storm of violence that erupted last week in the south was among the deadliest combat in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.

I really wish they would stop combining the deaths and casualties of the enemy, us, and random civilians; it muddies the reality.

The Taliban, like all terrorists, love to strike from within civilian areas, using locals as human shields and thinking that Americans will be so squeamish that we won't respond for fear of killing an innocent bystander. Very often, the shields themselves willingly help and protect the terrorists.

Small wonder that up to twenty "civilians" were also killed... though I'm not sure how you define a civilian in a war where the enemy wears no uniform and has no rank or insignia.

Even with the patented AP whirl, however, it's obvious that the recent attempts by the Taliban at creating a "Tet offensive" in Afghanistan were miserable failures. And that is very good news.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 23, 2006, at the time of 4:59 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 22, 2006

Perm the Temps

Hatched by Dafydd

Last Thursday, May 18th, Mark Steyn completely changed my mind about a guest-worker program.

He was being interviewed by Hugh Hewitt (as is Hugh's wont every Thursday), and Steyn made this argument:

HH: Well, since we spoke on Monday night, I've been thinking about your condemnation of guest worker program. And I think that resonates with people, Mark Steyn, as they begin to think about a permanent underclass called in to work. And I think it's ringing a bell that reminds us of Europe.

MS: Well, you don't have to just talk about Europe, where I think it has been a disaster. I mean, you talk about relatively benign societies that don't make the news.

Fiji...a century ago, the British imported, essentially, a guest worker class to Fiji. Indian workers. And what happened was that eventually, the population rose, and I'm quoting off the top of my head here, but it's about like 46, 48 Indians to native Fijians. And as a result, that country has become tribal and profoundly unstable.

[I'm not sure what Steyn is trying to say here; according to the CIA World Factbook, the Fijian population is 51% Fijian, 44% Indian, and 5% Everybody Else. -- the Mgt.]

And if you look at any...even the most benign bi-cultural societies are profoundly unstable.

This is not an immigration issue. When you have up to maybe a fifth of the population of the United States as a special illegal class, mainly from one other society in the world, that is not an immigration issue. Immigration is a quite separate thing.

I would like first to make a big distinction: Steyn referred to a bi-cultural society... not merely a bilingual one. There are a number of stable bilingual societies; Switzerland, for example. But Switzerland is not bi-cultural: the German, French, and Italian cantons of Switzerland are certainly not blowing each other up... but that may be because they are all by and large the same culture: Western European.

If there were a section of Switzerland that was almost exclusively occupied by Bosnians or Kurds, it would be another story.

What Steyn argues is that Mexico's culture is sufficiently different from America's that it is deadly to have a permanent, floating population of people here who think of themselves not as Americans -- not even as proto-Americans -- but as Mexicans in exile.

Who are these foreign nationals? Many are already here illegally, while most are here legally on perpetually renewed work visas. These ex-pats, whom we will call "guest workers," assuredly came here originally just to work. They didn't think of themselves as an invading army of infiltrators.

The problem is what happens to them after they arrive: they are immediately set upon by activists from MEChA and La Raza. These serpents begin whispering fantasies of "Aztlán" into the ears of our (legal or illegal) guests, telling them that everything from deep inside Oregon to the Rio Grande, from Texarkana to the Pacific, is really theirs, it really "belongs to Mexico," and Mexico should "take it back."

(By the way, the word "reconquista," referring to taking back the American Southwest, is generally not used by Chicano activists that I've seen; I think it's a misunderstanding. Chicanos mostly talk about Aztlán; I've only heard reconquista from those opposing them.)

The truly goofy part of this is that Mexico never actually controlled California in any real sense. They claimed they did, following their independence in 1821; and the U.S. went along with the gag (since it didn't concern us at that time). In the mid-1820s, Mexico City started sending governors to the former Spanish colony... but Californios (both Spanish- and English-speaking) simply ignored them, just as they had by and large ignored the colonial governors immediately preceding them: they ran their ranchos, trapped beaver in the Sierras, and lived more or less placidly.

There were also Californios who declared themselves governors of California (also ignored); but the whole thing was up in the air and a big mess... until 1846, when John C. Frémont, with his rag-tag army of mountain men, scouts, and assorted riff-raff, more or less committed the United States to capturing California as part of (pretty much the end of) the Mexican-American War.

There never was any "Aztlán." The mythical idyllic kingdom was seized upon by Chicano activists in the 60s to demand that the United States turn the entire Southwest over to Mexico. In 1969, they formed el Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán -- MEChA -- the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán.

MEChA (and the National Council of La Raza "the race," founded concurrently with MEChA) act as agents provacateurs of Mexican and other Spanish-speaking immigrants (legal or otherwise). But at least an actual immigrant has somewhat of a defense: most immigrants left their home countries and journeyed to America in order to escape tyranny and poverty and find freedom and opportunity.

Telling someone who fled what he considered to be a dreadful life in Mexico that his new home should now be "returned" to Mexico -- the very place he just left! -- is likely to meet with a chilly reception... and indeed, most actual immigrants do not support groups such as MEChA and La Raza.

(Their American-born children, on the other hand, with no memory of the old country and why Mama and Papa left, are another question.)

But consider how different it is when the targets of the agit-prop are not immigrants, who made the choice to become Americans, but rather just imported workers who still think of themselves as Mexicans (or Bolivians or Venezuelans). I think Steyn is arguing -- and if he is, I have come to agree with him -- that such non-Americans may well look around California or New Mexico or Texas and say to themselves, wouldn't it be great if all this just belonged to us? If we didn't have to go work for the gringos to get a piece, but it was just ours by birthright?

From there, it's a short leap to saying, but it already is ours -- the gringos stole it from us!

We have indeed seen this sort of resentful cultural-warfare arise within a permanent underclass of imported workers who are never allowed to become citizens of the host country: most egregiously in France, Denmark, and other European countries. Riots, arson, murder, and even (potentially) acts of mass terrorism flow from just such a disconnect between people and the culture they reside inside.

Even their children are often denied full citizenship, and they tend to become even more radical than their parents.

It's a very good argument, and it has convinced me: I no longer support a "guest worker" program, as the Senate bill (and the president) advocates. But so, too is my own argument a good one: that no wall, no matter how strong, can withstand a million people trying to knock it down to get in.

In my other analogy, I still believe in the "spillway" that allows the dam to stand, rather than being overtopped and then destroyed by the rising flood of water it tries to hold back. So what is the solution?

The solution is to understand that distinction between immigrants and foreign workers: if we must have a spillway -- and we must -- then it should be in the form of an increase in the number of new immigrants we accept. And not just highly educated people (there aren't enough of them); but also those young men with families, men who may never have had much of a chance at an education or training, but who are willing to work... and who believe in the American dream of freedom and opportunity.

Let's allow more permanent immigrants to replace temporary workers. And to facilitate this, we should also waive the minimum-wage laws for new immigrants here on a work visa.

They're not forced to accept low wages; if they have skills and education, they can find better jobs. But let's allow them to accept a low-paying job, if that's all they're qualified for when they first arrive. When they manage to apply for and receive a green card, then they once again fall under the minimum-wage rules; but by then, they really should be doing something better than picking strawberries or cleaning hotel rooms.

(I oppose minimum-wage laws in general for everybody; but that would be utterly impossible to pass through Congress at this point.)

In fact, we should make such education and language skills a requirement for getting permanent residency, except for spouses of American citizens. Make immigrant applicants demonstrate not only knowledge of English, but also make them pass a high-school level examination of basic knowledge, not only in American history and civics but also math, science, and everything else a typical high-school student must master before getting a diploma in forty-nine of the fifty states.

Let the new immigrants take those jobs that "Americans won't perform" (which is actually true; Americans will not, not even at sharply increased wages). Let them take the jobs at the same rates that temporary guests now receive; it's better than no job at all. And make sure they know that if they learn English and get an education, they can certainly find much better jobs... and do a much better job of supporting their families and giving their niños better lives.

But there appears to be great confusion about this among the "movement conservatives." On the one hand, conservatives seem to accept Steyn's basic point: that it's horrifically dangerous to import hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals into America, people with no intention of ever becoming citizens.

But how do we square the Steyn Syllogism with the Kyl amendment, whose defeat was mourned by conservatives across the country? Here is the Washington Post:

The Senate killed an amendment that would have denied a chance for permanent status and eventual citizenship to illegal immigrants who have been in the country less than five years and to any future immigrants who enter the country under the guest-worker program.

Opponents said the amendment, offered by Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, would have gutted the bipartisan bill that allows guest workers an opportunity to seek permanent residence.

This is insane. Sen. Kyl should have offered an amendment to only admit workers who were applying for "permanent status and eventual citizenship." Kyl has it exactly backwards... and this is one reason why many see conservative opposition to the immigration bill not as solely anti-illegal, but simply anti-immigrant as well.

After all, "future immigrants who enter the country under the guest-worker program" have not necessarily yet broken any American laws. Sure, some folks might have snuck in here earlier, then snuck out again without being caught; but others haven't... and Kyl's amendment does not discriminate between them. He lumps them all together and says none of them, even those who never violated our laws, can come in as guest workers and stay as Americans.

Nor have I seen Kyl or any other conservative propose increasing the number of those admitted as immigrants in lieu of a guest-worker program; typically, they want to eliminate the latter and slash the former to the bone.

The Steyn Syllogism is inarguable, but it implies a very stark choice: either we cripple our economy by starving those businesses that currently depend upon illegal aliens (de facto "guest workers") -- or else we must consciously woo more actual immigrants to American shores by allowing them to work those jobs, even below minimum wage, while they're trying to better themselves such that they can move on up... and make room for the next wave of actual immigrants.

Let's "perm" those temps.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 22, 2006, at the time of 4:08 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Maines Vs. Texas

Hatched by Sachi

Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines is digging the hole deeper and deeper. After three years of backlash and a stunted career, she is even more defiant. In 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, Maines hijacked a Dixie Chicks concert in Great Britain to announce -- to cheers from her audience -- that she was "ashamed" that President Bush came from Texas.

NEW YORK (AP) - The Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines apologized for disrespecting President Bush during a London concert in 2003. But now, she's taking it back. "I don't feel that way anymore," she told Time magazine for its issue hitting newsstands Monday. "I don't feel he is owed any respect whatsoever."

In fact, Maines never really did "apologize" in the first place. She said something along the lines that the office of the presidency should be respected, no matter who holds it. I don't consider that an apology; and she didn't even mean that much. Now, Maines is repudiating even that half-hearted non-apology (which fooled nobody, by the way.)

To tell the truth, I really don't care what three dumb Chicks think of the president or the war. But I am angry at the relentless attacks on country singers, their fans, country western music, and the American spirit itself. Listen to what Martie Maquire, another band member, thinks of country western fans:

"I'd rather have a small following of really cool people who get it, who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith," Maguire said. "We don't want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do."

We know what Maines thinks of Toby Keith; but now Reba's fans are also uncool? I take that personally.

The mainstream press has clearly taken the Dixie Chicks side of this "debate;" they even imply that other country stars made death threats against the chicks:

[Natalie Maines' anti-Bush] remarks led to death threats and a backlash from other country stars, including a high-profile spat with Toby Keith. It also stalled what until then had been the group's smashingly successful career.

Now, that also sentence could also be read to mean that Maines' remarks led to death threats -- and they also (separately) led to a "backlash" by other country singers. But it's carefully crafted so that it's equally proper to read it as saying that "other country stars" reacted with "death threats and a backlash." I think the ambiguity is deliberate: it's a "dual use" smear, like Hussein's WMD arsenal, to make it possible to deny bad intent when called to account.

So how about that "high-profile spat with Toby Keith?" This is true; there certainly was one. But what this story ignores is that the feud was started by Maines herself, who deliberately provoked it a year before her 2003 London smear -- possibly because the Chicks considered Toby Keith their biggest rival in country music at the time, and they may have wanted to piggyback on his success and celebrity to promote their own multiple nominations at the upcoming Country Music Awards. Specifically, both the Chicks and Keith were up for Entertainer of the Year in 2002, and only one could win. (Hint: it wasn't the Texas tornado.)

Toby Keith is actually from Oklahoma (though from Clinton and Moore, not from Muskogee); and interestingly, he is a Democrat -- in the Zell Miller mold -- and he opposed the Iraq war (from an isolationist standpoint). The Chicks never "got" Toby Keith, just like they never "got" country music itself: to this day, they seem to think Keith is a right-wing Republican war supporter.

Toby Keith originally did not say a single thing to Maines about her 2003 comment in London (let alone any death threats). But that wasn't when the "feud" began; in fact, it started well before 2003... but the attacks have mostly come from the Dixie Chicks, mainly from Natalie Maines herself.

Back in August of 2002, Natalie Maines made her first public, gratuitously nasty comment about Toby Keith's song "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue":

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (LA Daily News) - ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings is apparently not the only celebrity to take issue with Toby Keith's chart-topping country hit, "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)." Now, the Dixie Chick’s lead singer, Natalie Maines, freely shares her dislike of the song.

"Don't get me started," Maines told the Los Angeles Daily News. "I hate it. It's ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant. It targets an entire culture - and not just the bad people who did bad things. You've got to have some tact. Anybody can write, 'We'll put a boot in your ass.' But a lot of people agree with it. The kinds of songs I prefer on the subject are like Bruce Springsteen's new songs."

To which Toby Keith said, "you've got to be in my league as a songwriter before I'll even respond to you."

Since then, he's projected images of Maines and Saddam Hussein on big screens behind the stage when he's performing concerts.

But the most infantile attack after Maines' 2003 comment in London came not from Keith, but from the Dixie Chicks themselves:

On May 21, Maines performed on television at the AMC Awards wearing a F.U.T.K. tee shirt – which viewers declared a definite telling off of T.K. (Toby Keith). According to a Dixie Chicks rep, "It’s my understanding that according to chatter on their web site, Natalie’s T-shirt stands for FREEDOM, UNDERSTANDING, TRUTH, AND KNOWLEDGE."

Yeah. Right.

Around this time, a friend's child, whom Keith was very close to, died of cancer. Suddenly the feud between Maines and him just seemed really trivial, and he started ignoring them. Maines may have thought this meant she won; but the reality is that the Dixie Chicks simply ceased to matter in the world of country music: they lost all their award nominations and their CD sales plummeted.

Toby Keith, meanwhile, went on to become one of the greatest forces in the genre in decades. He now owns his own label and has become an institution.

I think at first the Chicks picked on Keith because they percerved him as a rival. They might have thought that attacking him would create the buzz they needed to sweep the CMA awards and launch a huge career in country.

But they wildly misjudged their audience. Toby Keith was not just a musical rival; after 911, and especially after "Courtesy," Toby Keith had become something much larger... and the Chicks never "got it." Keith came to symbolize the angry, defiant American: defiance of Osama bin Laden, of terrorism, and of European-style appeasement. To many Americans, he came to symbolize the spirit of America itself. Keith, the Okie from Clinton, was more Texan than those three dopey Texans.

Natalie Maines clearly understood the defiance part; that's exactly what angered her about Keith's song. Rather than accepting 9/11 as a just rebuke, rather than being humbled and apologetic for all the horrible things we were doing that brought 9/11 on ourselves, Maines understood that Keith's song -- and it's overwhelming reception across the country and especially among the military -- signalled that Americans did not accept the diminished role in the world that Leftists ordered for us. Instead, we made it plain that we were going to fight back -- violently, just as we'd been attacked violently. Keith was a powerful symbol of that resolve.

The Dixie Chicks gambled -- and they lost. They gambled that country fans were just like most rock fans: uncomfortable with the idea that there was something special and essentially good about America, compared to other countries. Maines and the other Chicks thought country fans were basically like the French.

They did not realize what country western music meant to many Americans. Thinking they were attacking American arrogance, they were really attacking the core values of real America. In doing so, the Dixie Chicks have alienated themselves from real Americans.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 22, 2006, at the time of 1:46 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Culture of Oops...

Hatched by Dafydd

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight Ashbury) must be beside herself with glee:

A congressman under investigation for bribery was caught on videotape accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded, according to a court document released Sunday. Agents later found the cash hidden in his freezer.

Surely Ms. P. is giddy with excitement... the Kulture of Korruption! She can hang this around Republicans' necks like an albatross, and ride that puppy to the --

What? Oh. Half a mo', here:

At one audiotaped meeting, Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., chuckles about writing in code to keep secret what the government contends was his corrupt role in getting his children a cut of a communications company's deal for work in Africa.

As Jefferson and the informant passed notes about what percentage the lawmaker's family might receive, the congressman "began laughing and said, 'All these damn notes we're writing to each other as if we're talking, as if the FBI is watching,'" according to the affidavit.

Jefferson, who represents New Orleans, has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.

Nancy "Litella" Pelosi says, "nevermind!"

As for the $100,000, the government says Jefferson got the money in a leather briefcase last July 30 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington. The plan was for the lawmaker to use the cash to bribe a high-ranking Nigerian official - the name is blacked out in the court document - to ensure the success of a business deal in that country, the affidavit said.

The feds recovered $90,000 when they searched Jefferson's house; they subsequently searched his office, probably looking for the rest of the cash as well as incriminating documents -- a horrific violation of Jefferson's civil liberties, sayeth his lawyer, calling the office search "outrageous." (Yes, they already had Jefferson dead to rights; why did they need to humiliate the criminal by searching his office as well?)

"The government's actions in obtaining a search warrant to search the offices of a United States Congressman were outrageous," Robert Trout, attorney for Jefferson, said in a statement. "We are dismayed by this action -- the documents [that the FBI sought] weren't going anywhere and the prosecutors knew it."

Heh, nowhere but the burn bag, I'll warrant.

The investigation heated up after a former aide to Rep. Jefferson and also Kentucky businessman Vernon Jackson both pled guilty to bribery; the latter admitted bribing Jefferson with over $400,000 to secure a telecommunications contract in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.

Both Jackson and "an unidentified [female] business executive from northern Virginia" have turned state's evidence (actually, United States' evidence, as this is a federal bribery case) against Rep. Jefferson; the female associate actually wore a wire and caught very incriminating conversations on tape.

And then there's that pesky videotape. Outrageous!

"Blacked out" or not, the ultimate bribee was identified as Nigerian Vice President Abubakar Atiku, who for some peculiar reason owns a home in Potomac, Maryland... possibly because he wants to live close to his best clients. But Jefferson didn't seem overly concerned about making sure Mr. Atiku got his dough; at least not once Jefferson himself got his mits on it. From the AP story:

When Jefferson and the informant had dinner at a Washington restaurant on May 12, 2005, the FBI was listening, too. Jefferson indicates he will need an increased stake in the profits of one deal, the affidavit said. Instead of the 7 percent stake originally agreed upon, he writes "18-20" on a piece of paper and passes it to the informant.

That is when negotiations move ahead and notes go back and forth, ending with Jefferson's laughter about the FBI watching it all. [Cue the creepy laughter.]

And so, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, we are right back where we started. The Democrats have more or less staked everything on this "Republican culture of corruption" meme, the idea that Republicans are running around stealing everything that isn't nailed down, while the hapless Democrats stand tall for "lawn order."

But as I noted some time ago, both parties are chock-a-block with crooks... actual thugs with their trousers stuffed with Franklins. To imagine that either party is immune to such temptation -- as evidenly Pelosi thought (or thought she could sell the country) -- is just utter folly.

Now that all the poison that lurks in the mud is hatching out, to paraphrase Robert Graves, the Democrats, who demanded an ethical standard so high that few in Washington D.C. could meet it, find themselves hoist by their own petards, to paraphrase Wm. Shakespeare (I'm just full of other people's good words today).

I guess that possibility never occurred to her, or to her equally bootless counterpart on the Senate side, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace).

Oh well; those who cannot remember George Santayana are condemned to repeat him.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 22, 2006, at the time of 12:29 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 20, 2006

Big Wheels Keep On Spinning

Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times has, yet again, published an article saying that the Democrats are poised to seize the House and make deep inroads in the Senate. And yet again, if you actually look a little deeper at their Times' sources, you have to scratch your head and wonder why the Times is always so eager to crawl so far out on a limb that could break off in November -- just as it did last time.

In House Races, More G.O.P. Seats Look Vulnerable
by Adam Nagourney
May 21, 2006

WASHINGTON, May 19 — For months, even in the face of an avalanche of bad news for Republicans, Democratic ambitions for capturing Congress have collided with an electoral map created to protect Republicans from ouster. Despite polls showing rising support for Democrats and scorn for Republicans, analysts have said Democratic hopes for big gains remain remote, because so few seats are in contention.

That appears to be changing.

Over the past week, a handful of once-safe Republican Congressional seats have come into play, and other Republican incumbents are facing increasingly stiff re-election battles, according to analysts, pollsters and officials in both parties. The change amounts to a slight but significant shift in the playing field, and a potentially pivotal change in the dynamics of this midterm election.

I'm not sure what a change has to do around here to get promoted to "slight but significant." But the Pew Research Center is confident of sweeping Democratic gains:

Andrew Kohut, a pollster who is the director of the Pew Research Center, said the public was as unhappy with Congress as at any time in the history of the Pew Poll, and that a third of those polled in his most recent survey said they would use their Congressional vote as an opportunity to vote against Mr. Bush, which is precisely the way Democrats have been trying to frame this election.

"Everything is pointing to a pretty big Democratic victory if attitudes toward Congress remain as negative as they are and attitudes toward President Bush remain as negative as they are," Mr. Kohut said. "It's hard to imagine any way that wouldn't happen."

Hm; perhaps my imagination is just better than Mr. Kohut's. I can imagine a number of scenarios where "attitudes toward Congress... [and] President Bush" get better:

  • The war in Iraq continues to go better and better, as it has been doing the last few months, until it becomes impossible for the antique media to continue the coverup of our victory;
  • Musab Zarqawi is captured or killed;
  • Moqtada Sadr is killed in fighting;
  • There is a huge terrorist attack somewhere in the world, reminding voters of the stakes in the GWOT;
  • Congress passes a good compromise immigration bill, which the president signs;
  • Congress actually does something about earmarks and other spending nonsense, especially if it's as a result of President Bush taking a poke at them;
  • Bush nominates more conservative judges and the Senate -- perhaps after a showdown over filibusters -- confirms them;
  • People's opinions about how well others are doing financially catches up with their understanding of how well they, themselves are doing;
  • Bush, his cabinet, and his new spokesman Tony Snow actually begin talking to the people and explaining all the great things they've done the past couple of years;
  • The Democrats continue being Democrats, and more and more we hear open talk of two years of investigations and impeachment proceedings against Bush.

None of these possibilities except the last is in the hands of Democrats; and they are no more capable of controlling themselves than is the scorpion capable of not stinging the frog. All the other events are either controlled by Bush and the Republicans; or else they're controlled externally, by the terrorists or by our own military. And every single one of these events would improve Republicans' chances for 2006.

Back to the Times article. Here is the independent, non-partisan, unbiased Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Report; he too is very upbeat about the Democrats' chances this November:

Stuart Rothenberg, an independent analyst who tracks Congressional races, said his latest forecast, to be distributed next week, predicted that Democrats could make gains of 8 to 12 seats. That is an increase from a prediction last month that Democrats would gain 7 to 10 seats.

"When we say Democrats are positioned to gain 8 to 12 seats, that certainly means the House is in play," Mr. Rothenberg said. "And those numbers are likely to go up. They are more likely to go up than they are to go down, that's for sure."

Whew! Time to break out those Republican crying towels, right? Wait, not so fast, please. Let's take a trip to just a couple of years ago using our electronic Way-Back Machine -- a.k.a. the internet. Here is a blast from the past, the New York Times on May 28th, 2004:

Washington Talk; For House Democrats, a Whiff of Victory
by Carl Hulse (NYT)
May 28, 2004

WASHINGTON, May 27 - House Democrats do not usually like to talk about 1994, the year of their exile into the minority. It has been a bad memory, best left undisturbed.

But in a changing political climate, some Democrats are now taking a new look at their least favorite year and finding some heartening parallels with the current one. Democratic leaders say they believe they are poised to reverse the surprise Republican takeover of 1994, particularly if a continuing slip in public support for President Bush puts a breeze at their back.

(Note that you have to purchase this archived article for $3.95 if you want to read the whole thing.)

In particular, take a look at what Mr. Rothenberg himself was saying in May, 2004:

Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan analyst of Congressional races, acknowledges that the picture has brightened for Democrats. But he says he still believes they are not quite within reach of House control, mainly because of their need to oust Republican incumbents.

''In getting up to 218,'' Mr. Rothenberg said of the number required for a majority in the 435-member House, ''you don't just need a wave, you need a tsunami.''

Still, he recalls that at this stage in 1994, no one thought the Republican wave would wash aside the Democrats.

He wasn't alone. The independent, non-partisan, unbiased Kevin Drum wondered in his June 11th Washington Monthly column (free) why no one was screaming to the skies what seemed perfectly obvious to him, that the sky was falling on Republicans, and Democrats were poised for huge gains:

So here's what we've got. The May polls show a Democratic lead of 7 points. Dowd, who is certainly trying to spin things as pro-Republican as he can, thinks the Dems have a 7-9 point lead. And the June LAT poll shows a 19 point Dem lead.

Bottom line: my guess is that the LAT poll is an outlier for some reason, but at the same time things really have turned against the Republicans in the past few weeks. Democrats aren't ahead by 19 points, but I wouldn't be surprised if the reality is that they're now 11-12 points ahead.

But here's one more oddity. A genuine Democratic lead of at least 10 points seems pretty likely based on the results of multiple polls, and yet I've heard nothing — nothing — suggesting that Democrats are likely to pick up even a dozen House seats this year, let alone the large number that a 10-point lead implies even when you take gerrymandered House districts into account. What's going on? Why isn't anyone even talking about this?

By September, 2004, Rothenberg was saying the Democratic prospects for huge gains were dimming; but he was still wondering how many seats they would nab in the elections less than two months in the future (the link is to Free Republic because the Rothenberg Report archives, while free, don't have a link to this column):

To have any chance of retaking the House, Democrats still need a wave to develop, and in this regard they remain better positioned than the Republicans to net seats in November. But a wave seems less likely today than it did four weeks ago, and honest Democrats are no longer able to talk seriously about 218 seats.

For the Democrats to have reached 218 seats in 2004 would have required a net gain of 14 seats; so as late as September, 2004, Stuart Rothenberg was skeptical about the Democrats gaining 14 net, believing they would gain somewhat less than that.

So what happened two months later in the actual election? The Republicans -- not the Democrats -- gained a net 3 seats in the House and 4 seats in the Senate. All of the analysts were wrong, and it turns out that no one could predict in May (or June, or even September) 2004 what was actually to happen in November that year.

So before we all fly off the handle, just remember:

Tra la! It's May!
The lusty month of May!
That lovely month when ev'ryone goes
Blissfully astray....
Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes,
Ev'ryone breaks.
Ev'ryone makes divine mistakes
The lusty month of May!

And don't fret. The absolute best way to advance the conservative agenda is not to sit out the election, not to vote for some goofy third-party candidate, and certainly not to vote for the Democrats... but to commit right here and now to turn out in November and vote for the Republican, even if you have to hold your nose as you do it.

The lone exception would be some Republican who is so outlandishly dangerous to the party that you really would, honest to goodness, prefer to have a Democrat in that seat. The only person in that category right now is Sen. Lincoln Chafee, RINO from Rhode Island. Not everybody else "deserves" your vote (in some cosmic sense); but we as a nation deserve GOP dolts instead of their far worse doltish Democratic challengers. It's better to accept a thoughtless Christmas gift than to get a lump of lead in our stockings.

The MSM plans to try to depress the Republican vote by depressing the voters. Don't let them. Just expect a steady diet of worms between now and November and pay them no heed.

If things are still this bad in October... then it'll be time to whip out that crying towel!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 20, 2006, at the time of 6:07 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 19, 2006

The Value of Uniqueness

Hatched by Dafydd

The most typical response from those who support same-sex marriage to anyone who opposes it is this: "suppose your state adopted same-sex marriage; would that somehow hurt your own relationship with your wife? Would you love her any less just because two guys or two girls could also get married?"

The second question masquerades as a restatement or clarification of the first, but it's actually an insulting irrelevancy. We're not talking about love; pure love between any number of people has never been illegal. Only certain manifestations of love have been legally proscribed.

One such manifestation is sex. Sex other than within a traditional marriage used to be illegal nearly everywhere within Christendom (and Jewishdom); over the centuries, societies recognized the foolishness of trying to enforce marital fidelity by law.

Then, until recently, what were considered the most extreme versions of sex (to some people) were outlawed by the all-purpose word "sodomy," which typically referred, it seemed, to anything the judge wouldn't do with his own wife. I have argued for nearly twenty years that our organic documents -- especially the Declaration of Independence -- recognize a general "liberty interest" that more or less says the government should not try to regulate purely private "matters of conscience."

This, the Libertarian Axiom, has never been accepted as generally true; but in specific cases it has. And in particular, in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down all laws banning "sodomy," however defined.

So let's drop the "love" and "sex" stuff and get back to marriage.

First, same-sex marriage is not itself a "liberty interest." Liberty is the freedom to do something, to undertake some action -- from saying something to assembling to transacting business to having sex. But legal recognition of a same-sex union as "marriage" does not confer any freedom of action; you are already free to have gay sex, to live together, to call yourselves married in other than legal circumstances.

Rather, it's a demand for social approval of certain actions... and "social approval" is never a liberty interest.

Thus, society can restrict what kinds of relationships get dubbed "marriages" without restricting liberty. But should it? Does same-sex marriage actually harm society... and more specifically, does it actually harm already existing marriages?

The answer to the first question above -- does legal same-sex marriage somehow hurt my relationship with my wife? -- is Yes, of course it does... because it cheapens the unique value of that relationship.

Semantic note, it wouldn't hurt my relations with my wife (we would still interact the same)... but it would hurt the relationship as a separate entity, just as it would if we suddenly discovered the rabbi who married us was really an imposter, and we weren't actually legally married.

The reason is that uniqueness is itself a value; take away the unique nature of marriage, and the value is greatly diminished. All that stands between marriage and shacking up is that unique nature.

Illustration: suppose you go out with the girl of your dreams. Or, if you are a girl, the boy of your dreams. (If you are gay, please reverse those... see how ecumenical I am?) You have been friends with this person for some time, and you secretly love her. Him. Whatever.

At the end of the date, this person turns to you, takes you by the hands, and says "Pat" -- let's hope your name actually is Pat -- "I love you." Then the person kisses you passionately.

You're ecstatic. You're walking on air. All the way hope, it's like a Fred Astaire movie.

Then the next day, you tell you friends... and they solemnly inform you that she (or he) says that to every person she dates... kiss and all.

Now how do you feel? You feel like crap, because you realize that there was no uniqueness in that proclamation: she loves everybody, which is the same as saying she doesn't love anybody, especially not you. What made the three words valuable (even holy or sacred) was your mistaken idea that they were unique, something she shared with you and with nobody else. As soon as you realize those same words were offered to every Tom, Joaquin, and Yuri, they cease to have any value.

So we agree, I hope, that uniqueness itself is a quality that can imbue a situation or relationship with high, even holy value. Make the unique universal, and the value it adds vanishes altogether.

Back to marriage. Relationships have value not only to individuals but to the groups and societies those individuals form. A lawyer-client relationship, for example; it's useful to the individuals involved, but it's also useful to society to have an avenue where people can get advice without having to worry that their problems will be spread all over the community.

So we reward such relationships with special privileges (confidentiality, for example) -- and we confine them by special rules (defining who is a lawyer and who is a client of that lawyer). This is because we, as a society, believe that lawyer-client relationships benefit our society -- so we want to encourage them, and we also want to regulate them to ensure people are not just taking advantage of rights without fulfilling the obligations.

Marriage is the same: society has decided (rightly, in my opinion) that traditional marriage is a huge benefit not just to the individuals involved (typically more than two: husband, wife, but also children and potentially Grandma and Grandpa), but also to society as a whole: it nurtures children in the best possible environment, it combines the male with the female principles, it civilizes men, it protects women, and it provides an axis around which the wheels of larger institutions rotate, including property ownership, parental obligations, and our interaction with the government from testimony to taxes.

So we encourage it. But such encouragement is meaningless and useless if it's universally applied to every imaginable relationship of one or more human beings.

A "marriage" of thirteen women and six men is not the same as a traditional marriage: it does not have the same qualities, it does not have the same effect, it does not underpin our society the same way as does the particular relationship we have always called Marriage.

When society jettisons all distinctions between different types of relationships and chooses (or is forced) to call everything "marriage," then Marriage loses its uniqueness as an institution, hence its value to society and the individuals within the marriage.

It's like saying that any two or three or fifty chums chatting with each other are the same as a lawyer talking with his client, and they get all the same rights and privileges. There are rights of universalism and rights of exclusion; marriage is the latter. When an exclusive right is granted to all, it loses any value it obtained from uniqueness... which means all value whatsoever.

So the answer is yes: if California were to change the law to allow same-sex couples to legally marry (or groups larger than two, or persons already married, or consanguineous groups, or groups that do not obtain a license or go through a marriage ceremony), it would indeed damage my relationship (not relations) with my wife: the change would diminish its value, because it would remove the quality of uniqueness that underpins that value.

Thus, there is real damage to society from opening "marriage" up to all sorts of other relationships. And make no mistake: those advocating same-sex marriage also advocate the other changes listed in the paragraph above, because they rightly recognize that their real enemy is the very concept that any form of relationship at all can be excluded from the state of matrimony. If you recognize that society, in the form of the State, has any say whatsoever in determining who is "married," then there is no reason why it cannot restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Their only consistent argument is to say "marriage for all, under any form of relationship." And marriage-for-all is ths same thing as marriage-for-none: definitions are by nature exclusionary; and Humpty-Dumpty aside, when you can simply redefine a word to mean anything convenient at the moment -- then that word actually means nothing at all.

There is a fancy word for this: nihilism. And those who are most forceful in advocating same-sex marriage are by and large marital nihilists who simply want to eliminate legal marriage altogether. Bear that in mind when you listen to their blandishment; substitute "polygamy" for "same-sex marriage," and you'll see that their arguments survive intact.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 19, 2006, at the time of 2:49 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

With This Ring I Y'All Wed

Hatched by Dafydd

Talk of same-sex marriage is becoming less "strange" to people's ears... and that represents a terrible danger to Western civilization. Just become something is become ubiquitous doesn't mean it's good or socially healthy; after all, we used to hear racial epithets so often, it seemed "normal."

It's an apt metaphor: those flogging same-sex marriage like to cast themselves as the "Freedom Riders" of gender-neutral marriage, trying to piggyback on the achievements of the Civil Rights movement to promote the idea that children don't need fathers or mothers growing up... just parental units of indeterminate gender. This is a despicable meme that, in lesser form, has already devastated families, particularly in black communities, where some 70% of children are now born out of wedlock and raised without fathers.

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10 to 8 (strict party lines) to send to the Senate floor a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage nationwide. The amendment has no chance of passage; it needs 67 senators and 290 representatives just to send the amendment to the states, and there's nothing even close to that level of support.

But it's good that we keep bringing this up again and again, because we're apt to hear soon from federal circus-court panels that whole sections of the country must allow same-sex marriage -- because three guys in black robes said so. (No state has ever freely voted for same-sex marriage; two have "civil unions," which are not the same thing.)

Several points to make briefly, without a lot of argument:

  • Same-sex marriage is not about "civil rights."

In the days of Jim Crow, blacks were denied the right to do the same things that whites could do: for example, blacks could not use the same rest rooms, water fountains, or even sit at the same lunch counters as whites. These racist laws were not based upon black behavior but the blackness itself; the South used the "one-drop" rule: one drop of "black blood" made you black, no matter how white you looked. No amount of good behavior could buy use of a "white toilet" by a black man.

But the gay activists pushing same-sex marriage are not demanding any right or freedom; legal marriage equals state recognition of a union, not the union itself. The union of any number of people is already protected as a liberty interest by the Supreme Court.

But one can completely support Lawrence v. Texas, the case that found laws against "sodomy" to be unconstitutional (as I do) -- while still rejecting the idea that the State must sanction any relationship someone declares.

To enact legal same-sex marriage is to say that the people of a state cannot decide what types of relationships they will applaud... and that is not a civil right... it's a narcissistic demand, like an infant howling for candy.

  • The purpose of advocating same-sex marriage is not to compliment traditional marriage -- but to destroy it.

Many of the same activists advocating same-sex marriage also advocate polyamorous marriage and consanguineous marriage. They often cite as an argument "for" same-sex marriage the fact that too many folks who get married to a member of the opposite sex get divorced for frivolous reasons. But why is that an argument for diluting marriage even further by making it nothing more special than a business partnership?

If same-sex marriage becomes the norm, then as night follows day, polygamy, polyandry, group marriages, brother-sister marriages, and sham marriages among entire gated communities (for tax, insurance, and pension reasons) will become commonplace, as well.

  • The core organic component of Western Civilization is one man, one woman marriage.

That is unquestionably the best way to raise children (Hillary Clinton notwithstanding); it represents the union of the male and the female principles; it is the best system for valuing and respecting women, who will be first and worst hurt if we abandon it.

If America jettisons traditional marriage and family, embracing all sorts of multi-partner unions on the basis of group rights, then we will fixate entirely upon the group and cast aside the individual as an irrelevancy. We already have forces (racial preferences, for example) tugging us in that direction; it is no exaggeration to say that our critical concepts of individualism, freedom, Capitalism, rights and responsibilities, and American exceptionalism will fall by the way.

I will likely return to this subject in the future; it's a principle about which I feel very strongly indeed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 19, 2006, at the time of 6:52 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

87 Taliban Killed In Setback For U.S.

Hatched by Dafydd

Here's how it starts:

A brazen attack by hundreds of Taliban militants on an isolated town had been building for days, a coalition spokesman said Friday, after a wave of violence in southern Afghanistan left around 100 dead.

A hundred dead innocent villagers! Our policy is in tatters; Afghanistan is spiraling out of control in a cycle of violence... right?

Here is, as Paul Harvey says, the rest of the story:

The attack Wednesday night on Musa Qala in the volatile southern province of Helmand sparked eight hours of fighting and left about 40 Taliban and 13 Afghan police dead.

It was the epicenter of some of the fiercest combat since the Taliban regime's ouster by U.S.-led forces in late 2001 and raised new fears about deteriorating security in the hardline militia's former southern heartland.

In all, more than 100 people were reported killed in a string of attacks and engagements across Afghanistan that started Wednesday and continued through Thursday: up to 87 insurgents, at least 15 Afghan police, an American civilian training Afghan forces, and the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat.

"Deteriorating security?" All right, a show of hands: how many thought, reading the first paragraph, that a terrible catastrophe had just occurred in Afghanistan, and 100 peaceful civilians had just been brutally slain? I sure did; my heart leapt up my throat and almost gagged me.

This gets even better, however: we weren't the ones who killed 87 Taliban... it was the Afghan police and the townsmen of Musa Qala, making this absolutely great news:

[Coalition Spokesman Maj. Quentin] Innis said the Taliban often infiltrates villages and extorts money from tribal elders, but that leaders in Musa Qala had told the militants they weren't welcome. The militants then mounted their attack using machine guns and assault rifles.

Innis said coalition forces flew military aircraft overhead to scare the Taliban militants and as a show of force, but that the Afghan police forces did 100 percent of the fighting in the eight-hour clash.

"We see this as them taking control of the situation and sorting it out for themselves," he said. "We see it as very empowering on their part, and of course that's what we want, because eventually we're going to leave."

Why does the mainstream media do this? Even the best news is cast in a way that the casual reader will mistake it for dreadful news. At some point, surely some news reporter should rebel and say, "we're here to report history, not rewrite it." Don't they at least feel a little uneasy, deliberately misleading the American people?

I often wonder about this. The journalist community is largely left-liberal, but it's certainly not 100%. And even among the left-liberals, there must be some, a handful, who really do feel some small obligation to the truth.

So where are they? I went looking for the "Moslem Methodists" some months ago; should we send out a searching party for the Justice Journalists, the ones who say "darn the party line, I'm going to tell it like it is!"

But here, the rest of the rest of the story once again tries to undercut what's already been reported:

The fighting on Wednesday and Thursday was concentrated in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the scene of repeated bombings and suicide attacks this year. But it marked an escalation in a region where the U.S.-led coalition is to cede control of security operations to NATO by July.

Yes... an escalation in the death toll of our enemies, the enemies of freedom, the people who spent days and tons of ordnance desperately trying to "kill" a couple of holy statutes (in between stoning women to death for being too attractive) to prove their god was bigger than the Buddhist "god". How can an attack that kills seventeen good guys and 87 bad guys be anything but a catastrophic defeat for the Taliban?

I tell you true: journalism has found a new floor to fall through; they are even worse today than they were in the epoch when Uncle Walter conjured defeat out of the American victory in the Tet Offensive. I now believe that most journalists are seriously clinically demented. At the very least, they have become so disassociated from reality that they have become a danger to themselves and others.

And we know what that usually entails.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 19, 2006, at the time of 5:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 18, 2006

How to Fake a Poll

Hatched by Dafydd

Lots of buzz about the Rasmussen poll that many -- Hugh Hewitt, for one notable example -- are touting as showing that Americans just want a border-enforcement bill only, with no guest-worker program or normalization of illegals already here.

It's possible, I suppose, that such sentiment is indeed sweeping the country, undetected by any other polling company; but you sure can't conclude that from this garbage.

The problem is twofold:

  1. Rasmussen does not tell us the methodology of the poll; we don't even know whether the poll was by telephone, e-mail, or an online, internet poll (like Zogby often uses). We don't know the margin of error, which would be different for each state (and in a state like California could be quite substantial).

    Methodology makes a huge difference; it can make or break a poll. Perhaps this information is available to "premium subscribers;" I don't know, because I'm not willing to spend $349 to find out. But most polling firms actually put the methodology on the poll itself for release to the general public.

  2. Much more important, however, is that the questions Rasmussen asked are biased, and the question order is calculated to move opinion rather than measure it. I would go so far as to call this a "push poll."

    It's actually shameful that a respected company like Rasmussen would resort to such tricks; I wish they had just done a straight poll, since I would really be interested in the answers to properly framed questions.

For starters, let's look at the issue whose response is being seized upon for political purposes: the border security "stick" versus the guest-worker and normalization "carrot." Here is a fair series of questions to ask, were I writing a poll instead of Rasmussen:

As you know, an immigration bill is being debated in the Senate right now. A number of elements are being considered, including securing the border with several hundred miles of fence and vehicle barriers, allowing some number of non-citizen "guest workers" to enter the country for a limited time period to work, and offering a path to citizenship for the approximately 8 million people who have already lived here without permission for more than two years.

1. Which of the following elements should be in this bill? (Choose up to four.)

A. Secure the border with several hundred miles of fencing.
B. Guest-worker program.
C. A path to citizenship for those who have lived here without permission more than two years.
D. Harsher sanctions on employers who hire illegals.

2. If you could only get border security with a fence by accepting a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship, would you be willing to accept that deal?

A. Yes, the fence is important enough to accept the other elements.
B. No, I would not accept the other elements even to get a fence.

3. If you could only get a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship by accepting several hundred miles of border fence, would you be willing to accept that deal?

A. Yes, those elements are important enough to accept a fence.
B. No, I would not accept a fence even to get the other elements.

4. Would you support a bill that authorized the fence and harsher employer sanctions but did not include either a guest-worker program or a path to citizenship?

A. Yes, without hesitation.
B. No, under no circumstances.
C. Yes, but only if no other bill could make it through Congress.

This would be a very fair way to gauge what people really want. Note, for example, that I avoid both the biased terms "illegal alien" and "undocumented worker": the first skews the sample against them, while the second skews the sample towards them. I use the very neutral term "lived here without permission."

These questions would have told us a lot, especially for those who did not pick either B or C in question 1 but nevertheless picked A in question 2: people who didn't want a guest-worker program or path to citizenship but were willing to accept it as part of a deal (and the corresponding scenario on the other side).

Question 4 would test whether those supporting the "carrots" consider them absolutely necessary to gain their support, or whether, if nothing else could pass, they could still accept a border-enforcement only bill.

These would be fair questions that would actually tell us something about what the public wanted -- and also what they would be willing to settle for. But that's not what Rasmussen asked. Here is the actual question:

3. Some people say it makes no sense to debate new rules for immigration until we can control our borders and enforce the existing laws. Do you agree or disagree?

What the heck does that mean? New rules for immigration? I would have no idea whether that meant a guest-worker program or different criteria for who is admitted under the legal immigration policy. Heck, for that matter, doesn't 400 miles of fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers also constitute "new rules for immigration?"

Does "control our borders and enforce the existing laws" mean build a fence first, or just that we should, right now, today, enforce existing law better -- while we continue to debate building a fence and having a guest-worker program and path to citizenship?

This is an incredibly poorly written question. Some of the respondents will take it one way, others will take it another, still others will hear it a third or fourth way. We cannot tell anything about the opinion of Americans from this stupid question.

Worse, it's question three in a series of questions; immediately preceding it is a question which sets a decidedly negative tone against immigrants in general, and especially those here illegally:

2. Some people believe that the goal of immigration policy should be to keep out national security threats, criminals, and those who would come here to live off our welfare system. Beyond that, all immigrants would be welcome. Do you agree or disagree with that goal for immigration policy?

3. Some people say it makes no sense to debate new rules for immigration until we can control our borders and enforce the existing laws. Do you agree or disagree?

Question 2 first clearly plants the idea that immigrants are coming here to suck up welfare, join criminal gangs, and commit acts of terrorism against the United States. Only then does Rasmussen ask their crappy question 3. You think the first might possibly influence response on the second?

Also, as a general rule, a question that begins "some people say" practically begs the respondent to agree. It conjures the image of some vast sea of people all saying the same thing... do you want to go with the flow, or be some kind of an oddball?

The penultimate question, despite following these two, throws the "conventional wisdom" interpretation of question 3 into a cocked hat:

4. There are currently 11 million illegal aliens living in the United States. Most have lived here for more than five years. Should the United States forcibly require all 11 million illegal aliens to leave this country?

In not a single state does a majority answer Yes to this question. Not one. Alabama had a plurality of 50% saying yes, 29% no; seven other states (Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming) had pluralities saying Yes, ranging from 49-31 in TN to 41-40 in AK -- which clearly is within any likely margin of error for a poll of 500 people.

Contrariwise, in the 25 states where a plurality said No, we should not "forcibly require all 11 million illegal aliens to leave this country," five states had a clear majority opposed, while another four have a plurality of 50%. All of the states that actually border Mexico that were polled came down against deportations (New Mexico was not polled for some reason).

The mean split among those states with a plurality saying Yes, deport is 44.6 to 36.3, for a spread of 8.4%. The mean split among those with a plurality saying No, don't deport, is 47.0 to 35.0, for a spread of 12.0%. The No-deport states are very significantly firmer in their position than the Yes-deport states. This does not particularly sound like a pool of respondents who are in the Rep. Tom Tancredo camp.

Is it really too much to ask to get an honest, legitimate poll on what people want in the bill, what they'll accept as part of a Grand Deal, and what they absolutely wouldn't take under any circumstances... rather than a biased push-poll whose purpose is to spook the herd and scuttle the deal?

It's too bad that so many in the blogosphere are quite capable of seeing the gaping flaws in some bad poll that is against their position... but will seize upon any poll that supports them, no matter how many warning signs there are that it simply isn't serious.

By the way, here are my own positions, so you can take into account my biases. I've put them behind the "slither on" vehicle barrier....

  1. I support a fence, but I think it won't work without a "spillway" to siphon off those people trying to come here for legitimate reasons.
  2. A guest-worker program could be that spillway; but so could an increase in the number of actual legal immigrants we accept -- those wishing to live here permanently.

    Given my druthers, I would rather the latter than the former, as I think Mark Steyn makes a very good point that "guest workers" are disturbingly similar to what so many European countries have done to very bad effect.

  3. Tied for most urgent task, fully as important as "securing the border," is rationalizing the legal immigration policy so that would-be Americans have a clear "path to citizenship" (a phrase I have used for years): they would know exactly what they had to do to become permanent residents and then citizens, and about how long it would take.

    The path must be mandatory, not subject to the caprice or vindictiveness of Immigration workers. At any point, the immigrant must know what he has accomplished, what is still left to do, and how to go about completing the path to his swearing-in ceremony.

  4. So long as enough guest workers or new immigrants (whichever we choose) are let into the country to satisfy the labor needs, I don't object to very harsh legal sanctions, including prison time, for employers who still hire illegals.

    If insufficient numbers are allowed in and employers simply cannot fill the jobs with legals, then I think it grossly unfair to turn the law into a business suicide pact.

  5. I have no particular position on the legalization of those already here, save that it's a bad idea to allow a huge permanent underclass of resentful criminals to remain. If we cannot find a way to make them leave -- and it appears we cannot -- then it's probably marginally better to find a way to legalize them. But I'm much less concerned about this point than the others above.
  6. Finally, I believe that if the GOP-controlled Congress and the Republican president do not make some significant changes to the immigration status quo, we'll be massacred on November 6th. Or at least it will be a whole heck of a lot harder.

Make of it what you will.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 18, 2006, at the time of 5:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Hayden On the Hot Seat

Hatched by Dafydd

...And a pair of astonishing admissions by Reuters!

The confirmation hearing of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency appears to be going swimmingly. Only one Democrat was nakedly hostile to Hayden (and no Republicans), if Reuters can be believed: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). The following rather childish exchange ensued:

Wyden said Hayden had not kept Congress fully informed of the eavesdropping program and had made misleading statements in previous appearances before Congress.

"General, having evaluated your words, I now have a difficult time with your credibility," Wyden said.

"So with all due respect, general, I can't tell now if you've simply said one thing and done another, or whether you have just parsed your words like a lawyer to intentionally mislead the public," Wyden said.

Hm... let's see if we can't suss this one out: Hayden had been the head of the ultra, ultra-secret National Security Agency. He was often asked in open session detailed questions about highly, highly classified programs. He was asked by senators who know that in many cases, failure to respond is, in fact, a response.

So in some cases, he deflected those questions. He failed to respond without appearing to fail to respond.

And Sen. Wyden is angry that Hayden was not more forthcoming. About highly classified programs. In open session. (Had Wyden been talking about misleading answers in closed-door session, I'm pretty sure he would have said so, since that would make his case stronger. Unless he's just an idiot... in which case, why are we even spending this much time on him?)

Hayden answered with aplomb and a very subtle slap-down:

Hayden responded: "Well, senator, you're going to have to make a judgment on my character ... I was as full and open as I possibly could be." [Showing admirable restrain in not adding, "given the fact that the programs were classified and we were in open session, you nitwit!" -- the Mgt.]

I think Sen. Wyden has been spending too much time hanging around with his pals, Sen. Jay "Letter-Stasher" Rockefeller (rankling member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and Sen. Patrick "Leaky" Leahy (erstwhile member).

But the biggest news so far are two stunning admissions that Reuters made in a single sentence in this article:

Under the program, the NSA monitors international telephone calls and e-mails to or from suspected terrorists without first obtaining a court order.

This may mark the very first time that any antique media source has acknowledged that this is not domestic spying! That the targets were international calls and e-mails. Oops....

And of course, the other, punctuational admission in that same sentence is equally startling. It is so blatant, that I'm sure I needn't belabor the obvious by pointing it out. (All right, I suppose I'll spill the beans out of the bag in the "slither on" entry below.)

The only comment quoted from Hayden that worries me is this one:

Responding to a question from Levin, Hayden said he had been uncomfortable with some of the prewar analysis coming from the Pentagon suggesting there was a link between al Qaeda and then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

I consider that evidence to be overwhelming and growing more so with every week's worth of translated documents, many of which show a much deeper al-Qaeda/Iraq connection that we ever realized. Thus, if Hayden is saying that now, today, he doesn't see any connection... well, that would be pretty bad.

But the way this is phrased, we don't even know what the question was that provoked this response; nor do we know exactly what Hayden said. The question may have specifically been couched in the timeframe of 2002, and Hayden may have been saying that at that time, he was uncomfortable with that claim.

The New York Times article fleshes this exchange out a bit:

Senator Levin asked General Hayden whether he had disagreed with Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, who established an intelligence-analysis cell within his office. The senator recalled that Mr. Feith's unit suggested a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and whether the general was "comfortable with Mr. Feith's office approach to intelligence analysis."

"No, sir, I wasn't," the nominee replied. "And I wasn't aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war. No, sir I wasn't comfortable."

That makes me a little less worried; in the Times' version, the question Hayden answered was whether he was comfortable with the way Feith ran his Pentagon intelligence-analysis office... not specifically whether Hayden was comfortable with the evidence of an Iraq/al-Qaeda link. (Is it possible that Reuters "parsed [its] words like a lawyer to intentionally mislead the public?")

Here are two oblique reference to the program to boot the leakers out of the CIA that I found only in the Times' account:

He defended the retiring C.I.A. director, Porter J. Goss, who was forced out after conflicts with John D. Negroponte, the national intelligence director whom General Hayden has been serving as deputy. "As director, Porter fostered a process of transformation that the agency must continue in the coming years," the general said....

The general's portrait of the C.I.A. he would like to preside over seemed to be one of esprit, imagination and discretion. "C.I.A. needs to get out of the news, as source or subject, and focus on protecting the American people by acquiring secrets and providing high-quality, all-source analysis," he said.

I hope this means that the campaign against the CIA leakers will continue -- and hopefully, with less ruth. (I mean more ruthlessly.)

All in all, though -- unless the Democrats have some bombshell and are showing out-of-character restraint in telling the press about it -- I think Hayden will have little trouble during these hearings, and his nomination will easily be confirmed by the full Senate. And it should be.

Oh yes, about that "other admission" from Reuters. Here is a hint: the other admission in this sentence....

Under the program, the NSA monitors international telephone calls and e-mails to or from suspected terrorists without first obtaining a court order.

...involves a missing set of "scare quotes" around one particular word.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 18, 2006, at the time of 2:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 17, 2006

Will Robert Rector Recalculate?

Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, in The "Cost" of Illegal Immigration - and Rhetorical Dissimulation, I tore into the "backgrounder" by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation which attempted to make the case (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) that we could not afford a guest-worker program. (He also attacked normalization of illegals already here, but that's a different subject.)

Rector calculated that the guest-worker program could end up costing tens of billions of dollars per year in increased welfare payments:

Because nearly all of the guest workers and their families would within a few years become eligible for government welfare and other services, the fiscal costs from the program could rival those stemming from the direct amnesty provisions of the bill.

As Rector had previously estimated -- way overestimated, again in my opinion -- the cost of normalization at $46 billion per year or more, he must have been estimating a similar cost for the guest-worker program. (In addition, like most "security-only" activists, he uses his own private definition of the word "amnesty;" but however churlish, that doesn't affect his calculation.)

Rector arrived at his estimate by taking the beginning annual cap on guest workers (325,000) and increasing it according to the formula in the original bill: in any year that the number of people trying to enter as guest workers exceeded the current cap, the next year's cap would automatically rise 20%.

Finally, CIRA would issue 325,000 new visas per year to "guest workers." The number of visas available could increase by 20 percent annually, reaching two million per year within ten years. By 2017, the guest worker program would have admitted some eight million new workers. Illegal aliens who have been in the country for less than two years would be eligible to become guest workers and would probably be the primary recipients of these supposedly temporary (H2C) visas. Recipients of these visas could bring spouses and children into the country immedi­ately, increasing the number of entrants over ten years well above eight million.

It is, of course manifestly absurd to assume that the availability of "guest workers" would rise limitlessly at the maximum allowable rate; does he expect the entire population of Mexico to pour into the United States, leaving 761,606 square miles of empty real estate south of the Rio Grande? At some point, probably far below "two million per year," we would reach labor saturation. The law of supply and demand has not been repealed.

But it makes little difference, because the action taken on the floor of the Senate yesterday moots Rector's argument, requiring a complete recalculation. Senators voted not only to lower the initial cap from 325,000 to 200,000, they voted to eliminate the automatic 20% rise when the cap was reached:

Today the Senate voted 69-28 to set aside an amendment by North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan to eliminate the guest-worker program from the measure. Dorgan said the program would cost Americans jobs and wages. "The guest-worker provision is about importing cheap labor,'' he said before the vote....

The Senate then backed, by a voice vote, [Jeff] Bingaman's [D-NM] amendment to reduce the number of yearly visas available to foreign workers by 40 percent and prohibit increases that may be sought by industry if the visa-cap is met in any year. [Jeff Bingaman gets a 100% rating from the ACLU -- and 12% from the American Conservative Union. -- the Mgt.]

Besides throwing Robert Rector's estimates into a cocked hat, this vote may actually cause a problem -- not in the politics; it makes it more likely to pass. Rather, it causes a problem in the policy: we may be building too small a "spillway."

The point of the guest-worker program is to take pressure off the fence and other border-security provisions. The idea is that the huge majority of people who cross illegally do so just to find work. These illegals do not cause all that much damage by their existence here (though they may cause damage sneaking in across private property); alas, real bad guys, especially terrorists, may hide among the vast number of illegals, making it virtually impossible to detect them.

So long as hundreds of thousand of people are being denied entry, they will "push" against the wall. As I've said many times, no wall, no matter how strong, can stand against a million people trying to knock it down.

The only way to stop the illegal entry is to build a gate in the wall, a "spillway in the dam": we need to separate out those illegals who just want to work and shunt them through a legal guest-worker program; that way, those humans still trying to enter illegally -- assuming the honest can enter legally -- must be presumed to be dishonest.

We can use far more draconian interdiction methods against presumed criminals and terrorists than we can against presumed decent, hardworking families that include women and children.

But all this depends upon one key point: that those coming here just to work are, in fact, able to get in and work. If not, then the spillway is too small, the water builds up behind the dam, and eventually, the dam bursts.

The whole point of the guest-worker program is not to give work to poor Mexicans; I really couldn't care less about them. (Go ahead, call me heartless. Believe me, I've been called much worse.) What does matter is that we need to relieve enough pressure on the fence or the fence will fail.

I worry that 200,000 a year with no increases, even if the cap is clearly shown to be too small, will not relieve enough pressure. After two years of backlog, there may be just as many trying to enter illegally as there are right now.

I hope this is revisited soon: it would be a terrible shame if an otherwise decent, comprehensive bill is crippled from the very beginning... by an ultra-liberal Democrat, of course.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 17, 2006, at the time of 5:14 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Please Fence Me In, Part Deux

Hatched by Dafydd

Hugh Hewitt will be very happy, and with good reason: the Senate just overwhelming approved the Sessions amendment to the immigration bill, requiring 370 miles of actual fence, plus 500 miles of vehicle barriers. The lopsided vote -- 83 to 16 -- sends a very, very strong signal that the Senate is finally aboard and serious.

I can't find a roll-call (it may not be up on Thomas yet), but even assuming all 55 Republicans voted for it, that would mean that at a minimum, 29 of 45 Democrats must have voted for the fence, too. That's 64%.

Then Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) proposed one of the "killer amendments," one that would remove all of the guest-worker and normalization sections from the bill. A huge argument erupted over the meaning of the word "amnesty," with one side insisting upon the actual meaning of the word in law and philology, and the other insisting, in true Humpty Dumpty fashion, upon a special definition that they just now made up.

I complain about this irritating tactic of "argument by redefinition" when the Democrats do it; should I do less when Republicans resort to the same, "progressive" dodge?

But it's a moot point: minutes ago, the Senate rejected the Vitter amendment 66-33... which means (for fairness sake) that, even assuming all 44 Democrats and one "Independent" who caucuses with the Democrats (Triple-J) voted against the Vitter amendment, at a minimum, 21 of 55 Republicans (38%) must also have voted against stripping out these "carrots."

This is going very well:

  • Putting the fence and the barriers into the bill makes it far more likely that the House will be willing to accept the compromise;
  • Leaving in the guest-worker provision will take enough pressure off the wall that it will actually work (that's the "spillway in the dam," in my earlier analogy);
  • Leaving in the normalization means that the Democrats will see themselves getting something, so they will be less likely to scuttle the deal on procedural votes; and it will mollify enough liberal or moderate Republicans that majority is attainable.

It looks like this bill is now destined for passage; and aside from a handful of representatives -- most of them named King, for some unfathomable reason -- I haven't heard from any of the movers and shakers in the House that the Senate bill was dead, or that they would refuse to agree to the citizenship and guest-worker provisions. (In fact, Speaker Denny Hastert, R-IL, has already said he and some other leaders would accept that... and that was before the president's widely popular speech.)

But will the policy itself work? Nobody can answer that until it happens. Those who voted for Simpson-Mazzoli in 1986 (and President Ronald Reagan, who signed it) sincerely believed that it would work, and it seems to have been a crashing failure: we had about 3 million illegals then, and twenty years later, we have 11 million.

(But did it really fail? There isn't any way to tell even that; perhaps without the Border-Patrol and employer-sanction provisions in Simpson-Mazzoli, we would have 22 million illegals by now. That's the trouble with alternate-history; how can we ever know?)

In any event, the border-security measures this time are far stronger than in 1986, and the citizenship path is much longer and involves a lot more pain and punishment for those illegals already here -- including admission of guilt, a big fine, back taxes, and so forth. And in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (CIRA, or Hagel-Martinez), these pieces are all structured into the bill itself; they don't rely upon Democrats keeping their word.

In the 99th Congress, which enacted Simpson-Mazzoli, the Democrats controlled the House and the Republicans controlled the Senate 53-47; but in the 1986 election, the Democrats took the Senate, too... so in the 100th Congress, which would have been responsible for appropriating the money for the actual border-security measures (of which there were some, mostly penalties on employers and more Border Patrol agents and such), was entirely Democratic... and those measures never happened.

It may well be that the failures of Simpson-Mazzoli were more because the Democrats refused to implement the "sticks" than because the deal itself was flawed.

So that gives conservatives even more incentive to stay involved, to turn out in droves on November 6th, and to make absolutely certain that both houses of Congress remain firmly in Republican hands... thus to make equally certain that the "sticks" of Hagel-Martinez get enacted along with the "carrots."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 17, 2006, at the time of 1:34 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 16, 2006

Pulitzers On Parade

Hatched by Dafydd

Here is an interesting turn of events:

The White House, in an abrupt reversal, has agreed to let the full Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees review President George W. Bush's domestic spying program, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The Republican chairmen of the Senate and House panels disclosed the shift two days before a Senate confirmation hearing for Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as the new CIA director, which is expected to be dominated by concern over the program.

The Democrats on the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence include:

  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller (WV), the ranking member, who kept a copy of his letter objecting to the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program in the committee safe for "future use;"
  • Sen. Carl Levin (MI), who accused the NSA of "tap[ping] the wires and the phones of American citizens without any court oversight;"
  • Sen. Russell Feingold (WI), radical leftist who was the only US senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act;
  • Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL), impeached and removed from his federal judgeship in 1989 for corruption and perjury;

The Republican members include this rogue's gallery:

  • Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE), who joined the Democrats in filibustering against the USA Patriot Act;
  • Sen. Saxby Chambliss (GA), who objected to Michael Hayden heading up the CIA because Hayden is in the military;

So with all these folks now to receive full, operational briefings on the innards of the NSA and CIA anti-terrorism spying programs... does that mean we should look for a whole slew of new, Pulitzer Prize winning stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post, exposing sources, methods, and targets of US surveillance -- and quoting "unnamed officials who spoke on condition of anonymity from their offices in the Capitol Dome?"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 16, 2006, at the time of 5:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Excellent Amendment: Criminals Can't Become Citizens

Hatched by Dafydd

The Senate is currently working through a series of amendments. Some are bad; some are really ugly, like Byron Dorgan's (D-N.D.) attempt to prevent "foreigners and recent illegal immigrants" (!) from signing up to be guest workers; one presumes Dorgan wants the guest-worker program limited to Americans only.

But some of the amendments are really, really good. For example, this one:

Compromise averted a third showdown, when the bill's critics and supporters agreed to deny illegal immigrants any chance at citizenship if they had been convicted of three misdemeanors or a felony.

The last time this came up, I think I remember it was the Senate that killed it; so it's a great leap forward (er, maybe I should use a different expression) that the Senate is now aboard in saying that we only want to extend citizenship to assimilated immigrants with American virtues, not thugs with American vices.

I'm sure the House will have no objection to this provision.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 16, 2006, at the time of 5:06 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The "Cost" of Illegal Immigration - and Rhetorical Dissimulation

Hatched by Dafydd

Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation -- an organization that has long derided any immigation plan other than pure enforcement as "amnesty" -- has put up a "backgrounder" study on the foundation's website. He purports to show that any immigration plan that offers "amnesty" (by which Rector means any path to citizenship whatsoever) will be a huge drag on the American economy. The key graf:

An immigration plan proposed by Senators Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), the Com­prehensive Immigration Reform Act (CIRA, S. 2611) would provide amnesty to 9 to 10 million illegal immigrants and put them on a path to citizenship. Once these individuals become citizens, the net addi­tional cost to the federal government of benefits for these individuals will be around $16 billion per year. Further, once an illegal immigrant becomes a citizen, he has the right to bring his parents to live in the U.S. The parents, in turn, may become citizens. The long-term cost of government benefits to the parents of 10 million recipients of amnesty could be $30 billion per year or more. In the long run, S. 2611, if enacted, would be the largest expansion of the welfare state in 35 years.

Rector's intent is to make the economic case against any form of guest-worker program, any path to citizenship for anyone currently here illegally, and -- in my opinion -- against immigration in general. But how solid a case does he really make?

Let's take a look.

"Amnesty" or "plea bargain?"

Let's get one side issue out of the way before starting: Rector consistently uses "amnesty" almost as a synonym for citizenship; in fact, he uses the word "amnesty" forty-one times in this article, starting with the first word of the title.

"Amnesty" means a general pardon prior to trial or conviction. A pardon is "the excusing of an offense without exacting a penalty : remission of punishment."

  • In law, when the president pardons someone, the offense is erased as if it had never occurred;.

    According to Black's Law Dictionary, "it releases punishment and blots out the existence of guilt, so that in the eyes of the law, the offender is as innocent as if he had never committed the offense."

  • When the IRS has a "tax amnesty," you are allowed to repay back taxes with no penalty whatsoever, often even without interest;
  • When states or cities declare "firearm amnesties," the same holds true: you can turn in anything, and you won't be arrested or prosecuted;
  • When President Carter and Congress declared an amnesty in 1977 of Vietnam draft-dodgers, they were allowed to return to the United States with no charges of any kind.

An amnesty means the crime is "blotted out," as if it never occurred. But in fact, under Hagel-Martinez, the illegals are punished; the crime of illegal entry is not blotted out: they must admit guilt and pay a substantial fine.

The word for the executive reducing a sentence already imposed on someone already convicted is clemency, or perhaps commutation. But what we're really discussing is when a person voluntarily admits guilt in exchange for a reduced sentence. The term for that is a plea bargain.

But I reckon "plea bargain" isn't enraging enough to create a mass, emotional uprising... hence they've settled upon "amnesty." It may be completely wrongly used, but I suppose the ends must justify the means.

Cost in perspective

First, a bit of background of our own. The current U.S. budget is about $2.6 trillion; so an increase of $46 billion at some point in the future -- the first $10 billion about six or seven years from now, the $30 billion (assuming it happens, see below) about 10-15 years after that -- amounts to 1.7% of the budget... and could be paid for by just a slight reduction in any of a number of other areas.

Second, Rector clearly assumes (from the fact that he doesn't even mention it) that we will do absolutely nothing to get a handle on spending on entitlement programs over the next 16 to 22 years. This in itself is a rather breathtaking assumption: since the Heritage Foundation itself has recommended a number of things we could do -- the easiest and most obvious being shifting Medicare from a defined benefit to a defined contribution program -- one must conclude that Robert Rector believes that the Heritage Foundation will have no influence whatsoever on American economic policies... a stunning admission of impotence from a formerly influential body!

From A To-Do List Before Spending Hits Tipping Point, by Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner, December 20th, 2005:

Of course, to really control Medicare spending, lawmakers will have to fundamentally change the program. It's time to design a new system based on personal choice, market competition and light regulation. Such a system should be a "defined contribution" system, not the "defined benefit" system we have now.

That means the government would agree to contribute a certain amount to fund each beneficiary's coverage. This would create a market for private health plans that would compete for customers by offering attractive benefit packages. It also would let seniors keep their pre-retirement health care plan if they're happy with it or design new coverage options tailored to their needs.

Such a defined-contribution plan also would allow lawmakers to control costs. Defined-benefit programs don't work because they're like a blank check -- each new medical advance creates a new government requirement. A defined-contribution plan would allow seniors to enjoy those advances without sticking Uncle Sam with the big bills.

Several states have already begun experimenting with a defined contribution Medicare plan, rather than a defined benefit plan... notably Florida and South Carolina, two states with very large numbers of retirees. And according to yet another Heritage Foundation paper, these state reforms -- made possible by the federal waiver system for state experimentation pushed through Congress by President Bush -- are expected to dramatically reduce Medicare costs, starting almost immediately and into the future.

From the same article I quoted above:

There are plenty of places to make cuts right now. For example:

* The Congressional Budget Office has published a "Budget Options" book identifying $140 billion in potential cuts.

* The federal government spends $23 billion annually on silly special interest projects such as grants to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and efforts to combat teenage "goth" culture in Blue Springs, Mo.

* Washington spends $60 billion annually on corporate welfare, versus $43 billion on homeland security.

And that's just for starters.

Right. So if we could make just 20% of the cuts envisioned in each of these areas, that's $41.2 billion per year right there. The Medicare changes that the Heritage Foundation proposes, along with Health Savings Accounts, would save tens of billions of dollars in Medicare costs almost immediately, a savings that will continue to rise with every passing year.

Potential spending cuts dwarf any increased cost from a guest-worker program or normalizing illegals already here... a cost that even Rector admits would be at least partially mitigated by increased tax revenues from the newly-legalized former illegals.

So Rector's objection is a non-issue from the beginning. The real issue is general control of spending: if we do that, any increase in spending related to illegals made legal will be easily absorbed; if we do not gain control of spending, then immigration won't make any difference -- we're sunk anyway.

Convictions make convicts

But even more than that, the Heritage study demonstrates a rather colossal disdain for the ability of new legal immigrants to support their own families. For example, Rector notes that when adult immigrants (legal or otherwise) become citizens, they are allowed to bring both their parents to the United States as legal immigrants; some of those parents will themselves eventually become citizens.

He estimates, probably not unreasonably, that about 10% of those immigrants' parents will eventually come here and become citizens (though he assumes that every adult immigrant has two living parents who will want to come here, which is not reasonable at all; but let that lie). Thus, he guesses that legalizing 10 million immigrants will eventually produce 20 million parents coming here from the old country, of whom two million will eventually become citizens.

How many does he estimate will immediately go on welfare then? Oh, approximately two million:

If ten million current illegal immigrants were granted amnesty and citizenship under CIRA, as many as twenty million foreign born parents would be given the right to immigrate to the U.S. Once in the U.S., the immigrant parents would receive social services and government funded medical care, much of it paid for through the Medicaid disproportionate share program. [Note, not "might receive" but "would receive." -- the Mgt.]

These immigrant parents coming to the U.S. would also be eligible to apply for citizenship themselves. On attaining citizenship, most would become eligible for benefits from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs, at an average cost of over $18,000 per person per year. While it is true that the language require­ments of the citizenship test would serve as a bar­rier to immigrant parents becoming citizens, the tests are not very difficult and the financial rewards of citizenship would be very great. If only ten per­cent of the parents of those receiving amnesty under CIRA became citizens and enrolled in SSI and Medicaid, the extra costs to government would be over $30 billion per year.

What exactly is Rector saying? Medicare is available to every senior or disabled person, regardless of income; but he is talking here about Medicaid:

Medicaid is available only to certain low-income individuals and families who fit into an eligibility group that is recognized by federal and state law.

In other words, Medicaid -- unlike Medicare -- is a welfare program. So is SSI, by the way, another federal payment made only to low-income citizens and legally resident aliens, brought to us courtesy President Richard Nixon.

Perhaps I'm not being exactly fair to Mr. Rector. Maybe he's not saying that 10% of the parents will become citizens, and of those who do, 100% will immediately go on welfare. Maybe he means that 40% or 50% will become citizens, and of those, only 10% will go on welfare.

How many does he think will become citizens, with or without welfare? He doesn't say; nor does he give us any reason to believe that the intersection is 10% of all immigrating parents of immigrants... despite the fact that his entire calculation critically depends upon this estimate.

Perhaps I can be pardoned -- or granted clemency -- for believing that in fact, Rector by and large assumes that the only reason these parents of immigrants would ever become citizens themselves is to suck up welfare benefits; it fits the tone of the rest of his piece.

I think it very plausible that only 10% of elderly parents of adult immigrants might eventually become citizens themselves; but the idea that every last one of them can't wait to jump aboard the "welfare wagon" is insulting, offensive, and absurd..

For one point, you're an "adult" in this country at age 18; in many Third-World countries, people have children at a much younger age. Thus, a great many of those parents brought in by immigrants will be in their forties and fifties and used to hard work. Does Rector think they loafed their time away in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvadore, Armenia, and Ukraine? Why wouldn't a substantial portion of these parents find work themselves?

May immigrants come here and start their own businesses: stores, restaurants, meat markets, dance instruction, computer software... who knows? Family-owned small businesses have become the backbone of the American economy, and the fastest growing segment thereof. Such businesses often hire the whole family, and nobody is on welfare.

And does Rector assume from the outset that all attempts at assimilation will fail, that nobody among the immigrants is responsible and shares the American ethic of paying your own way and supporting your own family -- even your parents when they get old?

Does Rector thus casually assume that current immigrants are morally inferior to all the earlier generations of immigrants -- possibly even including his own parents or grandparents?

The cost of inflammatory rhetoric

This is the level to which this discussion has degenerated, where even respectable and respected institutions like the Heritage Foundation begin any discussion with a hidden, anti-immigrant bias, anger at all these foreigners coming into "our" America, and the assumption that they only come to suck up our welfare and live on Easy Street.

Good God, we deserve better from that side of the debate.

We desperately need continuing input from those for whom border security is paramount:

  • We need pressure to build a real wall;
  • We need more money and manpower offered for border security;
  • We need much harsher penalties for employers hiring illegals once they have legal guest workers available instead;
  • We need guarantees that we won't repeat the disaster of Simpson-Mazzoli in 1986 (signed by Ronald Reagan, by the way).

But when the security-side of the debate abandons the field, refusing even to engage in the effort of making a marginally good bill into a pretty good one, preferring a one-sided bill that cannot pass to a balanced bill that will... then our country -- and their own cause of border security -- is ill-served indeed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 16, 2006, at the time of 4:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 15, 2006

A Specter Is Haunting the Blogosphere...

Hatched by Dafydd

...the specter of absolutism.

The GOP now consists of a house divided; and as Lincoln taught, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

I admit, I am stunned and angry that my favorite writer on my favorite blog has made himself the blunt end of a battering ram that is lustily knocking down the entire temple of achievement we've built in this city on a hill for the last five years.

Here he is on the speech:

He Had His Chance...

...and he blew it. He should have given the speech I told him to. As soon as he started talking about guest worker programs and the impossibility of deporting 11 million illegals, it was all over. President Bush keeps trying to find the middle ground, on this and many other issues. But sometimes, there isn't a viable middle ground. This is one of those instances....

President Bush doesn't have many chances left to salvage his second term. After tonight, he might not have any.

No "viable middle ground." It's my way or the highway. And what is the speech that John "told him" to give? Anent immigration, it boils down to this:

So, discussion about long-term approaches to immigration will continue. But in the meantime, your priority will be securing the borders and enforcing the laws currently on the books. Which means that the crackdown on employers of illegals will be expanded. Announce some specific measures to begin securing the Mexican border, preferably including some kind of fence.

Bush did say this, of course; all of it! And there is nobody on the right, least of all Big Lizards, who does not support a dramatically increased border security... a fence, even a bigger fence than Sen. Sessions calls for; more Border Patrol; drones, sensors, even National Guard along the border. I am for this, Sachi is for it, President Bush is for it.

So what so enrages John?

The only plausible answer is that John wanted this to be the only program. He wanted Bush to announce that he was not going to pursue anything but enforcement now... and that everything else -- rationalizing the legal immigration system, guest-worker program, and normalization of those here illegally -- would have to be put off until some indefinite time in the future.

In other words, John Hinderaker is outraged and says that Bush's second term is no longer "salvageable" because Bush didn't accept the "compromise" he offered: we get everything we want today... and in a couple of years, we might talk about whether the rest of you get anything at all.

John, of course, knows that such a bill could never pass the Senate. So evidently, John prefers an enforcement-only bill that doesn't pass to a compromise bill that does.

He's right about one point: there are issues where there is no "viable middle ground." Slavery was one; we could not be a nation half slave and half free. The war on terrorism is another: either you're with us or you're with the terrorists.

There are black and white issues; but it is sheer folly to see every issue as so stark a choice, with one winner and everyone else a loser. Even day and night have a twilight between them. We must find a viable middle ground here, or we shall have no ground to stand on whatsoever... and we shall have done it to ourselves.

If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free-men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide. -- Abraham Lincoln, 1838

That sound you hear is the rumble of electoral doom, as half the GOP, like Samson, pulls the temple down upon all our heads -- their own, included.

Do they think of the other half as Philistines, because they would rather see a good compromise bill that passes and moves the ball forward... than stand fast on purity of essence, refuse to settle for anything short of "perfection," and therefore accomplishing nothing whatsoever?

The other sound you hear is the joyous ululation of the Democrats, as they watch the Republican Party tear itself apart over this issue like sharks in a feeding frenzy... because one side of the debate is unwilling to give even one angry inch:

  • Bush supported the fence!
  • Bush supported a crackdown on employers of illegals!
  • Bush supported enforcing the existing laws!
  • Bush supported ending "catch and release" of illegals!

And that wasn't enough, because he didn't come out swinging against guest workers and for mass deportation:

As soon as he started talking about guest worker programs and the impossibility of deporting 11 million illegals, it was all over.

So that's it; if the anti-immigrant side of the GOP -- fair or not, that is the impression they leave -- persists in this folly, the idea that we can round up and deport eleven million people, and that we can just seal off the border and keep all the foreigners out, then bid adieu to the House, the Senate, and the White House, and gird yourself for twenty years of absolute hell on Earth. Because if we blow this, then that's how long the Republicans will have to wander in the wilderness until we're back in power.

Twenty years of socialist misery. Twenty years of staggering tax increases. Twenty years of racial preference poured down our throats with a gasoline funnel. Twenty years of imperialist judges nullifying elections and ruling by decree.

Twenty years of increasingly savage terrorist attacks; America will be Israel under Barak.

But at least, thank God, we will have stuck to our guns and refused to compromise in any way, shape, form, manner, style, jot, or tittle.

For the love of God, people... compromise means you must give a little. There is a middle ground. And if I'm wrong, if there is not, then we are all lost -- because John's side does not have the support of the American people and will never win.

Here are our choices:

  1. We settle on a reasonable compromise bill that includes both border enforcement and also immigration reform, a guest-worker program, and some eventual normalization; and we try to make it the best bill we can, given those constraints; or...
  2. We rend the party, the Democrats win, and then you'll find out what "amnesty" and "open borders" really mean. And minor things like the entire war on jihadi terrorism will trampled underfoot by the Democratic thugs who seize control of our country.

And all for the want of the simple art of giving a little to get a lot.

Think. Think. Think two times, three times... and don't throw away this magnificent opportunity -- just because you only get three-quarters of a loaf instead of the whole bloody thing on a golden plate.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 15, 2006, at the time of 9:17 PM | Comments (45) | TrackBack

First Impressions: Bush's Speech On Immigration

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm splitting my initial response to Bush's speech tonight into three sections: Content, Delivery, and the Reaction I expect it will receive.

Content

Overall, I liked the speech quite a bit. I wish President Bush had been more explicit about the fence; but he did mention it not once but twice, so there is no question he supports some amount of actual, real, physical fencing along the border.

The president unambiguously distinguished the fence from a mere "security barrier," which he prefers for the rural areas where few people are crossing now; the implication is that the barrier would be less aggressive than the fence, more like a classic vehicle-barrier -- chicanes, concrete blocks, checkpoints, maybe even automated spike-strips that can deploy in front of a vehicle trying to run the checkpoint (we use these in some places in Iraq).

So real, actual, and tough walls ("fencing") in high-traffic areas where there is a lot of illegal immigration, and a barrier in rural areas where there is some but not much illegal crossings, with those areas where there are few to no crossings covered only by a "virtual fence" (as others have called it; Bush didn't use that term) of motion detectors, infrared cameras, and Predator drones overhead (but presumably sans the Hellfire missiles.)

Also on the enforcement side, the prez noted that he had increased the Border Patrol from 9,000 when he was first inaugurated to 12,000 today; and he called for increasing them to somewhere above 18,000 -- which would more than double the 2001 level. But he will call upon governors to allocate 6,000 National Guardsmen to assist the current Border Patrol (increasing the manpower to 18,000 as soon as the state NGs come aboard) for one year; thereafter, each increase in trained and deployed Border Patrol would be matched by a decrease in the Guard.

Huh, he missed the opportunity to say, "as the Border Patrol stands up, the National Guard will stand down." (See now if Big Lizards had been writing his speeches, he would have been hounded from office long ago.)

I like this, but I don't think it's going to be very effective. Under posse comitatus, if Bush nationalizes the Guard, then they probably cannot be used on the border -- even if, as he says, they won't conduct any law enforcement operations. But if he doesn't nationalize them, it will be up to the individual governors; and some -- e.g., Arnold Schwarzenegger of my home state of California -- have already signalled they're not on board with this proposal. Maybe the feds can armtwist the governors on this; but in California's case, there may actually be more "immigration activists" opposing anything that seals off the borders to illegals than there are ordinary people who want to see an end to illegal immigration.

So you read it here first: I predict that no matter how much the feds call for state National Guard units to deploy on the border, California, Arizona, and New Mexico will not play along... at least not to the extent that Bush envisions.

Still, some is better than none; I'm sure he'll get cooperation from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. I have no idea what Gov. Blanco of Louisiana will do: she's a liberal, but LA blacks are not exactly pro-illegal-immigration; and of course, she wants lots of federal aid -- so maybe Congress could include a federal-funding stick for non-complying states to go along with any carrots that are offered in the way of federal help to local law enforcement that works with federal cops on illegal immigration.

He discussed the guest-worker program and "normalization" of those illegals already here; and I was very pleased that he made quite a point of connecting these to border security. He hasn't read Big Lizards enough, or else he would have used my phrase: there is no wall so strong that a million people pushing won't knock it down.

But he did say that there are so many people desperate to come here that a wall and enforcement, no matter how strong, cannot keep them out. That it's imperative to reduce the number of folks trying to get in here illegally... and the only way to do that is to give them a legal way of doing so. (He also failed to use my analogy of a dam, with and without a spillway. His people really do need to get in touch with my people!)

I was disappointed that he didn't talk about rationalizing the legal immigration system, but he certainly didn't oppose it. I keep hoping that any comprehensive reform will include changing the current system -- arbitrary, byzantine, nationality-based, corrupt, and so bureaucratic it makes the Department of Motor Vehicles seem positively user-friendly -- to one that is rational, explicable, fair to everyone, clear about what prospective immigrants must do, and with an enforced time-table for response by the USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, what used to be called the INS).

But all in all, the content of this speech is a very, very good start to a compromise bill that nobody will love -- but that everybody can live with. And that's what a compromise is, b'gad.

Delivery

At the beginning, Bush seemed oddly hesitant, as if he had not had enough practice time; but within a few minutes, he got into the swing of it, and the speech went smoother from there.

As usual, he came across (to me) as sincere, heartfelt, and intelligent. As usual, I'm sure he came across to die-hard liberals as a lying Fascist weasel with the IQ of an eggplant, and to die-hard Tancredoites as Vicente Fox's sock puppet... for whatever that may be worth.

Not his best delivered speech; those are invariably his stump speeches, of course, since he has the opportunity to refine them over weeks of giving them all over the country. But not his worst speech, either; his worst are always those where he is doing something purely for political reasons, and not because he really believes what he's saying... such as the "steel tariffs" speech.

He believes what he said today; he just didn't have a lot of time to practice it, as it was likely being revised up until moments before he delivered it.

Reaction

The most important question is how the Republican base will react. I think they'll be pleased, by and large: a month ago, this speech would have been a lot "softer," with less explicit discussion of border control and a more lenient guest-worker and "normalization" section.

Bush is now much more oriented towards border enforcement than he was, and he recognizes that the base matters: George W. Bush has "grown" on this issue.

I believe Bush's approval rating among conservatives will rise; but it's not going to be sudden. They want to wait and see how he interacts with the House and Senate. For example, will Bush support the amendment offered by Sen. Sessions to add an actual fence into the Senate bill?

Jeff Sessions -- excuse me, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (can you tell he's from the South?) -- wants to amend the Senate bill to add 370 miles of actual fence, plus 500+ miles of vehicle barriers. Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) is very strongly behind it, and I suspect Bush will embrace this, too. But until he does, I think conservatives are going to be skeptical.

I'm afraid some so-called "conservatives" barely listened to the speech; since the only thing many of them would ever accept is pure enforcement, mass deportations, and internment camps -- no guest workers, no normalization, and nothing else -- there was no reason even to bother with what the president said: I suspect many had their responses already written before Bush even spoke, and they simply waited until the speech ended before clicking the Publish button (for the sake of appearances).

Hugh Hewitt, in a nutty update that caters to this mob, wrote this about fifteen minutes after Bush finished talking:

Memo to Tony Snow: The blogosphere/talk radio callers/e-mailers are turning against this speech in a decisive fashion. They simply do not believe the Administration is really committed to border enforcement, and the spokespeople sent out to back up the president's message aren't doing that job. Period.

Decisive? After a quarter of an hour?

If this really is true, then "the blogosphere/talk radio callers/e-mailers" are all a bunch of horses' asses. However, I really doubt that those Huge is hearing from now, in the first couple, three hours after the speech, will be truly representative of that vast body of intellectual opinion (for which I have a lot more respect).

Much more likely, at the moment, Hugh is hearing from the Perpetually Aggrieved wing of the Republican Party (which has its much larger counterpart among the Democras), who could barely contain themselves until the speech was actually delivered to e-mail Hugh that they hated it. I'm sure Frank Gaffney is beside himself with indignation; but I prefer Power Line's blog-of-the-week the Strata-Sphere, where A.J. Strata proves himself a man of intelligence, wisdom, courage, and sincerity. (By which I mean he agrees with me, of course.)

Today conservatives and Americans across this nation, especially those who voted for George W Bush, should be thankful for what we have accomplished and for having George Bush as President. My tolerance for the whiners who don’t get all they want, or who say the pace of getting America to become more responsive to conservative ideas is too slow, is totally used up. Tonight, when George Bush speaks his is going to discuss how we can take SOME steps towards getting a handle on immigration and the security threats it represents.... [All emphasis added]

I have no words of thanks to those who are so frustrated they have turned on Bush when he needs our support, and threaten to sit out elections. Why would I have any thanks for that kind of action? I am thankful we avoided a President Gore and President Kerry. Gore would have lost his mind after 9-11 (look at how he handled the 2000 election). And Kerry would have been so confused about what to do he would have signed legislation beforing vetoing it.

All right, this is just my first, few, brief thoughts on the subject of Bush's speech on immigration. I'm certain I'll have something much more substantial -- and much longer -- to say later, when I've had a chance to digest. (Metaphorically and also literally; we're just about to eat dinner here at Lizard Central.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 15, 2006, at the time of 7:20 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Dixie Chicks - Not Ready to Make Amends

Hatched by Sachi

Three years ago, the Dixie Chicks were rising stars in country music. Their concerts were sold out; they were nominated in many categories in the Country Music Awards; and they were just about to hit the big time.

Then they made a disastrous mistake: on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom, lead singer Natalie Maines insulted President Bush during a concert in London, saying that she was "ashamed" that President Bush was from her home state of Texas.

I really don't care what she feels about the president ("thinks" is too strong a word); Toby Keith (a lifelong conservative, yellow-dog Democrat) was also opposed to the Iraq war, and I'm sure several other country stars; it was a controversial war, then and especially now. But Keith rightly recognized that he was not a political pundit, he was a singer and songwriter. Maines -- like many rockers and Hollywood celebrities -- mistook fame for intelligence.

From the business point of view, her "offhand" remark was an incredibly stupid thing to say. It's not just saying she is against the war; she said she was "ashamed" of a president who is, on the whole, very well regarded by the country-music fans as a man from the heartland, a man doing his best as he sees it to keep the country safe. Even when they disagree with his decisions, they don't feel "ashamed" that George W. Bush is the president.

And they especially hate it when celebrities go to foreign countries and run down America.

If I were their publicist, I would have been pulling my hair out. On the verge of your huge breakthrough, why go out of your way to insult your fan base? Why didn't they just "shut up and sing," as Laura Ingraham put it in her book of that title?

As surprising as it is, the Chicks honestly never had any idea who their fan base was... or rather, used to be. In a recent CBS 60 minutes segment, Martie Maguire, another member of the group, described their audience as she saw it:

"When I looked out in the audience, I didn't see rednecks," Maquire says with a chuckle. "I saw a more progressive crowd."

"Progressive," of course, means leftist. So Maguire, at least, and probably the other Chicks, thought that they were playing to a huge audience of left-leaning country-music fans. Now, there's perceptiveness for you!

There are some leftist country music performers, notably feminist PETA activist K.D. Lang (who quit country in a blaze of glory, with a couple of hit songs on her CD Ingenue, only to fizzle out as a "torch singer"); paranoid conspiracy theorist and outspoken Sandinista supporter Kris Kristofferson (though he's not particularly current and was never a star as a performer); and the perennial Willie Nelson, who is always current but is having a resurgence right now. Country has always been more tolerant than it was given credit for; but the fans draw the limit at America-bashing... which includes saying snide things about the president just as we're about to go to war.

The best leftist country stars, like Nelson, are more circumspect in their criticism: they don't deny being liberals or leftists, but they also don't shove it down our throats. In fact, I think Kristofferson's big mouth may well have played a roll in his inability ever to achieve the sort of success as a singer that he did as a songwriter for others, and Lang's campaign with PETA against eating meat certainly damaged what until then had been a fantastic country career; it was that reaction against her that caused her to quit country and try to become a pop star, to very little success.

I think Maines, Maguire, and Emily Robison fell into the same trap as Kristofferson and Lang: underestimating the tolerance of the country-music community. They assumed that conservatives couldn't possibly tolerate a person having contrary politics... and therefore the only explanation for the Chicks' success (or that of Kristofferson and Lang) was that country fans were not "rednecks" at all but really "progressives" who agreed with their nutty opinions.

I think the Chicks were genuinely shocked that when they smeared Bush from a London studio, the entire country-music fanbase didn't rise up and cheer them on. Just like all their lefty friends in the rock and roll world did.

Instead, while the fanbase was tolerant enough of someone's politics when he more or less kept it to himself, they were not "progressive" enough to appreciate Maines' smarmy comment in London on the eve of war. The Chicks were shut out from many country radio stations; they received not a single CMA award; and their record sales plummeted, even when a few liberals, who had never listened to a country song in their lives, rushed out to show solidarity and buy the Dixie Chicks' debut CD.

It also didn't help when the Chicks started whining publicly that people loudly objecting to Maines' political statement were violating her "free speech rights."

They have not released a new CD for three years now, though one is going to be released later this month. Maines claims -- not that I really believe it -- she's been receiving "death threats" from angry former fans.

(Have you ever noticed that every leftist who gets in trouble immediately plays the death-threat card? We're supposed to believe that whenever a liberal says something amazingly stupid, angering his former fans, that within days, some right-wing clearing house immediately issues a form-letter death threat.)

So are they now sorry for what Natalie Maines said? Did they learn from their mistakes? Judge for yourself:

Their new CD, called "Taking the Long Way" chronicles all the things that have happened to them, but if you were expecting something just soft and maternal, guess again. One song in particular, a single released six weeks ago, sums up their current state of mind. It’s called "Not Ready to Make Nice."

The song is powerful and unrepentant. The anger isn’t directed at the war or the president — or at their many fans who deserted them. It’s about the hatred, and narrow-minded intolerance they encountered for expressing an opinion.

In other words, it's all about them.

They still don't get it, and neither does CBS. They cannot think of any other reason than "hatred and narrow-minded intolerance" that people might object to them crossing over to England, just before their own country goes to war, and sucking up to the anti-American element there (and in the United States).

Maquire says she is not trying to say the country music audience is mostly rednecks. "But over the years, and especially, since country music's turned into this redneck theme, it's become kind of a negative," she says. "I think for a while, a lot of artists were doing a lot of great things. It was that were broadening the audience. So that country was cool. Because I always thought it was cool. So it makes me sad that it's kind of reverted back to a place that I'm not that proud of. And this is coming from a true country fan. I can't listen to the radio right now."

Trying to sort through this sentence -- I think she tortured the syntax until it screamed for mercy -- Maguire seems to be trying to say that country music used to be broad-based and progressive, but then after 9/11, it suddenly became shamefully pro-America. This is the weirdest reading of the field that I've ever read. The only thing I can think is that Maguire thinks country music used to be socialist because it embraced Woody Guthrie, and that it used to be lesbian (and vegetarian) because it embraced K.D. Lang.

But now, all of a sudden, and for no reason at all, it has become conservative and pro-America -- because it embraces Toby Keith and spurns the Dixie Chicks. (Of course, it's also anti-cancer, because it embraces Rascal Flatts, and it's all in favor of everybody dying -- you know, that whole Brad Paisley, "When I Get Where I'm Going" thing; and actually, it is redneck, because there's always Gretchen Wilson!)

This is an amazingly dumb way to think about a field that has always been more quintessentially American than any other native form of music, including Blues and rock; but if you read the interview, it's obvious that when God was handing out brains, the Chicks were back in the Grievance line getting seconds and thirds.

With this kind or rhetoric, no wonder their songs have not been selling well.

The song ["Not Ready to Make Nice"] fizzled on the charts — yet it's one of most downloaded country songs on the Internet.

"Well, how do you explain the fact that it's No. 37 on the charts and No. 1 in downloads? on iTunes," Kroft asked Maines.

Hm... possibly because most country fans probably don't listen on iPods -- not yet. When they do, we'll see that disparity disappear: such songs will be dogs both in the stores and also via download. Here is a sample of the lyrics:

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don't mind sayin'
It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Sayin' that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

"Self indulgence" is the phrase that pops immediately to mind. Like "Mother Sheehan," the Chicks see themselves as brave martyrs in the mold of Martin Luther King and John Lennon. (And notice how they very subtlely conflate Laura Ingraham with whomever sent the death threats... if anyone did. Laura's book must have violated their free-speech rights, just like the fan protests.)

Another possible explanation for iPod downloads but no CD-single sales: many might have wanted to see whether the Chicks were ready to make amends with country fans, but they didn't want to pay a bunch of money to find out.

Wise decision... because the Dixie Chicks are not ready for anything, making nice or otherwise. Not only don't they know their own audience, they don't know their country. In both senses of the word.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 15, 2006, at the time of 2:37 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

A Tale of Two Surveys

Hatched by Dafydd

Or, Creatively Crafting Crafty Questions For Fun and Profit.

Two recent surveys asked respondents about the National Security Agency and the "recent" revelations -- actually four and a half months stale -- that they have collected data from various phone companies on calling habits, creating a massive database to be used to backtrack terrorist connections and spot al-Qaeda plots before they happen.

In the poll by ABC News and the Washington Post (free registration required), 63% of Americans found the NSA call traffic analysis program "acceptable," while 35% found it "unacceptable;" but in the Newsweek poll, conducted at the same time, 41% called it a "necessary tool," while 53% said it "goes too far." What gives? How can two surveys come to virtually opposite results?

Who Gives the Orders Around Here?

There are a number of factors that affect the responses. One is question order: the Newsweek poll first asked whether the respondents approved of how Bush was handling the war on terrorism, then immediately jumped into the NSA question.

Since "terrorism and homeland security" is inextricably bound up with the war in Iraq, and since anyone who follows the antique media version of that war is convinced we're "losing," the "terrorism and homeland security" question is calculated to elicit a negative reaction. Leading with a question that eliicits a response negative towards the president typically causes all subsequent questions about presidential programs to be similarly negative. It's human nature; the earlier questions put respondents in a foul mood.

By contrast, the ABC/WaPo poll asked first whether respondents believed that Bush was protecting Americans' right to privacy while fighting the war on terrorism (which gets a marginal Yes vote); then it asked whether it's doing enough to protect Americans' rights in general (another Yes, this time somewhat stronger: Americans aren't big on rights when their personal survival is at stake). Then which is more important... investigating terrorist threats or protecting privacy (this one is a no-brainer, and it gets a 65-31 victory for investigating terrorism... building to a crescendo).

And only then does it ask about the NSA program. Since respondents have already been primed to compare safety with privacy, they're certainly going to be inclined towards the former.

But there is a much more direct reason why the ABC/WaPo poll found so much more support for the NSA program than did Newsweek.

Words to the Wise

More often than not, the most determinative factor in a poll's results is the actual wording of the questions themselves. Happily, the link above to the ABC/Washington Post poll includes the questions as well as the answers. I cannot find a direct link to the actual questions of the Newsweek poll; but PollingReport.com has the specifics (for a limited time -- get 'em while they're hot!)

Here are the two polls' questions about the NSA program. See if you can figure out the huge, gaping distinction between them. For extra credit, there is one more subtle point that might also affect the responses.

Newsweek poll:

As you may know, there are reports that the NSA, a government intelligence agency, has been collecting the phone call records of Americans. The agency doesn't actually listen to the calls but logs in nearly every phone number to create a database of calls made within the United States. Which of the following comes CLOSER to your own view of this domestic surveillance program? It is a necessary tool to combat terrorism. It goes too far in invading people's privacy.

ABC News/Washington Post poll:

It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

To find out whether you were right, slither on to the extended entry!

Here are the two questions again, this time with the differences highlighted:

Newsweek poll:

As you may know, there are reports that the NSA, a government intelligence agency, has been collecting the phone call records of Americans. The agency doesn't actually listen to the calls but logs in nearly every phone number to create a database of calls made within the United States. Which of the following comes CLOSER to your own view of this domestic surveillance program? It is a necessary tool to combat terrorism. It goes too far in invading people's privacy.

Points to note: the most blatant omission is any explanation of the connection of this program to international terrorism! If a respondent wasn't closely following this case, he might have no idea in the world that the purpose of the NSA program is to spot calling anomalies that might indicate a connection to international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda or its affiliates.

For all he knows, this could be purely "domestic surveillance" by President Bush of prominent congressional Democrats or anti-war activists. Given the choice between domestic surveillance (of political opponents) and privacy rights, of course more Americans are going to choose the latter. Who wants another Nixon?

The more subtle, extra-credit point to note is that the question does not spell out just what the "NSA" is, other than identifying it as "a government intelligence agency." Few people have heard of it; it's not a political celebrity like the CIA.

When you go to work tomorrow, ask your coworkers what the NSA is; and just call it by its initials. I'd love to know what percent of people can give a reasonably good explanation. It is, of course, the National Security Agency, the largest intelligence organization in the United States and with the biggest budget. It engages in "signals intelligence," eavesdropping on electronic communications and operating spy satellites in orbit.)

ABC News/Washington Post poll:

It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

In counterpoint to the "subtle point" above, in this question, the name of the agency is spelled out: respondents learn that it's about "national security," which makes it clear to most (I believe) that it's not a domestic intelligence agency (as the previous question clearly implies).

But more important is that this question actually explains the connection within the program between recording the number, length, and target of the calls and national security: "It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations."

The point here is quite obvious to me: when Americans have no idea why some seemingly private data (it's really not; but that's a whole 'nother argument) is being collected by the government, they're instinctively against it. This is a healthy trend that you likely wouldn't find in Europe, where government intrusion is readily accepted (not a single European country was founded in rebellion against a colonial master).

But when you actually explain the purpose behind the NSA traffic-analysis program, Americans think it's a great idea and support it two to one.

And that, in my opinion, is the most likely explanation for the seeming disparity of the poll results: Newsweek didn't bother explaining why the NSA was doing this... and ABC and the Washington Post did.

UPDATE 03:18: Well, that was fast: no sooner did I publish this post than I saw that tomorrow's USA Today/Gallup had a similar survey that found "a majority of Americans disapprove of a massive Pentagon database containing the records of billions of phone calls made by ordinary citizens."

The "majority" in question is 51% (to 43% approving). Here is the question they asked:

As you may know, as part of its efforts to investigate terrorism, a federal government agency obtained records from three of the largest U.S. telephone companies in order to create a database of billions of telephone numbers dialed by Americans. How closely have you been following the news about this?

Based on what you have heard or read about this program to collect phone records, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?

The USA Today/Gallup survey does not explain the connection... and it gets results eerily similar to the Newsweek poll, which also fails to explain the connection. 'Nuff said.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 15, 2006, at the time of 3:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 13, 2006

The Greater of Two Lessers

Hatched by Dafydd

Just when I start to worry that Captain Ed has lost his political compass, drifting over into the Land of Futile Gestures alongside Rep. Tom Tancredo, the good captain pops up with a wonderful, insightful, and clear-as-a-whistle post like this one, On The 'Lesser Of Two Evils'.

You should read the whole thing, but the key passage is here:

By all means, if faced with a choice between Hitler and Mussolini on the November ballot, I would choose to write in Winston Churchill. However, the notion that we face that kind of choice is really nothing more than an expression of anger resulting in futility. It's eminently understandable, but it results in disaster. [Emphasis added]

It says just what I was trying to say in a previous post, but at shorter length. Go thou and read!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 13, 2006, at the time of 7:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The 18½ Minute Gap

Hatched by Dafydd

Originally posted on Patterico's Pontifications, May 30th, 2005 -- a blast from the past! Now reprinted here courtesy the Big Lizards Scaley Classics series. Collect the whole set!

Interesting note: while researching my earlier post, I noticed that my very first blogpost anywhere was on Patterico: Sneaking Apples From the Great Wealth Tree, May 27th, 2005. That means my (Dafydd's) first blogospheric anniversary is coming up in only twelve days! In celebration, I will repost that first post of mine here on Big Lizards, for all to see.

(And how many readers will swiftly comment, "say, you've sure gone downhill in the last twelvemonth... what happened?")

The first anniversary of Big Lizards itself is not until September 16th.

Without further uninteresting ado....

~

If you enjoy arguing with Democrats about the validity of the Iraq War (do you also like to dart in front of a bull wearing long, red, flannel underwear?), you will discover that every such discussion always ends the same way: because we didn't find pyramids of carefully labeled nuclear missiles from the Acme WMD Warehouse, the whole war was a "complete fraud"... we had "no reason at all" for going into Iraq; consequently, the exercise was utterly "futile" and a "miserable failure."

(And how did that bull get into red, flannel underwear in the first place?)

It does little good to point out what nobody now denies: that Hussein had many ongoing programs to develop such chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons; they just weren't as advanced as we were afraid they were. Given how little intelligence we had about that secretive country, the choice was to trust in Saddam Hussein's restraint and good judgment, or trust in the United States military. "You should have just waited a few more months," the lib invariably intones; "maybe a year. Then we would have known for sure."

In other words, they wanted us to wait until two minutes to midnight. Then we could have moved... unless it turned out our watch was slow.

But now we know that it was not just on WMD that the clock was ticking. As Claudia Rosett, George Russell, and others pointed out, the oil-for-fraud program was already starting to produce the nightmare scenario of terrorist groups with their own revenue streams, independent of individual donors and fundraisers. Articles written for Fox News and National Review Online revealed that at least one company linked to al-Qaeda was already involved in kickback schemes to make millions in profits from the U.N. program -- money that would be directly available to fund al-Qaeda operations, now that Osama bin Laden's personal fortune is long since spent. And it was not just al-Qaeda; several other terrorist organizations also wound up with oil leases, right under the noses of Benon Sevan, Executive Director of the Iraq Programme (Oil for Food), Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and his spawn-of-the-devil Kojo (or is that Cujo?)

Had we waited just a few more months -- waited until two minutes before midnight -- even more high officials in Security-Council governments would have been corrupted; it's entirely possible that, in the end, even Britain would have bowed to international pressure and pulled out of the Operation Iraqi Freedom. Would we still have gone to war, then? I don't think anyone can really say for sure.

So the Left is actually right, for a change: we miserably failed to wait until two minutes to midnight to strike against the tyrant. We struck at twenty till, instead. Maybe even twenty and a half minutes before the witching hour.

Which would make it the second time in history that an 18½ minute gap saved the presidency... and this time, possibly the entire Global War on Terrorism as well.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 13, 2006, at the time of 7:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mahmoud, Son of Xerox

Hatched by Dafydd

While listening to all the huffing and puffing Iran has been doing lately, how they're going to drive us into the sea if we attack them, a thought just occurred me.

One of the reasons we were so certain that Saddam Hussein had "large stockpiles of WMD" is that the correspondence we obtained, both before and even after the March, 2003 invasion, described those stockpiles in loving detail. Every general was completely convinced -- that some other unit had the CBW rockets and artillery shells.

This is why we were so puzzled when we removed the Baath Party and its petulant leader but then couldn't find any such stockpiles. Oh, we found a great deal of WMD, typically in the form of 55-gallon drums of Cyclosarin pesticide hidden in camouflaged ammunition bunkers near empty chemical munitions (which the Iraq Survey Group -- created by and under the control of the CIA -- refused to count as WMD). But nothing like the vast piles and heaps we expected to find.

Most Iraq watchers today concede that there were no such "stockpiles" since the Gulf War; when we first inspected Iraq's weaponry back in 1991, we were startled by how much he had; we destroyed everything we found over the next few years... and then, twelve years later, we were equally startled by how little he had compared to what his own secret paperwork intimated.

The programs had continued and were poised to recreate the entire arsenal of 1991 as soon as the sanctions were lifted (which, absent the war, would have happened by now). But it turns out that those programs were far less successful and productive than the Republican Guard thought -- which means far less than Saddam himself thought, for he had no reason to trick his own Army into thinking it was stronger than it was.

Which can only mean that Saddam's own scientists were lying to him all along, pretending signficantly greater progress than the reality.

They'd had little success in the nuclear arena, and they were afraid to tell him. They'd had just as little success finding a way to reconstitute their CBW without the inspectors finding out -- and they were afraid to tell him that, too. Instead, they fed Saddam fairy fancies that made him think he was sitting atop the ummah's greatest WMD arsenal outside of Pakistan... when in fact he had bupkis, nothing beyond pesticides in chemical shells (which is so 1980s -- still dangerous to his peers but not particularly to us).

I have described it thus: we thought we were striking Saddam at two minutes to midnight; but in fact, it was twenty minutes to midnight. (I originally used this metaphor on Patterico's Pontifications nearly a year ago; but I think I'll repost it here as a Scaley Classic, immediately following this post.)

That certainly doesn't mean we were wrong; it's actually much better to take out such arsenals while they're still in embryo. It just makes it harder to convince those determined not be convinced.

I have been trying to square what I know about the staggering advances in American military training, tactics, and technology with the grandiose claims of the Iranian military and political leadership... and it suddenly occurred to me that exactly the same dynamic is in place in Iran as Iraq:

  • A ruthless dictatorship determined to conquer first the region, then the world;
  • A crash program to develop WMD, which are given the highest priority by the rulling mullahs;
  • The refusal to accept failure, coupled with impatience for progress;
  • And the well-founded suspicion among scientists that reporting slow or no progress might be a quick route to the torture chambers or a beheading.

Is it not likely that the same dynamic produces the same result: that the Iranian scientists are lying in their teeth to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about the state of Iran's non-traditional weaponry? Is it possible Iran is actually as unarmed -- and unknowing -- as Iraq was?

Obviously, we cannot rely upon this in our planning; but we must at least plan for it, in case we should strike Iran and the anticipated WMD attacks not forthcome. We must ask, if they suddenly discover they don't have the weapons they thought, what is the second thing they'll do (after first executing all the scientists)?

Let's bear this possibility in mind: all of Iran's bragging and blowing may be, as MacBeth put it, "sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 13, 2006, at the time of 6:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Like Bullets Off Superman's Chest

Hatched by Dafydd

I've refrained from commenting on the Duke Lacrosse team rape case, mostly because -- at a remove of some 2,500 miles -- all I know is what I read in the papers. Still, I've never before seen a case where literally every piece of physical evidence or independent witness corroboration comes back heavily favoring the defense... in a case where there is already an indictment and it's going to trial.

Here in California, the normal pattern is for various positive results to leak out, followed by furious defense attorneys complaining about leaks and trying to spin their way out of something really damning. Instead, we have the defense attorneys openly telling the press about the negative DNA results (a new round of such negative results today) and the taxi-driver alibi eyewitness (who suddenly finds himself threatened with prosecution if he testifies) and the dormatory card-key evidence and the ATM-camera evidence and the other exotic dancer who didn't see anything and the supposed victim who changed her story (she originally claimed she was raped by a score of white males).

And we have a prosecutor who simply shrugs it all off, refuses to talk, and insists that his rape cases usually don't include any evidence... except, of course, for the word of one exotic dancer who claims to be a victim:

After the first round of tests came back from a state crime lab without a match, Nifong said that in 75 to 80 percent of all sexual assault cases, there is no DNA evidence. In those cases, prosecutors had to proceed "the good old-fashioned way. Witnesses got on the stand and told what happened to them," he said last month.

Facts and physical evidence bounce off Nifong like bullets off Superman's chest. I wonder how many men in Durham, N.C. have been sent to prison as rapists on no other evidence than the unsupported accusation of one woman?

I also wonder what on earch Nifong presented to the grand jury to get them to indict. Now that he has narrowly survived reelection (45% for Nifong vs. 42% for Freda Black, with Keith Bishop, 13%, as the spoiler), how much longer will this Democratic DA continue this case? Will he just wait a couple of months, then dismiss the case, not even caring how many people think he cynically charged innocent boys just to help himself with the black vote and get reelected? Or will he litigate this case to the bitter end, even filing an appeal if a judge tosses it for lack of evidence?

Suppose the alleged victim told Nifong that she wasn't really raped. Would Nifong drop the case then? Or would he bully her into testifying anyway, perhaps by threatening to prosecute her for filing a false police report, perjury, and obstruction of justice if she fails to accuse the two (soon to the be three) boys on the stand? I honestly don't know, and that's pretty frightening.

I see more and more political prosecutions these days. It sure is starting to look like a lot of Democrats and even some Republicans are "solving" their political disagreements by prosecuting their opponents:

  • Rep. Tom DeLay (D-TX) is indicted for a non-crime on the basis of virtually no evidence;
  • Every Republican is routinely accused of being bribed by Jack Abramoff, and it seems as if half the cases have sprouted Democratic DAs to investigate the Republican with an eye towards indictment;
  • The Democrats as much as promise that if they gain control of either body of Congress, they will spend the next two years criminally investigating every aspect of the Bush administration;
  • Democrats in Congress threaten to send half the executive branch to prison for war crimes, "price gouging" on gasoline, the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, the NSA traffic-analysis program; secret CIA prisons in Europe (that appear to be invisible as well as secret), and mopery with intent to gawk;
  • A prominent Democrat promises to have Karl Rove "frog-marched" out of the White House in handcuffs -- and is then embraced by his fellow liberal Democrats and proclaimed a Hero of the People;
  • And now it sure seems like it's trickling down to purely local races -- case in point, Durham, N.C.

I'm sorry, this is simply dispicable, no matter who does it (though it's mostly the Left). Corrupting the criminal courts is pehaps the most destructive act a politician can undertake, other than collaborating with al-Qaeda. If we lose faith in our judicial system, the entire country will come apart at the seams.

But of what moment is such a potential catastrophe, compared to the urgent necessity of winning elections by any means necessary? I have a feeling this is just the first step of the iceberg: such politically motivated prosecutions will keep increasing (particularly if the Democrats win in November) until it begins to seem the norm. The price of defying the Democrats appears to be rising.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 13, 2006, at the time of 6:34 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 12, 2006

With the Stroke of a Pen

Hatched by Dafydd

I just heard a suggestion on Hugh Hewitt's radio show; the suggester attributed the thought to someone else, and danged if I know who it was. But it's a very provacative and tempting idea.

Suppose President Bush were to announce at a presser that, because he and the rest of the country are so disgusted by Congress spending like a drunken sailor, Bush pledges to veto all future spending bills with even a single earmark in them. Period. No exceptions... not even to fund the troops.

He would, of course, have to define what he means by "earmark," since the word has many different meanings. In particular, he would mean any expenditure for a specific project that is not explicitly voted on by the full House and Senate. Especially those earmarks that are not even contained in the legislation but only in the reports out of Appropriations. And especially especially those inserted during the joint conference that were not contained in either the House or Senate version of the bill.

This would not apply to untargeted funding of executive departments -- just congressionally-specified earmarks, where Congress tries to micromanage the disbursement of federal funds to aid specific members.

Unless Congress wants to come to a standstill, it would have to cease the practice of earmarking (by that definition). Any specific spending members consider important will have to be voted on by the full Congress. If a bill contains spending that representatives and senators never got a chance to vote on, the bill is axed, and Congress is back to square-one.

(Unless they can override the veto, of course; and there must be at least 34 spending hawks in the Senate or 146 in the House, which is enough to sustain the veto.)

There is no reason to believe that every proposed "earmark" is necessarily a bad idea... but that's the way to bet it. If it is a good idea, then trot it out into the open and let in the sunshine.

What would happen? I think the first hurdle to overcome would be denial: Congress' refusal to believe that Bush would really do it. After all, in five and a half years, he hasn't vetoed a single bill yet. That objection is easily overcome... and Big Lizards leaves the mechanism for overcoming that skepticism as an exercise to alert readers.

Next would be grief: there would be much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Members would call Bush all sorts of unpleasant names. But if Bush fought back in the press, the American people would definitely be on his side. I mean, out from under the Capitol Dome, who in the country actually supports such earmarks? People may defend one particular earmark -- the one that goes into their own pockets -- but even those folks condemn the practice when anyone else does it!

Finally, we will have acceptance: the Republicans in Congress will fairly quickly realize that they can jump out in front of this parade and everyone will think they've been baton twirlers the whole way.

I can't picture the Democrats applauding Bush for this. Sure, it would be in their best interest, too... but that means they'd have to be on the same side as President Bush, and their full-blown case of BDS will prevent them praising Bush for anything at all.

But that's all right; I have no problem with the president and the congressional GOP leading the charge to cut spending, and the Democrats manning the barricades of the status quo. Suits me fine!

This would be a staggeringly bold and creative proposal; and if Bush sticks to it (not too difficult -- just make Congress vote before spending!) I think it will dramatically raise his approval rating. Best of all, he can do it all by himself; it just takes a gut check.

Oh yeah, and it's good policy, too. By the way.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 12, 2006, at the time of 5:33 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Well There's Yer Problem, Mac!

Hatched by Dafydd

I took a look at the new Harris Poll, as reported in the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription probably required), which shows President Bush's job approval rating dropping down to 29% approval, 71% disapproval. As is its wont, Harris refuses to reveal how many Republicans and Democrats were in its sample; but that's of no moment, for the culprit behind Bush's current so-called "free fall" is perfectly obvious: "it's the Republicans, stupid."

Republicans -- in particular, conservatives -- are so negative about their own president, I can only conclude that they're sabotaging the president's job approval numbers in order to try to push him towards their own political positions. There is no other plausible explanation for such bizarre results:

First, Bush's job approval by whether the respondent describes himself as a Republican, Independent, or Democrat:

Table 1: President Bush's Job Approval By Party Affiliation
  Total Republican Independent Democratic
Approve 29% 67% 19% 10%
Disapprove 71% 33% 81% 90%

Next, by whether the respondent describes himself as a conservative, moderate, or liberal:

Table 2: President Bush's Job Approval By Political Philosophy
  Total Conservative Moderate Liberal
Approve 29% 46% 24% 10%
Disapprove 71% 53% 76% 90%

Two points to note, one obvious, the other more subtle:

  • Pretty clearly, Bush's huge problem right now is that Republicans are slamming him to pollsters. Looking at table 2, it appears the real driving force behind this trend is the conservative wing of the Republican Party... which is actually giving Bush a net negative job-approval rating.
  • But here is the subtler point. Look at the differences between Table 1 and Table 2. There is a much larger gap between Republicans and conservatives than there is between Democrats and liberals or between Independents and moderates.

In the last column, there is literally no difference at all between Democrats and Liberals; both have identical ratings of 10% approval, 90% disapproval. This indicates a very strong party discipline, with "rank and file" moderate Democrats falling into lockstep behind their much more liberal leadership.

There is some minor distinction between Independents and moderates; Bush's approval is slightly higher among the latter. My guess is this represents Republican moderates, fewer of whom think Bush is too conservative than do Independent moderates.

But there is a yawning gulf between Republicans and Conservatives: 67% of Republicans support the president, but only 46% of conservatives. But why? What does this mean?

Obviously, the 53% of conservatives who disapprove of the job Bush is doing think he's not being conservative enough; and I suspect they believe that by withholding approval, they will somehow push him rightwards.

But the reality is that this is amazingly self-defeating... since the obvious beneficiaries of a weakened President Bush are the Democrats, and in particular, the liberal Democrats -- not the conservatives.

It's also self-fulfilling, because a president perceived as being weak will find it harder to push Congress... and the congressional Republicans are actually more liberal than the president right now. Thus, a stronger Congress and a weaker president will move the country in a more liberal direction.

Because the country is not as conservative as the conservatives wish it were, Bush and the Republicans in Congress cannot get a pure conservative agenda enacted; they must compromise. However, it appears that conservative Republicans are getting more and more impatient with any compromise at all; they're becoming just as intolerant as liberal Democrats.

I am not a conservative, but I share far more values with them than with moderates. And I'm very much afraid that pouting conservatives could hand the 2006 election to the Democrats in order to "teach the Republicans a lesson." Of course, the result of that will be even more moderate and liberal Republicans, as they seek the new, leftward-drifting center of the electorate.

If conservatives want to wield power within the Republican Party, they need to do the opposite: they need to embrace the president and strengthen his hand against Congress.

Congress comprises two houses; neither is consistently conservative. The House just passed a much more conservative immigration bill -- but it's DOA in the Senate. Contrariwise, it was the House that panicked at high gas prices and first began talking about investigating the oil companies for "price gouging." And it was the Senate that then proposed a $100 give-away. Yet it was the House last March that dropped ANWR drilling from the budget resolution.

See what I mean? Every conservative step forward by one house is immediately followed by a liberal step backward in the other. Well, there's yer problem, Mac!

In fact, Bush has done a very good job on some major issues pushing Congress to the right -- especially on judges, but also on tax cuts, a strong military, attempts to reform the CIA to shift it from a cold-war mentality to an anti-jihadi mentality, and in prosecuting the war in Iraq. He has a better record than Congress taken as a whole.

I suspect that some portion of conservative disapproval comes from the William F. Buckley, Bill Kristol wing of the conservative movement: the isolationists seemingly don't understand the necessity of a forward engagement. They wonder why we don't just withdraw all the troops to "Fortress America" and stop getting involved in "foreign entanglements."

Bush and the Republicans can certainly help themselves by being more actively conservative on some fronts. If the immigration deal in Congress has a strong enforcement component, I think that will help a lot: conservative commentators have been telling their conservative listeners that the deal has no enforcement at all, that it's just an amnesty giveaway -- which is a wild exaggeration. If Americans subsequently see that it does include a fence and strong enforcement of the border, the difference between their lowered expectations and the reality will give Bush a boost.

He does not need to jettison (and shouldn't) those elements of immigration other than the fence; but he should start emphasizing the fence more. Recent discussions about finding ways consistent with Posse Comitatus to get the U.S. military engaged on the border are likely to help him some, as would be a committment to start building the fence before any "regularization" of illegal immigrants.

And Bush should also find occasion to pick a fight over some Democratic wedge issue -- I think the upcoming Michael Hayden confirmation hearings would be good for that, but only if the president first lays the groundwork by explaining how "traffic analysis" works, shows how it uncovers terrorist plots, and assures ordinary Americans that their private information (name, address, living habits) is not being stored by the National Security Agency. Tony Snow will be vital in this communications effort.

Once Americans are comfortable with the NSA traffic-analysis program, it will be as popular as the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program became, once Americans learned what they really were doing (rather than the Democratic caricature). At that point, Democratic obstruction of intelligence anti-terrorist programs will cut against them, not against the Republicans or President Bush.

If Bush were to recapture the Republican Party -- if he could get a 90% approval to match the 90% lockstep disapproval by Democrats -- then his job-approval would rise substantially. Even with pollsters oversampling Democrats (as they customarily do), a rise of 23% among Republicans translates to a rise of 10% in the overall polls, which would put Bush in the low forties.

Some good news on the Iraq front (which will definitely be coming by November, as the mission is going tremendously better than the antique media report) would lift the Independent and even some Democratic support... and we could head into the midterms with Bush in the mid-to-upper forties in job approval.

And that would be good news for all Republicans... even conservatives.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 12, 2006, at the time of 3:41 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 11, 2006

Excavating For Bones of a Scandal

Hatched by Dafydd

The scandal du jour is that the National Security Agency (NSA) has evidently been data-mining records of phone calls, which has every Democrat and a few hand-wringing Republicans in an uproar. (And does anyone doubt that USA Today chose yesterday, of all days, to release their original story in an effort to torpedo the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to head up the CIA?)

Alas, but hardly unexpectedly, many medioids and politicians appear to be conflating this story with the unrelated NSA al-Qaeda intercept story (Reuters most obviously, which I'll highlight below). But I'm way ahead of myself; let's first describe what is actually going on, assuming USAToday can be believed.

Journalistic archeology

The first point to make is that this is not a new story. The New York Times first published a story about this back in December, 2005, just a week after the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program was blown. It is thus quite clear that the USA Today story is recycled old scandal-mongering from last year... and the only NSA-related story recently that could have sparked this renewed interest is (quite obviously) the nomination of Gen. Hayden. From the December NYT story:

Since the disclosure last week of the N.S.A.'s domestic surveillance program, President Bush and his senior aides have stressed that his executive order allowing eavesdropping without warrants was limited to the monitoring of international phone and e-mail communications involving people with known links to Al Qaeda.

What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.

Sounds strangely familiar, yes? This is clearly the exact, same story as the one USA Today "broke" yesterday. Nowhere does yesterday's USA Today article divulge that the Times scooped them by four and a half months, and neither AP nor Reuters seems to be able to remember back that far.

Today's Times story credits USA Today with the story in paragraph two; but it does not mention that this is old stuff, long ago reported by the Times itself, until the twelfth paragraph. Even then, it mentions its own earlier story in such an oblique, laconic fashion -- followed by a lurid charge supported only by Mr. Anonymous -- that readers could easily be excused for missing the point that this is old, dessicated outrage:

The New York Times reported last December that the agency had gathered data from phone and e-mail traffic with the cooperation of several major telecommunications companies.

But Democrats reacted angrily to the USA Today article and its description of the program's vast size, including an assertion by one unnamed source that its goal was the creation of a database of every phone call ever made within the United States' borders.

(I find it more than a little surprising that the Times would be more interested in pushing this as Today's scandal than claiming their own primacy from yesteryear. But then, there is the urgent task of preventing George W. Bush from naming a new CIA chief... at least, anyone other than, oh, Francis Fargo Townsend -- whom I discussed in dire, sepulchral tones, and not without some boxing about the ears, some months ago on Captain's Quarters.)

So with all this as prelude, what exactly is the NSA doing? What's the hoo-hah all about?

How it works

The Times (today's) has a succinct description:

The article, in USA Today, said that the agency did not listen to the calls, but secretly obtained information on numbers dialed by "tens of millions of Americans" and used it for "data mining" — computer analysis of large amounts of information for clues or patterns to terrorist activity.... [The quotation "tens of millions" is from Patrick Leahy. -- the Mgt.]

"It's not a wiretapping program, it's simply a compilation, according to the report here, of numbers that phone companies maintain," said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who is also on the judiciary panel.

He compared it to "mail covers" and "pen registers," techniques long used by law-enforcement authorities to record the addresses on letters or calls made by individuals under investigation. No warrant is needed for such efforts, but the government must certify with a court that the information likely to be obtained is relevant to an ongoing investigation....

The Times article disclosing the data mining program last December quoted officials in the government and the telecommunications industry who have knowledge of parts of the program as saying the N.S.A. has sought to analyze communications patterns to glean clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, and the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages. Calls to and from Afghanistan, for instance, are known to have been of particular interest to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said.

So the discussion is not about "surveillance," it's about traffic analysis; and it has nothing to do with the al-Qaeda intercept program -- except that both are conducted by the NSA and the administration argues (and caselaw seems to agree) that neither requires a court order.

But note how the antique media conflate the two cases, either foolishly or with malice aforethought. Reuters has the clearest example:

Bush said last year the eavesdropping only targeted communications between a person inside the United States and a person overseas. But USA Today said calls originating and terminating within the United States had also been included in the database.

Note the 'Bush said, but we've discovered' formula here, designed to make it appear as though Bush has been caught out in a lie. In fact, the president said that the eavesdropping was only on international calls; this is a completely different program that doesn't include any eavesdropping at all.

So Bush is telling the truth, and it's Reuters who is indirectly lying -- or else acting in reckless disregard for the truth. The other media articles I read more or less conflated the two "scandals" as well (it's a scandal we weren't doing them before 9/11), though more subtlely.

Why it works

I would guess that the NSA notes suspicious surges of traffic: for example, suppose there is a bulge of phone calls from all over the country to some obscure number in Afghanistan... and then the calls abruptly cease. Two days later, there is some major al-Qaeda attack in Afghanistan or Packistan. If I were a judge, I think that would be probable cause for me to issue a warrant to let the CIA or FBI find out who owns the telephone numbers that called Afghanistan just before the bombing, particularly if the NSA could demonstrate that this same pattern had happened before.

What is the point? If indeed various people not previously of interest to lawn forcement were consistently calling suspected al-Qaeda affilliates shortly before attacks, they may well be al-Qaeda agents here in the United States: under the al-Qaeda intercept program, their calls could be tapped.

But what about purely domestic? Suppose there were a major al-Qaeda attack somewhere in the world. It might be very valuable to backtrack through the record to find any calls made to some Islamic charity -- even if America-based -- that's linked to the group that carried out the attack, looking for calls that didn't fit the usual pattern: for example, a large burst of calls from specific (domestic) numbers just a week before the attack. Then you'd want to backtrack on those numbers, perhaps finding a similar bulge in telephone traffic to the first numbers from a small number of other domestic phone numbers.

Finally, you might find that the second group of domestic numbers got a number of calls from the city where the attack took place. Again, if I'm a judge, that's certainly good enough for me to issue a warrant, for those domestic numbers can certainly be reasonably suspected of being in the al-Qaeda daisy chain.

Bear in mind that these databases of phone calls already exist; the NSA just wants to consolidate them in an NSA database. This makes the search a matter of moments, rather than days or even weeks, as they try to figure out which carrier each call uses and subpoena the records from that carrier for that specific number.

There are some civil-liberties concerns; with all those numbers at their fingerends, it's possible the NSA might go romping through them, just "for the heck of it" (Leahy's words), including numbers that show no unusual traffic. But why? Why would they waste their time and resources? In any event, without showing some rational reason for having done so, they certainly couldn't produce any such findings in court.

I suppose the Democrats are frantic that the administration will somehow use this database to round up all Democratic dissidents and throw them into Gitmo. But that seems even more farfetched than the nutty claims by conspiracy theorists that Bill Clinton was systematically assassinating anyone who had evidence against him.

Democratic eruptions

Another difference: only wackos ever waved around the "Clinton death list;" but the equally insane conspiracy mongering against President Bush has gone mainstream. From today's Times:

"Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with Al Qaeda?" Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the committee's ranking minority member, asked angrily. [Asked who? The empty air? The Senate J-Com hasn't called any witnesses on this allegation, so far as the Times reports.]

Like Mr. Specter, Mr. Leahy made a link between the new charge and the administration's refusal to answer the many of the committee's questions about the security agency's warrantless wiretaps of calls between the United States and overseas in which one person is suspected of terrorist ties.

[They certainly briefed the intelligence committees; the administration did refuse to answer questions from Patrick Leahy -- who was forced to leave the Senate Intelligence Committee some years ago after being caught leaking classified information. Hm....]

"It's our government, our government!" he said, turning red in the face and waving a copy of USA Today. "It's not one party's government, it's America's government!"

Good heavens, I hope Sen. "Leaky" Leahy has a good cardiologist.

If anything, Sen. Charles Schumer's (D-NY) response was even more humorous, albeit in a refined way. Monday morning Schumer:

I think Hayden's a fine man, but I think keeping the agency independent is really important so the president gets truthful and unvarnished information and I worry that having someone so close to the Defense Department could jeopardize that independence.

Wednesday afternoon Schumer (from the Times story today):

"I want to ask General Hayden about these programs before we move forward with his nomination, which I was inclined to be supportive of, if he showed the requisite independence," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee.

All right -- how exactly did Schumer teleport from being "worried" to being "inclined to be supportive of," with no movement visible to the naked eye?

Finally, let's hear from a Democrat who is actually on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the committee that oversees the CIA and NSA and which President Bush claims was fully briefed. Here is Dianne Feinstein, hardly a Bush cheerleader:

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee, appeared to confirm at least the gist of the article, while stressing that what was under discussion was not wiretapping. "It's fair to say that what is in the news this morning is not content collection," she said.

Regardless of her opinion on the policy, it is quite clear from the fact that she could "confirm" the story that Sen. Feinstein was, in fact, familiar with it. In other words, Bush is telling the truth, and the relevant congressional committees were kept informed and up to date.

Taking stock

So let's summarize where we stand now:

  • There is no new scandal; this was thoroughly reported and discussed last year;
  • The only reason it's bubbling up now is that former NSA head Michael Hayden was nominated to be Director of the CIA;
  • It's purpose and relation to defending the nation from terrorist attack is absolutely clear;
  • The Senate and presumptively the House Intelligence Committees have were thoroughly briefed on the NSA pattern-analysis program, just as they were on the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program;
  • Some Republicans not on the intelligence committees -- such as perennial pain Arlen Specter -- appear miffed that they weren't in the loop;
  • There are some civil-liberties concerns about which we should proceed cautiously; but they would require actual lawbreaking on the part of some administration for there to be a serious problem. Those who believe the Bush administration is constantly breaking the law, throwing people in secret prisons, and spying on them just "for the heck of it" will doubtless be even more frightened now;
  • Many Democrats are reacting with chair-jumping, skirt lifting hysteria at this little mouse of a "scandal;"
  • The Democrats plan to use this to try to sabotage Hayden's appointment, the war on jihadi terrorism, and (much more important) Bush's legacy.

Does that about cover it?

The deadly danger of incessant leaking

Well, not quite. There is this rather jaw-dropping point made in every, single story about this program, which appears to be the only original contribution from USA Today. From yesterday's Today:

Among the big telecommunications companies, only Qwest has refused to help the NSA, the sources said. According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.

Qwest's refusal to participate has left the NSA with a hole in its database. Based in Denver, Qwest provides local phone service to 14 million customers in 14 states in the West and Northwest.

Talk about giving jihadis a road map for getting around the NSA program...! I'm sure there will be a surge of people signing up for Qwest phone service now -- mostly paranoid liberals who believe they're so important that "the Man" is constantly trying to surveil them (I've known several such folks). But I wonder how many terrorists will rush to grab Qwest-based cell phones, now that they know?

Thanks, NSA leakers, for violating your oath and putting the country at risk, just to damage George Bush. I'm sure Americans across the nation appreciate the tradeoff.

And a hearty handshake to phone provider Qwest, for offering the next Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a safe haven for his "privacy rights." Evidently, it's no violation for Qwest to maintain that same database for its own commercial purposes (or to sell to other companies for advertising)... but letting the NSA use it to track terrorist attacks is just beyond the pale.

Of course, Qwest's non-cooperation was also leaked to USA Today by some helpful saint within the NSA. To paraphrase Travis Bickle, we need a big rain to come and wash all the trash out of our clandestine services.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 11, 2006, at the time of 4:12 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 10, 2006

You Supply the Pictures, We'll Supply the War

Hatched by Dafydd

One can almost hear the New York Times licking its lips as it flogs yet another spurious article hoping for a civil war -- not in Iraq, but within the intelligence community, between the miltary side and the civilian side (shades of Rep. Peter Hoekstra).

But the reality is that there is so little overlap between their needs and goals that it's impossible for one to gobble up the other. There will be friction when mission methods and techniques appear to encroach on some agencies turf; and there will be competition over funding. But the fundamental premise of most analysis from the antique media is fatally flawed, because they fail to understand that each type of intelligence has a large sphere, but little intersection with the other intelligence spheres.

Let's take a look at what I mean....

The Times actually published a useful and well written article; but then they tarted it up with politcal and rhetorical excess, summoning up chimeras of power struggles that just don't exist:

President Bush's selection of Gen. Michael V. Hayden to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency sets the stage for new wrangling with the Pentagon, which is rapidly expanding its own global spying and terrorist-tracking operations, both long considered C.I.A. roles....

At the Pentagon Tuesday, Mr. Rumsfeld voiced support for General Hayden's nomination and dismissed any reported rivalries with his intelligence brethren as "theoretical conspiracies" that were "all off the mark." He added, "There's no power play taking place in Washington."

For many lawmakers, Democrat and RINO alike, the only wars they recognize are turf wars. They often dislike the very concept of military intelligence, and they get skittish about Special Forces or other military units spying on people:

The C.I.A. has always been a much smaller organization than the Pentagon that served both the military and senior policy makers in Washington, including the president. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon felt it had to step in to fulfill many of its own additional intelligence needs that the C.I.A. could not.

This activity has stirred criticism from some lawmakers who express concern that the Pentagon is creating a parallel intelligence-gathering network independent from the C.I.A. or other American authorities, and one that encroaches on the C.I.A.'s realm.

"I still harbor concerns that some things are being done under the rubric of preparing the battlefield that I'd consider to be intelligence-collection activities, are being run separately and are feeding a planning apparatus that's not well understood by Congress," said Representative Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

What we have here is failure to communicate. When Rumsfeld says there is no "power play," he means the DoD is not trying to seize control of the CIA, not that they don't tussle over the budget or occasionally bump up against each other during an operation.

The primary confusion is that we use the same venerable word, "intelligence," to cover three extraordinarily different concepts. Two are distinguished from each other by the purpose of the intelligence, rather than any particular means of gathering; the third concept is strictly defined by the means, not the purpose. (Note that we exclude intelligence gathering that is specific to law enforcement; that's a whole 'nother ball of worms.)

Here are the three primary categories:

  • Military Intelligence comprises two components: targeting information and troop movement, both broadly defined.

    That is, the Army or Marines need to know that "HVT 18 will be at this particular al-Qaeda safe house appx 0330 tonight." They can get a Predator with a Hellfire missile overhead, or they can contact Task Force 145 to swarm over and snatch everyone. And General Abizaid needs to know that Iran is slipping terrorists in across the border near this particular town in Maysan Province.

    The DIA and the service intelligence units conduct this sort of intelligence gathering.

  • Political Intelligence is long-term information about the intentions, strengths, and future plans of our enemies (and our friends).

    This intelligence can be obtained directly, through actual infiltration of spies (human intelligence, or "humint") into enemy organizations, such as al-Qaeda; or via the seizure or surreptitious copying of documents or tapping into computer systems; interrogation of prisoners; through public sources, such as newspapers, court cases, or official announcements; through basic research (scientific, military, engineering, political); or through transnational service-to-service contact (being told by some other clandestine service in some other country).

    This is the province of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the primary consumer of this sort of intelligence is the civilian government. But there are many other intelligence agencies that would fit this category: the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the National Intelligence Directorate, and some of what the FBI does could be called political intelligence. Even the State Department has its own clandestine intelligence agency, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).

  • Signals Intelligence consists of electronic intercepts and eavesdropping of all types, plus satellite imagery, and all other information obtained by mechanical or electronic means.

    Everybody uses this for all sorts of purposes; so it's not really a separate kind of intelligence, despite having the biggest budget and the most personnel involved of all clandestine organizations. The National Security Agency (NSA) is primarily responsible for signals intelligence; but there is also the National Reconnaissance Office (who build and launch early-warning spy satellites) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

(This page of the website of the Federation of American Scientists is a gateway to each of these clandestine services, if you're really interested.)

As should be obvious, there is no reason for the Pentagon to try to "take over" the CIA or vice versa; it's pointless; they need completely different types of intelligence.

Currently, there is a lot of crossover: the CIA mostly conducts political intelligence, but there are also CIA agents in Iraq and Afghanistan who conduct interrogations, some of which yield operational (targeting) intelligence useful to the military. The Air Force may fly U2s, SR-71 Blackbirds, or drones over Iran to photograph suspected nuclear sites, which intel is then relayed to the CIA and the White House. And of course, everybody consumes signals intel for all sorts of reasons.

But nearly all the military intel gathered by forward observers, drones, or interrogations is useless to the civilian government here at home. George W. Bush doesn't hunger for minute by minute accounts of possible targets for CENTCOM forces in Iraq or Afghanistan; that's what we have military commanders for. And Lt.Col. Erik Kurilla of the "Deuce-Four" probably doesn't give a deuce (except as a citizen) about the CIA's intelligence, if any, on how many centrifuges are actually at Natanz.

The Times seizes upon a few instances of friction and makes a mountain out of a mohair:

The C.I.A. has the lead role in managing "human intelligence," or spying in the government. Whether by design or circumstance, though, much of the growth in the military's spy missions has come in the Special Operations Command, which reports to Mr. Rumsfeld and falls outside the orbit controlled by John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

In one of the boldest new missions, the Pentagon has sharply increased the number of clandestine teams of Defense Intelligence Agency personnel and Special Operations forces conducting secret counterterrorism missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other foreign countries. Using a broad definition of its current authority to conduct "traditional military activities" and "prepare the battlefield," the Pentagon has dispatched teams to gather information about potential foes well before any shooting starts....

But Mr. Cambone said the military's thirst for information to help soldiers on the ground after the Sept. 11 attacks had fueled the Pentagon's intelligence-gathering expansion, particularly against shadowy terrorist cells.

Note the distinction: even though the DIA and SpecOps are using traditional tools of humint to gather data on high-value targets (HVTs), their purpose is precisely to pass along targeting information to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. There is no indication they're trying to usurp the CIA's role in political intelligence.

What we are actually seeing much more of -- the only good thing to come out of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 -- are joint operations between different intellience agencies and clandestine services, Special Forces, and reconnaissance units, with both civilian and military people involved... and sometimes even law enforcement. This makes sense, as the same mission can yield valuable intel for many different purposes.

Naturally, there are going to be a few kerfuffles as we feel our way into this. To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, we're like blind men in a dark room groping around for a black cat which isn't there. But the problem is not within the intelligence community; it's at the intersection of intel and Congress:

General Hayden, while seeking to play down any turf war with the Pentagon, acknowledged some skirmishes over staff. The new law creating Mr. Negroponte's job gave the director the authority to transfer personnel from individual intelligence agencies into joint centers or other agencies to speed the integration of the civilian and military intelligence communities. But Mr. Rumsfeld made that process more difficult, some lawmakers said, by issuing a directive last November that required "the concurrence" of Mr. Cambone before any transfers could take place....

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who played a chief role in writing the intelligence overhaul, criticized the directive as a Department of Defense power grab. "The issuance of the directive sent exactly the wrong signal," Ms. Collins said.

She said it implied a questioning of Mr. Negroponte's authority "over those agencies that I find to be contrary to the intent of the legislation," adding, "D.O.D. is very eager to fill any vacuum or even create one, if necessary."

What Collins doesn't acknowledge is that the DoD has very different needs than the CIA, and the latter cannot adequately satisfy the former without sacrificing its own, equally valuable intelligence mission. Thus, the Pentagon has to do more to gather its own targeting and troop-movement intel.

They're not "encroaching" on intelligence gathering; they're expanding it. The following conclusions are utterly obvious to any serious student of intelligence:

  • We desperately need both military intelligence and a distinct civilian intelligence agency; they serve different but equally vital needs.
  • We also need them to work together in joint operations and to share all intelligence as much as possible.
  • More specifically, we need a CIA much more geared to actual sandles-in-the-sand human spies to infiltrate al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups, Iran, Syria, and other terrorist-sponsoring states, economic bodies and conferences, and so forth.
  • We need a CIA that collects political intelligence but is not politicized itself, that doesn't see itself as a separate branch of government co-equal with the Executive and the Legislative ("St. Mary of Langley" syndrome).
  • We need much better analysis from the CIA.

The last three are the most critical areas, none of which was addressed by Congress two years ago. I hope that Michael Hayden can roll the ball farther and faster than the administratively challenged Porter Goss could do.

We need more spies; we need more analysts; and we need for the analysts to remember that the war they're fighting is against al-Qaeda and other enemies... not against George W. Bush.

In military intelligence, analysis is a lot easier, because you know the intent: the enemy (whoever it is) wants to kill us. Analysis consists of figuring out where they're going to be and allocating the appropriate resources to defeat them.

But in political intelligence, analysts must guess what both enemy and friend are thinking, planning, intending, desiring, and whether they have the capability to pull off whatever schemes they concoct. It's harder by orders of magnitude.

But it's absolutely critical to the survival of our nation... and it's time we finally start giving serious, feet-on-fire attention to this terrible lack of creative and accurate analysis within the political intelligence services.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 10, 2006, at the time of 7:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

An Iraq Death Squad Leader Arrested

Hatched by Sachi

As Iraqi's new cabinet shapes up, the most challenging task is to rid the country of the violent militias which have infiltrated the Iraqi Security Forces, the police. So it's very good news indeed to hear that a high-ranking general in the Interior Ministry, which controls the Iraqi police, has been arrested for involvement in the infamous Shiite "death squads":

Iraq's interior minister said on Sunday his police had arrested a general in the ministry on suspicion of involvement in kidnaps and death squads.

Bayan Jabor, who is fighting to keep his job in a new government in the face of criticism that he has tolerated Shi'ite militias inside his ministry, made the announcement in an interview on Al Jazeera television.

"We have arrested an officer, a major general... along with 17 people who kidnapped citizens and in some cases killed them. He is now in jail and under investigation," he said.

"We also found a terror group in the 16th brigade that carries out killings of citizens," he added.

Although Reuters is saying that the Interior Minister is fighting to keep his job," that may not be exactly true. A few weeks ago, Jabor said in a TV interview, when it became clear Ibrahim al-Jaafari was being ousted, that he too was retiring as soon as a replacement could be found. But it's possible he changed his mind, or he was only posturing in the first place.

The former prime minister, Jaafari, was hand-picked by Iranian-backed renegade cleric Muqtada Sadr and was long suspected of secretly supporting the death squads of fundamentalist Shia militias (the Badr Brigades and Sadr's own Mahdi Militia) which had thoroughly penetrated the security forces. If that is true, then Jabor must have been complicit as well:

The U.S. ambassador, a key player in the negotiations, has made no secret of the fact that Washington would prefer a new face to lead the ministry.

Mohammed at Iraq the Model reports that the United Iraqi Alliance (the main Shiite bloc of parties that controls the lion's share of seats in the parliament) and the Iraqi National Accord (the primary secular party headed by ex-Baathist, rebel against Hussein, and former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi) agreed that both the Interior Minister and the Defense Minister should come from outside those two blocs.

Since Bayan Jabor is a member of the SCIRI, a Shiite party that is under the UIA umbrella, he will almost certainly not be chosen to remain as Interior Minister.

In any event, the ministry is beginning to clean up itself. Let's hope they succeed.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 10, 2006, at the time of 1:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Playing "Dangle the Funding"

Hatched by Dafydd

Well, the Europeans fooled me: they turned out to be right. But heck, it was a mistake anyone could make.

It turns out they really were close to getting the United States to agree to a compromise aid package to prop up the doddering terrorist state in Gaza and the West Bank. It's not as much as many on the left hoped for (that is, the U.S. and Israel agreeing to finance Hamas' war against both of them), but it will keep a completely dysfunctional government operating when by rights it should sink into chaos and collapse.

I can't ferret out just how much we're going to have to pay to support the civil servants of Hamasistan; Reuters reports only the total required monthly charity bill without breaking it down by donor:

The powers agreed that aid payments would be resumed for a three-month trial period, through a "transparent" mechanism that has yet to be worked out but may involve the World Bank.

It is expected that salaries to the Palestinian Authority's 165,000 employees, unpaid since March, will be settled. The monthly wage bill totals around $150 million.

"If you need a hospital to be run, and someone has to be paid, he will be paid," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after the initiative was announced.

That salary works out to about $11,000 per year per employee... quite a tidy sum in the Palestinian Authority. Not surprisingly, the patronage jobs that Hamas hands out allow their friends and jihadi supporters to live distinctly nicer lives than the ordinary people who elected them.

Oh, and I love this:

The Hamas-led government said it appreciated the Quartet's efforts to ease the burden on the Palestinian people but added that they could have gone further.

I knew we could always rely upon Palestinian gratitude.

So how does the United States justify supporting the government of Hamas?

The decision would appear to reflect a view held by U.N. officials that payment of salaries amounts to humanitarian support for the largely impoverished Palestinian population. Humanitarian support was never intended to be cut off.

Yeah... and if you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?

The Mideast Quartet, singing a capella, belts out a series of demand that Hamas must fulfill in order to get what they've already gotten:

Western powers have called on Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by existing peace agreements if it wants contacts to resume, but Hamas signaled on Wednesday that it was no closer to accepting those demands.

Now, there's a shock. So what will happen in three months if Hamas is still "no closer to accepting those demands?" I would like to think this really is a test... and in any test, there is the possibility of failure -- and consequences for failing.

We'll see. But at the moment, I'm skeptical. Business as usual, nothing has changed. Or to put it in terms that the EU might understand, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 10, 2006, at the time of 5:21 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 9, 2006

Playing "Seek the Funding"

Hatched by Dafydd

Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics blog has a post up that wonders whether Hillary can be stopped. He continues the back-and-forth about whether Hillary can even be nominated (which I don't think she can be), let alone win. But he ends with this puzzling bit:

Then again, Hillary's star power, fundraising, and organization are of a different order of magnitude than everyone else which is why she may end up being "unstoppable."

I've seen this before, many times. It seems an article of faith that if a candidate has enough money, she can win no matter whether the voters like her or despise her.

Why do people believe this? Where is the evidence? The best-funded candidate doesn't always win. Obviously, a candidate who hasn't enough money is at a huge disadvantage... but suppose a conservative candidate in a very conservative congressional district is prepared to spend $5 million, and his ultra-liberal opponent is prepared to spend $100 million, or a billion dollars, or ten billion. Does anybody really believe that the ultra-liberal would be able to buy the election, no matter how much he spent?

How would he buy votes? Would he literally offer $100,000 to every voter to come in, fill out an absentee ballot while the liberal watched, and hand it over for the liberal to mail? Obviously that would be against the law (vote buying is a felony).

How many hours of advertising could a single candidate buy before it begins to be self-defeating? All it takes is a single accusation of "he's trying to buy the election" to make every further expenditure by the liberal become another nail in his political coffin.

Back to the case at hand. Suppose Sen. Hillary is immensely well-heeled, and suppose she's really, really well-organized: how much would she have to spend to win Wyoming, or Texas, or South Carolina? Suppose she blankets the South with three times as many adverts as her Republican opponent, whether it's Sen. George Allen or even Gov. Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney... how much would she have to spend to win that region in 2008?

Even if George Soros signs his entire fortune over to Hillary, and she organizes with the zeal of Joe Hill, will that drag the Midwest back to the Democrats? How about the West, apart from the left coast?

Looking at the map of 2004, the closest states were Ohio (which went to Bush), and Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, which went for Kerry. Some of those states would probably vote for Hillary, the others for the Republican (though it's possible it would be a clean sweep for the GOP): but I can't see any that would be swayed by a huge campaign expenditure.

And any level of organization by Hillary would likely be matched, volunteer for volunteer, and even overmatched by the vigor of organization against her by Republicans. The states will split entirely on the preferences of the voters between Hillary (were she to be nominated) and the Republican, whoever that ends up being.

And those preferences will be affected by what Hillary says and what the Republican says, but not by the amount of money either spends: both their messages will get out loud and clear, and more millions won't make any difference.

But maybe Tom meant she would be unstoppable in the primaries -- though he was responding to a John Podhoretz book, and he clearly meant "unstoppable" on her route back to la Casa Blanca. But it's not even true in primaries: the most heavily funded candidate in 2004's Democratic primaries was Howard Dean -- and he couldn't even make it past Iowa and New Hampshire.

It's the message and personality of the nominee that matters, beyond an obvious funding floor. Clear that hurdle, and what changes votes is who he is and what he says. And Hillary is at a huge disadvantage in both arenas, as I think even Tom Bevan agrees.



Sen. Hillary Clinton - Unnatural Disaster

Sen. Hillary Clinton - Unnatural Disaster

I do not believe Hillary can be nominated. But even if she were, she would lose. The election would not be a landslide, not a blowout; but I cannot see her stealing any states that Bush won in 2004, though she could easily lose Kerry-won purple states by being generally perceived as screechy, condescending, and dishonest. All of the close states are exactly the sort of reserved, small-c conservative states that would be repelled by Hillary Clinton. While individual cities within those purple states (such as Detroit) would surely support her, the rest of the state would outvote them.

So the real question is not "is she unstoppable," but rather "isn't she unstartable?"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 9, 2006, at the time of 5:10 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Playing "Hide the Funding"

Hatched by Dafydd

An interesting dynamic has developed in the "Mideast Quartet" (the United States, the U.N., the European Union, and Russia) debating Western response to the victory of terrorist group Hamas in the Palestinian elections: America vs. Everybody Else.

This is hardly original; this is, in fact, the usual position in which we find ourselves. And I don't even think the odds are unfair (which is too bad; I would prefer to see the odds very unfairly stacked against Hamas).

The current tussle is about whether the West should fund "the Palestinians," by which they mean the terrorist group Hamas, which won a majority of the parliament of the Palestinian Authority in January of this year. The U.S. position -- that they should be cut off so that they collapse -- should be a no-brainer; why give money to people who pledge to use it to pay for more suicide bombings of their neighbors? But evidently, Europe (including Russia) is much exercised about the dreadful possibility that the terrorist government might not survive a year:

The group of international mediators -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- first heard gloomy scenarios from foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and then headed into private talks to discuss proposals to ease the crisis.

"It is a difficult situation but I want to say that we are not going to let the Palestinians starve," said the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana after talks with the Arab ministers.

Translation for the diplospeak-challenged: "Even if Hamas spends every dime of its money on terrorist weaponry to attack Israel, the EU wants to pick up the slack, so that the Palestinian people will not suffer for their own dreadful miscalculation."

Worse, non-Americans at the conference are now retailing the rumor that the United States is coming round to their point of view:

A Western diplomatic source close to the discussions said the United States was edging closer to agreeing to a "temporary international mechanism" to channel money to pay employees of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority who have not been paid for the past two months.

"America is softening its position. The Arab foreign ministers made very clear if the Palestinian Authority collapses then you could potentially have a civil war," said the source, who asked not to be named as negotiations were at a delicate stage.

Good heavens, we can't have that! A wave of suicide bombings in Jerusalem, sure; the organized murders of women and children sleeping peacefully in their beds on the farms they built, no problem; incessant cross-border rocket attacks against Israeli Jews (and Moslems)... well whoever gave Israel the right to exist in the first place? (The U.N., actually. Though they quickly changed their minds when they suddenly realized that the "Zionists" were Jews.)

But Allah forbid that the Palestinians, who tossed out King Log for King Stork, end up suffering a civil war (Stork against Log: Fatah vs. Hamas in a steel-cage death match -- loser leaves town!) or any other adverse effects of their own stupidity and genocidal evil. That would shock the conscience of the world.

I think we can bet that if Reuters' source had been American, they would not have described him, her, or it (Reuters says it's a "he") as "a Western diplomatic source." So it's probably some European assuring the world that America is on the verge of capitulation. To be taken with several boxes of salt.

His credibility is further eroded by a contradiction within the article itself. The Americans actually quoted don't seem very close to such agreement at all:

The United States has taken the toughest line against Hamas since it won January elections and made clear on Tuesday that Hamas was to blame for all of its current financial problems.

"Any failure of Hamas to deliver on those needs is that of Hamas alone," said a senior State Department official.

The official said the U.S. would make clear in meetings that Hamas had to "fix the problems" and it could start off by meeting the demands of the international community, which include recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and signing on to previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements.

Unless our negotiators are freelancing and ignoring clear instructions from Washington -- which will ultimately have to approve or reject a deal in any event, so defiance is futile -- they're sticking with the original plan: until and unless Hamas ceases being a terrorist organization, we're not going to fund them.

This is one of Reuters' infamous "non-story" stories: they don't really have anything beyond a vague sense of hope that eventually, America will cave. They have no American sources saying we're going to relent and start propping up Hamas, the way we propped up Mahmoud Abbas (and Yassir Arafat before him)... even the headline hedges: US may soften stand on Palestinian aid... and then again, maybe they won't. Who knows? Reuters sure doesn't!

Of course, if all that the "Western diplomatic source" means is that we don't want to see women and children starve to death, I'm sure something can be worked out. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is already spending millions to pay for "medical supplies and equipment for the Palestinians," and perhaps this could be expanded to pay for MREs for the civilians... Big Lizards suggests Moslem kosher meals, clearly marked in Arabic "You are being kept alive courtesy of the United States of America; ask your own government why."

I'm not happy that the medical supplies are being distributed by the U.N., because I think that body is perfectly capable of selling them instead on the black market, keeping half the proceeds, and sending the rest to Ismail Haniya for "martyrdom operations." But I suppose there's no alternative, other than to let disease pandemics run wild through the territories (which is not exactly healthy for neighboring countries, including Israel).

And there likely is no alternative but to let the U.N. distribute the MREs: mass starvation has, as an inevitable consequence, masses of desperate refugees streaming out of the "country" by the hundreds of thousands, which would be an absolute nightmare for security. But beyond food and medicine, there is nothing in the article quoting any American source agreeing with the EU that Hamas should be propped up, so they can continue their jihad against the Jews. The best they can offer is a tepid "We are encouraged and we are working on it" from an EU spokeswoman.

(By the way, you notice I keep writing "Hamas against the Jews," rather than "Hamas against Israel;" that is because their own charter makes it quite clear what really offends them. From the introduction to Hamas's Covenant:

This Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), clarifies its picture, reveals its identity, outlines its stand, explains its aims, speaks about its hopes, and calls for its support, adoption and joining its ranks. Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realised.

It's refreshing to read such clarity and honesty after struggling through the dissembling of the Europeans. It is also encouraging to read this blunt warning from the World Bank:

The World Bank warned on Monday the Palestinian Authority could face a breakdown in law and order and basic services unless foreign donors step in to pay the salaries of about 165,000 civil servants.

Translation for the antique-media challenged: "The plan is working splendidly. Keep it up!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 9, 2006, at the time of 3:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 8, 2006

Gary Sinise, the Music Man

Hatched by Sachi

When you hear the name Gary Sinise, you may wonder "who's he?" But unless you're a hermit, you do know him. He's the actor you've seen a million times, but you're just not quite sure of his name.

Sinise has been in many popular movies; you may know him as Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump; as Ken Mattingly, the astronaut who got measles at the last minute in the absolutely wonderful movie Apollo 13 -- the guy who finally figured out the sequence by which Tom Hanks could restart some vital piece of equipment without frying the capsule's circuitry; or as a regular on the popular TV show CSI: NY, where he plays Det. Mac Taylor.

But he is better known to U.S. troops for his tireless support of them via the United Service Organizations, the USO.

I first noticed Gary Sinise at the beginning of the Operation Iraqi Freedom. When new USO leader Wayne Newton was having a hard time recruiting celebrities to go to a war zone (and in particular Iraq, with the political implication of endorsement), Sinise was one of the few who volunteered. (Another was rocker Joan Jett, a passionate opponent of the war but an ardent entertainer of U.S. troops everywhere.)

I saw Sinise on TV being interviewed at the time. He said that, since he was just an actor who couldn't sing or dance, all he could do was shake hands with the troops and show his appreciation. Even that would be enough; but it turned out he was being modest about his musical talent (uncharacteristic for Hollywood).

Over the years, he has done a lot more than just shake hands. He co-founded the Iraqi Children Fund that sends school supplies to Iraqi children. And he formed the "Lt. Dan Band" and traveled all over the world, including numerous trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, to entertain our troops.

On May 5th, Sinise and his band kicked off second annual "America Supports You" salute concert tour commemorating "Military Appreciation Month."

Sinise, who returned with his band just yesterday from a whirlwind concert tour through Afghanistan, said he found high troop morale wherever he went and a solid belief in the mission.

"Everywhere I went - and we covered a lot of territory there, we talked to literally thousand of people, I shook thousands of hands, took thousands of pictures, signed thousands of autographs - and everywhere I went... I didn't meet anybody who was down," he told today's audience.

"Everybody was dedicated, everybody felt that the mission was important, and everybody was happy to be there doing their job," Sinise said.

It is not like Sinise has nothing else to do. He's a regular on CSI; but even during the TV season, he spends his weekend visiting bases at home.

Needless to say, his work is much appreciated by the troops.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England presented Sinise the Superior Public Service Award in honor of these contributions. "He's a superstar!" Rumsfeld told today's audience....

"This is one of the best days I've had since I've been here," said Army Sgt. Leroy Scott, a Walter Reed Army Medical Center patient who lost his right leg in Iraq in July. Scott said he remembers when Sinise visited his unit in Germany before his unit deployed. "He's a great guy," Scott said. "He's always there for us."

We solute you Gary Sinise!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 8, 2006, at the time of 5:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

13 Ghosts

Hatched by Dafydd

I had to go to the doctor for my annual checkup a few days ago; and for the first time in I don't know how long, I completely forgot to bring a book. Thus thrown upon the mercy of Dr.'s magazine rack, I skipped over People, Highlights, and Oprah Winfrey's O! and reluctantly grabbed Popular Mechanics.

Not that there's anything wrong with that; I just don't read magazines, usually. I prefer books, where the author has the leisure to develop his thesis. For short articles, I prefer the web.

Yet there, in Popular Mechanics, of all unlikely places, I read a wonderful article "debunking" thirteen myths of Hurricane Katrina:

Accusations began to fly even before floodwaters receded. But facts take longer to surface. In the months since the storm, many of the first impressions conveyed by the media have turned out to be mistaken.

Let's be clearer here about the politics than PM is; they're more concerned with the truth of the accusations than they are with the truth about them (that's my job!) There were three types of egregious -- er -- untruthfulism:

  • Political lies trying to pin the destruction of Hurricane Katrina on President Bush and his administration;
  • Lies to deflect blame from one person to another -- no, it wasn't my fault... blame that fellow behind the tree!
  • Media lies to sensationalize the story and sell newspapers.

There is clearly a lot of overlap; one lie can serve many masters. For example, saying that there was no federal response at all for days both attacks Bush and also lifts blame from Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. And perhaps PM's approach is best: simply correcting the record.

But I don't buy it. Behind every deliberate lie lurks a calculating liar, and the liars should be exposed for what they are: men (and women) without honor, whose word cannot be trusted.

These lies stand in contradistinction to the ersatz "lies" about WMD -- where "lie" is given a special redefinition to mean any statement that turns out to be mistaken, or even true but not to the degree expected, even if the chap making the statement completely believed it at the time. By contrast, the Katrina lies were deliberate, reckless, and malicious.

Some examples (some of the emphasis is PM's, some is BL's):

MYTH: "The aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history."--Aaron Broussard, president, Jefferson Parish, La., Meet the Press, NBC, Sept. 4, 2005

REALITY: Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors. In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.

Dozens of National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters flew rescue operations that first day--some just 2 hours after Katrina hit the coast. Hoistless Army helicopters improvised rescues, carefully hovering on rooftops to pick up survivors. On the ground, "guardsmen had to chop their way through, moving trees and recreating roadways," says Jack Harrison of the National Guard. By the end of the week, 50,000 National Guard troops in the Gulf Coast region had saved 17,000 people; 4000 Coast Guard personnel saved more than 33,000.

That adds up to more than 50,000 people who would likely be dead today, were it not for the incredibly rapid reaction by federal responders and the National Guard.

This is the primary lie pushed by the Democrats: that the response of Mayor Nagin (a Democrat, however recently) and Gov. Blanco (another Democrat) was exemplary, but their efforts were thwarted by the lethargic, almost somnambulant non-response of the feds. The purpose is obvious: blame Bush for all the death and destruction and deflect attention from the complete collapse at the Louisiana state and New Orleans city levels.

Alas, it's a lie that stuck and stuck hard, fueled by people's belief that the federal government is the "first responder" to every disaster, clueless that the actual chain of responsibility begins at the local level then progresses to the state... and pushed also by the weird idea people have that the federal government has infinite resources at every location and at all times. Some drunk falls down a well, and many people immediately demand, "where's the president? why doesn't he do something?"

MYTH: "They have people ... been in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."--New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Sept. 6, 2005

REALITY: Both public officials and the press passed along lurid tales of post-Katrina mayhem: shootouts in the Superdome, bodies stacked in a convention center freezer, snipers firing on rescue helicopters. And those accounts appear to have affected rescue efforts as first responders shifted resources from saving lives to protecting rescuers. In reality, although looting and other property crimes were widespread after the flooding on Monday, Aug. 29, almost none of the stories about violent crime turned out to be true....

When the Superdome was finally cleared, six bodies were found--not the 200 speculated. Four people had died of natural causes; one was ruled a suicide, and another a drug overdose. Of the four bodies recovered at the convention center, three had died of natural causes; the fourth had sustained stab wounds.

Popular Mechanics -- perhaps trying to be apolitical -- didn't quote the rest of Nagin's diatribe all over various news and talk shows: he went on to blame FEMA, the Army, and other federal agencies, though he also spared some bile for Gov. Blanco. Everyone, that is, but the person most responsible for such calamities, had they actually occurred: the mayor of New Orleans.

  • The Grand Nagus was the man who decided to stack people in the Superdome (publicly calling it a "refuge of last resort") and the convention center, rather than forcing evacuation;
  • It was the New Orleans city police who deserted, and who should have maintained order there;
  • It was Nagin who left hundreds of school buses sitting on land below sea level, where they were swamped, instead of moving them to high ground as the New Orleans emergency plan requires;
  • It was the mayor who refused to issue a mandatory evacuation order until August 28th;
  • And Nagin was one of the prime culprits in spreading lurid rumors of murder and mayhem that, as PM grimly notes, likely delayed rescue and may have cost lives.
  • (It was, however, Gov. Blanco's Louisiana State Department of Homeland Security that refused the Red Cross permission to pre-stage in New Orleans; so that's one stupidity that cannot be laid at Mayor Nagin's feet.)

I sincerely hope he is defeated for a second term by Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu in the runoff, a week from Saturday. But I haven't seen any polls, and I have no idea who's ahead.

But we don't want to follow the biased example of the antique media; let's confront an argument PM makes in Nagin's favor:

MYTH: "The failure to evacuate was the tipping point for all the other things that ... went wrong."--Michael Brown, former FEMA director, Sept. 27, 2005

REALITY: When Nagin issued his voluntary evacuation order, a contraflow plan that turned inbound interstate lanes into outbound lanes enabled 1.2 million people to leave New Orleans out of a metro population of 1.5 million. "The Corps estimated we would need 72 hours [to evacuate that many people]," says Brian Wolshon, an LSU civil engineer. "Instead, it took 38 hours." Later investigations indicated that many who stayed did so by choice. "Most people had transportation," says Col. Joe Spraggins, director of emergency management in Harrison County, Ala. "Many didn't want to leave." Tragic exceptions: hospital patients and nursing home residents.

There is no question that virtually everybody did evacuate in response to the voluntary call by the mayor. But I think Popular Mechanics is overreaching here -- and again, probably because they don't want to be perceived as partisan and biased: the reality is that the vast majority of the lies were from the Left against the Right, and therefore any fair ennumeration will appear to lean right.

The purpose of a mandatory evacuation is precisely to empower the police to evacuate the inevitable cadre of people who don't believe the danger is real. There will always be people who think they can "weather the storm," who don't believe the experts, who are too lazy to evacuate, who hope to take advantage of the evacuation to loot the abandoned stores and homes, and those who are too ill, weak, or old to evacuate themselves.

Those are exactly the people who need to be forced to leave. Not only are they are grave risk of death themselves, but they put emergency responders at risk trying to rescue them.

Of course the vast majority will leave in the face of a huge hurricane (though Katrina turned out not to be as big or powerful as at first believed; see the myth on page 4). Obviously. But so what? The mayor needed to issue a mandatory evacuation order... and he didn't for several days.

Anyway, read the article; there's lots of cool stuff in here -- including a diagrams of a levee on pages 5 and 6, which I'd never seen before. Excellent... and a lot of grist for the political mill here, for all that PM by and large chooses not to see it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 8, 2006, at the time of 4:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

And the Nominee Is... Michael Hayden!

Hatched by Dafydd

We now have word from a fairly reliable source that Hayden is, indeed, the nominee.

The source? Stephen Hadley... President Bush's National Security Advisor:

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden will be named as the next chief of the CIA, President Bush's national security adviser said Monday, and the White House began battling back against criticism that a military officer would lead the civilian spy agency.

"Mike Hayden is the president's nominee to be the director of the CIA," national security adviser Stephen Hadley said on NBC's "Today" show. "The president believes he is the right person at the right time in the right job, when the Senate confirms him, and we certainly hope it will and will do so promptly."

The White House confirms Hadley's annoucement:

White House counselor Dan Bartlett said it was not unprecedented for a military officer to run the CIA and that Hayden would be the fifth CIA chief in uniform. "He has been viewed as a non-comformist and an independent thinker," Bartlett said.

"This is really nothing new ... so there's precedent for it," Hadley said on CBS's "The Early Show.""We don't see any reason to break the precedent. ... The question is not military versus civilian. The question is the best person to do the job."

...And Big Lizards notes with wry amusement that AP still thinks Saxby Chambliss is a representative, not a senator. At least we corrected our media-induced error just a few hours after making it.

So for all those who bought the line -- such as P*tt*rc* and C*pt**n *d -- that Hayden is great but just too radioactive to be nominated, either due to his running the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program or because he's an active-duty Air Force general... hey, have some faith in the guy in the White House. This is his signature issue, and he rarely wrong-foots himself on national security. (Not "never" but certainly "hardly ever.")

Let the games begin....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 8, 2006, at the time of 5:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 7, 2006

Simple Solution To a Weird Objection

Hatched by Dafydd

Associated Press quotes a number of otherwise rational Republicans objecting to the appointment of Gen. Michael Hayden -- currently principle deputy NID (Director of National Intelligence) to the NID himself, John Negroponte, and erstwhile head of the National Security Agency -- as Director of the CIA. What's bugging them? They don't like the idea of a general heading up the CIA, because the CIA is supposed to be a civilian intelligence agency:

Even before President Bush has named his choice to take over the CIA, the Air Force general who is the front-runner drew fire Sunday from lawmakers in the president's own party who say a military man should not lead the civilian spy agency.

The criticism of the expected choice of Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA came from some influential Republicans in Congress as well as from Democrats.

"I do believe he's the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. "We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time."

Hoekstra said on "Fox News Sunday" that having a general in charge of the CIA could create the impression among agents around the world that the agency is under Pentagon control. If he were to get the nomination, military officers would run all the major spy agencies, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

(Now there's a shock: the NSA is formally under the control of the Pentagon... and some military guy is running it. Even worse, there's even a military officer in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency... must be some sort of military junta.)

Of course, when Hoekstra says "at this time," he means during a time of war. It seems a little odd to object to a military guy heading up the CIA while we're at war with al-Qaeda; especially since, under civilian control, the CIA has instead been at war with the president, which seems like a suboptimal situation.

Note, the following paragraph is a corrected version:

In any event, Hoekstra is a gentleman of the House of Representatives, which means he plays no role in confirming the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, or indeed any other presidential appointment. Alas, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) also objects, and this is a more serious problem: Chambliss is not only a senator, he is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- the very committee that will vote on Hayden as the nominee to be DCIA.

Edit: Yeesh. As several commenters reminded me, Saxby Chambliss is actually a senator, not a representative. I admit, I should have remembered his battle against Max "How dare you question my patriotism" Cleland... still, I haven't memorized every senator; and since the AP story I was using as a source referred to him as a representative, I was fooled. Here's AP:

The sentiment was echoed by Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who said Hayden's military background would be a "major problem," and several Democrats who made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said Hayden could leave agents with the impression that the CIA has been "just gobbled up by the Defense Department."

So, mea culpa... but media culpa, as well!

If Chambliss has a political death wish, he could vote against Hayden, which would result in the committee rejecting the nomination. Even if Majority Leader Bill Frist brings it to the floor, it really muddies the waters: the Democrats can say, "hey, the Intelligence Committee already rejected this guy! Of course we have to filibuster him;" they might even get away with it.

That would be catastrophic to Republican chances in November (currently looking pretty good): that sort of churlish incompetence might well be enough to cause conservatives to stay home in droves, ceding the election to the Democrats. Would Saxby Chambliss really be willing to chomp off the entire hand that fed him in 2002? Isn't there some compromise by which Chambliss could declare himself satisfied and support Hayden?

Big Lizards immediately thought of the same solution that others have: General Hayden should simply retire from active duty and then take over the CIA -- as Civilian Hayden.

Hoekstra and Chambliss are having none of that, however; they have already said this would not be sufficient:

"Just resigning commission and moving on, putting on a striped suit, a pinstriped suit versus an Air Force uniform, I don't think makes much difference," Chambliss said on ABC's "This Week."

The question is, does Chambliss really want to be known as the man who destroyed the Republican majority -- just because he's upset that a military man was appointed? Who would he suggest in Hayden's place... Francis Fargo Townsend? George Tenet? Himself?

Chambliss is not a RINO; he's quite a staunch conservative. Maybe just sitting down, one on one, with Hayden might do it. As Mr. Michael noted in the comments, Hayden -- while a general -- is currently the principle deputy of John Negroponte, who is a lifelong civilian and diplomat who never even served in the military. In fact, Negroponte is engaged in a power struggle with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over who gets to control American intelligence: the civilians or the Pentagon; if anything, Hayden is a Rumsfeld antagonist, despite wearing a uniform.

I don't know why Chambliss is playing this dangerous game. I think it's time for Pat Roberts to really lean hard on him: make him understand that if Hayden retires from active duty, then he is a civilian... and if he brings in a deputy DCIA who is a lifelong civilian spook, that really is a compromise. And make Chambliss understand the political consequences (hence the consequences in the war on jihadi terrorism) if he defected and threw the vote to the Democrats, linking arms with Jay Rockefeller, Carl Levin, and Russell Feingold.

By contrast, other Republican senators seem to have no problem with the appointment:

Hayden has his defenders on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he hopes he could be confirmed.

"In all due respect to my colleagues — and I obviously respect their views — General Hayden is really more of an intelligence person than he is an Air Force officer," he said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "I think that we should also remember that there had been other former military people who have been directors of the CIA."

Ah, I think I understand Hoekstra's point: it's perfectly all right to have an active-duty general head up the CIA when we're at peace, and the general's expertise is not particularly useful; but in a time of war, such a background would just give him an unfair advantage over his fellow intelligence heads, who would feel puny by contrast. Now it all makes sense.

As John over at Power Line noted, nobody fretted in 2001 that retired Gen. Colin Powell being in charge of the State Department meant that the Pentagon was taking over State. Then again, we were at peace then (and for another eight months). Or, if you prefer, al-Qaeda was at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them.

Even Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chambliss' boss on the Intelligence Committee, doesn't seem to mind:

And Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, who will oversee confirmation hearings for the post, acknowledged on CNN that there is some real concern about somebody from the military heading up the CIA. But he said that can be easily resolved by Hayden resigning his post and bringing in deputies with a strong civilian background.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) does not specifically object to Hayden being a general; he's too busy threatening to prove his RINO-hood by using Hayden's appointment as an opportunity to call the president nasty names:

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the program and did not rule out holding it up until he gets answers. "I'm not going to draw any lines in the sand until I see how the facts evolve," Specter said on Fox.

White House insiders tried to shrug off suggestions that Hayden's military experience could become a serious issue. And they said they welcome a fight over the domestic eavesdropping program — an issue that Bush certainly has not shied away from taking on in his effort to take a tough stance against terrorists. [And an issue where Bush wins more and more with every day of debate. -- the Mgt.]

And of course, Specter can't hold up the nomination any more than Harry Reid (D-Sin City) or Joe Biden (D-DE) can... he could prevent a confirmation vote (as could a Democratic filibuster), but that would just force Bush to resort to a recess appointment... which Specter can't stop.

So I still see no problem:

  1. Hayden resigns from active duty;
  2. Bush appoints him DCIA;
  3. Specter and the Democrats attack Hayden for daring to eavesdrop on al-Qaeda sleeper agents in the U.S;
  4. They hold up the committee vote for a few days, while Bush, Cheney, and the real Republicans pound them for caring more about the rights of Zacarias Moussaoui than about national security and the lives of Americans;
  5. Unwilling to turn his coat and singlehandedly destroy the Republican majority in the Senate, Saxby Chambliss accepts the compromise and votes for Hayden in the committee;
  6. The Dems finally realize how that they're destroying themselves, and they let the confirmation vote in the full Senate proceed;
  7. Alternatively, they decide to go for absolute broke, going "all in" with 7-2 offsuit, and they filibuster Hayden, or use some other sort of procedural gimmick to prevent him from getting a confirmation vote;
  8. In which case Bush appoints Hayden during the June recess, and we head into the November election with the Democrats (and the occasional RINO) clearly and unambiguously on the side of the terrorists.

Looks good to me!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 7, 2006, at the time of 6:57 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 6, 2006

Iraqi's Funniest Home Video

Hatched by Sachi

In an April 25th propaganda video released by Musab Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the terrorist tries to show his followers (and his enemies) what a great warrior he is and how much he's still in command. But the outtakes from the video paint a totally different picture of this "brave warrior": they show him as incompetent and ignorant of the simplest principles of gun handling.

(We know he was wounded in the past... but was he fighting or cowering when he was shot? We may never know.)

The clips shown by the US command are part of video seized by Task Force 145, a multi-service special-forces unit that includes both American and British troops, during a raid last month, according to AP:

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, spokesman for the U.S. command, mocked al-Zarqawi as the previously unseen footage showed a smiling al-Qaida leader first firing single shots from an automatic weapon. A frown creeps across al-Zarqawi's face as the weapon appears to jam. He looks at the rifle, confused, then summons another fighter.

By contrast, portions posted on the Web showed the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi confidently blasting away with bursts of automatic gunfire....

"It's supposed to be automatic fire, he's shooting single shots," Lynch said of the new footage. "Something is wrong with his machine gun. He looks down, can't figure out, calls his friend to come unblock the stoppage and get the weapon firing again...."

"And his close associates around him ... do things like grab the hot barrel of the machine gun and burn themselves," Lynch said. "Makes you wonder" about their military skills.

In the video, Zarqawi holds the rifle in a ridiculous, awkward position: not bracing against his shoulder but held loosely at his side. It is clear he has no familiarity with handling a rifle at all, let alone a select-fire weapon.

Update by Dafydd: It's worse than that. I'm not a big gun expert; but I have fired a Thompson submachine gun, an Uzi, an H&K MP5, an M-16, and an AK-47, all on full automatic; and I can tell you that if Zarqawi had been shooting real rounds, the way he was holding that weapon, it would have jumped out of his hand and begun knocking seagulls out of the sky (or whatever kind of avian life exists over Iraq). Zarqawi was firing blanks. Wow, what a Rambo.

These outtakes would be great PR for the good guys -- if only Arabs were allowed to see the video.

American military officials said the new clips were released to Arab media but too late for many evening newscasts. By late Thursday evening, the stations had yet to air the material.

I am not holding my breath. It seems like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, which both say they're anti-terrorist, and which are quick to air al-Qaeda recruitment videos and anything from Osama, Ayman, or Musab, draw the line at showing anything that would embarass the terrorists. I doubt they'll ever air these outtakes. If the Arabs are to see it, we will have to find a way to broadcast it ourselves.

Zarqawi is in a tight spot. Recently the U.S. and British special forces formed the multi-service "Task Force 145" to hunt down Zarqawi. These video outtakes were seized during one of their operations... and they came very close to capturing Zarqawi himself, too.

The raid was carried out by the secret Task Force 145, made up of Army Delta Force, Rangers, Navy SEALs and British Special Air Service paratroopers, the newspaper said.

The more al-Qaeda weakens, the more visible Zarqawi must become; but the more he's seen, the greater the risk of capture. I am hoping it is just a matter of time before we know the true Zarqawi: a criminal thug sitting alongside Saddam Hussein in an Iraqi courtroom.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 6, 2006, at the time of 3:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 5, 2006

"But Hayden Can't Be Confirmed!"

Hatched by Dafydd

Couple loose ends to tie up:

Confirmation Calamaties

The best man for the job, many say, is Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency... the man who put together the brilliant communications intercept of al-Qaeda operatives abroad and here in the United States talking to each other. Hayden is currently principle deputy NID (National Intelligence Director John Negroponte's right arm in battle).

But for that very reason, the "pundants" (I'm patriotically going with Bush's pronunciation) continue, he can't be confirmed... so Bush will be forced to take a lesser light -- even a dangerously compromised one, such as Frances Fargo Townsend, whom I consigned to the icy pits of Heck (or even Fargo) in this piece on Captain's Quarters, about thirty-seven years ago.

For example, here is the Captain himself making the point:

If he's such a slam dunk, then why not just stop here? For one good reason: Hayden created and ran the NSA surveillance program that intercepts international communications without FISA warrants. Putting Hayden in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for a confirmation hearing would be akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull. Democrats would jump at the chance to rip Hayden alive during nationally-televised hearings in a way that would make the Alito hearings look like a prayer breakfast. The worst-kept secret for the Democrats heading into this election is that they want to capture control of Congress in order to press impeachment proceedings against Bush. A Hayden confirmation hearing will become a fishing expedition for any tidbits they can discover for their later efforts.

(It is, of course, purely coincidence that this very same post happens to refer to "Dafydd's excellent analysis" of Ms. Townsend. That had nothing to do with me linking to the post. Nor does it have anything to do with my link to this post, either. It's just part of the lattice of coincidence that lies on top of everything.)

I think the point folks are missing here is... so who cares if Hayden can be confirmed? Bush has only two and a half years left in office... and he retains (and knows how to use) the power of the recess appointment.

Look at John Bolton; I think President Bush knew that Bolton had a high chance of being filibustered by an increasingly beligerent and power-drunk Senate Democratic caucus.

But he also knew that he could recess-appoint Bolton to be ambassador to the U.N.... and that he would be taken just as seriously as if he had been confirmed, because everybody knows that Bush intends to keep him there for the duration. (Recall also, for a bad but still illustrative example, the odd case of Bill Lann Lee.)

By the same reasoning, it makes no difference whether Hayden is confirmed or not: if he isn't, Bush will call a huge press conference to give him a recess appointment -- saying that even if the Democrats take national security and intelligence gathering lightly, George W. Bush does not... and we cannot allow a deadly gap to exist at the highest level of the CIA. Bush would make plain that he will keep reappointing Hayden to the job so long as he remains unconfirmed, except in the case that the Senate actually takes up the nomination and formally votes to reject it (which won't happen).

Hayden gets the job; he has full power, because everybody knows he's going to be there until January, 2009, just as if he were confirmed; and the Democrats look like feckless jerks, all at the same time. A triple bank shot!

This is different from appointing judges. Federal judges and Supreme Court justices are appointed for life; it is a major portion of the president's power to create a lasting legacy... barring the possibility that John Roberts may decide to go skiing and pull a Sonny Bono, he will sit on the high court for decades. A recess appointment is much less satisfactory, because the judge will be "gone like yesterday" as soon as the president leaves (if not sooner).

But political appointees come in clutching the coattails of the president, and they leave the same way. Even if confirmed, Hayden would likely be replaced when the next president arrives, even if it's Sen. George Allen (R-VA) or Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MN). It was exceptional that Bush retained George Tenet in his position as Director of Central Intelligence when he came into office in January, 2001. So a perpetually renewed recess appointment -- à la Bolton -- is nearly as good as a Senate confirmation.

In fact, I think the White House and the GOP would welcome a huge and vicious smear-fest from the Senate Democrats: nothing like showing the entire country just how little national security means to the Democrats right before an election.

Go, team!

Porter Goss's Crusade Forced Out Many Senior CIA Analysts

This one pops up, e.g., in the Washington Post account of Porter Goss's departure, written by Dana Priest, of all people; she was, of course, the gal Friday who outed the CIA "secret prisons" intel (assuming they were real; how come nobody can find a trace of any of them?) Priest is probably the recipient of many illegal leaks of classified information from Mary O. McCarthy:

Goss's counterinsurgency campaign was so crudely executed by his top lieutenants, some of them former congressional staffers, that they drove out senior and mid-level civil servants who were unwilling to accept the accusation that their actions were politically motivated, some intelligence officers and outside experts said.

Isn't this just a journalistic formulation to die for? How about, "Dana Priest is a no-talent hack, a Hillary lickspittle who got her job by offering to prostitute what paltry writing ability she once possessed in order to further the Democratic cause, some self-published internet columnists said."

Though the agency has grown considerably in size and budget in the past four years -- the operations branch has reportedly grown in size by nearly 30 percent -- dozens of officers with more than a decade of field experience each, those who would have been tapped as new staff chiefs or division heads, chose to leave.

Pre-retirement classes, which serve as a transition out of the agency for active-duty officers, are bulging with agency employees.

But who were these officers "with more than a decade of field experience"? What does "field experience" mean nowadays in the CIA?

If you're imagining officers embedding within al-Qaeda as putative jihadis, working their way up the chain, knowing that at any moment their cover could be blown -- or they could PO the wrong monkey -- and pfffft! off with their heads... you're living in a much more exciting world than this vale of tears, friend.

The reality is that being a field agent in the CIA typically means being openly stationed in an American embassy in a reasonably friendly country, like France or the United Arab Emirates. Even being "under official cover" typically means being attached to a U.S. mission in Kenya or Greece -- as a supposed low-level diplomat. Everybody still knows you're a spook; but officially, you're the assisstant deputy ambassador for trade issues, junior grade.

The CIA has virtually no "human intelligence" (HumInt) agents actually working deep cover, where they do not even have diplomatic immunity. For that, they just bribe locals... stringers, just like the antique media does when it wants to cover dangerous assignments in Iraq without leaving the loving arms of the Green Zone or (for the daring) the Palestine Hotel.

Valerie Plame actually epitomizes these "undercover field agents." And I say, good night and good riddance to the lot. Let not the door spank your behind on the way out.

I don't think the CIA needs even a third as many such chair-warmers and newspaper clippers as they currently employ; let 'em leave by the barrel-full!

What the Agency really needs to do -- and here is a huge distinction between the September 10th and September 11th mindset -- is to slough off this Cold War mentality that intelligence gathering = diplomatic data-collection. Get some real deep undercover agents with no known governmental connection and send them into the hell-holes of the world: the Gaza strip, the Bekaa Valley, the Indonesian and Philippine jungles, the Bolivian Andes, a mosque in Teheran.

No more Joseph Wilsons, sitting in Niamey "sipping sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people.” We need the "flies on the eyeballs" guys. We need the mates who speak Arabic, Farsi, or Malay as native, who subscribe to Soldier of Fortune for light reading, and who know how to use a Barrett M-107 .50 cal.

If Porter Goss drove out the Wilson Clones, then here's to him! If I ever see him, I'll buy him a Tullamore Dew. A double.

Anyway, that's my story, and unless you want flies planting larvae on your eyeballs, my good friend -- don't push me: I've got a Barrett, and I've got you in my sights at 1,400 yards....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 5, 2006, at the time of 11:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Herculean Effort to Kick Wal-Mart In the Shins

Hatched by Dafydd

The city of Hercules, CA, a San Francisco suburb just north of Oakland and located on San Pablo Bay (which connects to San Francisco Bay), is the latest example of a city abusing powers of eminent domain to seize property from one commercial interest to sell to another. But in this case, it appears to be a purely political move out of condescension towards the current owner: Wal-Mart.

The Hercules City Council will consider whether to use eminent domain to wrest a 17-acre property from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after the nation's largest retailer rejected a city offer to buy the site with views of San Pablo Bay, city officials said Thursday.

Briefly, Hercules decided it was going to build a major, upscale "neighborhood shopping center." When Wal-Mart heard that, it decided it would be good to have a Wal-Mart store there too; so it bought some adjacent property and submitted a plan to the city council.

But the Bay Area liberals decided that a Wal-Mart was too déclassé for their aristocratic image.

(Hercules sits in Contra Costa County, which in 2004 went for Kerry over Bush by 26%. Maybe they just liked Jean le Kerry because he was more of an aristo than Texas George?)

Wal-Mart wants to build a store in the booming East Bay town of Hercules, but critics there say the giant discount retailer would be too lowbrow for upscale locals.

On Thursday, opponents publicized an economic impact analysis that said Wal-Mart serves shoppers with a typical annual income of less than $50,000 -- far less than the nearly $90,000 average in Hercules.

"They (the stores) don't have to be totally upscale, but we need some better things," said opponent Tom Petersen, a psychologist who lives in an area of million-dollar plus homes called Victoria by the Bay.

Aghast at the thought of a vulgar Wal-Mart among the prize doves, the city council was poised to reject the plan, when Wal-Mart withdrew it. In response, the city council quickly tried to buy the land away from the lowbrow company... but Wal-Mart refused to sell.

Instead, it offered a new plan that was more in keeping with the overall design for the upscale Waterford District:

On March 31, however, Wal-Mart submitted a new application that it said substantially conforms to city requirements. The same day the company submitted its revised proposal, Councilwoman Charleen Raines was hardly welcoming, although she said she had not read it.

"What the council has said is that we want to buy the property,'' she said, describing the tussle with Wal-Mart as a "David and Goliath'' struggle. "At this point, we're concerned about moving ahead on this property. It's been hanging over us for a long time.''

(In this case, "a long time" means four months, since Wal-Mart originally bought the property in November, 2005.)

Outraged that Wal-Mart would not take the back of Hercules' hand for an answer -- there'll be floggings, I can assure you! -- the city has now moved to institue eminent domain and take the property by force.

This is precisely what we all feared when the Supreme Court decided the Kelo v. New London case: that cities would begin using eminent domain, the seizure of private property for public use, simply as a weapon in negotiations for buying property: Hercules offers some amount less than Wal-Mart wants for the land; but if Wal-Mart refuses, Hercules will simply seize the property and pay whatever they decide it's worth... possibly less than they originally offered.

It is, quite simply, legalized extortion... for which we have to thank the liberal faction of the Supreme Court of the United States.

So what is the state of California going to do about it?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 5, 2006, at the time of 6:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Porter Gloss

Hatched by Dafydd

Obviously, the big news today is the unexpected resignation of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Porter Goss, coupled with the refusal of either the president or Goss to explain why he is leaving. The "buzz" all over D.C. -- which I think has it completely backwards -- is that National Intelligence Director John Negroponte canned Goss because Goss was ruffling too many feathers at the Agency:

[Goss] had particularly poor relations with segments of the agency's powerful clandestine service. In a bleak assessment, California Rep. Jane Harman, the Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, recently said, "The CIA is in a free fall," noting that employees with a combined 300 years of experience have left or been pushed out....

Goss has pressed for aggressive probes about leaked information.

"The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," he told Congress in February, adding that a federal grand jury should be impaneled to determine "who is leaking this information."

Just two weeks ago, Goss announced the firing of a top intelligence analyst in connection with a Pulitzer Prize-winning story about a network of CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. Such dismissals are highly unusual.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., said Goss' resignation was good news. "His management style has been wrecking the country's most important intelligence agency," Obey said. "I hope that whoever is selected to take his place will rebuild agency morale and competence."

I suppose it's inevitable, but Big Lizards is convinced that precisely the opposite is true: Goss was fired because he was not aggressive enough in ferreting out the leakers. We've known George W. Bush for five years now; and the one thing that is clear is that when he decides something is important for the country -- such as the Iraq war -- he never lets go of it; he hangs on like a bulldog to a beefbone.

Bush has clearly decided that the conspiracy culture within the Agency, the Bush Derangement Syndrome, has gone so far that it now endangers national security. Goss was brought aboard in the first place by President Bush in 2004 in order to plug those leaks by any means necessary.

I suspect the leak about the CIA "secret prisons" (whether they even existed or whether the intel was a canary trap) was the last straw: true or false, it showed such a flagrant and egregious unconcern for the safety and the diplomatic relations of the United States of America that the persons responsible are tantamount to traitors -- morally, if not legally. The Agency is utterly out of control. It's true, as Gen. McCaffrey noted, that the CIA is at war: but it's more at war with Bush than it is with bin Laden.

There is a whole cadre within the CIA that persists in thinking of it as "the Company," persists in seeing its purpose as playing the Great Cold-War Game, rather than providing wartime intel for destroying America's enemies. I will begin calling this faction le Groupe de la Révolution du Dixième Septembre, or GRS-10e. And I think Porter Goss was actually ousted because he was not making headway fast enough against them.

Bush typically wants the people he is firing -- assuming they've tried their best but just not been good enough -- to go out with a victory, no matter how minor, under their belts; it's a private-sector business practice, so they can plausibly claim they were not fired for incompetence. I suspect Bush, Negroponte, Goss, and other concerned officials probably discussed the departure of Goss some time ago; but since they knew he was closing in on Mary O. McCarthy -- two weeks and still no personal proclamation of innocence from St. Mary of Langley -- they decided to let him nab her first, and then resign.

Both Jane Harman and "Democrat Dave" Obey have been pretty good, but not great, anent the war on terror; but neither has been particularly heartbroken to see the CIA, the NSA, and other clandestine agencies leaking, leaking, leaking damaging information to wreck Bush's warfighting agenda.

I would call Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a "September 10.5-ist." She's not as bad as the GRS-10e; she knows something momentous happened the next day; but she's not yet willing to admit it was paradigm shattering.

When the House Intelligence Committee decided, in November, 2005, to investigate the persistent leaks from clandestine agencies, Harman urged instead that they return to work on the pre-OIF intelligence, which was obviously far more helpful to Democratic electoral chances a year later:

Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., called for a congressional investigation into the disclosure of the existence of CIA secret prisons in a Nov. 2 story in The Washington Post. The story said they were located in eight countries, including democracies in Eastern Europe.

In a letter, the GOP leaders said leaking of classified information by employees of the government appeared to have increased in recent years, "establishing a dangerous trend that, if not addressed swiftly and firmly, likely will worsen."

On Tuesday, California Rep. Jane Harman, the House intelligence panel's senior Democrat, urged the panel to return to its work on the prewar intelligence on Iraq — a request that mirrored the efforts of Democratic senators to draw attention to the administration's mistakes on the war.

"The point of it is to understand fully how we collected, analyzed and presented intelligence ... and what responsibility the intelligence community had to correct misinformation by policymakers," Harman said in an interview.

I believe both Harman and Obey are going to be disappointed

And I likewise think that Frank Gaffney and Jed Babbin are going to be pleasantly startled, based on what they just said on Hugh Hewitt's radio show: whoever replaces Goss is going to be more vigorous, not less, about obliterating the GRS-10e, root and branch.

I do not join Gaffney and Babbin in believing that John Negroponte is on the side of the leakers, or that Bush would allow him to fire Goss (brought in personally by Bush) without the president's support. Nobody except the most moonbatty Bush haters has ever accused Bush of handing off power to his subordinates.

I'm sure they're correct that there was a power struggle; but Bush has never minded that in the past... recall the Rumsfeld vs. Powell steel-cage death match. I strongly doubt that Bush would have allowed the NID to fire the DCIA unless the president personally agreed that Goss should go.

Nor do I believe, as Babbin, Gaffney, Harman, and Obey all think, that Goss is going to be replaced by a meek staffer who can be easily confirmed and won't rock the boat. I think that's absurd. If that's how Bush operated, crawling to Congress to save his administration, then he would have fired Donald Rumsfeld, which would have thrilled the House and Senate (though it would have neutered his second term).

Let's see who is appointed, and more important, whether the leak investigations continue and accelerate. To paraphrase Maggie Thatcher's famous warning to Ronald Reagan (who needed no such warning), now is not the time to go "wobbly" on President Bush. [Commenter Mike corrects my faulty memory: Thatcher said that to George H. W. Bush... who did need such warning! -- the Mgt.]

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 5, 2006, at the time of 3:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 4, 2006

Caroline's Glitch

Hatched by Dafydd

Power Line highlights a paper by Caroline Glick of the Center for Security Policy that purports to demonstrate -- weakly and not very convincingly, I believe -- that Israel's pull out from Gaza and especially its pending pullout from the West Bank damage both Israeli and world security, vis-a-vis the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). (Hat tip to Scott at Power Line, who buys Glick's argument hook and crook.)

Her paper relies in large part upon a fundamental fallacy: Glick believes that, were it not for the pullout from Gaza and the proposed pullout from the West Bank, Hamas would never have won election in the Palestinian Authority.

Glick draws extensively from a paper by LG Moshe Yaalon, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Force; but Yaalon's paper is entirely about the dangers posed by Hamas's victory. Since Glick points to those various problems to denounce the pullout, she can only be assuming that absent the pullout, Fatah would still control the PA.

But that assumption is not only highly speculative, it actually flies in the face of the electoral and polling history prior to Sharon's pullout: Hamas had already won a number of by-elections, beating Fatah; and poll after poll showed that the Palestinians saw Fatah post-Arafat as a spent force, unable to expel the Jews, unable to stand up to Israel or the Great Satan, unable to govern.

Glick (and Yaalon) are absolutely correct that the Palestinians voted for Hamas in large part because they like terrorism, they think terrorism helps their cause, and Hamas promised to stick it to the Jews good and hard. But they thought that before the Israeli pullout just as strongly as they thought it afterwards; it wasn't Sharon's policy of disengagement that caused the Palestinians to hate Jews more than they love their own children.

The election result was a foregone conclusion, unless Fatah successfully rigged the vote. In which case, Hamas would have come to power in a coup d'etat, instead of by overwhelming vote.

When one knocks that plank out of Glick's platform, the entire edifice begins to crumble... because so much of her dire description of disaster flows from Hamas's victory, not directly from the pullout itself. For example, Yaalon says (and Glick writes) that the election elated Iran, encouraged terrorist movements worldwide, and set up a political situation that elevated a terrorist group to the status of "government" -- though of course, Iran already did that back in 1979, when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini drove out the Shah and installed himself as Supreme Leader.

All true: but all this would have happened after a Hamas electoral victory even absent the Israeli pullout. It was the election, not the pullout, and the evidence indicates Hamas was destined to win no matter what.

Some claims of hers survive the loss of that indirect connection, of course; but they, too, are awfully "iffy." For example, she relies upon another paper by Yaalon -- which, alas, is entirely in Hebrew with no English translation and appears to be on a blog or some other online source (complete with comments) -- to argue that the Gaza pullout did not in any way reduce the engagement between Israel and the PA:

Israel is constrained in its military operations against terrorist forces due to international pressure for it to protect the lives of Gazans, just as was the case when Israel retained its military control over Gaza. Because Israel remains the party that the Palestinian Authority and the U.S.-led international community views as responsible for the welfare of Gaza’s population, it has failed to disengage.

Thus, she argues, the "disengagement" from Gaza bought Israel nothing.

But even if this is true, it's a paralogical argument. If one says one is going to disengage but then does not really do so, it's absurd to argue that therefore, disengagement doesn't work. The proper solution in this case is not to consign disengagement to the dustbin of history, but rather to actually do what you said you were going to do!

  • Cut off the Israeli tax revenues that historically were sent to the Palestinians; Israel sent the money because they were ruling over the Palestinians. Now that they're not, there is no reason to continue, is there?
  • Stop all trade between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This may be rough on some Israelis, but it will be a lot harder on Gazans.
  • Prevent all civilian border crossings except for medical emergencies or some forms of humanitarian relief, if the Palestinians actually begin starving to death.

Once Israel has done that, it can decide whether real disengagement works. Until then, we really don't know, do we?

One whole branch of Glick's argument is that, with Hamas in control of that territory, al-Qaeda has moved in; and even long-standing terrorist groups in the area (Hezbollah, al-Aqsa, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and of course Hamas itself) are pumping heavy weapons and more jihadis into Gaza. She reports that they flow across the Egyptian border -- I have no reason to doubt her -- and that the Egyptians do nothing to stop them:

Israeli withdrawals also adversely impact the stability of its peace treaty with Egypt. Egyptian security forces in the Sinai refuse to control their border area with Israel.17 Israeli military commanders and defense officials believe that Egypt hopes to use the instability of the Sinai and the Sinai-Gaza border to induce Israel to abrogate the demilitarization clauses of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty. This would allow the Egyptian military unlimited deployment rights in the Sinai. Such remilitarization of the Sinai will cause an immediate destabilization of the region by making the specter of regional war with Israel all the more tangible.

The only footnote to back up this claim is to two of her own articles in the Jerusalem Post, “Arik and the tooth fairy” and “Irrelevant visions,” which (one presumes) make this same argument; since both have faulty URLs, it's impossible to say for sure. But let's take it as read: lots of weapons being imported into Gaza.

This is Glick's strongest argument, that the actual physical presence of Israeli troops in Gaza prevented heavy weapons (Kassam rockets, artillery, and suchlike) from being brought into the region; when Israel withdrew, terrorist groups began to militarize Gaza. Thus, she argues, the same thing will happen in the West Bank if Israel leaves:

Before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the three Israeli communities in northern Gaza provided a buffer zone that protected the adjacent Israeli city of Ashkelon from Palestinian rocket attack by keeping the city out of range of these munitions. Additionally, IDF forces operating in Gaza used their bases adjacent to these communities to launch operations in Palestinian populated areas next to them like Beit Hanoun, to prevent the terror forces from amassing significant arsenals of such weapons systems and from extending their range. Similarly, IDF forces operated within Gaza to limit terror forces’ ability to freely attack other Israeli communities that border Gaza.

Today, IDF forces are deployed inside of Israeli communities in the Western Negev adjacent to Gaza where they work to protect these communities from the constant barrage of rockets and mortar shells that terrorists lob at them from Gaza every day. The terror forces – both Palestinian and foreign – have exploited the absence of Israeli ground forces in Gaza to amass arsenals whose sophistication and size present would have been unimaginable before Israel’s withdrawal from the area. They have also succeeded in extending the range of their rockets.

The IDF’s post-withdrawal attempts to prevent these attacks through artillery fire, and aerial attacks has met with failure. Tthe IDF’s attempt to mitigate the damage caused by these rocket and mortar attacks by installing early-warning systems in the communities and towns bordering Gaza has also been ineffective. The IDF currently has no means of neutralizing the projectile threat to southern Israel aside from a land invasion of Gaza.

There is probably some truth in this -- though once again, Glick relies upon very tendentious sources: Moshe Arens, for example, Benjamin Netanyahu's mentor and the ideological purist of Likud... and a bitter antagonist of the pullout from the very beginning. Arens may well be right, but he is certainly not unbiased.

But let's assume the claim is true. What is the obvious conclusion? That Israel, despite saying it is disengaging from the PA and treating it as a separate country, is really not yet doing so. If Jordan, Egypt, or Syria were to begin doing what Gaza is doing -- firing rockets, mortars, and artillery into Israel -- then Israel would respond by striking at military, political, economic, and infrastructure targets anywhere within the aggressor country.

They would not confine themselves just to striking back at the rocketeers themselves; they would hit targets of opportunity wherever they could. Why isn't the IDF doing this now in Gaza? Without such attacks, there is no incentive for the Palestinians to cease their attacks on Israel. Like, duh.

All right, we know what Glick is arguing against -- the Gaza and West Bank pullouts; but what, then, is she arguing for?

Bluntly put, there are only three possibilities for Israel anent the occupied territories:

  1. Disengagement -- pulling out completely, letting the Palestinians take over their own areas (Israel has never formally laid claim to either Gaza or the West Bank as part of Israel), and dealing with the inevitable terrorist attacks on a nation-against-nation basis (war) rather than as a nation against a population that it, itself controls;
  2. Status quo -- letting everything continue more or less the way it had since the 1967 war;
  3. Annexation -- formally seizing both territories and declaring them part of "Greater Israel."

Number 2 is really just annexation-lite: it constitutes de-facto annexation but without the formal declaration. So let's just lump 2 and 3 together.

If Israel were to annex the West Bank and Gaza, again, there are only a couple of choices: to attempt to permanently control a captive and increasingly hostile population; or to engage in a massive campaign of "ethnic cleansing," deporting all of the Palestinians out of the territories (to where?).

There is not now, nor has there ever been any political will within Israel to carry out either of these programs. Nobody in Israel wants to see the IDF impose increasingly draconian restrictions on the Palestinians (which would inevitably lead to a mass revolt and the spectacle of Israeli soldiers having to gun down civilians by the thousands)... but the idea of mass expulsions smacks so strongly of an earlier experience of the Jews in Europe that Israelis would never stand for that, either.

That means that there is, in a very real sense, no alternative to Sharon's policy of disengagement. There is no other realistic option.

Some of Glick's sources (including Arens) openly call for the "recapture" of Gaza, so Israel could go back to ruling over it as colonial governor. But the pullout happened in the first place (and was and is very popular within Israel) precisely because of the terrible problems that such occupation generated -- for all thirty-nine years since Israel imposed it.

Israel won the 1967 war, where numerous Arab states attacked Israel (some staging from those very territories), and Israel clearly had the moral right to occupy that land. But as a practical matter, such occupation was never expected to be permanent... and indeed, it could not be. It was always meant to be a staging ground towards either disengagement or annexation.

Conveniently, Glick does not tell us what she is for, what remedy she envisions for the gross error she perceives:

In light of all this, the Bush Administration and the congressional leadership would be well-advised to refuse Olmert’s requests for U.S. support for his convergence plan while backing alternative policy options that will serve to strengthen U.S. allies in the Global War on Terror, while weakening those opposed to U.S. efforts. Such alternative policies will be the subject of an additional Center for Security Policy report that will be released in the near future.

Thanks very large, Ms. Glick. But judging from her sources, I assume she, like Moshe Arens, wants the West-Bank pullout cancelled and Gaza re-occupied. She has not suggested why this would succeed any better than last time; so presumably, she just thinks the situation status-quo ante was better than now, and she wants to go back to it.

But that doesn't solve the problems. What are her solutions? Aside from the wall, which everyone supports (everyone except the terrorists and their supporters throughout Gaza and the West Bank), does she even see any problems with permanent occupation? Or is she content to see Israel recapitulate the British Empire in India and Hong Kong?

I have a final point: in addition to the other problems here (she loves straw men, but that's a subject for an additional Big Lizards post that will be released in the near future), it's also a bit thick to expect dramatic changes in the sociology and politics of Gaza just a few months after the Israeli pullout.

It's just like the Democrats in Fall of 2003, railing that Bush's entire "democratization" scheme was an obvious failure because Iraq was still in turmoil and there were still terrorist attacks: three years after the war, and there is still turmoil and terrorism in Iraq... but clearly there is also progress.

Instead of flying off in a panic and sending the IDF racing back into Gaza to reconquer the joint (in a bloody battle that would result in thousands of dead), let's give disengagement some time to work; and let's push hard on the government of Ehud Olmert to actually carry through with real disengagement: no money from Israel, no trade with Israel, no contact with Israel (or any other Western, democratic nation), no border crossings -- until Hamas begins acting like a government, not a terrorist gang... or until the Palestinians kick them out and elect someone else who will.

Let the stew in their own juices for a while. A long while. Enforce a boycott by other nations, by force if necessary; and let's see if real disengagement actually works better than the catastrophe of permanent occupation.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 4, 2006, at the time of 7:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sadr the Gamester

Hatched by Sachi

The most important agenda item for the new Iraqi government's incoming Interior Minister -- not yet chosen -- is to dismantle the militias and incorporate their members into the regular police forces. Not only has the Interior Minister not been picked yet -- according to Iraq the Model's Omar, no one seems eager to take the job... for the precise reason that going after the militias is a daunting prospect!

The biggest obstacle, of course, is the Iranian sock puppet, Muqtada Sadr. His Mahdi Militia is the only one openly refusing to integrate. The May 6th issue of Newsweek contains an interview of Sadr, talking about the future of his so-called "resistance movement."

I do not like the way Newsweek treats Sadr with such deference, describing him as "part of the political establishment." However, he does have power: Sadr was the cause of that four-month gridlock in forming a government, pushing his divisive candidates, such as Ibrahim al-Jaafari. I suppose we must grudgingly admit that, while he is not a part of the "establishment," he is a force with which Iraq must reckon.

In the interview, Sadr insists that his aim has always been to kick the American and other Coalition forces out of Iraq. He argues that his "powerful, loyal, political and military force" will "take Iraq to safety" (by which he means "take Muqtada Sadr to the Caliphate of Iraq").

At the same time, I reach out my hand [to the political parties] to cooperate to make peace in Iraq, to drive away the shadow of the armies of darkness [somebody call Bruce Campbell, quick!] The occupation is the creator of all problems. I pray to Allah to take away the problems and their creator.

Sure. That's why Sadr's Mahdi Militia has been killing Sunnis and Shiite political rivals... just their way of "make[ing] peace in Iraq."

Sadr divides his "resistance" into three "stages":

  1. Peaceful resistance;
  2. His two violent uprisings (in Najaf, the Sadr City slums of Baghdad, and across the Shiite areas);
  3. And now the stage of "political resistance, which we attained by reaching political posts and demanding a timetable for the departure of U.S troops."

Maybe it's just me, but I don't quite recall Sadr ever conducting a "peaceful resistance" stage; but maybe I just missed it. The first we heard of him was when he was credibly accused of assassinating Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei when he entered the Shrine of Imam Ali; then the next thing we heard was the Najaf takeover, timed to coincide with First Fallujah.

As for the political resistance, his normal method of operation is to "intimidate" rivals -- by murdering them. In other words, Sadr's only known "stage" of resistance is lethal violence.

In the interview, Sadr reached out to Sunni Iraqis, urging them to fight against the occupation forces (that would be us). But before he cooperates with the Sunni, he has few things to say to them:

I address the Sunnis through NEWSWEEK. One, they should specify their stance toward attacks on civilians. After the attack in Samarra, the Sunnis didn't have a clear stance. Two, their stance toward Takfiris [a name for followers of the extremist ideology espoused by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi] is not clear. Three, they should specify their stance toward the Shia. Are we Muslims or not? We will not be satisfied with anything less than that. Four, they should demand the execution of Saddam Hussein. And five, they should specify their stance toward [returning] families who have been displaced [by sectarian violence].

This might all sound reasonable... if we didn't know what Sadr himself has been doing all this time. But he does not even acknowledge the fact that the Mighty al-Mahdi Army is a militia, let alone that it's responsible for many of Sunni (and probably some Shiite) citizens done to death in Iraq. What, me militia? asks Sadr.

Newsweek: The Mahdi Army is supposedly the only faction that hasn't signed on to an agreement to incorporate militias into governing bodies. Can you explain why?

Sadr: The Mahdi Army is not a militia. You can't describe it or specify it as a militia. I issued a statement recently limiting the Mahdi Army personnel to cultural, social and religious acts....

Newsweek:Many people claim that Mahdi Army members have been responsible for sectarian attacks in recent weeks. Others say they're simply defending their neighborhoods that the government cannot defend. What do you say? (Sachi: What a softball question! You just gave him an out!)

Sadr: The Mahdi Army personnel are not sinless. But they are integrating themselves despite the harsh circumstances they live in. (Sachi: What's that supposed to mean?)

Newsweek: Do you think that some people dressed as or appearing like Mahdi Army members have carried out reprisal or vengeance attacks of a sectarian nature?

Sadr: And what are the clothes of the Mahdi Army? So that I can distinguish them from others. They don't have a specific uniform. They are people gathered by love, and faith is their weapon.

Ooh, stop, stop. I can't take anymore; I'll go into sugar shock.

Why are we listening to this palaver? Muqtada Sadr couldn't tell the truth even if his life depended on it, and he were pumped so full of Sodium Pentothol it was squirting out his ears. The only honest sentiment he says is that he hates America and wants American forces to leave... not because he wants peace and stability in Iraq, but because it's easier for him to control Iraq without the Coalition spoiling things. Sadr is nothing but trouble.

Newsweek: Do you recall that at one point the U.S military and political spokesmen said it was their aim to "kill or capture" you? Your reaction now?

Well, my reaction is -- "darn it, I sure wish we still had that plan!"

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 4, 2006, at the time of 4:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 3, 2006

Barry Bends

Hatched by Dafydd

Wretchard has an important, fascinating, but interminable post up about retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- he who commanded the 24th Mechanized Infantry during Desert Storm, later became Bill Clinton's Drug Czar (Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy), and is currently an adjunct professor at West Point.

The Belmont Club post is essential reading; but it's very long. So as long as this post here is, consider this the CliffsNotes version of the Belmont Club post!

First, it's important to note that Gen. McCaffrey was not an Iraq-War supporter. In fact, he was quite a critic from the very beginning; and he's quite antagonistic towards Donald Rumsfeld.

This is important to note before going in: McCaffrey has developed an increasingly optimistic outlook on the war, a complete turnaround from his opinion in 2003, and especially intriguing in light of a New Republic article, written by Lawrence Kaplan, that makes clear McCaffrey's attitude as recently as 2004 towards Rumsfeld -- especially over his planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

(The New Republican article is only available to subscribers from their website; but you can read it at the site of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council here.)

Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, who has become Rumsfeld's most outspoken critic, asked, "Why would you do this operation with inadequate power?" To McCaffrey, the answer is obvious: "Because you have such a strong ideological view, and you're so confident in your views that you disregard the vehement military advice from, particularly, Army generals who you don't think are very bright."

But in spite of this history, when McCaffrey visited Iraq on a fact-finding mission in June of 2005 -- and even more so when he returned in April of this year -- he was extremely optimistic about the war and its successful outcome.

Did the antique media even bother to report this? Isn't it rather more newsworthy when a widely respected and very experienced critic of the war admits that it has gone a lot better than he expected -- even in the "winning the peace" category -- than it is when long-time critics of the war, such as Weasley Clarke or Anthony Zinni, continue to sing the same defeatist ditty, despite never having gone to investigate its progress?

Shouldn't the McCaffrey memo of April, 2006, have been major, headline news? I reckon not: he came to the wrong conclusion.

In particular, McCaffrey found "simply awe-inspiring" the "morale, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces." He also heavily praised the New Iraqi Army:

The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population.... The recruiting now has gotten significant participation by all sectarian groups to include the Sunni.... This is simply a brilliant success story. [Emphasis in Belmont Club post.]

McCaffrey noted "marked improvement" in the previously poorly performing Iraqi Security Force (police). First, the bad:

The police are heavily infiltrated by both the AIF [Anti-Iraqi Forces -- the foreign terrorists] and the Shia militia. They are widely distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. They inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses, and deep corruption.

Now the good:

The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement in capability since MG Joe Peterson took over the program. The National Police Commando Battalions are very capable - a few are simply superb and on par with the best U.S. SWAT units in terms of equipment, courage, and training. Their intelligence collection capability is better than ours in direct HUMINT.

And the future:

This will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face.... We absolutely can do this. But this police program is now inadequately resourced.

McCaffrey is, on the whole, very pleased with the job done by his old nemesis from the Gulf War days, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; the general is less sanguine, oddly enough, about the contributions (such as they are) from the State Department:

The U.S. Inter-Agency Support for our strategy in Iraq is grossly inadequate.... U.S. consultants of the IRMO [Iraq Reconstruction Management Office] do not live and work with their Iraqi counterparts, are frequently absent on leave or home consultations, are often in-country for short tours of 90 days to six months, and are frequently gapped with no transfer of institutional knowledge.

McCaffrey seems to believe the problem arose back in 2003, under Secretary of State Colin Powell (or perhaps earlier, in the decades of the State Department's institutional intellectual lethargy). In his 2005 memo, he described the tenure of Paul Bremer as U.S. Administrator of Iraq (head of the Coalition Provisional Authority) thus:

The transitional Bremer-appointed Iraqi government created a weak state of warring factions.

But I think this is overly harsh against Bremer. It's not as if he had anything to work with, after the sudden and complete collapse of the Iraqi-despised Baathist regime, leaving a power vacuum... and the less than stellar performance of the first American "proconsul" of Iraq, retired Gen. Jay Garner. I think that Bremer did the best he could:

  • He formally disbanded Saddam's army, which had fallen apart anyway and was plagued by incompetence, cowardice, and corruption even before the invasion;
  • He ordered full-scale de-Baathification, which was urgently needed if the new government were ever to have credibility with the 80% of the country that was Shiite or Kurdish;
  • And he helped create -- and then handed power to -- the Iraq Interim Governing Council, marking the very first time that majority Shia and Kurds (and women) had a say in their own governing: before the Baathists, Iraq was briefly ruled by a military dictatorship, which had toppled the Sunni Hashemite kingdom, which had taken over from the Ottoman Turks.

(Although Bremer's position was under the Department of Defense, and he reported directly to Rumsfeld, Bremer himself was a career State Department offiical, a protégé of "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger, and was thoroughly imbued with the State ideology of stability über alles.)

McCaffrey makes two profound and inarguable points in his 2006 memo. Here is the first:

The bottom line is that only the CIA and the U.S. Armed Forces are at war.

...Meaning, of course, that the State Department and other departments of the government (Treasury, Energy, et cetera), as well as all of Congress and the Judiciary, still live in a September 10th world. It is critical to internalize this point if you want to understand the war.

McCaffrey worries about the public's taste for the task flagging, if they don't see us as actually "at war." This might cause the funding to run dry; if we do not sustain our own will to fight here, then as the adage goes, it is entirely possible for us to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:

Iraq cannot sustain the requisite economic recovery without serious U.S. support. The Allies are not going to help. They will not fulfill their pledges. Most of their pledges are loans not grants.

But perhaps even more important is the yawning Grand Canyon of distrust that has separated our own military from the American press... a press which, if it came aboard, could educate the American people (as they did during World War II) and keep their attention riveted on Iraq, where history is being made.

As he notes in the memo from 2005, the difficulties of reporting out of Iraq (coupled with the media's knee-jerk reaction -- unmentioned by McCaffrey -- that the war is illegal, immoral, fattening, and a sign that we live in a Fascist dictatorship) result in the news media sending only "the second team" to Iraq.

The reporters have little to no experience with war, have typically never served in the military, dislike (or even hate) soldiers and military values, report in a facile and tendentious manner, misquote sources, rely upon native sources of unknown provenance (or even known sympathy for the enemy), and in general, hamper, not help, the military effort. It's hardly surprising that, as McCaffrey noted in 2005:

Military leaders on the ground are talking to people they trust instead of talking to all reporters who command the attention of the American people. (We need to educate and support AP, Reuters, Gannet, Hearst, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc.)

Nearly a year later, and this aspect of the war has actually deteriorated, leading McCaffrey to note that "there is a rapidly growing animosity in our deployed military forces toward the U.S. media. We need to bridge this gap."

The general then writes his other profound inarguability:

Armies do not fight wars - countries fight wars. We need to continue talking to the American people through the press. They will be objective in reporting facts if we facilitate their information gathering mission.

But he is far more optimistic about the Iraqi political scene:

[I]n my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity. The intelligence picture strongly portrays a population that wants a federal Iraq, wants a national Army, rejects the AIF as a political future for the nation, and is optimistic that their life can be better in the coming years. Unlike the Balkans -- the Iraqis want this to work.

In conclusion, Barry McCaffrey is extremely optimistic -- especially for a guy who was against the war from the git-go:

There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors, or produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a ten year task. We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-5 years. We have few alternatives to the current US strategy which is painfully but gradually succeeding. This is now a race against time. Do we have the political will, do we have the military power, will we spend the resources required to achieve our aims?

That question at the end of this paragraph is the whole enchilada: to persevere is to prevail; to falter is to fail. It's as simple as that.

(But read the whole thing at the Belmont Club.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 3, 2006, at the time of 7:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Reid Returns to Judicial Filibusters... Is the Gang All Here?

Hatched by Dafydd

Out of the night, when the full moon is bright... is that Zorro riding up?

Nope; it's the aptly named Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace), popping up like Whack-a-Mole to issue a promise to filibuster 4th-Circuit nominee Judge Terrence W. Boyle and possibly also D.C.-Circuit nominee Brett Kavanaugh:

Democratic leaders said they certainly would filibuster one of the nominees, Terrence W. Boyle, and might filibuster the second, Brett Kavanaugh, if Republicans refuse to call him back for a second hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The partisan rhetoric was the strongest signal yet that the Senate might revisit the brinkmanship that brought the chamber to the edge of crisis a year ago, when a bipartisan group of 14 members crafted a temporary cease-fire....

"I can't imagine how President Bush could bring [Boyle] to the Senate for confirmation," Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters yesterday. If GOP leaders insist on a confirmation vote, he said, Democrats "without question" will launch a filibuster....

Reid said Kavanaugh is subject to "a possible filibuster" in the full Senate.

This comes just a day after Sen. Reid essentially demanded that Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) give Reid veto power over any Republican conferees that Frist names to the House-Senate conference on an immigration bill, should the Senate pass such:

As important as the number of amendments is what happens in Conference.

With Republicans in the House having passed a bill making all undocumented immigrants felons, with the House majority leader publicly dismissing the Senate’s bill, and with the House Judiciary Committee Chairman serving as the sponsor of the felon provision in the House legislation, it is imperative we have a firm agreement on who the conference participants will be before moving to the bill.

Reid's sudden imperiousness raises an interesting question: is Sen. Harry Reid just "rolling the dice," or does he have solid intelligence that the Democrats will win the vote on the "constitutional option" rules change in the Senate -- and does Reid already know who will win the battle over who gets to name Republican conferees? Have GOP members of the "Gang of 14" signalled to Harry Reid that they're ready to cave? (The only remaining option -- that Reid would initiate such tactics knowing he was going to lose -- is politically absurd.)

I certainly hope Reid is just throwing a "Hail Mary" two seconds before the buzzer.

The Democrats' objection to Judge Boyle at least has merit; whether it's true or not is a separate question. The WaPo article doesn't go into detail; but an AP story yesterday gives a bit more depth:

Kavanaugh's negatives, Reid added, "pale in comparison to Boyle.'' Reid said he had read in an online article that Boyle had bought stock in General Electric midway through presiding over a pension lawsuit against the company. Then Boyle ruled against the plaintiff's claims of long-term and pension disability benefits.

"He not only shouldn't be a trial court judge as he is, but to think that he should be elevated to a circuit court of appeals is outrageous,'' Reid said.

Aha: Reid accuses Judge Boyle of corruption because he read it on the internet! (Possibly on Juan Cole or Daily Kos.)

If it were true that a sitting federal judge were ruling on cases in order to inflate the value of his own stock portfolio -- which is precisely what Harry Reid has accused Boyle of doing -- then of course, that judge should not only not be elevated to the circus court, he should be impeached, indicted, tried, and convicted. But contrariwise, if a sitting senator -- the minority leader of the Senate -- is slandering a federal judge with outrageous and unsupported criminal accusations purely to gain a partisan advantage in the confirmation vote... then it is that senator who should be expelled from the Senate in disgrace.

Majority Leader Frist should demand that Sen. Reid produce evidence for his charge (something more than a story on Salon or on some blog); and if he has none, call a press conference to demand that Reid resign his seat.

The opposition to Brett Kavanaugh, by contrast, is simply risible:

First nomination up is Kavanaugh's, which could be reported out of the Judiciary Committee by a party line vote as early as Thursday. Democrats, however, are pressing for another hearing and more documents in an effort to find out whether Kavanaugh was involved in White House policies on torture, the National Security Agency's wiretapping program and Bush's relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Got that? The Democrats admit they have no information whatsoever to indicate Kavanaugh was involved in crafting any of the policies they dislike -- such as vigorously questioning al-Qaeda military leaders captured on the battlefield during wartime without giving them lawyers and setting bail. They haven't a clue... the Democrats brazenly admit that this is nothing but a fishing expedition (let's see whether he was involved!) and a chance to revisit those policies and rail against President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

For his part, Kavanaugh told Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Thursday that he did not play an active role in Bush's secret domestic wiretapping program or in any dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Schumer said he did not ask Kavanaugh about his role in the torture policy. But White House spokeswoman Perino said, "Mr. Kavanaugh was not involved in any detainee policy development.''

And on that flimsy pretext, Sen. Reid promises a return to judicial filibusters.

In a post last year, Big Lizards noted:

The "Seven Dwarfs" (Republican members of the "Gang of 14") are John McCain (AZ), Mike DeWine (OH), Lindsay Graham (SC), John Warner (VA), Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), and Lincoln Chafee (RI). Two others not in the Gang but still potentially trouble are Arlen Specter (PA) and Charles Grassley (IA).

At this point, Sen. Frist must speak individually, one-on-one with each Republican on this list to determine whether he or she is still willing -- as they all were a year ago -- to vote for the constitutional option (changing Senate rules to ban judicial filibusters) if the Democrats return to such tactics in the absence of "extraordinary circumstances." And Frist should also ask whether any of them considers the Democrats' charge that Brett Kavanaugh was a member of President Bush's staff to be "extraordinary circumstances."

Similarly, do the Seven Dwarfs (plus two) agree with Harry Reid that a bald accusation of corruption in the absence of a shred of evidence is enough to rise to the level of "extraordinary circumstances?"

It's hard to imagine that GOP senators, even these ones, would look the majority leader right in the eye -- and lie through their teeth. But let's find out.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 3, 2006, at the time of 2:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 2, 2006

Entrepreneurial Freak of the Week

Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday in our post $500,000 Retread, we introduced you to teenaged "author," Kaavya Viswanathan. Ms. Vis somehow wangled herself a two-book contract for $500,000 while still in high school; the then-seventeen year old published the first book... which was found to be riddled with plagiarized passages from several other books -- mostly from a couple of books written by Megan McCafferty, but Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella also found their prose making a cameo appearance in Viswanathan's book.

Today, Little, Brown not only dropped this book (which has already been pulled from the shelves), they have also canceled the entire contract. And then AP dropped an absolute bombshell, though even they didn't realize it... and suddenly everything falls into place for me. They wrote:

Viswanathan, who was 17 when she signed the deal, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Alloy Entertainment, a book packager that helped Viswanathan shape her narrative and shared the book's copyright, said the company would have no comment. Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, a literary agent who represented both Viswanathan and Alloy, also said she would not comment.

Let me translate this into normal English: evidently, Viswanathan was offered the contract by Little, Brown on the basis of a few articles she wrote while interning on the Bergen County Record, a local newspaper. She signed... but evidently, she had little confidence in her ability actually to write two novels.

So either without telling the publisher, or more likely, with the publisher's connivance, it appears as though "Viswanathan's" novel was subcontracted out to a book packager, Alloy Entertainment. Having worked for similar packagers myself (though I've never heard of Alloy, and I always wrote under my own name), I can guess what probably happened next: Alloy picked one of its stable of freelance writers to actually write the books; this writer was likely paid a flat fee on a work-made-for-hire contract, and was probably given a deadline of three or four weeks to produce a clean, finished novel.

(If Viswanathan set this all up herself -- if she got the contract then simply hired someone to write the books for her -- I would happily expel her from Harvard and recruit her into Harvard Business School. What an entrepreneur!)

Perhaps the ghostwriter, whoever he or she was, had too much on his, her, its plate... so ghostwriter copies passages more or less verbatim from other novels, thinking no one will notice. Certainly nobody in the editing or publishing chain of custody noticed, and the book was published.

Maybe Viswanathan helped somewhat in writing the book; or maybe it was entirely ghostwritten, and all she supplied was a Cover-Girl head shot, a bubbly book-signing personality, and a cool name. In either case, she probably did not even read the whole book all the way through, let alone write it... which may well explain why she was so dumbfounded at the revelations of plagiarism: she literally had no idea, because she really wasn't familiar with her novel.

Whenever a packager says it's "shaping" a project, it means either they're editing so heavily they may as well be an uncredited co-author, or else they're just writing it themselves in-house and skipping the middleman. Particularly when they actually share copyright: I wonder if Viswanathan was supposed to receive royalties, or if she, too, was on a work-made-for-hire contract....

In any event, we should soon find out whether this was a one-shot for Viswanathan, or if she made a habit of "writing" her earlier newspaper pieces the way she "wrote" this novel:

Editor Frank Scandale said The Record, which has written several of its own articles about the plagiarism allegations, will hire a service to vet the dozen or so light features she wrote while one of about 18 interns at the paper.

Scandale recalled Viswanathan as having strong writing skills for a high schooler, and as an upbeat, affable young woman.

"To us she was a bright young kid that seemed to have the makings of a good writer. There were no alarms; nobody had ever questioned any of her stories," he said. "We have no reason to believe there's anything wrong with her copy. But in light of what's going on, we thought we should check her stuff out."

I hope for her sake that she's clean, and the copycatting was a product of the ghostwriter, not her. If I may plagiarize a bit of doggeral here from the Scribe of Scotland, the Wizard of the North:

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

'Nuff said.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 2, 2006, at the time of 10:01 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

In Sickness and In Health

Hatched by Dafydd

I was surprised at the good job done by both Associated Press and Reuters reporting on the new British study showing that Americans tend to be a lot sicker than Brits -- even taking confounding factors into account (such as race, sex, rates of smoking and drinking, income, and education). The early and easy temptation is to leap to the conclusion that the British are healthier because their country is more socialist... but by and large, both articles pooh-poohed that knee-jerk "explanation."

First the bad news; from Reuters:

Considerably more middle-aged Americans suffer from chronic illnesses than their British counterparts, probably because more Americans are obese, researchers said on Tuesday.

"You don't expect the health of middle-aged people in these two countries to be too different, but we found that the Americans are a lot less healthy than the English," said James Smith, a RAND economist and one of the study's authors.

An analysis of health surveys showed the prevalence of diabetes and cancer were nearly twice as high among white American 55- to 64-year-olds than British in that age group.

Heart disease was 50 percent more common in the United States than in Britain, and rates of stroke, high blood pressure and lung disease were more common among middle-aged Americans as well....

Overall, 15 percent of middle-aged Americans suffered from heart disease compared to 10 percent of their British counterparts, diabetes afflicted 12.5 percent of Americans versus 7 percent of the British, and cancer hit 9.5 percent of the Americans compared to 5.4 percent of the British.

The surveys were conducted between 1999 and 2003.

AP adds:

The gap between the countries holds true for educated and uneducated, rich and poor.

"At every point in the social hierarchy there is more illness in the United States than in England and the differences are really dramatic," said study co-author Dr. Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist at University College London in England.

The study, appearing in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, adds context to the already-known fact that the United States spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation, yet trails in rankings of life expectancy.

The United States spends about $5,200 per person on health care while England spends about half that in adjusted dollars.

"Everybody should be discussing it: Why isn't the richest country in the world the healthiest country in the world?" Marmot said.

"It's something of a mystery," said Richard Suzman of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which helped fund the study.

Now the good news: both AP and Reuters touched on the glib suggestion that the lack of socialized medicine (National Health Care) in the U.S. accounts for the health differences... but only to shoot it down. Reuters, for example:

"The less education and income people had the worse their health," study co-author Michael Marmot of University College London said.

"We cannot blame either bad lifestyle or inadequate medical care as the main culprits in these socioeconomic differences in health. We should look for explanation to the circumstances in which people live and work."

The AP article expands upon this, making clear the distinction between Britain's socialized medicine and America's (more or less) free-market system cannot explain the health differences:

However, Britain's universal health-care system shouldn't get credit for better health, Marmot and [Harvard School of Public Health Professor of Public Health Robert] Blendon agreed.

Both said it might explain better health for low-income citizens, but can't account for better health of England's more affluent residents.

Marmot cautioned against looking for explanations in the two countries' health-care systems.

"It's not just how we treat people when they get ill, but why they get ill in the first place," Marmot said.

So if it's not race, sex, age, economic strata, or the rate of smoking or drinking... then what does explain the differences? The major culprit may well be simple obesity. From Reuters:

In weighing the source of the health gap, the researchers said the answer most likely stemmed from higher U.S. rates of obesity and Americans' tendency to avoid exercise -- though the English were catching up.

The prevalence of obesity in the United States rose to 31 percent in 2003 from 16 percent in 1980, while U.K. obesity rates increased to 23 percent from 7 percent in the same period.

"It may be that America's longer history of obesity or differences in childhood experiences create the problems seen among middle-aged Americans," said study co-author James Banks, an economist at University College London.

"This may mean that over time the gap between England and the United States may begin to close."

If true, this is heartening, because obesity -- while not completely avoidable (genetics has a lot to do with it) -- is at least controllable. Even if one is "destined" to gain weight, one can gain it more slowly by watching diet and by exercising.

And the study points to the enormous influence obesity may have on a wide range of debilitating illnesses -- some of which have long been known to be related to obestity (diabetes, heart disease), but also others for which the connection is more obscure, like cancer.

This may spur research into the exact mechanism by which the body creates and maintains fat cells, which may lead to a pharmaceutical breakthrough in weight control and reduction: now that we know it's not just a cosmetic concern, perhaps more serious researchers will get involved in determining the actual cause of weight gain... something beyond the facile idea that people who gain weight must just be lazy pigs who eat too much and watch TV all day.

For my own example, I eat less than my occasional collaborator, Brad Linaweaver; and I certainly exercise far more than he; yet I outweigh him by quite a margin. Like many genetically lucky people, Brad simply does not gain much weight, no matter what he does. Similarly, many Asians gain less weight than Westerners, even when they eat and exercise just as much as their counterparts.

Taken together, these two science articles -- only AP identifies the authors, Carla K. Johnson from Chicago and Mike Stobbe from Atlanta -- are well written, factual, and without any of the usual political bias of the two wire services. Great job, everyone!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 2, 2006, at the time of 1:37 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Al-Arian Nation

Hatched by Dafydd

Ages ago (two weeks), we noted in Bride of "Glad to See the Back of Him" that Sami al-Arian had cut a deal: he would plead guilty to a count of conspiracy to aid and abet a terrorist organization (Palestinian Islamic Jihad, PIJ), admit to a number of facts that he has been lying about for years... and that he serve at least some jail time before being shown the door.

After quoting the New York Sun's wretched website that al-Arian was to receive a sentence of "between 46 and 57 months incarceration on one count of conspiracy to assist a group or individual on a federal government terrorist list," we noted:

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.

Well it seems to have flown below most everybody's radar, what with the "just say No to gringos" million man march yesterday... but in fact, al-Arian just got the bad news. The judge -- who evidently thinks conspiring with terrorist groups is actually somewhat worse than robbing a liquor store, has maxed out poor Sami:

U.S. District Judge James Moody sentenced al-Arian to the maximum 57 months in prison but gave him credit for 38 months he has already served. He will have to serve the balance, 19 months, before being deported, prosecutors said.

Even if Sami al-Arian can get those six months off for being a model terrorist, he will still have to serve more than another year behind bars before being eligible to be deported... "where to" is yet to be determined.

Naturally, Reuters spends much of the article mocking the very idea that Sami al-Arian might, in fact, be guilty:

The case against al-Arian was considered a key test of the U.S. government's surveillance powers, which were strengthened by the Patriot Act following the September 11 attacks on the United States. The case was built on thousands of hours of wiretapped phone calls and intercepted e-mails gathered over a decade.

Al-Arian was acquitted on eight of the 17 charges against him last December after a six-month trial with three co-defendants....

Al-Arian's plea is the first guilty verdict federal prosecutors have gotten from the 53 charges against the four defendants in the original indictment.

Co-defendants Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ghassan Ballut were found not guilty on all 36 charges against them and Hatem Fariz was acquitted on 25 of his 33 charges.

But they can't quite explain away his guilty plea. And if, in fact, al-Arian is guilty (as he confesses he is), and if his admissions of various facts are accurate and correct... then evidently the very trial at which he was acquitted of half the charges was a travesty of justice.

Clearly -- to me, at least -- the government's hands were tied by the inability to introduce highly classified evidence at the trial... because it would have to be shown to Sami al-Arian and his mouthpiece, which was simply too great a security risk.

Which of course leads us right back to the inability of our civilian criminal courts to handle terrorism cases. This is why George W. Bush was right and John F. Kerry was wrong, wrong, wrong: criminal prosecution is a useful tool in the war against jihadist terrorism, but it can never be the primary method -- because the very rights we defend in our court procedure are systematically exploited by terrorists, just as they promised they would do.

Judge James S. Moody, jr. gets it:

In his ruling, Moody harshly criticized al-Arian for doing nothing to stop bombings perpetrated by Islamic Jihad.

"You lifted not one finger. To the contrary, you laughed when you heard of the bombings," he said....

"You are a master manipulator. The evidence is clear in this case. You were a leader of the PIJ."

Moody was actually appointed by Bill Clinton (confirmed in 2000 by the Republican Senate), but he still gets it. Why can't other liberals? What is their mental roadblock?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 2, 2006, at the time of 4:53 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 1, 2006

Bob Sipchen: Superjournalist

Hatched by Dafydd

Patterico just directed me to a thought-provoking column by Los Angeles Times editor Bob Sipchen. Well, not "me" in particular; he didn't send me e-mail (he doesn't link, he doesn't write....) He had this post here, which directed me (I'm easily directed, especially when trolling for topics).

Sipchen reads like a guy who has his head screwed on straight, which was quite a surprise, considering who he works for... as a editor, no less. The column was about these May Day rallies, and his main suggestion was for "true student rebels" not to walk out of class, but rather to stay in class and demand better education:

Still, here's how the cynic in me is tempted to interpret that letter my wife unearthed: "We still don't care much whether your children learn biology and algebra or stomp around in circles shouting, so long as they keep their keisters on campus so we can collect that state dough."

Most educators don't have that attitude. Some do. That's why today's real rebels will be the ones who stay in class and politely but firmly tell their principals to give them better teachers, their teachers to give them more work, their parents to push them harder to complete it and privileged and presumably college-bound kids like my son to brace for some serious new competition.

Read the whole thing; it's short but well worth your time.

I couldn't find an e-mail address for Sipchen, so I'll write him an open letter here:

Dear Mr. Sipchen;

LA Times nemesis "Patterico" (Pat Frey) published a very positive post about you on his blog, Patterico's Pontifications.

From your column today, you seem like a journalist who sees his job as reporting the news -- not saving the world.

Is there any way you can, like, take over the whole paper?

Sincerely,

Dafydd ab Hugh

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 1, 2006, at the time of 4:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More Liberal "Nuance"

Hatched by Dafydd

I was reading about Rush Limbaugh's not-guilty plea deal, and I stumbled across a perfect example of the nuanced, sophisticated, shades-of-gray liberal ability to discriminate between various similar but distinct situations:

Before his own problems became public, Limbaugh had often argued that drug crimes deserve punishment, once saying on his short-lived television show in 1995 that users "ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."

The resolution of the case was applauded by Ethan Nadelmann, director of the nonprofit New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which promotes treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders.

"Maybe this will soften up Rush Limbaugh a bit when he talks on the radio about the millions of other Americans who are suffering from drug problems," Nadelmann said.

In other words, Mr. Nadelmann, and presumably others on the left side of the aisle (including the Associated Press), literally see no distinction between a man who has severe back pain and accidentally gets addicted to prescription painkillers while trying to get back to normalcy -- and a junkie who gets addicted to cocaine or heroin just trying to get high and drop out of reality. No shades of gray there!

Yep, it's all just one big "drug crime" problem... and the Left hopes that, now that Rush Limbaugh had a problem with painkillers while trying to alleviate terrible pain, he will no longer call for criminal prosecutions of Columbian drug lords, meth-lab operators, crack dealers, and hopped-up speed freaks robbing liquor stores to pay for their next fix.

Perhaps old Rush has finally -- they hope -- grown in office!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 1, 2006, at the time of 3:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Internal Powell Struggle

Hatched by Dafydd

Over the weekend, Colin Powell -- in a thoroughly expected surprise -- joined the revolt of the former generals complaining that we didn't follow the "Powell doctrine" when we invaded Iraq.

The Powell doctrine holds that:

  1. No military action should be undertaken unless the international community -- and especially France and Russia -- applaud it;
  2. And at least twenty Arab nations join it;
  3. And the goal of keeping the coalition intact supercedes all military goals;
  4. And Israel is ordered not to respond even if they're attacked;
  5. And the State Department runs it;
  6. And we first raise an army of "overwhelming force," as determined by Colin Powell, to utterly crush the enemy... until the Europeans get cold feet; at which point we abandon the conflict, declare victory, and head for home.

President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld failed to listen to Colin Powell; so he retaliated yesterday in an interview on a British television network, ITV, by attacking the execution of the war and calling everyone else's competence into question:

Just back from Baghdad and eager to discuss promising developments, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found herself knocked off message Sunday, forced to defend prewar planning and troop levels against an unlikely critic - Colin Powell, her predecessor at the State Department.

For the Bush administration, it was a rare instance of in-house dissenter going public.

On Rice's mind was the political breakthrough that had brought her and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to Iraq last week and cleared the way for formation of a national unity government.

Yet Powell sideswiped her by revisiting the question of whether the U.S. had a large enough force to oust Saddam Hussein and then secure the peace.

Despite AP's feeble attempt at humor -- "a rare instance" indeed! -- this is a serious, yet all too typical, phenomenon today: the Left has settled upon the tactic of openly trying to wreck the Iraq War in an effort to discredit George W. Bush and the whole idea that countries have national interests that sometimes dictate going to war with other countries that threaten them.

In Colin-land, if we absolutely had to overthrow Saddam... then we should simply have made Iraq a colony, darn it, forever ruled by American colonial governors. Rather than try to build up democracy in the Middle East, we should have -- under the Powell doctrine -- just created an American empire that would control all the oil. (Powell has never been a big fan of democracy, preferring to deal with emirs and presidents-for-life, who can supply "stability" -- entertain him with lavish State functions held in palaces.)

It seems his model is the British Empire of the nineteenth century (or the Russian Empire of the twentieth). Of course, those didn't work out too well in the modern era; but perhaps if we just redouble our efforts, it will all be different this time.

Reuters is somewhat less tendentious about Powell's criticism:

In an interview with a private British television station, Powell said there had been debates about the size of the force and how to deal with the aftermath.

"The aftermath turned out to be much more difficult than anyone had anticipated," said Powell, adding he had favoured a larger military presence to deal with the unforeseen.

Ordinarily, "anyone" would include Powell himself; I'm not sure if he gives himself an exemption, but at least he doesn't overtly claim psychic powers, like some of the other generals. And he makes it plain here that his views were considered... they were just not accepted:

"I made the case to General (Tommy) Franks, to (Defense) Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld and to the president that I was not sure we had enough troops," he said.

He argued, however, that his view was not ignored but that those responsible for the troop levels believed they had the appropriate number.

I am most amused by the casual assumption of the antique media that if only we had sent two, three, four times the number of troops, then everything would have been much better. It's more than an assumption; they act as if everyone knows this, everyone accepts this, there are no demurs.

They seem oblivious to the fact that more is not always better in warfare: the Soviets spent a force of 100,000 men in a futile effort to conquer and hold Afghanistan; we successfully ousted the Taliban and created a nascent democracy with less than a twentieth of that by relying upon Northern Alliance forces and our own air power; during Operation Anaconda, the American troop presence rose to no more than 10,000. And at virtually no time since, except for one brief spike in 2003, have we kept more than 12,000-15,000 soldiers in that country.

Oddly, nobody seems to complain that we should have used the Powell doctrine in Afghanistan.

Even so, the media has an idée fixe that if only we had sent 500,000, 750,000, or a million men to Iraq -- instead of a paltry 200,000 -- there never would have been any insurgency. Do they imagine that we would leave such a large force (a very significant portion of our entire armed forces) tied down in one country in the Middle East indefinitely? And if not -- what do they think would happen when 80% of those forces left Iraq?

Yet the decision made by Rumsfeld, with extraordinary consultation with the entire warfighting senior staff under Tommy Franks, is offered as à priori proof of incompetence, as if it were mathematically proven to be wrong and need not even be discussed.

In reality, going to war with the army we had, Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party were ousted from control in three weeks, and "major combat operations" ended after forty days.

Since then, there have been three major elections, each gaining a larger turnout than the last; 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are almost completely peaceful, and only one of the remaining four (Anbar) is actually considered critically violent.

We have built an amazingly professional New Iraqi Army of 200,000 plus, an Iraqi Air Force, and an increasingly honest and effective Iraqi police. Oil is flowing; electricity and water are running better in most parts of the country than they were under Saddam. And the Iraqi economy is already better than it was in the last ten years of Saddam Hussein.

But according to Wesley Clarke, Anthony Zinni, Colin Powell, and a half-dozen other malcontents and whiners, everything would have been much better if only we had listened to them -- and followed the Soviet example.

Why now? Why are all these people coming forward today, rather than last year? That's easy to explain, and AP inadvertently does so:

Rice, Bush's national security adviser during the run-up to the war, neither confirmed nor denied Powell's assertion. But she spent a good part of her appearances on three Sunday talk shows reaching into the past to defend the White House, which is trying to highlight the positive to a public increasingly skeptical in this election year of the president's conduct of the war and concerned about the large U.S. military presence.

Simple as that: the grousing generals are coming forward today because the midterm elections will be held in just six months, and the Democrats and September-10th Republicans see an opening to destroy Bush.

The bipartisan Left has six months to convince Americans that the whole war was a catastrophe; that we accomplished nothing; that we might have had a chance were it not for the "incompetence" of Bush and Rumsfeld (if only they had listened to me!); and that our only option at this point is, as Joe Biden suggests, to partition Iraq into three separate regions -- just like Clinton and Clarke did in the success story of Bosnia! -- then declare victory, cut, and run.

Come on in, Colin; the water's fine.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 1, 2006, at the time of 3:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

$500,000 Retread

Hatched by Dafydd

I know you all read -- then forgot -- the tale of the teenaged author who was caught plagiarizing an earlier novel. Kaavya Viswanathan apologized, insisting that she had "internalized" the novel and didn't realize she was copying it. It was "unintentional" and "unconscious." Then she was gone and forgotten like the rest.

You may find this odd coming from a published author, but I really couldn't care less about the plagiarism. I don't care if some celebrity is busted for drunk driving, or even if some state legislator is caught dipping into the till.

No, really. I'm not a Christian, but they're right that this is a "fallen world;" wretched people do wretched things.

The part that centerpunches me right in the breadbasket is what came before she was caught and released: the fact that this girl got a five hundred thousand dollar advance for two novels, sight unseen, never having written a book in her life, while still in high school.

If you've never labored over a novel, only to see the publisher piss on it, shuffle it under some dead-fish potboiler playing "lead" that month, blow off any publicity or marketing, do nothing more than list the bloody thing in the catalog that they shovel quickfast into the hands of the chain buyers, like the ink was smearing their hands... if that is not part of your world of experience, then it's hard to convey --

-- just what a betrayal of the art it is for those same despicable publishers to throw money like that at an unproven performing monkey, just for the shock and awe of --

-- the PR jackers screaming "half a mil for the little girl!" while they spit-up their last fifth of Jack Daniels like an unburped baby, across the literary "children" of writers who have just been told --

-- they're lower than the latest six-day, zit-speckled wunderkind's crayon fist-scribbled orgasm of self-indulgence on a roll of butcher paper.

L'artiste cut and pasted from her favorite teen angstfest, and she didn't see anything wrong with it, because she's a "writer" like the memory-thief at Touchstone who said "hey why don't we remake H.B. Halicki's Gone In Sixty Seconds, star Nick Cage and Angelina Jolie, and pretend we created something!"

But she still walks with the $500,000. And she couldn't care less how many genuine originals die broke and drunk. Bitter? Oh, yeah.

Sometimes bitterness is the only honest emotion. Capice?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 1, 2006, at the time of 6:36 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

United 93 - a Meditation

Hatched by Dafydd

We went to see the movie today (Sunday), yet this isn't a review. Indeed, it's impossible to "review" this movie, because it's not a movie in the normal sense of the word: there is no plot per se, no story, very little acting. But it is compelling to the point of anxiety in some viewers.

It squrims around, it turns about and swallows its own tail; this piece, I mean -- I write it as it bubbles up, and I will leave it unedited, warts and all.

United 93 unfolds simply as a moment by moment recounting of the four hijackings that occurred on 9/11 (the 9/11, one of only three days in American history that are known only by their raw dates. One of the others is December 7th, 1941). We see the hijackers of United flight 93 preparing to board; we watch the routine coordinated chaos of flight control to the point of numbness; but this section is for a reason... we must remember the normality of that day, that date, just a nameless number on the calendar until --

For the same reason it's impossible to review the movie, it's almost impossible to spoil it. Ooh, cover your eyes... four planes get hijacked; two plough into the World Trade Centers, one into the Pentagon, and the hero (the flight itself is the protagonist) ploughs into a field in Pennsylvania instead of the Capitol dome. You see? It cannot be spoiled, because it is not watched: it is experienced. Or rather, re-experienced.

If you felt it like lightning on that day, you will experience the movie as the aftershock of thunder. There is really little acting: everyone simply reacts the way he or she reacted at the time (made eerily verisimilitudinous by the fact that nearly all the important figures at the FAA, at NORAD, at the flight-control center in Virginia, and at two airports are actually played by themselves).

The actors playing the passengers on flight 93 are given little room to act, because (of course) their only option was to re-act: to the initial bloody violence of the first assault by the hijackers, to their attempts to calm themselves with the mantra (do you remember?) that "a hijacking is a survivable situation," and to the horrible realization that this was not a hijacking: it was a pagan ritual sacrifice to Moloch, the death-eating god of the "Holy Land" before the Hebrews arrived to sanctify it.

You will be gripped. You will not be bored. But you will not be "entertained," in the normal sense of what most folks expect from a movie. The audience left quietly; perhaps they remembered... and if they did, the movie did good. If they never knew before, then the movie did more than "good," it served the cause of humanity and modernity: some things are best not forgotten by the culture.

Everybody reading this will see it, excepting only those who cannot live through it again. If it helps make up your mind, you do not see the buildings collapse, you don't see that couple holding hands and jumping -- or indeed, any jumpers. United 93 is not lurid in any way, save that the incident itself spirals into an inevitable pit of blackness, like the smoking hole awaiting the brave citizen-soldiers on that flight; like a Lovecraftian summoning of the Elder gods.

Somebody on some blog somewhere -- it passed through me in the dark night of my soul -- said that what the passengers did on flight 93 was strike the first military response to the attacks of that same day. And I am pround of my countrymen that the first blow against the new enemy was struck, not by professionals in camouflage but by ordinary, extraordinary citizens: because that is the lesson of the eponymous United 93 (the flight)... in the end we will march victorious not because of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Special Forces, cops, pols, or diplomats, but because we are who we are.

Because we are Americans.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 1, 2006, at the time of 3:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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