Date ►►► June 30, 2006
Culture of Corruption Rules!
Former Gov. Don E. Siegelman of Alabama was convicted yesterday of bribery, according to the New York Times:
After twice telling a judge it was deadlocked, a federal jury on Thursday convicted former Gov. Don E. Siegelman and a former HealthSouth chief executive, Richard M. Scrushy, on charges that they conspired in a bribery scheme seven years ago.
Two other defendants who had served in the Siegelman administration were acquitted on charges that they participated in a racketeering scheme during Mr. Siegelman's term in office.
Now, I don't know Mr. Siegelman from Adam. I don't make a practice of assiduously following the gubernatorial history of states other than my own. And of course, I know that Alabama is a very conservative state... but some Southern states do have Democratic governors.
Naturally, I was curious: is this more grist for Nancy Pelosi's mule? I skipped a bit then read a few paragraphs (or "grafs") further...
At a news conference after the verdict Thursday, the acting United States attorney, Louis Franklin, praised the jurors for holding Mr. Siegelman and Mr. Scrushy "accountable for what they did."
"The message to everybody else is that public servants have a fiduciary duty to the citizens of Alabama, and they should take that very seriously," Mr. Franklin said.
Yup, sounds good. Darned Republicans and their corrupt culture! Will their perfidy never cease? But still, there was that nagging feeling that it was a little odd that the Times had not yet mentioned any party affilliation for Mr. Siegelman. Some more grafs later (you understand I'm skipping other, even more boring grafs in between these excerpts):
The verdict came after a six-week trial and 11 days of deliberations. Mr. Siegelman was convicted of conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud and obstruction of justice. The jurors convicted Mr. Scrushy of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud. The longest term, up to 20 years, is carried by the mail fraud convictions.
Mr. Siegelman's former chief of staff, Paul Hamrick, and his former transportation director, Gary Roberts, were cleared on all charges.
All right, all right; I've milked this goat for all she's got. Here's the payoff, which was probably visible from the first couple of sentences:
Mr. Siegelman, a Democrat, called the case a ruthless campaign tactic by Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican who defeated him four years ago. During the trial, Mr. Siegelman campaigned unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor, sometimes soliciting votes on the courthouse steps.
Having held most of the state's executive offices, Mr. Siegelman once cast himself as Alabama's first "New South" governor. Considered progressive, he was elected governor in 1998 on the promise to pay college tuition for Alabama students with an education lottery.
There you go: the Times was finally forced to admit that Siegelman was a Democrat... in the eleventh graf of the story!
It turns out that the lottery was a huge bust for Siegelman: it was presented as a ballot initiative, the centerpiece of the governor's economic package, and the state lottery campaign cost at least $2 million... which Siegelman personally guaranteed. When the initiative went down in flames -- defeated, in a simple twist of fate, by a counter-campaign by religious conservatives who opposed financing children's education by legalized gambling -- Siegelman found himself suddenly having to cought up a couple of million bucks.
Hence his desperate need for bribes: Scrushy funneled $500,000 into Siegelman's pocket in exchange for appointment to a state board that regulates hospitals; as the CEO of HealthSouth, Scrushy stood to gain a lot more than $500,000 from being able to craft regulations that benefited his own company at the expense, one presumes, of his competitors.
All right, now let's engage in a little bit of alternative history. Suppose the governor caught up in this had been a Republican instead of a Democrat. How many of you think that this New York Times story would have begun thus:
After twice telling a judge it was deadlocked, a federal jury on Thursday convicted conservative Republican Gov. Fester Bestertester and former HealthSouth chief executive, Karbunkle, on charges that they conspired in a bribery scheme seven years ago.
Mr. Bestertester, a former fellow governor of President George W. Bush and his brother Jeb Bush, was a very vocal champion of "clean government" until his arrest for bribery and mail fraud. HeathSouth is a conservative multinational corporation, much like Halliburton, the company formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney; CEO Karbunkle was a frequent GOP fundraiser who had often met with the Republican governor for private, one-on-one "advisory meetings."
At a joint press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urged voters to end the "Republican culture of corruption," citing legal troubles by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, among many others.
Mahdi Militia + Iranians = Big Fat Target
Here is an interesting story to wake up to yesterday morning:
Iraqi and U.S. troops battled Shi'ite militiamen in a village northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, and witnesses and police said U.S. helicopters bombed orchards to flush out gunmen hiding there.
Iraqi security officials said Iranian fighters had been captured in the fighting, in which a sniper shot dead the commander of an Iraqi quick reaction force and two of his men. They did not say how the Iranians had been identified.
Let's run through the points of interest:
- Iraqi Security Forces (police) fighting side by side with Coalition (American) troops. Well, not too interesting; such cooperation has become so routine, it's almost blasé.
- ...Fighting against a Shiite militia: in fact, Muqtada Sadr's mighty al-Mahdi "Army."
Now that's worth some attention: one of the most urgent tasks facing the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, under Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has been to persuade Sunni semi-rejectionists that even though the prime minister and the interior minister are both Shia, the country's police forces will still confront the Shiite militias that have terrorized and butchered so many Sunni.
We know that the Iraqi Army and the Interior-Ministry police forces are willing to go toe-to-toe with the Sunni terrorists; but until the ordinary Iraqi Sunni -- like, for example, Mohammed and Omar at Iraq the Model -- can be persuaded that the government cares about their lives, too, it will be very hard to reel in the Sunni hardliners.
This battle will go a long way towards reassuring the Sunni that the police are not just militias with uniforms.
- And among the militiamen captured were a number of Iranian fighters. This is a very important discovery, since it's clear evidence that Iran is meddling with its neighbor to the west... and also more evidence that Muqtada Sadr, regardless of his denials, is in fact in the Ayatollah's pocket.
This is really great news, as the Iranian deception is coming unraveled. With every passing month, it becomes clearer that Iran is directly trying to seize control of the Shiite areas of Iraq... and harder for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to pretend otherwise, even to "impartial" European observers.
The story exhibits hallmarks of slovenly writing and muddled thinking:
[The Interior Ministry forces] did not say how the Iranians had been identified.
Uh... perhaps because they spoke Arabic with a Persian accent and were carrying Iranian identification cards? Really, doesn't Reuters suspect that Iraqi Arabs can identify Persians in their midst? They really are very different in language, culture, and even food.
The United States and Britain have accused Shi'ite Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs and providing military assistance to Iraq's pro-government Shi'ite militias. However, there have been few instances of Iranians actually being captured inside Iraq.
Some Iraqis, particularly Sunnis, are quick to label Shi'ite fighters as Iranian agents. And among the militants are Iraqis who grew up in refugee camps in Iran, speak Iranian-accented Arabic and, in some cases, carry Iranian identity papers.
If they grew up in Iran, speak Persian (Farsi) as their native language, and have Iranian idenfication cards... then what the heck makes them Iraqi? Their ancestory? It's amazing to see the mainstream media embrace the racist position that one's nationality is completely determined by one's blood, not one's allegiance. These fighters are Iranian in outlook, language, and citizenship... but Reuters clearly thinks of them as "Iraqis" because that is the nationality of their progenitors!
Does that mean that my nationality is actually Polish, German, and Welsh, instead of American? With this attitude, it's no wonder that so many lefties are resurrecting the old libel about Jews having "divided loyalties." "The blood is the key!" as a mad scientist in some old horror movie said (I should ask Brad Linaweaver which flick).
If it looks, quacks, and smells like a duck, it's probably not a lampshade.
And of course, this being the antique media, the Ubiquitous Invisible Analyst makes an appearance:
Many analysts are skeptical of the feasibility of disarming large paramilitary groups linked to the most powerful political parties. Without that, however, persuading the Sunni minority to lay down their arms will also be difficult.
And these analysts' names are...? Whoops, sorry, can't reveal our anonymous sources. That's an important secret that we'll never reveal. But we have a great deal on some classified intelligence information!
But the big story is the cooperation between Americans and Iraqis under the Shia-controlled Interior Ministry duking it out with Shiite militiamen -- and capturing Iranian infiltrators in the bargain. All else is dicta.
Date ►►► June 29, 2006
Time to Withdraw From Geneva... If We Can
Hugh Hewitt says that the actual majority decision of the Supreme Court in the Hamden case does not reach quite as far as the unholy quadrumvirate of Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter did: interpreting the 1949 Geneva Conventions to apply to terrorists captured abroad. Specifically, he says that Justice Kennedy did not join that part of the opinion, opting instead for the narrower view that only the procedures of the military tribunals need comply with Geneva, because some of those held in Guantánamo Bay are members of the Taliban, which was an organized militia (as if mere membership meant they couldn't be terrorists).
I don't know if he is correct; maybe it is actually a majority position. But let's assume Hugh is right, and contrary legal commentators are wrong. That still means that the entire war on jihadi terrorism now hangs by the thread of Justice Anthony Kennedy's sanity and common sense... and that that is a slender lifeline indeed.
If that's where the Court, as a majority, stands, then we're still alive; we're on life support but not dead yet. But -- and it's a Big But -- if "Coin-Flip" Kennedy changes his mind and joins with Stevens, we may find ourselves in a true horror movie.
Because of the terrible danger that this may happen, I sincerely believe it is time for the United States to withdraw (by any means necessary) from the Geneva Conventions... if Justice Stevens will even permit the president and Congress to do so.
This drastic reaction is thrust upon us by the plurality's action, led by ultra-liberal Justice John Paul Stevens. There are now four justices who hold that terrorists must be treated as prisoners of war under the conventions.
To arrive at this weird conclusion, they completely ignored Article 4 of Convention III, Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which defines who is and who is not a "prisoner of war"... and which clearly and unambiguously excludes terrorists. Article 4 holds that:
A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy...
(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:
(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) that of carrying arms openly;
(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
I do not believe that Stevens ever addressed this provision, which undeniably excludes unlawful combatants, such as al-Qaeda terrorists, from consideration as prisoners of war. He simply dismisses it without discussion and, in essence, declares all unlawful combatants to be legal combatants from now on.
But this clearly was not our intent when we agreed to the conventions. Such unlawful combatants were excluded when we signed, and there's solid evidence we still hold to that exclusion even now.
There was an addition to the conventions, Protocol I, enacted in 1977 that muddied the waters, having the effect of declaring that states party to it must treat even unlawful combatants as they would treat prisoners of war... without calling them prisoners of war.
But because of this very provision, the United States refused to accept Protocol I. We are not signatories to it... shouldn't that alone have convinced Stevens that he was flatly wrong about what we intended when we ratified the original conventions in 1949?
Even the website for the Geneva Conventions itself is at odds with Justice Stevens and his posse:
Combatants who deliberately violate the rules about maintaining a clear separation between combatant and noncombatant groups — and thus endanger the civilian population — are no longer protected by the Geneva Convention.
So how would the terrorists' new status, were a plurality of the Court to become the majority, affect how we must treat them? It would mean, as Stevens argued, we must treat what used to be considered unlawful combatants as well as we treat ordinary American soldiers being tried by courts-martial.
In particular, Justice Stevens, writing for 80% of the majority, opined that Convention III, Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Article 3, applied to al-Qaeda and other terrorist prisoners. Article 3 requires the following:
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons....
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
The latter requires, as a matter of course -- and this is how the quadrumvirate interpreted it -- that any tribunal trying such prisoners must afford them all the legal protections afforded members of the military being court-martialed... including the right to be present, along with the civilian attorney of their choice, for all introduction of evidence, including highly classified evidence exposing methods and personnel of our intelligence-gathering capabilities.
I would think this would also require the production of all relevant "witnesses" that the prisoner demands at his trial -- which could mean yanking from the field every soldier involved in apprehending him, since the capture is certainly relevant to his case.
As one blogsite put it (I wish I could remember which one), that could in theory mean having to undeploy entire units and send them back to the United States for every trial where a clever attorney (Ramsey Clark, for example, who would of course happily volunteer) figures out that rather than disrupt the entire war, we would just drop the case.
This is absolutely nutty, and I cannot believe that a subsequent Court would really enforce that. But we don't have a subsequent Court; we have this one. And this one, under the direction of Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter, and with only the thin reed of Anthony Kennedy preventing it from being a majority of the Supreme Court, has proven that it jolly well might enforce just such a provision... since four justices did exactly that.
All right, so we can't try them by any rational form of tribunal, since we certainly cannot risk exposure of secrets to the attorney provided by al-Qaeda for each prisoner. But the Court did say we could still hold the prisoners for the duration of hostilities. So no problem, right?
Yeah. Sure. Look again at Article 3, section 1, subsection (c):
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
I am sure that the quadrumvirate would hold that this utterly and completely prohibited the interrogation of captured terrorists, no matter where they were captured, where the interrogation took place, or what the circumstances were of the capture. If we caught one of three couriers carrying modified airborne ebola in aerosol containers, we could not, under Hamden, interrogate the prisoner to find out where the other two couriers were.
Certainly nothing more than asking him politely -- certainly not by any method that might outrage his personal dignity. Like, say, waterboarding.
At the moment, I think Congress can redraft the law allowing for tribunals to cover this by requiring a finding by the President of the United States first that a particular detainee is an unlawful combatant anent the Geneva Conventions, and only then can he be tried by the military tribunal. Presumably, this finding would be subject to litigation in the courts; but it's a fairly cut and dried issue, and the test could be written right into the new law.
But that's assuming Kennedy doesn't flip again. If he does, all bets are off.
Simply put, four of the nine justices, through their hysterical and borderline treasonous malinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions, would turn them into an international suicide pact. Stevens sees no "practicable" reasons why captured al-Qaeda terrorists with knowledge of an imminent WMD attack upon the American mainland should not be treated exactly the same as a United States Marine accused of pilfering the petty cash, with all the same rules, protections, and privileges, which includes protection against any form of aggressive interrogation.
So I believe -- purely for defensive purposes -- that it is now time to withdraw from the 1949 Geneva Conventions. It was a good treaty, and it served its purpose; but that was then, this is now.
Wait a minute, Dafydd... what about less drastic measures? If Kennedy flip-flops again, can't Congress just redraft the law to restore our ability to interrogate captured terrorists?
I cannot imagine they could: treaty obligations are considered by the Court the equivalent of constitutional provisions, and they cannot simply be waved away by legislation. No more than could Congress simply pass a law overturning part of the First Amendment. If a majority of the Court ever held that our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions required us to treat captured terrorists like members of our own military in courts-martial, Congress could not simply overrule that finding.
And evidently, they also cannot limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. They already tried that... and the Court (the full Court, Kennedy concurring) simply rejected it, notwithstanding the constitutional provision that says Congress has exactly that authority. Article III, section 2, of the United States Constitution:
In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
All right; but what would happen if we did withdraw? Wouldn't that be dangerous for our own soldiers?
The second glib response is that if we do withdraw and no longer extend those protections to others, others will not extend them to us. But this is facile sophistry, because the only enemies we're likely to fight now or in the future -- whether Stalinist North Korea or al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups -- already ignore the Geneva Conventions... as the abduction of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, currently being held hostage by Hamas, demonstrates: holding hostages is against the Geneva Conventions.
Those countries that actually do abide by them are precisely those Western nations (like the United States) that would abide by them even if fighting a country that did not... and that we're not going to end up at war with in the first place. And even if we did, we could quickly negotiate a temporary treaty incorporating the Geneva protections for the duration of that war.
There is no downside to withdrawal, because the West has accepted their spirit, as it applies to wars against actual countries. For example, we ourselves adhere to the conventions in our treatment of Taliban and Iraqi insurgents who were captured fighting as armed militias while wearing uniforms and such; we do not apply the same interrogation techniques to them that we apply to captured unlawful combatants, such as terrorists.
Even though some Taliban members are at Gitmo, they are precisely those who behaved as unlawful combatants... which is why I'm not in the least confident that Justice Kennedy grasps the distinction; if he thinks that a terrorist becomes a non-terrorist because he happens to be a member of an organized army, even if he acts contrary to the conventions, then Kennedy could easily fall into Liberal-Land hand in hand with the quadrumvirate. It's a short and slippery slope.
So long as the conventions hang out there, and so long as there is no stomach on the part of other countries to negotiate a new protocol making absolutely clear that terrorists are unlawful combatants and are not covered by the protections of the conventions -- and why should they, especially signatories like Iran and Syria? -- the Geneva Conventions are a ticking time bomb, just waiting for one more Supreme Court justice to turn the plurality into a majority.
But the real question is whether the Court -- Kennedy included -- would allow us to withdraw. Having gone so far, would they go the rest of the way and hold that the conventions are eternal, and that we cannot withdraw even if we choose?
I've been looking and looking through them, and I cannot find any reference at all to withdrawal: nothing forbidding it, but no procedures for leaving, either. If Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter are willing to cripple -- essentially obliterate -- our ability to interrogate captured terrorists; and if even Kennedy considers following the conventions more urgent than surviving the war the jihadis imposed upon us; then I'm sure all five of them would move swiftly to prevent any attempt to wriggle out of the straightjacket by withdrawing from the Geneva Conventions altogether.
Which leaves us in a constitutional crisis: has the Supreme Court actually become "more equal" than the other equal powers? Is the only solution impeachment of justices -- assuming the Court would even allow that?
And would the Democrats, in the last analysis, vote to impeach even if Kennedy were to flip on the critical issue of treating all captured terrorists as prisoners of war? Or would they vote to acquit, sacrificing any hope of winning the war against jihadi terrorism in their BDS-driven need to hurt George W. Bush?
The Court has left us with a dreadful Sword of Damocles dangling above our heads. What are we going to do about it?
Privacy? What Privacy?
The recent leak by the New York Times and other news organizations, disclosing how the government tracks the money of terrorists, is quite a little puzzle to me: the Times acts as if this government program somehow violates our financial privacy.
But if they think the feds never looked into our bank accounts prior to this program, they're dreaming! The FBI has been monitoring our private banking transactions, in far more intrusive ways, for literally decades.
I used to work at Sanwa bank, and every morning we received a report of "suspicious transactions," sent us by the central office. In addition, we constantly monitored transactions looking for certain patterns that might indicate check kiting (large deposit quickly followed by a large withdrawal, low average balance, all timed around a check's "floating" period).
If we decided a crime might be occurring, we reported all this information to the FBI... including records of the account transactions (without any warrant). Besides that, we also reported to the FBI anyone who deposited or withdrew a large amount of cash. Overseas wire transfers with certain characteristics were also reported to the feds.
All this intrusive monitoring and information-sharing with law enforcement was mostly to track money laundering by drug runners. All banks in the United States are still required by the federal government to follow these monitoring and reporting rules. If the Timeses (New York and Los Angeles) ever complained about this Orwellian violation of "privacy" by the FBI, I must have missed the article.
It seems these newspapers can tolerate incredible penetration into our personal bank account information just to catch check kiters and drug dealers... but they cannot abide the much smaller intrusions, looking only at the transactions of large businesses, governments, and NGOs, in order to catch terrorists who have killed our fellow citizens and plot to destroy the rest of us!
It's beyond me. Maybe someone can explain how it's "totally different."
You Are an Emissary to the Past...
Not too far back in the past; just back to the days of Mozart. In fact, that's who you're meeting... Wolfie himself.
The talk turns to music (oddly enough), and WAM turns out to be fascinated to hear what music sounds like in your era (that is, the latter half of the twentieth century; I don't mean the music of last Thursday). Fortunately, you anticipated this request, and you brought five CDs with you.
(All right, so you know where I'm going with this. Big deal; whaddya think, you need to be a mind reader?)
So the question -- pretend you haven't already guessed -- is this: which five CDs do you bring back in time to the eighteenth century to play for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to give him some understanding of the music of our time?
A few points to bear in mind:
- I'm not asking you to name your five favorite CDs. I'm asking what you would bring with you to play for a man who never even got to hear Beethoven, let alone Cherry Poppin' Daddies or Rascal Flats. The music you bring must be accessible to one of the greatest musical geniuses who ever lived -- but who died in 1791 at the age of 36 (well, almost).
- Second, you must of course explain why you brought each CD, how it would add to his understanding. Just as a suggestion, you might consider a progression... something by Beethoven, something by Joplin, something by the Beatles, etc. But you don't have to... freedom of speech, that's what I say!
- Third, as you probably inferred from the previous point, you are not restricted to music from 1950 on... you just need to end up there. Your CDs can all come from the last 56 years, or some can come from earlier. But the last one must be fairly typical of good contemporary music, where "contemporary" is loosely defined.
So grab your thinking cups and swig away!
Date ►►► June 28, 2006
With Six You Get Hummus
Two can play at this game.
The Israelis have started taking new hostages to trade for the soldier, rather than forking over pre-existing prisoners:
Israeli forces arrested the Palestinian deputy prime minister and dozens of other Hamas officials early Thursday and pressed their incursion into Gaza, responding to the abduction of one of its soldiers....
Army Radio said the arrested Hamas leaders might be used to trade for the captured soldier. Israel had refused earlier to trade prisoners for the soldier's release.
More than 30 lawmakers were detained, according to Palestinian security officials. Among them were Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer, Labor Minister Mohammed Barghouti and two other ministers in the West Bank.
So how long before Hamas surrenders? Or perhaps -- how long until Hamas is obliterated? Either endgame will be fine with Israel.
So far, Hamas -- now the official government of the Palestinian Authority -- refuses to recognize that Israel exists. It's going to become powerful hard to deny the existence of a country that's kicking their butts. Will they claim they're actually being attacked by Galactus or the Mole Men?
Palestinian plans for high-rise apartments, sports complexes and industrial parks in lands evacuated by Israel have given way to despair, with rising poverty, increasingly violent relations with Israel and a looming threat of civil war.
I can think of an easy solution:
- Recognize Israel;
- Accept the legitimacy and legality of previous agreements;
- Stop shootin' at Jews!
There, that didn't hurt much, did it?
Yesterday, Israel roared into Gaza in a lightning war (yeah, yeah, I know), ostensibly to find and rescue kidnapped IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit... but actually to break the back of Hamas, al-Aqsa, and other terrorist groups operating in the Gaza Strip.
This post is not a strategic analysis or tactical account of the Gaza invasion; others with far better credentials than I are covering that very thoroughly, including CounterTerrorism Blog (the new home of former Fourth Rail blogger Bill Roggio) and the Belmont Club; as well as far more prolific and patient bloggers than I, including my old CO, Captain Ed -- all of whom, plus many others, can be accessed via the blogroll to your right.
Rather, I just want to pluck out a few illuminating scenes among the Palestinians, responses to this existential crisis that are so very sad and pathetic that they're actually funny, in a morbid, black-humor way.
First, a general look at the lack of military preparedness for a "nation" that has been launching attacks daily deadly against the Middle East's premier indigenous military power, Israel:
Israeli tanks and troops entered southern Gaza and planes attacked three bridges and knocked out electricity to the coastal strip early Wednesday, stepping up the pressure on Palestinian militants holding captive a 19-year-old Israeli soldier.
The soldiers and tanks began taking up positions in two locations about a mile east of the Gaza town of Rafah under the cover of tank shells, according to witnesses and Palestinian security officials. Palestinians dug in behind walls and sand embankments, bracing for a major Israeli offensive.
"Walls and sand embankments?" Are they barking mad? How long do they thing those defenses will stop one of these, the Israeli Merkava main battle tank?
Israeli Merkava Main Battle Tank
Trying to defuse building tensions, negotiators from the ruling Hamas movement said Tuesday they had accepted a document implicitly recognizing Israel. But two Syrian-based Hamas leaders denied a final deal had been reached.
Israel said only freedom for the captive soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, could defuse the crisis, not a political agreement.
The wolf is not at the door, you morons; he is in the living room headed towards the bedroom. And you still can't get it through your thick skulls that it's time to crawl on your hands and knees and beg for mercy! How braindead are these Hamas "leaders?" Are the Palestinians down with this defiance in the face of certain annihilation?
Overnight, Israeli planes fired at least nine missiles at Gaza's only power station, cutting electricity to much of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security officials said. The station's three functioning turbines and a gasoline reservoir were engulfed in enormous flames that firefighters were unable to control.
The attack raised the specter of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as water pumps in the strip are powered by electricity. Some power in Gaza City was restored by tapping into electricity supplied by Israel in northern Gaza.
Gee, how long does Hamas suppose that source will last? Speaking of northern Gaza, Captain Ed links to the Jerusalem Post, which reports that Stage 2 of the Gaza invasion has begun: Israel is now moving into -- see if you can guess -- northern Gaza in a "pincer" move.
Shocked? You may not be, but evidently that possibility never occurred to the military geniuses in Hamas.
Back to the Associated Press. This sentence literally made me laugh out loud:
Masked militants from various armed factions took up defensive positions around Gaza City, instructing drivers to turn their headlights off.
Yeah... if you turn off your headlights and close those blackout curtains, then the Israelis can't see you!
What year do the Palestinians think this is -- 1942? (If so, that would represent a temporal quantum leap from their leaders, who think it's still the 7th century, and Mohammed still walks the earth, leading his armies against the infidel.)
Haven't they ever seen pictures on al-Jazeera or CNN or other terrorist-supporting television networks of American soldiers in battle wearing weird machines in front of their eyes? What do the Palestinians think those are for -- do they imagine that in the middle of combat, the Americans are getting eye exams? (Quick, call the Syrian Oculist!)
Maybe they haven't made the leap that if Americans have "starlight scopes," the Israelis probably do as well. And infrared imaging. And GPS and satellite mapping. And lots of other ways to operate... even when it's dark outside.
Invading the stronghold of the big, bad terrorist caliphs seems awfully similar to invading Mozambique or Bangladesh. Maybe if Palestinians spent a little less time pining for the olden times, when Islam could actually boot Frankish knights out of the Holy Land -- and less time plinking at Israel with Kassam rockets -- they might be able to devote the attention and industry necessary to build a real country, with a real economy that wouldn't be crippled by the loss of welfare payments from other countries. You think?
The militants told residents to leave the area. They piled gasoline-soaked tires in the streets. Earlier, bulldozers blocked some of the main roads with piles of sand and dirt to try to slow down Israeli tanks.
Yeah. Here's what happens when a Merkava hits one of those "piles of sand and dirt" at high speed:
Armored Division X-Games
You can't see it in that picture, but before landing, the Israeli tank commander did a "Superman" and a fakey-grab.
Here is the problem on a nutshell. From Deutsche Presse-Agentur via Monsters & Critics News:
For the first time since the soldier's abduction early Sunday, the Hamas-led Palestinian government backed the demands of the kidnappers and called for a prisoners' swap with Israel.
After a brief emergency cabinet meeting in Ramallah of only its West Bank members, Finance Minister Omar Abdul Razek called the kidnappers' demand that Israel free jailed militants 'logical.'
Sadly, it is logical: for years -- decades -- Palestinian terrorists from the PLO of yesteryear to Hamas, al-Aqsa, and Hezbollah of today have found that the quickest and surest way to get their own fighters released from Israeli custody was to kidnap some Israelis and demand a prisoner swap. It was not uncommon for the Israelis to let go 300 to 400 POWs in exchange for a single Israeli soldier... or sometimes even for his corpse.
It's not unreasonable that Hamas would think those were the rules of the game and try it again. Where they drift off the sanity-rails into the Land of Make-Believe is when the Israelis balked, threatened a huge invasion, and massed troops and armor on the border -- and Hamas still could not shake itself awake enough to hear the chilling wolf-howl just outside. Like old, deaf dogs, they lay fat and happy before the fire and didn't hear a thing.
I cannot continue. The brain reels. Even though I predicted exactly this, it's still hard to fathom how stupid are the terrorists of Hamas and Fatah, and the nutty Palestinian voters who substituted the former for the latter when Fatah proved too accomodationist to the "Zionist entity." (I've discovered the real difference between Fatah and Hamas: both want to drive the Jews into the sea, but Fatah would give them life preservers.)
At least, thank goodness, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has not been able to scrounge up those "20 different types of biological and chemical weapons" they threatened to use against the Israelis if they invaded. Keep all digits crossed.
And all this flows from the refusal of Hamas simply to recognize the existence of Israel and previous agreements with them, as nearly every nation on the planet had urged them to do -- including many Arab Moslem regimes. "And all for the want of a tenpenny nail."
Oh well. To quote Larry Niven again, "not responsible for advice not taken."
Samarra Bomber Captured?
Omar at Iraq the Model reports that the Iraqi Security Forces (we don't know whether it was the army or the police or both) have captured a terrorist who has confessed to bombing the Golden Mosque at Samarra -- the single terrorist attack that stands out for its perfidy, the vile, naked attempt to ignite a civil war between Sunni and Shia in Iraq. (Hat tip to the Belmont Club.)
In a news conference currently being broadcast on TV, Iraq's national security advisor Muwaffak al-Rubaie says Iraqi security forces arrested Abu Qudama al-Tunisi in a raid in the suburb of al-Dhuloiya north of Baghdad.
15 other foreign terrorists were killed in the raid according to al-Rubaie.
The terrorist of Tunisian origin confessed that he was responsible for the attack that destroyed the Askari Shrine in Samarra back in February 22 of this year.
Muwaffak al-Rubaie said the security forces are still searching for Haitham al-Badri who is believed to be the field commander under whom Abu Qudama was operating.
If this is true, then this will probably rival the death of Musab Zarqawi, he should only rot in hell, alava shalom, tied for second behind the capture of Saddam Hussein -- as far as Iraqi Shia are concerned. Qudama's trial (assuming he makes it that far) should be illuminating indeed: did the bomber himself know the possible consequences of such a terrible attack?
Did the Sunni "rank and file" of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- foreign or Iraqi, they're still Sunni -- actually want to see a civil war in which, not only would tens of thousands of Iraqis die (perhaps hundreds of thousands)... but which the Sunni were virtually certain to lose badly? I thought that was one of the most insane acts in this entirely mad campaign of arbitrary assassination and meaningless mayhem.
[Iraq National Security Advisor Muwaffak] al-Rubaie described Al-Badri is a terrorist with connections to elements in the past regime who later became one of the leaders of Ansar al-Sunna and later al-Qaeda organization in Iraq....
Al-Rubaie described ho the bombing was organized and says details were taken from the confessions of the captured Abu Qudama:
4 Saudis, two Iraqis and one Tunisian entered the mosque at night, handcuffed and locked up the guards in a room and spent the night planting the bombs all around the mosque. Next day they kidnapped and murdered Atwar Bahjat while she was trying to cover the news of the bombing.
Bahjat reported for al-Arabiya.
An amendment to allow Congress to bar the desecration of the American flag failed today in the Senate by a single vote -- 66 to 34, where 67 was needed -- and with three Republicans voting against it: Mitch McConnell (KY, 100%), Lincoln Chafee (RI, 40%), and Bob Bennett (UT, 88%)... quite an ideological spread.
Ryan Sager wrote in Real Clear Politics blog opposing the amendment -- but I find, as usual, that my own position doesn't really mesh with any organized group. (Like Robert Anton Wilson, I am "politically non-Euclidean.)
Since everybody else is yammering about this development, I suppose I'd better join the bandwagon. Read on.
Heed my warning.
- On the one hand, I completely oppose this amendment.
It's vulgar, among other things. Amendments to the United States Constitution should not be about such little, petty things like banning flag-burning or the sale or possession of alcohol; we should restrict amendments to wide, sweeping questions of liberty, like the "Civil War" amendments, or to fundamental changes to the structure of the Constitution, such as the 12th and 17th amendments (which changed how we elect the president, vice president, and senators).
- But on the other hand (imagine this entire section in the droning monotone of today's JFK), I believe it should already be perfectly within the capacity of Congress to ban flag burning.
I have never accepted the absurd extension of the word "speech" to include non-verbal actions, gestures, protests, pantomimes, works of art, strip-shows, or destruction of property. It's a rude malappropriation of everything the Framers fought for in the Revolutionary War.
They were men of reason, not mindless passion. When they wrote the First Amendment --
-- speech meant verbal communication, whether oral or written. Had they meant other forms of conveying an idea, they would have written "abridging the freedom to express an idea," the clumsy phrase used by Justice William Brennan in Texas v. Johnson (491 U.S. 397, 1989), the decision, by the slim and unconvincing margin of 5-4, that struck down all laws banning the desecration of the flag.
Of all things you could accuse James Madison of, paucity of rhetorical skill is not among them. If he meant something other than verbal communication, he would have made it clear.
I can see a very good argument for extending, or "incorporating," this amendment to state (and local) legislatures, particularly after the reorganization of the relationship between the federal government and the various states following the 14th Amendment. They were no longer mini-republics in their own right, with D.C. being there just to adjudicate disputes between the states and to handle problems too large for any one state (foreign trade, for example, or interstate commerce).
Post-1870, states were starting to become what they are now -- inferior bodies subdividing the United States. And by the "incorporation period" in the 20th century, the only vestige of the early days of the republic came during the quadrennial presidential nominating conventions, when every delegation declared itself the representatives of "the sovereign state of so-and-so!"
But even then, speech meant speech. I'm not sure when speech came to mean everything from drums to puppets to nude dancing, but it's been folderol since the year dot. Burning a flag -- anybody's flag -- is no more "speech" than is burning down the house; and Congress should be able to ban it anywhere it has jurisdiction, while states should be able to ban it everywhere else.
- But on the third hand, how does this definition affect my view of the constitutionality of the BCRA, a.k.a. McCain-Feingold?
(And Fred Barnes is right: of all people, Sen. Russell Feingold, WI, 100%, has some chutzpah attacking this amendment on grounds of freedom of speech!) If I say the First Amendment applies only to actual speech... then how can I say that the BCRA should be unconstitutional, as I do say?
I think I introduced this concept before, but maybe it was just in my dreams. The key is the idea of transactional rights.
I define a transactional right as any condition that is necessary to the enjoyment of a liberty right. For example, freedom of the press clearly applies to printing a newspaper (like, duh). But the First Amendment doesn't say a word to stop the government from banning the sale of paper, ink, and printing presses, does it?
Nevertheless, those items are utterly necessary to produce a newspaper. Thus, the right to purchase what you need to publish a newspaper is a transactional right associated with freedom of the press. (Everybody knows this; my contribution is to tease it out from the general right and give it an evocative name.) Transactional rights are what prevent Congress, too clever by half, from skirting the Second Amendment by banning the sale of ammunition -- which the text itself doesn't mention.
Clearly, arguing in favor of a particular candidate for office is a perfect example of freedom of speech. Since the expenditure to publicize your argument is absolutely necessary to allow it to be heard by those who want to hear it -- as necessary as paper and ink to publishing a newspaper -- therefore, the right to spend money campaigning for a candidate is a transactional right associated with freedom of speech (and also petitioning the government, in the case of "issue ads"). The same reasoning applies to spending money to support someone else campaigning for your candidate -- including a political party or the candidate's own campaign manager.
As a judge, I would have trashed the BCRA immediately: the core protected liberty is a verbal argument to elect one candidate instead of the other. Once again, that is the meaning of speech: verbal communication. A sock on the jaw may be eloquent indeed... but it's nonverbal and should not be protected by the First Amendment (pace, Raymond Chandler).
- On the fourth hand -- weren't Cottus, Briareus and Gyges, the "Hecatoncheiros" sons of Uranus, called the Hundred Handed? -- if the Supreme Court steadfastly refuses to restrict freedom of speech to speech, and insists upon confounding it with freedom of dancing and eating and Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloons, does that make it all right to go ahead and enact a dumb constitutional amendment just to clarify matters?
No, not in this case: this amendment is too bloody narrow, singling out just one kind of non-verbal communication for Congress to be allowed to ban. That's ridiculous; are we supposed to go down the list, ratifying amendment after amendment just to fix a stupid Court decision?
So on the last hand, I oppose this amendment; but I'm appalled that Brennan forced Congress to have to argue about enacting it.
Spare This Man Or We'll Shoot This Country
Former American Ramsey Clark, now one of Saddam Hussein's defense lawyers, threatened more murder, mayhem, and anarchy in the streets unless his client is spared the death penalty:
Executing Saddam Hussein would fuel more sectarian violence in Iraq, a U.S. lawyer for the deposed Iraqi leader said on Tuesday.
"That execution would inflame a country that's already incinerating," former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said. "I hope the American people can realize that if there is ever a time to call for an end to executions, it is in this case."
"It'd sure be a shame if something were to, you know, happen to ya... capice?"
Well, now that Ramsey Clark's courtroom antics include blatant extortion -- publicly signalling the Fedayeen Saddam that a massive show of violence might spare the Dear Leader's life -- what is the next level of basement he can fall into? Will he smuggle an IED into the courthouse and hold everyone hostage unless his client is released? Or will he merely tamper with the evidence, as his colleague Leslie Abramson did in the Menendez Brothers trial?
How many defense lawyers suffer from some variant of Stockholm Syndrome, getting so involved in defending their clients -- guilty or innocent -- that they actually become accessories after the fact themselves?
At the end of this trial, I would dearly love to see Counselor Clark arrested... by the Iraqis. After all, we try the consigliere of the Mafia family right alongside the Don; why should the Iraqis let slip this golden ticket to do the world such a favor?
Date ►►► June 27, 2006
Iraqi Marsh 60% Restored
We have been following the progress of the Iraqi Great Salt Marsh, which was systematically drained in the early 1990s by Saddam Hussein as punishment for the Shiite rebellion shortly after the Gulf War. We talked about it before in Swamp Samurai and Swamp Samurai On the Marsh.
Shrinkage of the Iraq Marsh: 1985 area (red) to 2000 area (blue)
BBC News, the only elite news source following up on this issue, has an update. According to Abdul Latif Rashid, Iraq's minister for water resources, 60% of the area has been restored. BBC reporters have overflown the area, and this is what they saw:
There were fisherman easing their narrow boats along reedbeds.
In places, we saw traditional marsh Arab villages, floating on thick mats of reeds, water buffalo wallowing alongside.
It sounds pretty good. But here comes "the big but": BBC continues: "the reality for the Marsh Arabs of today is not quite as romantic. Although the water is coming back, they have little else."
Of course, this is the antique media after all; they can't talk about good news without "balancing it" with a leavening of bad:
The government says it has now allocated millions of dollars for the marsh region - aimed at giving people "better services, education, health care and communications", says Mr Rashid, the minister.
But Kamel Mezher and other villagers say they have seen none of these funds....
[T]here are complaints [substantiated? the Beeb doesn't say] that some of the money set aside for marshland development has been misused.
When we are dealing with a country like Iraq, we must face the reality that their local politicians, civil servants, and ordinary Achmeds and Mohammeds are corrupt and incompetent. We shouldn't imagine that everything will run smoothly; it's a miracle when it runs at all!
Violence between small tribes, a lack of developmental planning, and misuse of funds hover always in peripheral vision, waiting to rise up and engulf any good project. For example, how does Iraq balance the needs of real people with the "needs" of nature?
Mr Rashid says some areas could be declared as a national park, to protect the unique wildlife....
He also talks of plans to allow small scale industry in some areas, to provide jobs. He denies there would be a conflict between "environment and development".
Despite the problems, I am encouraged by the progress. If they're to the point of arguing about preserving the environment versus developing the land, that is definitely good news indeed.
Arab fisherman on the Great Salt Marsh (L); typical Marsh-Arab village (R).
And that's still a pretty picture, too.
19 Out of 19 Activists Agree!
All right, I know you guys love these: here is another "what is wrong with this picture?" conundrums....
The nation's top climate scientists are giving "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy.
The former vice president's movie - replete with the prospect of a flooded New York City, an inundated Florida, more and nastier hurricanes, worsening droughts, retreating glaciers and disappearing ice sheets - mostly got the science right, said all 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or read the book and answered questions from The Associated Press.
The AP contacted more than 100 top climate researchers by e-mail and phone for their opinion. Among those contacted were vocal skeptics of climate change theory. Most scientists had not seen the movie, which is in limited release, or read the book.
But those who have seen it had the same general impression: Gore conveyed the science correctly; the world is getting hotter and it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
Now, imagining the "final Jeopardy" theme song in your head, figure out why those paragraphs made me laugh out loud. When you've got the answer, then slither on through the Slither On below!
Here is the key:
The AP contacted more than 100 top climate researchers by e-mail and phone for their opinion.... Most scientists had not seen the movie, which is in limited release, or read the book.
But those who have seen it had the same general impression.
This is about as self-selected a group as it's possible to compose: climate scientists who actually take Algore seriously as a spokesman for the dangers of "global warming pollution!"
(While AP is quick to note that some of those they contacted were "vocal skeptics of climate change theory," you may notice they oddly fail to mention how many of the 19 who responded to them were among those "skeptics." At a guess, I'd have to say -- zero?)
If you're a climatologist -- and even if you more or less support the IPCC position on global climate change -- how likely would you be to seek out a showing somewhere of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth? Most scientists I know cringe at such populist caricatures, even if they agree with the basic premise... especially if they agree.
Scientists tend to be irritated anyway by the depiction of science in movies, even so-called documentaries: everything from orbits that "decay," to explosions that can be "outrun," to a rotating space station that produces a gravitational-like force... directed along the axis of rotation.
But they're even more skeptical of science when the subject is controversial within the scientific community (which anthropogenic global warming certainly is) -- and in spades and doubled when the moviemaker is not himself a scientist but a politician with no formal training in any math or science beyond what he learned in high school (which, considering Algore's GPA at St. Alban's and at Harvard, was probably not very much).
Most climate scientists would steer so far away from An Inconvenient Truth, even if they supported global-warming theory, that they would probably pretend they didn't even know it existed. Those who went to pains to actively seek it out would be a special breed: scientists who were so tickled that someone as important as Albert A. Gore, jr. would make a movie about their crackpot theory, that they could hardly stop themselves from gushing.
I wish the Associated Press had thought to ask those 19 gushers who they thought had really won the 2000 election.
The very essence of scientific consensus is that every person must give an opinion; every position must be canvassed; all objections must be answered. If you contact 100 scientists and only 19% have seen some work, their opinion is not a consensus: at best, it's a sampling; but more likely, it's a biased pool that does not represent the whole.
If you really want to know what climatologists and atmospheric physicists think of An Inconvenient Truth, what you must do is select a pool of them representative of every major strain of thought within the community -- then arrange a viewing for them all. Get their opinions after they have all sat through the clunker, and then commit to publishing all of those opinions (not just "all the news we see fit to print!")
And while you're at it, arrange discussion sections with scientists who thought the movie was accurate and those who thought it was wildly off (the latter group including those who agreed with and those who disputed the globaloney hypothesis); have them discuss it. After they've discussed it for a few sessions, gather their opinions again: has anyone been persuaded to change his mind?
Now that is an article I'd like to see... but it's certainly not the article AP meant to print.
Hamas Is That Doggie In the Crosshairs?
So it appears that Israel is about to invade Gaza... and there is also a chance -- if the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade carries through on its threat -- that Israel will launch a nuclear strike as well. So what else is new this week?
Er... could you repeat that last bit, Dafydd? Something about a nuclear -- what?
Don't worry; it's only a fairly small chance.
From the Reuters story:
Israel rejected a demand by Palestinian militants to release Palestinian women and youths in its prisons in return for information on an abducted Israeli soldier and threatened a punishing offensive in the Gaza Strip....
Izz el-Deen al-Qassam, the governing Hamas movement's armed wing, along with the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and the Islamic Army, said Israel would not get information about the soldier unless it freed all jailed Palestinian women and youths....
"The time is approaching for a comprehensive, sharp and severe Israeli operation. We will not wait forever," [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] said. "We will not become a target of Hamas-terrorist blackmail."
The pistol is loaded and pointed at the Palestinian Authority's head.
Israel has not announced any imminent nuclear attacks, of course; and they would not, for there is no advantage served by making such a threat. You either do it or you don't.
But it's well understood that if the Palestinians attack Israel with chemical or biological weapons, and the attack is successful at killing a number of Israelis, then Israel will respond with WMD of its own. And since it doesn't truck with chemical or bacteriological weaponry, the reality is that it would, in that circumstance, break out the "temple weapons."
But would any group actually be fool enough to threaten CBW against Israel? Funny you should mention that...
The Australian speaks:
In a leaflet released in Gaza, the [al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades] said: "With the help of Allah, we are pleased to say that we succeeded in developing over 20 different types of biological and chemical weapons, this after a three-year effort.
"We say to (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert and (Defence Minister Amir) Peretz: 'Your threats of invasion do not frighten us. We will surprise you with new weapons you have not faced until now. As soon as an IDF soldier sets foot on Gazan land, we will respond with a new weapon."'
The hammer is cocked; will Hamas squeeze the trigger?
As Reuters put it, the clock is ticking for Hamas if they don't move very quickly to spring the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped Sunday. There are several ways this could end:
- Hamas could locate the soldier and force the groups who captured him -- the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees, and the Army of Islam -- to release him unharmed. Not very likely.
- Hamas could remain hardline about it, forcing Israel to invade wide and deep. Plausible, with two subplots:
- Fatah may actually have chemical and biological weapons... and they may decide to use them against the Israelis. Unlikely, by my guess, since the response would wipe Fatah and Hamas both from the map;
- Fatah may be lying about having WMD, or they may have them but choose not to use them. This is the most likely scenario, and it results in a major Israeli offensive against the PA... with predictably devastating results -- but no nuclear war.
Quite some time ago, in Captain's Quarters and elsewhere, I argued the case in favor of the Israeli pullout from Gaza and the West Bank (for example, in Crystal Gaza).
I agreed with those who opposed the pull-out, notably Paul Mirengoff of Power Line, that this would lead to Hamas taking over the Palestinian Authority and likely to a major terrorist offensive against Israel. But I parted company on what would happen next, arguing that this would liberate, not bind, the Israeli response to any such attacks:
But opponents of the pullout never seem to ask the next question: so Gaza is taken over by Hamas, which launches an attack on Israel... and then what happens?
What happens, I predict, is that Israel -- which would no longer have to fear mass murder of the settler-hostages in enemy territory -- will respond to Hamas as they responded to all cross-national attacks on Israel, most particularly in 1948, 1967, and 1973: with a full military response from the IDF, including air support, which they have rarely used in the territories since capturing them during the Six-Day War (after Gaza and the West Bank were used as staging areas for an Arab invasion of Israel).
Right now, Israel's hands are tied in the occupied territories. Israel is an occupying nation, so it cannot go all-out in combat within the territories without violating the rules of civilized warfare. Because Israel is in fact a civilized, Western country, it takes those rules seriously, even when the enemy does not. This is immensely frustrating, of course, since the Palestinian terrorists don't even recognize the existence of any sort of rules of warfare, civilized or otherwise; they have no restraint upon their behavior whatsoever.
But once Israel pulls out of both Gaza and the West Bank, "Palestine" becomes an independent nation in both law and fact (the first time an independent nation of Palestine has ever existed there, I believe). And that lifts the restraints on the IDF -- because even France and Russia would be hard-pressed to find a reason why Israel wouldn't be allowed to defend itself from attack by another independent nation.
I even enunciated a test by which we could see whether my vision of the future was correct -- that the pull-out will free Israel's hands -- or rather that of the naysayers, that it would result in devastating attacks on Israel that go largely unanswered by the Jewish state:
Here is what to look for to see if my prediction is coming true: once Israel pulls out, a major attempted attack by some terrorist group or groups is inevitable. Because of the security fence (the "wall"), that attack will probably be in the form of rockets, mortars, or artillery fired over the wall. If Israel responds with aerial bombing of significant targets within Gaza and the West Bank, that will tell us that the days of pussyfooting have passed. The Palestinian Arabs will wake up to a new reality, one in which Israel no longer pulls punches in response to mindless Arab terror. I absolutely believe this will create a much better situation than what we have now, with international terrorist groups having significantly less ability to launch attacks on Israel (or on us) from the Palestinian territory than they enjoy today.
But if Israel's only response is a targeted assassination of some Hamas official and a strongly worded letter of protest to Failed Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas... well, then Israel would have surprised and saddened me.
So far, at least, it has all shaken out just as I suspected it would; but we have not yet come to the divergence between me and those who opposed the withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank. That will likely come very soon now... that is, if the Palestinians don't cave and give up the soldier -- and if the Israelis don't cave and stand down their army without getting their soldier back.
Everything comes to a head very soon now: as "Larry Sanders" used to say, no flipping!
Date ►►► June 26, 2006
Although it may seem at first as if the Supreme Court is going to substitute itself for the scientific method in deciding whether anthropogenic global climate change is actually real, it's nowhere near that dire; in fact, this case is a chance for the Court to strike a blow for sanity by clarifying what only it can clarify: whether the executive has a legal duty to solve problems as determined by community leaders -- or just legal jurisdictions and prohibitions set by the Constitution. (Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, 05-1120.)
Spurred by states in a pollution battle with the Bush administration, the court said it would decide whether the Environmental Protection Agency is required under the federal clean air law to treat carbon dioxide from automobiles as a pollutant harmful to health.
The decision could determine how the nation addresses global warming.
Evidently, what the states argue is that we should declare the natural exhalation from snakes, rats, monkeys, and human beings -- and even lawyers employed by the plaintiffs -- as a "pollutant" when it's inhaled by a car or a factory, and that the EPA must perforce regulate -- that is, ban -- any releases over a certain amount.
This would indeed be asking the Court to brush science aside and substitute decree. Can this actually be done? Let's not hold our breath.
The EPA said in a statement that the agency "is confident in its decision" not to regulate the chemical under the federal Clean Air Act and plans to argue its case vigorously before the high court.
Recently, Bush told reporters he views global warming as a serious problem and has "a plan to be able to deal with greenhouse gases" short of regulating their use. It includes developing new technologies for cleaner burning coal, using alternative motor fuels such as ethanol as substitutes for gasoline and expanding nuclear power to produce electricity. [All sensible policies even without taking global warming into account. -- the Mgt.]
Critics argue that carbon emissions have continued to increase - though the rate of increase has declined - and only regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will stem the amount going into the atmosphere.
President Bush has a workable plan: the only way to reduce the use of carbon-based fuel is to find an alternative that uses less carbon. (This is not a trick question.)
The states' plan, contrariwise, is to shake a fist and shout at every industry in the United States, confident this will cause emissions to disappear while the economy magically remains constant. By the way, which states in particular do you think might have been involved in this lawsuit?
- California (9%)
- Connecticut (10%)
- Illinois (11%)
- Maine (9%)
- Massachusetts (25%)
- New Jersey (7%)
- New Mexico (-1% * )
- New York (19%)
- Oregon (4%)
- Rhode Island (21%)
- Vermont (20%)
- Washington (7%)
(The number in parentheses is Kerry's margin of victory over Bush in each of these plaintiff-states. * New Mexico actually went for Bush by 1 point; but the governor of New Mexico is former Clinton Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson... and guess who made the decision for New Mexico to join the lawsuit?)
In addition, several cities joined up, including Baltimore, New York City and Washington D.C. (all Democrat, all the time), as well as America Samoa (huh?)
Besides the governmental bodies, other plaintiffs included the Union of Concerned Scientists (they of the "doomsday clock," which is always set closer to midnight whenever a Republican is elected), Greenpeace (who are in the business of sabotaging our military), and Friends of the Earth (say, I wonder where they stand on the political spectrum!)
A more motley looking crew I don't think we'll ever find. Every wild-eyed lefty in America would crawl on his hands and knees though boiling pitch to be a part of the lawsuit to force President Bush to ban carbon dioxide.
The states involved, which together account for more than a third of the car market, say the Clean Air Act makes clear carbon dioxide is a pollutant that should be regulated if it poses a danger to public health and welfare. They argue it does so by causing a warming of the earth.
Reckon they didn't get the memo about calling it "global climate change," not "global warming," so even when the weather is unseasonably cold they can still cite that as evidence.
I haven't reviewed the Act itself; but the EPA has a "Plain English Guide To The Clean Air Act." Under the heading "The Common Air Pollutants (Criteria Air Pollutants)," I find the following air pollutants listed:
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds), such as "benzene, toluene, methylene chloride and methyl chloroform"
- Nitrogen Dioxide
- Carbon Monoxide
- Particulate Matter (dust, smoke, soot)
- Sulfur Dioxide
Maybe it's just me, but I don't see carbon dioxide on that list -- and no, you cannot snip the first word off carbon monoxide and combine it with the second word of nitrogen dioxide. In fact, every pollutant on this list except ozone is a polluting additive not normally found in air, something that would be virtually undetectable in the air of A.D. 1000, except perhaps in special areas (such as around a lead mine or in the bubbling cauldrons of Yellowstone National Park).
To call this "air pollution" is to strain the definition to the breaking point. It's ludicrous. Maybe it should be regulated; I don't think so, but let's suppose it should be. Then get Congress to regulate it!
But more to the point, there is no general legal duty for the executive (or Congress) to solve problems. The Court cannot tell the president that he is obliged to force oil companies to drill for more oil, or that he must resolve the immigration question, or that he has to shift U.S. troops into Jordan in order to guard against a sneak attack from Syria.
Occasionally, the courts will order the executive to act; but that is generally only as a remedy for past misdeeds... such as Brown v. Board of Education, where the executive was ordered to desegregate the schools. The Constitution is silent about the exact level of carbon dioxide that is allowed to be in the earth's atmosphere.
If the Court held that states could sue to force the president to start regulating carbon dioxide, even in the absence of any legal mandate to do so -- and clearly Congress never imagined that what it called "air pollution" would be extended to include exhalation -- just because the plaintiff-states think that would be a better policy, then that would spell the end of our form of government: every state, city, and NGO would sue in federal court to force the White House or Congress to enact specific pieces of legislation that the plaintiffs prefer. That's what we have a Congress for, for heaven's sake: to make such decisions in a democratic manner.
Although it's a logical end-point for a Court that is increasingly narcissistic, I still have confidence that, even if four justices thought this case should be heard (a divided circus-court narrowly held for the administration), the full Court will come down resoundingly against the states in their arrogant lawsuit... and by more than 5-4, too. I'm guessing that both Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice David Souter will rule for the president, and maybe even Justice John Paul Stevens (and of course Justices Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Chief Justice Roberts). I am absolutely convinced this writ of cert is a dead cert.
So I look forward to the Court clarifying that no, neither the states nor Congress can simply dictate to the president how he will do his job. The executive is a co-equal branch of government... not Vermont's errand boy.
In Rare Move, Court Endorses Freedom of Speech
In a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court held that freedom of speech applies even in the state of Vermont -- home to Chairman Howard Dean, Sen. Pat Leahy (100%), Sen. "Jumpin" Jim Jeffords (90%), and Rep. Bernie Sanders (100%):
The Supreme Court ruled today that a Vermont law restricting campaign donations and expenditures was unconstitutional. The court said that the law's limits on how much a candidate could spend violated a landmark 30-year-old ruling equating such spending with free speech and that its limits on donations to a campaign were far too stringent.
This is a double-plus good ruling: not only did six of the justices agree that campaign expenditures were a form of speech (incluing Stephen Breyer, who wrote the controlling -- that is, minimalist -- opinion), but they also held that even the limit on donations in Vermont was ridiculously low:
The Vermont law set the lowest limits in the nation on donations, capping gifts at $200 for state House campaigns over a two-year election cycle; $300 for state Senate and $400 for statewide offices. In his controlling opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer noted that the court had allowed limits on donations in other states but said that the ones put forward by Vermont imposed burdens on the First Amendment that were "disproportionately severe"....
He said that the low limits on how much an individual could donate to a candidate made it especially difficult for challengers, thus giving an undue advantage to incumbents.
(No word on whether Vermont incrumbents Leahy, Jeffords, and Sanders supported the Full Employment for Vermont Legislative Incumbents law.)
The three dissenters were John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and perennial disappointment David Souter, who seem to believe that any limitation is fine, so long as Democrats are the primary beneficiaries:
Justice Stevens said that he disagreed that money spent by a campaign was the equivalent of speech, the underpinning of the 1976 ruling. Justice Souter said that the Court should have deferred to the judgment of the people of Vermont on how to reduce corruption and its appearance.
"The findings made by the Vermont legislature on the pernicious effect of the nonstop pursuit of money are significant," he wrote.
In addition, Justices Scalia and Thomas opined in a separate opinion (there were actually six in toto) that even contributions themselves constitute protected speech, and that the doddering and senile opinion in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), should be overturned altogether, throwing out the entire unsound edifice of campaign finance restrictions. Sadly, they have yet to persuade Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, and whichever of the four Marxist Brothers is least insane.
Not much else for me to say, since I never did finish law school (or even start -- or even apply, for that matter). But I stand to salute what has become, alas, an increasingly rare display of common sense on the parts of our robed masters.
(Ross Kaminsky, over at Real Clear Politics blog, has more details and an excellent analysis not to be missed.)
Date ►►► June 25, 2006
The InSpecter General
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 63%) announced on Fox News Sunday that he and la Casablanca were nearing "agreement" on a bill to gift the president with the power he already has via the Constitution.
That's mighty big of him.
Bush and senior officials in his administration have said they did not think changes were needed to empower the National Security Agency to eavesdrop - without court approval - on communications between people in the U.S. and overseas when terrorism is suspected.
But Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and other critics contend the program skirted a 1978 law that required the government to get approval from a secretive federal court before Americans could be monitored.
"We're getting close with the discussions with the White House, I think, to having the wiretapping issue submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," Specter told "Fox New Sunday."
My first question is -- has Specter even bothered to look at the voluminous case history on this subject... including a case already decided by the FISA court? As John Hinderaker has discussed (repeatedly) on Power Line, the FISA court decided Sealed Case No. 02-001 in 2002; in the opinion, the court wrote:
The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. It was incumbent upon the court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority in the case before it. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power.
John himself concludes,
That is the current state of the law. The federal appellate courts have unanimously held that the President has the inherent constitutional authority to order warrantless searches for purposes of gathering foreign intelligence information, which includes information about terrorist threats. Furthermore, since this power is derived from Article II of the Constitution, the FISA Review Court has specifically recognized that it cannot be taken away or limited by Congressional action.
That being the case, the NSA intercept program, which consists of warrantless electronic intercepts for purposes of foreign intelligence gathering, is legal.
So did Arlen Specter really look at any of this before proclaiming that "the program skirted a 1978 law that required the government to get approval from a secretive federal court before Americans could be monitored?" I have never heard a single word from the InSpecter General to indicate he has inspected the case histories, or in fact, that he even knows case histories exist.
I have always thought Arlen Specter is a doofus. He is a self-important, narcissistic pinhead with delusions of adequacy. Viz:
Specter has said that the president "does not have a blank check"....
"We're having a lot of conversations about that," Specter said Sunday. He added that he and Vice President Dick Cheney have exchanged letters and that Cheney has indicated that he was serious about discussing the issue.
"I've talked to ranking officials in the White House, and we're close," Specter said. "I'm not making any predictions until we have it all nailed down, but I think there is an inclination to have it submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and that would be a big step forward for the protection of constitutional rights and civil liberties."
What did Specter do, swallow a copy of Jane's All the World's Platitudes? This is vacuity on parade.
Thank God we have Specter washing our backs, that's what I say; so let's put it out on the stoop and see if anyone salutes. Let's give it the old college cry -- to the bottlemints! But we can't expect to make a silk purse out of a mole hole: sooner or later, we'll have to bite the bulletin, so it's time to fish or get off the pot. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen sink.
I'm with Arlen: it's time to drain the fever pitch. If wishes were horses, beggars would be a different color. Lie down with pigs, get up smelling like gazpacho.
Does anybody in Pennsylvania ever listen to this guy?
In the Danny Kaye move The Inspector General, Kaye plays Georgi, an illiterate shill in a snake-oil medicine show who impersonates an important government official (hijinks ensue). Considering the similarities between him and Arlen Specter, I think Sen. Georgi would be better for the country.
Date ►►► June 24, 2006
Bush Quietly Creeping Up in the Polls
I just flipped over to Real Clear Politics' polling page and discovered that Bush's current average is 38.8% approve, 53.8% disapprove.
That's just 1.2% point off of the magic number of 40%, above which a president this late in his tenure is considered to be doing reasonably well. As we get close to November, I suspect his numbers will continue to rise slightly -- because of the fecklessness of The Men Who Would Be King in 2009, if for no other reason.
It wouldn't take much of a rise for Bush to end up with an approval rating in the mid-40s by election day... particularly if the pollsters begin looking at "likely voters" instead of "American adults;" they'll be doing that anyway for the match-up polls, so they may shift to that pool of respondents for the job approval (I don't know whether that's customary).
Thus, far from the president being a liability and having Republicans run away from him (as the Kool-Aid drinkers in the Democratic Party inevitably prophesy), Bush may yet again become a positive force in the reelection of Republicans and successful challenges to Democratic incumbents.
Let's keep an eye on those polls as we run up to the election.
Date ►►► June 23, 2006
The Questions Never Asked
According to the New York Times, global warming -- excuse me, global climate change; I keep forgetting -- has raised world temperatures to the warmest it's been in at least 1,000 years, maybe more.
But this immediately raises a number of questions that, alack, are never even asked, let alone answered in the article. How many can you guess before reading them? Can you think of others that didn't occur to me? I suspect there are many more than I can spot...
An influential and controversial paper asserting that recent warming in the Northern Hemisphere was probably unrivaled for 1,000 years was endorsed Thursday, with a few reservations, by a panel convened by the nation's pre-eminent scientific body. [They mean the National Academy of Sciences. -- the Mgt.]
The panel said that a statistical method used in the 1999 study was not the best and that some uncertainties in the work "have been underestimated," and particularly challenged the authors' conclusion that the 1990's were probably the warmest decade in a millennium....
The rise in global temperature since 1900 is only about 1º F or so (0.6º C), or 0.1º F per decade. Yet mean global temperature (MGT) has fluctuated, warmer sometimes, cooler other times. But how much has the MGT risen and dropped since this study was produced in 1999? We need more information.
Prof. Bob Carter, a paleoclimatologist at James Cook University in Queensland, supplies some: MGT rose until 1998... and then it simply stopped rising:
For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco. Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).
Looking at the Wikipedia article on the temperature record, since 1850 (the "instrument period"), we see that the rise wasn't even consistent during the industriali era: from a low around 1910, the temperature rose fairly precipitously, a little less than 1º F -- until 1940; at which point, it began to drop.
It fell for 15 years, hitting local nadirs in 1955, 1965, and the late 1970s... then it started rising again for the last 20 years. There is no plausible correlation of this rise, fall, and rise again to world industrialization, which rose consistently and exponentially during this entire period.
So the "rise" in MGT has been anything but smooth: MGT rises in fits and starts, and sometimes even falls back significantly.
All right, the first question: the temperature record clearly shows that there was global cooling during the twentieth century. Since world industrialization and the release of greenhouse gases cannot account for that cooling, what natural event caused it? Does anybody have a guess?
Oh, but let's do continue:
The study, led by Michael E. Mann, a climatologist now at Pennsylvania State University, was the first to estimate widespread climate trends by stitching together a grab bag of evidence, including variations in ancient tree rings and temperatures measured in deep holes in the earth....
More broadly, the panel examined other recent research comparing the pronounced warming trend over the last several decades with temperature shifts over the last 2,000 years. It expressed high confidence that warming over the last 25 years exceeded any peaks since 1600. And in a news conference here on Thursday, three panelists said the current warming was probably, but not certainly, beyond any peaks since the year 900....
In the report, the panel emphasized that the significant remaining uncertainties about climate patterns over the last 2,000 years did not weaken the scientific case that the current warming trend was caused mainly by people, through the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Looking again at the temperature record in Wikipedia, this time using "historical proxies" for earlier time periods, we see temperatures rose to a peak during the "Mediæval Warming Period" (around AD 900-1100), then plummeted to the depths of the "Mini Ice Age" around 1600-1700, then rose again to the current highs.
But wait -- if the current warming trend is (a) "caused mainly by people, through the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," yet (b) is no hotter than the warming trend of the A.D. 900s... then what the heck caused all that global warming in the Age of Chivalry? There certainly was no mass industrialization 1,000 years ago.
Follow-up question: what caused subsequent cooling again for the next five or six centuries?
Finally, what caused even more global warming in the 1700s and 1800s?
If you're getting the strangest feeling of déjà vu, it's because you really have read this before:
- In News Flash: Catastrophic Global Warming Found - 55 Million Years Ago!, we noted extraordinary heating in that geological time period; so much so, in fact, that "the North Pole quickly developed a climate much like Florida today." Clearly, this had nothing to do with homo-sapiens, who did not even exist then (it was the age of the "wet-nosed primate," who are reputed to have been chivalrous, but we can't be sure);
- In My Globaloney Has a First Name, It's H-a-r-r-y, we rehearsed the argument that temperature has risen and fallen naturally in the last several hundred million years, typically without any correlation to the level of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere (but with a good correlation to solar activity).
- And now, we find that this same rise and fall in temperature has occurred not just in geological time but in archeological time... in fact, within recorded European history.
What is the common thread? That no matter how coarse or fine you tune the temporal focus -- from a billion years to a scant thousand -- you find the same pattern, like a global-temperature fractal: temperature rises and falls by many natural cycles, without human beings monkeying with it.
Against that backdrop, how can we make any pronouncements at all about what "causes" global warming, global cooling -- in short, global "climate change?" Let me repeat what I wrote at the end of the first item linked above:
We need a twenty-year moratorium on "doing" anything about climate. Instead, let's commit vast treasure and human resources to improving our basic scientific understanding of climatology and all that's related. It would make little difference in the projected rise of [mean global temperature]; we would better be able to decide whether the current rise was natural or anthropogenic; and even if we did decide to "do something," those twenty years would allow us to craft a much more intelligent and effective "thing" to do than striking out blindly today.
There is no significant downside to sentencing globaloney to a "timeout".
There are far too many unanswered, unasked questions about what drives climate, temperature, and the sun. Aren't any of these scientists even interested? Or does the negative political impact such questions may have on the Kyoto-Protocol sales job render them unaskable?
Could We Start Again, Please?
Is it Captain Kidd's treasure-hold or Al Capone's vault?
At last, the New York Times has finally deigned to notice that we found a huge bunch of chemical munitions -- WMD -- in Iraq... though only in the context of a story about "hobbyists" who keep alive the search for WMD. Amazingly enough, however, once you finish wincing at the patronizing theme, the story itself isn't half bad. Maybe only 0.25 bad.
Mr. [Dave] Gaubatz, an earnest, Arabic-speaking investigator who spent the first months of the war as an Air Force civilian in southern Iraq, has said he has identified four sites where residents said chemical weapons were buried in concrete bunkers.
The sites were never searched, he said, and he is not going to let anyone forget it.
The Times, they are a-changin'. But why now? I suspect the reasoning of "Pinch" Sulzberger and Bill Keller now embraces two points:
- As more and more WMD are found in Iraq, it becomes untenable to continue pretending not to see it. Eventually, the logo of the New York Times will have to encorporate the famous three monkeys.
- But -- if the Iraq Survey Group failed to find WMD that was there to be found, and if Bush ran the CIA (via his appointee, George Tenet), hence the ISG... then the "miserable failure" to find WMD can be laid at Bush's feet.
The Times has evidently arrived at the conclusion that the meme "Bush lied about Hussein having WMD" is pretty much played out... but there's still a vein of pure gold in the meme "Bush lied about Hussein not having WMD."
Admittedly, the second meme has more truth to it than the first; the only fly in the soup is that the Democrats, by pushing Meme 1 for so long and so stridently, have disqualified themselves from ever arguing Meme 2: they would have to denounce each other as liars before they could attack President Bush.
Still, that may be too subtle a point for young Pinch, as it requires a universe more than seven days wide, from three days in the past to three days in the future, with a day of rest every "today." (And Bill Keller is reportedly on vacation, ducking the angry response to the Times having outed yet another program to track terrorists.) Certainly, the Times manages both to disparage the WMD hunters while still embracing their main arguments:
Some politicians are outspoken allies in Mr. Gaubatz's cause. He is just one of a vocal and disparate collection of Americans, mostly on the political right, whose search for Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons continues....
The proponents include some members of Congress. Two Republicans, Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania held a news conference on Wednesday to announce that, as Mr. Santorum put it, "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."
American intelligence officials hastily scheduled a background briefing for the news media on Thursday to clarify that. Hoekstra and Mr. Santorum were referring to an Army report that described roughly 500 munitions containing "degraded" mustard or sarin gas, all manufactured before the 1991 gulf war and found scattered through Iraq since 2003.
Such shells had previously been reported and do not change the government conclusion, the officials said. [That is, discovering 500 unaccounted-for chemical munitions in Iraq does not change the conclusion that there were no unaccounted-for chemical munitions in Iraq. -- the Mgt.]
Even Fox News gets some favorable press in the press:
Such official statements are unlikely to settle the question for the believers, some of whom have impressive credentials. They include a retired Air Force lieutenant general, Thomas G. McInerney, a commentator on the Fox News Channel who has broadcast that weapons are in three places in Syria and one in Lebanon, moved there with Russian help on the eve of the war.
And they have even had some successes, at least in moving the administration off of its parrot-like repetition that there were no WMDs in Iraq:
The weapons hunters were encouraged in February when tapes of Mr. Hussein's talking with top aides about his arsenal were released at the Intelligence Summit, a private gathering in northern Virginia of 600 former spies, former military officers and hobbyists....
In March, under Congressional pressure, National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte began posting on the Web thousands of captured Iraqi documents. Some intelligence officials opposed the move, fearing a free-for-all of amateur speculation and intrigue.
But the weapons hunters were heartened and began combing the documents for clues.
Mr. Gaubatz, 47, now chief investigator for the Dallas County medical examiner, said he knew some people might call him a kook.
So let's consider the themes in this excerpt: there are bunch of sincere kooks and hobbyists, including retired lieutenant generals and CIA officers, who are still looking for WMD in Iraq -- the existence of which is being denied by the incompetent Bush administration. (Got 'em coming and going.)
But at least they are finally placing before the American people the fact that there was a lot more WMD in Iraq than we were ever told by the Iraq Survey Group -- run by the CIA, which is a child of the State Department. If the ISG could miss 500 artillery shells and rockets loaded with chemicals such as Sarin and mustard gas, couldn't they also have missed jugs of VX and vials of Smallpox and Anthrax?
The entire edifice of "Bush lied about WMD" is crumbling. I doubt that many Americans will be mollified by the Democrats, the antique media, and the State Department (through surrogates in the CIA) saying, "It's all right, Saddam's WMD was from before the Gulf War and is only 80% or 75% as deadly as it was back then... so it doesn't count."
Naturally, the Times continues the charade that weapons of mass destruction were the only reason we went to war with Iraq; lost down the memory hole are all the other casus belli:
- Repeated violations of the truce agreement that suspended (not ended) the Gulf War;
- Failure to disclose disposition of WMD (this is different from merely having it; Iraq lied again and again what they did with it);
- Defiance of multiple U.N. resolutions, most especially United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, but also Resolutions 660, 661, 678, 686., 687, 688, 707, 715, 986, and 1284;
- Repeated attacks on United States military forces -- including firing upon American aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone;
- The attempted assassination of a former president of the United States;
- Ongoing crimes against humanity -- mass murder, ethinic cleansing, and environmental crimes;
- Harboring international terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda, wanted for committing murderous acts against America (triggering the Bush Doctrine);
- And most important, that Iraq was an illegitimate military dictatorship whose replacement by democracy and rule of law will start to drain the swamp of jihad in the heart of the ummah.
But the same Times story also touts several impressive achievements of these "hobbyists": not only did they get the NID, John Negroponte, to start putting on the web captured Iraqi intelligence and military documents; not only did they force the release of the report we talked about here; but recently, Gaubatz also got a meeting with officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency to try to persuade them -- at long last -- to start searching sites where residents claim WMDs were buried.
There is no question that most of such claims will fail to pan out. That is the nature of such a hunt... and if David Kay and Charles Duelfer were not in such a blasted hurry to declare defeat and head home, they would have understood that.
We should never have stopped purposefully looking; look how much we've found completely by accident. It's my understanding that the National Ground Intelligence Center is primarily tasked with investigating possible hazards to our troops; when soldiers or Marines stumble across a find that they think might be dangerous -- chemical, radiological, or biological -- they call the NGIC to come out, investigate, and dispose of the dangerous materials.
The NGIC is not out combing the hills and sand dunes, looking for WMD. That was the job of the ISG, which quickly disbanded itself after just a few months in the field.
What if they had they been sent out with a mandate to stay so long as our troops were in Iraq, searching continuously; would they have found these shells? Would they have found the other stuff that Iraq claims but cannot prove to have destroyed? Could they have investigated new claims of Syrian or Sudanese complicity in moving WMD out of Iraq?
Would the CIA have been so quick to dismiss all the WMD we found as "the wrong kind," as Mark Steyn put it, if that attitude were not a ticket to get them back home almost as fast as John Kerry's bogus Purple Hearts?
We'll never know... unless we bite the chemical shell and restart the search. But this time, leave the pathetically political CIA out of the loop. This search is a military matter, and it should be conducted by the Pentagon, using whatever military intelligence or force assets they need.
Mr. President -- could we start again, please? And this time, do it right: no time limit, no geographical limit, and without starting from the assumption, as the ISG did, that "there's no there there."
Adios and Hallelujah - Norman Mineta Is Finally Gone
Norman Mineta has announced his retirement as secretary of transportation, effective July 7th:
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who spearheaded an unprecedented overhaul of transportation security after the September 11 attacks, announced his resignation on Friday.
Mineta, 74, the lone Democrat in President George W. Bush's Cabinet, will leave on July 7 after 5 1/2 years on the job. He not only was the nation's longest serving transportation secretary but the most visible as well.
Transportation Department spokesman Robert Johnson said Mineta will announce his plans in the coming weeks but would not say if he had another job. Johnson said Mineta informed Bush of his decision to resign earlier this week.
I hope he gets a great job -- somewhere far away from public policy.
Mineta is a classic "September 10th" Democrat, and his post-9/11 tenure as secretary of transportation has been disastrous. The only Democrat in Bush's cabinet, Mineta was a holdover from Bill Clinton's administration, where he was (briefly) secretary of commerce.
Mineta is responsible for two utterly insane policies, each of which has actually impeded our national defense against terrorism:
Norm Mineta, Crusader Against Profiling
Just ten days after the attacks, Mineta swiftly moved to solve the most pressing problem facing America in the wake of Moslem Arabs flying two jumbo jets into the World Trade Centers, one into the Pentagon, and a fourth -- prevented from reaching its target in Washington D.C by the heroism of its passengers -- into the ground in a field in Pennsylvania.
Acting with speed and rapidity, Mineta contributed to secure Americans from terrorist attack: on September 21st, 2001, he forbade airlines from "profiling" in their searches or questioning of passengers; all searches would be conducted on passengers chosen randomly.
Airlines were required to pay as much attention to elderly grandmothers from Dubuque as they did to young male Arabs. Or Moslems. Or immigrant males from Saudi Arabia who look nervous, shake with agitation, and continually mumble "Allah-hu akbar" as they board the plane.
Since resources are limited, even in the hunt for terrorists, that meant that groups of young males from Pakistan or Jordan or Sudan were left alone so that airlines could focus on searching and interrogating a pregnant thirty-something from Kansas or a seventy year old black janitor from Queens.
This folly is breathtaking in its refusal to deal with the facts:
- We were attacked by young Arabs recently here from the Middle East;
- The threat to America primarily comes from known jihadi hot spots there and in Central Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and a few other places;
- Those who might attacks us typically exhibited very obviously suspicious behavior -- which Mineta would not allow airlines to take into account when chosing people to investigate.
This as insane as ordering the police, when they cruise around looking for gang-bangers on the prowl, to stop and investigate senior citizens working quietly at their jobs rather than a mob of teenaged and twenty-something males roaming the streets wearing "colors."
And what was Mineta's explanation for his mental fugue? That when he was a boy, his family was "profiled" by Franklin D. Roosevelt and sent to Manzanar -- and they took his baseball bat away and wouldn't give it back.
I can well understand Ann Coulter's frustration (she would be as likely to be detained at the airport today as the next Ramzi Binalshibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or Mohammed Atta) when she wrote, "Someone please give him a baseball bat." (It's not my fault that Townhall.com strips out minor formatting issues like paragraphination.)
Ten days after 9/11, Norman Mineta was more worried that we might round up all the Arabs, Indians, and Sikhs and whisk them off to relocation camps than he was that al-Qaeda, having just successfully struck the United States and sent us reeling, might swing a second time.
Norm Mineta - Fashion Mavin
After months of hair-pulling, and after President Bush directly ordered it, Mineta reluctantly embraced the new policy of having armed air marshals fly on commercial flights. To prevent, you know, that 9/11 thing from happening again.
I can only imagine that he was initiallly so reluctant for two reasons:
- Suppose another group of mad Moslems tried to seize control of an airliner and fly it into the Sears Tower (to pick a target also in the news today), Mineta was terrified that in the ensuing gunfight, as the air marshals wrested control away from the al-Qaediacs, some passenger might get hit by a stray bullet. Just think, he could sue the Transportation Security Agency!
- As we all know, guns often explode on random occasions, all on their own, sending a bullet flying in some unguessable direction. Mineta, well aware of this possibility from frequent conversations with his old pal Chuck Schumer, must have sweated bullets (sorry) that if the round happened to go through a window, then many of the passengers would be sucked out the half-inch diameter hole by the irresistable force of nearly one whole atmosphere of pressure differential between inside and outside the cabin.
Didn't I see that in some James Bond movie?
Be all as it may, having been dragged, kicking and screaming, to accept having armed marshals riding the airlanes, Mineta was certainly not going to allow them to create a bad impression of his agency. They would behave themselves as gentlemen with sartorial respectability.
Thus he ordered the undercover air marshals to wear suits and ties and have neatly trimmed hair and no facial hair as they flew about.
The idiocy of this order is hard to convey, but I doubt it's even necessary. You fly, right? Look around the cabin and see how many people are dressed as if they're headed to the opera. (For that matter, the next time you're at the opera, look around and see how many of those patrons are dressed as if they're headed to the opera.)
This uniform -- for that is what it is, and it may as well be replaced by something blue with braid and brass buttons -- is like a neon sign screaming, "stab me first, I'm a Federal Air Marshal." No amount of reasoning, ordering, or wheedling could budge the dapper Mr. Mineta. If the TSA must allow marshals to fly undercover, then they certainly wouldn't be allowed to look sloppy while doing so!
Mineta is, quite simply, incapable of wrapping his brain around the fact that we are at war; like nearly all his Democratic brethren, he is fundamentally unserious when it comes to terrorism. Think of him as a natty and anti-profiling Barney Fife.
He may be a capital fellow, convivial, a laugh-riot at D.C. cocktail parties... but he has been a catastrophe as transportation secretary, and Bush has been a fool for keeping him on so long. America is better off not having Norm Mineta to kick around anymore.
Date ►►► June 22, 2006
Adolf vs. Ann
Ryan Sager at Real Clear Politics linked to a snide but ultimately vindicating test, in which readers are given the opportunity to examine fourteen statements... and guess which was written by Ann Coulter and which by Adolf Hitler.
(The Hitler quotations are altered to refer to liberals and America; I don't know if they originally referred to Jews -- probably some of them -- or Communists -- probably some of them.)
It's easy to guess what quiz result is eagerly anticipated (and desired) by its author, some anonymous student, professor, or other faculty at the University of Virginia: he (or she) expected test takers would be flummuxed, unable to pick which was which... proving, in the mind of the test author, that Ann Coulter is the same as Adolf Hitler!
(Which proves to me, at least, that whatever the author is, he is definitely not a professor of mathematics...!)
Sager notes, "I got a 7 out of 14. I'm not sure what that says." In fact, all it proves is that people who don't like Ann Coulter are not likely to read Ann Coulter... hence they won't do well on this test. Ryan Sager guessed about the same as if he had simply flipped a coin.
But the real test is not whether someone who doesn't really like or read Coulter much can distinguish her statements from Adolf Hitler's (which a typical person is also not famliar with), especially when the latter are shorn of their most identifying feature: Hitler's racism and Jew hatred.
The real test is whether a person familiar with her body of work can pick Coulters out from the Hitlers. Me, for instance; I have read all of her books except her most recent, Godless -- and that only because Amazon.com hasn't seen fit to deliver it yet. How did I score?
I will answer below the "slither on;" and I warn you: I reveal one of the questions, but not who wrote it.
I got 13 out of 14 correct. I'm not very familiar with the writings of Adolf Hitler, having only read parts of Mein Kampf and none of his speeches; even so, some of the 14 quotations just didn't read anything like Ann Coulter, so I picked "Hitler" for those. Others sounded very much like her style of writing.
The only one I missed was a very, very short sentence fragment that I hesitated over but ultimately guessed wrong:
The foremost connoisseurs of this truth regarding the possibilities in the use of falsehood and slander have always been the liberals...
I will not tell you which way I guessed, of course; take the test yourself. But except for that one, I had no difficulty with any of them.
Now, were I randomly guessing, the odds of getting 13 out of 14 correct would be the same as the odds of tossing 14 coins and having 13 of them land "heads" (having picked heads in advance, of course). The odds for doing this randomly are very small... less than 0.009% -- that's 9 out of 100,000 times. So the safe bet is that there really is an obvious difference between Coulter and Hitler.
It's also important to note the context: it's very different to hate liberals, Communists, or Baptist preachers, who have all chosen to believe what they believe, than it is to hate Jews... who, as Hitler saw them, are defined by the possession of even a single drop of "Jew blood," with no choice allowed.
It's nowhere near as bad to write, "the foremost connoisseurs of this truth regarding the possibilities in the use of falsehood and slander have always been the liberals," as it would be to write "the foremost connoisseurs of this truth regarding the possibilities in the use of falsehood and slander have always been the Jews." The first is extreme but acceptable; the second is absolutely beyond the pale. (And if you don't know why, then this conversation serves no purpose.)
By stripping Hitlerian ideas of their racism and Jew hatred, you strip out their very Hitlerness. It's yet another example of the liberal tendency to redefine a word (Hitlerian, in this case) to point at a much wider range of subject... yet still rely upon the frisson of the original meaning to slander innocent targets. It's like saying, "polluting the environment is like murdering Mother Earth... should we allow murderers to escape the gallows?"
In any case, take the test; it's fun. But know what you're actually testing: not how close Ann Coulter is to Adolf Hitler, but rather how familiar you are with the writing style of each.
Shock: Sanity From the Senate!
The crackpot idea to raise the federal minimum wage -- thereby forcing all states to become California -- which we blogged about here... is deader than a Zepplin filled with seawater. The Senate just killed it on a filibuster, and the House refuses even to bring to the floor:
The 52-46 vote [in the Senate] was eight short of the 60 needed for approval under budget rules and came one day after House Republican leaders made clear they do not intend to allow a vote on the issue, fearing it might pass.
This quote from House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH, 100%) is absolutely priceless:
"I am opposed to it, and I think a vast majority of our (rank and file) is opposed to it," House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday.
Pressed by reporters, he said, "There are limits to my willingness to just throw anything out on the floor."
What's interesting is that the Republicans have persistently offered an increase in the minimum wage -- coupled with various tax and workplace changes that would be friendly enough to business (small business especially) that they would be willing to eat the hike in labor costs... but the Democrats insist they get the minimum-wage hike for free. That's why there's an impasse.
This is a perfect example of the fallacy of "splitting the difference": Johnny wants to divide the cupcake in half, but Betsy wants the whole cupcake for herself; so we'll be fair and just split the difference: Betsy gets three quarters of the cupcake and Johnny gets one quarter.
In situations where one party is right and the other wrong, the naive split-the-difference approach is guaranteed to be unjust. Thus:
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, offered an alternative that proposed a minimum wage increase of $1.10 over 18 months, in two steps.
The increase was coupled with a variety of provisions offering regulatory or tax relief to small businesses, including one to exempt enterprises with less than $1 million in annual receipts from the federal wage and hour law entirely. The current exemption level is $500,000, and a Republican document noted the amount had "lagged behind inflation." [Fancy that... just like the minimum wage. -- the Mgt.]
Additionally, Republicans proposed a system of optional "flextime" for workers, a step that Enzi said would allow employees, at their discretion, to work more than 40 hours one week in exchange for more time off the next. Unions generally oppose such initiatives, and the Republican plan drew 45 votes, with 53 in opposition.
AP doesn't tell us whether any Democrats voted in favor of this counterproposal or against cloture for the original minimum-wage hike; but after some digging, it turns out (to no one's surprise) that none did.
The Republicans who failed to vote for this commonsense and very fair compromise were:
- Wayne Allard (CO, 96%)
- Saxby Chambliss (GA, 96%)
- David Vitter (LA, 96%)
- Christopher Bond (MO, 96%)
- Richard Burr (NC, 87%)
- James Inhofe (OK, 100%) -- probably not 100% for long...
- Lincoln Chafee (RI, 40%) -- there's a shock!
- Jim DeMint (SC, 100%) -- see Inhofe, James
- John Cornyn (TX, 100%) -- see DeMint, Jim
And the Undyed Finger Award goes to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL, 84%), who managed to fail to vote.
It's disappointing that so many 100%-ers and 96%-ers voted against this; I understand it hikes the minimum wage... but the benefits to small business especially from flex time and exemption from a big chunk of federal regulations more than makes up for the rise in labor costs. Honestly, guys: "the best is enemy of good enough."
That's assuming, of course, that these "conservatives" voted against the Enzi amendment because they were opposed to the wage hike; but that's actually not very likely. I can't find the roll call for the cloture vote, but since it was nearly the same vote as the amendment vote, with just one switch from the Democratic to the Republican position, I wouldn't be surprised if all but one of those certified 100% and 96% conservatives voted to bring the minimum wage hike to the floor... where it would certainly have won.
This on one of the signature conservative economic issues, second only to tax cuts. Would these be the same conservatives complaining about the "leftward drift" of the Republican Party?
Those Darned 500 Chemical Artillery Shells That Shouldn't Exist
So far, besides the Cybercast News System (CNS) article cited in our previous post on this subject, I've found only a few other MSM reports on the WMDs that have been found in Iraq since 2003. Here's the story by Fox News; it's well written and gives us both sides -- actually "fair and balanced," if you like.
(It even links to the 4-page declassified summary of the original document, though it's not particularly informative.)
Reading from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, Santorum said: "Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist."
This is, of course, the "bombshell" (sorry) lede of the story... a story that AP, Reuters, and the New York Times have chosen not to even bother covering. Not even to debunk it! The antique media has for the most part left "the liberal man's burden" to tireless lefties, such as Weldon Berger at Betsy the Crow and Ellen at News Hounds, and to the Washington Post (more on that later).
The Santorum argument is that finding WMDs in Iraq means there were WMDs in Iraq to be found... but that the myriad international inspectors and the Iraq Survey Group failed to find; This seems pretty reasonable on its face and hard to counter.
The gist of the argument against is about what we predicted: these are chemical shells from before the 1991 Gulf War, so they don't count.
I'm not sure why they don't count; BTC seems to believe that "degraded" is the same thing as "disintegrated," and therefore these shells are harmless toys. This is preposterous enough that I'm sure Berger doesn't really believe it himself; it's just something you say to calm your troops, reassure them that (as Timothy Leary used to say) "situation normal, nothing has changed."
In fact, we don't know that all of the 500+ shells we found are unfirable; we don't know whether they could be used to deadly effect as IEDs; we don't know whether terrorists are clever enough to extract the Sarin or mustard gas and make their own WMDs; and we don't know how many of these shells have already been sold or given to terrorist groups -- to al-Qaeda In Iraq, for example. So it's a bit thick to dismiss their existence with an airy wave of the hand and a Scroogian "bah, humbug!"
Back to the elite media: the Washington Post is the only representative of that club to lumber forward with a debunking article. Alas, fantasy (literally) collides with reality in a self-indulgent dream world, and fantasy gets the better of it. Here, read this; you wouldn't believe me if I just told you about it:
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told reporters yesterday that weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found in Iraq, despite acknowledgments by the White House and the insistence of the intelligence community that no such weapons had been discovered....
The lawmakers pointed to an unclassified summary from a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center regarding 500 chemical munitions shells that had been buried near the Iranian border, and then long forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988.
This is astonishing on several levels:
How on earth does Dafna Linzer (the writer, one of the most anti-Bush writers for the Post) imagine he knows whether or not the Iraqis had "long forgotten" about those hundreds of chemical shells? The translated Iraqi documents make frequent reference to such caches.
It's clear that Linzer simply added that line -- unsourced -- to make it appear as though the chemical munitions were no threat.
- In an inversion of the normal rules of evidence, Linzer's point in the first graf above appears to be that we can't have found these chemical shells -- the official DoD report notwithstanding -- because the Pentagon said, back in 2004, that we hadn't found any WMD. Except for the pesky fact of "several crates of the old [chemical] shells" containing Sarin, found that same year... but which don't count, according to unnamed "intelligence officials" and Dafna Linzer.
Look, either we found the 500 shells or we didn't. If we did, then the Pentagon was wrong to close the books in 2004. If we didn't, then the Pentagon is wrong to report today that we did. Either way, whether we found them is not determined by what the Defense Department or the CIA said years ago. This one is a real head-scratcher; does Linzer really believe such nonsense?
The New York Sun has a more straightforward news article:
Since the formal search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was called off in January 2005, the American military has found more than 500 shells of ordinance containing Sarin or mustard gas.
While the shells are believed to date from the Iran-Iraq war, two Republican lawmakers are saying it raises enough questions for the president to order a new search for the biological, chemical and nuclear weapons program he said Saddam Hussein was concealing from the international community before the invasion of Iraq.
Particularly with the wealth of information we've gained from translated Iraqi military and intelligence documents, which were not available or not translated and sorted through in January, 2005... at least some of which refer to specific caches of WMD in specific sites.
The lefty bloggers keep saying the Pentagon has dismissed this report. What they refer to are unidentified "Pentagon officials" who say that these chemical shells were "not the weapons we were looking for." The Sun:
Indeed, unexploded chemical ordinance dating from before 1991 are different from the stockpiles of anthrax and other toxins the then Secretary of State, Colin Powell told the U.N. Security Council in January 2003 was awaiting inspectors in Iraq.
Yes, they are different: anthrax and "other toxins" (they mean VX and other nerve agents, as well as biological cultures) are significantly easier to hide than big, heavy artillery shells made out of metal.
And why, exactly, wasn't the Iraq Survey Group looking for Sarin-filled chemical artillery shells in small caches, scattered around the country? Isn't that exactly how we would expect to find an Iraqi WMD "stockpile?" If the ISG wasn't even looking for these, then we certainly should start a new search... and this time, look for everything -- not just for a big warehouse in Tikrit with a sign reading "Achmed's WMD -- Get 'Em While They're Hot!"
The Sun acknowledges the real point -- unlike the Washington Post, which is too busy pooh-poohing:
The latest information about the chemical weapons shells, however, is most damaging to those who suggest the work of former weapons inspectors David Kay and Charles Duelfer have provided the definitive word on the whereabouts of the suspected WMD, according to the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
"Duelfer after 18 months was not able to find this stuff," Mr. Hoekstra said. "We made this determination that hundreds [of weapons] were found. I think this is a significant quantity. What does this say about all of the other issues that continue to be raised [such as] stuff transported to Syria. I don't believe everything that is out there is credible, but it shows how much we still don't know."
That, of course, is the real lesson here: the ISG searched for a year and a half, after Saddam had been deposed... and they didn't find any of this. But since then, our soldiers and Marines have stumbled across more than five-hundred shells actually loaded with deadly chemicals... does that not speak volumes about the effectiveness of weapons inspectors in general?
If the ISG couldn't find these, under the ideal condition of actually occupying the country they were searching, then it's brutally clear that inspection regimes simply do not work.
Bear that in mind for future engagements.
UPDATE: Mark Steyn on Hugh Hewitt just perfectly encapsulated the line of attack by the Democrats:
No matter what WMD we find, it always turns out to be the wrong kind.
Date ►►► June 21, 2006
Possible News Flash: WMD Found In Iraq?
I can't find any information about this yet -- evidently, it just broke within the last hour or so -- but supposedly, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA, 96%) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 100%) just held a presser and announced that we have found a large number of chemical shells (Hugh said "500") filled with Sarin gas in Iraq. This according to Hugh Hewitt, who just announced it during his interview with Chris Hitchens.
Big Lizards has no, zip, zero, nought, nada information about this; in fact, consider this post a plea for further information from anyone who can scrounge something up. We're left saying "wha-? huh-? who ordered the veal cutlet?"
I'm a little skeptical; Hoekstra is chairman of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence, but Santorum is only chairman of the Senate Republican Conference -- a leadership position but nothing specifically to do with intelligence or armed services (Santorum's committees are Agriculture, Banking, Aging, and Finance). I understand why Hoekstra would deliver such a presser, but why Santorum? It always makes me suspicious when a stunning announcement is made by someone who does not, on paper, have any business making such an announcement.
Neither pol has anything about this on his website, at this moment. And we've been burned before by premature announcements of WMD finds.
We have argued for some time, here at Big Lizards (most recently in Mahmoud, Son of Xerox), that indeed we have found WMD in Iraq: empty chemical shells and rockets sitting in the same camouflaged ammo dump with 55-gallon drums of Cyclosarin is a "chemical weapon" in the same sense that an unloaded 9mm in the same house as a bunch of ammunition is a "firearm," and any felon caught in the second situation would be just as guilty as if the pistol were actually loaded. However, the Iraq Survey Group repeatedly refused to call such finds evidence of WMD.
But this -- if true -- would be a stunning development; not even the CIA would be able to argue that a bunch of shells loaded up with Sarin didn't constitute WMD. But as I said, I'm "Sgt. Schultz" at this moment.
As Matt Drudge likes to say, "developing..."
Help us out here... enquiring minds very much need to know!
UPDATE 4:11 pm: A bit more from Hugh... Santorum and Hoekstra are not talking about a single find; they're saying that since 2003, we have found "over 500" chemical weapons containing either mustard gas or Sarin (more likely, Cyclosarin, in our Lizardly opinion; Iraq was one of the few countries to use Cyclosarin, a pesticide, in chemical weapons... in fact, used in combat).
These are "pre-Gulf War" weapons; but their existence today obviously proves they existed before the current Iraq War began... hence, Bush was right that Iraq had CBW -- and the CIA was wrong about being wrong about WMD. Not only that, but the sacred "inspectors" of UNMOVIC and UNSCOM all failed to find these hundreds of chemical weapons... but I suspect Saddam Hussein knew where they were.
Hugh is interviewing Sen. Santorum right now: evidently, this comes from a partially declassified report from the National Ground Intelligence Center, possibly under the U.S. Army. Evidently, Santorum heard a tip about the existence of this classified report (secret, not top secret); he contacted Hoekstra, who had not heard of it (!) Hoekstra nosed about and found it; then he prevailed upon the "intelligence community" (I guess that would be the NID and the various service heads) to produce an unclassified version for release.
It was finally released at 4:30 pm EDT, and the intelligence committees were briefed a half-hour later; Hoekstra then told what he could legally tell to Santorum, and they called their press conference... which only 4-5 reporters bothered to attend. (That's not "the story," you understand.)
Santorum said that a version of the report was either published on a blog or at least discussed, but he could not remember which one or when that was.
But if we couple this report with several recently declassified and translated documents that, er, document ongoing Iraqi efforts, right up until the current war started, to conceal, disperse, and hide chemical and biological weapons and the nuclear program, then I think we are reaching a point of near certainty: Bush was right after all about WMD in Iraq.
We should eventually be able to find information about this here; but it's not there yet, at least not that I can find.
Commenter Mike has given us a link to a preliminary news report from Cybercast New Service (CNS) about this document. Thanks, Mike!
To Bag Or Not to Bag
And the Democratic People's Republic of Korea already appears to be getting cold feet and sweaty palms:
North Korea wants talks with the United States over its planned missile test, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday, a sign Pyongyang might be ready to step back from the mounting crisis.
But Washington ruled out any special talks over the issue which it, along with South Korea and Japan, says poses a grave danger to a region already deeply worried by North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Rule Number One of negotiations: when your opponent wants a meeting more than you, that's the time to demand concessions. Fortunately, we have a businessman in the White House... rather than a career politician who believes that when your opponent is anxious for a meeting, you should surrender to him.
I think it pretty clear that Pyongyang is more worried about a successful intercept by our BMD system than are the Democrats and some American military analysts, such as perennial Fox News commentator Gen. Thomas McInerney (who only gives us a 60% chance of hitting the Taepodong missile).
So far as I know, McInerney has not had any particular connection with BMD in many years, though I think he had some command responsibility over it at one point in his military career. I'm not sure how qualified he is to make such precise estimates, or what his basis is for doing so; I'd rather see a somewhat more current source -- except of course that would require leaking, which I don't want to see!
[Correction: McInerney said 60% chance with one shot, near certainty if we fire two antimissiles; but I still want to know what his basis is for saying either of these.]
One of the reasons I hope they do try to splash the Taepodong is to gainsay the chorus of screams already emanating from the penumbra of LiberalLand. From the AP story above:
Although shooting down a North Korean missile is a possibility, the Pentagon also must consider factors that would argue against such a response, including the risk of shooting and missing and of escalating tensions further with the communist nation....
Robert Einhorn, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a U.S. shootdown of a North Korean missile on a test flight or a space launch would draw "very strong international reaction" against the United States. He saw only a small chance that the U.S. would attempt a shootdown....
At the time of the 1998 launch, the United States had no means of shooting down a long-range missile in flight. Since then, the Pentagon has developed a rudimentary system that it says is capable of defending against a limited number of missiles in an emergency - with a North Korean attack particularly in mind....
David Wright, a senior scientist at the private Union of Concerned Scientists, said he strongly doubts that the Bush administration could back up its claims of having the capability to shoot down a North Korean missile.
"I consider it to be rhetorical posturing," Wright said. "It currently has no demonstrated capability."
The last time the Pentagon registered a successful test in intercepting a mock warhead in flight was in October 2002. Since then, there have been three unsuccessful attempted intercepts, most recently in February 2005.
The temptation to buck this finger-wagging, "it'll end in tears" whining is nearly irresistable.
The reality is that if the NoKos believe there is a good chance we'll shoot the missile down, they won't fire; they have far more to lose by a hit than we have by a miss. Curiously, there is a strange congruence of interest between the North Koreans and the American Democrats: both would love to prove that the much-vaunted BMD system is just "rhetorical posturing" by the military; but both are too frightened by the possibility that it isn't a fraud even to try.
Hence, the hellish chorus demanding we do nothing.
Date ►►► June 20, 2006
What Goes Up Must Come Down... But How?
So here is the syllogism; you supply the conclusion:
- North Korea insists that it has "the right" to launch a test of its new ICBM, the Taepodong-2.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has no intention of abiding by any treaties it may have signed against the proliferation of missile technology; and they are known to be working hard on a nuclear warhead (with a lot of help from the mad Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan) and may indeed already have a few. Now they say they have a right to missiles that can carry those warheads thousands of miles:
North Korea declared Tuesday it has a right to carry out long-range missile tests, despite international calls for the communist state to refrain from launching a rocket believed capable of reaching the United States.
The bristling statement from North Korea to Japanese reporters in Pyongyang came as France and the U.N. secretary-general raised the alarm over what are believed to be the reclusive nation's preparations for a test of the Taepodong-2, with a range of up to 9,300 miles.
In a totally unrelated move, the United States has decided to make a minor change in our defense posture:
- The United States has just activated our ground-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, in addition to the sea-based Aegis BMD system.
We have tested the Aegis extensively, and it has been considered fully operational for a long time now... despite not having been used yet in actual combat, so far as I know:
Two Navy Aegis warships are patrolling near North Korea as part of the global missile defense and would be among the first sensors that would trigger the use of interceptors, the officials said yesterday.
The U.S. missile defense system includes 11 long-range interceptor missiles, including nine deployed at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The system was switched from test to operational mode within the past two weeks, the officials said.
All right, so they launch; but where do they launch? What direction, and over what countries?
- The DPRK is not likely to launch an ICBM -- even as a test -- west across China or north across China and Russia; that leaves only east over Japan (which they have done before) or south over Taiwan and the Philippines, all three strong and vital American allies.
So put the three together, and what conclusion do we draw about our course of action? You guessed it:
One senior Bush administration official told The Washington Times that an option being considered would be to shoot down the Taepodong missile with responding interceptors....
White House spokesman Tony Snow declined to comment when asked if shooting down a launched missile was being considered as an option.
I suspect the only real question here is how likely we are to succeed: attempting to shoot down the Taepodong-2 and missing would be much worse than not trying in the first place; but trying and succeeding might reap huge dividends, as the generals behind North Korean leader Kim Jong Il probably think our BMD system is "all chopstick and no rice" (much like the DPRK food supply).
Proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that we really have it and it actually works might shock them out of their nutty idea that they can threaten us with nuclear missiles and back into at least a working definition of sanity.
But it's a gamble; let's not kid ourselves. Our tests so far have been controlled, in that we've been shooting at American missiles launched by American troops as part of a controlled engineering experiment -- as we should be; that's the correct way to develop a new weapons system. But making the shift to knocking down an actual enemy missile is a whole 'nother layer of complexity.
I believe it will work, so we should do it; still, none of us has access to all the classified data the president does.
But jeepers, would I love to see the collective gasp of a billion people if the NoKos were to launch -- and we were to swat their Taepodong out of the sky like it was a slow-moving fly. It would make my decade!
Sometimes the best thing to do in a "no-win" situation is to give the box a vigorous shake and see how the pieces realign themselves.
Revenge Killing? Hardly
In the last couple of days, al-Qaeda in Iraq killed one soldier, then kidnapped and killed two others. It's sad but expected: this is a war, and we're fighting terrorists whose interest in killing goes beyond mere revenge or warfare to a bizarre form of ceremonial cleansing and death worship.
The new leader of AQI, Egyptian-born Hamza Muhajir, a close friend of AQ number two Ayman Zawahiri, took credit for the killings. Big Lizards strongly suspects that sending a close friend and ally of Zawahiri to take over the organization founded by the now-dead Zarqawi is Osama bin Laden's and Ayman Zawahiri's way of regaining the control over al-Qaeda that they lost when Zarqawi, for a long time, became the most brutal and efffective player under the al-Qaeda ("the base") banner.
The home office is trying to recapture the rogue branch office. Zawahiri complained to Zarqawi that the latter's obsession with killing Iraqis was destroying the organization in the hearts and minds of Iraqis and even other Arabs. Zawahiri demanded that AQI focus more on killing the "crusaders" (Americans)... and the first set of killings by Muhajir indeed seem to be following the Zawahiri line, not the pattern set by Zarqawi.
It won't last; Zarqawi turned to killing Iraqi civilians because he discovered just how hard it is to kill Americans, and the same dynamic will force Muhajir down the same bloody road.
There is no guarantee the home office will succeed, even if Muhajir can stick to the Zawahiri plan; there are many more local butchers who will fight to keep control of al-Qaeda in Iraq in Iraq, and not let it return to Waziristan (or wherever OSM is hiding) -- though one major ally of Zarqawi, "Sheikh Mansour," was just killed (see below).
Some call the brutal torture-murder of the American soldiers a "revenge killing" for our successful attack on Musab Zarqawi; but that is ridiculous. Does anyone seriously argue that if we hadn't killed Zarqawi, AQI wouldn't have kidnapped or killed those two American soldiers?
That is what they do. They kidnap westerners and Iraqis alike, then kill them by brutal torture. This was an attack of opportunity, and it didn't start on June 7th.
My heart goes out to the families and friends of fallen soldiers. But please, our boys did not die in vain. Just before the ambush on these soldiers, a U.S. air strike killed a key AQI leader -- described (as usual) as a "religious emir."
Mansour Suleiman Mansour Khalifi al-Mashhadani, or Sheik Mansour, and two foreign fighters were killed as they tried to flee in a vehicle near the town of Youssifiyah, in the so-called Sunni "Triangle of Death."
U.S. coalition forces had been tracking al-Mashhadani for some time, American military spokesman William Caldwell said in announcing his death. He said al-Mashhadani was an Iraqi, 35 to 37 years old, and that one of the men killed with him was an al-Qaida cell leader identified as Abu Tariq.
(Yet another al-Mashhadani! It does seem to be a common Iraqi name: in addition to Ali al-Mashhadani -- the Iraqi "journalism student" and former terrorist suspect who first claimed the US Marines massacred civilians in Haditha; Abdul Rahman al-Mashhadani -- head of the previously unknown Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights and Democracy Monitoring who handed the suspect video to Ali; and the recently killed Mansour Suleiman Mansour Khalifi al-Mashhadani -- see above -- there is also Mahmud Dawud al-Mashhadani, president of the Iraqi Parliament. Perhaps it's a tribal name.)
One more fascinating point about "Sheikh Mansour":
A document seized from an al-Qaida hideout and released by National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie that portrayed the Iraqi insurgency as being in "bleak" shape was directly linked to Mansour, Caldwell said.
Now there's food for thought.
But that attack, wonderful though it was, was not all that we've been up to. While Coalition forces were searching for our two missing solders, we managed to kill or capture even more insurgents:
Caldwell said that Iraqi and American troops involved in the search for the missing soldiers killed three suspected insurgents and detained 34 in fighting that wounded seven U.S. servicemen.
And elsewhere in Iraq:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U.S.-led forces killed 15 terror suspects and detained three others during raids Tuesday in a village northeast of Baghdad, the military said. Residents said 13 civilians also were killed.
The military said the raid targeted individuals linked with a suspected senior al-Qaida in Iraq member, but it did not identify him....
Coalition forces found 10 AK-47 assault rifles, a shotgun, a pistol and a crate of explosives at the site, the military said.
So, they killed three of our guys; and meanwhile, we killed 21 and captured 37. If the ambush was to avenge Zarqawi, then incoming AQI leader Hamza Muhajir is off to a grinding halt.
Oh, by the way, the terrorists who fled the US forces were found hiding behind the skirts of local women:
The detained suspects had fled but were found hiding amid nine women, the military said. It said one of the suspects was wounded, but the women were not injured.
How typical. This is the real picture of the "brave" enemy forces we face.
We have many reporters in Iraq; the major news organizations all send someone (usually many "someones") over there. Yet we rarely get accurate pictures of the battleground. Why?
The most frustrating thing about the antique media's coverage is the lack of perspective. It's true that most reporters are biased against our military; but the reality is much dumber: the reporters are simply too ignorant about the military and warfare to be coherent.
Many reporters have no basic knowledge of the armed services: not only have they never served in the military, they don’t even have a friend who has. Consequently, they don't understand how military operations work, what to expect, how missions are carried out, how long it takes, the overall strategy, or how one battle relates to another. That is why we hear random reporting of a battle here, an engagement there, without anyone ever engaging the reader. We "news consumers" have no idea if we are making any progress, because the media has never told us what "progress" would even look like.
Decades ago, we had a draft. While an army of conscripts has a lot of problems (just ask the Soviets), near universal conscription had one benefit: every male in America had either served himself or at least had close friends, relatives, and coworkers who served; and every woman had brothers, sons, or husbands who were in the military... so everybody knew who the servicemen were; they were not "others" or "outsiders;" the men on the wall peopled our own communities, from doctor to grocer to banker.
Most Americans have lost that connection; a huge chunk of those who serve are now professional, career warriors, and they hang with their own (as do the civilians). Fortunately for us, however, there are some extraordinary people who themselves had distinguished military careers, who then turned to reporting from the frontline after being honorably discharged.
For example, we already know Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who has been in Iraq and Afghanistan since Day 1. And we've followed the exploits of our fellow blogger Bill Roggio, also a former Army Special Forces soldier, once of Fourth Rail but now in Afganistan reporting on the Counterterrorism Blog.
Now we can add two more names to the list: Wade Zirkle, a former Marine Lieutenant who served two deployments to Iraq; and David Bellavia, a former Army Staff Sergeant, one of the many heroes of Second Falluja. (Hat tip Black Five)
Zirkel and Bellavia are the executive director and vice chairman (respectively) of Vets For Freedom, a non profit organization composed of Iraq and Afganistan veterans dedicated to telling the truth about the war. Lest we quote Pontius Pilate, "the truth" is what they, as soldiers and Marines, actually saw and participated in... not the rude caricature that slouches through the halls of Congress, led around by Murtha, Kerry, and Pelosi.
Vets for Freedom was founded by a group of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans who believe in the mission of freedom in the Global War on Terror, but who have become frustrated with the way the operation has been politicized and reported to the home front.
Zirkel and Bellavia have just gotten back to Iraq as journalists and started their reporting. Bellavia is amazed by his completely different perspective as a reporter, rather than a soldier whose sole focus is his own mission:
Baghdad is absolutely beautiful. I mean shockingly majestic. This is a city for years we have been told is unsalvageable and I was amazed to see this level of cleanliness…
I feel that is the first time I have visited Iraq. Deploying to a place during a time of war and playing a part of that offensive operation, it is impossible to have any point of view besides the constant assessment of threat and responsive force. You can't appreciate landscapes or city streets. You are more preoccupied with observing the fine elements of city life and not the larger picture of community and family. You could deploy me to the Guggenheim and I wouldn't comment on anything other than the job at hand. Infantrymen are vigilant, quick tempered toward the enemy and always focused. Today I feel none of those things and that really is a great feeling.
Please read on. And salute when you're finished!
Immigration Man 2: "No Reason"
Yesterday, I posted a piece called Immigration Man, noting that none of those who so readily call normalization "amnesty" had yet posted -- at least that I have seen -- a blog article that recognized the hell that so many legal immigrants must pass through like a kidney stone.
No anti-normalization blogger that I've read has called for reform of a system that shattered long ago, which is now run by career "civil" "servants" who have as much concern for immigrants, legal immigrants, as cock fighters have for their roosters.
I finished by begging to be proven wrong:
We have quite a few readers here; can anyone show me even one, single post by an anti-Hagel-Martinez hardliner about the troubles faced by legal immigrants? Can I see a post where a hardliner argues that we should reform immigration law to make the system more rational, fair, and comprehensible, less time-consuming, and less likely to induce despair or even the very bypassing of the immigration laws that hardliners fear? May I please see some evidence that the anti-illegal-immigrant hardliners care much -- or at all -- about government maltreatment of legal immigrants and potential immigrants?
(I will define a "hardliner" as anyone who opposes what he calls "amnesty" so much, he will even give up the border fence, if that's the only way to stop normalization.)
After nineteen comments (to this point), only one person so far has linked to a blogpost by a hardliner who has published a post agreeing that our legal immigration system is in dire need of overhaul to make it more rational, predictable, and just. And that post linked Big Lizards as its source!
Instead, commenters have been answering quite different questions. Several seem to think I'm arguing for more immigration; I'm open to the possibility, but I never argued the point in Immigration Man. Others are convinced I oppose the fence; in fact, I'm 100% behind it.
Still more seem to think I said that all conservatives are anti-immigrant: no again; read the post closely.
What I point out in Immigration Man is that I've yet to meet even one person who refers to normalization as "amnesty" -- yet who is concerned enough about the insanity of the current legal immigration system that he's written a blogpost about reforming it.
Maybe people really don't know; here are the two examples closest to me:
My wife was a legal immigrant; she jumped through all the hoops, did everything by the book. She got a green card; she went through the whole citizenship procedure, satisfying every requirement save one: her swearing-in ceremony.
Along the way, she was bullied, threatened, shouted at, belittled, insulted, and once made to wait from 3:30 am on the sidewalk outside the INS... only to be told at 9:00 that they were only seeing twenty people that day. She was number 27 -- and there was a very long line behind her. (I waited with her that day; she had to forcibly restrain me from strangling the moron who didn't bother putting a sign up the night before.)
But in the end, she satisfied all the requirements and needed only to be sworn in... and they simply wouldn't give her an appointment.
No reason. She wasn't missing any papers, she had passed all the tests, she had been here for years and years, she spoke excellent English, she was perfectly legal. They just didn't give her an appointment... for years.
It finally took the direct intervention of our then Republican representative to finally get the damned INS to set a date for her to get sworn in; she went, raised her hand, and finally became an American.
Please don't brush this off by saying, "oh, the government is always bureaucratic." This goes far beyond mere bureaucracy into despicable abuse.
I've told the story of our friend Takao here several times. He came from Japan legally, but the most he could get was a work visa. He lived here, worked here -- all legally -- paid his taxes, bought a condo and a car, had health and auto insurance, learned English, got a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from an American university, never got in the least bit of trouble with the law... yet in all that time, he was never even able to get a green card.
Not in sixteen years.
He hired an American attorney, but it made no difference. No matter what forms he filed, the INS simply never bothered responding, beyond sending a receipt of the filing. They never told him what he lacked, what he had to do, why he couldn't get a green card.
That is because there was no reason: there is no reason why some breeze right through in five years; no reason why others get stuck in a holding pattern for three times as long.
In the end, Takao was laid off from the Japanese hotel where he had worked for so long; it was shortly after 9/11, and Japanese were afraid to travel to America... so the hotel got into financial trouble and had to lay off many workers.
Takao's work visa specified that hotel; he filled out the forms for the INS to apply for another job. Instead of granting it -- they ordered him home... that's it, sayonara, it's been a slice having you.
Because he would not break the law, he found himself on an airplane back to Narita Airport. He lives in Tokyo today, but he still loves America... even after what America did to him. God knows why. He still hopes that someday, he will be able to come here as a permanent resident.
I hear about others who come here and have no problems: they get on the green-card track right away, they get residency, they're given an appointment for being sworn in... no problem. Others live through the nightmares depicted above.
There is no rhyme or reason, no logic why one is waved through at a trot while another is thrown to the ground and made to crawl. It's entirely random -- or worse, the caprice of the interviewer -- who gets a pass and whose paperwork is lost for two and a half years on somebody's desk, with nobody at the INS (now the USCIS -- same car, different plastic) caring enough even to go look for it.
The system is entirely arbitrary. It is the most unpredictable agency in the United States government, except in one respect: immigrants are routinely treated like animals. That they can expect.
People are told what is happening; people are told what they need to do. People are treated with respect, even when they have to fill out eighty-five forms in triplicate.
Immigrants, legal immigrants, are not people... not as far as Immigration is concerned.
What I Want for Christmas
I will wait until I see a hardliner finally understand why this is a vile betrayal of the American promise. I long for the day when he spends at least a tenth as much time arguing for reform of the legal immigration system as he does calling illegals "lawbreakers" and "criminals."
(I wonder how many of these "lawbreakers" were just like Takao, except, having a family, they made the decision that rather than be arbitrarily sent back to whatever blot they left, they would stay -- and perhaps their kids could have the life the "lawbreakers" could only experience vicariously.)
I eagerly anticipate the hardliner's insight that a system that is unpredictable, uninformative, unconcerned, vindictive, and that is run by petty tyrants who have life-and-death decision-making power over immigrants who have played by all the rules, is in urgent need of reform.
Not to bring in fewer immigrants, nor more immigrants, but simply to have a system where someone who follows every law scrupulously can actually be told what he must do to become a permanent resident and eventually a citizen.
For God's sake, even a horse is taught what commands it must obey; it doesn't have to guess.
Date ►►► June 19, 2006
I have been thinking a lot about the hard-line, anti-illegal-immigration crowd, especially in the House, but also in the conservative blogosphere. I start to wonder about the defensive claim that they're just opposed to lawbreaking -- not immigration itself.
Let's leave aside those who nakedly oppose immigration, calling, e.g., for a "moratorium" on new immigrants for five years or three years or any other length of time. Those bloggers and pundits are simply being honest about their dislike; and while I fervently disagree with them, I always prize honesty and clarity in political debate (it's a rare and valuable commodity).
I begin to become quite skeptical of those who say "I'm not opposed to legal immigration; but these illegals are criminals and lawbreakers, and they should not be rewarded with amnesty."
For weeks, we at Big Lizards have focused on the tail end of that statement: not only the misleading misuse of the word "amnesty," which doesn't mean what the hard-liners pretend it does, but more generally the question of what balance to strike between security, the needs of businesses for cheap and acquiescent labor, and a just resolution for those who bypassed the immigration system to come here illegally.
But all along, I have taken at face value the first part of the argument above: that the opponents of comprehensive immigration reform actually have nothing against legal immigration. Clearly, however, if I'm misinformed -- if they do have a deep-seated distrust of immigration in general, whether they recognize it or whether it is subconscious -- then there is little hope of ever crafting a compromise of any sort. As Ronald Reagan often said, you cannot rationally argue someone out of a position that he was never rationally argued into in the first place.
So forgive my brashness, for I am only an egg; but I would like to see some reasonable evidence that any of the "hard-liners" against compromise on normalization actually supports legal immigration, or has the slightest concern about the arbitrary, capricous, and often discriminatory way that completely legal immigrants (and would-be immigrants) are treated in this country -- earlier by the Immigration and Naturalization Services and today by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
We have quite a few readers here; can anyone show me even one, single post by an anti-Hagel-Martinez hardliner about the troubles faced by legal immigrants? Can I see a post where a hardliner argues that we should reform immigration law to make the system more rational, fair, and comprehensible, less time-consuming, and less likely to induce despair or even the very bypassing of the immigration laws that hardliners fear? May I please see some evidence that the anti-illegal-immigrant hardliners care much -- or at all -- about government maltreatment of legal immigrants and potential immigrants?
I believe that the vast majority of those who are anti-affirmative-action (including myself) are at least equally concerned about racist laws that hurt blacks: just as I would march against affirmative action, if any such marches were planned, I have also in the past marched against the Klan. But on the other hand, I believe that nearly everyone who is anti-Israel just uses it as cover for being antisemitic -- so these sorts of things can swing either way.
I would love to find out I was right in my original assumption, that the anti-illegal hardliners actually do care about the unnecessary tribulations cast in the paths of legal immigrants. Not only would it make rational discussion possible, but I like to think well of people I respect. But danged if I can find any evidence so far.
The Exit-Stential Democrats
What is it with Democrats? When they go to the movies, do they spend the entire two hours frantically plotting their quickest escape route to the theater exit doors? Do they actually request airliner seats in the exit rows, so they can rip the door open and bail out should the plane encounter turbulence?
First Rep. John Murtha calls for an "over the horizon redeployment" from Iraq to Okinawa, of all places (he of course means Guam, since we're already redeploying out of Okinawa) -- whence, he assures us, our "fighters" can quickly strike at Iraq... that is, with twenty in-flight refuelings (or forty, if they intend to return after their mission) in order to bomb Iraq without overflying any of Russia, China, India, or Iran.
Then John Kerry proposes that by year's end, we withdraw all troops from Iraq except those absolutely essential. I suppose that makes sense, coming from a man who spent his entire four months in Vietnam plotting his own, personal exit strategy.
Now comes word that the Democrats intend to spend this week as well discussing new exit strategies:
Congressional Democrats, seizing on public discontent over the war in Iraq, will offer legislation this week calling for a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a shifting of forces to other nations, where supporters say American soldiers will be less likely to come under attack. [Aha, they want to keep our soldiers from anywhere they might get shot at... they "support our troops!" -- the Mgt.]
The resolution, crafted by Democratic Senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Carl Levin of Michigan, will headline a second week of debate in Congress over the state of the war. It is the first real debate Congress has held on the war since the US invasion in early 2003.
I am pleased to see that the Boston Globe excludes from the word "debate" those 57,966 Democratic campaign commercials, 188,314 appearances on liberal talking-head TV shows, and 7,815,999 public speeches by congressional liberals denouncing (a) the war, (b) the president, and (c) the American military in general -- save for those elements of (c) willing to join the denunciation of (a) and (b). However, even holding a debate on "phased withdrawal" while we're still duking it out is a nutty idea nonetheless.
And it's politically unhelpful to the Democratic Party as well. I can only conclude that Bush Derangement Syndrome has metastisized so thoroughly throughout the party -- evidence even Rep. Jane Harman's (D-CA, 70%) pull-out manifesto last week -- that they literally believe that the nation pines for loss and humiliation as the radical Left does, and that pandering to American cowards is the surest way to win votes in November.
I feel distinctly bipolar about the upcoming election: first, I was optimistic, believing that things would go better as the months progressed (as they have), and that Democrats were sure to pull so many stupid political stunts that they would, yet again, rescue the Republicans with another "own goal."
Then when the Republicans made misstep after misstep and appeared on the brink (as they still are) of making the worst one of all, failing to report an immigration bill out of the joint conference, I found myself pessimistic to the point of despondency (I would be flirting with mortal sin, were I a Catholic).
But now, I discover my first impression was correct after all. I should learn to trust myself more than the antique media. The Democrats will save us once again: the internal enemy of my external enemy is my eternal friend.
Erwin Chemerinsky Is All Wet
Not being an attorney, I'm not allowed to have much of an opinion on today's Supreme-Court decision in the two linked "wetlands" cases, John A. Rapanos, et ux., et al. v. United States and June Carabell, et al. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, et al.
However, since I play a "Philadelphia lawyer" on the blog, I will spout off anyway. The Court held that it wouldn't hold anything; well, actually it held only that the lower courts that decided these cases had to rehear them to determine what "nexus" (if any) exists between the wetlands under question and "navigable waterways."
The Court didn't say what it might do with that information once it got it:
- The four conservative members -- Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas -- said that if the wetlands weren't at least adjacent to navigable waterways (and with a surface connection), then the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and Congress could not, under the act, regulate them.
- The four liberal members -- Justices Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Souter -- opined that it wouldn't make any difference if the "wetlands" in question was in fact the sewer system of Long Beach, California; the act gives the ACE power to regulate anything it wants.
- And alas, the "swing vote," the man with the bidirectional mind, Justice Kennedy, announced that he had no clue how he might rule once he saw the new evidence, nor what he actually thought about anything, nor even whether he would care. In fact, he literally announced that he would simply consult his Magic 7-Ball (he doesn't quite have an 8-Ball). No, seriously.
(I wonder whether Patterico or Dan Kauffman will be first to post a comment demanding to know where exactly in the Kennedy opinion does he "literally" say he will use a Magic 7-Ball...!)
Today, Hugh Hewitt had a special visitation by the "smart guys," which actually means the smart guy and the screaming schemer: John Eastman and Erwin Chemerinsky. Eastman was rational, so let's dismiss him. I want to focus on Chemerinsky.
The case hinges on what, exactly, the Clean Air and Water Act of 1972 regulates -- and secondarily, though I don't think the Court got to this question, what Congress is constitutionally allowed to regulate. But when Hugh asked Chemerinsky what (in his expert legal opinion) could be regulated by the 1972 act, Chemerinsky kept dodging the question, referring only to things where virtually everybody would agree that regulation was necessary. For example, he risibly suggested that under the Scalia approach, all a "polluter" would have to do is put his dirty factory "far enough upstream," and he could then pour anything he wanted into the river.
This of course assumes that there are no state regulations banning such pollution... because actually, all we're talking about here is whether the Army Corps of Engineers could regulate against the wishes of state agencies. The Court was not deciding whether people should be allowed to pollute rivers and streams. In fact, the case wasn't even about pollution but whether land-owners could fill-in man-made drainage ditches and small lakes unconnected with any "waterways."
There is a more urgent question that I wish Hugh had asked, but which evidently didn't occur to him: Mr. Chemerinsky, under your interpretation of the scope of the act -- what kind of wetland wouldn't fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government? Can you imagine any puddle of water anywhere that would be immune from the ACE, if they chose to issue pronouncements about it?
I suspect Chemerinsky would have had a very hard time answering that question... because in fact, everything I have ever heard him say makes me believe that the man is the opposite of a federalist: he is a nationalist (and on many issues, an internationalist). Chemerinsky seems to believe that Congress should have, and indeed does have under the Constitution, authority to mandate, regulate, or forbid any behavior in any state, county, or city anywhere in the country, with no limits whatsoever.
To me, it appears that Chemerinsky desperately wants the federal government to have general police powers over the states and local government; and that that famous list of areas where Congress can regulate, found in the United States Constitution (Article I, §8), is simply a laundry list of suggestions -- not any sort of limitation.
Penultimately, I suspect that Chemerinsky would like to see all power in the hands of the federal government... then ultimately under the control of a single, pan-national congress or parliament made up of the "anointed elites" of all nations. Am I misjudging the man?
In any event, this is a very serious argument. The wetlands in question seem to have no "nexus" to any navigable waterway stronger than the mere fact that we have a water cycle on this planet: water from everywhere gets evaporated by sunshine, then returns to the Earth as rain, falling upon every navigable waterway in the world.
If the standard governing whether a wetlands is covered by the 1972 act is that there exists any nexus at all, including the water cycle -- and if the act applies to these particular wetlands, then that must be the standard -- then Congress has given jurisdiction to the ACE to regulate any water-filled indentation at all... including your backyard swimming pool.
The Chix Love "Country"... Just Not This One
On my last post Go North, Young Chix, a commenter left this peculiar message.
Basically, it's because many of you folks have misinformation (the Chicks LOVE our troops and our country), and are so mean about spreading your hate. [Emphasis added]
What is he talking about?
After describing how the Dixie Chicks are too sophisticated for us redneck women and how they "weathered" the unfair attacks from mean-spirited conservatives and even political oppression, the article reveals what the Chix have to say about all this:
The Chicks can't hide their disgust at the lack of support they received from other country performers. "A lot of artists cashed in on being against what we said or what we stood for because that was promoting their career, which was a horrible thing to do," says Robison.
"A lot of pandering started going on, and you'd see soldiers and the American flag in every video. It became a sickening display of ultra-patriotism."
How clueless they are.
They think the only reason other country singers did not support the chicks was that they wanted to cash in against the chicks.
Besides demonstrating a rather colossal ego on the Chix' part, I'm not sure Natalie Maines realizes what it implies about their rejection by country fans: if groups can "cash in" by attacking the Chix, that means there's a big market among country fans for doing just that. If the Chix were really as popular as the album sales indicate, then attacking them would have a negative effect on one's income, not a positive one.
- The Chix reject out of hand the possibility that other country artists were as genuinely angry at the Chix as the girls were angry at President Bush. Evidently, the possibility that their professional detractors were simply being honest and straightforward never crossed their minds. (If they have minds.)
- And of course, the DCs cannot imagine that other bands' display of "ultra-patriotism" might actually be sincere... especially after our nation was attacked. Patriotism is really just greed, stupidity, or ignorance, as far as the Chix are concerned.
Ah, but Elton John gives us some insight: the reason nobody wants to speak up for what's "going on" is because of Bush-induced censorship (hat tip commenter MTF):
Sir Elton John has attacked what he calls a McCarthy-like "era of censorship" in America. Entertainers who speak out against the Bush administration or its policy on Iraq, he claimed, risk scorn and damage to their livelihood.
Boy George, I think you've got it, Sir Elton: the American right of freedom of speech has always guaranteed a hit record and a successful concert tour. It's written right in the Constitution. (Again, we're back to liberals -- and some conservatives -- who have their own special dictionaries that don't seem to match the internationally accepted yardstick.)
As for Maines, that crazy, little thing called "patriotism" is simply a mystery to her:
"The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism," Maines resumes, through gritted teeth. "Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country… I don't see why people care about patriotism."
I think this answers the commenter's claim that "the Chicks LOVE our troops and our country"... and resolves the burning question of who is actually "spreading [their] hate."
HTML "Quick Keys"
Are you guys able to see the HTML "quick keys" I added to the comment text box, both in the original permalink page and even in the comment preview page -- which last was a real bear?
Nobody has mentioned them, and I suddenly had the horrible suspicion that I was the only one who could see them!
Are they there for you? If not, what browser are you using? I tested it on Netscape 6 and 7, IE 6, and Firefox. I didn't bother testing it on Opera, because I have so many problems with that browser that I gave up on trying to design the blog to be Opera-friendly.
Date ►►► June 17, 2006
A pair of quick hits from Robert Novak's column today. First, economics -- Democrat style:
[Seven - Novak mistakenly says six] Republican defections (in the House Appropriations Committee) produced a 32 to 27 committee vote, amending the health and education spending bill, for an increase to $7.25 an hour of the current $5.15 rate that has not been changed since 1997.
Though the bill will evidently not be brought to the floor of the House, let's pause a moment to look at those figures. According to the inflation calculator on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, $5.15 in 1997 is worth $6.50 in 2006. That is an increase of 26% over nine years, or 2.9% per year.
But the amount that the Democrats (and seven Republicans) want to raise the minimum wage is 41%! That means they are acting as if inflation has been running at more than 4.5% per year the last nine years, rather than the actual rate of 2.9%.
This is the essence of liberalism. This is nothing more than a tax hike on businesses... and guaranteed to cause a massive rise in unemployment, as small businesses -- the backbone of the American economy and the source of the lion's share of the job growth during this excellent recovery -- suddenly discover that five employees next year cost as much as seven employees do this year... with predictable consequences for businesses that typically operate at the bare minimum of profit margin.
Thus, among smaller businesses that employ primarily minimum-wage employees -- and among all businesses whose labor contracts for their employees are negotiated with the union as defined multiples of the minimum wage -- a hike of 41% in the minimum wage could lead to a 25% - 30% layoff rate... especially for unskilled workers, the very ones least likely to find another job... and the very ones that Democrats pretend to be concerned about.
And who are those six Republicans? Novak doesn't tell us, but from the virtually unreadable MSNBC websight, where some advert threatens to engulf and devour the entire page (at least on Netscape and Firefox), we learn who they are:
- Bill Young (R-FL, 87%);
- Mike Simpson (R-ID, 92%);
- Ray LaHood (R-IL, 65%);
- Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO, 88%);
- John Sweeney (R-NY, 72%);
- Jim Walsh (R-NY 65%);
- Don Sherwood (R-PA, 84%).
If you think they're all liberals, think again. This is an eclectic mix of liberal Republicans (LaHood, Walsh), moderates Sweeny, Sherwood), and conservatives (Young, Emerson, and Simpson.) Sadly, the fundamentals of economics -- what I call "Econ. 101" in the categories here -- elude not just the Left but also many conservative Republicans. Among those who agitate for a much higher minimum wage is the soft-hearted, soft-headed conservative Dennis Prager. (Prager also supports affirmative action -- but "only for blacks," because of the "legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.") Maths and economics do not appear to be Mr. Prager's long suit.
If the conservative Republicans voted on committee for the hike expecting Speaker Hastert to kill it by bringing last year's Health and Education spending bill to the floor instead -- which he did -- then I find that even more reprehensible: it's both dishonest and hypocritical. Dishonest, because they know it isn't going to happen, so they're deliberately raising false hopes among the working poor; hypocritical, because they will go home in August and tell their constituents about their frugality and how much they support a free market.
Novak continues, saying:
Republicans want to avoid a minimum wage floor fight, where Democrats would point out that House members Tuesday, for the eighth straight Congress, raised their own pay. The latest $3,300 increase puts the House's annual salary at $168,500.
But again, do the math: this hike of $3,300 from a base salary of $165,200 is only 2%... which is less than a single year's inflation. So Democrats want to shame Republicans, who accepted a 2% COLA, into voting for a 41% increase in the minimum wage, and the GOP is running scared.
I'm certainly no fan of congressional pay hikes; but I'm also no fan of innumeracy... and the plain fact is that the House's raise is insignificant, while the proposed increase in the minimum wage would be devastating not only for small businesses but for the working poor as well -- Prager or no Prager.
Date ►►► June 16, 2006
Pinch v. Pinch
In their righteous zeal to close down the Guantánamo Bay detainment camp, the New York Times ran an op-ed from a prisoner recently released from the camp, Mourad Benchellali:
I was released from the United States military's prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in July 2004. As I was about to board a plane that would take me home to France, the last detainee I saw was a young Yemeni. He was overwhelmed by emotion.
"In your country, Mourad, there are rights, human rights, and they mean something," he said. "In mine they mean nothing, and no one cares. So when you're free, don't forget what you've been through. Tell people that we are here."
(Tip of the hat to John Noonan at NewsBusters.)
Mourad Benchellali describes the despair, the incomprehension, and the torture he suffered at the hands of the Americans:
In Guantánamo, I did see some people for whom jihad is life itself, people whose minds are distorted by extremism and whose souls are full of hatred. But the huge majority of the faces I remember -- the ones that haunt my nights -- are of desperation, suffering, incomprehension turned into silent madness.
But the magnanimous fellow has not allowed his dreadful ordeal to poison his own mind. Like Ann Frank, in spite of everything, he still believes that Americans are really good at heart:
I am a quiet Muslim — I've never waged war, let alone an asymmetrical one. I wasn't anti-American before and, miraculously, I haven't become anti-American since.
So how exactly does Mr. Benchellali account for having ended up in Gitmo in the first place? He explains it all very poignantly:
I was seized by the Pakistani Army while having tea at a mosque shortly after I managed to cross the border. A few days later I was delivered to the United States Army: although I didn't know it at the time, I was now labeled an "enemy combatant." It did not matter that I was no one's enemy and had never been on a battlefield, let alone fought or aimed a weapon at anyone.
After two weeks in the American military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, I was sent to Guantánamo, where I spent two and a half years. I cannot describe in just a few lines the suffering and the torture; but the worst aspect of being at the camp was the despair, the feeling that whatever you say, it will never make a difference.
Mr. Benchellali is correct when he says he cannot describe his torture in "just a few lines." Of course, he cannot seem to describe it in an entire New York Times op-ed, either, as he does not mention even a single instance of torture. Naturally, he has written a book; I'm sure that in the pages of the book, where he has a chance to spread himself, he describes all manner of horrible tortures he endured.
The first point of interest is that, although he begins by saying "I was released from the United States military's prison camp at Guantánamo Bay," what he actually means is that he was released into French custody -- for he is to stand trial in France for attending an al-Qaeda training camp, which he does not deny (he says he went there by mistake, tricked by his brother into thinking it was an Afghan Club Med or somesuch).
But there is an even more intriguing point about Mr. Benchellali. Consider these lines from a (somewhat) reputable news source:
When Chellali Benchellali moved to France 41 years ago his path seemed clear enough. Escaping the misery of his native Algeria, he hoped to get a job, marry, raise a family and blend into the French melting pot. [the French what?]
He got part way there. But for the last six months Mr. Benchellali has been in a high-security French prison along with his wife and two of his sons, all accused of helping to plot a chemical attack in the style of Al Qaeda in Europe. A third son has just been released from the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, one of four Frenchmen handed over to the French authorities this week.
The family's journey from yearning immigrants to alleged Islamic militants - accused of harboring a makeshift laboratory in their suburban Lyon apartment, where one son was said to have been trying to make biological and chemical bombs - is an extreme but still emblematic manifestation of a quiet crisis spreading through Europe's growing Arab underclass.
That's a rather strange concatenation of coincidence: same last name, and the Benchellali family has a son who just got out of Gitmo. But of course, it's no coincidence at all:
According to the police, Menad persuaded his youngest brother, Mourad, a high school dropout, to go with Nizar Sassi, a neighborhood friend, to Afghanistan for Qaeda training in 2001....
Meanwhile, American forces picked up Mourad and Nizar, either in Afghanistan or along the Pakistani border.
But that's not the half of it. The Benchellali famliy had been heavily into jihad for years before Mourad went to the al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. The evidence against them -- much of which comes from the star witness, Mrs. Benchellali -- included the radical sermons Benchellali preached in his makeshift "mosque," his consorting with known jihadis, and the manufacture of "caustic chemicals" and bombs in his house:
In 1993, Mr. Benchellali began raising money and traveling to Bosnia to distribute food and clothing to besieged Muslims. On his fifth trip there, Croatian soldiers seized him and two other men from Vénissieux and held them in brutal conditions for five months.
He came back with even stronger religious convictions and began preaching in the ground-floor activity room of his apartment block. The room soon became known as the Abu Bakr mosque. His sermons took on an increasingly radical tone....
By the mid-1990's, with a civil war in full swing in Algeria, supporters of the violent Armed Islamic Group carried the battle to the Continent. The police say the Abu Bakr mosque became an occasional halfway house for members of the group passing through France.
Mourad's older brothers trafficked in false travel documents for Moslem extremists, and Hafed Benchellali robbed the payroll of his employer; all of this happened while Mourad still lived at home with them.
Thus, far from being a wide-eyed innocent boy picked up in Pakistan for attending an al-Qaeda training camp by mistake... in reality, Mourad Benchellali came from a family of hardened jihadis; he had contact with the Algerian Armed Islamic Group; his brothers were not only hard-core extremists but common criminals as well; and his brother Menad was cooking up biological and chemical weapons in his mother's coffeepot and on her ironing board:
A Vénissieux neighbor who had accompanied Menad to Georgia also told investigators that Menad had trained in ricin production while in Afghanistan and that he had been trying "to make chemical or bacteriological products to commit an attack," according to a transcript of the interrogation.
Mrs. Benchellali, in her early interrogations, told investigators, "I knew well that it was to make chemical bombs or something like that, but I didn't know the details."
And this is the background of the strapping lad who was tricked into thinking an al-Qaeda training camp was, as Mourad put it in his op-ed in the New York Times, "a dream vacation."
The New York Times did not see fit to tell its readers about any of this when it printed Mourad's opinion piece. But let's be charitable; perhaps the Times had no idea of Mourad Benchellali's background when they accepted his piece.
Besides, how sure are we really that the evidence against the Benchellali family quoted above is even accurate? I admitted the news publication was only somewhat reliable; perhaps the Times simply decided it wasn't well enough sourced to bother letting their readers know about it as they read Mourad Benchellali's damning denunciation of Guantánamo Bay.
So -- what was that questionable source, anyway? You're way ahead of me: it was none other than the July 31st, 2004 edition of the New York Times.
Arthur Ochs "Pinch" Sulzberger, jr. -- meet Arthur Ochs "Pinch" Sulzberger, jr.
Intrigued, Not Convinced
Michael Ledeen over at NRO believes the "planning document" seized in a raid shortly before we killed Musab Zarqawi is a "terribly done...shockingly amateurish...unbelievable" forgery by the Iranians.
I'm not convinced; but he does raise some intriguing questions that beg for answers.
The conceit of the piece is that Ledeen is consulting his Ouija Board to channel the spirit of James Jesus Moreno Angleton, a former CIA counterintelligency guy who died in 1987; in the "dialog," JJA refers to this disembodied spirit -- which is Ledeen's way of raising the questions. (Don't ask.)
For example, here is an early exchange:
JJA: Well, the assumption about this piece of paper is that it reflects the thinking of at least one important terrorist leader, right? Otherwise it wouldn’t be important.
JJA: So how come this terrorist leader makes so many mistakes? I mean, blatant factual errors. Let’s start with his statement -- #5 in the first set of numbered paragraphs -- that there has been “a decline of the resistance’s assaults.”
ML: Well, our casualties are certainly down, aren’t they?
JJA: Not really. May was one of the worst months since the fall of Saddam. Recently there’s been a dramatic increase in assaults and the number of dead innocents. Precisely the opposite of what the unnamed “leader” says.
May was bad, but April was a lot better. The document itself bears no date; so my first question for Ledeen would be, when does he think it was written? (Note the Breitbart.com has the wrong origin for the document; it came from a raid that preceded the death of Zarqawi.)
In the end, Ledeen concludes that it's a deliberately clumsy forgery by the Iranians in order to sow FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about any other papers we might find. But this still requires the document not to be a blatant fraud, else it wouldn't sow anything but laughter.
E.g., the fake evidence of Iraqi attempts to obtain yellowcake was only effective insofar as it was good enough to be believed; that way, some governments might have based all or part of their analysis on it. Then, when it's shown to be a fake, their entire intelligence structure is discredited. Those countries which rejected the fraud from the very beginning, notably the United Kingdom, were unscathed.
Thus, Ledeen's basic theme is inherently goofy: if it were a fraud by an advanced intelligence agency like Iran's, they wouldn't have put so many mistakes into it; however, we have certainly seen documents from, for example, the Iraq Intelligence Service prior to the invasion, that were sweeping in their inaccuracy... yet still provably authentic. It is entirely possible that a particular terrorist writing a particular document might be behind the times and not know that they had launched more attacks in May; he might well still be operating off of April's numbers, no matter when he wrote it.
So mere mistakes are not convincing to me. Let's move on to Ledeen's other criticisms.
JJA: And then — #6 in that first batch — he says that there’s been “an increase in the number of countries and elements supporting the occupation.” I guess he doesn’t read Italian, does he? And even the Brits have announced they’re going to leave. Again, the opposite of the facts. I could go on, but you get the point, don't you?
I think this is just a clumsy mistake on Ledeen's part (see? anyone can do it!) Probably, the writer of the document is referring to increased support from the ummah, from the Arab Moslem countries:
However, here in Iraq, time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance for the following reasons....
6. By allowing an increase in the number of countries and elements supporting the occupation or at least allowing to become neutral in their stand toward us in contrast to their previous stand or refusal of the occupation.
Over the last year or so, a number of countries, particularly Arab countries -- and especially particularly Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- have offered a lot more help to the US in the GWOT in general and even in matters related to the terrorist threat in Iraq. That is most likely what the writer here is talking about, and Ledeen's claim of factual error in the document is simply wrong itself.
Here is another line of attack where I think Ledeen just plain misunderstands the point of the writer of this document:
JJA: Look at #2 in the second group of numbered paragraphs, the ones that make recommendations. It says that the terrorists should “infiltrate the ranks of the National Guard..... In fact they've done it, as everybody knows. The Iraqi people trust the army but they are terrified by the national guard, precisely because there are so many terrorists and terrorist agents in it.
First of all, Ledeen makes a very elementary mistake: the forces of the Interior Ministry are not called "the National Guard." That word in the document comes from the translation supplied by the Iraqi government; as it is not the standard word used for either the New Iraqi Army (Ministry of Defense) or the Iraqi Police (Interior Ministry), we know that it is a mistranslation.
What we do not know off the bat is what is should have read. But we can deduce; here is the description from the document itself:
1. By allowing the American forces to form the forces of the National Guard, to reinforce them and enable them to undertake military operations against the resistance.
That does not sound like a description of the Iraqi Police; they are more or less intact from the Saddam era. But after we toppled the Baathists, one of the first things we did (it was controversial, but I think necessary) was to disband the Iraqi Army and begin forming a New Iraqi Army. And it is the Iraqi Army, not the Iraqi Police, that we have spent so much time training to "enable them to undertake military operations against the resistance."
Thus, when the translator uses the term National Guard, he clearly refers to the New Iraqi Army -- not the Iraqi Police. Once you realize that, the statements about the "National Guard" make perfect sense, coming from a Sunni terrorist:
Such a study is needed in order to show the best means to accomplish the required goals, especially that the forces of the National Guard have succeeded in forming an enormous shield protecting the American forces and have reduced substantially the losses that were solely suffered by the American forces....
2. To assist some of the people of the resistance to infiltrate the ranks of the National Guard in order to spy on them for the purpose of weakening the ranks of the National Guard when necessary, and to be able to use their modern weapons.
Substitute "New Iraqi Army" for "National Guard" above (instead of substituting "Iraqi Police"), and it all falls into place.
Finally, there is what Ledeen evidently considers his killer argument:
JJA: Aha! It emerges bit by bit, but the whole thrust of the document is that Iran is a sweet innocent, actually an ally of the United States in Iraq, and that the terrorists should do everything possible to foster conflict between Iran and the Americans.
Here is what the document says:
It is not known whether American is serious in its animosity towards Iraq [sic -- Iran], because of the big support Iran is offering to America in its war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Hence, it is necessary first to exaggerate the Iranian danger and to convince America and the west in general, of the real danger coming from Iran, and this would be done by the following.
But again, there is a ready explanation: the Iranians are helping the resistance... but they're mostly helping the Shia, not the Sunni; in fact, Iran-backed Shiite militias (notably that of Muqtada Sadr) are infiltrating the Iraqi Police in order to massacre Sunnis in the centrals areas of Iraq.
Sunni terrorists may well consider this "big support" to the Americans -- who they see as being in league with the Shia.
Thus, nearly all of Ledeen's objections are at least themselves questionable. This is why I say his column intrigues, but it does not convince.
Date ►►► June 15, 2006
Text of That Troublous House Resolution...
...That is causing all the furor, angst, hysteria, and dyspepsia among Democrats from Rep. Dennis Kucinic (D-OH, 100%) to Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA, 70%), and all ports en route.
Read it and see if you can deduce what the heck clause is causing the mass Democratic outbreak of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; danged if I can figure it out.
By the way, another funny point from the AP article I linked earlier. This one is laugh-out-loud funny:
Democrats decried the debate as a sham. They said Republicans promised an open discussion but, instead, stacked the deck in their own favor by limiting debate to 10 hours and barring any amendments.
"Republicans offer a political document, just before the fall elections," Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., said. Added Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif.: "They are forcing us into a charade."
They also complained that Republicans refused to allow them to present an alternative resolution. But even though they tried, Democrats weren't able to agree on such an alternative.
Here is the resolution itself...
Declaring that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.
Whereas the United States and its allies are engaged in a Global War on Terror, a long and demanding struggle against an adversary that is driven by hatred of American values and that is committed to imposing, by the use of terror, its repressive ideology throughout the world;
Whereas for the past two decades, terrorists have used violence in a futile attempt to intimidate the United States;
Whereas it is essential to the security of the American people and to world security that the United States, together with its allies, take the battle to the terrorists and to those who provide them assistance;
Whereas the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other terrorists failed to stop free elections in Afghanistan and the first popularly-elected President in that nation's history has taken office;
Whereas the continued determination of Afghanistan, the United States, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will be required to sustain a sovereign, free, and secure Afghanistan;
Whereas the steadfast resolve of the United States and its partners since September 11, 2001, helped persuade the government of Libya to surrender its weapons of mass destruction;
Whereas by early 2003 Saddam Hussein and his criminal, Ba'athist regime in Iraq, which had supported terrorists, constituted a threat against global peace and security and was in violation of mandatory United Nations Security Council Resolutions;
Whereas the mission of the United States and its Coalition partners, having removed Saddam Hussein and his regime from power, is to establish a sovereign, free, secure, and united Iraq at peace with its neighbors;
Whereas the terrorists have declared Iraq to be the central front in their war against all who oppose their ideology;
Whereas the Iraqi people, with the help of the United States and other Coalition partners, have formed a permanent, representative government under a newly ratified constitution;
Whereas the terrorists seek to destroy the new unity government because it threatens the terrorists' aspirations for Iraq and the broader Middle East;
Whereas United States Armed Forces, in coordination with Iraqi security forces and Coalition and other friendly forces, have scored impressive victories in Iraq including finding and killing the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi;
Whereas Iraqi security forces are, over time, taking over from United States and Coalition forces a growing proportion of independent operations and increasingly lead the fight to secure Iraq;
Whereas the United States and Coalition servicemembers and civilians and the members of the Iraqi security forces and those assisting them who have made the ultimate sacrifice or been wounded in Iraq have done so nobly, in the cause of freedom; and
Whereas the United States and its Coalition partners will continue to support Iraq as part of the Global War on Terror: Now, therefore, be it
- honors all those Americans who have taken an active part in the Global War on Terror, whether as first responders protecting the homeland, as servicemembers overseas, as diplomats and intelligence officers, or in other roles;
- honors the sacrifices of the United States Armed Forces and of partners in the Coalition, and of the Iraqis and Afghans who fight alongside them, especially those who have fallen or been wounded in the struggle, and honors as well the sacrifices of their families and of others who risk their lives to help defend freedom;
- declares that it is not in the national security interest of the United States to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq;
- declares that the United States is committed to the completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure, and united Iraq;
- congratulates Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and the Iraqi people on the courage they have shown by participating, in increasing millions, in the elections of 2005 and on the formation of the first government under Iraq's new constitution;
- calls upon the nations of the world to promote global peace and security by standing with the United States and other Coalition partners to support the efforts of the Iraqi and Afghan people to live in freedom; and
- declares that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the noble struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.
Dafydd's post below about the "treasure trove" of information we seized from al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia before Zarqawi's death missed one interesting point: AP, which reports on the document, doesn't seem to be sure it's really authentic:
The language contained in the document was different from the vocabulary used by al-Qaida statements posted on the Web. For example, it does not refer to the Americans as "Crusaders" nor use the term "rejectionists" to allude to Shiites.
Much of what is in the statement from al-Rubaie echoes results that the U.S. military and the Iraqi government say they are seeking. It also appears to reinforce American and Iraqi arguments that al-Qaida in Iraq and its operatives are a group of imported extremists bent on killing innocent civilians.
I guess they think that U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell might have written it himself, the way they believe our military is always running around planting evidence.
I sure wish they would apply the same level of skepticism to the Haditha accusations.
Dafydd replies: Oops, good catch. My media skept-o-meter is broken today!
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
That hit on Musab Zarqawi turns out to have been the first shot of a new offensive that has already netted staggering gains, making it one of the most effective operations of the period following the capture of Saddam Hussein:
American and Iraqi forces have carried out 452 raids since last week's killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the raids were carried out nationwide and led to the discovery of 28 significant arms caches.
He said 255 of the raids were joint operations, while 143 were carried out by Iraqi forces alone. The raids also resulted in the captures of 759 "anti-Iraqi elements."
I make that 863 bad guys we no longer have to worry about... just in the last week.
Meanwhile, the so-called "insurgency" is not just on the ropes... it's in despair. A document which was actually found before the Zarqawi hit portrays a terrorist campaign desperate to turn the Shia against Americans, to foment a war between the United States and Iran, to jump-start the Muqtada Sadr insurgency... anything to take the heat off of themselves:
A blueprint for trying to start a war between the United States and Iran was among a "huge treasure" of documents found in the hideout of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraqi officials said Thursday. The document, purporting to reflect al-Qaida policy and its cooperation with groups loyal to ousted President Saddam Hussein, also appear to show that the insurgency in Iraq was weakening....
Although the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the document was found in al-Zarqawi's hideout following a June 7 airstrike that killed him, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the document had in fact been found in a previous raid as part of an ongoing three-week operation to track al-Zarqawi.
The document makes clear that we are winning this war. There is no way that Zarqawi's replacement, Egyptian terror boss Ayyub Masri (a buddy of Ayman Zawahiri, bin Laden's "spiritual leader" and founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad), can possibly hold al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia together as well as Zarqawi, its founder. They will certainly continue plotting terrorist attacks; but they will likely be smaller and less effective, and more likely to be disrupted by Iraqi forces or by Coalition forces. The "director" is dead, and the second unit can't finish the movie.
Amazingly, even the elite media is being forced to report on the increasing tempo of victory. While Anne Frank was hiding in an attic from the Nazis (they would eventually find and murder her and her family), she wrote what is probably the greatest testament to optimism ever penned: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."
My God, what an moving paean for that girl to write in those circumstances.
I don't know if I could go that far; but to paraphrase Frank, in spite of everything, I still believe in the innate rationality of the American voter. He can be fooled for a time, especially when one party has nearly all of the mainstream print and television media in its pocketses... but "you can't fool all of the people all the time," to quote another great optimist.
It's said that a lie can get halfway round the world before Truth finishes lacing up its boots. But here's an addendum that's often forgotten: when Truth finally gets out the door, it stomps the speedy lies as flat as roadkill. The American people will come to their senses in time, just as they did in 2000, 2002, and 2004.
And then we'll find out whether the Democrats exemplify yet another saying: "insanity is doing the same thing in the same way with the same outcome a hundred times, but expecting a different result the hundred and first."
John Kerry's "Murtha Moment"
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%) has been reflecting on his presidential campaign: on the one hand, he did better in the primaries than former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who ran on a radical anti-war platform; on the other hand, Kerry was dogged throughout the general election season by demands to know why he had voted for the war.
But on the other hand, he came up with an answer to why he was still supporting it: "I actually voted against the $87 billion before I voted for it." But on the other hand, that answer didn't sit well with the electorate.
But on the other hand, in his upcoming campaign for the 2008 presidency, he has Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 100% -- "have war chest, will travel") running incongruously to his right; but on the other hand, the Democratic primary voters seem even further to the left than they were in 2004.
Having run out of hands, Kerry finally decided that this time, he will take the Al Gore route: he will run far, far to the left. Accordingly, he has denounced himself for voting for the Iraq War and for supporting it all these years. (We'll see whether Kerry will vote against the $94.5 billion compromise funding legislation next week -- which includes $68.5 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan; "I actually voted against the $68.5 billion before I voted for it.")
And in expiation for his sins, Kerry demanded that the Senate vote on his proposal to withdraw all but the most essential troops from Iraq "by year's end."
Kerry began working on submitting a formal version of this bill. Alas, he was a laggard... and he allowed Assistant Majority Leader (Majority Whip) Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 100%) to get the jump on him:
The Senate vote unfolded unexpectedly as the second-ranking leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced legislation he said was taken from a proposal by Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat and war critic. It called for Bush to agree with the Iraqi government on a schedule for withdrawal of combat troops by Dec. 31, 2006.
Kerry protested in his angriest airy monotone, but to no avail:
Democrats sought to curtail floor debate on the proposal, and the vote occurred quickly.
Kerry and other Democrats accused Republicans of political gamesmanship, and promised an authentic debate next week.
And of course, the result fell out just as did the House vote on the Murtha Amendment to "redeploy" U.S. forces in Iraq to "over the horizon" positions (that is, outside the country): on the Kerry amendment, the Senate voted 93 to 6 to reject setting a timetable for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq. Murtha tried to save face by voting against his own resolution; Kerry, however, is made of sterner stuff: he joined with five other Democrats (and no Republicans) to vote in favor of his own proposal:
- Barbara Boxer (CA, 100%);
- Tom Harkin (IA, 100%);
- Edward M. Kennedy (MA, 95%).
- John Kerry (MA, 100%);
- Russ Feingold (WI, 100%);
- Robert Byrd (WV, 95%);
Remember those names, gentle readers; they are the face of today's Democratic Party... the face of retreat and surrender.
In the meanwhile, the Democrats are not yet out of the woods:
The [Senate] vote came alongside a daylong debate in the House, where Republicans defended the war as key to winning the global struggle against terrorism while Democrats excoriated President Bush and his policies.
"We must stand firm in our commitment to fight terrorism and the evil it inflicts throughout the world. We must renew our resolve that the actions of evildoers will not dictate American policy," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in remarks laden with references to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The war was "a grotesque mistake," countered the Democratic House leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. "The administration continues to dig a hole. They refuse to come up and see the light," she said.
The political subtext was clear from the outset.
"Is it al-Qaida or is it America? Let the voters take note of this debate," said Republican Rep. Charles Norwood of Georgia, attacking war critics as defeatists who do not deserve re-election.
Republicans in both the House and the Senate are finally starting to wake up to the fact that an election looms, and that it will be bitterly contested on both domestic and foreign-policy fronts. For the latter, no foreign issue is as politically important (at the moment) as the Iraq War: unless Republicans can turn around some public sentiment on that war, at least among wayward Republicans, they could lose heavily on November 7th.
So they have begun to stage a series of votes that will force Democrats and Republicans to state firmly where they stand. In the Senate, they forced Democrats to repudiate en masse two of their likely presidential candidates: Feingold and Kerry. The alternative was for the Democrats to acquiesce in labeling themselves the "cut and run" party.
And in the House, after the "impassioned" debate, Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL, 100%) will force a vote on whether the Iraq War is or is not part of the Global War on Terror:
Republicans arranged for the House debate to culminate in a vote either late Thursday or Friday on legislation - a [sense of the House] resolution - that labels the Iraq war part of the larger global fight against terrorism and says an "arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of troops is not in the national interest.
This is excellent work so far. You know it's effective for the Republicans by the squeals of outrage from Democrats, accusing the GOP of playing "partisan games." But we need a series of such votes on domestic wedge-issues, too -- from taxes to same-sex marriage to partial-birth abortion to federal control of the schools vs. school vouchers.
The purpose of such votes is to show the differences between the parties... or in some cases, as with the Iraq votes, to show that however much the Democrats may bluster about having better ideas, in fact they have no ideas at all and are reduced to parroting the GOP. Armed with that information, voters can choose whether to vote Republican or Democratic for their own representatives and senators.
This vote, like every vote, is a choice -- not a "referendum."
Go North, Young Chix
I know, I know, I am obsessed with the stupid Dixie Chicks. I see them everywhere I go. Wait, they are everywhere I go, but not for long, I hope.
The other day, I talked about the Dixie Chicks' sagging ticket sales for their upcoming U.S.Tour, especially in the American heartland (the South and the Middle West). Well, they've wisely charted a new course: they're heading north, up through New England and the lefty Northeast all the way to the Great White North of eastern Canada.
They had to postpone (and probably cancel) twelve originally scheduled concerts:
- Milwaukee, WI;
- Kansas City, MO;
- St. Louis, MO;
- Indianapolis, IN;
- Fresno, CA (in the Republican-leaning San Joaquin Valley);
- Los Angeles, CA (that one is odd);
- Las Vegas, NV;
- Oklahoma City, OK;
- Memphis, TN;
- Houston, TX;
- Jacksonville, FL;
- and Greensboro, N.C.
Note that each of these concert venues (except for L.A. and Las Vegas) are locations known not only for being quite conservative but also for being "core country" music centers; they are all in the South, the Midwest, and the West -- the heartland of America. They didn't have to cancel any concert dates in New England! In fact, even Los Angeles and Las Vegas have a lot of "urban cowboys" who tend, by and large, to side with that fellah from Texas over the Chix from Texas.
I am surprised that Los Angeles is on the chopping block. I can understand Fresno; that central Californian farm city is very conservative, as is the entire central valley (except for Sacramento, the state capital, of course).
But Los Angeles? Only a couple of weeks ago, operations manager R.J. Curtis of LA's popular KZLA country station insisted that listeners consider the Dixie Chicks controversy a "non-issue." Much to my annoyance, and despite my protest letters, they play the Chix often enough:
"I can play this music," he said. "I just did a focus group [how Hollywood!], and for our listeners it's a non-issue. Now, down the road in San Diego, where there are military bases, the program director would tell you that the Chicks are unplayable."
Hm... maybe he should have conducted the "focus group" among KZLA's actual listeners, instead of the station management!
Meanwhile, the promoters have added eight northern cities to the tour -- five of them in Canada:
- Uncasville, CN;
- Jones Beach, NY;
- Atlantic City, NJ;
- Halifax, Nova Scotia;
- St. John, New Brunswick;
- Montréal, Quebec;
- London, Ontario;
- and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The Ontario date replaces the "postponed" Milwaukee concert... an indication that they're writing off the Midwest in favor of Canada. Not a single one of these venues is in a more conservative area; and only one, Winnipeg, is even in the Canadian prairie country (the rest of the Canadian dates are in the eastern provinces). Nothing in Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, or even northern Manitoba -- Canada's "cowboy country." Not even a single concert date in British Columbia, though I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually added one (BC is more like Oregon and Washington than like Montana or Idaho).
The conclusion is inescapable: whatever the Dixie Chicks are now, they are no longer a "country western" group. Martie Maquire has abandoned country fans, saying "we don't want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do." Natalie Maines has called the country audience "rednecks" (she didn't mean it like Gretchen Wilson does), and she says she never really liked playing country music in the first place. Their promoters have abandoned cowboy country in favor of New York and New Brunswick.
The Chix have abandoned country altogether. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Maybe they'll be successful as a pop-rock group, though their country sound -- and their name -- may be hard for the new audience to swallow over "the long road."
But in keeping with their new orientation, I think the Dixie Chicks should change their name: they should call themselves the Yankee Feminists. Truth in advertising, you know.
Date ►►► June 14, 2006
My Globaloney Has a First Name, It's H-a-r-r-y
This morning, I heard a sound bite of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace) on the radio claiming that Hurricane Alberto is more "proof" of global warming. (Actually, it sounded like he said Alfredo, rather than Alberto; maybe he was calling in from a swank pasta joint in D.C., after having just watched An Inconvenient Truth.)
I suppose Reid means that, since there were never any hurricanes before America's industrial revolution, every time one spawns in the Atlantic, it's undeniable evidence of Bush's perfidy in withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, that treaty that even the Clinton Administration never formally submitted to the Senate for rejection.
Unfortunately for this theory, "Hurricane" Alberto is now downgraded to a tropical storm; even Sen. Reid should be willing to concede that there were occasional tropical storms even before "those dark, Satanic mills" started releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. For people still fretting about global warming, AP has some good news:
Instead of a disaster, Alberto's rainfall may turn out to be a blessing for Florida's efforts to battle wildfires and for farmers in Georgia who were worried about drought.
"It's definitely a million-dollar rain," said Joe McManus, a marketing specialist with the Georgia Farm Bureau in Macon. "It could save some cotton and peanut fields...."
Officials said the storm also gave them real-world practice on the lessons learned from the slow response to some of last year's storms. Hurricane specialists said they ran into a few computer glitches but nothing that couldn't be fixed before the next storm.
"It was a nice tune-up, a nice warm-up," said hurricane specialist Richard Pasch. Florida's Emergency Management spokesman Mike Stone put it another way: "You can train all you want, but nothing beats the real deal."
Thank George for global waming!
Sadly, it may turn out that global warming is yet another broken political promise. The critics of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose summit in Rio de Janeiro eventually led to Kyoto, have finally begun to speak out in force, having been stifled for some time now by threats and bullying behavior by academic and professional institutions passionately committed to academic freedom -- when the subject is Ward Churchill or Juan Cole.
Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, in Australia gives what, for many Canadians, is a surprising assessment: "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention...."
Appearing before the Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last year, Carleton University paleoclimatologist Professor Tim Patterson testified, "There is no meaningful correlation between CO2 levels and Earth's temperature over this [geologic] time frame. In fact, when CO2 levels were over ten times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half billion years." Patterson asked the committee, "On the basis of this evidence, how could anyone still believe that the recent relatively small increase in CO2 levels would be the major cause of the past century's modest warming?"
Patterson concluded his testimony by explaining what his research and "hundreds of other studies" reveal: on all time scales, there is very good correlation between Earth's temperature and natural celestial phenomena such changes in the brightness of the Sun.
Canada Free Press also quotes Dr. Boris Winterhalter, former marine researcher at the Geological Survey of Finland and professor in marine geology, University of Helsinki; Dr. Wibjörn Karlén, emeritus professor, Dept. of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Sweden; and Dr. Dick Morgan, former advisor to the World Meteorological Organization and climatology researcher at University of Exeter, U.K. on the continuing robust presence of ice at the poles... a truth quite inconvenient to one Albert J. Gore.
(Here is an interesting website we've just found; we haven't had time to go through it yet, but it looks promising: EnviroTruth.org. It could be a worthwhile clearinghouse of dissent against the globaloney slicing machine.)
But globaloney rolls on, impervious to such dissent. After all, this is such an important political issue that we cannot allow a few malcontents to muddy up the rising waters.
Besides, Harry Reid needs a bigger office and is already measuring the curtains in Majority Leader Bill Frist's joint.
The insanity continues in Venezuela, which rapidly heaving towards becoming the Zimbabwe of South America. Dictator Hugo Chávez is desperately continuing the charade that the United States plans to invade Venezuela any day now... so they must immediately rearm with massive shipments of Kalashnikovs from Russia:
Chavez hands out rifles, says US won't defeat him
Jun 14, 2006
by Patrick Markey
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Wearing his old army uniform and red paratroop beret, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez handed new Russian-made rifles to troops on Wednesday, vowing Washington would not defeat his socialist revolution.
Venezuela received a shipment of 30,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles earlier this month [on June 3rd] just weeks after Washington banned U.S. arms sales to Caracas over concerns about Chavez's close ties to longtime U.S. foes Cuba and Iran and what it called his inaction against Marxist FARC guerrillas in neighboring Colombia.
One of the surest ways of recognizing a military dictatorship is that it incessantly warns that the Great Satan plans to invade at any moment, so therefore they must crack down, re-arm, and throw all political opponents in la calabooza. So far as I know, the United States has never invaded Venezuela.
The rifles in question are AK-103s; the 103 is an upgrade on the famous AK-47, probably the most widely dispersed and used rifle in the world today... and especially popular among murderous terrorist and revolutionary groups, to the chagrin of the rifle's creator:
Mikhail Kalashnikov says he designed the assault rifle that bears his name to fend off the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
But six decades later, he laments its transformation into the worldwide weapon of choice for terrorists and gangsters.
"Whenever I look at TV and I see the weapon I invented to defend my motherland in the hands of these bin Ladens I ask myself the same question: How did it get into their hands?" the 86-year-old Russian gunmaker said.
Big Lizards can answer that question.
The AK-47 became the "worldwide weapon of choice for terrorists and gangsters" because Mr. Kalashnikov's motherland, the Soviet Union, and its successor, the Russian Federation, madly exported it to every brutal terrorist, tinpot dictator, and revolutionary wannabe on the planet, so long as they were loud and angry anti-Americans.
And that is exactly how Hugo Chávez got the upgraded version, the AK-103, this month: from Russia, with love. It's the first installment of 100,000 rifles that he bought from Russia -- along with their blessing for him to build an AK-103 rifle and ammunition factory in Caracas, to spread even more misery, revolution, and terrorist thuggery around Latin America. From Reuters again:
Soldiers, sailors and airmen, in battle fatigues and faces daubed with camouflage paint, took turns marching up to hand Chavez old rifles and receive new AK103 rifles -- the first batch of 100,000 Venezuela purchased [from Russia] last year.....
With Russian help, Venezuelan [sic] plans to build a Kalashnikov rifle and ammunition factory near Caracas that will start producing the weapons in about three years.
Venezuela has already purchased 10 Russian attack helicopters and plans to buy more. Chavez said his government had also decided to buy Russian Sukhoi 30 jets to replace its U.S.-made F-16 fighters, but gave no details.
Big Lizards can answer that question. Chávez is switching to Su-30s because the United States has ceased supplying Venezuela with spare parts to maintain their small fleet of Fighting Falcons, due to Chávez's flirtation (I think it's more like heavy petting now) with China, Iran, Cuba, and narco-terrorists in Colombia.
The Russians, however, happily sold a hundred thousand of Mr. Kalashnikov's children to the Robert Mugabe of the Western Hemisphere despite knowing that he consorts with jihadi terrorist groups that engage in mass murder and preach genocide of the Jews, such as al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.
[Thomas A. Shannon, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs], a career diplomat serving in a post usually held by a political appointee, also expressed concern about "groups and individuals" in Venezuela with "links to terrorist organizations in the Middle East."
He declined to be more specific, but U.S. military officials have in the past noted the presence in Latin America of groups linked to Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization. [Sic; Hezbollah is actually based in and funded by Iran. Lebanon is just their biggest FOB. -- the Mgt.]
Chávez has also cemented ties with revolutionary terrorist groups, such as FARC and ELN, in order to meddle by force of arms in the internal affairs of Venezuela's neighbors, such as Colombia. Unquestionably, some of these very AK-103s will be slipped into the hands of butchers in Colombia, Brazil, and Guyana, as well as across South and Central America... and particularly into Peru.
In addition, [Shannon] said, "the western part of Venezuela has always been a wild place," and members of Colombian guerrilla groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia [FARC] and the National Liberation Army [ELN] have "moved with a certain amount of ease."
"But over time, we've seen what appears to be a more structured relationship," he said. "There appears to be more movement of weapons across the frontier into Colombia, and some of it comes from official Venezuelan stockpiles, and it almost certainly involves the participation of Venezuelan officials, either corrupted or not."
Chávez nakedly meddled in the recent election in Peru, where he suffered a setback when the candidate he backed, Ollanta Humala, was convincingly humiliated at the polls; he lost to former President Alan García, generally considered the worst past president in Peru's history, by 55 to 44... after earlier leading the pack by a substantial margin.
Perhaps the next time a neighboring country holds an election -- say, Peru again in a few years -- rather than simply campaign with the most rabidly Stalinist, anti-American candidate running, Hugo Chávez will simply use his gifts from Russia to cast his vote in a more emphatic manner.
Thank you, Vlad.
So I'm looking at a Reuters article, and the very first sentence reads:
U.S. customs officials arrested more than 2,000 illegal immigrants, gang members and other fugitives in a nationwide sweep, the head of the U.S. Immigration and Customer Enforcement agency said on Wednesday.
I thought, well there's yer problem! That's what we need: more federal customer enforcement. I'm from Homeland Security -- you better round up those consumers and turn 'em into legitimate customers, fellah!
(The correct name of the agency, a division of DHS, is of course Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Multiple layers of elite-media fact checking in action....)
Hey, I like the program; don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of a massive crackdown to round up those illegal aliens who are committing real crimes, apart from their mere existence (and apart from ancillary crimes necessary to their presence, such as obtaining fake documents). I just think it's probably more in the federal government's purview to enforce customs than customers.
I wonder how long before Reuters does one of its infamous "stealth" corrections?
Things Fall Apart; The Terror Cannot Hold
I'm wicked, I know it; I was blighted as a child. But I can barely stifle my guffaws when I read stories like this:
Dozens of Palestinian civil servants stormed a parliamentary session on Wednesday to demand long-overdue salaries, attacking Hamas lawmakers and forcing the parliament speaker to flee the building.
The demonstrators chanted slogans and banged on the door of the building before entering the hall. The angry crowd then pelted Hamas lawmakers with water bottles, tissue boxes and other small items. Some climbed onto the lawmakers' desks. [I had the horrible premonition AP was going to write "climbed onto the lawmakers' laps." -- the Mgt.]
"We are hungry. We are hungry," the protesters screamed.
So now, in addition to a roiling factional war between Hamas and Fatah, the new "government" (that is, terrorist gang) has to worry about rampaging civil servants.
Of course, peace is busting out all over "Palestine":
Tensions between the sides have been rising, with 22 people killed in Palestinian infighting in recent months. Earlier this week, Fatah-allied security men torched the parliament building and Cabinet buildings in Ramallah in a rampage against the Hamas-led government.
Soon the whole of the Palestinian Authority will look like the final scene of the old Twilight Zone episode, "the Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," with the entire population running higgledy-piggledy in every direction, whacking each other with garden implements.
And the Israelis, who set this whole spectacle in motion by withdrawing from Gaza and planning to withdraw from the West Bank, will chuckle quietly. On a hilltop, overlooking the city, Defense Minister Amir Peretz will be seen speaking to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:
Peretz: Then I take it this place... this Ramallah... is not unique.
Olmert: By no means. Their world is full of Ramallahs. And we'll go from one to the other and let them destroy themselves. One to the other... one to the other... one to the other....
Look Into My Eyes - You Are Edging Closer, Closer (Cal-50)
When the runoff election for California's 50th district (the Duke Cunningham seat) ended on June 6th, Republican Brian Bilbray was ahead of Democrat Francine Busby by a small margin; that margin has grown with every passing day as more and more absentee and provisional ballots are counted.
Here is a handy chart of the progress; the final row is my back of the thumbnail projection of the final count:
|Date||Brian Bilbray R||Francine Busby D||R Lead||Ballots left|
|TBD - Proj.||49.72%||44.97%||4.75%||0|
The last row is actually the mean average of my estimate of the likely low- and high-end estimates. I reckon that Brian Bilbray will finally end up with between 49.65% and 49.79%, with the gap between himself and Francine Busby ranging from a low of 4.7% to a high of 4.8% (this is all approximately, of course).
Before the election, I predicted that Bilbray would win by 5%, and that we would know the winner on election night. I also certainly expected that Bilbray would win a majority. I missed those predictions, but by such slight margins that I'm going to call it a hit... it's not a bar bet, after all, and being off by a mere 0.25% is close enough for the blogosphere!
Our previous posts about this election were:
Date ►►► June 13, 2006
Gaza Beach Bingo: the Rest of the Story
In our post Provenance, we noted that there was a great deal of question whether the civilians killed on the Gaza beach were hit with an Israeli artillery shell, as the Palestinians and the world elite media all declared. Rather, we suggested, it's entirely possible the real culprit was an errant Qassam rocket -- fired by Hamas terrorists at Israel.
Well, Israel has completed enough of its investigation to have preliminary results... and sad to say, it appears Big Lizards was wrong. It turned out not to be a Qassam rocket after all.
Those civilians were slain by a Palestinian mine.
Yesterday, Israel already knew enough to state with some certainty that the family was not killed by an Israeli artillery shell (a tip of the hat to Right Wing News -- who must have linked us, because we're getting a lot of referrals, and our traffic is sky high!) According to the Jerusalem Post:
[Defense Minister] Amir Peretz said the panel's preliminary findings showed that the Ghalia family was not killed by a shell fired by the IDF ground forces or the IAF. Peretz said that one of six artillery shells fired by the IDF was unaccounted for, but that there was a gap between when the shells were fired and the time the Palestinians said the shells landed.
AP reports that the time gap was at least ten minutes; so unless Israel has a field piece that can fire shells up around the altitude of the Shuttle's orbit, that missing shell didn't come down and blow up the beach.
Associated Press falls all over itself to throw a bone to the Palestinians... but Mark Lavie, who wrote the piece, fails to note that he must contradict himself to do so:
It was not clear how the explosive got there, or whether it might have been an unexploded Israeli shell from an earlier military barrage. Peretz did not address that issue in his remarks. Israel has been claiming that Hamas militants planted a device to set off against Israeli commandos....
According to Israeli findings, shrapnel taken from two wounded Palestinians who were evacuated to Israeli hospitals showed that the fragments were not from the 155-millimeter shells used by Israeli artillery.
Thank heavens for those many layers of editorial cross-checking.
Back to the Jerusalem Post:
Olmert opened the cabinet meeting by expressing Israel's "deep regret" over the incident, and saying that Peretz had set up an investigation....
Olmert, who stressed that he was not apologizing because the facts were not yet clear, said past experience had shown that myths could be created that were divorced from the facts.
He was referring to Muhammad al-Dura, the 12-year-old boy killed [sic; we do not even know that much] during an exchange of fire between the IDF and Palestinians on September 30, 2000. Images of Dura hiding behind his father and then being shot and killed were beamed across the world, with Israel widely blamed for his death until researchers three years later brought ballistic evidence showing that the shots could not have been fired by IDF soldiers.
AP -- as well as Reuters -- also makes tedious reference to the alleged 16-month "truce" that Hamas had declared... until those wicked Jews violated it. Again, we wonder whether the news editors actually read the stories they're supposed to be editing:
The seaside carnage contributed to a sudden spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence. After the beach blast - and Israeli forces' killing of a top Gaza militant - Hamas called off a 16-month cease-fire that had significantly reduced casualties on both sides.
The antique media here uses a special definition of truce (or "cease-fire"), one not found in the commonly accepted dictionaries. As we noted in Provenance, and as the Jerusalem Post noted yesterday,
Regarding Friday's incident, Olmert said it must be made clear that Kassam rockets - designed to maim and kill Israelis - have been fired from the Gaza Strip continuously over the last few weeks.
"This firing is very serious," he said. "It strikes at the fabric of life in communities in southern Israel and threatens peoples' lives... This is an unending series of terrorist attacks designed to strike at civilians."
Needless to say, Hamas has rejected Israel's findings. They express stupifaction that anyone could imagine that an organization born out of suicide bombings of women, children, teenagers, the aged, and innocent civilians of all sorts -- including Moslems -- would ever plant mines to deter "Israeli commandos" in an area used by Palestinian civilians:
"This is a false allegation, and the Israeli occupation state is trying to escape from shouldering its responsibility by accusing Palestinians without evidence or any proof," said Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
"The eyewitnesses and the evidence that we have confirm that the massacre is the result of Israeli shelling, and the allegation about land mines planted by Palestinians is baseless," he said.
Those "eyewitnesses" have extraordinary vision indeed to be able not only to see a shell coming in, but also to know who fired it. Hamas does, after all, have artillery pieces too. Hamas is joined in blaming Israel, regardless of the evidence, by the George-Soros-funded and virulently antisemitic Human Rights Watch. AP quotes a "military expert" who speaks for the organization:
Human Rights Watch military expert Marc Garlask, the first independent analyst to inspect the scene, said he examined the shrapnel on the beach, saw the civilians' injuries and concluded the blast was caused by an Israeli shell. He held open the slim possibility that it was planted there by Palestinian militants, although fragment patterns did not back that.
"Our information certainly supports, I believe, an Israeli shell did come in," he said, ruling out a land mine.
No word on whether he wrote his report on the plane flight to Yasser Arafat International Airport. But it's largely irrelevant; unless Israel arranged for their artillery shells to be manufactured from the shrapnal of Palestinian mines, I think the evidence is in. Since I choose to believe Israeli investigators over a "military expert" from Human Rights Watch -- I admit my bias -- I have to say "case closed."
However, frustrated at the failure of the Israelis to live down to their MSM caricature (and perhaps by the sputtering failure of Fitzmas to come), the elite media has turned with a vengeance on the brutal, callous, and utterly senseless killing by Israel of even more innocent women and children:
An Israeli missile strike on a van in Gaza carrying militants and rockets killed 11 Palestinians, nine of them civilians, on Tuesday in the deadliest such attack in nearly four years.
The air strike signaled that Israel would not flinch from targeting rocket squads in densely populated areas in spite of an outcry over the deaths of seven Palestinians on a Gaza beach on Friday in a blast militants blamed on Israeli shellfire.
"We have been showing restraint due to the international storm caused by the incident on the Gaza beach, but no longer," Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz was quoted by the YNet news Web site as telling reporters in northern Israel....
"The car that we hit was loaded with Katyusha rockets and launchers and they were on their way to launch those Katyusha rockets at Israel," an army spokeswoman said after the attack in the eastern outskirts of Gaza City.
But of course, the important point is that the nine civilian deaths -- evidently, they ran out of their houses to go look at the van, into which the perfidious Zionists were pumping missiles -- included "two children and two medics."
Make of it what you will, but it's clear that when Israel removed the Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, it was not an act of surrender or even appeasement. With the area depopulated of everyone but the enemy, Israel can now treat these attacks from Hamas as what they are: acts of war conducted by a foreign power against the nation of Israel.
We Didn't Start the Fryer
And while we're on the subject:
A U.S. consumer group sued the operator of the KFC fried chicken restaurant chain on Tuesday to try and force it to stop frying foods in an artery- clogging fat.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a suit filed against Yum Brands Inc., said some KFC meals were "startlingly" high in harmful trans fat from the partially hydrogenated oils used for frying.
(We gloss lightly over the collapse of grammatical standards among news providers, such as Reuters. "Try and force it?" Do they also write "prolly," as in "I'm prolly going to die from all this fried chicken?")
In a related story, the CSPI announced that any day now, they will file another suit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against McDonalds, accusing them of deliberately making hamburgers that don't taste as good as those made by Carl's Jr.
"I'm sure we can find some cause of action here, if we look hard enough," a spokesman for the CSPI was expected to say shortly. "These fast food corporations act as if they own the joint!"
Let's All Move Into Daryl Hannah's House!
So we start with these grafs, showing poor farmers being evicted by the evil government from the land they had farmed for many years:
Sheriff's deputies evicted people from an urban community garden to make room for a warehouse Tuesday, touching off a furious protest in which actress Daryl Hannah and others climbed into a walnut tree or chained themselves to concrete-filled barrels. More than 40 people were arrested.
Authorities cut away branches and used a fire truck to bring down the "Splash" actress and another tree-sitter, who raised their fists as they were removed. Hannah was arrested.
"I'm very confident this is the morally right thing to do, to take a principled stand in solidarity with the farmers," she said by cell phone before the fire truck raised officers into the tree.
So right away, we're all reaching for our Solidarność t-shirts and singing Pete Seeger songs. And then we discover just exactly what "principle" Hannah is standing in solidarity with, along with (we learn) Willie Nelson, Joan Baez, and professional tree-sitting protester Julia Butterfly Hill.
They are bravely protecting the right of Mexican immigrants to steal other people's land:
About 350 people grow produce and flowers on the 14 acres of privately owned land, in an inner-city area surrounded by warehouses and railroad tracks. The garden has been there for more than a decade, but the landowner, Ralph Horowitz, now wants to replace it with a warehouse....
Dozens of protesters chanted, "We're here and we're not going to leave!" in Spanish, blew whistles and blocked traffic in the surrounding streets. Protesters linked arms and sat on the tracks. Officers dragged some protesters away.
It seems that the owner, Ralph Horowitz -- probably a liberal -- foolishly allowed the poor, immigrant farmers (Reuters makes clear they are immigrants) to grow food and other crops on his land for a number of years; but at $25,000 per month, it has become too expensive to maintain the mortgage without any income. So Horowitz asked them to leave.
They told him No: now that he had graciously allowed them to farm it for so long, it was now their land, and he could jolly well shove off, or Spanish words to that effect. He tried to evict them, and they fought back in the courts, suing Horowitz. (What on earth was the cause of action? AP doesn't say.) They picketed his office, they picketed his home.
And lefty celebrities by the bushel, possibly having flashbacks to the grand old days of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, rushed forward to support the theft of land worth millions of dollars -- from a man whose only crime was to allow poor, Spanish-speaking immigrants the opportunity to grow crops while he decides how best to use the land that he bought with his own money.
That's the American spirit! That's the way to persuade voters to support normalization of illegal immigrants already here -- though of course we have no way of knowing whether these particular immigrants are legal or illegal. (I should ask Patterico whether there is any state or local law that forbids the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies to inquire about the immigration status of people they arrest.) But even if they're legal... shouldn't attempted grand theft be sufficient to deport them?
Horowitz noted that the farmers were squatting on land zoned for warehouses and factories. The landowner said in a telephone interview that he was paying $25,000 to $30,000 a month in mortgage and other land costs.
"We've made, in the last three years, enough of a donation to those farmers," he said. "I just want my land back."
Oh, but how could the city of Los Angeles be so cruel and inhuman as to force people out to starve, wives and children huddled together in the snowdrifts? But of course, we don't learn until the very end that L.A. has actually provided other spaces for the farmers:
Horowitz also said the city had provided other locations for the gardeners, and most had left. In a statement, City Councilwoman Jan Perry also said many gardeners had moved to new garden sites.
So it's not even that they want some land; they demand this specific 14-acre plot. I wonder how long the warehouse will stand before somebody -- out of revenge for having "his" land stolen -- will burn it down.
So with what is Daryl Hannah standing in "solidarity?" With the proposition that if someone moves onto your land and squats there, and if you don't immediately summon the cops and have him evicted, but rather make the mistake of letting him stay for a few years while you get the land ready for sale -- then the squatter now owns that land, even if you told him all along that he had only temporary permission to stay.
In other words, if I want some piece of property -- let's say one of multi-millionaire Daryl Hannah's houses, or some piece of property owned by Joan Baez or Willie Nelson, or whatever tree Julia Butterfly Hill currently calls home... then all I need do is plant myself on it and declare it mine.
So let's all go move into Daryl Hannah's house. I'm sure, in the spirit of consistency and solidarity with the land-snatching Sandinistas, she will be delighted to let us stay... and equally delighted when we evict her -- from our new property.
Whaddya say, Daryl? You good with that?
Rove Walks; Dean Balks
As expected, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald told the attorney to White House political aide Karl Rove that he had no intention of indicting or charging Rove with any crime. Shocked Democrats, eying congressional elections in a scant five months, worried that the loss of their critical election theme might adversely affect the outcome:
Attorney Robert Luskin said that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald informed him of the decision on Monday, ending months of speculation about the fate of Rove, the architect of Bush's 2004 re-election now focused on stopping Democrats from capturing the House or Senate in this November's elections.
The blow was doubly hard, as President Bush would certainly have fired Rove had the aide been charged in the probe. Sadly, Rove will continue in his role as chief Democrat tormentor, which will also affect election results.
In a related but wholly unexpected development, Democratic National Committee Chairman and failed presidential candidate Howard Dean made a complete ass of himself:
If Karl Rove had been indicted it would have been for perjury. That does not excuse his real sin which is leaking the name of an intelligence operative during the time of war. He doesn't belong in the White House. If the President valued America more than he valued his connection to Karl Rove then Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago. So I think this is probably good news for the White House, but its not very good news for America.
So saying, Dean shuffled off the set of NBC's "Today" show and returned to his sterile and largely ceremonial post.
Date ►►► June 12, 2006
Clinton Reveals Bush Is God
Former President William Jefferson "Big Bible" Clinton revealed today that President George W. "Burning" Bush is, in fact, God. One can only conclude, therefore, that the rest of the Republican leadership are the Archangels, Thrones, and Powers of the heavenly heirarchy:
Clinton Links GOP Policies to More Storms
As Tropical Storm Alberto threatened to strengthen into the ninth hurricane in 22 months to affect Florida, former President Clinton predicted Monday that Republican environmental policies will lead to more severe storms.
"It is now generally recognized that while Al Gore and I were ridiculed, we were right about global warming," Clinton said at a fundraiser for the Florida Democratic Party. "It's a serious problem. It's going to lead to more hurricanes."
The Florida Republicans responded in their usual hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners style:
Jeff Sadosky, spokesman for the state Republican Party, decried Clinton's rhetoric. "Bill Clinton's class warfare and race-baiting message gets us no closer to solutions for the issues he brings up," he said.
Sadosky referred in part to Clinton's comments earlier this month in Arizona. At that event, Clinton characterized Republican Party leaders as right-wing, white Southerners.
Thus spake Clinton -- left-wing, white Southerner and the country's first black president. (At least Florida Republican spokesman Jeff Sadosky didn't refer to "the failed policies of the past.")
It is notable that Sadosky, while denouncing other things Clinton said, failed to repudiate Clinton's claim of divine powers for the current president and his party; in the tradition of the antique media, Big Lizards takes silence as assent... thus, the divinity of George W. Bush is now a bipartisan policy position.
Bush prayer rugs will shortly be available via HughHewitt.com; the White House Cathedral and Carniceria recently named Hewitt Archbishop of Blogoberry.
Daughter of Kerry Von Münchhausen
Thomas Lipscomb's second installment of his series on John Kerry's military record, "John Kerry's Skimmer Scam," is up now on Real Clear Politics. Read it and shriek... with laughter, directed at the hapless former Democratic nominee for president.
Then shudder as you realize that he came within three percent of sitting in la Casablanca, deciding whether to kill Zarqawi -- or yank all the troops out because it was hopeless, because there was nothing we could ever do to stop the Jordanian madman.
Lipscomb's series is a clearing house of what is publicly known and actually on the record... as opposed to the lies, damned lies, and sadistics doled out, drip by drop, by the permanent standing Kerry campaign. The first installment, "The Truth, John Kerry, and The New York Times," can be read here.
The most recent unanimous decision of the Court on the question of the constitutionality of lethal injection as a method of execution really doesn't advance the question much, at least as far as us non-lawyers are concerned. (Our last foray on this battleground was Three-Judge Monte, back in April.)
All that the Court decided was that convicted cop killer and bank robber Clarence E. Hill can raise the issue with the lower courts; the Supreme Court did not rule that lethal injection was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that condemned prisoners can challenge the humaneness of the lethal blend of chemicals that are to be used to execute them.
The ruling, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, continues the life-and-death drama involving Clarence E. Hill, who was strapped to a gurney on Florida's death row when Justice Kennedy granted a stay of execution on Jan. 25.
You can read the decision and the full opinion here, but this is the Readers Digest condensed version:
Facing execution in Florida, petitioner Hill brought this federal action under 42 U. S. C. §1983 to enjoin the three-drug lethal injection procedure the State likely would use on him. He alleged the procedure could cause him severe pain and thereby violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments. The District Court found that under controlling Eleventh Circuit precedent the §1983 claim was the functional equivalent of a habeas petition. Because Hill had sought federal habeas relief earlier, the court deemed his petition successive and barred under 28 U. S. C. §2244. The Eleventh Circuit agreed and affirmed.
Held: Because Hill's claim is comparable in its essentials to the §1983 action the Court allowed to proceed in Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U. S. 637, it does not have to be brought in habeas, but may proceed under §1983. Pp. 4-10.
In other words, this is a narrow, technical ruling whether the action Hill filed under §1983 of the United States Code was actually just another bite at the same habeus corpus apple, or whether it's a different apple from his previous writs. The Court unanimously held that this was a different issue that should be decided on its own, not brushed aside.
Beyond that, we've not much to say until this works its way through the system and comes back to the Court again... where (one hopes) sanity (and the Scalia position) will prevail:
On the other side, Justice Antonin Scalia, a strong death penalty supporter, said the Supreme Court has never held that a state must use a method that causes the least amount of pain.
"Hanging was not a quick and easy way to go," Scalia said.
(Alas, that last quotation is from a Reuters article that is no longer available.)
We've fought this battle before:
- February 15th, 2006 -- If I Should Ouch Before I Die
- February 21st, 2006 -- Doctors Overturn Death Penalty
- April 26th, 2006 -- Three-Judge Monte
[Dafydd also contributed extensively to this article.]
We often describe a situation where different parties are saying completely different things, and there is no way to tell which is right, as a case of "he said, she said."
But to the antique media, when the "he" in this equation is a Moslem jihadi, then "he said, she said" usually turns into "he said, and that's good enough for us!"
Take the recent attack at the beach in Gaza, where seven (or eight) Palestinian civilians, including children, were killed by... by what? Palestinian spokesmen who were not present at the time insisted it was by an Israeli shell... and that's good enough for the UK Times online:
Israeli artillery fire killed a Palestinian family who were picnicking on the beach in Gaza yesterday, as the shoreline was packed with people on a Muslim holiday.
Body parts, bloodstained baby carriages and shredded holiday tents were left strewn on the sand near Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, after the late- afternoon strike that killed at least seven people, thought to include the parents and children of one family.
They seem awfully certain it was Israeli artillery fire, and not an errant Qassam rocket, that killed the civilians; but why? What is their source for saying so? They never say; in the entire article, not once does the UK Times online tell us how they know it was the Israelis and not Hamas that fired the deadly weapons.
The New York Times weighs in on the same story -- and takes the same line. After all, just because Hamas is a terrorist organization that specializes in killing innocent men, women, and children, wants to see Israelis all driven into the sea, believes Jews are responsible for all the ills afflicting the Palestinian and Arab peoples, and which has lied many times in the past, doesn't mean we can't take their word when they say that they know for certain that the family was killed by Israeli shelling (that's what the Ouija Board said):
Hamas fired at least 15 Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Saturday, ending a tattered 16-month truce with Israel, a day after eight Palestinians were killed on a Gaza beach, apparently by an errant Israeli shell.
"Apparently?" What does that mean? Apparent to whom?
Israeli officials said they regretted any casualties among the innocent as Israel tried to stop the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel by shelling the areas from which they were launched. Defense Minister Amir Peretz sent a message expressing regret to Mr. Abbas, who called the incident "a bloody massacre" and declared three days of mourning.
On Friday, the Israeli Army was shelling a target area popular with rocket launchers 400 yards from the beach. The army believes that a shell fell short or that a dud, previously fired, exploded.
The "army" believes? I guess they mean the Israeli Defense Force... but who exactly within the IDF told them that? Where did they get such information? The New York Times is no more willing to reveal a source for unraveling this mystery than their namesake in London was.
Here is a very interesting pair of sentences from the NYT story. Maybe somebody can figure out "what is wrong with this picture":
Hamas fired at least 15 Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Saturday, ending a tattered 16-month truce with Israel....
Since the beginning of the year, Palestinians have fired hundreds of largely inaccurate missiles toward Israel, while Israel has fired more than 5,000 shells into Gaza.
That's a very interesting "truce" Hamas has been observing! What did they do, promise to limit the number of missiles fired at Israel to only "dozens of the inaccurate but potentially deadly Qassam rockets each month," as the UK Times put it?
And if the Qassam is so "inaccurate but potentially deadly" -- it has no guidance system at all -- then isn't it at least equally likely that the explosive thing that killed those eight (or seven) Palestinians on the beach was a Qassam, not an Israeli artilly shell gone awry? How do the two Timeses know to such certainty that the family were accidentally killed by Israelis (a "war crime"), rather than accidentally killed by Hamas militants (a tragic error?)
Pounding on the sand, Houda Ghalia shrieked for her father after he was killed with five of her siblings at a seaside picnic by what Palestinians said was an Israeli shell.
Footage of the 10-year-old screaming "Father! Father!" has played over and over again on television, driving home the devastating impact of what Palestinian leaders are calling "genocidal" and "a war crime...."
Israel expressed regret Saturday for the killing of eight civilians, but stopped short of taking responsibility, saying an investigation was under way.
Israel's military chief said the killings may have resulted from a misfired Palestinian rocket. Palestinians insisted they were caused by an Israeli artillery shell.
So maybe the IDF doesn't think that "a shell fell short or that a dud, previously fired, exploded." At least, the part of the IDF that spoke to AP doesn't agree with the part (if any) that spoke to the New York Times. Never let your AP hand know what your Times hand is doing.
And everybody ignores the undisputed fact that previously, someone from Gaza was shooting Qassam rockets into Israel, despite a supposed "cease fire." Isn't that significant in deciding whether something was a "war crime," let alone "genocide?" (Do Palestinians even know what the word "genocide" means? Palestinians, other Arabs, and most Israelis are actually the same "race": Semites.)
As in Rashomon, we can never know for sure whose errant whatever actually fell on the beach and killed those seven or eight civilians. Even if the Israeli investigation shows that whatever fell left Qassam pieces, not artillery pieces, behind, who will believe them? The world would rather believe Hamas terrorists than Jews.
The same thing can be said about the Haditha "massacre." All we have are the words of anti-American "civilians" who may be in cahoots with the terrorists themselves... and a questionable videotape that only proves that somebody died violently somewhere in Iraq more or less around the time of the claimed "massacre." We don't even know whether those bodies in the video go with that incident or some other incident days earlier or later.
The MSM ignores the not so hidden agenda of the "witnesses" and "reporters;" after all, why bother investigating when you have handy Marines to blame?
This battle is being waged with very sophisticated propaganda tools: on Special Report with Brit Hume Friday night, during the "Grapevine" segment, Jim Angle showed a photograph that was run by the London Times, and later picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times. It showed a number of dead Iraqis stacked up against a wall; the victims' hands were all bound behind their backs, and the wall was riddled with machine-gun bullet holes.
The London Times claimed that the photo showed Iraqis murdered by the US Marines in Haditha. Days later (maybe weeks), it was evidently pointed out to them that the photo did not match any of the witness statements about what supposedly had happened -- even from the Iraqis' point of view. The magazine investigated and discovered that the picture they'd run was actually of a group of Shia who were murdered by Sunni terrorists; it had nothing to do with Haditha or with the Marines.
The London Times (and the Chicago Sun-Times) eventually ran a correction and apologized. But that begs the question: how could a supposedly respectable newspaper editor and publisher look at such a photograph and say, "oh yes, that jolly well looks like just the thing the American Marines would do." What would make them think such a thing?
They might say "where there's smoke, there must be fire." But they, themselves are the ones who put all the "smoke" there in the first place. The only reason people keep thinking that US forces engage in massacres is that the elite media keeps saying so; they say so because it's so obvious to them, everyone knows it; and it's so obvious because, after all, look at all those other unsubstantiated stories of massacres in other newspapers.
It's the most circular of all circular arguments.
But finally, our side is speaking up.
A sergeant who led a squad of U.S. Marines accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha told his lawyer the unit did not intentionally target civilians, followed rules of engagement and did not try to cover up the incident, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The newspaper said Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 26, told his lawyer several civilians were killed in November when the squad went after insurgents firing on them from a house. But Wuterich said there was no vengeful massacre and described a house-to-house hunt that went awry in a chaotic battlefield, his lawyer said.
"It will forever be his position that everything they did that day was following their rules of engagement and to protect the lives of Marines," said Neal Puckett, who represents Wuterich in the investigations of the deaths.
"He's really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians," he said.
I am not saying we should blindly believe what SSGT Frank Wuterich says. But we should understand it is still "he said, he said" -- not "he said, and that's good enough for the Times."
I will refrain from expressing my own opinion as to whom I would believe. We should wait for the investigation to be completed... in both incidents.
Date ►►► June 11, 2006
Cal-50th Special Election: Edging Closer...
Just a quick update: the County of San Diego Registrar of Voters is still counting those absentee and provisional ballots in the 50th district of California, Randy "Duke" Cunningham's old stomping ground (his new stomping ground is the prison yard).
When last we left our intrepid Registrar, there were 68,500 absentees and provisionals left to count; now there are but 35,455. Before, here was the tally:
Although it's likely that Brian Bilbray will fail to reach either 50% (which I anticipated he would) or a 5% margin over Francine Busby (which I actually predicted) -- with 100% of the precincts reporting, the semi-official tall stands at 49.33% for Bilbray, 45.46% for Busby -- we still can't close this one out just yet.
Today, it stands at 49.51% for Brian Bilbray, and 45.15% for Francine Busby. Bilbray now leads by 4.36%, and he is only 0.50% away from an outright majority.
Still a bunch to go, and of course the tally could swing either way (like Madonna). Stay tuned: same lizard time, same lizard blog....
Date ►►► June 10, 2006
More On the Akaka Bill
This article in the Hawaii Reporter makes me feel a little better -- but not much -- about the close cloture vote on the insane Akaka bill, introduced by Hawaii's 81-year old junior Sen. Daniel Akaka (D, 95%). It failed to get cloture by the uncomfortably close margin of 56 to 41, with thirteen Republicans joining 43 Democrats (counting Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-VT 90%, as a Democrat) voting to bring the bill to the floor for final debate and a vote.
Two Democrats failed to show up for the vote: Charles Schumer (NY, 100%) and Jay Rockefeller (WV, 100%); it's a pretty safe bet they would both have voted for cloture, had they made the vote. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 92%), one of the original sponsors of the Akaka bill, also failed to show up and vote; again, presumably he would have opposed the filibuster. Those votes would have made it 59 to 41, as close as a cloture vote can fail.
The Akaka bill would have established a separate, race-based government in Hawaii that could -- in Akaka's own words (as quoted by Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, 92%) -- "make a decision as to what happens to independence or returning to the monarchy.” (Hat tip to commenter Urey in the comments of our previous post on this topic, Cloture, Cloture, Who's Got the Cloture?)
The Hawaii Reporter is not sanguine about the bill's future prospects:
Whether Akaka got the message or not, Republicans sent both Hawaii Senators a strong one with the 41 votes in opposition to the cloture vote. These were votes Republicans organized and worked diligently to secure, despite heavy lobbying from Hawaii’s Republican Gov. Linda Lingle and vote trading by Inouye and Akaka.
The 41 votes let Hawaii’s delegation know that the bill will never pass with this current Senate in place. Especially now that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in May and the U.S. Department of Justice this Wednesday issued strong statements against the Akaka Bill, calling it unconstitutional, divisive and in the case of the Commission, the worst piece of legislation they’d ever reviewed.
The first point that leaps out is that "this current Senate" lasts only until December 31st; that is a mere six months away. When the 110th Congress convenes in January, there will likely be at least one fewer Republican senator. Since none of Republicans who supported cloture are vulnerable, any senators we lose will necessarily be from the 41 who supported the filibuster. That translates to at least one net loss on cloture for the Akaka bill; thus, supporters will be able to bring it up again and will likely have the votes to bring it to the floor.
The second thing that worries me is the "reasoning" behind those Republicans who voted for cloture. The article makes much ado about the fact that some of them say they will nevertheless oppose the bill if it comes to a vote:
All Democrat Senators were willing to vote for cloture, but not necessarily for the passage of the final version, according to political staffers.
But Republicans played let’s make a deal with theirs, negotiating up until the very last minute. Organized in caucus beforehand, some Republicans who knew they would kill the cloture vote, cast their ballot in favor of the Akaka Bill because they either served on the Senate Appropriations Committee with Inouye, the co-chair, and wanted to show him the courtesy, or because they’d traded their vote with Inouye in previous sessions.
You need sixty votes for cloture; that means that the proponents of this racist bill can lose as many as nine senators from the cloture vote and still pass the bill.
One senator in particular stands out for his hypocrisy, considering how vocal and adamant a conservative he has been and how much he openly opposes so-called "amnesty" for illegal aliens:
Republican Sen. Jon Kyl [R-AZ, 100%], one of the biggest opponents of the bill, promised the Hawaii delegation he would not stand in the way of the cloture vote because of a previous deal he made, but he told them if it passed cloture, he’d be their toughest opponent.
I'm having kind of a hard time following Kyl's views on national sovereignty: if an immigrant sneaks into this country illegally to live the American dream of a democratic republic, Kyl is in a lather and wants to bar him from becoming a citizen.
But at the same time, Kyl is willing to gamble with a bill that would allow "native Hawaiians" to secede from the Union and form their own anti-democratic government, in which native-born American citizens who are not aboriginal Hawaiian cannot even vote... and which could even form a monarchy, if the superior race decides to do so. Even though Kyl himself opposes that bill, he's willing to vote for cloture and gamble that it won't pass or will be vetoed. Why? Because he cut a deal with Danile Inouye (D-HI, 90%) or Daniel Akaka.
Yeesh, talk about a cheap date. I have become somewhat skeptical about Kyl's committment to principle... on either issue.
If this is generally true -- that some number of Republicans oppose the Akaka bill, but are willing to be persuaded to vote for cloture (which risked having the bill pass) simply because they've traded votes on other bills, then that tells me that their opposition to the Akaka bill is not principled at all... and that makes me believe that with sufficient incentives, they can be influenced to vote in favor of the bill itself, once it comes to the floor.
The Reporter lists some of the "fatal mistakes" the bill's sponsors made; I worry that if they simply conduct a better campaign next year, this wretched piece of legislation could still pass. "Fatal mistakes" included:
- Disregarding the public in favor of courting Hawaii's "top political leaders;"
- Personally attacking senatorial opponents, rather than responding to their points;
- Underestimating how much ordinary people would oppose this bill once they began to learn what it allowed.
Here is one specific "fatal error" that worries me more than all the rest, because it's fairly easily corrected and could go a long way towards making the bill more likely to pass next year:
Rather than grassroots support, they believed the money they spent lobbying for the bill, buying support from conservatives, advertising dollars spent by the millions to buy off media, and public relations campaigns they ran to promote the bill, would manipulate Hawaii residents into believing that the Akaka Bill is the best legislation for Hawaii. A good bill -- and honestly addressing the legal and constitutional problems in the bill -- would have been much cheaper, easier and saved the taxpayers a bundle.
Honestly, I do not want to see "a good bill" to create a racist government in Hawaii that ends up being controlled by nativist activists who secede from the Union and declare a monarchy -- that might include our primary naval and Marine Corps bases in the North Pacific.
One very good thing the article in the Reporter does is list the roll call. All of the Democrats who voted cast their votes for cloture on this despicable bill; in addition, here are the thirteen Republicans who joined them:
- Thad Cochran (MS, 88%)
- Norm Coleman (MN, 64%)
- Susan Collins (ME, 32%)
- Pete Domenici (NM, 91%)
- Charles Grassley (IA, 96%)
- Charles Hagel (NE, 96%)
- John Kyl (AZ, 100%)
- John McCain (AZ, 80%)
- Lisa Murkowski (AK, 83%)
- Gordon Smith (OR, 58%)
- Olympia Snowe (ME, 32%)
- Arlen Specter (PA, 63%)
- Ted Stevens (AK, 80%)
Of this group, only Kyl and Snowe are up for reelection this year; Snowe is certain to be reelected, and Kyl is very likely (and he has no primary challenger, so far as I can tell). So there is nothing we can do about any of these senators.
But let us remember their names for 2008... particularly if the Akaka bill passes the Senate in the next Congress.
Date ►►► June 9, 2006
Battered Conservative Syndrome: Defending Ann
All right, folks; put on your manly gowns, gird up your loins, and go tell the Spartans: I'm about to defend Ann Coulter. And not by sweeping her words under the rug and blubbering "but she's a good girl in spite of the horrid things she says!"
No no, not Big Lizards style. I defend the very words she used and bat the ball right back across thet net at the liberals and their conservative "enablers."
But first, let's jump in the wayback machine and speed back through the ages to 1991. Connie Chung had just had her special on breast cancer the year earlier, in which she first floated the meme -- with never a shred of scientific evidence -- that silicone breast implants cause breast cancer.
Oh just read on, for heaven's sake.
We are the evidence!
In 1991, Oprah Winfrey had a show on the topic, and she invited a spokesman from Dow Corning, against which the anti-breast-implant mob had already begun to file the thousands of lawsuits that were to drive the company into bankruptcy just a few years later. What Oprah did not tell the spokesman was that the entire audience had been packed with women who had gotten breast implants, gotten breast cancer, and believed with the fervor of the mad that the one caused the other.
This was the first time I encountered what, fifteen years later, Ann Coulter would call "the Left's doctrine of infallibility," "using their grief to make a political point while preventing anyone from responding." (The link is to a transcript of Coulter's appearance on the Today Show with Matt Lauer; tuck it away in your grey matter, we'll come back to it at the end of this post.)
The premise of these Oprah women was that, since they suffered from a terrible disease, therefore any pronouncement they made about its cause was not open to argument.
It made no difference what the Dow spokesman said; they could not care less about the scientific evidence he cited. He noted, as his basic point, that if silicone breast implants were in any way implicated in breast cancer, then the rate of such cancer among women who had silicone breast implants would necessarily have to be higher than among women who did not have them.
Any rational human being should be able to understand that much. You don't need a PhD in oncological research. If smoking is implicated in lung cancer, then smokers should have a higher rate of lung cancer than non-smokers... and by golly, they do; much higher. That is why no serious medical researcher in the last forty years has disputed the point: the statistical argument is unanswerable.
Curiously, however, women with silicone breast implants have an identical rate of breast cancer as women who have saline implants or women with no implants at all. There is no difference; a hundred studies have shown this, and not a single one has shown the opposite. This is almost irrefutable evidence that there is no connection.
When the Dow guy brought this out, the women responded by booing. One leapt to her feet and shouted, "nobody ever studied me! Why don't you study me?" And the mass cheered in response, just as they might have cheered a coherent argument.
Then, in a surreal display that brought to mind Franz Kafka (or George Orwell), they actually rose in near unison and began chanting "we are the evidence, we are the evidence!" Whenever the Dow spokesman tried to speak, he was shouted down. He was accused of not caring about them. Women stood and burst into tears, accused him of "harassment" because he dared to defend Dow Corning's product.
Thus the infallibility of grief in action: these women suffered a tragic loss -- and that immunizes their every pronouncement from response.
A decorated war veteran who lost three limbs in the Vietnam War
Flash forward a few years, to the 2002 senatorial re-election campaign of Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) against Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).
During the election, Chambliss raised the issue that Cleland was too liberal for the state of Georgia; to make that point, Chambliss aired some hard-hitting ads saying that Cleland's policies -- in particular, his opposition to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security -- benefitted terrorists and dictators, like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. As the names were mentioned, the Chambliss ad showed brief images of their faces:
The ad says that Cleland does not have the "courage to lead" at a time when "America faces terrorists and extremist dictators." The evidence? Cleland voted against the president's version of the still-pending Homeland Security agency 11 times.
Now, the point is arguable; many Republicans didn't like the idea of the new department as well, calling it "just another layer of bureaucracy" and "shuffling boxes around the org chart." But Cleland did not try to argue it... instead, he and his surrogates in the antique media swiftly trotted out the point that he was a decorated Vietnam veteran who has lost three limbs:
Cleland, a decorated war veteran who lost three limbs in the Vietnam War, blasted the ad, accusing his GOP rival, Rep. C. Saxby Chambliss, of trying to wrest political advantage from the war on terrorism and the impending conflict with Iraq. "Accusing me of being soft on Homeland Security and Osama bin Laden is the most vicious exploitation of a national tragedy and attempt at character assassination I have ever witnessed," the senator said in a statement.
The infallibility of grief, take 2.
Of course, Cleland did not actually lose his legs and part of one arm "in the Vietnam War;" he lost them during the war, in a stupid accident: he was hopping out of a helicopter that was taking him and other soldiers on a "beer run," and a grenade slipped either from his own vest or someone else's. He bent over to pick it up, and it exploded. His grievous injuries were not attained in combat; and indeed, none of his decorations were for that incident (he, personally, never claimed they were; but he, personally, also never corrected the record when others claimed Cleland lost his limbs in combat).
The meme was launched, not just by the Washington Post but virtually every other newspaper, magazine, and television network: Saxby Chambliss, how dare you question the patriotism of a guy who lost three limbs?
The club of grief
The phenomenon Coulter describes is far more despicable than anything she has said in attacking it. "The infallibility of grief" is used to silence opposition by exploiting basic human decency.
Among con artists, there are two kinds: those who exploit human greed by tricking their marks into thinking they can con someone else (like the "dead millionaire Nigerian dicatator" spam) -- and those who exploit human pity by pretending to some tragedy that causes the decent to want to help them out (the classic "my rented baby is hungry, can you give me $5 for some baby food?" scam).
The latter are much more repulsive; if a greedy guy thinks he's scamming someone else and gets fleeced himself, who cares? He got what was coming to him. But to rip someone off by attacking his empathy and goodness not only punishes the victim for his goodness, it also makes him cynical -- and makes it that much harder for people who really are in trouble to get help. Once bitten, twice shy.
But those who practice the infallibility of grief scam are even worse
- They affect the much larger arena of public policy via irrational appeals to emotion;
- They twist tragedy for their own ends;
- They pervert the deaths of their own loved ones (recall the funeral of Sen. Paul Wellstone);
- And they create backlashes against those who really have suffered great tragedy, but have chosen not to use grief as a weapon... a backlash that is itself exploited by the "griefarazzi" as a weapon against the Right.
Coulter argues -- and I completely agree -- that by using their grief as a club to batter their opponents into silence, they have willfully and irrevocably forfeited the right ever again to use it as a shield.
"Mother" Sheehan (as she likes to be called, aping the religious without actually stooping to practice religion) has been relentless in retailing the death of her son Casey for political purposes wholly at odds with what he, himself believed. By using the doctrine of the infallibility of grief as an offensive weapon, she has forefeited any right to fall back on her grief when her politics are attacked.
So has Michael Berg, who has taken to the airwaves to argue that President Bush, not Musab Zarqawi, is responsible for the beheading of his son, Nick Berg. Look what Bush made Zarqawi do!
His only call for making such judgments is his certificate of authenticity as a man who suffered a terrible tragedy. Berg uses victimhood as a badge of authority to batter down any response under a sledge hammer of faux guilt: how dare you defend Bush against my attacks? I lost my son!
And now at last this brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Ann Coulter vs. the Jersey Girls.
Enjoying their husbands' deaths
Here is what Coulter wrote in her newest book, Godless, that has provoked such a fury of denunciation... not just from the left, but from the right as well:
These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted like as if the terrorist attack only happened to them. They believe the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony. Apparently, denouncing Bush was part of the closure process....
These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparazzies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much.
Very hard words; but I stick up for Coulter even here. Read above: the Jersey Girls have used their grief as an offensive weapon against Republicans and in support of the candidacy of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA, 100%)... and that means that by their own actions, they forfeit the right to use their personal tragedy as a shield against attack.
But who are the "Jersey Girls?"
The Jersey Girls or Jersey Widows (Kristin Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Lorie Van Auken, and Mindy Kleinberg) are four women from New Jersey whose husbands were killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks....
The Jersey Widows testified for hearing led by congresswoman Cynthia McKinney on July 22, 2005 . In Lorie Auken's statement she said this of the 9/11 Commission Report:
And finally, without compromising our national security, it would have reported all of its findings, with its redactions blacked out and submitted to the American people. In essence, the Commission could have produced a final product where the resulting conclusions and recommendations could be trusted. Instead, at the end of the day, what we got were some statements that truly insulted the intelligence of the American people, violated our loved ones’ memories, and might end up hurting us, one day soon.
One such statement is that 9/11 was a ‘failure of imagination’. A failure of whose imagination? What exactly does that mean? When you have a CIA director with his hair on fire, a system blinking red, 52 FAA warnings, an August 6th, 2001, PDB entitled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the United States’, leads on several 9/11 hijackers including Alhazmi, Almihdhar and Marwan Al-Shehi, warnings from many foreign governments, a Phoenix memo warning of Islamic extremists taking flying lessons, the arrest of would-be terrorist Zacarias Moussauoui, facts imparted to one agent, Agent Frasca at the RFU at the FBI, 9/11 was truly a failure alright.
What else did they do? Was that it? Not by a long shot. From the Today Show exchange, here is Coulter on the Jersey Girls' politicking... facts which none of Coulter's critics have troubled to dispute. (This is a hallmark of the infallibility of grief, by the way: Cleland didn't try to argue that his votes against the DHS were right... he simply denied Chambliss the right to criticize him at all because of the tragedy Cleland suffered in Vietnam.)
They were cutting commercials for Kerry. They were using their grief to make a political point while preventing anyone from responding.
In a Hannity and Colmes segment yesterday (no transcript, I just watched it), she elaborated, noting the television shows and magazines that had featured them, the Democratic fundraisers they attended. I myself recall them sitting on some panel on terrorism, as if they were experts by virtue of grief. The Jersey Girls were not "grieving widows," for they were not grieving... not unless, as Coulter put it, "denouncing Bush was part of the closure process."
They are not grieving widows; they are crusading widows. The difference is colossal.
Matt Lauer's snide questions are almost tailor-made to prove Coulter's point, for not once does he ever bother responding to anything she says; instead, he spent the entire interview subtlely undermining her moral credibility and her decency for daring to challenge the crusading widows in the first place:
His first words, before even reading what she wrote:
- Do you believe everything in the book, or do you put some things in there just to cater to your base?
After reading the excerpt where she concludes "I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much”:
- Because they dare to speak out? [At least, thank God, he didn't say "dare to speak truth to power." -- the Mgt.]
Here are the rest of his "responses" to Coulter:
- So grieve but grieve quietly?
- By the way, they also criticized the Clinton administration. [Lauer gives no examples.]
- So if you lose a husband, you no longer have the right to have a political point of view?
- Well apparently you are allowed to respond to them. [Said while he attacked her for responding to them.]
- What I’m saying is I don’t think they have ever told you, you can’t respond.
- No. I think it’s a dramatic statement. “These broads are millionaires stalked by stalked by grief-parazzies”? “I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s deaths so much”?
- The book is called “Godless: The Church of Liberalism.” Ann Coulter, always fun to have you here.
There you go: content-free invective. Lauer never responds, refutes, debunks; he just denounces. This is practically a classroom demonstration of the infallibility of grief at work.
In the same article in Editor & Publisher, the Jersey Girls themselves (plus Monica Gabrielle) respond (they get the last word, of course; Coulter is not allowed to respond to their response). Amazingly, their response also reinforces Coulter's original point:
We did not choose to become widowed on September 11, 2001. The attack, which tore our families apart and destroyed our former lives, caused us to ask some serious questions regarding the systems that our country has in place to protect its citizens. Through our constant research, we came to learn how the protocols were supposed to have worked. Thus, we asked for an independent commission to investigate the loopholes which obviously existed and allowed us to be so utterly vulnerable to terrorists. Our only motivation ever was to make our Nation safer. Could we learn from this tragedy so that it would not be repeated?
They then append a list of eight Democratic-Party talking points, the exact attacks that Minority Leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) make against President Bush and the Republican Congress.
Ask yourself this question: what reason is offered for us to accept the analysis of the Jersey Girls about what's wrong with our response to 9/11? Why listen to them, instead of (for a wild example) Big Lizards?
The only reason put forward is that 9/11 "tore our families apart and destroyed our former lives."
That's it. If they conducted "constant research," they certainly didn't demonstrate any in their response, nor on any of the media lollapalloozas they basked in for months: the television appearances, the spread in Vanity Fair, the Kerry campaign rallies and fundraisers they attended, or the commissions where they spoke.
Their sole authority to declaim upon Bush's failures is that they lost their husbands on September 11th; their sole response to critics of their political activities is "we did not choose to become widowed on September 11, 2001."
But they certainly chose the path forward from that point. They buttered their bread; now they refuse to sleep in it.
Battered Conservative Syndrome
Yet rather than stand up to the bullying use of victimhood as a weapon, many pundits and bloggers on the right have instead joined the liberal dogpile on Ann Coulter. The response of conservatives matches that of Matt Lauer: who cares whether Coulter's critique is right or wrong? Those poor women have suffered! How dare she add to their grief?
They join the liberals in attacking Coutler for malfeasance of rhetoric; in this, conservatives are showing classic symptoms of Battered Spouse Syndrome. Huddled in a defensive crouch, they labor to prove that they are too decent, they are so sympathetic -- they attack Coulter to prove their own chivalric honor. They become "enablers" of liberal griefarazzi.
Many conservatives have let themselves be ensnared by the "infallibility of grief" gambit. Like suckers who give money to the woman with the baby she rents by the hour, conservatives who attack Ann Coulter, without regard to the point she makes, prove the utter truth of that point: the reflexive, Lorelei power of the whimper of whipped dogs. And like Odysseus, if they don't stop their ears or lash themselves to the mast, they will wreck upon the rocks.
The Left wallows in that whimper, in the infallibility of grief; they use it to bypass argument, substitute for evidence, and take the place of moral courage. To argue with the grief-mongers makes ordinary, decent people feel like they just yelled at Grandma and made her cry. And the Left shamelessly exploits that basic human guilt.
I grew up in a Jewish family, and I had that trick played on me too many times. My family and culture burned out that autoresponse circuit in me; sorry, but like Jo Dee Messina, my give-a-damn's busted:
You can say you've got issues, you can say you're a victim
It's all your parents fault, after all you didn't pick 'em
Maybe somebody else has got time to listen:
My give-a-damn's busted
If you're a human being, you feel sorry for people who have suffered great tragedy. But if you're a reasoning human being, you don't allow empathy to leap up your throat and strangle your brain: you control it; you take a step back and ask whether We are the evidence ever means anything more than "Shut up," she explained.
Democrats Pooped In Colorado
The Democrats in Greely, Colorado are evidently so weary and worn by constant losing that they've lost all ability to communicate like humans. Instead, the appear to have attained the level of some of our simian relatives:
Republican U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's re-election campaign was already heated, and it just got smelly as well: Her staff accused a Democratic activist Thursday of leaving an envelope full of dog feces at Musgrave's Greeley office.
Musgrave spokesman Shaun Kenney said someone stuffed the envelope through the mail slot in the door on May 31 and then sped away in a car. Kenney said most of the preprinted return address was blacked out, but staffers used the nine-digit ZIP code to trace it to Kathleen Ensz, a Weld County Democratic volunteer.
In fact, Ms. Ensz is hardly a mere volunteer; she is "vice chairwoman of a state Senate district committee for the county Democratic Party." She has admitted leaving the envelope full of filth at Musgrave's campaign headquarters... but the gentlelady insists it was only in the foyer, not in the office doors themselves.
When Associated Press asked her why she did it, she answered in characteristic Democratic fashion: she refused to comment.
But all is being taken care of; the local Democratic Party is on top of things among their "volunteers" (and their vice chairwomen). James Thompson, a spokesman for Musgrave's probable Democratic opponent, state Rep. Angela Paccione, expressed his desire to stamp out such dirty tricks:
"This type of thing is really out of our control, but of course we'll do anything that we can to discourage this."
Ah, Democrats. I remember reading a sign warning me about this sort of thing the last time I visited the monkey cage at the zoo.
Date ►►► June 8, 2006
In my posts Not Ready to Make Amends and Maines Vs. Texas, I talked about the Dixie Chicks' new campaign strategy as left-wing victims. I predicted that their strategy would fail; country fans are never going to embrace the chicks again, and their careers will suffer from this.
At the time, their two singles, "Not Ready to Make Nice" and "Everybody Knows" were not doing well on the billboard chart, mired at 32 and 48 respectively. The initial ranking of the new album released a couple of weeks ago was 69th. It looked like my prediction was correct.
But then I started to see the Chicks' annoying faces all over television: evening talk shows, entertainment magazine shows, morning shows, and TV advertisements. Our commenter, Dan Kauffman, brought this to my attention:
As All About Country told you over the weekend, The Chicks would perform on "The Late Show with David Letterman" tonight. AND, they will be featured on "Good Morning America" every morning this week (starting this morning), and ending with their performance of three songs live in Bryant Park in New York City, on Friday morning.
To this, I responded:
With all that free publicity, if the album does not hit #1 on Billboard, that will be a surprise.
No surprises. The album did jump from 69th to number 1 in a second week.
Had I spoken too soon? Since their singles were doing so badly, I thought surely the album could not do well. I suppose I was wrong. The "I'm a victim!" tour worked after all.
Or did it?
After the initial shock was over, I thought of something. When an album sells well, it's generally because fans liked one or more singles extracted from the album. After all, that's the whole theory of releasing the singles first, right?
There is usually a correlation: hot singles, hot album; cold singles, dead fish. I checked, and sure enough, most artists whose albums are in the top 20 also had singles that were in the top 20 at their peaks. Everyone, that is, except the Chicks: the album was number 1, but the earlier singles just had laid there like lumps of chopped liver.
Whoever is buying all those Dixie Chicks albums is not a country-western fan; the fans would have grabbed the singles -- their first in years -- as soon as they were available. Could they be liberals who heard about the Chicks on TV talk shows, in the context of "Chicks vs. the right-wingers," as exemplified by the Chicks' bête noire, Toby Keith?
Then Dafydd called my attention to this fascinating article....
NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Initial ticket sales for the Dixie Chicks' upcoming tour are far below expectations and several dates will likely be canceled or postponed.
Ticket counts for the 20-plus arena shows that went on sale last weekend were averaging 5,000-6,000 per show in major markets and less in secondaries, according to sources contacted by Billboard. Venue capacities on the tour generally top 15,000.
Anyone can buy a $10.00 CD from Amazon. But to buy $60.00 to $400.00 concert tickets and invest time to go see them -- you gotta be a fan.
What does this all mean? It comes back to what I predicted before: the Dixie Chicks career as a country western group has ended. It's over. Stick a fork in it. Take a look:
Despite those [album sales] numbers, early ticket sales are clearly not meeting projections. The plug was pulled on public on-sales for shows in Indianapolis (August 23), Oklahoma City (September 26), Memphis (September 27) and Houston (September 30) because of tepid pre-sales in a national promotion with Target stores.
The Memphis show has been pulled off the route and the status of the shows in Indianapolis, Houston and Oklahoma City remains uncertain. Industry speculation has it that much or all of the tour may be postponed. At the very least, it is likely routing and capacity will be reconfigured.
Does anything strike you about those cities where their concert sales are so bad, the entire tour may be canceled or postponed? Think "geography." Those are all conservative, "red-state" cities in the South and Midwest; they're all in the country-western heartland.
Country fans are not embracing them and never will again. Their new-found liberal fans are not fans of country... they're fans of anyone who hates George Bush and has a public row with the country community. They likely bought this album out of political solidarity; but when the novelty wears off, so does the Chicks' popularity. It's just like what happened to k.d. lang: when she broke with country and trashed them, her first album, Ingenue, was a hit (rising to 18th on Billboard); but she's had no success of any note since then; her highest showing on Billboard for a solo album after Ingenue was 29th for Drag in 1997.
Ah, but the Chicks aren't dying everywhere. They're actually doing pretty well in a couple of cities:
But not all shows on this tour are below projections. "We're happy (with our on-sale) and comparatively seem to be ahead of most," says John Page, Global Spectrum COO/GM at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, where the trio is booked for July 25. A second date was added for the Air Canada Center in Toronto, where the first show sold out in eight minutes. "Canada loves the Chicks," says ACC booking director Patti-Ann Tarlton.
Since, they are doing so well in Canada and the UK, I suggest they move there. The Chicks will do well amongst their own: people whose profession is to hate America.
Cloture, Cloture, Who's Got the Cloture?
Two bills failed to break filibusters in the United States Senate today: both give ominous warning signs for the future.
Declare the Pennies On Your Eyes
- First, by a vote of 57-41, the Senate failed to cut off a Democratic filibuster of the bill making permanent the repeal of the death tax, a.k.a. the estate tax.
The vote was disappointing but expected:
A 57-41 vote fell three votes short of advancing the bill. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the Senate will vote again this year on a tax that opponents call the "death tax...."
A small group of senators, knowing Republicans lacked the votes to eliminate the tax, had hoped to keep the issue alive with an agreement to remove the tax from smaller estates and lessen the hit on larger ones.
Frist had given the negotiators a lift by agreeing to give such a compromise a vote. That didn't give the tax's strongest critics enough support to maneuver the issue around Democratic opponents, however.
Note that by "lacked the votes," AP means there was a majority in favor of repealing this monstrous tax... but since it takes 60 votes to pass anything these days -- it's become routine for the minority to filibuster every last vote they're going to lose -- we fell short of the 60 votes necessary to move legislation.
Under current law, the death tax will diminish and finally disappear entirely in 2010 -- and then come back at full force, all 47% of it, in 2011. This is insane, of course; but it was the only way Bush could get the tax bill through in 2001, under a Democratic-controlled Senate (thanks to triple-J): everything sunsets in ten years. Some of the tax cuts have been extended, but the repeal of the death tax is not one of them.
There is both good and bad news here: the good is that there is a solid majority in the Senate for repealing this gross offense of a tax -- where the government seizes half the value of an estate deemed unseemly large, even though they had been taxing it all along... as it grew despite the best efforts of the IRS to crush it.
It's also good that four Democrats crossed party lines to vote for cloture, which means to vote for the bill, since repealing the death tax has more than 51 senators supporting it. I can only find the name of one, however: Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT, 90%); he is a liberal Democrat, oddly enough: 90% rating from the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) in 2005 and 29% from the American Conservative Union (ACU).
(Remember our system: when we refer to a Democratic member of Congress, the percent inside the parentheses is the rating from the ADA; when it's a Republican, the percent is the rating from the ACU.)
The bad news is twofold; first, that 41 senators refused to vote on the bill; second that two Republicans crossed over and joined the Democratic filibuster of the death-tax repeal: Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI, 40%) and George Voinovich (R-OH, 76%). Voinovich costs Gryffindor an additional ten points with his fatuous rationalization of the vote:
"Repealing the estate tax during this time of fiscal crisis would be incredibly irresponsible and intellectually dishonest," Voinovich said.
-- A Great Sage
Here is the other failed cloture vote with nasty implications:
The Inouye-Akaka Racial Classification, Group Areas, and Monarchy Restoration Act of 2006
- The Senate today voted 56 to 41 not to cut off debate and not to vote on a bill that would have established a race-based government, independent of the United States, within the state of Hawaii -- where everybody in certain Hawaiian territories would be subject to the new government's laws, but only those with provable aboriginal Hawaiian blood could rule. Or even vote, I believe.
In other words, 56 U.S. senators voted to force the secession of a very significant chunk of Hawaii, which would then be free to create its own form of government, so long as whites, blacks, and Asians were excluded.
In fact, Sen. Daniel Kahikina Akaka (D-HI, 95%), one of the two sponsors -- the other was Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI, 90%) -- specifically said that the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act would allow aboriginal Hawaiians (with even a single provable drop) to bring back the monarchy.
Conservatives in the Senate today held together to defeat the Akaka bill which would have created a race-based government in Hawaii. Conservatives needed 41 votes today to kill the bill and they mustered just that number. The vote on cloture was 56-41.
Here the implications are reversed: it's good that this bill was stopped; but it's appalling that it had to be filibustered, that it ever had majority support in the first place.
I cannot find any report on this from the antique media; if there is one, please let me know in the comments. All I can find is some blogging, notably by Tim Chapman's Capitol Report on Townhall.com. And here is Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN, 92%) blogging on the bill, shortly after it was successfully filibustered:
Senator Akaka’s legislation would have created a new, independent government within our country – a government defined by and composed of a specific racial group. Worse still, Senator Akaka recently made clear that this race-based government would have been under no obligation to remain within the United States or to adhere to the most basic of our political principles: “[T]he governing entity will make a decision as to what happens to independence or returning to the monarchy.”
And 56 U.S. senators supported this.
I cannot at this point find a roll-call; but since there are only 44 Democrats and one Mugwump (Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-VT, 90% ADA -- Jeffords caucuses with the Democrats), that means there must have been at least 11 Republican senators who voted to bring the bill to the floor for a vote it would almost certainly win.
These are not Republicans bringing some embarassing bill to the floor so Democrats could be humiliated; these are 11 Republican senators who want "native Hawaiians" (by which they mean aboriginal Hawaiians, since everyone born there, regardless of race, is a "native Hawaiian," according to the 14th Amendment) to have their own Bantustan within the territorial boundaries of the United States; and even a king, if they want.
And of course, if it turns out that two or three Democrats voted against cloture, then two or three more Republicans must have voted for it.
Worse, this was just a filibuster, and the bill enjoys majority support; therefore, Inouye and Akaka will certainly try to insert it as an "amendment" to some bill that cannot be filibustered, such as the budget or funding for the global war on jihadi terrorism. Eventually, it will pass; God help us all if the House of Representatives is as enamored of racist monarchies as the Senate evidently is.
In addition to everything else, the bill is bitterly unconstitutional:
United States Constitution, Article IV, § 4:
The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government.
United States Constitution, XIVth Amendment, § 1:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
It would be struck down in a Hawaiian second (equivalent to a New York minute), and every senator in "the world's most exclusive club" knows this... which means that every, single one of those 56 senators is a race-pandering, boot-licking, ring-kissing, wormtongued lickspittle to the mewling, condescending racial supremacists who are actually driving this risible "movement" -- against the wishes of the aboriginal population of Hawaii, by the way, as much as against the majority population of the state.
These senators are not just elitist aristos and closet monarchists; they are hypocrites and liars of the first water, pretending to their masters that they can get one of them crowned Kamehameha VI, when in fact, they all know it's a sham.
Fifty-six. More than half. Think about that: even in the best of cases, 20% of the Republican caucus in the Senate fits the description above. Bear this in mind the next time you wonder why Bush can't get conservative bills through Congress.
So there you have it. I'm outraged that the repeal of the death tax was filibustered, that 39 Democrats and two RINOs think the "fiscally responsible" thing to do is for the government to seize half of the family business or the family farm when Dad dies.
And I'm very glad that 41 senators sustained a filibuster of the Inouye-Akaka Racial Classification, Group Areas, and Monarchy Restoration Act of 2006; but I'm appalled that more than half the Senate voted in favor of a bill that's every bit as immoral, racist, and blatantly unconstitutional as the Jim Crow laws of the pre-Civil Rights South.
Neither bodes well for the republic.
Musab Zarqawi Dead
According to Associated Press, Reuters, and the New York Times, confirmed by Iraqi officials and by the United States military by fingerprints and a direct look at his dead face, the erstwhile leader of al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia has officially attained room temperature.
Exit Musab Zarqawi
I thought that would be a nice day-brightener for breakfast. Go, team!
From the Times:
Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in an American airstrike on an isolated safe house north of Baghdad at 6.15 p.m. local time on Wednesday, top U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Thursday.
At a joint news conference with Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the top American military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., said Zarqawi's body had been positively identified by fingerprints, "facial recognition" and other indicators. He said seven of Zarqawi's associates had also been killed in the strike.
Reuters explains why it matters that we finally "terminated" Zarqawi (Prime Minister al-Maliki's word):
"Zarqawi didn't have a number two. I can't think of any single person who would succeed Zarqawi.... In terms of effectiveness, there was no single leader in Iraq who could match his ruthlessness and his determination," said Rohan Gumaratna from the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore.
Oh and here's an extra bit of good news (She Who Must Be Obeyed is sleeping now, the more fool she, or she would have gotten to make this announcement): we haven't heard much about this, but the Iraq government has finally filled the two critical ministries that they'd been dithering about for weeks now, Interior (police) and Defense. Still Reuters:
Iraq's parliament approved on Thursday Maliki's candidates for new defense and interior ministers.
By a clear majority, it approved Jawad al-Bolani, a Shi'ite, as interior minister and General Abdel Qader Jassim, a Sunni and until now Iraqi ground forces commander, as defense minister.
Out of 198 deputies present in the 275-seat assembly, 182 voted for Bolani while 142 supported Jassim, the speaker said.
The two key security jobs were left temporarily vacant when Maliki's government of national unity took office on May 20 because of intense wrangling among his coalition partners.
Over at Iraq the Model, Omar has one other piece of information that is interesting:
Al-Maliki said that among the 7 killed with Zarqawi were two women who were responsible for collecting intelligence for the al-Qaeda HQ cell.
I guess even militant Islamist jihadis are forced to make affirmative-action hires...!
Date ►►► June 7, 2006
Can't Say We Didn't Warn Ya
Sooooooooo, the Senate finally voted today on the much-ballyhooed Federal Marriage Amendment.
You remember the last time they voted (in 2004, I believe), the amendment -- which needs 67 votes to pass, and at least 60 even to advance to that point -- garnered only 48 votes. But since then, in the 2004 election, four more Republicans were elected to the Senate; now the body stands at 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and one Mugwump.
The predictions going into this were that the FMA would get 57 votes; in Free the Federal Marriage Amendment..., we noted what the proponents were saying about 57 votes (though we did not make it a "prediction"); we noted that Sen. Wayne Allard was lowering expectations to "a majority;" and we added something else:
The FMA will likely get about 57 votes in the Senate -- though supporter Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO, 96%) is now only willing to predict it will get "a majority," which means more than 50. 58 or more would be a huge victory; anything fewer than 55 would be an embarassing failure.
Is there any chance that the senators will figure out that at least one of the reasons it failed -- a major reason -- is that the FMA infringes the liberty of citizens of a state to vote to define marriage within that state? That if they were to switch to something like my proposed Defense of Marriage Amendment, they might do a heck of a lot better... and might even pass it?
Big Lizards Proposed Defense of Marriage Amendment
- For federal purposes, marriage in the United States of America shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.
- The Constitution of the United States of America shall not be construed to require any state, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as or like a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
Nah. Never happen. That would require Congress to consider giving up power, rather than grabbing more and more of it. Which means the amendment will continue to fail; and if ever the Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, then we'll all be living in Massachusetts.
To quote Larry Niven: "Not responsible for advice not taken."
Macy's in Boston yielded to pressure today and removed a public display involving a flag. But the "usual suspects" had nothing to do with it. This time, it was a conservative group that used a tactic more reminiscent of liberal protesters:
Macy’s department store found itself mired in a fierce national debate between conservatives and gay activists when it bowed to complaints and removed part of a window display marking Boston [Gay] Pride Week....
[T]he store yanked the mannequins from the window after MassResistance, the conservative group formerly named Article 8 Alliance which has also campaigned against sex education and gay-themed books in public schools, complained the display was offensive.
“They were male mannequins with enlarged breasts, and one was wearing a skirt,” said MassResistance president Brian Camenker, referring to the gay pride flag wrapped around one figure, cinched with a white belt. “It was really disgusting.”
Don't get me wrong; I have no problem with a male mannequin wearing a skirt, a flag, or a gay-pride flyer. But what's funny is the reaction of the ACLU, the high priests of Our Lady of Perpetual Offense:
ACLU of Massachusetts spokeswoman Sarah Wunsch decried Macy’s for “succumbing to the bigotry” of a fringe anti-gay group.
Well, as Dafydd always says, "what's sauce for the goose is cooked by its own petard."
Although it's likely that Brian Bilbray will fail to reach either 50% (which I anticipated he would) or a 5% margin over Francine Busby (which I actually predicted) -- with 100% of the precincts reporting, the semi-official tall stands at 49.33% for Bilbray, 45.46% for Busby -- we still can't close this one out just yet. If you look at the very top of the page at the link, you will read this little cautionary note:
There are approximately 68500 Absentee / Provisional ballots still to be counted
That total is for all of San Diego County, I believe; obviously, only a small portion of those ballots are for the 50th district special election. Even so, a movement of 0.67% upward (or downward) is entirely possible.
(There was also a 50th district primary for November; the tallies are in, and the nominess are -- wait for it -- Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray! This will be the third of three rounds in the Busby-Bilbray title match, winner leaves town.)
Typically, absentee ballots tend to favor Republicans (though that's changing), while provisional ballots tend to favor Democrats (though that's changing). It is unlikely in the extreme that those ballots will change the outcome of the race; Busby is not going to wake up in a few days and find herself the winner.
But it wouldn't take many ballots, especially in such a low-turnout election as this (126,000 ballots cast), to add or subtract a fraction of a percent to either candidate... and in fact, that is guaranteed: whatever the final results, they will not be exactly 49.33% and 45.46%.
Currently, the two are separated by about 4,872 votes. If Bilbray were to add a net 850 to his total out of however many absentee and provisional ballots have not yet been tallied in this race, that would probably do it; 900 for sure.
It will take a few days to finally resolve all of the provisional ballots, and I doubt California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson is going to change the results page again until he can announce the final final results. Bilbray is very close to a majority (less close to my 5% prediction, alas), and he might well achieve it when the smoke clears.
I know a person can grow old just waiting, but sometimes that's the only thing to do.
In evaluating this race, it's important to pay attention not only those who voted for the Democrat or the Republican, but also those who voted otherwise... especially when trying to prognosticate.
While Bilbray got only 49.33% (semi-final, remember), another candidate, William Griffith, got 3.67%; Griffith is an ultra-hard-right conservative who ran against Bilbray by calling him too liberal.
Here's a profile of Griffith.
In addition, the Libertarian Party candidate, Paul King, took 1.53%. There are two kinds of LP members: those whose primary focus is drug legalization, who are apostate Democrats; and those whose main focus is to shrink the government, who are renegade Republicans. (There is a nonzero intersection of people for whom those are equally important, but it's smaller than you would imagine.) King clearly seems to be in the latter camp; he may support drug legalization, in a vague way; I don't know enough about him. But what brought him into the race, he says, is shrinking the government.
Even without adding King, the clear "right-wing" vote in this election was 53%... which is just about what we calculated as the total vote among all the Republicans voting in the April preliminary. I suppose that some of those who voted for a far-right Republican (like Eric Roach, 14.46%, or Howard Kaloogian, 7.45%) just didn't find Bilbray conservative enough for them, so they voted for Griffith, who was barely an "also-ran" (0.82%) in the prelims -- running as an Independent (specifically, the hard-right American Independent Party), as he did yesterday and probably will in November.
If you add King in as a (probable) small-gov Libertarian (as opposed to a pot-puffing Libertarian), that would make it 54.5% voting to the right; there were no candidates running to Busby's left... she got all the Democrats plus all the Leftists who voted.
That means the Right vs. Left vote in CA-50 was 54.5% to 45.5%, just about how the district voted in the 2004 presidential contest (55-44 Bush), despite the huge drop in Bush's job approval since then. Again, this is not a good sign for Democrats in November.
(By the way, centrist Democratic Rep. Jane Harman (70%) easily held off her primary opponent, Leftist Marcy Winograd; Harman won more votes in her hotly contested primary than did Republican Brian Gibson in his uncontested primary -- 26,670 to 20,455. I think Harman is a shoetree for reelection in November.)
A Bird In the Bush Ain't Worth Much
It's looking more and more like Brian Bilbray won the critical California 50th district race to succeed former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who currently resides in prison. But it's not yet clear whether the second half of my prediction will come true; at the moment, with 96% counted, Bilbray leads by only 4.2%, not 5%... but it wouldn't take much to add an extra 0.8%, so we'll have to wait a day or two to see whether I get a full point or only a half.
But a win is a win, in any case.
However, this retention shines a big, bright light on the Democrats' dilemma: their strategy for taking back the House relies upon winning a bunch of races -- many of which just don't look at all likely to fall to them. They must win virtually every open seat, and they must wrest a number of seats away from Republican incumbents... one more, now that the Cunningham seat will remain with the GOP up through the election.
The main unifying theme of the Democrats this year has been the Republican Kulture of Korruption; but if it's going to work anywhere, it would have to be either in Cal-50 or in Tex-22 (Tom DeLay's erstwhile seat). The Democrats just lost Cal-50 when it was open; I don't think they're likely to win it in November, when Bilbray will be the incumbent. (In fact, he'll probably do better... the power of name recognition, which works even for former congressmen being re-elected in a different district).
And as far as the Texas seat goes, the biggest boon that Democratic candidate Nick Lampson had going for him was that he was running against the indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX, 88%).
But now he's not; DeLay is resigning from Congress this Friday, and presumably his brief replacement in the 109th Congress will be chosen by a special election (open, anyone can run). Thereafter, the Republican parties in the four counties that have voters in the 22nd district (Fort Bend, Harris, Galveston, and Brazoria) will select a nominee to replace DeLay on the ballot for the 110th Congress.
But with DeLay himself, the lightning rod, gone from the scene, it's very likely that Tex-22 will stay in Republican hands in both the special and the general elections.
So where does that leave the Democrats? They staked everything on winning Cal-50 and Tex-22, and it looks pretty unlikely that they'll win either one. There is only one other Republican congressman who is in serious legal jeopardy: Bob Ney of Ohio (88%). And Ney is very unlikely to be indicted before November, if he is at all.
So far, all that the Democrats have against him is rumor and inuendo, and that's nothing like indictment (as in DeLay's case), and certainly nothing like conviction and la calabooza, as with Cunningham. If the Democrats can't make the Kulture of Korruption theme work in those two cases, I'm very skeptical they can make it work for a smoke-but-no-fire-yet representative like Ney.
When all is said and done, I doubt that this election is going to turn on charges of Republican corruption -- especially with the various Democrats who have suddenly found themselves on the wrong end of the law. I believe it will turn on other issues: policy issues, such as immigration, taxes, and the Iraq war.
It's still possible for the Democrats to take the House back; but they will need to have a real campaign after all. Yet so far, they haven't even made the effort to come up with an agenda, let alone a "Contract With America."
And perhaps even more important here in California, the "Meathead" Amendment, Proposition 82 -- taxing the rich to pay for "free" preschool for all California kids, pushed onto the ballot by Rob "Meathead" Reiner -- went down in flames. Go, team!
This is the ballot proposition where Reiner was caught red-handed (shouldn't that be blue-handed?) funneling at least $23 million of taxpayer money into an ad campaign for his pet Proposition 82; so at least in this case, crime did not pay.
Date ►►► June 6, 2006
New York Looking (Just a Little) Brighter
The great state of New York is looking up a bit for Republicans (just a wee, sma' bit), now that carpetbagger William Weld has finally got a close look at the clue-by-four and dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for governor of New York.
Yeah, yeah, I know; Weld was born in New York. Egad. But his family's coat of arms is in the dictionary under "Boston Brahmin," and he went to school in Connecticut: he's really only slightly more of a New Yorker than Hillary Clinton.
Until today, he was duking it out with John Faso, who has already won the nomination of the Conservative Party of New York; perhaps it's not entirely true, but the rumor hath it that no Republican nominee has won statewide office in recent years without also being the Conservative nominee. Thus, history indicates that Weld could not have won the race, while Faso at least has a chance.
Folks have been nudzhing Weld to drop out for almost as long as they've been screaming in Katherine Harris' ear to do the manly thing in Florida. (Weld at least listened; his giddy tango is ended. Harris is still out to prove that she can be just as mule-headed as any man.)
The problem is that two Napoleon Bonapartes is one too many: and since Faso has already been crowned le Roi d'Italia, the party figured he'd have a better chance at oozing into l'Empereur des Français as well -- Emperor of the Empire State.
The spoiler in all this -- our Wellington -- is Eliot Spitzer, who despite his name is seen by most as governor in all but name. Even though he hasn't actually won the preliminary yet (a mere formality, though there's that Thomas Suozzi feller), he has a legitimate shot at the title bout. Just as Rudy Giuliani rose from U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, trying all those Wall Street corruption cases, to the mayorality of New York City -- perversely enough, usually considered the higher title than governor of the whole blessed state -- Spitzer hopes to rise from being a mere state attorney general to the governorship.
The Dastard, the Dupe, the Dauphin
Actually, our analogy is ill-chosen; the person that Spitzer reminds me of more than anybody else is Dominique de Villepin, Crock Jacques Chirac's left arm in battle... and a man surely better associated with Napoleon Bonaparte than is John Faso.
This isn't likely to be a cliff-biter: the most recent Quinnipiac poll I've seen -- the lingua franca of Empire State polling -- has Spitzer skunking Faso by 67% to 16%. Likely, that will narrow a bit; it's hard to believe that Spitzer will actually wind up winning by 51 points. But it's equally tough to swallow that Faso would win by anything.
Still, if Faso is to have any chance at all, he must be quickly accepted as both the Republican and the Conservative candidate, and then get several months to focus like a laser beam on Eliot Spitzer's weasely eyes. Not much of a chance, perhaps; but ought's better than nought any day.
Free the Federal Marriage Amendment...
...From its imperialist, anti-federalist foofoorah!
As longtime and attentive readers of this blog (or of Patterico's Pontifications and Captain's Quarters) know, I am a big fan of traditional marriage and no respecter of same-sex marriage. I see the latter as the thin edge of the wedge: the moment we, as a society, decide that marriage is not restricted to the special relationship between one man and one woman, there will be no philosophical or legal bar to judges declaring that every imaginable relationship is "special"... which, as "Dash" Parr of the Incredibles astutely notes, is the same as saying none is "special."
I believe traditional marriage is one of the cornerstones of Western Civilization and the greatest evolutionary leap of societal history. Societies that do not enshrine marriage as a relationship that is monogamous, mixed-sex, and non-consanguineous are doomed: they fail, sometimes with a whimper (a very appropriate phrase, considering what it means), betimes spectacularly.
But it is not the only cornerstone: another is democracy; another is liberty; and another, especially recently (the last couple of centuries), is federalism.
The problem with the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) is that it seeks not only to prevent judges from imposing same-sex marriage (or any other insane version of marriage) on other states, as the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) did, but also to prevent states from willfully choosing to enact same-sex marriage within their own borders.
But shouldn't they be able to? This is staggeringly anti-federalist; it amounts to marital imperialism... even though it imposes a regime that I, personally, support, I don't support its imposition by fiat -- even the fiat of a constitutional amendment that requires 67 senators, 290 representatives, and 38 state legislatures or referenda.
The 2004 version of the FMA (I'm not aware of a more current wording) reads:
- Marriage in the United States of America shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.
- Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
First, "marriage in the United States" seems, on its face, to mean any marriage in any state, even for purposes of the state. It appears that a same-sex marriage in Massachusetts could be challenged under this amendment even within Massachusetts. This is made very clear by the reference to "no the constitution of any State": presumably, even if the citizens of some state actually voted to amend their own state constitution to require "gender neutral" marriage, that amendment could be struck down by the FMA.
The real problem, however, is not that some state might freely decide to allow same-sex marriage; even if that were to happen, other states would not be required to recognize such marriages themselves... if DOMA were upheld. The problem is that the United States Constitution, in Article IV, section 1, the "Full Faith and Credit" clause, practically cries out for the Court to overturn DOMA:
Section 1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.
Anent marriage, I suspect (though I don't know the caselaw) that most judges would hold that the Full Faith and Credit clause means that a traditional marriage contracted in Arkansas would have to be accepted in Massachusetts, California, Vermont, and Hawaii. But what about a same-sex marriage contracted in Massachusetts? Is Arkansas required, under the Constitution, to honor it? Are the feds required?
The operative part of DOMA was clearly crafted with the Full Faith and Credit clause in mind:
No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
So far as I know, no case attacking DOMA has ever made it beyond the appellate level; the courts so far have upheld it, using the judicially created "public policy exception" to the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution.
But this may not be strong enough, as more and more pro-gay-marriage federal judges jump into the fray. It would only take a single "Roe v. Wade" style decision to throw out the exception and mandate same-sex marriage for all.
That is the only danger we have to protect against... and we should so so without infringing the liberty of the residents of any state to define marriage as it exists within that state. Thus, I would much prefer to see the following Constitutional amendment in place of the FMA... call it the Defense of Marriage Amendment, or DMA:
- For federal purposes, marriage in the United States of America shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.
- The Constitution of the United States of America shall not be construed to require any state, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as or like a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
Clause 1 is intended to define marriage at the federal level (i.e., for tax purposes, for Social Security, for federal welfare programs, and so forth). Clause 2 is the meat: the intent is to prevent federal or state judges from holding that the U.S. Constitution requires same-sex marriage -- or even that alternative forms of marriage, contracted in state A, are required to be accepted by state B.
(The "as or like" phraseology is specifically intended to prevent A from enacting "civil unions" that are marriages in everything but name -- then forcing B to extend those benefits within its own border.)
Besides recognizing the liberty citizens of a state should have while still protecting traditional marriage, there is one other advantage to the DMA over the FMA: I believe the DMA could actually pass, whereas the FMA never will.
What would it mean to oppose the FMA? A conservative who believed deeply in federalism might oppose it as an act of conscience... much as Barry Goldwater opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not because he embraced bigotry or segregation, but because he was unalterably opposed to the Act's extension to private racism by private individuals on their own private property.
But to oppose the DMA necessarily means that you want Massachusetts to be able to force other states to accept gay marriage. It means that if ten thousand same-sex couples in California jet to Boston to get "married," then return -- that notwithstanding the vote of the people of California, California should be forced to recognize them as "husband and husband," or as "wife and wife."
While the FMA is anti-states' right, opposing the DMA is anti-states' rights. For Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 92%) to vote against DMA would be the same as saying he wanted some Boston brahmin to have sovereignty over South Carolina.
The FMA will likely get about 57 votes in the Senate -- though supporter Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO, 96%) is now only willing to predict it will get "a majority," which means more than 50. 58 or more would be a huge victory; anything fewer than 55 would be an embarassing failure. But switching to the DMA, in my opinion, would stand a much better chance of garnering the 67 needed to move it towards the states (a similar vote in the House would also be required).
Call me a pragmatist, but I would rather see a more liberty-minded amendment that can actually pass than a top-down federal power-grab that has no chance of success.
Predictions: Cal 50th
CORRECTION: Slight change to the wording of the Busby quotation; see note below.
Every so often, when the Great Spirit moves me, I feel compelled to eructate a prediction... typically for an election.
I have a pretty good track record: over the past fifteen years or so, I've been right about 2/3rds of the time (and, naturally, wrong the other 1/3rd). But at least I'm willing to get right out there and make a concrete prediction, let it all hang out, live or die by the actual votes. I don't weasel around, like many "pundants" (Bushism alert!); and I don't belong to the League of the Perpetually Dour and Dispeptic (so long as I take my Nexium), and make only predictions of gloom and doom... like, say, Larry Sabato. (Didn't he pick the Kaiser in the World War I?)
California's 50th district is the former seat of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Alcatraz); with that scandal looming over the GOP's head, you'd think the Democratic nominee, Francine Busby, would be a shoe-horn. But her Republican opponent, former Rep. Brian Bilbray, who won the nomination in an April 11th free-for-all, has been surging -- primarily due to his staunch anti-illegal immigration stance. He was certainly propelled forward by Busby's boneheaded gaffe a few days ago, when she answered a question at a fundraiser from an admitted illegal alien that sure as shootin' seemed to suggest that "you don't need papers for voting."
(By "suggest," what I mean is those are literally the words she used, where "papers" means citizenship papers. A very strong suggestion, I reckon.)
NOTE: This is a slight correction from what I originally wrote. Some (Busby included) are now suggesting that she was only trying to say that one needn't be a "registered voter" in order to work on a campaign -- which is true.
But that simply doesn't wash. Her statement was in response to a question from a man who identified himself as an illegal alien. Here is the exchange:
Busby said she was invited to the forum at the Jocelyn Senior Center in Escondido by the leader of a local soccer league. Many of the 50 or so people there were Spanish speakers. Toward the end, a man in the audience asked in Spanish: “I want to help, but I don't have papers.”
It was translated and Busby replied: “Everybody can help, yeah, absolutely, you can all help. You don't need papers for voting, you don't need to be a registered voter to help.”
Here in California -- I don't know about elsewhere -- if an immigrant says "I don't have papers," he means "I am here illegally." It doesn't mean he simply isn't a citizen yet, and it certainly doesn't merely mean he's not registered to vote. "Papers" means a green card, a work visa, or some other visa allowing him to be here legally. And Francine Busby is no idiot; she is an experienced campaigner in a border district, and she knows exactly what that means.
"You don't need papers for voting" doesn't mean "you don't have to be a legally registered voter in order to work on my campaign;" I do not believe she was repeating herself; she was saying two different things. That's how the questioner would take it; that's how the audience would take it; that's how Californios will take it.
Californians all know (because it's discussed endlessly) that under California law, people working at polling places are forbidden from checking into the citizenship (or even the identity) of voters: you don't need to prove you are a U.S. citizen to vote here, and some politicians (the Sanchez sisters, e.g.) have been elected by what surely appears to have been votes by non-citizens.
It's barely possible that Busby is simply clueless. But to Californians, "you don't need papers for voting" said in response to an immigrant who just confessed "I don't have papers" means one and only one thing: go ahead and vote -- nobody is going to check. Just bring in somebody's sample ballot, possibly swiped from a mailbox in your apartment building; and be sure to vote early... so when the real citizen comes to vote after work, they won't let him, because he has "already voted."
The polls say this race is neck and neck; but not to keep you on tenderloins, I'll just out myself as predicting that not only the Republican, Bilbray, win the race -- I believe he will do it by 5% or more.
- Because Bilbray has all the "mo'."
He has been surging forward, while Busby has been on the defensive and falling back in the polls. She originally had a big lead, double digits, over Bilbray. Here's lefty website MyDD back in January:
In head-to-head match ups, Busby leads all six potential Republican candidates by up to 14%. In addition to voters' disgust with Cunningham and the Republicans, it's quite likely that Busby's name recognition in the district is giving her a leg up.
The Dems gleefully slid this district into the "D" column as soon as the "Dukester" case heated up, and they have been banking on it ever since.
- Because I believe there is an entrenched bias in the polls that slightly favors Democrats... so a slight Bilbray lead of 47-45, as Survey USA has it, is actually more likely a 49-43 lead for Bilbray.
We blogged on this race back during the first round of voting in April, and we noted at that time that if you added up all the Republican votes in that contest, they topped 53%. (We have a really cool chart there of the complete round-1 results; go take a look.) The results of the first-round voting, by party, from our previous post:
- Independent: 0.82%
- Democrat: 45.24%
- Republican: 53.33%
And we concluded, taking this case as a bellwether for the November elections:
The runoff will be between Francine Busby (D) and Brian Bilbray (R), the two top vote getters; if the Republicans rally behind Bilbray, the seat is easily held.
If the Democrats cannot collectively get to 50% -- or at least hold the Republicans below 50% -- in a district that is so stacked in their favor as this one is... they will have a long, uphill battle ahead of them to capture Congress.
We stand by that bold claim. Here are our final predictions:
- We will know the results by late Tuesday night (PDT);
- Bilbray will win;
- Bilbray will top Busby by at least 5%;
- The Democrats will claim that Cal-50 wasn't a harbinger after all, and that everybody knew all along that the Republican would win... despite the fact that the Democrats have been counting this unhatched chicken for months now.
Fingers crossed, and here we go...!
Date ►►► June 5, 2006
Anutter Grutter Cutter?
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that has at least a good possibility of reversing what was arguably the worst Supreme-Court decision of the Bush era... a position that was ardently supported by the Bush administration itself.
The Supreme Court agreed today to consider an issue of enormous importance to parents and educators across the country: the extent to which public school administrators can use racial factors in assigning children to schools.
The court accepted cases from Seattle and Louisville, Ky., for its next term. The school districts in both cities defeated challenges to their assignment procedures in the lower courts.
"Looming in the background of this is the constitutionality of affirmative action," Davison Douglas, a law professor at William and Mary, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "This is huge."
The earlier case to which I alluded was Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), in which the Court held that the "affirmative-action" (racial preferences) in the University of Michigan's law school were constitutional. And the reason I think there's a reasonable chance to chip away at that awful decision is that it was 5-4... with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor writing for the majority.
O'Connor has since retired, of course, replaced by Justice Samuel A. Alito: if Alito actually opposes racial preferences, as I suspect he does, then he could be the crucial flip-vote that might begin wrenching the country towards racial sanity.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist died in the meanwhile and was replaced by Chief Justice John Roberts; but Rehnquist was in the minority in this case. So assuming that Roberts is as opposed to "affirmative action" as Rehnquist was, this will result in no change. But the O'Connor retirement could lead to racial preferences moving from a 5-4 win to a 5-4 loss.
Seattle school administrators have wrestled for decades with the de facto segregation that tends to mirror the housing patterns of white, black and Asian families in the community. Students can pick among high schools. But since some schools have more applicants than they can handle, the district relies on tie-breakers, including whether a sibling attends a certain school, distance from a prospective student's home and race, to decide who gets into the over-subscribed schools. A group called Parents Involved in Community Schools sued in 2000, contending that it was unfair for the school district to consider race.
There are two cases here, and it could end up with another split decision (like Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger -- the latter involving U of M's undergraduate admissions, where the Court struck down racial preferences). The problem is that in the Kentucky case, there is an existing federal judicial order to desegregate:
The Kentucky case arises from a suit filed by Crystal Meredith, who contends that her son Joshua was not allowed into the neighborhood school because he is white. The Jefferson County school district has a history different from Seattle's, in that the Louisville schools operated for years under a federal order to desegregate. In 2001, the district began using a plan that includes racial guidelines. The plan was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
I have always argued that the way to combat official segregation is by the complete lack of segregation... not by segregating in the other direction. It's as unfair to the white Joshua Meredith that he's kept out a good school because he's white as it was to black kids during Jim Crow to be kept out of good schools because they weren't white.
But we'll see how the Court sees it. Keep your eyes on the prize....
Kerry Von Münchhausen
This is a follow-up to our post Lying About Lying About Lying, in which we take on the fabled New York Times (by "fabled," I mean it doesn't really exist) and its sudden desire to charge once more into the breach, dear friends, on behalf of Sen. John "Fitzgerald" Forbes Kerry (D-Beacon Hill, 100%).
The Times article was written by the hapless Kate Zernike, who appears to have snoozed through the entire investigation of Kerry's record two years ago... though she has assiduously read the CliffsNotes version -- which was evidently written by Kerry himself (say, just like the Bronze-Star after-action report!)
Today we learned that we are not alone. A fellow name o'Thomas Lipscomb has decided to take up the smart man's burden and write a series of articles for Real Clear Politics, setting straight the Kerry military record as it stands now. The first article is up now... and it's a doozy. A snippet:
But there was plenty of evidence in the work of other news organizations that some of the charges, and the Kerry military records themselves, were worth examining seriously. I found numerous problems with Kerry's records on his website in my own reporting for the Chicago Sun-Times: a Silver Star with a V for valor listed that the Navy stated it had never awarded in the history of the US Navy, three separate medal citations with some heavy revisions in Kerry's favor signed by former Navy Secretary John Lehman who denied ever signing them, to name two.
Additionally I found by examining the message traffic with experts that when the Swift Boat Vets charged that Kerry had written the Bay Hap after action report, by which he received his bronze star and the third purple heart that was his ticket out of Vietnam, the evidence showed that it was indeed probably written by Kerry himself. Zernike seems to have totally missed this in her reporting. Zernike is content to refer to Kerry's claim that "original reports pulled from the naval archives contradict the charge that he drafted his own accounts of various incidents," none of which she cites, provides, or analyzes.
If the aptly named Lipscomb intends to comb through the entire edifice of Kerry lies, then this series of articles will be longer than Upstairs, Downstairs. For the moment, however, we shall be content if he confines himself to the lowlights:
- Christmas in Cambodia;
- The magic hat, given Kerry by a "CIA guy" (who on alternate Thursdays was in the Special Forces);
- The "Boston whaler" incident (first or last Purple Heart);
- The single dead VC, with or without loincloth (Silver-Star incident);
- The Bay Hap Massacree (Bronze Star and another of the Purple Hearts);
- The other other Purple Heart, which I forget just now;
- The Mystery Lehman Signature;
- The late discharge;
- The filching of Tedd Peck's combat experience in command of PCF-94 before Kerry took over (following Peck's serious wounding in January, 1969);
- And of course whether Kerry actually carried water for the Viet Cong and for North Vietnam while he was still on active duty in the United States Navy.
Here is Lipscomb's last word on Kerry (for this installment):
It is time we all got to see a picture of the famous Kerry "lucky hat," rather than another account by the latest star-struck journalist. It is time for Kerry to stop alluding to "records" and start producing them. And it is time media assigned reporters with military experience or the resources to analyze this record and see just who is lying about what.
Keep your eye skinned for future installments on Real Clear Politics.
Swamp Samurai On the Marsh
Back in February, we discussed the Great Salt Marsh in Iraq, home of the Marsh Arabs, in our post Swamp Samurai. Saddam Hussein systematically destroyed the marsh by building numerous dykes and dams, displacing many Marsh Arabs who resided in the area -- first, before the Gulf War, simply to siphon off more water for the Sunni farms; then later to punish the Shiite Marsh Arabs for their rebellion against Hussein in 1991. (That was the rebellion encouraged -- but then not supported -- by President George H.W. Bush, "Bush-41.")
When the Coalitiion ousted Hussein, local Arabs destroyed the dykes. Coalition forces, particularly the Japanese, began restoring the marsh. Those efforts are showing a remarkable result.
Reflooding of Iraq's destroyed Mesopotamian marshes since 2003 has resulted in a "remarkable rate of reestablishment" of native invertebrates, plants, fish, and birds, according to an article in the June issue of BioScience.…
Richardson and Hussain report that 39 percent of the former extent of the marshes had been reflooded by September 2005. Despite incomplete data, the researchers found that in many respects the restored marshes they studied are functioning at levels close to those in one marsh that remained undrained. The fast recovery of plant production, overall good water quality, and rapid restoration of most wetland functions seem to indicate that the recovery of ecosystem function is well under way.
There is no way to know whether the increase in reflooding will proceed linearally; but it might give us a thumbnail guess of how long it will take to restore the marsh completely. From August to September 2005, an additional 2% was restored. That is a rate of 24% per year; as a very rough estimate, by September 2006, we might see 63% of the marsh restored, with full restoration by April, 2009.
But there are one-time events that may not reoccur, including a greater than normal snowmelt into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, leading to greater than expected river flows. It's probable the rate of reflooding will slow during the future, drier months:
Richardson and Hussain are not complacent about the marshes' future, however. The researchers point out that water inflow is unlikely to be sufficient to maintain the encouraging trends in coming years.
What we really don't know is how much of the marsh needs to be restored before the Marsh Arabs begin moving back in larger numbers. 90%, or 80%, or even 75% of the marsh may be able to support the full population of Marsh Arabs; we don't know how well it was utilized before the Baathists and Saddam Hussein destroyed it.
It also brings up a point that "environmentalists" never like to admit: nature is incredibly resilient. Anybody who has ever visited a jungle environment, from Africa to South America to Southeast Asia to the mangrove swamps of the Southeast United States -- understands how greedy nature is, always grabbing the land the moment humans turn their backs. Far from being fragile, nature is so powerful that it takes constant maintenance to keep it from encroaching on cities and homes.
We can't really say how long it will take to fully restore the marsh. But for the moment, at least, the work is going very well... not that you would know much about it from the popular press. For some unaccountable reason, "good news" stories out of Iraq seem to bore antique media editors and producers to tears.
The Lesser Evil In the Andes
In Peru's election runoff yesterday, populist former President Alan García seems to have beaten Communist rebel leader and Hugo Chávez accolyte Ollanta Humala:
With 77 percent of the vote tabulated, electoral authorities said Mr. García had captured more than 55 percent of the vote versus 44 percent for his opponent, Ollanta Humala, an upstart nationalist who promised to redistribute the country's wealth.
(This margin of victory will surely narrow as more of Peru's rural districts, Humala's stronghold, are counted.)
The previous term of Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez, 1985-1990, was marred by corruption and economic collapse:
Voters had seen the race as an unappealing choice between a former president whose first administration had been an unmitigated disaster and a former army officer who once led a military rebellion. But voters saw Mr. García as the lesser of two evils. "It is sad, but what can we do?" said Víctor Rondoy, 48, an electrical engineer, moments after voting for Mr. García. "At least García will be more democratic."
Mr. García's return is one of the most startling in a region where former presidents, even those who left in disgrace, have returned to power years later. His rule from 1985 to 1990 was characterized by four-digit inflation, food scarcity, rampant corruption and growing violence by the rebel group Shining Path.
Wikipedia is rather more specific:
Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez (born May 23, 1949 in Lima) was President of Peru from 1985 to 1990. His presidency was marked by bouts of hyperinflation, social turmoil, human rights violations, increasing violence, increase of blackouts in Lima, international financial isolation, a failed attempt to confiscate the 2 main banks and economic downturn.
Humala was seen as being in thrall to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez, whose stolen recall election was tainted by fraud. This was on the minds of Peruvian voters Sunday, and many appeared to consider García the lesser evil.
Big Lizards has been following the Peruvian election, even though our preferred candidate, conservative Lourdes Flores Nano, came in a very close third in the first round of voting in April. She had been leading the pack before the April 9th round of voting; but when Humala came out of nowhere to take first place on April 9th with 30% of the vote, Flores and García found themselves neck and neck (alas, this quotation is from an AP story that is no longer available):
Humala had 27.3 percent of the vote with 46.2 percent of the ballots counted. Pro-business former congresswoman Lourdes Flores had 26.5 and Alan Garcia, a center-leftist ex-president, got 26.1.
But Humala had a wider lead in an unofficial voting sample more representative of the nation. Those results, from the widely respected election watchdog Transparencia, showed him with 29.9 percent of the vote, while Flores and Garcia had 24.4 percent and 24.3 percent respectively. The projection, based on 928 voting tables, had an error margin of less than 1 percentage point.
Sadly, center-right Flores was edged out in the end by center-left García; but at least García was able to beat Humala, the "Chávez-lite" of Peru, which isn't chopped liver.
Flores is only 46 years old, and she can certainly run for the presidency again in 2011 (she will be 51) -- Peru's 1993 constitution forbids incumbent presidents from running for re-election, so it may well come down to Flores vs. Humala... a contest we're very hopeful Flores will win.
The question is whether, in the meantime, García will institute real capitalism in Peru, or give in to his old "demons" of corruption, nationalization of banks, and printing money like the New York Times prints newspapers.
Date ►►► June 4, 2006
The Skeptical Enquirer
The video report by CNN's Ryan Chilcote is interesting (click on "Watch a Marine's anguish over death").
The video of three child "survivors" of the alleged attack in Haditha was not taken by CNN reporters; they were not allowed to speak to any of the supposed witnesses. Iinstead, a representative of an unidentified human rights organization (which might have been the same Hammurabi Organisation for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, which produced the first videotapes of the supposed witnesses) "went back" to Haditha and videoed the three children.
But unlike CNN's usual uncritical acceptance of any narrative by supposed "victims," Chilcote's seems somewhat skeptical of the children's account. He says they have obviously told the story many times, which implies to us that they were coached. They did not need any probing.
Chicote noted that one of the girls made a very puzzling claim:
I knew the bomb was going to explode. So I covered my ears.
The Iraqi reporter does not follow-up to find out how she knew, or if she really did have foreknowledge; instead, the person from the "human rights group" dismisses it by saying the little girl was just "confused."
That may be true. But it's surprising that a CNN reporter would raise that point, that he was not satisfied with the explanation. If he were there, he would certainly have asked more (and more probing) questions.
I, myself have a question: the surviving children described the "massacre" in detail as a deliberate spree of premeditated, "execution style" murders.
But if that is how it happened, why were these child "witnesses" allowed to live? I can understand if the family members were killed during the fog of war, or in a fit of anger; I could understand that if the Marines were shooting at things in random, the chidren might survive. But if the report is correct, the Marines are supposed to have killed people methodically and at point-blank range... including several other children. In that case, why would they leave anybody alive, especialy witnesses?
We know that children can be coerced to say almost anything; see the McMartin case. Children have only a tenuous grasp of the essential difference between reality and fantasy or the consequences of bearing false witness. They can be browbeaten into falsely accusing their own parents of child molestation just to please the total stranger who is interrogating them. They can be threatened, either directly or by proxy (threatening their survivng relatives).
We also don't know the relationship between the children and the reporters. Children's relatives can be terrorists, terrorists sympathisers, or could have been threatened by terrorists; and "human rights groups" can be front groups for Musab Zaraqawi's al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia group. Each incongruity or unexpected connection forces us to examine the chilredn's stories carefully for internal consistency and consistency with the forensic evidence, as it develops.
Everything yields to the physical evidence; the supposed eyewitness testimony is less than useless, because they cannot be qualified as witneses and they cannot be relied upon to be honest: the city of Haditha is a terrorist stronghold, and many people might come forward and claim to have witnessed the American "atrocity."
If the DNA and ballistics evidence shows conclusively that the bullets which killed the civilians came from the guns used by the Marines -- or alternatively, that they did not -- then any inconsistency of the eyewitnesses' account is irrelevant. Similarly, if the physical evidence itself is inconclusive, the eyewitnesses accounts alone, questionable as they are, cannot be deteminative of the findings.
We must, of course, wait and see. What else can we do? But it's interesting that at least one CNN reporter, who has seen the complete footage of the interviews with the children, is starting to have doubts.
Date ►►► June 2, 2006
Questions? Who Cares? It Bleeds, So It Leads
Now that the first wave of hysterical overreporting is past -- where antique media sources casually tossed around phrases like "U.S. military officials have since confirmed to Reuters that that version of the events of November 19 was wrong and that the 15 civilians were not killed by the blast but were shot dead" (which "military officials" were those? why can't we find any such confirmation on the record?) -- we are finally starting to get a little skepticism... at least some probing questions.
Alas, aside from one CNN reporter who became suspicious about some of the children's Haditha testimony (which Sachi is working on a post about), all of the questioning is coming from the blogosphere.
But that's actually not bad: I've thought for some time that the best us of blogging is not to engage in original reporting (most of us have no access to the resources necessary to chase down stories), is not opinion-mongering (yeah, get in line, pal!), but rather applying actual skepticism to claims of certainty by the major media.
For example, Sweetness and Light has noted two interesting points about Iraqis involved in the Haditha story:
Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani, the reporter who conducted the video interviews of the supposed survivors and witnesses, was just released in January after being held for five months at Abu Ghraib on suspicions that arose in connection with photographs he had in his camera (possibly of terrorists setting up IEDs) and other evidence that connected him with terrorist groups.
Al-Mashhadani also wrote the major Haditha story for Time Magazine on March 21st, which is still being used by news services today as the template: claims, accusations, even entire phrases are still being lifted from this story... written by an Iraqi stringer who, whether you believe he was innocent or guilty, has more than enough reason to hate the American Marines.
Additionally, al-Mashhadani shares a last name with the head of the Hammurabi Organisation for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, Abdel Rahman al-Mashhadani; Hammurabi is the group that first brought the supposed Haditha "massacre" to Time's attention. Sweetness and Light notes this may not mean much, if it's a tribal name; but the reporter sharing an unusual last name with his primary source should have been investigated by Time before running the story... if only to add "no relation to," if that's the case.
- Dr. Walid Al-Obeidi, the Haditha doctor who claims to have examined the bodies of the victims of Haditha and claims that they were all "shot in the chest and the head -- from close range" also claims to have himself been tortured by U.S. Marines back in October. Again, regardless whether this is true or false, if he actually believes it, it gives him ample reason to very much want to find that the Marines executed innocent people in November. (And if he doesn't really believe it, but he's saying it anyway, that's even worse.)
(Hat tip for the above to Little Green Footballs, and to commenter MTF, who first brought this to our attention in the comments of another post on this blog. Thanks, both!)
This must be set against the background of a previous claim of American forces -- soldiers, this time -- "massacring" innocent women and children in Ishaqi (north of Baghdad)... a claim that has now been emphatically refuted by a U.S. military investigation of the incident:
U.S. officials described a nighttime raid aimed at finding a specific guerrilla, who then fled the building but was later caught.
U.S. forces at the site began taking direct fire from the building, and the commander at the scene "appropriately reacted by incrementally escalating the use of force from small arms fire to rotary wing aviation, and then to close air support, ultimately eliminating the threat."
A defense official said an AC-130 gunship was called in to help.
As with the Haditha incident, local police forces and local "civilians" (scare-quotes because we really don't know, do we?) had claimed that the troops intentionally massacred the victims at Ishaqi:
Police in Ishaqi [said] five children, four women and two men were shot dead by troops in a house that was then blown up.
They said all the victims were shot in the head, and that the bodies, with hands bound, were dumped in one room before the house was destroyed. Television footage showed the bodies in a morgue. Their wounds were not clear, although one infant had a gaping head wound.
This sounds eerily reminiscent of what is claimed about Haditha; but it turns out to be a complete fabrication. Which is not, of course, evidence that the Marines behaved appropriately at Haditha; we await the forensic evidence to draw any conclusions about that.
But these three points together do make the case that eyewitness testimony and even "expert" opinion are not necessarily as reliable in a country like Iraq, with its tribal affiliations and serious terrorism problem, as they might be in a more civilized country with more institutional safeguards against officials and witnesses simply making stuff up, either due to collusion or because they have been threatened into doing so by the very people who benefit most from these charges: Musab Zarqawi's "al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia" organization.
Date ►►► June 1, 2006
Haditha vs. Abu Ghraib
I want to make perfectly clear what I'm talking about in this post: in the real world, the allegations (no proof or even evidence yet) of what was done at Haditha are of course infinitely worse than what we know happened at Abu Ghraib. A series of deliberate murders of children, women, and non-combatant men is obviously far more horrific than mere humiliation.
That aside, let's turn to the lesser question of politics... which could turn out to be of more moment than the reality.
The politics of Haditha may well determine whether we continue in the Global War on Terrorism. If the anti-war, anti-Bush maniacs can spin this into a Nuremburg trial, where the entire military is indicted for war crimes and atrocities, then the 110th Congress (which begins next January) may severely curtail the war effort... and if there is a Democratic president in 2009, he or she may simply pull us out, willy-nilly. So as sad as it may be to admit, the politics and the policy are inextricably intertwined.
So it's fair to ask, what will the politics of Haditha be?
If a thorough investigation ends up exonerating the Marines, then I believe there will be little problem: the usual suspects (here, in Europe, and in the Middle East) will scream cover-up; but theyr'e always crying "wolf!" anyway. We've already factored in that reaction.
So for analytical purposes, the only case that needs to be looked at is the awful possibility that the charges are at least partly true: that some Marines did, indeed, deliberately kill civilians, possibly even including children.
I am not saying that happened; I am saying that is the only case where we really have to ponder how it may affect the war effort. Any lesser result of the investigation will have no particular effect at all.
Surprisingly, I believe that even if the essential Murtha charge turns out to be true, Haditha will not have as big an impact on public support for the war as Abu Ghraib did. We have spent so much time thinking about the substance, which is much worse than Abu Ghraib, that we've failed adequately to address the politics... which would be much less destructive than Abu Ghraib.
I know a lot of you are incredulous, but walk a few steps with me first.
What was it that caught our attention most about Abu Ghraib? It wasn't concern for the prisoners; we know they're most likely terrorists or at least terrorist supporters. They have killed innocents, and not many Americans care one way or another if they are tormented.
It was not the claim that prisoners were being beaten or threatened with dogs; we all understand that imprisonment is force, and war is deadly force -- and sometimes, those who administer force go too far. We punish them when they do; but we also understand why they did.
No... what stunned and infuriated voters was the sheer perversion of those American troops. Stripping Iraqi prisoners naked? Dressing them in women's clothing? Having a woman dance around and jeer at -- and publicly fondle -- their genitals? This is just weird, disgusting, sick, lurid stuff that belongs in the pages of the National Enquirer, not the playbook of military prison guards.
It was creepy: one of the rumors was that Lynndie England spent a lot of time prancing around the prison nude herself... not only in front of prisoners, taunting them, but the other American soldiers themselves. This claim of exhibitionism, whether true or false, is the kind of abnormal sexuality that preys upon the American sense of decency and morality. We desperately do not want to think of our soldiers as the sort of people who hang out in public restrooms and expose themselves. Any scandal that forces us to do so -- Tailhook, for instance -- outrages the American people more than almost anything imaginable.
It's weird; it's decadent. Worse... it's French.
Americans can understand mere murder, but sensationalism and sexual depravity freak us out. Even after being released from prison, we make convicted flashers register whenever they move into a community; but not criminals convicted of mere murder.
Logical or not, that's how we look at it. Maybe Europeans are different; certainly the U.N. appears to be, considering how blasé they are about allegations that "peacekeepers" and aid workers in Africa forced famine victims to give them sex in exchange for food.
Such debauchery and decadence outrages us far worse, I believe, than would a scandal where some Marines might have snapped under the pressure and turned into the sort of "Ghengis Khan" barbarians of the fevered imagination of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. (Such people certainly were found occasionally in Vietnam; but there is not a shred of evidence John Kerry ever met any among the Swift Boat crews.)
And for that very reason, I believe the public will be far more willing to accept that such things happen in war: it's only the tiniest of minorities (perhaps five Marines out of 950,000 military personnel who have cycled through Iraq, 0.0005%); they will receive the maximum punishment if convicted -- probably death by hanging or firing squad; yet we still must move on with the war, not throw in the towel because some mentally deranged individuals killed civilians without reason.
I do not believe that Haditha will have the same grip on the American psyche that Abu Ghraib did (and still does today). Not because it's not as bad; it's worse in the cosmic sense. But because it's a more understandable kind of "bad."
Any honest person who isn't a dyed-in-the-mud pacifist can think of circumstances where he or she would contemplate committing murder. But how many Americans can even imagine themselves stripping prisoners naked and lovingly slipping women's panties over their heads?
Murder is evil. Abu Ghraib was grotesque.
Two Pence Worth
I just listened to Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN, 100%) on Hugh Hewitt, and he (Pence, I mean) made a lot of sense... until he got on the subject of immigration. Well, regularization, actually; what it pleases him to call *mn*sty (Hugh never makes total sense, but I generally have some idea what he's on about).
Pence presented his "four-point plan" for a compromise bill on immigration... which appears to be the House plan plus a grudging and dubious guest-worker plan. That add-on requires potential guest workers to voluntarily remove themselves from the United States, head to one of several privately-run "Ellis Island centers" (Pence's term), each situated in some foreign country, and apply for the program from there.
I suspect there would be one "Island" per continent.
Thus, Pence imagines that dirt-poor Guatemalan migrant workers will saddle up, head back across the border (the reaction of Mexican authorities to the entry of non-Mexican illegal immigrants will be very interesting), and journey thousands of miles to get to La Isla, wait in the line there, fill out 377 forms in triplicate (the USCIS will probably send the wrong batch, and all the forms will be in Serbo-Croatian)... all in order to go back to the United States and get that $4.50/hour job picking strawbs in Oxnard, California.
Pence spoke eloquently about the urgency of buiding that fence, how vital it is to national security. Hugh said he agreed with Pence on the urgency of the fence... but how would Pence response if the only way to get 700 miles of fence were to find some way, somehow, to regularize some of those already here illegally?
And Pence was stymied. He would not accept any conceivable scenario where "the great majority of the House" would ever vote for "*mn*sty;" but on the other hand, Pence would not say he would vote against such a final bill, either. He couldn't say anything; he kept dancing around Hugh's question, picking on this word or that phrasing or simply answering with a non-sequitur.
I can only conclude that in fact, Mike Pence hates illegals already here more than he fears future waves pouring across an unprotected border; that he would rather have no fence at all, if the only way to get it were regularization of even some-but-not-all. But for some reason, he is afraid to come out and say so.
This is really sad. I can understand people opposing regularization; it is a defensible position, albeit one I disagree with. But you have to prioritize your demands... and no sane person can argue that allowing some of those already living here underground to surface and become legal is more dangerous than failing to build the fence.
Nevertheless, there are many in the House Republican caucus -- I hope not a majority -- who are actually willing to drop the fence, so long as that stops any kind of legalization. That is the face of fanaticism.
That Bill Roggio... He's a Riot!
Bill Roggio, who used to run the Fourth Rail, is now in Afghanistan writing for Counterterrorism Blog. He reports on the aftermath of the Great Kabul Riot:
Kabul, Afghanistan: The city of Kabul has settled down after Monday's violent outbreak that followed a traffic accident involving a runaway U.S. military vehicle and Afghan civilians. The riots were suppressed in eight hours, and the Karzai government instituted an overnight curfew, which has been extended for Wednesday night. While many businesses were closed on Tuesday (I ventured out to pick up a cell phone on Tuesday but the business was closed), there was plenty of traffic and Afghan police and army on the streets. Several long-time residents of Kabul stated today it was business as usual, and the level of security on the streets was not out of the ordinary. Today I saw the streets filled with taxis, civilian cars and bicycles, businesses and markets were open, and the entrepreneurial street vendors selling phone cards, newspapers and other items were everywhere.
According to Roggio, the riot was not instigated by the Taliban, but rather by an ethnic minority called the Hazaris, who fought against the Taliban as part of the Northern Alliance:
The violence was not Taliban-inspired, but composed mainly of Hazaris. The Haziris are an ethnic group that fought the Taliban under the banner of the Northern Alliance and followers of Ahmad Shah Masood , who was killed by al-Qaeda two days prior to 9-11. Masood's image is prevalent in Kabul. The Hazaris have recently been marginalized by the Karzai administration after they lost their last cabinet post. The rioters were largely young, unemployed males, and there was a significant criminal element involved.
In addition, there is a general resentment by Afghans toward the aggressive driving habit of some foreign workers, especially those who work for private security companies. Even though the American forces are not particularly aggressive in their driving, when the truck slammed into a row of cars (the brakes failed), that resentment boiled over.
But overall, Roggio thinks the police performance was not too bad.
There have been questions about the performance of the police during the riots. Jawed Ludin, President Hamid Karzai's Chief of Staff, described the police's performance as "shameful" and stated "we have to strengthen our police." There have been reports that some police joined in the violence. But their performance was not a complete failure. Subduing a violent riot within eight hours is no small feat (see the past and current riots in France), particularly for a relatively new police and military. There has been no follow-on violence two days after the accident.
I think the police response was remarkably swift, considering the fact they are only few years old and have limited resources. Here in Los Angeles, for a counter-example, when we had our own riots in 1992, the violence and mob action continued for six days, before our pathetic police finally got a handle on it (the LAPD non-response to the riots ended the career of Police Chief Daryl Gates, who performed shamefully, despite a previously well-regarded and very long career). And nobody in the LA riots was using a Kalashnikov!
[An] American woman who escaped the riots in her neighborhood grudgingly gave credit to the police, which she is critical of for being heavy handed at times.
When her Afghan friend took her out of the home, he put her in the back of a truck and covered her so she would not be seen by the angry crowds. Afghan police nearby noticed this, stopped her friend, questioned them both, and even called over a policeman who spoke English (even though she spoke Farsi) to ensure she was not in danger. The police then provided them an escort out of the danger area. That certainly demonstrates a level of awareness of the situation, organization and an ability to act. Riots by definition are chaotic by nature, and the best of police forces have difficulty containing them.
Aside from the story of the riot, Roggio describes the area as thriving with a lot of business and heavy traffic. Considering what the surrounding rural areas of Afghanistan are like, I can only say that if your problem is that you're having automobile accidents, things may not be so bad.
A "Green" War Hero
You might have heard of Walt Gaya before; Michael Yon wrote about him in detail last year. But I think it's important to remember that not all Americans who fight for us are citizens by birth.
Meet Sgt. Walt Gaya, proud owner of the Corina Bakery, 510 6th Avenue, Tacoma, Washington (stop in and buy some cake). Gaya is an Iraq war veteran (Deuce Four), a baker -- and newly naturalized citizen of Amerca.
But he almost wasn't any of those three.
Walt is originaly from Argentina. He met his future wife Jessica (born in Oregon) in a Queens bakery where they both worked. Love -- Portland -- marriage -- two kids (the eponymous Corina is their young daughter). Then, in the year 2000, Walt enlisted in the army.
Walt survived two horrific bomb blasts in Iraq: a suicide car bomb and a roadside IED. Both times, his Stryker saved him; but he was badly wounded twice: his back was severely burned by the car bomb and he lost some of his hearing; and the IED left shrapnel in his left eye and badly damaged his ears. Nevertheless, after the IED exploded, he emerged from his destroyed Stryker with the rest of the wounded crew, ready to fight against the ambush that often followed such IED attacks.
His keen eyes as a sniper had protected his comrades, and occasionally an embedded journalist like Michael Yon. He was also instrumental in finding and helping wounded children.
And yet, Walt had a problem. Michael Yon explains:
While Walt lay in the hospital the second time, with bomb fragments in his left eye, the first thing he said to his commander LTC Erik Kurilla was that he was worried about losing the chance to become a US citizen. Although his citizenship ceremony in Baghdad was only a few days away, Walt wouldn’t make it. After this latest IED nearly blew him asunder, he’d be on a fast plane home before then. Problem was home was not officially home, and his green card had expired while he was off to war. I joked with Walt that he was lucky INS didn’t raid his place in Iraq and drag him away. (INS would have had to win a firefight against his platoon and then the entire battalion before that would happen.)
Now, just because he was scheduled to be sworn in during a citizenship ceremony, don't assume that the INS (now the USCIS, the misleadingly labeled United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) would automatically reschedule Gaya for another ceremony when he got back to the U.S. That would be the obvious and logical thing, but USCIS is neither. It is arbitrary, capricious, and at times driven more by personal interests and vendettas than by any coherent or sane set of rules.
Back home, [Gaya] was still worried; being a twice-wounded war veteran might not carry cache with bureaucrats, and he knew it.
He was right; it didn't. USCIS did not give him a new date to be sworn in.
Remember, my own application sat at that same point -- waiting to be scheduled for swearing in -- for two years; it was only by the intervention of my congressman that I finally got an appointment for the ceremony.
But you would think that a wounded Iraqi vet, who only missed his ceremony because he was lying in a hospital bed with shrapnel in his eye, would get prompt attention from the wretched USCIS. If you think that, you've been fooled into believing they actually care -- either about immigrants or even about American security. For months, nobody at USCIS did anything or took the slightest interest in the fate of Sgt. Walt Gaya, not even when AP reporter Tony Castaneda wrote a story, and Gaya's case gained massive publicity in the U.S.
Fortunately for him (and for his adopted country), his commander, LTC Erik Kurilla, who had been shot again, was sent to a hospital near the one where Gaya was staying. Thanks to Kurilla's help, the papers finally went through. Walt is now a naturalized American citizen.
Sadly, many "green card troops" face similar problems. The legal immigration system in this country is an absolute disgrace. They admit some people who should never get in, and they expel other legal immigrants simply because they get laid off; immigration often won't allow someone on a work visa to get another job, even if one is offered.
They extend citizenship to some favored immigrants after a brief period of no difficulty; but others have to wait years just to get their swearing-in ceremonies, even after satisfying all requirements.
Soldiers who miss their ceremonies because of wounds suffered in the line of duty get swallowed up by the bureaucracy, lost and forgotten by the very people whose freedom the soldiers nearly died preserving -- a freedom not extended to the soldier until his commander brings the full weight of the Army on his side.
Immigrants are rarely told what they must do, what forms they need to fill out, what they need to bring with them -- and even when they are told, the requirements change without warning or notice; they are sent away for not binging some document they were never ordered to bring.
Nobody has any idea how long the process will take, or even what has become of the immigrant's file. They cannot tell the immigrant what stage he is at or what he still needs to do. They are rude and dismissive, they don't answer questions, and they shout at immigrants like prison guards bellowing orders at convicts.
Even getting an attorney doesn't help. You need an guardian angel, like a congressman -- or the commander of the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry -- to even gain the attention of the USCIS. And so far as anyone can tell, not one single word of either the House immigration bill or the Senate version fixes this fatally flawed agency.
Wouldn't it have been a shame if we had let a war hero, such as Walt Gaya, become illegal -- simply because he'd been too busy fighting for our freedom to rush home and file his immigration papers?
News Flash: Catastrophic Global Warming Found - 55 Million Years Ago!
New research has found that a scant 55 million years ago, the North Pole quickly developed a climate much like Florida today:
The new analysis confirms that the Arctic Ocean warmed remarkably 55 million years ago, which is when many scientists say the extraordinary planetwide warm-up called the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum must have been caused by an enormous outburst of heat-trapping, or greenhouse, gases like methane and carbon dioxide. But no one has found a clear cause for the gas discharge. Almost all climate experts agree that the present-day gas buildup is predominantly a result of emissions from smokestacks, tailpipes and burning forests.
"Almost all climate experts" in this case means all those who agree with the IPCC; climatologists who do not are obviously inexpert, and we want no part of them. Be off with you!
This find poses some serious problems for the globalistas, of course:
- Humans did not exist 55 million years ago. And as far as industrialization, not even General Motors had been founded yet. Scientists have no clue how that region of the earth could warm so quickly and so much; but the fact that it did indicates that massive warming can occur entirely naturally.
This implies that we know darned little about the natural cycles that govern mean global temperature (MGT)... which makes cocked hash of the claims of near-certainty by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC, the chaps who gave us the Kyoto Protocol). They don't have any more idea about how climate and MGT change than did the "wet-nosed primates" who lived back then.
- Then it got colder again... which implies that what warms up can also cool down.
With such massive shifts in temperature occuring far beyond the range of any human-induced changes (real or imaginary), it's hard to take seriously the suggestion that we should bankrupt the world's economy to shave a fraction of one degree off the projected rise in the MGT over the next hundred years.
As could be anticipated, the globaloney lobby has tried to physically wrench these findings to support Kyoto:
Experts not connected with the studies say they support the idea that heat-trapping gases — not slight variations in Earth's orbit — largely determine warming and cooling.
"The new research provides additional important evidence that greenhouse-gas changes controlled much of climate history, which strengthens the argument that greenhouse-gas changes are likely to control much of the climate future," said one such expert, Richard B. Alley, a geoscientist at Pennsylvania State University.
Perhaps so; but it's turtles, turtles, turtles, all the way down....
- If some huge emission of greenhouse gases caused this enormous warming, then that means there are natural events (volcanic eruptions, for example) that can release staggeringly huge quantities of carbon and carbonoids, far more than mere human industrialization has released. This certainly implies there can be smaller events that release the amounts we're seeing enter the atmosphere today.
This sounds more and more like nature flexing her glutes and squishing the idea that humans are the big factor in determining climate and temperature around the globe.
Oh, and let's not forget the corollary to 3:
- Since the Earth got cool again, that must mean that massive release of greenhouse gas was somehow reabsorbed, removing it from the atmosphere and allowing the earth to cool again. In other words, there exists some natural mechanism to regulate the quantity of greenhouse gases in the air: when the concentration rises above some trigger point, it appears to be "swallowed up" again.
Thus, once again, we're left with the puzzling question of why we need to be so concerned about slight rises in carbonoids or even temperature; nature does a pretty good job of righting things by itself, all without benefit of a PhD, the title of "expert," or even consciousness. Why cripple the economic structure of civilization trying to jump nature's gun?
All of which brings us, topsy-turvy, back to where we began: we don't know anywhere near as much as we sometimes think we do; and in particular, we know very little about what drives climate, weather, temperature, air movement, sea-levels, and large-scale icing.
We need a twenty-year moratorium on "doing" anything about climate. Instead, let's commit vast treasure and human resources to improving our basic scientific understanding of climatology and all that's related. It would make little difference in the projected rise of MGT; we would better be able to decide whether the current rise was natural or anthropogenic; and even if we did decide to "do something," those twenty years would allow us to craft a much more intelligent and effective "thing" to do than striking out blindly today.
There is no significant downside to sentencing globaloney to a "timeout".
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