Date ►►► July 31, 2006
Future Shock & Awe
This piece was originally posted at Captain's Quarters on July 7th, 2005; I subsequently reposted it here on Big Lizards -- the future is in the past! I'm posting it a third time because it fits the theme of the next post, which is new.
Extree, extree, getcha red-hot future combat today!
As has been the case for, oh, a few thousand years, the violent tendencies of human beings are leading the way to tomorrow's technology. War is not only good for business, it's good for science. Here are just a few of the goodies that await us in future battlefields.
Warning! This is a very long post, nearly all of which is tucked into the "slither-on" section. Forwarned is forlorned!
Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation
The weak link in the combat chain is often the human body. We run slower than horses; we carry less cargo than a camel; our skin is more fragile than a rhinoceros; we can't even jump like a gazelle.
But all that is going to change, if DARPA has any say in it. Joe Pappalardo of National Defense Magazine writes that the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been hard at work for several years now on the Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation (EHPA) program. The idea is to create a tough and powerful exoskeleton that would surround the soldier's body and augment his own native abilities.
At the moment, political correctness rules. Ever since the public-relations fiasco of the Terrorism Information Awareness futures market, DARPA has been almost paranoid about bad publicity... which can lead to investigations, budget cuts, and in a pinch, mass firings. So all they will admit at this point is the utility of exoskeletons for loading and unloading cargo:
“This is a fairly boring transportation program,” [DARPA project manager John] Main said, with a small grin. “We’re not jumping over buildings. We’re getting into rough terrain that is denied to Humvees.”
But the combat implications are obvious: a man who can carry 200 lbs of fuel or MREs can also carry 200 lbs of body armor or a 200 lb weapon (or a mix: a hundred devoted to armor, and the other hundred to weaponry). Although they're not really willing to speculate, it's hard to see, once you have the basic idea of exoskeletal augmentation, how you can fail to think of putting jets in the boots, heavy weapons that can be fired by merely pointing the hand, or all the other accoutrements of Robert Heinlein's 1959 novel Starship Troopers.
Stepping way, way out on a limb, the head of the UC Berkeley robotics engineering lab, which is working on a DARPA grant, Homi Kazerooni, reluctantly admitted the possibility:
Kazerooni conceded that robotic enhancements worthy of combat were feasible, given a system design that could keep up with soldiers’ reflexes. “Can the machine shadow our reflexes? These are not voluntary, and sometimes 200 microseconds is not fast enough.”
The first key is acceleration: no matter how well a soldier is armored, a fall from 100 feet is a fall from 100 feet, with the same sudden stop at the end. But if DARPA can control the acceleration -- for example, by using boot-mounted, gyro-controlled attitude jets -- the soldier can "leap" high into the air, then "land" safely.
The second key is psychological: will the American people accept Starship Troopers style "Mobile Infantry?" Or will the princes of the Senate strangle the technology in its cradle? As the song says, only time will tell.
Brain Machine Interface
But perhaps we don't need anybody in those suits at all -- if the human can stay safe several miles away, controlling the empty suit by a direct brain-machine interface.
Thoughts are not ghostly apparitions made out of ectoplasm, it turns out; they are electrocolloidal impulses that travel from neuron to neuron across the synaptic gap. And that slight spark is readable... if you have the code.
That, not coincidentally, is exactly what another DARPA project aims to do: crack that neural code, so that machines -- or weapons -- can be controlled by thought alone.
Some research projects funded by DARPA have already achieved significant success, according to a 2003 article in the National Journal, written by Bruce Falconer. Duke University neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis headed a team that planted "100 hair-like sensors" in a South American owl monkey (coincidentally, the same owl monkey that has been directing the recent reactionary political reaponses by the Democratic Party). As the monkey used a joystick, the scientists could monitor its neural activity and program the impulses into a computer-readable code.
The monkey repeated the motion - only this time, two robotic arms (one in an adjacent room and another 600 miles away in a Boston laboratory) also moved in response to the wireless signals sent straight from the monkey's brain.
In a similar, more recent experiment, the same scientists taught a macaque to direct a cursor to illuminated targets on a computer monitor. When scientists disabled the joystick, the monkey gradually stopped moving its arm altogether and learned to do the experiment just by thinking.
The article in the National Journal notes some of the uses. Right now, the biggest limitation on military aviation is the inability of the human body to take stresses much greater than about nine Gs, nine times the force of gravity. A typical 185-lb pilot in a 9-G turn feels as if he tops the scales at a cool 1,665 lbs. At that force, it's so difficult even to raise his hand that modern jets use fly-by-wire systems that require only slight finger movements for the pilot to guide the craft. Grayouts and blackouts are commonplace -- and can lead to death.
But if a pilot could sit on the ground and control the plane by his thoughts, then the rest of the airplane could withstand far greater stresses; this means an aircraft that could outmaneuver any plane in the sky that carried human cargo, such as a pilot and flight officer.
The same is true with a tank. Rather than relying upon a true "ogre" tank, which is completely artificially intelligent (a daunting computational task, considering that we cannot even design an AI car), a gigantic, solid tank can be controlled by a full crew... who sit safely back behind the lines in a simulator, their thoughts controlling the tank via a satellite uplink. With the absence of the most vulnerable part of the weapon, the human crew, the tank itself would be virtually unstoppable, short of dropping a tactical nuclear weapon on top of it.
There are civilian uses too, of course, notably in the area of prostheses for amputees and paraplegics. But the subject of civilian spinoffs from military research is big enough to warrant its own post. Or article. Or multi-floor library.
We have smart missiles that find their targets by several methods. Some are literally connected to a wire that trails out behind them, allowing the missileer to guide the bomb to its target. Others home in on a laser dot "painted" on the target by a forward spotter. Cruise missiles actually have topographic maps programmed into their brains, so they can swoop and swerve through gullies and across mountains to find a target by its GPS coordinates.
So why can't we do the same with rifle and pistol ammunition? Imagine bullets that can literally chase the target, racing around corners and over obstacles to hit the poor terrorist in his own trench, as in the 1984 Tom Selleck movie Runaway.
Well, it turns out that United States Air Force (and likely other branches of the service -- and I wouldn't rule out DARPA) has not only been imagining such a thing, it has been actively trying to develop them for more than eight years, according to the 1997 article "You Can Run, But You Can't Hide...", by Justin Mullins, published in New Scientist (reproduced here by snipercountry.com).
The Air Force calls the program Barrel Launched Adaptive Munitions, or BLAM, in an unusual display of wit. The researchers agree that the guidance technology is the easy part; it's already available for missile systems and only needs to be made smaller. The difficult part is designing a bullet that can turn in mid air and can become aerodynamic to prevent falling towards the ground as it moves towards the target, in accordance with our ancient enemy, gravity.
Some programs have experimented with tiny attitude jets on the bullet to steer it. But BLAM uses a more exotic, science-fictiony method: the front of the bullet actually flexes to create lift in various directions. Lift on the bottom keeps the bullet flying at the same altitude it was fired, without dropping; lift on the right steers the bullet left, and so forth.
The mechanism is simple. The nose is connected to the body by a ball-and-socket joint, and held in place by a number of piezoceramic rods, or tendons, which change length when a voltage is applied to them. Increasing the length of a rod on one side of the bullet while shortening its opposite number changes the angle of the nose (see Diagram). The nose can move by up to 0.1° in any direction.
Snipers are the ideal persons to use smart bullets; slithering into enemy territory on their bellies, becoming invisible via ghillie suits, then drawing a bead on the target enemy personnel are pretty much the same skills needed to paint a target with a laser dot (which can be invisible to the naked eye, preventing premature target panic). The invisible dot would guide a smart bullet for a targetted assassination from an astonishing distance -- several kilometers, for example. Unless every bad guy spends all day, every day, in a room with no windows (or wears American power armor), he will be vulnerable to just such a "bolt from the blue."
In another arena, the New Scientist article notes that airplanes fitted with smart bullets can bring down bogies with just one or two well-directed shots, rather than the hundreds typically used to destroy a target. This can lead to cost savings, even though smart bullets would not be cheap:
Aircraft bullets cost more than $30 each. [Ron] Barrett [who tested the BLAM system] says the piezoceramic materials would add $10 to this while the microelectronics would cost another $100. But he argues that the increased strike rate would lead to cost savings. "You'd only fire one when otherwise you'd fire hundreds."
Smart bullets would also lead to less collateral damage, because there would be less lead (or depleted Uranium) flying around.
But I'm still holding out for small, man-portable and firable rail guns!
Finally, bringing us up to today's technology, we have a "phaser" -- American style, not that touchy-feelie stuff you see on Star Trek, where the target just falls over unconscious. This version is actually more of a heat ray, manufacturing fake feelings of searing agony, like "touching a hot frying pan or the intense radiant heat from a fire," except it does no actual damage. The pain is all in the target's neurons.
In "US aims Star Trek ray guns at nuclear sites" on Vnunet.com, Robert Jaques writes that the Department of Energy has teamed with the Department of Defense to create a milimeter-wave directed-energy weapon system with the catchy title of Active Denial Technology (ADT). The first use will be to protect critical sites, such as nuclear power plants, from terrorist (or protester) intrusion.
ADT emits a 95GHz non-ionizing electromagnetic beam of energy that penetrates approximately 1/64 of an inch into human skin tissue, where nerve receptors are concentrated.
Within seconds, the beam will heat the exposed skin tissue to a level where intolerable pain is experienced and natural defence mechanisms take over....
The sensation caused by the system has been described by test subjects as feeling like touching a hot frying pan or the intense radiant heat from a fire. Burn injury is prevented by limiting the beam's intensity and duration.
Sandia labs have already tested a prototype, and they believe a smaller model will be ready to deploy by 2008. Perhaps it can be used in the White House briefing room whenever an MSM feeding frenzy erupts during the next presidential campaign.
So there you have it -- the three of you who managed to make it all the way to the end of this excruciating post: four windows into the brave new world of continued American military dominance over the rest of the world. And if you think that is a bad thing, well I suspect you're reading the wrong blog!
Why I Like Mel Better Than Abe
First off, I should mention that despite my name, I'm a Jew. I'm not religious, but I was raised in the Jewish culture; my father was a (nonreligious) Jew; my mother converted to Judaism when they married; and I had as thorough a Jewish grandmother as ever appeared in a Jackie Mason joke. I proudly refused to be bar mitzvahed, which is about as Jewish as you can get in California.
That said, I will flatly state that absolutely nothing that Mel Gibson said during his DUI arrest makes him an antisemite. By contrast, however, Abe Foxman -- head of the (Jewish) Anti-Defamation League -- is a despicable bigot who shames us Jews... and I wish he would just dry up and blow away.
I'm sure a lot of you are already scratching your heads and wondering if I've been nipping at the cooking sherry. After all, when Gibson was arrested, two newspapers (a reasonably good one and also the Los Angeles Times) report that he kept talking about the "f***ing Jews," saying "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," and demanding of the arresting deputy "are you a Jew?"
So why doesn't that make him an antisemite? It's very simple: I couldn't care less what somebody says when he's drunk. I care what he says and does while sober as a brass monkey.
What does it tell us that when Gibson gets pasted, he rants about the Jews? It tells us that he grew up in an antisemitic household with a father who thinks the Holocaust was "fiction." When Gibson is six sheets and a top-gallant to the wind, he is not rational... so big deal, big antisemite, he says irrational things when he's irrational. Who cares?
But by contrast, Abraham Foxman was presumably perfectly sober and in his right mind when he said of Gibson:
"It's not a proper apology because it does not go to the essence of his bigotry and his anti-Semitism," he said in a statement on the organization's Web site. "We would hope that Hollywood now would realize the bigot in their midst and that they will distance themselves from this anti-Semite."
And we have to assume Foxman was equally in his senses when he attacked the Passion of the Christ -- through an ADL press release -- thus:
ADL and its representatives have never accused Mr. Gibson of being an anti-Semite. [Well, I guess that one's out the window now!] We do not know what is in his heart. We only know what he has put on the movie screen. The images there show Romans who behave with compassion toward Jesus. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, constantly expresses his reticence to harm Jesus. The Jews, on the other hand, are depicted as blood-thirsty. The Jewish High Priest, Caiaphas, is shown as bullying Pilate, and the hundreds and hundreds of amassed Jews demanding Jesus' death.
Oddly, however, I don't recall the ADL having any similar reaction to Jesus Christ Superstar -- which depicted exactly the same reactions among the Romans and the Pharisees, especially the cynical and murderous Caiaphas. (Or the New Testament, for that matter.) Perhaps it's only a coincidence that the 1970 play, and especially the 1973 movie version, has the sort of liberal orientation that Foxman has increasingly embraced... while the Passion is relentlessly traditional and conservative in its take on the gospels (Jesus doesn't actually order Judas to betray him, as he does in JCSS, for example).
(I myself had a different reason to reject the Passion: I found it boring. Honestly, there was no plot; and since I knew how it all turned out anyway, no suspense either. But that's all ancient hysteria now.)
Foxman is a cowardly traducer whose astonishing ability to find antisemites whenever he goes looking -- with the same zeal and success that Father Barré was able to find witches in Aldous Huxley's the Devils of Loudin -- debases and trivializes the very concept of antisemitism.
At a time when Arabs and Moslems are literally trying to wipe the Jews "from the face of the map," widely reprinting Mein Kampf in Arabic, and just one day after a bitter American Moslem shot several people at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, killing one woman... Abe Foxman is more interested in the urgent task of undermining Christianity and the "religious Right." To Foxman and the ADL, the biggest threat to Jews in the world today is that rampaging Christians, under the command of the Pope and the Rev. Louis Sheldon (the Pontiff's right arm in battle), will undertake a new crusade to recreate the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The glee with which he has jumped onto this momentary, drunken harangue by Gibson is more boorish than the rant itself. What is the danger from what Gibson said? Gibson was clearly channeling his deranged father; many slaves of the grape, when under the influence, revert to long discarded beliefs and stereotypes of their childhood, things they would never say when sober because they no longer believe what they believed when they were seven or eight years old.
When a blotto Mel Gibson bellows about the "f***ing Jews," is that going to encourage more people to become antisemites? Of course not. Far more likely is it that Foxman's demand for what amounts to a hate-speech code, preventing any Christian from expressing beliefs about the necessity of being "saved" that come straight out of their Bible, will infuriate so many of the majority religion that some, at least, will turn their backs on the Jews and on Israel.
Not that Foxman would care; it would only confirm everything he's always hated about Christians. And yes, I do indeed "know what is in his heart," because I take the man at his word.
When drunkards drink, they revert to their childhood and mouth words that Papa or Mama used to say. This doesn't prove them racists, bigots, or antisemites; it proves they're human.
It's much more important what people do and say when they know what they're doing and saying. For God's sake, Hitler didn't need to get drunk to hate the Jews.
All right, I'm done. I hope Foxman and all his little sycophants do not succeed in destroying Gibson's career over this pathetic incident. And I will certainly go out of my way to break any boycott of his future work.
Into the Briar Patch
Oh, give us a break already.
The newest eruption of the ubiquitous "language police" occurred when Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts had the effrontery to correctly use the phrase "tar baby"... which some hypersensitive souls incorrectly deduced must be a derrogatory term for blacks. Tar, after all; you know.
In fact, all it means is something that grabs hold of you when you try to touch it; the mere fact that tar happens to be black in color doesn't mean it has anything to do with black people, for heaven's sake.
In the original Uncle Remus story (I apologize for the atrocious printing!), Brer Fox puts tar -- actual tar -- and turpentine on a "contrapshun" and leaves it in the road where Brer Rabbit would find it. Rabbit ends up stuck to the tar.
Somehow, in the minds of people enfeebled by decades of hand-holding over race, this means that anyone who refers to a "tar baby," whether Mitt Romney or Tony Snow, must be making a racial reference. (I can only imagine the squeals of outrage if Romney were ever to refer to the funding of the Big Dig as a "black hole.")
Romney, naturally, was forced to apologize for failing to take into account lacunae in other people's literary education.
I reckon with some people, God was a bit niggardly in passing out brains.
I'm trying to get all my favorite posts from earlier incarnations of the lizard (on Patterico's Pontifications and Captain's Quarters) onto Big Lizards; hence, I'll be posting a number of "Scaley Classics" this week. Each such will be introduced with an opening graf that tells when and where it was first hissed, but not why on God's green Earth, beyond mere reptilian caprice, it should ever see the light of day again.
(Of course, it allows me to pump up the number of posts without thinking so much as a single original thought. But that has nothing to do with it. Well, very little.)
Those readers puzzled why anyone would be egotistical enough to do such a thing should rest assured that I have no idea either. The madness possesses me, and I am but a poppet, dancing to the strings of some eldrich master.
But we are all sinners in the hands of an angry God; so in penance for your life of indolence and greed, you must suffer through these wretched excesses of floccillation. Just remember: TTSP. It won't help, but it's cool to say.
Date ►►► July 29, 2006
Good News from the Front Lines - News Roundup
There is a lot of good news from the two main fronts, Iraq and Afghanistan; but you're not likely to have heard of any of these small victories unless you read a lot of milblogs.
First, Iraqi Army forces took down six death squad suspects. From ThreatsWatch:
Iraqi Army forces conducted a pre-dawn raid in Baghdad on July 25, capturing six targeted insurgents, all of whom are believed to be involved in ‘death squad’ activities.
As coalition force advisers looked on, Iraqi forces raided an objective in southwest Baghdad consisting of four separate buildings and captured the cell leader and five other key members of an insurgent ‘punishment committee.’
Iraqi forces also seized two AK-47 assault rifles, one pistol, and one set of body armor.
The operation occurred without incident; there were no Iraqi or coalition force casualties.
Hm... that's not good: we captured six bad guys but didn't lose any of ours. Does this violate the Fairness Doctrine?
Second, "Capt. B" at Milblogs reports that the U.S. Marines rescued three kidnap victims in Fuhuylat, Iraq:
Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment rescued three hostages and uncovered a large weapons cache, including a fully-assembled suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, during Operation Spotlight.
The intelligence-driven operation was conducted alongside Iraqi Army soldiers from 2nd and 4th Brigades, 1st Iraqi Army Division recently. The three hostages were personal assistants of Dr. Rafa Hayid Chiad Al-Isawi, an Iraqi government official in Baghdad. They were held by al-Qaeda insurgents for 27 days....
Marines also recovered IEDs and IED-making material, mortar tubes and round, artillery rounds, machine guns, bulk explosives, anti-tank mines, rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, AK-47 assault rifles, small-arms ammunition and video cameras.
I think I can hear Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) already, calling our Marines bullies for not giving the Iraqis a chance. At least, given recent Democratic comments about Israel's "disproportionate" response, I assume that's what Reid would say, if he knew about this raid. Fortunately, he gets his news from the elite media, so he hasn't heard anything. At all.
The situation in Iraq is serious, but Iraqi forces are stepping up to the plate. Alongside American forces, they are raiding and arresting bad guys, not caring whether they're Shia death squad or al-Qaeda combatants.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, coalition forces killed seven terrorists who attacked them. From CENTCOM:
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – A Coalition patrol killed seven extremists on July 25 after they attacked Coalition forces in the Garmser District of Helmand Province.
There were no Coalition casualties in the fight. The Coalition unit received small arms, rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire from a group of extremists. The Coalition force returned fire, killing five insurgents
Later in the same area, insurgents fired small arms at an Afghan National Army mortar team, with a Coalition embedded tactical training team attached. The combined unit responded with machine gun fire and killed the remaining two insurgents.
“If enemy extremists fire upon Coalition forces, we will respond with deadly accuracy,” said Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, Combined Joint Task Force -76 spokesman. “If they attack Afghan civilians, we will respond just as forcefully. We remain committed to engaging any threats to the peaceful future of the Afghan people.”
Afghan National Security forces continue to maintain a strong presence in the area of Garmser and provide security that will enable reconstruction and humanitarian aid projects to be delivered that will improve the lives of the Afghan people.
I don't know, it sounds awfully disproportionate to me: we inflicted seven deaths, six captures, and released three hostages from those poor, honest terrorists just doing their jobs (kidnapping and terrorizing, butchering the innocent, the usual stuff), without losing a single one of our guys.
Is that allowed under the New international Proportional-War Theory?
Date ►►► July 28, 2006
Putting On My "Robert Novak" Hat
We've never seen Big Lizards as a primary news source, or a newspaper, or anything of that ilk. We're not journalists, and we don't engage in reporting. Rather, we like to analyze news and current events, trends and motives, often days after the fact. (Our egocentric motto: "Never first, always final!")
But occasionally I like to put two and two together in a sort of predictive way. Mind, this is all wild speculation, and a substantial part of it comes from a somewhat untrustworthy source, NewsMax.com.
First, we have this:
Hizbullah steps up attacks: Hizbullah steps up attacks: For the first time since the fighting in the north began 17 days ago, Hizbullah launched five Fajr-5 missiles at Israel Friday afternoon. Police officials said that long-range missiles of this type can carry a larger amount of explosives than the rockets that had been fired at Israel so far. A short while later, the IDF reported it had destroyed the rocket launcher used for firing the missiles.
The missiles landed in open areas between Afula and the Beit Shean Valley, causing no injuries.
Wikipedia says that the Fajr-5 missile has a range "75 kilometers, or 50 miles," but this is probably an overestimate (especially as 75 km is actually 46.6 miles, not 50). GlobalSecurity.org gives it a range of only 45 miles (72 km). Still, this is a substantial jump over the 10,000 Soviet/Iranian Katyusha rockets (13 mile range) and the handful of Fajr-3s (25 miles) that Hezbollah has been using; they nearly double their range with the Fajr-5s.
(Additionally, Breitbart reports that Hezbollah has fired a rocket they call a Khaibar-1 -- a made-up name taken from a famous battle at an oasis where Mohammed attacked a settlement of Jews and enslaved them. I can't find out anything about the "Khaibar-1," but it may just be Hezbollah's name for the Fajr-5; the range seems to match up, more or less.)
The point is that Hezbollah is increasing the range and payload of their rockets and missiles. Clearly, their aim is to bring all of Israel into missile range -- especially Tel Aviv, the second largest city in Israel, with a population of 380,000 (Jerusalem's population is 725,000; Haifa has only 278,000).
I'm not sure what range Hezbollah would need to target Tel Aviv, because it depends where they're firing from. According to this distance-calculating website, the distance from Beirut to Tel Aviv is 134 miles (215 km)... so they still need a substantial increase in range, between two and three times what they have now, in order to seriously threaten that city.
But clearly, the Iranians are upping Hezbollah's arsenal; and Iran has many missiles that have a longer range than 150 miles: the oldest Shahab-3, for example, has a range that exceeds 1,300 km (808 miles), and that dates back to 2003; newer models have much longer ranges. It also packs a warhead that masses over 1,000 kg. (The Shahab-3 is derived from the North Korean NoDong-1.)
I suspect it's not a question of "if" but "when" will Hezbollah be able to directly attack Tel Aviv... and it's hard to imagine them having that capability and deciding not to use it. Which brings up the third point. From NewsMax.com (which I again caution is not exactly reliable; but I do believe this piece):
Additionally, Israeli sources say a line in the sand has been drawn: If Hezbollah is "stupid" enough to attack Tel Aviv or its suburbs, "then all bets are off."
While refusing to provide more details, the Israeli warned that if Hezbollah attacked Tel Aviv then the IDF will no longer have any restraints on prospective responses.
While recent Hezbollah attacks have rocketed cities south of the port of Haifa, all have fallen far short of Tel Aviv and its environs ... for now.
U.S. diplomats had no comment.
I do not have a window into the minds of the members of Israel's security cabinet, of course; but I suspect that "all bets are off" and no "restraint on prospective responses" means that if Tel Aviv is struck, the Israeli security cabinet would vote to extend the war directly to Syria, which they just refused to do yesterday. They would also likely vote to authorize close-air support, which they've been reluctant to do due to the probability of large numbers of "civilian" casualties and the PR-hit Israel would take.
This is pure speculation on my part; but I strongly believe that if Hezbollah missiles or rockets struck Tel Aviv, the Israeli people would absolutely demand a direct attack on Syria, which is allowing such trans-shipments from Iran to Hezbollah. If the Olmert government refused, the Olmert government would likely be history, and new snap-elections would put a Likud-centered coalition back in power.
Rather than risk that, I suspect Olmert -- a former Likudnik before helping Ariel Sharon to form Kadima -- would push such an expansion through the security cabinet.
So, to recap (oops, I sound just like a Glenn Greenwald sock puppet!):
- Hezbollah is improving its arsenal, nearly doubling the range of its missiles within the last two weeks;
- The new missiles come from Iran, most likely trans-shipped through Syria;
- They may soon get missiles from their patron, Iran, that have sufficient range to strike Tel Aviv;
- If they get such missiles, Tel Aviv's safety will rely only upon the forbearance and restraint of Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah (thought to be currently hiding in the Iranian embassy in Damascus, according to the Jerusalem Post). If such forbearance and restraint is as noticibly lacking as it has been since 1992, Tel Aviv will be struck;
- If Tel Aviv is struck, the security cabinet is likely to vote to expand the war directly to Syria (the sourcing for this is iffy, but it's certainly not an extraordinary claim).
Thus, I would expect the expansion of the war to include Syria will occur if and only if Syria (or anyone else) allows Hezbollah to receive missiles with ranges sufficient to attack Tel Aviv. This could, of course, occur at any time, since Iran does indeed have such missiles and has shown no reluctance in the past to supply Hezbollah with weaponry to attack Israel -- a country that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmaninejad has said must be "wiped off the map," which is also a long-term policy of the ruling mullahs.
As I said, I think the expansion is a question of when, not if. The only worry is that Israel may come to its senses too late, for Syria is already preparing itself for a likely war.
Date ►►► July 27, 2006
Der Spiegel Und der Baradei
RealClearPolitics pointed to an interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel of Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Tom Bevan at RCP Blog noted rather cryptically that it was "a rather frightening interview."
Reading the interview itself removed all mystery. Here are some of the lowlights:
SPIEGEL: Are you in favor of an immediate deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops with a "robust" mandate in southern Lebanon?
ElBaradei: That is the only solution. The bloodbath must be stopped quickly and a cease-fire must be brought about without delay. But what's even more important is a comprehensive solution to the underlying problem. The Palestinian question is the elephant in the room. One cannot constantly treat only the symptoms. The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been living under an occupying regime for 39 years now. We should not be satisfied with drafting one road map after the next and merely looking on as they fail.
[You would think that even as insular an organization as the UN would have heard something about the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza!]~
SPIEGEL: A stabilization force would have to create a buffer zone, which would mean disarming Hezbollah. Is the UN capable of doing this?
ElBaradei: Lebanon will inevitably descend into civil war as long there is no cease-fire. That's why the most important thing is for open combat to stop. And then the force would need a robust mandate. The UN can disarm militias and reduce tensions. The long-term solution, however, is political and not military.
[If the UN can "disarm militias," why haven't they? What are they waiting for?]~
SPIEGEL: The Israelis have a legitimate need for security. They see their massive attacks as a way to destroy Hezbollah once and for all.
ElBaradei: The more violence they commit, the more they radicalize their enemies..
[Note that he never answers the question. Or even responds to the cockamamie idea that "Israel has a legitimate need for security."]~
SPIEGEL: But it was the Iranian regime that clearly lied and deceived the West in recent years when it came to its nuclear program. Doesn't Tehran have to accept the offer without conditions and stop its uranium enrichment activities?
ElBaradei: There is no other choice. To our knowledge, however, the Iranians have not accelerated their nuclear research program, which would be a sign of their developing a nuclear program for military use. There are apparently competing political directions in Tehran. And there are many shades of gray....
[About Iran, yes; about Israel, El Baradei doesn't appear to see greyscale.]
There was, however, one highlight at the end of the tunnel. I did like this exchange, right at the end:
SPIEGEL: You have just come from the G-8 summit, where, in addition to the Middle East, energy issues were the main topic of discussion. With the exception of Germany, everyone seems to be betting on new nuclear power plants. Is this the right approach?
ElBaradei: Every state has the right to choose its own approach, just as Germany is doing. In your country, a few nuclear power plants will be in operation for another 20 years, at least according to current plans. Perhaps the Germans will change their views within this period of time, and perhaps they'll decide to extend it. Nuclear energy is undoubtedly experiencing a renaissance. Environmentally friendly nuclear power will play a role in energy policy worldwide. 1.6 billion people, or a quarter of the world's population, have no access to electricity. They'll have no future without affordable energy.
That statement, at least, cannot be logically disputed. Perhaps Mohammed ElBaradei should ceasing heading up the IAEA and instead be offered a new position as United Nations Secretary of Energy.
Is Slavery the Inevitable End Result of a Free Market?
What is a neocon? (This is not a diversion from the subject of this post; keep reading.)
The term is used so much as a simple pejorative these days that many folks, trying to deduce its meaning from context, are probably befuddled. In fact, as used by anti-neocons, the word really has no meaning apart from "people I don't like."
But they didn't invent the term; it has a long and honorable lineage. Up until the 2000 election, a "neoconservative" was, as the name implies, someone who was a liberal but switched to being conservative by the speeches and writings of Ronald Reagan (going back to his 1964 speech introducing Barry Goldwater in his "a Time for Choosing" televised address); it became more or less a synonym for "Reagan Democrat" after Reagan's first presidential run in 1976.
(I'm not sure when Irving Kristol first began using the term; it could possibly be when he was editor of Commentary in the 1940s. But the term didn't really catch on until the 1970s.)
I decided quite some time ago that this use was too time-bound: Reagan is gone, but the process continues; shouldn't the term be more open-ended? I suggested to my partner in slrime, Brad Linaweaver, that a better definition would be "a person who thinks like a liberal but arrives at conservative conclusions."
This seems to be a good working definition. It encompasses all those who would be "neocons" under the original definition, Dennis Prager, for example. Yet it also includes young people who come from a liberal background and still have those thought processes -- they grew up reading Maya Angelou, Edward Said, and Howard Zinn, rather than William F. Buckley, C.S. Lewis, Whittiker Chambers, or Ayn Rand -- yet who nevertheless vote as conservative as they effectively can.
Neocons by my definition think and react very differently from what we call "paleoconservatives," those who grew up thinking conservative from the git-go... people like Bill Kristol, who is often mislabeled a "neocon" by those for whom it means "Republican warmonger," but who actually grew up in the household of a paleo-neocon, if I can coin that term: Irving Kristol, like Chambers, was an actual Communist -- though in Kristol's case, a Trotskyite -- until sometime during World War II, when he converted.
Bill was born in 1952, after Irving Kristol had already seen the light. He was never a liberal and did not grow up thinking like one.
Here is a marvelous example of the distinction between true neocons and true economic conservatives. Today, Michael Medved, speaking on his radio show, explicitly agreed with a caller's statement that "the end result of a totally free market" was "slavery."
I rib you not. Slither on for more.
Because the market always pushes for the lowest possible price of labor, argued the caller, in the end, it always leads to slavery and indentured servitude (which are two completely different institutions, only one of which is uniformly bad). Medved agreed, arguing that we must have government "regulation" of business, one presumes to prevent slavery from sweeping across the nation again.
He did not specify what business practices need federal regulation; one is left with the disquieting idea that he may not be able to define "good" regulation, but he knows it when he sees it. But he could not have meant, e.g., the FDA or the FTC, because none of those affect the caller's syllogism. He must have been talking about some sort of control of employee compensation... minimum wage? defined-benefit pension plans? federally mandated promotion schedule for incompetent dolts?
Only somebody who thinks like a liberal could think this. And only a neocon could say this, then turn around and vote Republican.
From a free-market perspective, the statement itself is nonsensical. A "free market" is defined as one where buyer and seller are both free to set their own prices and buy from or sell to anyone willing to meet that price. But inherent in this definition is that the transaction is voluntary on all parties: if one party is forced into the deal, he is not "free" to set anything, and it's not a market transaction of any kind... the correct word for it is theft, the same as if I get to set the price of a new TV to "zero" by grabbing it at gunpoint.
Slavery is not in any way an example of a free market; in fact, by its very nature, slavery can only exist in a "market" that is heavily controlled by the government: only government collusion allows people to legally buy, sell, or hold captured human beings and legally prevent them from escaping -- which should be obvious on its face. A process leading to more and more freedom cannot logically have as its "endpoint" the complete lack of freedom.
Attributing such a quintessentially statist institution as slavery to the free market that it mocks and inverts is so nutty that only a man whose mind was warped by liberalism during vulnerable youth could think it.
And of course, slavery is one of the oldest institutions of mankind, long predating (by millennia) any conceptualization of a "market," free or otherwise, and surviving where the only markets are State-controlled: Nazis and Stalinists, who utterly reject the very idea of a free market, have no difficulty with slavery.
Reduce the Medved Thesis to its logical components: he is saying that a government that increasingly allows individuals the right to control their own labor will inevitably lead to the government giving all control to the labor buyer by forcing the seller to offer his labor for free. This is like saying that allowing GM to set its own prices for automobiles will inevitably lead to the government forcing GM to give its cars away gratis.
Such folly calls into question everything else Medved says, on any other subject. But he has demonstrated his fundamental inability to reason logically time and again. (For another example, he rejects the theory of evolution -- but he believes in Bigfoot!)
Sadly, neocons across the country reject the fundamental thesis that a free market regulates itself. For all the pressure of labor buyers to drive wages downward, there is equal pressure among potential employees driving them upward; the forces meet somewhere in between, and that is the market price (by definition).
If you don't believe it, try selling your labor for a million dollars an hour: your gross income will be zero. And try hiring some guy to paint your house for zero dollars per hour: your house will remain unpainted. Neither buyer nor seller has the final say in a free market... they must come to "a meeting of minds."
The market takes care of itself; if a company sells dangerous or defective products, it quickly loses its customer base. Too, a robust free market requires the rule of law, including a widely accepted civil judicial system, whether public or private: besides losing sales, a company that injures or damages its customers or innocent third parties will be sued into oblivion by its victims.
What neocons (and their liberal co-conspirators) resent is that the market doesn't move speedily enough for them. Government regulation, including that supported by Medved (whatever it is), is a shortcut for impatient pressure groups.
They want bad food off the market immediately... which sounds great, until you realize that the same mechanism that can do that, a federal Food and Drug Administration, can also pull good food like olestra and saccharine off the market immediately (or good medical devices, such as silicone breast implants), because they threaten the hegemony of established companies or the prevailing ideology of the federal administration.
The "cure" is worse than the disease; impatience is a terrible heuristic.
The same impatience for change drives demand for a minimum wage: all you need do to help the poor, the neocons and liberals think, is simply raise the minimum wage to a "living wage." If we would only mandate that WalMart pay its meanest employee at least $13/hour in wages and benefits, as the city of Chicago has just done, then every employee will live a better life.
But they ignore what should be obvious: legislation can control the price but not the cost of goods or services. Raising the price of labor doesn't produce money from nothing; somebody has to pay for that cost. Labor is typically the largest cost of any company... if you raise its price, the cost increases... probably more than the entire profit margin.
But a company is not voluntarily going to pursue bankruptcy; for one thing, its own shareholders would sue. Which means the company must reduce the cost to stay in business; and since the price of labor is controlled, the only way to reduce the cost is to buy less of it.
That means reduced hiring, more layoffs, or in the case of Chicago, the likely decision not to open a WalMart store inside the city limits. While every employee may live a better life, there are simply fewer employees and more unemployed workers collecting unemployment compensation and welfare.
Honest neocons like Dennis Prager brashly declare that "they" are willing to pay that price, though of course "they" are not the ones being laid off. Medved sometimes argues against the minimum wage (Prager supports it). But Medved does so unconvincingly, because he calls for many other forms of government regulation of essential market mechanisms, such as workplace health and safety codes, the FDA, the FCC; so he really has no principled case against government regulation of labor price.
Many free-marketeers accept the inevitability of OSHA, but they decry it nonetheless. But Medved actively supports such regulation, and therein lies his rejection of capitalism. I accept the inevitability of racial preferences; we can't seem to get rid of them. But I call anathema upon them. Those who promote them under any circumstances or for any reason -- such as Dennis Prager (for blacks only) and George W. Bush (under some circumstances for college admissions) -- have no moral high ground by which to denounce racial preferences when they get out of hand, as they inevitably will.
Which brings me roundabout back to the title of this overly long rant: not only is slavery not the "end result" of a free market, they are diametric opposites: the market requires the rule of law; slavery requires machete-law. But slavery is, contrariwise, the endpoint of the slippery slope of statism, which elevates the State to a higher position on the heirarchy of hegemony than the individual... just as Kelo is the endpoint of the theory of eminent domain.
That does not mean that either slavery or mass government confiscation of property is "inevitable." But it does mean that if you see either one a-comin', the solution is not more regulation... it is less.
More Proportionalities Than You Can Shake a Snake At
The Democrats' argument that Israel's response is "disproportionate" can mean one of only two things:
- That it's disproportionate to the attack;
- Or that it's disproportionate to the attacker.
The first possibility is easily rebutted: Israel has been attacked by Hezbollah for years and years and years, losing hundreds of citizens to an insane terrorist campaign, Hezbollah's holy pledge to "drive the Jews into the sea."
Arguably, since it was Hezbollah who pioneered (in the Middle East) the tactic of suicide bombings, a tactic later aped by Palestinian groups, the thousands of deaths of innocent Israelis by Hamas, et al, can also be laid to Hezbollah's doorstop.
So the only real chance for the Democrats to make stick a "disproportionality" argument against Israel's assault is to complain that it's just not fair for that big bully to beat up on that little bully. Is that a valid complaint, that Israel's assault is like a trained heavyweight boxer beating up a schoolgirl? If so, that would certainly be a gross disproportionality.
To the extent that liberals make this argument, in their relentless quest to find moral equivalence between Israeli Jews and Hezbollah terrorists (or even to assign the bulk of the guilt to the former), they either foolishly or mendaciously ignore a glaring point: Hezbollah does not act alone or on its own volition.
The organization was created in 1982, by and large by Iran, and they have been a creature of that theocracy ever since. Iran finances and controls Hezbollah in Lebanon through Iran's cat's-paw, Syria -- which comprises an Alawite-Shiite elite class, the Baath Party, ruling over an oppressed Sunni majority.
Thus, in comparing the relative sizes of the dogs in the fight, the real comparison is not Israel to Hezbollah... it's Israel vs. Iran and Syria in a proxy war that happens to be taking place in Lebanon. It's not just that Hezbollah receives its weapons from Iran; Iran also finances it, trains it, directs it, and indeed, Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been found throughout Hezbollah forces, firing missiles and directing the action.
Hezbollah is not Israel's real enemy: it's nothing more than the Iranian and Syrian "Foreign Legion."
So let's take a look at Iran and Syria compared to Israel; I rely upon the CIA World Factbook for these simple statistics:
|Economy (billions purchasing power)||562||72||155|
|Economy (official exchange rate)||181||26||114|
|Available military manpower (millions)||15.7||3.5||1.3|
As clearly seen, Israel certainly does not overmatch her two real opponents in this war; in fact, it's the other way around: even just Iran alone is larger, richer, and has a much greater available manpower. While Israel has nuclear weapons that still elude Iran (we hope!), Iran boasts a much more robust military than any country or combination of countries Israel has ever faced before.
Hezbollah is just the tip of the oilberg... make no mistake, Israel faces her deadliest test ever. And if there is any "disproportionality," it's much more accurate to say Israeli forces are disproportionately small compared to the enemies they face.
Israel is the "David" facing the "Goliath" of the Ayatollahs, and no amount of Democratic rewrite can obscure that fact.
Date ►►► July 26, 2006
Demonstration of Sanity
The Republican caucus of the United States Senate, and about a third of the Democratic caucus, having demonstrated unusual clarity and sanity by enacting the Child Custody Protection Act -- making it a crime for non-parental, non-guardian adults to transport a minor girl across state lines to procure her an abortion in violation of state parental-notification laws -- collectively deserve a Rumsfeld Award for actually making sane people feel good about government, for a change. (See last post.)
Here are the exceptions, both the bad (the four Republicans who voted against it) and the good (the fourteen Democrats who voted for it):
Republican weirdos who voted against S. 403:
- Lincoln Chafee, RI, 12%;
- Olympia Snowe, ME, 32%;
- Susan Collins, ME, 32%;
- Arlen Specter, PA, 63%.
Democrats who had at least one moment of sanity in their careers by voting for this act:
- Evan Bayh, IN, 95%;
- Robert Byrd, WV, 95%;
- Thomas Carper, DE, 90%;
- Kent Conrad, ND, 85%;
- Byron Dorgan, ND, 100%;
- Daniel Inouye, HI, 90%;
- Tim Johnson, SD, 95%;
- Herb Kohl, WI, 100%;
- Mary Landrieu, LA, 95%;
- Bill Nelson, FL, 80%;
- E. Benjamin "Ben" Nelson, NE, 55%;
- Mark Pryor, AR, 90%;
- Harry Reid, NV, 100%;
- Ken Salazar, CO, 100%.
Just so readers can see how astonishingly rational, non-hysterical, and yes, sensitive the Senate was to the principals involved in such cases, both parents and the girl herself, I think we need to read the law itself (click the second link, the one that reads "[S.403.ES].") Trust me, it's surprisingly short for a product of the United States Congress!
Here is the operative part:
Sec. 2431. Transportation of minors in circumvention of certain laws relating to abortion
`(1) GENERALLY- Except as provided in subsection (b), whoever knowingly transports a minor across a State line, with the intent that such minor obtain an abortion, and thereby in fact abridges the right of a parent under a law requiring parental involvement in a minor's abortion decision, in force in the State where the minor resides, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
`(2) DEFINITION- For the purposes of this subsection, an abridgement of the right of a parent occurs if an abortion is performed on the minor, in a State other than the State where the minor resides, without the parental consent or notification, or the judicial authorization, that would have been required by that law had the abortion been performed in the State where the minor resides.
`(1) The prohibition of subsection (a) does not apply if the abortion was necessary to save the life of the minor because her life was endangered by a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.
`(2) A minor transported in violation of this section, and any parent of that minor, may not be prosecuted or sued for a violation of this section, a conspiracy to violate this section, or an offense under section 2 or 3 based on a violation of this section.
`(c) Affirmative Defense- It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution for an offense, or to a civil action, based on a violation of this section that the defendant reasonably believed, based on information the defendant obtained directly from a parent of the minor or other compelling facts, that before the minor obtained the abortion, the parental consent or notification, or judicial authorization took place that would have been required by the law requiring parental involvement in a minor's abortion decision, had the abortion been performed in the State where the minor resides.
`(d) Civil Action- Any parent who suffers harm from a violation of subsection (a) may obtain appropriate relief in a civil action, unless the parent has committed an act of incest with the minor subject to subsection (a).
I hope this lays to rest the lion's share of absurdist attacks on this law by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), by foaming-at-the-mouth Democrats, and by abortion absolutists on various blogs (including the comments section of this blog). It does nothing more than make it a federal crime to deliberately bypass state laws by procuring an abortion for a minor without parental knowledge. This prevents perpetrators from quashing prosecution by challenging state jurisdiction.
If that's "an irresponsible action that will do nothing to protect young women's safety or improve family communication," as Nancy Keenan, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, characterized it, then words no longer have any meaning at all.
Date ►►► July 25, 2006
What Is Wrong (Stop Me If You've Heard This Before) With This Picture?
All right, here is the opening sentence of the Washington Post story:
The Senate voted tonight to make it a crime to take a pregnant girl across state lines to obtain an abortion without her parents' knowledge, handing a long-sought victory to the Bush administration and abortion opponents.
As always, imagine the "Final Jeopardy" theme music as you ponder what is so odd and peculiar about that sentence. I'll wait. (Of course, since I'm writing this before any of you out there has even read it yet, I'm not really waiting. It's relativity, man!)
All right, here it is:
- Is there any sane person in the country who would oppose such a law, preventing random, strange adults from taking some pregnant kid across state lines to get an abortion without her parent's knowledge, let alone permission?
- In which case... why was the bill a "long sought" victory? Why on earth did it take so long?
The reality, of course, is that abortion has become so polarized that it took years and years and years for the bill to get this far. And even today, two-thirds of Democratic senators voted against it!
For years, advocates on both sides of the abortion issue have battled at the state level over narrower questions, including parental notification and consent for minors. Fifty-one Republicans and 14 Democratic senators voted for the bill, while four Republicans, 29 Democrats and one independent voted against it. Sens. George Allen (R-Va.) and John Warner (R-Va.) voted for the bill; Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) voted against it.
The abortion debate has become so toxic -- as a direct result of the post-modern Roe v. Wade decision -- that abortion supporters today refuse even to yield on the most obvious, reasonable restrictions (partial-birth abortion, parental consent or at least notification, waiting periods), fearing a "slippery slope" that will somehow lead to California and New York banning all abortions. So they fight hammer and sickle against even such a wimpy, no-brainer law like this.
Oh, by the way, fair disclosure: I support the right of abortion right up until the cerebral cortex forms and activates, usually about the 26th week.
The arguments against this bill are so moronic, I doubt even NARAL spokeswomen really believe what they're saying:
Opponents said the Senate bill will threaten the safety of pregnant girls whose parents might beat them if they learn of their daughters' plans for an abortion. The proponents' approach "is not to deal with the reality of young people" in troubled families, said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). He cited accounts of an Idaho man who raped and impregnated his 13-year-old daughter, and then killed her when he learned she had scheduled an abortion....
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called the Senate vote "an irresponsible action that will do nothing to protect young women's safety or improve family communication."
No, I suppose the responsible thing is to allow any old adult to knock up a fourteen year old, then hotfoot her across the border to clean up his mistake. Without the parents having any idea that their barely post-pubscent daughter is in an ongoing sexual relationship with a forty-three year old monster.
It's fanatics like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL, 100%) and Nancy Keenan that so often make me feel like apologizing for supporting abortion rights. Fortunately, I know better than to base my positions on the maundering of mental mice. I hold what I hold because of my analysis -- not theirs.
The Hunt for Red Osama
Hugh Hewitt quotes from (but does not link to) a speech given by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%), about all the terrible failings of Bush administration policy on the war on jihadi terrorism. These four compound sentences encapsulate the very core of Reid's and the Democrats' argument:
We argued that the administration follow the law and make 2006 the year of transition, with Iraqis taking charge of their own security and government, so that American forces can be redeployed by year's end. [That's a "law," that we have to immediately pull out of Iraq? When was that passed? -- the Mgt.]
Our plan would have given the Iraqi people their best chance for success, while also giving America the best chance to confront the growing threats of North Korea, Iran and terrorism.
Our plan would have engaged regional powers to help bring stability to Iraq, and would have reminded the countries of the world of their commitment to invest in Iraq's long-term economic prosperity.
Our plan would have refocused America's military, diplomatic, and economic might on the terrorist threats that face us in Iraq and globally, including Osama Bin Laden-who remains free 5 years after 9/11.
He included, of course, the traditional Democratic contradictions, which I think is a caucus rule:
- "In the last month, the price of gas has shot past three dollars a gallon." [Yet Democrats oppose any and all drilling and refining of oil, whether off the California coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, or in ANWR.]
- "In the last month, North Korea -- on the Fourth of July -- tested new long-range missiles." [Which we were prepared to shoot down (if the DPRK had succeeded in launching them) using antiballistic missile systems that the Democrats fought hammer and tooth, delaying us for eight long years.]
- "In the last month, Hezbollah has terrorized Israel." [Due to Israel having "redeployed" out of Lebanon in 2000, in a way that mimicked a military rout (despite having lost no battles), in response to heavy pressure from Bill Clinton on Ehud Barak.]
- "And in the last month, Al Qaeda may have found a new sanctuary in large swaths of Somalia." [From which we "redeployed" in a panic under orders by Bill Clinton, paving the way for al-Qaeda to move in as squatters.]
But that's all milk spilt over the bridge. I want to "focus like a laser beam" on Reid's "redeployment" plan. If the Democrats can be said to have any sort of strategic plan at all in the war on jihadism, it's to find an immediate exit strategy.
But what is their positive vision to put in place of fighting wars? They do actually have one, and Sen. Reid alluded to it in this speech: Democrats believe that we should put all our resources into hunting for Osama bin Laden.
That's it; that's the plan. (It should be a new Tom Clancy novel: the Hunt for Red Osama.) Since war is nothing but a big police investigation anyway (see the previous post), the focus should always be on arresting and trying the perpetrator, rather than thwarting future acts.
But what fascinates me is that we already tried this in miniature... and it was an unmitigated disaster. Does anybody here remember Somalia?
The Wikipedia account is more or less accurate:
[Mohamed Farrah] Aidid hindered international U.N. peacekeeping forces in 1992. As a result, the US put a $25,000 bounty on his head [in August 2003] and attempted to capture him. On October 3, 1993 a force of U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operators set out to capture several officials of Aidid's militia in an area of the Somalian capital city of Mogadishu, controlled by him. Although technically successful, with the capture of several "tier-one personalities," the operation did not completely go as planned, and between 500 and 1000 Somalis, as well as 19 American soldiers, died as a result.
The people of somalia were later angry at the Rangers and supported Aidid. Videos showed Somalis eating the flesh of Cliff Walcott and his crew members of Super 64. Aidid himself was not captured. The events are commonly known outside Somalia as the Battle of Mogadishu. [I'm not entirely sure about that video claim; I hadn't heard it before. -- the Mgt.]
The U.S. withdrew its forces soon afterwards (a move viewed by some as a sign of weakening American strength on the international front), and the U.N. left Somalia in 1995. Aidid then declared himself president of Somalia, but his government was not internationally recognized.
Under former President George H.W. Bush (Bush-41), the American military initiated a humanitarian operation in Somalia in 1992; but under President Bill Clinton, it morphed -- especially after the "Blackhawk down" incident -- into a massive manhunt throughout that country, which is smaller than either Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran (let alone the combination of the three that would be our actual target area to search for bin Laden)... with only one of those three countries willing to allow such a search in the first place: the one we occupy, Afghanistan.
I remember the humiliation of the Hunt for Red Aidid: day after day, week after week, Rangers ranged up and down Somalia, but were unable to catch Mr. Aidid. News reporters were considerably more successful, however, for he popped up fairly regularly, like Whack-a-Warlord, to taunt us and hoot at our pathetic, bootless efforts.
And of course, despite keeping a very high profile (unlike bin Laden), we never managed to catch Aidid in two years of hunting... and then we quit looking and just yanked our troops out. In fact, in October 1993, Clinton had told everybody that we were pulling out in six months, whether we found Aidid or not. The sole target of the Democrats' current battle plan -- Osama bin Laden -- actually cited Clinton's retreat from Somalia as evidence that al-Qaeda could hit the United States with impunity, because we were paper tigers.
Astonishingly enough, Aidid dodged us until March. Then when we evacuated, Aidid emerged from his very public "hiding," crowned himself president, and was promptly shot to death by a rival warlord.
The lesson should be clear: it is virtually impossible to find a single, particular person hiding in a death zone... particularly when he is well-heeled and well-served by fanatical followers who move him around secretly. There are too many caves, too much land, too little "society" to ensare him in its net.
Bin Laden doesn't have any credit cards and he doesn't use an ATM. There are no security cameras in the wilderness of Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran -- at least none that we can view. And our satellites are virtually useless trying to pick a single guy out of millions: we don't have Star-Trek "sensors."
And even if we managed to spot him, what would we do... beam him up to the mothership? By the time we could get a Predator close enough to shoot a Hellfire, bin Laden's caravan will have moved on.
Like every other Democratic plan, their GWOT strategy is a prescription for disaster: it would gift us only with humiliation and failure, make us the laughingstock of the world, and squander all the work we have done rebuilding our military capability after eight years of Clinton -- and we still haven't fully recovered from a scant four years of Carter.
If you want to understand "fractals," there is no better place to start than by carefully reading Democratic initiatives: they look stupid as a whole; and the deeper you look, the stupider they get.
The "Proportionality" Fallacy
I've been pondering and mulling for many days now the charge, absurd on its face, that Israel's response to the attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah is "disproportionate." What has puzzled me all this time is where the silly meme of "proportionality" came from in the first place.
I understand proportionality in, say, criminal sentencing: if a person stole some cash from the church poorbox, it's grossly disproportionate to punish him by cutting off his hand; the severity of the punishment vastly exceeds the mendacity of the crime.
And I understand proportionality in civil lawsuits: if a company produced a dangerously defective product, then tried to cover it up, and if a victim of that product is injured thereby... then it makes perfect sense for that victim not only to receive compensatory damages in the lawsuit (damages to make him whole again, or as much so as possible), but also punitive damages.
Even so, if the company has an annual income of $10 million, it's grossly disproportionate for a jury to award the victim $60 billion in punitive damages.
But how does any of this relate to warfare? The question has baffled me for a long time now, from even before the present ruckus in Lebanon and Gaza. How did a theory of criminal punishment get tacked onto the "law of war?"
And just now, the answer I'd been seeking struck me like a load of hay: those critics squealing about Israel's "disproportionate" response think war is how Israel "punishes" the Arabs.
All of a sudden, other paralogical incongruities fell into place: the Left believes war is not waged in order to gain national-security advantages for one's country; they see it entirely as an extension of the criminal justice system... a tit-for-tat revenge taken against countries that have criminally assaulted one's own. Thus, the Left cannot even understand the conservative argument that terrorism "cannot be defeated by a criminal-justice response but must be treated as an act of war."
To them, all war is a criminal-justice program. Why should the war on jihadi terrorism be any different?
And because they think war in general is a punitive action designed to punish transgressors, they also believe:
- It's wrong to punish countries disproportionately to their "crimes," such as killing more of their soldiers than they killed of yours... it's too much "tat" in the tit-for-tat equation;
- It's wrong to "collectively punish" the people living in the enemy nation by, e.g., dropping bombs;
- In fact, killing enemy combatants is wrong in general, because we're against capital punishment;
- It's wrong to "punish" a country for the actions of a terrorist group within that country;
- It's horrifically wrong to "punish" a country before it has actually committed the crime or even taken steps to commit the crime (pre-emption); that would be the same as putting someone in prison because you thought he might commit a crime in the future;
- It's wrong to go to war without first holding a criminal investigation and finding the enemy country guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the transgression;
- Captured unlawful enemy combatants must be tried in civilian courts (presumably for "conspiracy") with all the protections afforded ordinary criminal defendants;
- Captured unlawful enemy combatants may not be interrogated unless they have a lawyer present, and they cannot be interrogated at all if they "take the Fifth;"
- Once combatants have "served their sentences," which must be "proportionate to the crime they committed," they must be released, even if there is a chance they will return to the front lines and "commit more crimes;" after all, they've paid their debt to society.
As suspicious as I am of any general "Theory of Everything," this revelation (well, to me, anyway) does seem to explain an awful lot about liberal squeamishness anent the Israeli war on Hezbollah, the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and other attempts by the civilized world to defend itself against the forces of Islamist barbarity.
(It doesn't explain why liberals supported the carpet bombing of Serbs in Kosovo; but then, they also gave Bill Clinton a pass on a lot of other actual criminal behavior, too. To explain this, we must invoke a different thesis: the Theory of the Charmed Charmer, the lovable rogue who can do no wrong.)
It also explains why the American Left is increasingly bitter and hateful towards Israel: they look at Israel and they see a country that persistently violates the "liberal law of war" by treating warfare as if it were some means of defending the country from attack, instead of a police action.
Thus, to the liberal mind, Israel is like a "rogue cop" who commits serial acts of "police brutality." The Left's reflexive hatred of "the pigs" or "the Man" kicks in, and Ehud Olmert morphs into Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, with Lebanon as the new Democratic National Convention of 1968. "Israel is not there to cause disorder... Israel is there to preserve disorder!"
Arabs (and Persians, to the extent that liberals even know there is a difference) are the long-suffering poor who are always getting shafted by the Man; we need a healthy dose of "social justice," man, to redress the historical imbalances. Power to the people, man! Off the pigs! Free Mumia!
(In fact, wouldn't Arab suicide bombers be seen as heroic followers of Mumia Abu Jamal, giving their lives -- well, the real Mumia hasn't given it yet, alas -- to fight the inherent injustice of the Israeli neocon lobby establishment? Right on, man!)
I believe every Democratic candidate in 2006 and 2008 should be given a hot seat (I don't mean Old Sparky) and asked this question: if terrorists kill 3,000 Americans, how many terrorists will you allow us to kill before you decide our response is "disproportionate?"
Watch 'em squirm.
Of Course You Know - This Means War!
None of the other blogs I read regularly are talking about this, but I think it's funny as all get out: Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 63%) is planning to sue George W. Bush in federal court to get Bush's signing statements declared unconstitutional:
A powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush's signing statements said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court. [Big Lizards presumes that the bill allows Congress to sue Bush -- not Specter. English is a second language to AP. -- the Mgt.]
"We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.
Say... wouldn't that bill have to be signed by the president to become law? He could use his second veto right here! Or perhaps he will sign the Specter Act... with a signing statement saying Arlen is full of beans.
There hasn't been even a single case where Bush, relying upon a signing statement, has refused to enforce a law, of course. This is so hypothetical, it's a ghost of a clone of a unicorn. I have no clue what Specter thinks the courts will be deciding: will he focus on one signing statement in particular -- say the one accompanying the Patriot Act? Or will he ask the courts to rule on the general idea of scribbling something in the margin of a piece of paper that the president signs?
I'd love to hear the argument: "Your Honor, a case where a signing statement actually ended up meaning something has never come up, but we'd really like you to waste a few months of your idle hours to hear the whole trial -- in case it ever becomes relevant in the future!" Yes sir, there is nothing judges enjoy more than completely frivolous and unnecessary litigation in their courtrooms.
At least Specter knows where to find his friends:
Specter's announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action.... [I don't know about you folks, but it looks to me as if a "signing statement" indicates that he signed it.]
"That non-veto hamstrings Congress because Congress cannot respond to a signing statement," said ABA president Michael Greco. The practice, he added "is harming the separation of powers."
Maybe somebody can explain to me (a) why Congress "cannot respond" -- they can pass a "sense of the Congress" resolution any time the mad desire o'ertakes them -- or (b) how this affects the "separation of powers," considering that the president is signing a bill passed by Congress, and the courts will interpret that bill. Three branches, three powers, no waiting.
Still, it's good to know that Specter is not resting on his laurels, after his grueling crusade to prevent large numbers of the president's judicial nominees from even coming up for air within the Judiciary Committee.
Date ►►► July 24, 2006
News Flash: Secretary Rice Refuses to Grow In Office
This post inaugurates a new category on Big Lizards: the Rumsfeld Awards, bestowed upon government officials who, by clear thinking and speaking and by bright, useful policies, actually give government a good name for a change.
Today's winner is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice has been given ample opportunity to "grow in office;" and indeed, she has even been accused of drifting leftward (unfairly accused) by sundry conservatives. But today's pronouncement on the Israeli war on Hezbollah should lay those fears to rest: Condi Rice has not gone soft on terrorism.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put forward proposals to Lebanon on Monday to end Israel's war on Hizbollah but insisted a ceasefire could only come as part of a wider deal, Lebanese politicians said....
Rice told Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, an ally of Hizbollah who is also close to Syria, a ceasefire must be part of a deal that included Hizbollah's withdrawal beyond the Litani River, 20 km (13 miles) north of Israel, and deployment of an international force in the border region, a Lebanese political source said.
She told Berri: "the situation on the border cannot return to what it was before July 12," referring to the day Hizbollah seized two Israeli soldiers during a raid into Israel, sparking a war in which 378 people in Lebanon and 41 Israelis have died.
The world and American left have been exerting intense pressures upon her (and upon her boss) to go along with the plan by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Lebanese Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri, an open ally of Hezbollah, for a "truce" or "ceasefire" first, while discussion of doing anything about Hezbollah is pushed off until some nebulous future time. It would have been very easy to join that chorus -- as indeed Bill Clinton always did, and as John Kerry would surely have done had he been elected president in 2004.
But she has bravely resisted that pressure: she sticks by her guns (the president's guns) that we'll accept no "ceasefire" without a plan to prevent Lebanon slipping back into the status-quo ante, where Hezbollah slouched in South Lebanon, armed to the teeth, firing missiles into Israel and kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers with impunity... while the Lebanese Army shugged its shoulders and said "what can we do about it?"
I don't believe Israel has fought this war very well; but the urgent task is to ask where do they go from here?, and what's the best position for America to take now? -- not to criticize what Israel did yesterday or two weeks ago. And the first step is to recognize that we cannot allow Israel to lose this war... it is Israel's "Iraq".
Condoleeza Rice understands that first imperative. Is she perfect? No; she runs an agency that is compromised by its very nature. But within those constraints, she has done so much better a job than her predecessor that Big Lizards stands and salutes her. Here is Dr. Rice's laurel and hearty handshake.
Thank you, Condoleezza Rice, for not being Colin Powell.
Resupply Is a Two-Way Street
It's been plastered all over the news recently that Israel has caught Syria resupplying Hezbollah missiles (or trying to, at any rate); see the previous post for our reaction to that news on the Syrian front. But as Gary Larson used to say in the Far Side, "two can play at that game, Hoskins!"
Word has now been leaked (by anonymous "American officials") that we've sent an emergency shipment of precision-guided bombs to Israel in order to allow them to continue the campaign:
The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.
(A Reader's Digest condensed version of the Times article can be found on Reuters, just in case the Times link stops working.)
This is for those readers here who have been led to believe (by the antique media) that Bush isn't doing anything to help Israel other than chatting them up. We're doing the best things of all: leaning heavily on Syria -- and making sure that Israel has all the precision munitions they need to really grind Hezbollah's face into the offal.
So keep it up, Israel; with the weapons we're supplying you, taking out the entire top Hezbollah leadership should be as easy as shooting drunks in a barrel.
According to an article in the New York Times yesterday, we're trying to "peel Syria away" from Iran and Hezbollah. We're hoping to work through Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, and their equivalent of the national security advisor and former Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as well as their counterparts in Egypt and Jordan.
But the Times grabs the wrong end of the stick with this pretty boneheaded assessment:
But so far, there appears to be little discussion of offering American incentives to the Syrians to abandon Hezbollah, or even to stop arming it. The Bush administration has been deeply reluctant to make such offers, whether it is negotiating with Damascus or with the governments of Iran or North Korea.
We're not planning on bribing them, for heaven's sake; I suspect the incentive is more along the lines of telling Syria -- in John Bolton-type language -- that if they persist in supporting Hezbollah and the Sunni terrorists in Iraq, then we will urge Israel to attack Syria, and we'll join them. It's stick not carrot time.
A joint Israeli/American attack on Syria from two sides would be devastating to the Syrian military, hence to the ruling Alawite Baathist regime (and would probably lead to Bashar Assad's assassination by his successor as president of Syria).
Either way -- whether Syria cooperates with us and cuts off Hezbollah, or whether they tell us to sod off, and we saw them off at the knees -- both Hezbollah and the Sunni insurgency and terrorists would be stranded and starved. While Iran pulls the strings (both puppet and purse), the actual conduit through which control and money passes for these groups, as well as Hamas, is Syria.
I don't know whether Hezbollah in Lebanon could survive without the Syrian connection, especially after the Israelis finish their limited ground offensive; if Hezbollah is left weak enough, after Israel leaves, the secular and Christian elements of the government might well fight their own war against Hezbollah and finish them off.
I believe Iran directly supports Shiite insurgents in Iraq, such as the Iranian lapdog Muqtada Sadr and his merry men in the Mahdi Militia; so they would not be directly affected. But a lessening of violence from other sources frees up more Iraqi Army troops and American and British soldiers to focus on the Shia in Sadr City, the south, and elsewhere.
Too, Iran relies upon Hezbollah to serve as their main assault force for international operations; to cripple Hezbollah is to cripple Iran itself.
Assad has been resisting the connection recently:
A Western diplomat said Arab leaders had had trouble getting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to come to the telephone when they called to express concern about Hezbollah’s actions....
[T]he administration’s declared aim is to carry out United Nations Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah and the deployment of the Lebanese Army to southern Lebanon. Syria, which was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon last year, may well balk at efforts to enforce it.
But while analysts say it is possible for the Bush administration and Israel to work out a solution without including Syria in the diplomatic wrangling, it would be difficult. Some Bush administration officials, particularly at the State Department, are pushing to find a way to start talking to Syria again.
Definitely an intriguing move on the Mideast chess board. As Matt Drudge would say, developing...
Date ►►► July 22, 2006
If You're French, This Has Really Got to Hurt
So after all that work the French did to taint Lance Armstrong's world-record seven Tour de France wins (consecutively!) by accusing him of doping, and after the bravura job they did keeping the best non-French riders out of the race this year by a phony-baloney "investigation," Operación Puerto, that consisted of collecting clippings from Madrid newspaper El País... now they suddenly have another renegade non-Frenchman (in fact, non-European) on the loose.
Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, and Francisco Mancebo, plus the entire Astana-Wurth team, including leader and 2005 fifth-placer Alexander Vinokourov -- who was not formally implicated but had to withdraw anyway -- were excised from the race, which the French expected would surely lead to a French winner. It is, after all, the Tour de France, n'est-ce pas?
Tour boss Jean-Marie Leblanc said: "I hope we can clean up everything now. All the cheats should be kicked out.
"Then maybe we will get an open Tour with clean riders, with space for ethics, sport and entertainment."
"Entertainment" meaning "somebody with a name like Bernard Hinault," the last Frenchman to win the Tour.
See, France used to win the Tour de France all the time. The Tour began in 1903, was suspended from 1915-1918 (the war), and from 1940-1946 (the other war), and has been run every year since then. Of the first 72 races, a Frenchman won 36 times, for exactly 50%. The Belgians won an additional 18 times: people from French-speaking countries dominated the race.
(There were a few from Luxembourg, too, but I don't know if we should count those. I mean, it's not really even a country, is it? More like a county.)
But all that came to an abrupt halt after 1985, when Bernard Hinault -- the last Frenchman -- won. Since then, nobody from a French-speaking country has won the Tour de France. The closest they came was Greg LeMond; but despite his name, LeMond is American, of course. Since 1986, Americans have won the Tour ten out of twenty times (again, 50%) -- but that's just two riders, LeMond and of course Lance Armstrong.
There have been several European winners, so the French must have thought they had a great shot here -- after Armstrong retired and they booted the top non-French Europeans.
But today, they woke up to this kick in the head:
American Floyd Landis regained the overall lead in the Tour de France on Saturday, likely assuring him the title Sunday in Paris....
The Phonak team leader reclaimed the yellow jersey from Spain's Oscar Pereiro, who started the individual time trial with a thin 30-second lead over Landis. Saturday, Landis moved up from third to first, gaining 59 seconds on the now second-place Pereiro.
Now France faces the national humiliation of having yet another American steal their own race from them.
I'm certain the 82nd Republic (or is it the 101st?) will not take this slap in the rear lying down. Look for a frantic scramble to retroactively disqualify Landis on the grounds that (a) he's an American, like Lance Armstrong, so is clearly implicated in the insinuation that Armstrong used EPO (Erythropoietin); (b) he makes really wretched movies, like ¡Three Amigos!; and (c) he's another "gimp," like Armstrong, so it must be a huge fake.
Landis has an advanced case of aseptic bone necrosis, in which "bone and marrow die in the absence of an infective agent." He is scheduled for a hip replacement after this year's Tour ends tomorrow. So not only were the French beaten, they were beaten by a guy with a bum leg.
(Lance Armstrong suffered from testicular cancer, which eventually spread to his brain and lungs; he was treated by surgery, including removal of one testicle and lesions in his brain, followed by aggressive chemotherapy; two and a half years later, he won his first Tour de France. So the French were also beaten by a guy with a bum... well, you get the picture.)
It must be tough to be a Frenchman these days. First the riots, and now this.
Everyone Must Read This Story
Hugh Hewitt read this post by David Bogner on the air Thursday, and I thought it was one of the best parables I've heard in years. I urgently urge y'all to read the whole thing; it's not that long, but it will stay with you for the rest of your life.
It's from a blog called Treppenwitz, which I think I should start reading regularly now. Here's the opening:
When I was in the Navy, I once witnessed a bar fight in downtown Olongapo (Philippines) that still haunts my dreams. The fight was between a big oafish Marine and a rather soft-spoken, medium sized Latino sailor from my ship.
All evening the Marine had been trying to pick a fight with one of us and had finally set his sights on this diminutive shipmate of mine... figuring him for a safe target. When my friend refused to be goaded into a fight the Marine sucker punched him from behind on the side of the head so hard that blood instantly started to pour from this poor man's mutilated ear.
Everyone present was horrified and was prepared to absolutely murder this Marine, but my shipmate quickly turned on him and began to single-handedly back him towards a corner with a series of stinging jabs and upper cuts that gave more than a hint to a youth spent boxing in a small gym in the Bronx.
Each punch opened a cut on the Marine's startled face and by the time he had been backed completely into the corner he was blubbering for someone to stop the fight. He invoked his split lips and chipped teeth as reasons to stop the fight. He begged us to stop the fight because he could barely see through the river of blood that was pouring out of his split and swollen brows.
Nobody moved. Not one person....
...But you'll have to click the link and read the original to find out what happened, what was really going on, and how it relates to the Global War on Jihadism.
Date ►►► July 21, 2006
Bolton For the Aisles
And speaking of the great John Bolton -- who is our ambassador to the U.N. only via recess appointment, after the Democrats pulled another puerile tantrum and refused to allow a vote on him last summer -- he is about to be resubmitted to the Senate for another go at confirming him, thus restoring a bit of the lost honor of that tatterdemalion organization. The Democrats were joined in that caper by the lovely and talented Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH, 68%):
The White House moved again for a Senate endorsement after Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who joined Democrats in blocking Bolton last year, said on Thursday he now backs him.
Senate Republicans and the administration expressed confidence Bolton would be approved this time, particularly with the need for an experienced hand at the United Nations during the Middle East crisis.
A spokesman for Sen. Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, said the Senate would probably vote on Bolton in September, after its summer recess.
However, a big obstacle to Bolton's confirmation remains: he served in the National Guard. As we have learned, Democrats consider the National Guard to be nothing but a disreputable and dishonorable way to dodge the draft by poltroons who haven't the courage to run away to Canada and become counterculture hippie-heroes. It's not clear whether the "Guard hurdle" can be o'erleapt.
In the last cloture vote on Bolton's nomination, June 20th, 2005, 54 senators supported bringing it to an up-or-down vote. Assuming Sen. Voinovich makes good his threat to return to the fold (all is forgiven! well, maybe not all), that would still leave the Republicans five votes short.
They will have to pick up support among Democrats and some very, very liberal Republicans on the basis of Bolton's performance the last year in the U.N. On its face, this should be easy; much of the Democratic emesis was (they claimed) due to angst about whether he could comport himself publicwise. Over the last year, Bolton has avoided actually striking anyone at Turtle Bay or even setting fire to the Syrian ambassador's beard, and not a single New York eatery has chucked him out for boorish table manners... so perhaps the naysayers can find the courage to admit they were wrong about him: he cleans up nice.
But there's still that pesky National-Guard thing; we have to consider that.
All told, I'd give him a 50% chance of being confirmed. Much depends upon the perception of who's got the "mo" in the District these days, Bush or the Democrats. On that basis, Bolton should be confirmed in a snap. But the deplorable fact of his uneventful service in the National Guard will weigh heavily on the minds of the Democrats.
A Tale of Two Madams and One Mister
No, not that kind of madam! I mean a pair of "Madam Secretaries of State," Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice.
The first Madam Secretary, appointed by Bill Clinton for no reason other than to be the first president to appoint a woman as secretary of state, was an unmitigated disaster. Albright embraced Yassir Arafat, was bamboozled by Kim Jong-Il, tricked by Iran, cozened by Saddam, and turned a blind eye to Osama bin Laden while he and al-Qaeda prepared the most massive terrorist attack ever to occur on American soil. A magnificent and enviable record of failure and disachievement!
But let's contrast "Madam," as she insisted upon being called, with the other Madam Secretary, Condoleezza Rice. Here is Secretary Rice today, discussing her upcoming trip to the Middle East:
In her briefing for reporters on her trip, Rice said the United States was committed to ending the bloodshed, but didn't want to do it before certain conditions were met.
The United States has said all along that Hezbollah must first turn over the two Israeli soldiers and stop firing missiles into Israel.
"We do seek an end to the current violence, we seek it urgently. We also seek to address the root causes of that violence," she said. "A cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo."
Rice said that it was important to deal with the "root cause" of the violence, echoing what has been the U.S. position since last week.
And what is that "root cause?" Everybody uses the phrase, but each means a different thing. Most people in Europe and most Democrats in D.C., when they say "root cause of Mid-East violence," mean the presence of Jews in the ummah... which could easily be corrected.
If Israel would just do the manly thing and commit national suicide, then the world would think well of the Jews... briefly. But what does Condi mean by "root cause?"
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled out a quick "false promise" cease-fire in the Middle East Friday and defended her decision not to meet with either Syrian or Hezbollah leaders in her upcoming visit to the region.
"Syria knows what it needs to do and Hezbollah is the source of the problem," Rice said at the State Department as she previewed her trip, which begins on Sunday with a first stop in Israel.
What a rare moment of truth and candor from the Department of State! Of course, with John Bolton at the U.N., such moments are starting to come as thick and as fast as oysters. How I'm going to miss this president when his term expires.
(Oh, and notice where her Mid-East trip begins: Israel. In the previous administration, it would have begun with a quick obeisance in Ramallah, some backhanding in Damascus, and an apology-trip to Sabra and Shatila, where Madam would have laid a wreath and danced a foxtrot with Sheikh Nasrallah.)
But here is my favorite statement, and why I still hope that someday, Dr. Condoleezza Rice changes her mind and decides to run for public office:
Resisting calls from the United Nations, Europe and the Arab world, she said an immediate ceasefire would produce a "false promise" that would allow Hizbollah to re-emerge in the future to attack Israel, the top U.S. ally in the region.
"An immediate ceasefire without political conditions does not make sense," she said.
"If you simply look for a ceasefire... we will be back here in six months again," she added. "What I won't do is go to some place and try to get a ceasefire that I know isn't going to last."
I've been scratching my brains for days now, wondering exactly what a "ceasefire" means when one party is a terrorist group. And for more clarity on that point, listen to Ambassador Bolton (it's from an press conference outside the UN Security Council in Foggy Bottom, New York City; I have paragraphed it, so I can refer to Bolton's specific points; via Power Line):
Well look, I think we could have a cessation of hostilities immediately if Hezbollah would stop terrorizing innocent civilians and give up the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. So that to the extent this crisis continues, the cause is Hezbollah.
How you get a ceasefire between one entity, which is a government of a democratically elected state on the one hand, and another entity on the other which is a terrorist gang, no one has yet explained.
The government of Israel, everybody says, has the right to exercise the right of self-defense, which even if there are criticisms of Israeli actions by some, they recognize the fundamental right to self-defense. That’s a legitimate right.
Are there any activities that Hezbollah engages in, militarily that are legitimate? I don’t think so. All of its activities are terrorist and all of them are illegitimate, so I don’t see the balance or the parallelism between the two sides and therefore I think it’s a very fundamental question: how a terrorist group agrees to a ceasefire.
This is like demanding a "ceasefire" between the United States government on the one hand -- and the Salvadoran drug gang Mara Salvatrucha. What the heck is that supposed to mean? Do they negotiate exactly how many kilos of cocaine MS-13 is allowed to smuggle into the country?
You know in a democratically elected government, the theory is that the people ultimately can hold the government accountable when it [agrees to] something and doesn’t live up to it.
How do you hold a terrorist group accountable? Who runs the terrorist group? Who makes the commitment that a terrorist group will abide by a ceasefire?
Say, that is a good question, isn't it? So how come nobody else seems to be asking it besides John and Condi? And here's another good question:
What does a terrorist group think a "ceasefire" is?
Does it really understand a ceasefire as a cessation of hostilities, to be followed by honest negotiation to settle the differences that led to the war in the first place? I think it more likely Hezbollah's understanding of ceasefire is "a pause to reload;" and the ceasefire will last as long as it takes for them to obtain replacements from Iran, through Syria, for all the missiles that Israel destroyed... maybe "six months," as Secretary Rice suggested.
Finally, Bolton finishes his answer with a nice summation of the main point:
These are - you can use the words “cessation of hostilities” or “truce” or "ceasefire.” Nobody has yet explained how a terrorist group and a democratic state come to a mutual ceasefire.
Those are all good questions, and here's another: if Israel were to ink such a ceasefire with Hezbollah... wouldn't that elevate the terrorist group to the level of a sovereign nation? What would be the next demand -- that Israel negotiate a trade agreement with Hezbollah? Perhaps an agreed-upon procedure for releasing Hezbollah killers promptly upon the kidnapping of future IDF soldiers, to avoid all the brouhaha in the future?
Or would Hezbollah be admitted to the United Nations (and probably invited to join the new UN Human Rights Council)?
Israelis should get on their knees and thank the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that at this critical turning point in their existence, their greatest ally has such clear-sighted and morally decent appointees running the United States Department of State. And Americans should thank whatever God we hold dear that we have an Israel that is finally willing to stand up to Hezbollah and Hamas: maybe President Bush can start listening to Israel, Condi, and John; then he himself can begin treating those Iranian-controlled terrorists the way he treats terrorists in al-Qaeda.
Date ►►► July 20, 2006
Who Pays For That Ticket to Ride Out of Lebanon?
After twenty-two years absence, the U.S. Marines have landed in Beirut to help evacuate American citizens who are stuck in the war zone. Not surprisingly, many evacuees are tired, shaken and angry... but rather than being angry at Hezbollah for starting a war of aggression along a peaceful border, many Americans in Lebanon seem angry at the United States for not dropping everything to mount a massive mission to rescue them.
I sympathize with all the innocent people being hurt or threatened in Lebanon; that's why we say "war is hell." But if foreigners decide to live or visit an unstable country like Lebanon -- especially south Lebanon, which has been under total Hezbollah control since the year 2000 -- and despite their own country’s warnings, then those people must bear primary responsibilities for their own lives.
But that's not how a bunch of very demanding Americans and other foreign civilians see it:
Shebbo, now in Cyprus, said she and her husband had struggled to get information from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, and had found out about the boat from people in the United States. For four days, they inhaled the fumes from a bombed power plant two miles from where they had been staying.
Others echoed her complaints about the embassy.
"The guard was so rude and said there was no evacuation plan," said Michael Russo, 23, of Tucson, Ariz., of his visit to the embassy. "On Wednesday and Thursday, I asked them if there was a plan, and they looked at me like I was crazy."
They were probably wondering why on earth somebody would travel to southern Lebanon without having his own escape plan.
For many decades, Americans have been taught by the elite media that the federal government is responsible for everything that happens in America. Remember Hurricane Katrina and all the people that blamed President Bush and former FEMA Director Michael Brown -- but who gave a complete pass to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray "the Grand Nagus" Nagin?
Responsibility is always pushed upwards: it's not the state's job, call the feds; it's not the city's job, call the governor; don't protect yourself... call the city police to come protect you! But the farther removed "help" is from that individual in that place at that moment, the less helpful it will be. Reagan always got a big laugh out of his line, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."
Having dealt with the American Embassy in Japan and the Japanese Consulate in the U.S., none of this surprises me. This is a screaming, hair-on-fire emergency... which means the embassy is even more overwhelmed than the Americans demanding evacuation. If embassy personnel act worse than usual, that may be unacceptable -- but it's comletely understandable. And it's not just our embassy:
Many Canadians in Larnaca and Beirut also expressed anger at their government's evacuation effort, either because of the long wait at the port or the lack of planning. About 1,600 were waiting in the hot sun at the Beirut port.
This has all happened before. Twenty years ago, around the time 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French paratroopers were killed by Hezbollah terrorists, the U.S. Government strongly urged all non-essential U.S. Citizens to get out of Lebanon and to call off any planned visit.
A number of westerners had already been kidnapped there; but despite all the dire warnings, a bunch more Americans (mostly journalists) rushed to Lebanon and immediately commenced being kidnapped themselves. Naturally, each and every one of them insisted that we lay aside all the more urgent business we had and send the entire Sixth Fleet to pluck away some guy from CBS... so he could wander straight back into Beirut again (it's Freedom of the Press!)
Obviously, if it's possible and not too damaging to our national goals, there is nothing wrong with the government helping Americans who find themselves in need of evacuation. But strangers in a strange land have no right to demand that this will always happen: when you travel to foreign countries, you assume the risk that something might happen to you.
You're not in the United States; you're in a separate sovereign nation. It's just like going to Singapore, committing a crime under Singaporese law -- and then demanding they not prosecute you because whatever you did isn't against the law in America (or maybe it is, but you don't get "caned" for it here).
Any traveler, regardless of where he is going, must have an emergency Get the Heck Out plan. The government is not always there to help, just like the cops can't always be there the moment you need them. Each individual must be resourceful, because he may be thrust upon his own resources.
A few years ago, I watched a documentary on TV about people who refused to be victims: they successfully escaped from dangerous situations, such as natural disasters and military coups in foreign countries. These people were mostly volunteer workers for non-governmental organizations -- the Peace Corps, religous missionary groups, Doctors Without Borders, and so forth.
They all came hoping for the best but prepared for the worst. None of them waited for somebody else to risk his own life to run help them, nor did they sit around in the dark, waiting for instructions. They individually found a way out for themselves and their companions.
What they had in common was that each had an escape plan going in. They had thought about the dangers and planned for them; when the worst happened, they followed their plans as best they could -- and they made it out alive when others dithered, waited for rescue -- and died.
So always bear it in mind: if you are unfortunate enough to get stuck, then unless the government sent you there in the first place, don't demand that somebody else save your bacon: you and only you are the one who assumed that risk... so pay for your own ticket, please.
Haynes On the Outside, Haynes On the Inside
WARNING: I know absolutely nothing about this subject. And while that has never stopped me before, and doesn't stop me this time either, you might want to bear it in mind before commencing the reading process.
The Republican Party is in a lather over the nomination of William J. "Jim" Haynes II to the 4th Circus Court of Appeals: sometime Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 96% -- but that was back in 2005) is fighting tooth and hammer to stop Haynes from getting on the court... or even getting an up-or-down vote.
From what I can gather, Graham is crusading on the rather dubious premise that Haynes, as General Counsel of the Department of Defense, put together a memo of interrogation techniques allowed to be used on terrorists held in Guantánamo. The memo was run past the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps, which objected to some of the methods. The objections were for the most part accepted, and the revised list was sent to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. All of which, according to Sen. Graham, amounts to dissing Graham's beloved JAGs.
Don't worry, I didn't follow it either, and I wrote it.
But for some reason -- whether it's this stupid excuse or because Graham is serving as an errand boy for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 72%) -- Graham is pulling out all the slops to squash Haynes like a bug. So why would McCain have such a bee up his britches about Haynes? Possibly because McCain is hypersensitive about any variety of harsh interrogation techniques, for reasons that should be obvious (though it's not obvious why American interrogators speaking harshly to Ramzi Binalshibh should remind Sen. McCain of the Hanoi Hilton).
The problem is that Sen. Graham has an extraordinary amount of clout on this nomination, possibly because he's one of the senators from South Carolina... which just happens to be contained within the jurisdiction of the 4th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, to which Haynes is nominated.
The Senate has always given individual senators amazing leeway to stymie the judicial nomination process (and the legislative process, for that matter). Under some obscure Senate ukase -- which I believe dates back to Pippin the Middle, whose illegitimate son, Charles Martel, defeated the Moslems at the Battle of Tours in A.D. 732, founded the Carolingian dynasty, and incidentally invented Reese's Peanut Butter Cups -- any senator can simply fail to return a "blue slip" for any federal judge nominated to the senator's state, and that judge is blocked.
Now I don't think "blue slips" have ever been used to block nominees to the Court of Appeals; it's the most unheard-of thing I've ever heard of. But evidently, even without threatening an actual blue-slip block, Graham's opinion is being given inordinate weight.
"Hey," say the other senators, "he's from South Carolina, so he must know more than the rest of us do about a nominee who might end up serving on the Appellate Court that serves South Carolina" -- even though Haynes himself is from Texas (Fifth Circuit). Makes sense to me.
So the obvious, outside-the-box solution from Big Lizards would ordinarily be for President Bush to short-circuit (sorry) the problem by withdrawing Haynes from his Fourth-Circuit nomination (and Graham's clutches) and nominating him to some other circuit, one that doesn't have an insane person serving as senator.
But are there any such open circuits available? As we look, using our two criteria -- a vacancy on the court, and none of the states in its jurisdiction having a madman for a senator -- we rapidly run out of circuits.
Highly self-explanatory map of numbered U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal
There are eleven numbered circuits that correspond to clumps of states, plus a couple of wild cards; here is the list, along with any potential nutcases who could torpedo the whole scheme. Remember: the percent following a Republican senator's name is a measure of how "Republican" he is; while following a Democratic senator's name, it's a measure of how "Democratic" he is:
- For the First Circuit, you have to contend with Sens. Kennedy (D-MA, 95%) and Kerry (D-MA, 100%) of Massachusetts and Sens. Snowe (R-ME, 32%) and Collins (R-ME, 32%) from Maine. Besides, there are no vacancies;
- For the Second, you're stuck with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 100%). It has a judicial vacancy, but Bush has already chosen a nominee. Not that it matters... I mean, Sen. Clinton?
- In the Third, we have a vacancy, and there's not even a nominee pending! Unfortunately, we also have Sen. "Slow" Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%)... 'nuff said;
- The Fourth takes the Fifth, since that's what he's already nominated for;
The Fifth would actually be somewhat appealing (sorry), as the only iffy senator in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas is Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS, 91%) -- and only because he might still be nursing a grudge against President George W. Bush for helping nudzh Lott out the door of his Majority Leadership. The other five senators are relatively sane, even the lone Democrat, Mary Landrieu (D-LA, 95%).
Alas, the only vacancy is for an "opinion specialist," whatever the Sam Houston that is (please note the local color in Big Lizards choice of expressions, dadburn it). The longhorn and the shorthorn is that there are no judicial vacancies on this circuit court;
- The Sixth is larded up with Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI, 100%), who have already played these reindeer games with a wig of judges nominated for Michigan, including Henry Saad. Two vacancies, two pending nominees;
- The Seventh is infested with Sens. Durbin (D-IL, 100%), Obama (D-IL, 100%), and Feingold (D-WI, 100%). Need one say more? Besides, no room at the inn;
- The Eighth is redolent with Chuck Grassley (R-IA, 96%) and Tom Harkin (D-IA, 100%). Nuttin', honey;
- And the Ninth is -- well, it's the Ninth. You've got your Barbara Boxers (D-CA, 100%) and your Dianne Feinsteins (D-CA, 100%), your Inouyes (D-HI, 90%) and your Akakas (D-HI, 95%), your Baucuses (D-MT, 90%), your Harry Reids (D-NV, 100%), Patty Murray (D-WA, 95%), Maria Cantwell (D-WI, 95%), and of course, controlling all, you have "the Kingpin," John S. McCain (R-AZ, 80%) himself. Two and two, no room there;
- The Tenth Circuit doesn't have a senator problem; however, it's probably already a strongly conservative court... so adding Haynes to the roster probably wouldn't do much good. Both vacancies have nominees already;
- How about the Eleventh? Alas, that has Bill Nelson (D-FL, 80%); although he's running for reelection, it looks as though his opponent will be Katherine Harris. Harris did yeoman work as the Secretary of State in 2000, preventing Al Gore from stealing the election the easy way: by cheating on the ballots. (Gore was forced to try to steal it the hard way, suing his way into the White House; fortunately, that was more than he could chew, and he remains Citizen Gore). Harris, however, gives Nelson no challenge at all... thus no need for Nelson to try to placate the Right by letting Haynes be nominated to that circuit. Even if there were any vacancies, which there aren't.
- We ignore the goofy U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; we don't need Jim Haynes poring over 2,773-page patent application legal briefs.
So you see the problem.
Which bringes us to the DC Circuit, which might be politic (sorry), as no senator can claim to have an especial affinity for Washington D.C., since that's where they all live during the 18 or 19 days the Senate is in session each year.
There are two vacancies on the DC circuit, but the White House has only nominated one replacement. Aha. Since the DC Circuit is very influential, it's a good spot to put a solidly consertative judge (having a conservative judicial philosophy, not in terms of how he votes on election day).
However, now that I think about it, there is a huge problem associated with renominating William J. Haynes II, or any other judicial nominee, to a different circuit court: he would have to start the process all over again... including testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (the J-Com) -- which is just where he is now anyway!
This would give all his enemies the chance to re-interrogate him like a T-man grilling one of Frank Nitty's boys. (Or like a Ballpark Frank, which plumps when you cook it, finally splitting its sides if you keep it on the hotseat too long.)
Unfortunately, this brings us right back where we started: Haynes is the nominee to the Fourth Circus Court of Appeals, and that's where he has to stay. This box has no "outside" to it, and this entire post has been nothing but a colossal waste of your time.
Now you may kill me. But don't say I didn't warn you.
Date ►►► July 19, 2006
One Out of One Newspaper Agrees - With Big Lizards!
It's nice to see the antique media finally catching up to the dextrosphere:
Israel is in the best position militarily in its history to mount air strikes against Iran, after a decade of buying U.S.-produced long-range aircraft, penetrating bombs and aerial refueling tankers.
We're a bit late to the table on this one, which should hardly be a surprise. (Our new motto, as soon as I get industrious enough to add it to the logo -- probably later rather than sooner -- is "Never first, always final!") Power Line has already mentioned it briefly, though for some odd reason, they missed the most critically important point: that the Washington Times agrees with Big Lizards.
So let's delve a bit deeper. Here is what Israel has recently purchased:
25 F-15I (the I stands for Israel) "Ra'am" attack jets, the Israeli version of the American long-range attack jet, the F-15E "Strike Eagle":
The F-15E Strike Eagle is a modern United States all-weather strike fighter, designed for long-range interdiction of enemy ground targets deep behind enemy lines....
The only significant difference remaining between the F-15I and the F-15E is that the F-15Is were delivered without Radar Warning Receivers. Israel installed its own electronic warfare equipment in its F-15s. The F-15Is' missing electronics have been replaced by the Israeli Elisra SPS-2110 Integrated Electronic Warfare System. A central computer and embedded GPS/INS system have also been fitted. All of the aircraft's sensors can be slaved to a helmet-mounted sight, giving both crew members an efficient targeting mechanism that the F-15E does not possess.
The Ra'am's advanced systems include an APG-70 radar with terrain mapping capability. The sharp picture that the APG-70 provides, regardless of weather conditions and light, makes it possible to locate targets that are otherwise very hard to find - i.e. missile batteries, tanks and structures - even under such adverse conditions as complete fog cover, heavy rain or moonless nights.
102 F-16I "Sufa" fighter/attack jets (60 in hand), a modified F-16 "Fighting Falcon", a.k.a. Viper:
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a modern multi-role jet fighter aircraft designed in the United States. Designed as a lightweight fighter, it evolved into a successful multi-role aircraft....
Block 50/52 Plus for Israeli Defense Force - Air Force, with significant Israeli avionics replacing that of American firms (Such as Israeli Aerial Towed Decoy replacing the ALE-50). The addition of Israeli built autonomous aerial combat maneuvering instrumentation systems enables the training exercises to be conducted without the dependence on the ground instrumentation systems, and the helmet mounted sight is also a standard equipment. The F-16I also has the Israeli built removable conformal fuel tanks added.
500 U.S. BLU-109 "bunker buster" bombs:The BLU-109/B is a hardened penetration bomb used by United States military aircraft. (BLU is an acronym for Bomb Live Unit.) It is intended to smash through concrete shelters and other hardened structures before exploding.
The Washington Times notes that a BLU-109 "could penetrate the concrete protection around some of Iran's underground facilities, such as the uranium enrichment site at Natanz."
- A fleet of Boeing 707 in-flight "boom and receptacle" refuelers.
The Washington Times interviews Air Force Lt.Gen. Thomas McInerney, who is also a frequent Fox News Channel military analyst (it's fair to call Gen. McInerney "conservative leaning"):
"They have the capability to strike Iran," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, a former fighter pilot who has trained with Israelis. "It would be limited, though. They could do 30 to 40 'aim points' in the array. I'm not worried about them hitting the targets. They will suffer losses, but they are capable of doing it."
He said Israeli fighter pilots are "the best in the world. I've flown against them. They train better. They get more flying time."
(That last comment got a testy reply from Power Line reader Tom "Duke" Beattie, a light colonel in the US Air Force; he complained that American pilots were actually better than Israelis. And I was totally on board -- until I came to this last line of his: "In today's world rankings, I'd probably rate the IAF # 3, right behind the USAF, # 1 and the US Navy/Marines, # 2."
I think it's all that skiing they do in Aspen in between classes at the Academy; it goes to their heads.
(When the Air Force starts landing on a 320-foot runway surrounded by seawater as it pitches and rolls in the waves, catching a trap and jerking to a halt in just 1.5 seconds... then maybe they'll be entitled to claim to be at least equal in skill to our Navy and Marine pilots. Feh.)
But here is where the Washington Times falls short of the imagination mark. They (and Gen. McInerney) all assume the planes must launch from Israel, then return there when they finish their bombing runs. This misses the possibility of TDYing the Israeli jets to Iraq for long enough to really do a good job -- possibly fighting alongside American jets, but perhaps doing it entirely on their own as well (though I don't know what would be the advantage to the United States of being passive here; our enemies won't be fooled and our friends will be disappointed).
It would be very tricky diplomatically -- assuming Iran had not done something in the meanwhile to make itself even more a pariah than it is now. But I think it very likely they will: they seem quite determined to escalate all the conflicts they've started recently into apocalyptic, existential confrontations. As I said before, they will surely attack Iraq directly before they'll attack Israel directly.
By that point, depending what Iran has done, the Iraqis may be overjoyed to let Israelis use their land to crush the mullahs.
The "peace process" has had plenty of innings, and it hasn't gotten a single run on the board. All I am saying is give war a chance.
Date ►►► July 18, 2006
Death at the Top of the World - UPDATED
UPDATE: death-rate statistics corrected; see below.
On Sunday, AP carried a puzzling article about David Sharp, who died this climbing season near the summit of Mount Everest. The title asks an odd question: Did Everest Climber Sharp Have to Die?
I think the real answer is that David Sharp was dead before he ever left Camp 4.
Before explaining that provocative comment, let me talk a little about climbing. I've done some myself a while back, but only minor rock climbing, never anything at significant altitude. Even simple rock climbing is dangerous, however.
I've read quite a bit in the literature of climbing and mountaineering, since I find it fascinating. I've never wondered why people risk their lives climbing... but I'm very interested in what they do to survive and summit; or contrariwise, what mistakes they make that lead to failure, injury, or even death.
In the sad and perplexing case of David Sharp, it's quite clear that he was simply not prepared to ascend up the world's tallest mountain -- despite having made two previous near-miss attempts.
Jon Krakauer is my favorite writer about climbing. He's a freelancer who writes for Outside (the premier "outdoorsman" magazine) and has also published several books.
His first bestseller was Into the Wild, about a dreamy, liberal 20-something, Christopher McCandless, who decided to go "walkabout" in the American West -- and ended up dying of starvation in an Alaskan hunter's preserve. But Krakauer's second bestseller, Into Thin Air, will tell you more about climbing Everest than books by most professional climbers, because Krakauer's writing is so illuminating to the layman.
In 1996, Krakauer was sent on assignment by Outside to join one of the ubiquitous commercial expeditions climbing Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world (in the sense of rising the highest above mean sea level). Unlike many of the people on the trip, Krakauer actually had extensive climbing experience -- though nothing in the Himalayas or the Karakorams, which are the only ranges that boast 8,000-meter peaks (a little over 26,000 feet).
In a ghastly tragedy that year, a number of climbers were trapped high up Everest by a terrible blizzard, and nine people died on a single day -- including two very experienced guides. Into Thin Air is Krakauer's account of that ill-fated climb; he summited and made it back, but most people on his expedition died (one other survivor, Beck Weathers, was left for dead but managed to stagger to his feet and make it back alive).
Some of the other surviving guides and climbers dispute some of the things Krakauer says about them, so take the book as one survivor's account rather than as history; but when Krakauer writes about what it's like climbing to such altitudes, there is no dispute.
All the various techniques for getting up a sheer rock face are collectively called "technical climbing." But Everest is not primarily a technical mountain, not like K2. The real killers (literally) on Everest are the cold, which can freeze you solid, and especially the thinness of the air: the latter leads to hypoxia (lack of oxygen), which seriously impairs the climber's mental faculties.
That is what kills more people than anything else on Everest: above 8,000 meters, or lower if they come down with High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), their brains shut down, and they do stupid things. They forget to rope in, they forget to turn on the trickle of oxygen from their bottles, they neglect to put on their crampons (spikes on your boots to keep you from slipping), or they step off a cliff because they didn't notice it was there.
From Into Thin Air:
A baffling ailment, HACE occurs when fluid leaks from oxygen-starved cerebral blood vessels, causing severe swelling of the brain, and it can strike with little or no warning. As pressure builds inside the skull, motor and mental skills deteriorate with alarming speed -- typically within a few hours or less -- and often without the victim even noticing the change. The next step is coma, and then, unless the afflicted party is quickly evacuated to lower altitude, death....
[Dale] Kruse [who came down with a serious case of HACE on this expedition] was having an incredibly difficult time simply trying to dress himself. He put his climbing harness on inside out, threaded it through the fly of his wind suit, and failed to fasten the buckle; fortunately, [Scott] Fischer and Neal Beidleman noticed the screwup before Kruse started to descent. "If he'd tried to rappel down the ropes like that," says Beidleman, "he would have immediately popped out of his harness and fallen to the bottom of the Lhotse Face."
"It was like I was very drunk," Kruse recollects. "I couldn't walk without stumbling, and completely lost the ability to think or speak. It was a really strange feeling. I'd have some work in my mind, but I couldn't figure out how to bring it to my lips. So Scott and Neil had to get me dressed and make sure my harness was on correctly, then Scott lowered me down the fixed ropes." By the time Kruse arrived in Base Camp, he says, "it was still another three or four days before I could walk from my tent to the mess tent without stumbling all over the place."
And now, at long last, with that colossal introduction out of the way, let's take a look at the AP article about David Sharp that inspired this lugubrious post. Here are the facts on a nutshell:
Down from Everest's summit in the advance base camp, exhausted climbers returned to congratulations, drinks and blessed rest after the day's conquests.
But David Sharp, last spotted hours earlier near the mountain's pinnacle, was not among them that evening, May 14. Still, the experienced climbers who were his friends were not overly concerned.
Dave Watson assumed his friend had crawled into an unoccupied tent at one of the high camps to rest. Sharp had turned around just shy of the summit twice before, so Watson knew the Briton was a smart climber. But he also knew Sharp thought of this as his last trip to Everest and was determined not to leave in defeat.
During the next two days, several climbers tried to help Sharp, but there was little they could do. And finally, on May 16th, Sharp died at 27,760 feet, in a cave known as the last resting place of a climber from India, dubbed "Green Boots," who had died on Everest a decade ago.
I don't know exactly how the AP writers, Allen G. Breed and Nepalese correspondent Binaj Gurubacharya, mean the next question they ask: "Did David Sharp have to die?"
If they mean the existential question -- as in, was it really necessary to his life to summit Everest? -- the answer would pretty obviously have to be "Yes," since this was his third attempt. But if they mean the more pedestrian (and flippant) "why were the other climbers so cruel and inhuman as not to drop everything to save him," as context indicates, then the answer lies in what I described earlier: the surreal and alien world above 25,000 feet, called "the death zone." (Gurubacharya is from Nepal, but we have no evidence he has ever been a Sherpa or has climbed that high.)
By the time any climber is in the death zone, even with supplementary oxygen, he is himself on the knife-edge of survival. His brain has mostly shut down, and his body is well along that same road. It's said that strength won't power you up Everest, because your strength is guaranteed to fail; and it's not your knowledge of climbing, because your brain will fail. What gets you to the summit is sheer stubborn will power.
I mentioned the oxygen bottles that climbers wear, but it's not what you probably think. They're not breathing air like a scuba diver would. Climbers only supplement their breathing with a thin trickle of oxygen, just enough to keep conscious; otherwise they would quickly burn their supply (in half an hour or less) and be left with nothing.
If you've never been at that altitude -- or equivalently, in a hypobaric pressure chamber, or in a jet at 30,000 feet that loses cabin pressurization or mask air supply -- you may not realize what hypoxia does to your mind. Climbers are only dimly aware of their surroundings. One of the guides on the 1996 expedition that Krakauer was on repeatedly reported that all the spare oxygen bottles the team had brought along were empty; in fact several were full. The guide didn't notice, because his brain was only running on one cylinder.
Thus, most of the climbers who passed Sharp, either headed up or down (more climbers die descending than ascending), were themselves in extreme survival mode and also running on insufficient oxygen. They probably could not really grasp Sharp's situation. Even so, they could tell he was in distress, and many tried to help him. On the 14th:
In the glare of his headlamp, Woodward could see a man, still clipped onto the red-and-blue guide rope, sitting to the right of the dead Indian ["Green Boots"], his arms wrapped around his knees. He had no oxygen mask on, and ice crystals had formed on his closed eyelashes.
Cameraman Mark Whetu yelled at him to get moving, but there was no response.
"The poor guy's stuffed," Woodward thought, believing the man was in a hypothermic coma and beyond help.
No one radioed down to expedition leader Russell Brice about a rescue. After pausing just long enough to unclip from the rope, pass Sharp and clip back in, the group trudged on.
Would Woodward have tried to do more if his brain was functioning like it would at, say, the advanced base camp (ABC) at 21,300 feet? It's hard to say. But the additional 6,400 feet of elevation meant that everyone was mentally impaired.
About 20 minutes later, a group of Turkish climbers from Middle East Technical University's mountaineering club reached the alcove and also saw Sharp. The group's Sherpa, Lapka, urged the climber to get up and keep moving.
Sharp did not speak, but waved them off.
So Sharp was actually responsive at that point. It's unlikely that anyone in the Turkish group had any idea that Sharp was in any worse shape than many people are at that stage of the climb.
Maxime Chaya had been first up the mountain that day and had passed the notch before the others, but had noticed no one. The beam from his headlamp was weak, and Chaya was focused on his goal of becoming the first Lebanese citizen to summit Everest....
It was a joyous descent until they reached the rock cave around 9:30 a.m. The sun was shining brilliantly, and this time they could not miss Sharp and his red - not green - boots.
Chaya radioed Brice....
Chaya told Brice that Sharp's legs appeared to be frozen to the knees, his arms to the elbows. Dorjee had attempted to give the man oxygen, but there was no response.
"There's nothing you can do, Max," Brice said.
Brice reminded Chaya that he had only about 90 minutes' worth of oxygen left. All of his Sherpas were helping clients down the mountain, and there weren't enough people to carry an unconscious man down tricky passes of ice and loose scree.
Even exhausted beyond the imagination of anyone who has not climbed such a peak, with a fried brain and a body that barely can be moved, several climbers nevertheless tried to rouse Sharp, talk to him, and radio down to the base camp about his condition. But if the AP believes they could have carried him down the mountain themselves, in the condition they were in, they're being completely unreasonable.
When the Turkish team, descending now, encountered Sharp again, it was already in rescue mode: a team member stricken with acute altitude sickness was being evacuated.
Another climber, Eylem Elif Mavis, also descending from the summit, found Sharp in what appeared to be a hypothermic coma. She and her Sherpa, Nima, tried to hook one of their own precious oxygen bottles to Sharp's regulator, but the device did not work....
Phurba Tashi, Brice's chief Sherpa, was descending with some others at 11:45 a.m. and was wearing a video camera on his helmet. Bending toward the shivering man, he asked his name. Whether because of the rising temperature or the oxygen Dorjee had given him, Sharp was somehow able to respond.
"My name is David Sharp," he said, according to some accounts. "I'm with Asian Trekking, and I just want to sleep."
The Sherpas administered oxygen and tried to get Sharp to his feet, but he kept collapsing.
They shifted Sharp a few feet into the sun, then headed down the mountain.
What in heaven's name does anybody think should have been done? It's impossible to send a helicopter that high; at 27,000 feet, there's no air for the rotors to bite. Nobody had the forethought to bring along a sled, even if anyone had the human capabilty to pack such baggage (high-altitude climbers routinely strip their weight to the bare minimum, even cutting their toothbrushes in half to save an ounce or two). And at that altitude, you can't just flip a comatose body across your shoulders and toddle off.
There is a reason for the term "death zone;" everybody who sets out already knows how fatally dangerous such climbs can be. Unless we ban all such ascents -- and somehow get Nepal, China, Tibet, India, and Pakistan to go along with the idea -- there are going to be deaths at the top of the world.
David Sharp made too many foolish mistakes, several before leaving Camp 4:
- He carried only a single bottle of oxygen;
- He carried no radio;
- He set out too late in the day for the ascent;
- And he was climbing alone, on a "no frills" expedition package from Asian Trekking.
That is the sense in which I said earlier that he was dead before he even left Camp 4 (27,231 feet), the camp from which climbers start the final assault on the summit (on the Northeast Ridge route).
"It almost looks like he had a death wish," said Maxime Chaya.
The reporters ask a series of questions which, if they're not rhetorical, seem to have oddly obvious answers:
Why did no one try to administer high-altitude drugs - which most climbing teams carry with them - to stimulate Sharp's breathing and relieve possible brain swelling?
Probably because the teams that found him either didn't have those drugs, or had already used them up, or thought he was beyond hope; their primary responsibility is to their own team members.
Could a couple of hours of high-flow oxygen have revived Sharp enough to get him moving?
Doubtless. But that would require more bottles of oxygen than any climber could possibly carry.
Why do people who passed Sharp within minutes of each other have significantly different recollections of his condition?
Because his condition probably changed from minute to minute, even from second to second!
UPDATE: The death-rate statistics below have been corrected.
That is the nature of such altitudes: everyone suffers, to some degree, what Sharp suffered; most survive the ordeal, but about one out of 29 of those who summit do not return to base camp alive. (That number for K2 is 1 out of 7 dying during descent, and for Denali it's 1 out of 590; all of these numbers are for climbers in the spring, the peak climbing season, and cover climbs from 1980 through 2002.)
(The overall death rate on Everest is significantly lower, 1 out of 54, because the baseline includes many climbers who get only part way up, realize they are not in good enough shape or out of their skill league, and turn back while it's still relatively easy to return. Nearly 72% of Everest climbers give it up before summiting.)
High-altitude mountaineering is a deadly, deadly sport... and the deadliest mountain in the world to climb is probably K2 -- almost as high as Everest, but highly technical climbing.
Here is what I think is the primary misunderstanding of the AP article:
Nearly two weeks after Sharp's death, Australian climber Lincoln Hall was rescued from even higher on the mountain after being left for dead and spending a night exposed to the elements. It took more than a dozen Sherpas and 50 cylinders of oxygen, but Hall - like [Beck] Weathers [in 1996] - walked down under his own steam.
This is presented, it seems to me, as a condemnation of the rescuers, who are thus indirectly accused of not doing enough to rescue poor David Sharp. They managed to get Lincoln Hall down, the reporters seem to accuse, why didn't they do as much for Sharp?
But this is the key: nobody is ever "rescued" from that high on a mountain; you only survive if you can rescue yourself. The "rescuers" are just there to help; you have to do the heavy lifting on your own.
Lincoln Hall walked down; David Sharp did not have the will. Hall lived; Sharp, in his red boots, died alongside "Green Boots," making a macabre, Christmas-y display. But that is the nature of the mountain; that is the realm you enter at the top of the world.
"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." But hold tight to your will, because the human will, not hope, is what may -- may -- get you downslope more or less intact.
Arabs Abandoning "Party of God"
In any discussion about Moslem terrorists, many people -- both defenders of Islam and also those urging military response against the terrorists -- often object to extremists like Tom "Bomb Mecca" Tancredo by saying, "not all Moselems are like that, those are just extremists." But then the question becomes, where are these "non-extremist," moderate moslems? Or as Dafydd put it, where are all the Moslem Methodists?
Rarely have I seen such an uprising, indeed an intifada, against those little turbaned, bearded men across the Muslim landscape as the one that took place last week. The leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, received a resounding "no" to pulling 350 million Arabs into a war with Israel on his clerical coattails.
The collective "nyet" was spoken by presidents, emirs, and kings at the highest level of government in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, and at the Arab League's meeting of 22 foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday. But it was even louder from pundits and ordinary people.
Perhaps the most remarkable and unexpected reaction came from Saudi Arabia, whose foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, said bluntly and publicly that Hezbollah's decision to cross the Lebanese border, attack Israel, and kidnap its soldiers has left the Shiite group on its own to face Israel. The unspoken message here was, "We hope they blow you away."
The Arab League put it succinctly in its final communique in Cairo, declaring that "behavior undertaken by some groups [read: Hezbollah and Hamas] in apparent safeguarding of Arab interests does in fact harm those interests, allowing Israel and other parties from outside the Arab world [read: Iran] to wreck havoc with the security and safety of all Arab countries."
There are more remarkable statements from Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of Al-Arabiya --
"We have lost most of our causes and the largest portions of our lands following fiery speeches and empty promises of struggle coupled with hallucinating, drug-induced political fantasies."
-- and from Tariq Alhomayed:
Tariq Alhomayed, editor in chief of the Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, stuck the dagger in deeper: "Mr. Nasrallah bombastically announced he consulted no one when he decided to attack Israel, nor did he measure Lebanon's need for security, prosperity, and the safety of its people. He said he needs no one's help but God's to fight the fight." Mr. Alhomayed's punch line was, in so many words: Go with God, Sheik Nasrallah, but count the rest of us out.
Ibrahim does acknowledge that much of the refusal to take the part of Hezbollah (despite it being the "Party of God") is Sunni fear of "an ascendant Shiite 'arc of menace' rising out of Iran and peddled in the Sunni world by Syria." But no Moslem nation is jumping to defend Sunni Hamas in the Gaza strip, either.
I don't believe there has been any sea-change in Moslem attitudes towards Jews. This is just belated recognition that the Arab nations (even with Iran added) cannot defeat Israel or even prevent it from scoring military victory wherever it wants in the Middle East.
I guess there's a limit to how many times Arabs must get slashed by the claws of the lion before they finally decide to stop poking it with a stick.
Date ►►► July 17, 2006
The Word On the "Street"
From Dafydd: N.Z. Bear, he of the Truth-Laid Bear fame, has a marvelous aggregator page of bloggers from all across the Middle East, plus some important and powerful bloggers right here in the United States -- movers and shakers, opinion-mongers, and "pundants" (such as Big Lizards): Crisis In the Middle East. This page is a must-view.
For many years now, Moslem dictators have used the same old trick: whenever their domestic policies hit a wall, they turn around and point a finger at the nearest Jew.
"It is not the time to squabble amongst Moslems. We need to unite against the Israeli aggression. We need to mobilize for freedom. We need to focus on defense." Never mind the economy is in a shambles due to the corruption, incompetence, and stupid policies of the Arab leadership. A quarter of their citizens unemployed and starving, bandits and police working hand in hand intimidating citizens to extort money and favors. That's not the issue; that’s not important. The urgent task is to defeat the Zionist Jews.
The tactic has worked for decades; it still does, to a certain degree. But, more and more Moslems across the world are getting weary of this same old excuse.
They hardly ever see any Jews; how could the Jews be responsible for their misery? They don’t even know what Israelis do, except fight against Palestinians, which concerns nobody. Nobody likes, respects, or cares about the Palestinians as anything other than a political stick to bash the "Zionist entity."
But even the Moslems who are critical of the Israeli “occupation” have strong words for the Palestinians. After all, Israel had, until quite recently, already left Gaza. The most obvious and immediate effect of the twin attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah was to bring the Jews back!
Saudi columnist Yusuf Nasir Al-Suweidan made a prediction on June 25, 2006. At that time, Israelis had not yet invaded Gaza; but he correctly prophecied that Hamas' attack on Israeli would bring about a far worse situation for Palestinians than the status quo... because, he said, this time Israel would not “react like 'harmless lambs.'”
[T]his time, a new reality will be created in the Gaza Strip in which all talk about 'back to square one' will be nothing but wild optimism -- since the [situation] will regress [far beyond that], to a level where it is possible to talk of a plan of deportation [of Palestinians] and demographic change in Gaza, and this [plan] might even be implemented soon. This will turn the Palestinian dream of an independent state into a thing of the past....
The main mistake lies in the fact that the Palestinian organizations did not respond correctly to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza... and its consequences. Instead of beating their swords into plowshares, pens, and other things that are needed for the development of Palestinian society -- in terms of the economy, society, culture, and so on -- most of them read the developments incorrectly and immaturely. This was exploited by the terrorist networks, that are funded and run by the regimes of the ayatollahs in Tehran and the Ba'th [party] in Syria, and [people] have been taken in by delusions and empty slogans like 'liberation from the river to the sea' [that are heard] among the poor, hungry, and desperate Palestinian masses. At present, what [these masses] need most is food, medicines, clothing, and other essentials _ not explosive belts, car bombs, and the slogan, "Congratulations, oh Martyr, the black-eyed virgin awaits you."
Attacks from Hamas against Israel are nothing new. However illogical, we cannot expect too much from Hamas. But what about the attack from Hezbollah? Israel left Lebanon in the year 2000. Since then, all has been quiet on the northern front. Why should Hezbollah arouse Israel now?
In Lebanon, after Syrian forces left, the power of Hezbollah began to weaken. The pressure to disarm the Hezbollah military wing gets stronger every day. Hezbollah was desperate to do something; they needed to divert the Lebanese citizens attention to somewhere else. But where? Why, the Jews, of course. They had to show the Lebanese that they still "needed" Syrian troops to protect from "Israeli aggression."
But, for some odd reason, this time, the Lebanese are not buying it. As their houses are being bombed, they are not necessarily blaming Israel; as Dafydd said, the public opinion of the Arab and Persian Moslems is up for grabs.
A Lebanese blogger, Fouad, has this to say.
We are ALL guilty. ALL OF US. Emergency hiwar watani session??? I am not sure if I should laugh or puke my guts out on the table. Let it be known to all. We are scared, our lives are on the line, our country is history, but it's all our fault. Each and every one of us. These are the people we elected, these are the people we let freely thrive in their little haven of hatred and murderous ideals, and this is us, scared and incapacitated, failing but to point fingers and complain. Well let me tell you this folks, we pulled our pants down and stuck our naked asses out, and now that we're ******, we really don't have jack **** to complain about.
Now, don’t get me wrong; as Fouad says, "there is no love lost between the lebanese people and the israeli leadership." Fouad and others have plenty to say about Israel’s aggression.
Under the circumstance, I cannot blame them. However, a blogger like Fouad correctly realizes it's Hezbollah who brought this to Lebanon. Israel is simply reacting to terrorist incursion.
Another Lebanese blogger Bob says:
And tomorrow when I will see the destroyed bridge linking my home town of Saida to Beirut, I will only say from the bottom of my heart: Enough! Enough wars, death and destruction! Curse you Hezbollah to hell and back! For all this destruction, for all this death! No it is not Israel fault; it is your own. Curse you!
Even though Hezbollah is hiding among the Lebanese, it is Iran -- and it's client state Syria -- which is behind the attacks. I wish Israel could bypass Lebanon and attack Syria directly. What do Syrian bloggers think of this?
Ammar Abdulhamid, who is Syrian but now lives in Maryland with his wife, has this to say:
[T]he national discourse and the constant calls for mobilization against a declared enemy were at best a diversionary measure meant to postpone any serious consideration of our developmental problems and our ruling regimes’ corruption and inherent authoritarian predilections.
For this reason, I never really believed in the conflict against Israel….
[T]he issue ahead of us if that of Hezbollah and Hamas being wielded as instruments of provocation by Syria and Iran to stir up another national liberation conflict and mobilize us all for the march to hell, with many of us applauding all the way.
All wishful thinking aside, I just don’t think that Israel is going to lose this round, and I think that the going-ons in Lebanon are only a prelude for the eventual and now inevitable confrontation with Syria, with all sorts of disastrous implications and consequences for our people.
I don't think Hamas or Hezbollah -- let alone Syria and Iran -- ever considered the "disastrous implications and consequences" of their acts of war against Israel. They only wanted to remind people of the Jewish threat and convince them they still needed the terrorist armies to protect them from Israel.
Instead, they brought the fury of Israel down upon them like fiery manna from Sheol. This was not in their plan; in fact, they are stunned by Israeli's reaction:
Hezbollah was surprised by Israel's response.
When they dreamed up this plan in January, they thought the Israelis would respond as usual: bomb a few Hezbollah positions on the border, and perhaps attack Palestinian militant camps. They were not expecting the attack to occur at this fragile time with the Palestinians.
Instead, the Israelis massively destroyed Lebanese infrastructure. Bridges throughout South Lebanon have been destroyed. Almost the entire South is without power.
If Hezbollah looked at reality instead of believing their own propaganda, they could have guessed this was going to happen... especialy after they saw what was already going on in Gaza at the precise moment they attacked Israel and kidnapped two soldiers.
True story: when Dafydd and I hiked in Yosemite, we were told not to cook near the camp ground. The smell, the rangers said, will attract bears. Despite all the warnings, some retardo decided to cook a whole mess of sausages on a grill he set up -- right next to his tent, right near our own tent (in Camp Curry).
That night, two black bears came roaring down to the camp ground and scared the heck out of the campers (we were already leaving that night for the Wawona Lodge). Fortunately no human was hurt; but one bear had to be shot by the "danger rangers."
Sure, the bears were the critters directly threatening our lives. But ultimately, the guy who cooked food and drew them down from the mountains should be held more responsible than the bears. The bears were just being bears; this dull-witted chef was being a dangerous fool.
Will the people in the Middle East ever hold their leadership responsible? Will they ever understand who lured the bears into camp? The jury is still out. But at least this time, the opinion of the infamous "Arab street" is up for grabs.
So he says -- I mean Ahmadinejad -- he says,
"The Zionists think that they are victims of Hitler, but they act like Hitler and behave worse than Genghis Khan," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday. He was quoted by the Iranian News Agency.
Wait, I'm sorry, but I'm not following this... they act like who? Who is this Hitler fellow? Isn't he the one that Mr. Ahmadinejad doesn't believe existed? Or at least, that he doesn't believe did anything particularly blameworthy -- that it's all a Zionist lie.
But now Ahmadinejad says that the Jews are acting like Hitler -- and that makes them worse than Genghis Khan. Why, he couldn't be accusing the "Zionists" of carrying out a Holocaust, could he?
(I wonder if Ahmadinejad pronounced "Genghis Khan" like a certain senator from Beacon Hill does...)
I don't like to judge before all the facts are in, but it's beginning to look as though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran might have been somewhat inconsistent. But we wouldn't want to condemn the entire antisemitic program just because of a single slip-up. Perhaps an aide will issue a "clarification" later.
Date ►►► July 16, 2006
Can Israel Strike Iran? Answer: Yup.
Over on Power Line, my favorite blog, Steven den Beste holds forth on the logistical and military nightmare of Israel trying to launch a direct attack on Iran. While den Beste is certainly accurate as far as he goes, his analysis is limited by the fact that he didn't "think outside the box."
...Which happens to be a Big Lizards specialty: so here is how Israel can, indeed, bomb the bejesus out of Iran.
First, we have to set the stage. Israel isn't going to directly strike Iran just for the heck of it; they would only be driven to that extreme by a massive attack by Iran against Israel. We don't mean just a little plinking with Katyushas or even those C-802 cruise missiles; not just a few casualties in Haifa or even a good hit on an Israeli naval vessel in the Med, even with video footage of Iranian Revolutionary Guards firing the missile.
The only thing that would provoke Israel into making a direct attack on Iran is a massive "Oh My God" strike by Iran directly on Israel -- let's say a missile fired from offshore or the West Bank into Tel Aviv that somehow manages to collapse an office building and kill 10,000 Israelis... something on that order.
Now, such a massive attack would mean all the normal "rules and limits" are off, and the U.S. is willing to help Israel out as much as necessary. Up to but not including (we assume for this exercise) making the attack ourselves. But we'll do anything short of that.
Why would Iran launch such a terrible attack on Israel? Let's take them at their word: Israel is still likely to attack Syria, as that is the nearest nexus from which Hezbollah and Hamas are controlled; and Iranian President Ahmadinejad has threatened that if Israel attacks Syria, Iran will attack Israel. Thus, we take as our working assumption that Iran is retaliating for a major Israeli attack on Syria.
Get Outside the Box
Steven den Beste is utterly correct that Israel isn't likely to order attack jets to take off from Tel Nof, fly to Iran, drop their payloads, fly back, and taxi to the line. They must start from somewhere much closer.
Looking at a map, we notice two countries that directly abut Iran that stand out for some reason: Iraq and Afghanistan. It would actually be much easier to bomb Iran starting from either of these two venues than from Israel.
Most of the WMD research sites in Iran, at least those we know of, are in the west; that is fortunate, because to get to Afghanistan, Israel would have to fly over Iran itself -- which is suboptimal. Thus, we have our first two steps:
- Get a large number of Israeli attack jets to Baghdad.
- Disperse them north and south, to Mosul and to Basra.
This does require overflying Syria; but recall that Israel will have already attacked Syria. As part of that attack, the very first thing any respectable air force would do is take out the air defenses. This means that by the time Israel is gearing up to attack Iran, Syria will be blind and deaf as far as tracking aircraft overflying its airspace.
(If they're not already, the Israel should attack them just for that purpose.)
Staying entirely over Syria and then Iraq, the flight distance from the Israeli north to Baghdad appears to be somewhere around 750 miles or less... well within the single-tank range of an F-16I Sufa, the backbone of the Israeli Air Force. Thus, it is possible for Israel to transfer a large number of F-16s to Baghdad -- thence to Mosul and Basra -- without being particularly noticible and without having to use in-flight refueling.
- Disguise the Israeli planes to look like American planes, just to confuse any watchers.
I suggest they would temporarily paint American markings over the Israeli ones; and once approaching Iraq, the Israeli planes would squawk American IFF frequencies.
A Hop, Skip, and a Jump
Now that the main problem is solved, there are a myriad of excellent targets within range of Israeli F-16s flying out of Mosul in the north, Baghdad in the center, and Basra down south. In-flight refuel would not be necessary, as planes would return to Iraq after each sortie.
The Israelis would remove the temporary US marking from their planes and make no bones about where they're from.
- Bomb the targets in Iran; the Israelis can take as long as they wish... no hurry to return to Israel.
- Use targeting downlinks from American AWACs and American and Israeli intelligence on WMD sites in Iran: take those puppies out.
The only serious problem is political: certainly, Iraq is going to be very, very unhappy about Israeli warplanes flying out of Iraq to attack Iran. But again, we're assuming a hugely aggressive Iran that is actually willing to openly attack Israel... which means they're almost certainly launching huge terrorist and military assaults on Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq, as well.
Iraq may already by this time have declared war on Iran. But even if they haven't, they will be a lot less squeamish about Israeli jets attacking Iran than they would be, say, today or yesterday -- when there is no overwhelming reason to do so. Finally, if they get totally recalcitrant, what the heck are they going to do about it? It's not like they have their own air force that could stand up to the Israelis or Americans.
Would They? Could They?
Remember, our baseline assumption is an Israel more grim and determined on vengeance than we were in October 2001. When people are that embittered, they're willing to slog through any number of hells to deal death and destruction to the dastards who did the dirt. That in mind, a ferrying trip from Israel to Baghdad, spreading out within Iraq, and then attacking western Iranian targets doesn't seem that implausible to me.
All we needed to show was that it was practical -- not that it was going to happen next Thursday after lunch. And I believe we have demonstrated quod erat demonstrandum.
(It would still make more sense for the United States to carry out the strike ourselves, since we're already there on both sides, as well as along the Persian Gulf in Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. And Iran has given us ample casus belli by attacking our troops in Iraq. But that's outside the specific challenge we address here.)
Date ►►► July 15, 2006
Israeli Warship Hit By Chinese/Iranian Cruise Missile
This is exactly the danger the United States has been warning about ever since 9/11: that rogue states like Iran may begin transferring modern military weaponry to terrorist groups:
In another development, an Israeli military official claimed that Iranian Revolutionary Guards were involved on some level in a missile strike that badly damaged an Israeli naval boat off Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Friday, killing one Israeli sailor and leaving three missing.
The official said the exact role of the Revolutionary Guards was not clear, but the Iranian forces were working closely with Hezbollah in Lebanon, as they have for more than two decades.
Israel’s military initially said that the ship was hit by an unmanned drone aircraft packed with explosives. But the military revised its assessment on Saturday, saying the ship was hit by a radar-guided, C802 missile fired from the Lebanese shore. The missile came from Iran, the military said.
The C-802 -- a.k.a. Ying-Ji-802 or YJ-2, a.k.a. the SACCADE -- is a cruise missile developed by China from the earlier YJ-1 model; the YJ-2 has a turbojet rather than the rocket engine burning solid fuel, as used by the YJ-1.
The weight of the subsonic (0.9 Mach) Yingji-802 is reduced from 815 kilograms to 715 kilograms, but its range is increased from 42 kilometers to 120 kilometers. The 165 kg. (363 lb.) warhead is just as powerful as the earlier version. Since the missile has a small radar reflectivity and is only about five to seven meters above the sea surface when it attacks the target, and since its guidance equipment has strong anti-jamming capability, target ships have a very low success rate in intercepting the missile. The hit probability of the Yingji-802 is estimated to be as high as 98 percent. The Yingji-802 can be launched from airplanes, ships, submarines and land-based vehicles, and is considered along with the US "Harpoon" as among the best anti-ship missiles of the present-day world.
China was to have sold about 150 YJ-2s to Iran following the Gulf War; but when President Bill Clinton's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. John Shalikashivili, complained to the People's Liberation Army of China (a major Clinton campaign donor) that this was destabilizing, the PLA agreed to stop the sales after shipping only 75 of the missiles.
However, Chinese client state North Korea seems to have taken up the slack with Iran -- yet another Clintonian diplomatic success story:
In early 2000 it was reported that North Korea and Iran were jointly developing an advanced version of the C-802 cruise missile. These missiles initially acquired by Iran were not equipped with advanced systems, and the missiles acquired by Iran were rather outdated. Iran turned to North Korea for missile system technology, and the two countries are jointly developing an upgraded version with improved accuracy. ["N. Korea, Iran Jointly Develop Missile: Report" Korea Times February 17, 2000]
Yet another example of President George W. Bush's prescience in noting an "axis of evil" that included not only Iraq and Iran but also the Democratic People's Republic of Korea... a claim widely ridiculed by Democrats (and even some Republicans of the Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft "realist" school of thought) shortly after Bush's 2002 State of the Union Address.
The reported missile-technology cooperation between North Korea and Iran occurred before 9/11... in fact, before George W. Bush was even elected. The "Axis of Evil" exists and predates Bush; he was simply the first to recognize it.
If Israel is indeed correct that their ship was struck by an Iranian C-802, and there is no reason to doubt either their accuracy or their veracity, then that raises a profound question, none of whose answers bode well: who fired the missile?
There are only two possibilities:
Hezbollah fired the missile, which means that Iran has transferred some of its precious ASCMs (anti-ship cruise missiles) to their pet terrorist group.
I find it unlikely in the extreme that Iran would do that if they only have 75 -- 15 of which are attached to patrol boats; if this is the case, then that lends some credence to the story that China actually sold far more YJ-2s to Iran than it ever admitted, or they've manufactured many more themselves;
- Iran itself fired the missile, either from a Revolutionary Guard missile battery in Lebanon, equipped with Chinese-supplied YJ-2s, or perhaps from indigenous Iranian YJ-2 knock-offs which North Korea helped them develop. In this case, Iran has openly entered into war with Israel, and Israel must respond in kind.
The latter instance puts us on the horns of a pickle: if Israel retaliates against Iran, the mullahcracy will still blame us, since they believe Israel is our sock puppet which would not act without orders from America. This is preposterous; Israel has many times done things we wish they wouldn't (not that an attack on Iran would necessarily fall into that category); but that is what Iran believes, so they will hold the United States responsible and attempt to retaliate against us the only way they can: by a massive terrorist attack.
If in fact Israel declares war on Iran and attacks them, I think it's best for us to grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face: if Iran will counterattack against us anyway, we may as well join with the Israelis and make a good job of the attack.
If we hurt Iran badly enough, they may be reluctant or even unable to transfer the large amounts of money, weaponry, and logistics necessary for Hezbollah to be able to pull off an effective terrorist attack. Cripple Iran's ability to use Hezbollah (or Hamas) as a proxy, and you cripple Iran's retaliatory capability... because they certainly will not initiate a missile exchange with a country that has thousands more missiles than they -- and a working ballistic missile defense to boot.
In an upcoming post, Sachi will discuss the amazing Arab reaction to the Israeli-Lebanon-Hezbollah-Hamas war; suffice to say Arab public opinion is up for grabs, unlike in times past, where the mere hint of involvement of Israel would send every Arab Moslem in the world into a frothing frenzy of Jew hatred. Perhaps the trick doesn't work anymore.
Given that new reality, now may be the time to resolve our Iranian problems... at least for a number of years, until they can reconstitute their WMD programs -- if a future president lets them.
Date ►►► July 14, 2006
The "Loving" Cup
In another shocker today, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court ruling and restored Nebraska's constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the traditional one man, one woman it has always been. Once again, radicals seeking to destroy marriage as a unique institution were thwarted.
In fact, this is happening so often, I'm going to have to stop calling it a "shocker." (Dang, I kind of like the word.)
In addition, the ACLU, which had sued to prevent voters in Tennessee from even being allowed to vote on a similar constitutional amendment, was told to take a hike by a unanimous Tennessee Supreme Court (oddly, the New York Times article linked above fails to clarify which court made the ruling, attributing it only to "the high court;" I had to turn to the Nashville Tennessean to find out which "high court" ruled -- state or federal).
The Tennessee Supreme Court held that the ACLU lacked standing to sue in the first place. Three cheers for sanity!
The original ruling in the Nebraska case -- the one the 8th Circus just overturned -- was handed down by Judge Joseph F. Bataillon (type Bataillon,Joseph into the text box), who was "nominated by William J. Clinton on January 7, 1997." (Again, I had to turn to a third story to find out this information; Jeez Louise, is there some reason the Times cannot simply put all the relevant details in a single place?) I'm sure you're all as shocked as I that a radical federal judge turns out to be a Clinton appointee.
In the Nebraska case, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon had ruled that the ban was too broad and deprived gays and lesbians of participation in the political process, among other things.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying in its ruling Friday that the amendment ''and other laws limiting the state-recognized institution of marriage to heterosexual couples are rationally related to legitimate state interests and therefore do not violate the Constitution of the United States.''
Seventy percent of Nebraska voters approved the ban in 2000.
Note that the court applied the proper test: the "rational basis" test, not the "strict scrutiny" test that many same-sex marriage (SSM) activists want them to use. This recognizes that sexual preference is not now and never has been a protected class, as race and sex are.
A law that restricted who blacks could marry would rightly receive strict scrutiny -- and would rightly be overturned (as such laws generally were in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967). Similarly, a law that said that women could not marry without their father's permission would receive strict scrutiny -- since it applied to women as a class -- and would rightly be struck down.
As a society, there is a consensus that liberty includes a "zone of privacy;" hence, there was virtually no "outrage" among ordinary people when the Supreme Court decided in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), that laws against "sodomy" were unconstitutional. Conservatives generally oppose the decision; but there simply is not the visceral rage that there is due to, say, Roe v. Wade.
Warning! Controversy alert!
And when you try to pin social conservatives down -- do they actually support the state of Texas telling them, personally, what kind of sex they may have with their wives? -- they do a lot of squirming and tap dancing... because deep down, even conservatives believe that there should be a zone of privacy; they just find gay sex "icky" enough that they hypocritically don't want to extend those privacy protections to homosexuals.
So virtually everyone, even social conservatives (whether they admit it or not -- hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue), supports the idea of a "zone of privacy" into which government may not intrude except for very, very strong reasons.
But legal marriage is not a "private" act; it is a public affirmation. It is a special category of relationship, one that is granted many privileges... and recognition and celebrity cannot be demanded; society, collectively through the vote, has the final authority on which relationships it will celebrate and which it will not.
People whose sexual preference is "same gender" have never been a "protected class" in society, because there has never been a consensus within society that there is no legitimate distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Rather, most people find moral distinctions, child-rearing distinctions, and distinct social attitudes associated with traditional marriage and with SSM; it's entirely rational that citizens should choose, through the vote, which type of relationship they will sanction by law.
Individual states here and there (such as California) have inserted sexual-preference protections into the state constitution -- typically via the legislature, not the voters directly. But when the people of even those liberal states subsequently speak directly in an initiative, as California voters did just six years ago, clearly expressing opposition to this action by their supposed representatives, and in the absence of a clear and contrary federal consensus, courts are obliged to acquiesce.
Currently, 45 states strictly define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman; there is no state that has ever voluntarily enacted "gender neutral" marriage; the only state that allows SSM is Massachusetts, and that was due to a radical, irrational decision by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.
Supporters and opponents alike of traditional marriage in Massachusetts agree that if a state constitutional amendment is offered up in the state legislature, it will have enough votes to be sent to the people. And both sides likewise admit that if the people of the commonwealth are ever allowed to vote, they will overturn the court decision and restore Massachusetts to marital sanity. That is why liberals have worked so hard to prevent the amendment even from being brought up in the state senate for its second reading: they know they will lose, but the Cause is so important to them, they'll stave off the terrible day by overthrowing democracy itself.
We discussed this very point in an earlier post:
The most bedrock principle of a constitutional republic is that "governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," which I hope sounds at least vaguely familiar. If "the Cause" ever becomes so important that it supercedes this core value -- if its patriotic defenders are nevertheless willing to climb into bed with tyrants who would burn down the very concept of representative government, if that's what it takes to advance the Cause -- then something stinks to high heaven about the Cause itself. (This is true even if the patriots subsequently denounce just such tactics as their allies are using while continuing to fight alongside them.)
We made a point then of saying we were not defending, in that post, the restriction of marriage to the traditional model. This time, we are. This time, Big Lizards tackles the toughest challenge to the traditional view, call it the "Loving" Cup, after Loving v. Virginia:
Why is it acceptable to ban same-sex marriage -- but unconstitutional to ban mixed-race marriage? Slither on to find out.
In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Virginia anti-miscegenation law titled the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924." The law was explicitly passed to maintain a strict separation between the races by preventing people of "different races" from marrying. It was passed during the peak of the Eugenics movement in the United States, when many worried about "degenerates" reproducing and damaging the purity of essence of the American people. Racism played easily into eugenics, as simpletons quickly learned to associate "degeneracy" with color.
In upholding the law, the Virginia state trial court Judge Leon Bazile made the intent crystal clear:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
There was, thus, no doubt that the sole purpose of the Racial Integrity Act was to separate the races; its very name makes that obvious.
When the Supreme Court unanimously struck it down (thus, by extension, all such laws nationwide), Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the following in the opinion:
Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
(I will not turn this post into a referendum on Earl Warren; I disagree with many of his opinions, but not this one.)
These two opinions perfectly frame the controversy. It should be clear why SSM proponents constantly bring up Loving as the synecdoche of their argument. But to do so, they must drop the most critical component of Warrent's opinion, and indeed of the Court's decision: the inherently invidious distinction of race.
Chief Justice Warren did not conclude that "the freedom to marry, or not marry, any person the individual chooses resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State;" he very explicitly limited the decision to restrictions based upon "invidious racial discriminations."
This was no accident. The history of the 13th (1865), 14th (1868), and 15th (1870) Amendments to the United States Constitution -- the "Civil Rights" Amendments -- makes absolutely clear that they were addressed to race, even though race is not even mentioned in the most important of these, the 14th Amendment.
Since the very beginning of our republic, racial slavery had been a terrible controversy that almost aborted the United States before it was born. The southern states absolutely refused to give up slavery, while the opposite majority refused to accept it.
The Founders made two compromises to get the Constitution enacted and ratified:
- First, the slave trade, the "importation" of slaves, was effectively abolished as of 1808, twenty-one years after signing of the Constitution (Article I, section 9); it was left to Congress then, but a majority in Congress had wanted to abolish slavery altogether from the very beginning;
- Second, southern states wanted to count slaves in their censuses in order to get more representatives in Congress, even while they denied liberty to such persons; but northern states wanted slaves to be counted not at all, on the thesis that denial of liberty denies humanity: slaves could not be chattels when that suited the South's purposes and simultaneously men when that suited. Eventually, the states compromised that slaves could only be enumerated at 3/5ths their number for purposes of taxation and congressional representation (Article I, section 2).
But the compromises were insufficient; we drifted closer and closer to civil war over the issue of slavery throughout the nineteenth century. Eventually, the inevitable happened (hence the word "inevitable"): America fought the most vicious and destructive war of our entire history over the issue of racial slavery.
(Today's Southerners, feeling latent guilt for the crimes of their ancestors, often claim the war was not fought over slavery but over "state sovereignty." Next time, ask them which act of state sovereignty in particular sparked the rebellion; watch 'em temporize like a liberal!)
There is a lot of controversy over the ratification of the 14th Amendment, since ratification was required as a condition for rebelling states to be readmitted to the Union. But there is no question that by 1967, even the southern states would have ratified the 14th Amendment without having to be occupied by federal troops... since by then, blacks were allowed to vote. (Interestingly, the 15th Amendment -- allowing blacks to vote -- was ratified after all the rebellious states except Mississippi and Texas were readmitted to the Union.)
In 1964, three years before Loving, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act that overthrew all of the "Jim Crow" laws; although many Democrats and some Republicans voted against it, the Act passed overwhelmingly: 70% in the House and 73% in the Senate. A year later, the Voting Rights Act was passed with even larger majorities in both houses.
Thus, by 1967, there was the overwhelming consensus in the United States that racial distinctions were inherently invidious; it was just a matter of following that principle to its logical conclusion: if racial classifications are inherently invidious, then in particular, racial restrictions on marriage cut against the fabric of America.
(An interesting point: I believe the same Court decision would have been inappropriate and premature in 1927, rather than 1967: there was no societal consensus about race forty years before Loving... we were still, as a nation, struggling to find a national voice on the issue. The courts rightly waited until consensus had been achieved by the normal, democratic organs of society before enunciating that such consensus meant contrary laws would be struck down. The Court, in the case of Loving, knew its place.)
But note the important point: this consensus was not created by the judges of the Warren Court: they only found a consensus that had been created long ago, over many decades, by debate, by the "terrible swift sword" of war... and most especially, by repeated voting of the whole people. And that is the correct order the Court should use: all of the objections every sane person has to the "reasoning" of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), do not apply to Loving. The Court applied existing law and constitutional amendment to strike down a state statute whose fundamental premise, "distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry," was "odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality."
But no such federal law or constitutional amendment exists in the case of SSM; nor is there any national consensus that distinctions drawn on sexual preference are as "invidious" or "odious" as those drawn by race. In fact, to the extent that consensus exists at all -- and it's a wide extent -- it is the exact opposite: based upon voting patterns, a national consensus clearly exists that marriage should be restricted to the traditional definition. (Remember, "consensus" is not the same as "unanimity.")
In state after state, in every region of the country, strong majorities (usually two-thirds or more) have rejected SSM and endorsed the traditional definition of marriage. Not even SSM proponents can deny this with a straight face.
So in order to argue that the precedent of Loving v. Virginia forces states to adopt SSM (or "gender-neutral marriage"), proponents must completely strip Loving of precisely the national consensus that produced it in the first place! Warren held that because of a national consensus that racial distinctions were odious and invidious, marriage could not be restricted by race. But now SSM proponents argue that despite a national consensus that sexual-preferences are acceptable, Loving must be extended to same-sex marriages.
Such an argument turns Loving on its head and upends logic, consistency, and the rule of law in the bargain. Thus it cannot prevail -- except in the topsy-turvey, Alice In Wonderland worldview of contemporary liberals, for whom paralogia is too familiar a bedfellow to cause any fear.
Date ►►► July 13, 2006
Here's a How-De-Do
Some Israelis now believe that the rocket attack on Haifa today was not carried out by Hezbollah; they think it might actually have been Iranian Revolutionary Guards themselves manning Katyusha rocket batteries in Lebanon.
I don't know if this will prove to be true; but let's assume it for sake of argument. In that case, Israel would have been directly attacked by Iran... not just via a proxy or cut-out. They would probably decide they had to retaliate: Israel certainly cannot sit still and let Iran attack them with impunity, heh?
Alternatively, suppose Israel decides (as they might well soon decide) to take the fight directly to Damascus; and suppose Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes good his threat today to attack Israel if Israel attacked Syria:
Israeli analysts warned that Syria, which supports Hezbollah and plays host to Hamas' political leader Khaled Mashaal, could be Israel's next target.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said any Israeli attack against Syria would be an aggression on the whole Islamic world and warned of a harsh reaction, the official Iranian news agency reported Friday.
Again, Israel might end up at war with Iran.
But the United States has a mutual-defense alliance with Israel. And regardless of the legalisms of when we are and are not obliged to ride to their defense, American presidents have for decades assured Israel (and Americans) that we would defend that country, were it directly attacked by another country.
So the question is, if Israel declared war on Iran and moved against them -- would we sit and twiddle our toes? Or would we live up to our moral and legal obligations, as we would if, say, Taiwan or South Korea were attacked?
Consider: Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan -- all countries where we have good military relationships and a huge bunch of soldiers. We surround southern Iran in a "crescent of embrace." We could very well end up in a shootin' war with the mad mullahs... in a matter of days, not months.
So... should we? Would we? Or will we just hum loudly and eat our green eggs and ham?
I hope the Bush administration and Congress have been thinking about this; I'd sure rather we have a plan, rather than having to scramble after being blindsided.
This Is a Test: For the Next Sixty Seconds...
Nobody seems to discuss this much as a motivation for Hamas and Hezbollah (both puppets of Iran) to attack Israel, but I'm sure it was in part because of Ariel Sharon's presumed brain death.
Ehud Olmert, while formerly a member of Likud (before Sharon formed Kadima), has never been considered a forceful or military leader, unlike Gen. Sharon. Olmert was in the IDF, of course, since it's required of everyone; but reading between the lines, I don't believe he ever served in combat. For most of his hitch, he was a military journalist -- say, just like Al Gore!
At the same time, the new defense minister is Amir Peretz, the head of the Labor Party. He is the former head of a trade union (Histadrut) and was known for hurling strikers into the streets to paralyze Israel... sort of an Israeli edition of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Although he has a more "real" military background than Olmert -- he was wounded in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 -- he did not show much interest in what was good for Israel (instead of what was good for Histadrut) until very recently.
One of the motivations for the terrorist groups to attack now is surely that the prime minister and the defense minister are both untried and untested.
There was reason for the Palestinians to think that each might be "soft": Olmert acted soft, in a way that Sharon never did (even when pushing disengagement); and Peretz is a left-leaning socialist who saw disengagement as a way to free up lots of money -- to spend on more welfare.
Iran is testing the new leadership... at the expense of the Palestinians of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Iranians (and their Syrian lapdogs) would not have ordered these raids if Sharon were still hale and whole and firmly in charge.
I wonder how long it will take for the Palestinians in Gaza and in Lebanon to figure this out?
More Sound and Fury, Signifying - Nothing Much
Discussion about the Bush administration's supposed about-turn on the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program is floating around the antique media today, and the usual suspects are crowing that Bush has caved. But I really think there's less here than meets the eye:
In a reversal, the White House has agreed to allow a secret federal court review of the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic spying program, a top U.S. Senate Republican announced on Thursday.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said he had negotiated a bill with the White House to update surveillance laws and clear the way for an examination of the constitutionality of the program designed to track terrorists.
This refers of course to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (FISA Court), which will review the NSA program for constitutionality... which of course it could do anyway, with or without the president's approval, simply by accepting a case filed by, e.g., some lefty Democrat in a safe seat.
Specter said that under the deal the court would determine the program's constitutionality based, in part, on arguments presented by the administration.
The court would also examine if the program is "reasonably designed to ensure that the communications intercepted involve a terrorist, agent of a terrorist or someone reasonably believed to have communicated or associated with a terrorist."
This, of course, is an argument that the NSA can easily win... especially if White House attorneys have been keeping up with Power Line!
But if one actually reads deep into the articles, it becomes clear that this is much more of a capitulation by the anti-war senators than it is by the White House.
For example, here is one very important point that may well be overlooked -- at least by folks (on either left or right) desperate to portray the Bush administration as having folded:
"The bill recognizes the president's constitutional authority and modernizes FISA to meet the threats we face from an enemy that knows no bounds, kills with abandon and masquerades as they plot against us," [White House spokeswoman Dana] Perino said.
I interpret this as intimating that the bill recognizes the inherent constitutional authority of the president to protect the country by eavesdropping on international calls of terrorists.
But there is more, according to the New York Times:
Specter said the court would make a one-time review of the program rather than performing ongoing oversight of it.
An administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the bill's language gives the president the option of submitting the program to the intelligence court, rather than making the review a requirement.
The official said that Bush will submit to the court review as long the bill is not changed, adding that the legislation preserves the right of future presidents to skip the court review.
In addition to these, the new legislation also implements two urgent clarifications:
- Per a request by the National Securit Agency, the bill makes it clear that the FISA court has no jurisdiction over "international calls that merely pass through terminals in the United States;"
- And this one is truly sweet: the bill would make it a new federal criminal offense for government officials to "misuse intelligence." Depending on the exact wording, this could actually apply to members of Congress, as well as administration officials, who leak classified information to the elite media, hoping to scuttle urgently needed intelligence programs they don't like.
So yet again, what is portrayed by the antique media of the White House caving, capitulating, or executing "a reversal" turns out, upon inspection, to be a good, strong compromise that preserves the president's authority to order such surveillance under his own plenary constitutional power and doesn't give up much at all.
Words of Wall
This is a Scaley Classic from the most ancient of Lizardly days, back when I was blogging on Patterico's Pontifications, my first actual guest-blogging post; it dates from more than a year ago... but it has suddenly become highly relevant today. (You can read it in its pristine originality at Words of Wall.)
This is the post where I first laid out the Lizard Doctrine: Israel should withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank, not because it will pacify the Palestinians (which I correctly predicted it would not), but because it would allow Israel at last to "give war a chance."
One link (to Haaretz) is no longer active, so I have replaced it with a cached version at the Jewish Agency for Israel's website; and I cleaned up a few infelicities here and there. Explanatory comments in brackets and italics are written today, not in the original; and I've added by usual boldface emphasis to create "inline headers," as I am wont to do.
Without any more alarums and excursions, we go...
Over on Power Line, another of my favorite blogs, Scott, who used to be Big Trunk, posted a lengthy segment from a Ha'aretz interview with Moshe Ya'alon, outgoing chief of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Scott clearly worries that the unilateral pull-out of Israel from Gaza and the West Bank will be disasterous for that country.
Scott's argument is serious and deserves response. Since nobody else seems to be willing to look at the other side of it from a pro-Israel perspective, I'll expend whatever "political capital" my recent election as junior sub-altern of the Politically Non-Euclidean Guild affords me.
The essence of the argument is, as always with Scott, quite intellectually sound, as far as it goes:
The coming Israeli pullout from Gaza seems destined to relegate the area to Hamas. Despite the resurrection of the "road map" to the creation of a Palestinian state, neither the Bush administration nor the Israeli government seems to have a road map to the cessation of the Palestinian war on Israel or the removal of the terror gangs from Palestinian territory.
Scott goes on to quote Ya'alon:
In the interview, Ya'alon said that recent statements by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas show that Abbas "has not given up the right of return. And this is not a symbolic right of return, but the right of return as a claim to be realized. To return to the houses, to return to the villages. The implication of this is that there will not be a Jewish state here."
Therefore, he said, the establishment of a Palestinian state will lead to war "at some stage," and such a war could be dangerous for Israel. The idea that a Palestinian state can be established by 2008, and will then produce stability, is "divorced from reality" and "dangerous," as any such state "will be a state that will try to undermine Israel."
There is no blinking this, of course. War will probably result; it has several times in Israel's existence, starting in 1948, hours after the British lowered their flag and even before the Israelis raised theirs. [Prediction 100% correct -- the Mgt.]
Théoden: But I would not bring further death to my people. I will not risk open war.
Aragorn: Open war is upon you, whether would risk it or not.
I feel like Aragorn, trying to convince Théoden King [in the Lord of the Rings trilogy -- the Mgt.]. The hidden assumption here is that such open warfare would be worse for Israel than the covert terrorist war they're already fighting now... and thereby hangs the flaw with this entire line of reasoning.
As far as open war, there is no nation adjacent to Israel that would join today in such a jihad by the Palestinian Authority (if controlled by Hamas), and the war would be an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians. [Prediction still open -- the Mgt.]
The only nearby country that might even consider it would be Iran under the Mad Mullahs; but if they did, the Israeli (and American) response would (a) take care of our fears about an Iranian nuclear program, and (b) almost certainly spark a revolution within Iran itself by the people, who despise the Mullahs. Iran could only attack using missiles, since they obviously could not march through or fly across Iraq, Syria, and Jordan to get to Israel; and missiles can be shot down -- by us and by the Israelis, that is; not by Iran when the retaliatory strike is launched.
(There is the possibility that Iran would be able to launch a nuclear attack on Israel; we cannot rule this out. But if the ayatollahs are mad enough to do this in response to a Palestinian war, they would be equally willing to do it following any other provocation... suicide-bombing on a national scale. They do not need Hamas to lead them into such "martyrdom," if that is what they have decided.)
I've argued [in e-mail and comments] in support of the pull-out of Israel from Gaza and the West Bank (of the Jordan River) for some time; but my reasoning seems to be lost in the excitement of proving the above (fairly obvious) point over on Power Line, Captain's Quarters, BeldarBlog, and other sites where I've tried to have this discussion. A great deal of energy was expended trying to convince me of one of my own starting positions, that the Palestinian people hate the Jews and have never given up their intention of driving them into the sea, the reconquista of what they see as Greater Palestine. I think the gents at Power Line are still convinced that I dispute this point; in fact, it is exactly why I support the pull-out... that, coupled with two facts on the ground.
Here are my starting premises. Everyone making an argument should always start thus:
- Israel absolutely has the right to exist as a Jewish state, right where it is now... including in the West Bank and Gaza. They were attacked; they won those territories fair and square; they have the right to keep them and even settle them. It's just not good policy for Israel to do so.
- Nearly all Palestinians in the PA hate Jews with a passion nearly unequaled on the planet. They will probably never like the Jews; the best Israel can get is for them to forget that the Jews exist.
- When Israel pulls out of Gaza, the region will be taken over by Hamas. This is probably also true about the West Bank, although Hamas is not as overwhelmingly strong there. But if Hamas doesn't take over in the West Bank, then some other terrorist gang will do so, or there will be civil war (say -- perhaps they'll kill each other off!)
- Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa, Fatah, Hezbollah, and all other terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza have every intention of destroying Israel, and they will never give up that dream. They will never be honest brokers of peace.
I don't think Scott and I disagree on any of these points. This should clear up some of the confusion about my position: I do not believe that land is illegally occupied, nor do I support Bush's ridiculous "road map to peace," nor do I imagine that any deal with the Palestinians would be kept, except in one circumstance: if the Palestinians have no choice but to keep it or be annihilated. And thereby hangs my point.
There are three urgent responses to Palestinian intransigence that Israel must undertake; thankfully, they are doing exactly these. First, they must complete work on the wall, or "security fence," separating them from the Palestinians; second, they must maintain the power of the IDF and Mossad and the willingness to go after the leaders of the various Palestinian terrorist groups directly by assassination; finally, they must remove the settlers from the occupied territories.
I will assume the first two receive widespread agreement here; let's talk about the third.
Hate is a curious emotion. Although one of the prime movers of Mankind throughout history, it is actually very enervating. Governments have throughout history used hate to channel the energy of people who would otherwise oppose the rule of the regime, a fact recognized by George Orwell, among others: see the chapter "Goldstein Two-Minutes Hate" from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
But because it is so draining, it requires a constant irritant to maintain it, a constant, in-your-face reminder of the object of hatred. Without such irritant, the hate will still exist, but only in theory; it will have none of the energy needed to obsess the mind and be used to distract the hater from all else. Thus, Indonesian Islamists certainly hate the Jews, but only in the abstract; they do not expend a lot of time or effort trying to find a Jew so they can attack him. This is because the Jewish population of Indonesia is considerably less than 1%... most Indonesians do not know any Jews and may never even have met one in their entire lives. Constant propinquity is necessary for active, action-driving hatred -- which is why Big Brother staged those Two-Minutes Hate videos: he knew that without them, without constantly "knocking elbows," so to speak, with the supposed enemy, the people would soon forget Goldstein even existed. [Yes, of course I know; I'm talking about the "reality" of Winston Smith. -- the Mgt.]
The Jewish settlers in Gaza and the West Bank have become exactly such irritants, alas. They may have some cosmic "right" to be there; but the reality is that those territories are overwhelmingly populated by Arab Moslems. The tiny number of settlers, in their armed and economically successful compounds -- little Israeli gardens in the vast sea of sand that is the erstwhile British Mandatory Palestine -- are constant reminders not only that Jews exist but that they're far more powerful than the Moslems... and also better capitalists, in despite of Israel's socialist beginnings. Because the settlers need constant protection from the IDF, that means that everywhere Palestinians go, they have to pass through checkpoints in the land that, rightly or wrongly, they consider their homeland. They are made to feel weak and powerless; their destiny is beyond their control.
This gives every Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza his own, personal Two-Minutes Hate, often multiple times per day. And it is exactly that hate that Hamas, et al, feed upon and use to whip the people into a froth of rage and fury such that they will send their own sons and daughters to death, just in order to take some Jews with them.
Remove the settlers, hence the Israeli troops required to defend them, and the only irritant left will be the wall itself. Most Palestinians will not have to suffer the evidently unbearable daily fate of having actually to see a Jew, giving them the vapors. As absurd as this may seem to us, who live in a pluralistic society where "the Faithful" seem, by and large, to get along fairly well surrounded by "Zionists and Crusaders," it is a very real agony to the Moslems living in the PA. Remove the irritant, remove the agony, and you remove, not the abstract hatred, but its projection into the day-to-day world of those Palestinians.
It is that projection that gives the hate its power. Remove it, and you begin to starve Hamas and their murderous brethren. "Oh, yes, of course I hate the Zionist entity," Achmed will say; "but do you not see? They are gone! I can travel from Jenin to Hebron and see not a single Jew!"
Of course, if Achmed wanted to go from Ramallah to Gaza International Airport, he would have to travel through Israel; it's not a perfect disengagement; still, it reduces the contact to a tiny fraction of what it is today. With that relief, I believe it will be virtually impossible to persuade Achmed to give up his sons just to go off and kill Israelis he cannot even see, over on the other side of the wall. [Prediction accurate so far: these attacks were not suicide bombings but rather military assaults. -- the Mgt.]
All of the terror gangs will be crippled; Lebanese Hezbollah will still get support from Syria and Iran, but they're about to start having problems of their own. Terrorist groups will begin to be resented, even hated themselves, for their vicious bullying of the Palestinian people and their utter incompetence at running a country... revolutionary emotions that are at the very core of the incitement to hatred and violence by Hamas and the PA: they need scapegoats to distract their own people from the natural desire to fight back against such tyranny. Plus, without the ready-made targets in the settlements, to be perfectly blunt about it, all of Gaza and the West Bank will become targets for IDF response to the inevitable terrorist attacks. When such retaliatory strikes come, the Palestinian people -- who are not being constantly irritated by the presence of non-Moslems in their neighborhoods -- will blame the terrorists for "bringing trouble." [Hasn't happened yet, but I was talking about the long haul: the Palestinian people have not yet really been hurt. Give it some time. -- the Mgt.]
There is another advantage to the pull-out. Right now, there are still many Israeli Jews harboring the secret belief that they can cut some sort of deal with the Palestinian Authority; "road-map-ism," I'll call it. It's not as bad as in 1999, when Ehud Barak was elected; but it's still strong. The doves do not understand that the moment the Palestinians get Gaza and the West Bank, they will demand Israel itself... Palestinian maps of the region often do not even include Israel as a separate nation.
Israel gets nothing out of the settlements except illusion: they promote the illusion that the only reason the Palestinians make war on Israel is because Israel "occupies" those territories. Remove the settlements, and when the Palestinians shift seamlessly from demanding Ramallah and Bethlehem to demanding Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, all illusions will be shattered. Even the doves will be forced to accept reality. "Open war is upon you, whether would risk it or not."
I absolutely believe that even Avram Mitzna would fight to save Israel proper, and Ehud Barak spent his entire military career doing so. Not only will Hamas, PIJ, and Al Aqsa be terribly weakened by an Israeli pull-out from the territories, so too will be the Israeli Left. The Israeli Labor Party will be politically devastated when Ariel Sharon actually implements what they have only agitated for but never achieved. [Prediction 100% accurate: both Labor and Likud are relegated to "also rans" behind Kadima. -- the Mgt.] All of this will make Israel safer, not more perilous.
Summing up, the Sharon plan of removing the settlers (disengagement) while maintaining the strength and resolve of the IDF and Mossad and finishing the security fence will achieve three goals, each of which adds to Israel's security:
- Weakening the Palestinian terrorists by removing the Two-Minutes Hate that allows them to recruit so-called "martyrs" to kill Jews;
- Increasing the freedom of action of the IDF by removing unhelpful and difficult-to-defend Israeli targets from the enemy's territory;
- Forcing the Israeli Left to face reality and recognize that the two states will always be enemies, living at best in an uneasy calm, shattering the dangerous illusion that the lack of "open war" means they are at peace.
Israel must guard the borders, be vigilant against attack and ruthless in response, and at all times recognize the "facts on the ground;" only then will she be truly safe.
New Reptillian Rule for Comments
I admit, part of my reason for enunciating this new rule is just to smirk as one particular commenter squirms, trying to follow it. But the other part is that Sachi and I read enough of this garbage in the antique media, and we don't need it on our blog, too.
Here it is:
- We don't mind you gloating over the deaths of our enemies; but Big Lizards will not tolerate any gloating over the deaths of Americans or American allies.
I will also make one other long overdue change to the Reptillian Comment Policy. Originally, I had the following bullet point under the "what we do want" section, the part where I listed what HTML is allowed:
- <p> for paragraph, though I don't know why you would ever need that
Well, I quickly figured out why. If you have multiple paragraphs sitting inside a blockquote or list tag, you should put the <p> tags around the first paragraph, or it will look goofy. Let me illustrate.
Here is an example where I used the <p> tags around the first of the two paragraphs:
The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.
Just the place for a snark, the Bellman cried, as he landed his crew with care. Supporting each man on the top of the tide by a finger entwined in his hair.
And now, here is that same pair of paragraphs when I did not put the <p> tag around the first of the two:
The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.
Just the place for a snark, the Bellman cried, as he landed his crew with care. Supporting each man on the top of the tide by a finger entwined in his hair.
As you can see, the paragraphination gets all goofy when you leave out the tag. Note that it's only necessary when you have two or more paragraphs inside a <blockquote> or <li> (list) tag. If you have only one paragraph, there is no need to use the <p> tag.
I know it makes no sense; but every time I try to rework my .css stylesheet to eliminate this necessity, it crashes Big Lizards (and also the Sexually Transmitted Diseases database of the Needles County Cafeteria Chefs Union, for some inexplicable reason).
So bear that in mind, all of youse who quote multiple paragraphs or create lists with multi-paragraph entries. And do not forget Rule 6; it will be rigidly enforced.
Date ►►► July 12, 2006
Israel vs. America In Blame War - Updated
UPDATE: See below for a response to Yoni Tidi on Hugh Hewitt today.
Anent the deadly kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah in Israel's north, the United States properly blames Hezbollah's masters: Syria and especially Iran:
The White House condemned the Hizbollah attack and blamed Syria and Iran, which both back the Lebanese Shi'ite group.
But strangely, Israel itself (or at least one top general) seems to point a finger at Lebanon, of all places... the country that just successfully expelled Syrian troops and has worked the hardest to expel Hezbollah and the Syrian intelligence services:
GOC Northern Command [Aluf] Udi Adam told reporters that Israel plans to "push back" Hezbollah guerrillas controlling southern Lebanon, adding that the IDF has "no intention at the moment of involving Syria," which has great influence over Hezbollah.
"We think at the moment the debate is beween us and the government of Lebanon," he said.
With all due respect, I think Gen. Adam is nutty. (Assuming the quotation is not simply taken out of context by Haaretz.) We've already discussed Syria's connection with Hezbollah; this is certainly true, though the ultimate puppeteers are in Teheran, not Damascus. (And not just of Hezbollah but of Hamas as well, despite the latter being more or less Sunni.)
UPDATE: Yoni Tidi -- who blogs and phones in to Hugh Hewitt from Seattle, I believe, but who is a veteran of the IDF in the last Lebanese War -- suggests that it's reasonable to blame Lebanon because "Hezbollah sits in their parliament." This is true, Mr. Tidi... but is that by choice of the rest of Lebanon, which has done everything it could to drive Hezbollah out?
It is far better to work with the Christians and anti-Hezbollah Moslems in Lebanon to destroy that terrorist organization in the South, in the Bekaa, and wherever else it lurks in Lebanon, thus allowing real Lebanese also to boot out the Syrian Intelligence agents -- whose presence is only possible because of the protection they get from Hezbollah. Instead of lumping patriotic Lebanese in with their Hezbollah occupiers, it's time for Israel to discriminate between them; just as we have achieved great results in Iraq by discriminating and driving a wedge between the foreign terrorists and the native-Iraqi "insurgents." The latter can be co-opted; the former must be destroyed to the last person.
Hugh Hewitt suggests Israel launch a bombing mission on Syria, and I would certainly applaud such a move: if you cannot immediately kill the wolf, at least take down the pup. But at some point, Israel, the United States, and the rest of the West -- yes, even including Europe -- will have to come up with an actual solution to Iranian madness and bloodthirst.
It certainly need not be any "final solution," not only because democracies simply do not do such ghastly things but also because there is no reason to make war upon ordinary Iranians: the vast majority of them are not cheerleaders for the Mullahs and would shed scarcely a tear if Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and the whole collection of Eaters of the Dead were to be sent on to final judgment.
But it's tricky to thread the Scylla of Iranian hatred of their hellish slavemasters and the Charybdis of Persian pride and patriotism. Somehow, we must get the population of Iran itself to rebel against their leaders, and then we can help them without being too obvious about it. Destroying Hezbollah, especially outside Iran, would be a tremendous leap in the right direction: none of the covert democrats in Iran have any love for Hezbollah, the "Party of God," who roam the streets of Iran attacking some men and especially women, betimes with acid in the face, for violating any one of the thousand and one intrictate, byzantine rules of the ayatollahs' version of Shiism.
But Big Lizards certainly agrees with Hugh that the first step is to crush the Syrian military, which will bring about the collapse of the Baathist Bashar Assad regime in Syria... thus not only helping out Israel but also relieving much of the pressure on Iraq, as Syria is the source of much of the support for Iraqi terrorists -- bombs, money, and especially ambulatory explosives (Syria is one of the primary conduits for suicide bombers into Iraq, though mostly from countries other than Syria).
Even if the collapse of the Baathists eventually brings more Syrian Islamists to power, it will take them some time to consolidate their power, and they likely will never wield as much power as Hafez al-Assad did or even as much as his "cockeyed ophthalmologist" younger son does today.
And during that period of consolidation, we can cripple Syria's ability to engineer death and destruction in either Iraq or Lebanon. And without Syrian governmental support, Hezbollah will be much more easily trapped between a Devil and a hard place of its own: the Israelis to their south and the Lebanese themselves to their north.
Republican Uses Foul Means to Beat Rap
Heh, I'm a little late on this story. I actually wrote a stub... then plum forgot to come back and finish it up! So forewarned, here goes.
"Limbaugh won't face charges over Viagra found in his possession," the headline ominously declares.
Well dang, it's another example of how the rich can just buy their way out of legal troubles. There's that drug addict caught red-handed smuggling in another controlled substance, Viagra (well, it's not really controlled; but you know what I mean). He's detained by customs, and the antique media gleefully whisper that this could be it for the venerable Republican, the poster boy for hypocrisy.
Here he is, always going on about how heroin addicts and crackheads should be arrested... and then he's caught violating his "deal with prosecutors" by being found in possession of prescription drugs without a prescription:
Rush Limbaugh will likely have to wait several days to find out if he violated his deal with prosecutors in a prescription fraud case when authorities found him with Viagra that was apparently prescribed to someone else, a spokesman for the state attorney's office said Tuesday.
Limbaugh, 55, was detained for more than three hours Monday at Palm Beach International Airport after he returned on his private plane from a vacation in the Dominican Republic. Customs officials found Viagra in his bag, but his name wasn't on the prescription, Palm Beach County sheriff's spokesman Paul Miller said.
The Trib intoned:
Federal agents referred the case to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. Prosecutors are looking into whether Limbaugh violated an agreement he struck two months ago.
Prosecutors in late April charged him with deceiving two or more doctors to write simultaneous prescriptions for pain pills. They agreed to drop the charge after 18 months if Limbaugh completed substance-abuse treatment.
Yet after all that, a couple of quick phone calls from Limbaugh's attorney, et voilà, he's sprung! Worse, now he has somehow bought his way even out of being prosecuted. Is there no end to his perfidy?
What technicality did Roy Black use to weasel his client's way out of such a clear and obvious violation of his parole -- er -- probation -- well, whatever you call the deal he struck with the DA to avoid prosecution in the doctor-shopping case?
I'm sure it was exactly the sort of legal loophole that he so often decries when poor and downtrodden bank robbers and terrorists slide through them. But boy, when the shoe is on the other hand, look who jumps through the hoop!
Aha, I think we've found it. Here is the legal loophole, via the Sun Sentinel link above, by which Limbaugh avoided being charged with possession of a prescription drug without having a prescription for it:
Saying Rush Limbaugh's Viagra prescription was legally prescribed, the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office announced on Wednesday that it would not file charges against the conservative radio talk show host for possessing medication in someone else's name.
But Miami-Dade prosecutors will review the file and decide whether charges are warranted against the two Miami doctors involved, according to Assistant State Attorney Paul Zacks. To protect Limbaugh's privacy, his medical doctor prescribed the erectile dysfunction drug to Limbaugh's psychologist, according to Limbaugh's affidavit.
Well... dang. All right, so maybe he had a legal prescription. Can't we prosecute him anyway? After all, he was found in possession of drugs, for Pete's sake. He's always saying drugs are so bad; so put him in jail, already. ITMFA! (In this instance, the "I" stands for imprison, not impeach.)
At the very least, we must be able to prosecute his co-conspirators, the doctors who got him the Viagra in another person's name, in a flagrant attempt to flout the First Amendment guarantee that the elite news media shall always be apprised, by law, of any embarassing fact about a conservative. Just think how much mocking time they missed, not being able to make Limbaugh-Viagra jokes for weeks and weeks, before finally finding out via the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services... who kindly dropped a dime to the media.
Alas, this AP story has more on that point:
The state attorney's office said Dr. Steve Strumwasser's name was on the Viagra bottle, not Limbaugh's. Strumwasser, who is Limbaugh's psychiatrist, told authorities he "agreed to have his name on the label in an effort to avoid potentially embarrassing publicity for the suspect," according to a filing by the prosecutor's office.
"Thus, the medication contained in the subject pill bottle was legitimately prescribed to the suspect by his physician," the filing said.
It is generally not illegal under Florida law for a physician to prescribe medication in a third party's name if all parties are aware and the doctor documents it correctly, said Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for the state attorney in Palm Beach County.
So it appears the majestic equality of the law has been stymied: Rush Limbaugh, millionaire rightwinger and supporter of Bushitler, will once again weasel through the cracks of our nation's porous legal system, this time using that most diabolical and contemptible legal loophole of all: actual innocence.
But don't think we'll ever let him forget it. After all, as they say in law school (I am reliably informed), there are some crimes so heinous that not even innocence is a defense.
The Madness Accelerates
By "madness," I do not mean the wholly justified Israeli invasion of Gaza -- but rather the mindlessly defiant Palestinian response, where they appear to be ready to immolate their entire world, just to avoid giving up one hostage Jew.
Now, a new group has run pell-mell into the buzzsaw screaming "Allahu akbar": Hezbollah, feeling neglected (and tired of living in this vale of tears), just streamed across the Israeli-Lebanese border and, it appears, abducted two Israeli soldiers. Evidently, they looked upon Gaza and saw that it was good, and said, "Geez, I sure wish I had me one o' them Israeli Defense Force invasions!"
Hizbollah guerrillas said they had captured two Israeli soldiers in cross-border attacks from Lebanon on Wednesday in which three Israelis were also reported killed, sharply raising Middle East tensions.
Israeli ground forces crossed into Lebanon to search for the captured soldiers, Israeli Army Radio said. It said many troops and aircraft were taking part in searches across the border.
I can see Hezbollah's reasoning: kidnapping IDF soldiers has worked out so well for Hamas in the Gaza Strip; how could Hezbollah resist joining the fun? Of course, the most likely result will be a massive Israeli armor attack that annihilates Hezbollah strongholds from Beirut to the Bekaa Valley and from Tyre to the shores of Tripoli, crippling Iran (which owns Hezbollah) in the bargain and probably dragging Bashar Assad into the mess; but heck, you can't make an omlet, you know, without stepping on a few eggshells.
All right. Bring it on. We may see several terrorist groups try to gang-bang the Israelis: Palestinian Islamic Jihad is bound to feel abandoned; and al-Qaeda has been desperate to get a toe-hold in the Palestinian territories (perhaps curious to see the only people in the world more loathsome and degraded than they).
But one thing you will not see is a line of Arab nations rushing to support the terrorst sacrificial lambs. Don't look for Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan to join the fray. You see, being actual, real countries, these entities have entirely too much to lose to poke the tiger with a stick. In fact, while Lebanon may well lodge a "protest" at the U.N., in secret they will be cheering the Israelis on.
Happily for the civilized, and alas for American and European antisemites who are becoming thicker than the flies on Zarqawi's eyes, Israel has more than enough firepower to fight both Hamas and Hezbollah at the same time. Israel will win, one way or another; but there is a heck of a stretch between the two ways:
- The terrorists can release IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit and stop shooting rockets at Jews. Then the Palestinians can start trying to put the rubble of what used to be their society back together again;
- Or they can continue to make brainless, senseless, useless attacks cross-border... and watch everything they pretend to have fought for all these years be torn asunder and trampled underfoot by Israelis. In this response, Israel received such provocation from the Moslem terrorists that even the Europeans cannot help but tolerate, if not bless.
But which hand will the Palestinians seize, the right or the left? Remember, it was precisely for this group of people that some wag invented the aphorism that "the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
Date ►►► July 11, 2006
So today's media-driven episode of Bush Derangement Syndrome is the fallacious claim that, in some dramatic turnaround, the Bush administration now finally "admits" that terrorists are prisoners of war, entitled to the full protection of the Geneva Conventions as POWs -- including the right never to be interrogated. For example:
The Bush administration, called to account by Congress after the Supreme Court blocked military tribunals, said Tuesday all detainees at Guantanamo Bay and in U.S. military custody everywhere are entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions....
The policy, described in a memo by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, appears to change the administration's earlier insistence that the detainees are not prisoners of war and thus not subject to the Geneva protections.
- The Pentagon acknowledged for the first time that all detainees held by the U.S. military are covered by the protections of an article of the Geneva Conventions that bars inhumane treatment, according to a memo made public on Tuesday.
New York Times: In Big Shift, U.S. to Follow Geneva Treaty for DetaineesThe Bush administration called today for Congress to fix, rather than scrap, the system of military tribunals that was struck down by the Supreme Court last month, while the Pentagon pledged to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Conventions as the court required.
But as Ryan Sager [whoops, make that Jed Babbin... sorry, Jed!] at Real Clear Politics noted (I thought the same thing, but Babbin was there first), this is being completely -- and I (not Babbin) claim deliberately and with malice aforethought -- misreported by the antique media... because in fact, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who wrote the memo on July 7th, did not make any "shift" in U.S. policy; he quite openly proclaimed that this has been administration policy from the beginning: to apply specific elements of Article 3 to detainees in the war against jihadi terrorism.
There is certainly a danger, which Big Lizards recognized earlier, that subsequent and iterative federal court rulings may lunge further than the Hamdan decision and try to declare the detainees full-blown "prisoners of war." In fact, it appears that Justice John Paul Stevens, leading the pack of braying liberals on the Court, tried to do exactly that. If this happens, it will have catastrophic results in the GWOT.
But that is not what this memo does.
So we don't proceed in a vacuum, here is the relevant text:
The Supreme Court has determined that Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 applies as a matter of law to the conflict with Al Qaeda. The Court found that the military commissions as constituted by the Department of Defense are not consistent with Common Article 3.
It is my understanding that, aside from the military commission procedures, existing DoD orders, policies, directives, execute orders, and doctrine comply with the standards of Common Article 3 and, therefore, actions by DoD personnel that comply with such issuances would comply with the standards of Common Article 3. For example, the following are consistent with the standards of Common Article 3: U.S. Army Field Manual 34-52, “Intelligence Interrogation,” September 28, 1992; DoD directive 3115.09, “DoD Intelligence Interrogation, Detainee Debriefings and Tactical Questioning,” November 3, 2005; DoD Directive 2311.01E, “DoD Law of War Program,” May 9, 2006; and DoD Instruction 2310.08E, “Medical Program Support for Detainee Operations,” June 6, 2006. In addition, you will recall the President’s prior directive that “the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely,” humane treatment being the overarching requirement of Common Article 3.
You will ensure that all DoD personnel adhere to these standards. In this regard, I request that you promptly review all relevant directives, regulations, policies, practices, and procedures under your purview to ensure that they comply with the standards of Common Article 3.
This is followed by a quotation of Article 3 of the 1947 conventions, which you may read for yourself here.
The most relevant sentence in the entire memo is the first sentence of the second paragraph, in which England makes plain that the administration's position is that currently existing DoD procedures already comply with Article 3; thus, except for the rules of military tribunals, there is no reason to change policy. Far from being a "big shift," England argues that this is what President Bush has been doing all along.
Note also how he answers the specific worry that Big Lizards enunciated earlier: that this ruling might lead to further rulings banning any interrogation at all of al-Qaeda "POWs," in accordance with other articles of the Geneva Conventions. For example, from Article 17 of those same conventions:
No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.
If the courts were ever to rule that terrorist detainees were to be given all the rights and privileges of POWs, then Article 17 would apply -- and all interrogation of al-Qaeda detainees of any kind would have to cease the moment the detainee said "I refuse to answer." Instead, all we would be allowed to insist upon was his "surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information."
In England's memo, he makes as crystal the administration's position that detainees are not "prisoners of war." The AP story is flatly wrong. If, as AP claims, the memo "appears to change the administration's earlier insistence that the detainees are not prisoners of war and thus not subject to the Geneva protections," then how does AP read the next sentence in the second paragraph -- where England specifically notes that the DoD's policies anent "Intelligence Interrogations" are legal?
In addition, Article 21 begins thus:
The Detaining Power may subject prisoners of war to internment. It may impose on them the obligation of not leaving, beyond certain limits, the camp where they are interned, or if the said camp is fenced in, of not going outside its perimeter. Subject to the provisions of the present Convention relative to penal and disciplinary sanctions, prisoners of war may not be held in close confinement except where necessary to safeguard their health and then only during the continuation of the circumstances which make such confinement necessary.
That means, I believe, that they cannot be held in separate cages or prevented from assembling together and speaking privately -- as we currently do at Guantánamo Bay and likely every other terrorist detainment facility we operate. Again, if the courts started holding that terrorists were POWs, we would have to release them internally within Guantánamo to roam around freely within the camp, conspire together, and coordinate false answers to intelligence interrogations we wouldn't be allowed to conduct in the first place.
You cannot in the same breath say that al-Qaeda detainees are "prisoners of war" and also that we can engage in lengthy interrogations of them, treat them harshly to break them down, and deprive them of privileges if they don't answer or if they lie. There is no rational way that the reporters for the elite media could possibly have read the memo and actually come away with the misunderstanding that from now on, terrorists were POWs. Thus, any reporter who says such a thing is simply lying, as is the editor who allows him to publish.
Some people argue we should "never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity." But in many venues, the precise opposite is more true: never attribute to stupidity what can adequately be explained by malice.
Though it may comfort some to think so, reporters and editors at top media sources are not imbeciles. Bill Keller and Dean Baquey did not blow the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program and the terrorist-finance tracking program because they were ignorant; they, along with the reporters they edit, blew those programs (in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, respectively) because they hate those programs, they hate the war, they hate Bush, and they want America to lose.
Don't get me wrong, I do not question their patriotism; I nakedly say they have none. They hate Republicans and the president so intensely, it becomes an exquisite experience. It easily overwhelms whatever feeble love for country still remains after decades of relentless liberal brainwashing. As Churchill (Winston, not Ward) said, they swim in currents of hatred so strong, it sears their very souls.
So lying about some sort of flip-flop on the part of George W. Bush is a mere trifle, a bagatelle to the MSM. That's the one they do "twice on Sundays."
Thus, when you read the inevitable flood of stories sneering that Bush has surrendered, that he's been made to eat crow, that the administration has undertaken a "big shift," a turnaround, a 180 -- just bear in mind what you already know about the "lies and the lying liars who tell them" in the nation's newspapers, on television, and especially in the liberal blogs.
There is no policy change here: Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England has simply reiterated that administration policy already complies with the specific demands of Geneva that apply to non-POWs... with the one exception of the specific procedures to be followed by the military tribunals.
Date ►►► July 10, 2006
Today, John Hinderaker of Power Line posted a heart-felt demand that we find and execute the terrorist swine who first killed Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker in Iraq and then mutilated their bodies:
In this instance, [President Bush] should put that reticence behind him and commit the full resources of this nation to avenging our soldiers' murders. And I'm not talking about capturing the perpetrators and feeding them three religiously appropriate meals a day in Guantanamo Bay.
With great respect and unaccustomed humility, I fully understand exactly how he feels; but I think that's about the worst damned idea I've heard in years.
Weak countries are ruled by national sentiments and emotions. Great ones are driven by national interests.
I understand Hindrocket's "cold fury," and he has every right to be furious: these jihadis behave like rabid dogs, then turn around and demand the full panoply of "rights" that properly belong only to actual prisoners of war from countries that fight with honor -- not dishonorable, subhuman targeters of the innocent and eaters of the dead. Still and all, it would be a mistake of almost cosmic proportions for Bush to follow John's advice this time.
Not because of any moral issue. I would happily put a pistol against any terrorist's head and squeeze the trigger, and I would not feel even a single, momentary pang of guilt or grief. However, in this case, committing the "full resources of this nation" to hunting down these barnyard animals is wrong for the same reason that torturing captured terrorists is wrong: because it's an ineffective and counterproductive way to fight this war.
I don't want to lop off the terrorists' hands; I want to waterboard them -- because that actually works.
Right now, the terrorists do not control the targets of the Coalition. They do not control the tempo; they don't control the time, the tools, or the level of tension. They control nothing; they have been reduced to being purely reactive... we pick a time, place, and target to launch an attack; the terrorists try to survive, then try to retaliate.
But they can't, not really; they cannot stand up to us in battle, and they know it. Instead, they're reduced to the cowardly shame of attacking defenseless Moslem women and children; and the whole ummah now considers them a sick in-joke, a thing that is either nauseating, pathetic, or laughable.
Terrorists would love nothing better than to become relevant again, to control the world around them. And what Hindrocket proposes would have exactly that effect: whenever terrorists feel neglected and ignored, all they need do is mutilate a U.S. soldier's corpse, and we rush to "commit the full resources of this nation to avenging our soldiers' murders."
It's structurally similar to paying ransom: we become puppets on a jihadi string, performing a herky-jerky jitterbug whenever they yank on the cords. "Look how weak and impotent the Crusaders are!" they will cry; "we can draw them here, we can draw them over there, we can tie them up for month after month!"
Far better, but very difficult, to do just what President Bush is doing: ignore provocation and go about the inexorable business of grinding them up like summer sausage... at a place and time of our choosing, at a tempo that we dictate, using whatever tools and allies we select. This response takes guts and willpower; but it's frighteningly effective for whomever has the tenacity to see it through.
That is the greatest revenge and will hurt them far more than a bootless hunt through the wilderlands of Anbar and Ninewah, which would probably be about as effective as our futile hunt for Osama bin Laden through the crags and clefts of the Tora Bora Mountains.
We have control right now; we are the wind, they are the sand. Like the old Outer Limits TV show:
That is what I want to see, John. That is why we are prevailing now and will continue until our job here is done.
In Shocker, Mass Court Rules According to Law
Here is a shocking headline... and the sad part is that such a ruling should come as a shock:
Mass. Court Backs Gay Marriage on Ballot
The same court that made Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage ruled Monday that a proposed constitutional amendment to ban future same-sex marriages can be placed on the ballot, if approved by the Legislature.
The ruling was in a lawsuit brought by gay-rights supporters who argued that Attorney General Tom Reilly was wrong to approve the ballot measure because the state constitution bars any citizen-initiated amendment that seeks to reverse a judicial ruling.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Judicial Court said the constitution does not bar citizen initiatives from making prospective changes to the constitution, even if that effectively overrules the effect of a prior court decision.
What is shocking is that so many simply presumed that the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, because it demonstrably supports same-sex marriage (SSM), would therefore rule that the state constitution bars citizens from changing the state constitution. What stuns is that this was, indeed, the very argument advanced by Democratic backers of SSM: that "gay marriage" is so urgent, that citizens of a state are barred even from attempting to change the constitution, if that would eliminate SSM.
Those of you who support SSM -- think about that. I know there are many who support SSM (or don't care about it) but who oppose imposing it by judicial fiat; Patterico fits that description. But what does it say about a position that it has never been instituted except by judicial fiat? Those of you who actively support SSM as an "equality" issue... aren't you at least made uncomfortable by the fact that your fellow activists argue in the same breath in favor of "equality of marriage" -- and also that citizens cannot even amend their own constitutions?
This is so extreme and radical a position in favor of SSM that it unanimously disgusted the very same court that imposed SSM by court decision!
This is not normal for a supposed liberty. The vast majority of those who support freedom of speech, for example, and who oppose an amendment against flag burning, do not in the same instant try to get the Supreme Court to prevent it from being submitted to the states for ratification. Rather, they lobby Congress to vote against it and -- if necessary -- will lobby citizens in the states to vote against it.
The most bedrock principle of a constitutional republic is that "governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," which I hope sounds at least vaguely familiar. If "the Cause" ever becomes so important that it supercedes this core value -- if its patriotic defenders are nevertheless willing to climb into bed with tyrants who would burn down the very concept of representative government, if that's what it takes to advance the Cause -- then something stinks to high heaven about the Cause itself. (This is true even if the patriots subsequently denounce just such tactics as their allies are using while continuing to fight alongside them.)
Let me introduce a term: tyranny creep. Tyranny creep is the tendency of people who strongly support something most people oppose to begin calling for more and more dictatorship to overcome the "fools and knaves" opposing their wonderful policy.
Recall Al Gore's mantra to "count every vote" -- while simultaneously trying to nullify as many military ballots as possible, and even more spectacularly, using the courts to try to disenfranchise all absentee voters in two entire counties in Florida: Martin and Seminole counties.
It's logically consistent to support an unpopular position but oppose its imposition by force... but it may not be rationally consistent in the real world, if finding other such fastidious supporters is as rare as finding Ted Kennedy sober. It should at least give pause to find oneself fighting shoulder to shoulder with those who would, in fact, force the Cause down our throats, with or without our consent -- and who then go even further to silence opposition and prevent even constitutional amendment, if that might threaten the great Cause. (Thomas Sowell's seminal book the Vision of the Anointed is required reading for any patriotic supporter of SSM.)
At some point, the patriot has to answer a question: by giving conservative "cover" to such anti-democratic forces, does he do more harm than the supposed good done by advocating the Cause in the first place?
It's a truism, as Larry Niven first noted, that "there is no cause so noble that it will not attract fuggheads." I would never suggest that we should abandon liberty because a few unuseful idiots use the term to miscall their bizarre tyrannies, when in fact honest brokers of that word far outnumber the dishonest. But when the "fuggheads" outnumber the noble supporters by 30, 40, 400 to 1, maybe it's time for Mr. "1" to rethink his association with the 400.
Is any cause so noble that it's worth defending, even if nearly everyone on its side is a fugghead? Or is it possible that the problem is the Cause itself, rather than just a few bad monkeys spoiling the whole barrel?
Mitt the Mighty Mormon
Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics frets that Mitt Romney will be un-nominatable among Republican voters -- because Romney is a Mormon; it's the polls, you see:
On Monday The Los Angeles Times released the third batch of results from its most recent poll, dealing with religion and politics. The number with the most significance for 2008 isn't very shocking: "Thirty-seven percent of those questioned said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate."
But of course, they wouldn't be voting for "a Mormon presidential candidate;" they would be voting for (or against) Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts... and that can make all the difference.
I'm trying to remember the last time a candidate was rejected because he was a Mormon. Or a Catholic. Or a Jew, or because he was black or Asian, or because he was a woman or she was a man. I think the answer is "not in my lifetime."
Oh, there have been many defeated nominees who claimed they lost because of some completely ancilalry characteristic; former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley ran for governor of California in 1982 and 1986; and when state Attorney General George Deukmeijian just barely defeated him -- after early projections that Bradley would win -- many Bradley supporters (if not the mayor himself) accused Deukmejian supporters of racism (Bradley was black).
I suppose his race could have caused his defeat. Of course, a more likely explanation is that Bradley was very liberal; in addition, just before the 1982 contest, Bradley came out strongly in favor of a state initiative to ban all handguns from California. Prior to that announcement, Bradley was well ahead; but shortly thereafter, his support plummeted. Perhaps it's just a coincidence; perhaps all that latent California racism just happened, by sheer random chance, to catch up with him right after he announced he would work to disarm all Californios. But that's not how I would bet it.
So I'm still trying to think of a case where a candidate was defeated in a clear-cut case of racial, religious, or sexual bigotry... and I'm still drawing a blank, at least in the last forty or so years. All right, maybe in the deep South in the sixties, somebody might have been defeated for some office because he was the wrong religion -- Episcopalian, maybe. But it's far more likely such a person would be defeated because of the liberal or conservative positions that often come hand in hand with particular religions.
The big-C Conservative Jew Joseph Lieberman has been elected again and again from Connecticut, a state not normally associated with widespread Judaism; and of course, he was the Democratic nominee for president in 2002. And for that matter, the subject of this post, Mitt Romney -- remember him? -- was elected governor, not of Utah, but of Massachusetts.
Bevan frets that the attack on Romney would not be overt, where it could be dragged into the sunlight and dried up, but rather a whispering campaign that would lurk and fester in the damp and dark:
In addition to the LA Times poll, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Romney's religion is going to be anywhere from a moderate to severe handicap, especially in the South (see Robert Novak and Amy Sullivan). And Ross Douthat provides a nimble description of why Romney's problem isn't just confined to the GOP primary:So the Republican primaries would be tough on Romney, and he would be a ripe target for an enterprising Rove wannabe with a taste for dirty campaigns. A few flyers about polygamy in South Carolinian mailboxes, or some push-poll telephone calls about the weirdness of the Book of Mormon in the Catholic Midwest . . . well, you get the idea. And things wouldn't get any easier in the general election, when the media would suddenly discover all sorts of juicy details about Joseph Smith's faith that are just crying out for a Time cover story, or a 60 Minutes special. If you think that journalists have had a field day with George W. Bush's fairly banal brand of evangelical Christianity, well, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.
But neither Novak nor Sullivan cite a single objective source for assuming evangelicals will refuse, en masse, to vote for a Mormon (would they refuse to vote for a small-c conservative Jew like Dennis Prager? I think not)... just unpersuasive anecdotal predictions. Example: Novak writes:
Prominent, respectable Evangelical Christians have told me, not for quotation, that millions of their co-religionists cannot and will not vote for Romney for president solely because he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So some unnamed folks told Robert Novak that others -- not he, but "millions of [his] co-religionists," primarily, we suppose, in the South -- would prefer a liberal Democrat to a conservative Mormon. Among urban folklorists like Jan Harold Brunvand, this is called a "FOAF," a friend of a friend, and is one of the hallmarks of an urban legend.
Sullivan's "evidence" is even sillier. Discussing the 2002 gubernatorial race between Democrat Janet Napolitano and Republican Matt Salmon, a Mormon, she notes:
A month before election day, the race was neck-and-neck, when a third-party candidate named Dick Mahoney began running a television commercial that raised Salmon's Mormonism in the context of a Mormon fundamentalist sect that openly practices polygamy on the Arizona/Utah border. The ad was offensive and was immediately denounced by religious and political leaders. It was also effective.
On election day, Salmon lost to Napolitano by a razor-thin margin. Napolitano won in part by picking up votes among moderate female voters, but also because Salmon ran far behind congressional candidates in the most conservative and heavily evangelical districts.
So if the race was "neck and neck" before the election, and then, after the anti-Mormon ads, Napolitano won by a "razor-thin margin" -- isn't the most likely conclusion that the ads had no effect whatsoever? Sullivan reports that Salmon did poorly among evangelicals; but she doesn't tell us whether he was doing any better among evangelicals "a month before election day." (She also completely buys into the myth that John McCain was destroyed in South Carolina by vile rumors spread by "Bush surrogates," so I tend to discount her seriousness.)
Simply put, when people say, in the abstract, "I would never vote for a Mormon," it's a relatively meaningless statement from a political perspective: as I said above, nobody pulls the lever for "Mr. Mormon cult leader;" the candidate is "Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, the guy who saved the Olympics in Salt Lake City and a first-rate conservative who managed to get elected in one of the bluest of blue states."
In fact, the whole suggestion that Romney will lose because "evangelicals" (translation: the evil religious Right) think he's one of those Satan-worshipping Mormons smacks not only of anti-Christian and anti-Southern bigotry but also argument by melodrama: it must be true because it would be so wild and bizarre if it were true!
It likewise depends upon believing that those "rightwingnut Christians" hate Mormons, call them cultists, and are so bigotted, they would never, ever vote for one. Big Lizards says, regardless of how they answered in a Los Angeles Times poll, when the time comes, evangelicals will step up and vote for the conservative over the liberal... not the secular Christian over the conservative Mormon.
If Romney loses the primary, it will be because of something he said or something he did... not because of something be believes.
Date ►►► July 9, 2006
I Decided Not to Liveblog My Sister's Nuptials...
But I did take lots of pictures of the wedding -- and also of the brushfire that broke out atop the hill overlooking the festivities, necessitating a swift response by local smoke-jumpers and water drops and such. I snapped a great series of shots of one huge water drop.
On the minus side, Big Lizards had lent out its only digital camera to our foreign correspondent, Dewey, and she is away to Australia; thus, our pictures are actual 35mm filmic prints, accompanied by jpegs or somesuch on a disk, which we won't have back for a few days.
When we have them in hand, I'll find the best few and post them here under the header "a Hot and Sultry Hitching," unless I think of a better title. Suffice to say for now that we've finally gotten our sister off our hands, and about time, too. Now let's hope Julie and Aaron quickly get busy on the next phase of Operation Generational Replacement.
(My sister Julie was frantic enough with the whole wedding thing that we decided -- get this -- not to tell her that the hilltop was ablaze until after the ceremony. You'd think she would have noticed all the smoke, flames, and helicopters... but I'll tell the whole story in a few planetary rotations.)
Date ►►► July 7, 2006
Here's a Switch --
UPDATE AND BUMP: See bottom of post.
In a bizarre twist of politics, the Democrats are fighting like the dickens over Rep. Tom DeLay... to keep him on the ballot in Texas, rather than to boot him off. The theory -- and I think it's so transparent, it's going to create blowback -- is that with DeLay's "ethical" problems (i.e., he incurred the wrath of notoriously vindictive and partisan D.A. Ronnie Earle), having DeLay's name on the ballot will so turn off Texas voters, that they'll vote for the Democrat in a strongly Republican district.
I suppose it could work... if, as Democrats believe, Texas voters are all as dumb as a box of bratwurst. Otherwise, they will easily be able to figure out just what the Democrats are up to.
Indicted former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay must stay on the November congressional ballot despite withdrawing from the race, a federal court ruled on Thursday in a decision that could help Democrats win this key seat.
Texas Republicans quickly responded they would appeal the decision by the U.S. court in Austin, Texas, for the right to choose another Republican to run against Democrat Nick Lampson. The seat is crucial to Democratic hopes to pick up the 15 seats needed to regain control of the House of Representatives.
Well, then I can confidently predict that those "hopes" will be dashed: I have nigh religious faith that Texans are not the bunch of slope-browed, eye-ridged, knuckle-dragging, drooling, cousin-marrying, dimwitted, bone-headed ceeement-heads with an extra chromosome that Ronnie Earle and his Democratic chums in Austin imagine describes any Southerner who actually believes in God, the flag, and the Lone Star state. (For example, I'll bet they can even work their way through the snarled syntax of that last sentence.)
In other words, I suspect them Texans'll say to theirselves, "podner -- now why would those Dem-o-crats be wantin' to keep ol' Tom on that dad-burned ballot, when we all know they tuck to him like a snake tucks to a mongoose?" And at some point (probably in the first 1.3 seconds after asking the question), the answer will occur: pretty much just what I wrote above about the Dem-o-crats thinking that DeLay on the ballot will cause all these "stupid" Texicans to vote for Nick Lampson (former D-TX, 75% from the ADA in 2002).
Now, I don't know about you, but I get positively mean when I sense someone thinks I'm as dumb as a big, dumb, ol' cow-patty sandwich. Especially when I'm pretty sure I top him in the IQ department by a couple of stories or mebbie three. So count me among those who think that this shenanigan will not only not help the Democrats capture the Texas 22nd district -- it will blow up in their faces like that guy in Pennsylvania who tried to light his barbecue using gunpowder.
U.S. Judge Sam Sparks in Austin said DeLay could take his name off the ballot by formally withdrawing from the race. If DeLay formally withdraws, the Republican Party cannot replace him, likely giving the seat to Democrat Lampson.
DeLay's office predicted on Thursday the decision would be overturned by a U.S. appeals court.
They'd be better off if it wasn't... blowback is a beautiful thing to watch -- from the other side!
And here is what Tom DeLay and the Republicans could do to ensure that's exactly what happens: they must make a game out of it. DeLay should stump all across Texas, but definitely hit the 22nd a few times; and he should mock the Democrats' dirty trick in every speech. Get the audience laughing with him at the "East-Coast liberals and their Austin lapdogs" and how they think all real Texans are as dumb as first-loser in a head-pounding competition.
Then, with great fanfare, the Republicans should hold their own "private primary" in the district... at their own expense and in their own venues. Any Republican registered in the 22nd district is urged to go to the local church or Elk's lodge or barbecue pit and "vote."
Tom DeLay should announce that everyone should vote for him -- and on the day he takes office, he'll immediately resign. Then Texas Gov. Rick Perry announces that as soon as DeLay resigns, he will appoint the winner of the "private primary," no matter who it is... guar-an-teed.
Thus, Texas Republicans will know that if they vote for Tom DeLay, they're not really voting for Tom DeLay; they're voting for the guy who won the (unofficial) Republican primary. He'll get both the staunch GOP votes and also the votes of anyone whose reaction to getting smoke blown in his face is to blow some smoke right back at 'em. Whoever the Republican "nominee" is, he'll get his appointment to the seat.
Then, if the Democrats demand a special election to replace the appointee -- Republicans go to town, campaigning on the theme, "look what these here jerks are doing now! Look how much money they're costing the district, just to play their limp-wristed reindeer games." By the time the special election is actually held, the GOP appointee will win confirmation by 80-20... and the net effect will be a strongly Republican seat will become a total Republican lock for the next three electoral cycles.
And then we'll see who looks as dumb as a stuffed bunny-wabbit lacking a leg and a head.
UPDATE: Rhymes With Right notes that governors don't have authority to appoint a replacement member of the House, should one resign -- only senators. Therefore, here is the new scheme: DeLay runs, promising to resign the moment he takes office; he wins, he resigns; then there is a special election, and the Republicans get to vote in a real primary for whomever they want -- and again, the campaign reminds everyone that "this expensive special election was brought to you by... the Democrats! Who insisted that DeLay had to be the standard bearer because they thought you were so stupid, you would vote for the Democrat."
That should work just as well as the above scheme... and even better, it's actually legal!
Great News Just Keeps On Coming in Iraq
Iraqi Security Forces, accompanied by U.S. air power, captured two high-ranking commanders in Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia yesterday -- though one of the captured lieutenants may have been trying to create his own militia. The ISF also killed or wounded more than thirty of Sadr's fighters.
The two unfortunates are "Abu" Diraa, captured in eastern Baghdad, and Adnan al-Unaybi, arrested 60 miles south of Baghdad, near Hillah. On a cheery note:
An al-Sadr aide, Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, denounced the Baghdad raid, saying 11 civilians were killed and dozens wounded as U.S. jets fired on the area as people were sleeping on their roofs because of the searing summer temperatures and electricity shortages.
Perhaps Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 75%) will rise, balancing precariously on his hind legs, and demand an immediate court martial for the pilots and flight officers who committed these war crimes against humanity.
And on an even more cheerier note:
There were no casualties among U.S. or Iraqi soldiers, the Americans said.
There, that's what I'm talking about -- a kill ratio of infinity to one. All right, as you were. Just thought you'd like to hear about these raids. If we don't point these things out -- who will?
Date ►►► July 6, 2006
California Marriage: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
California is often so far ahead of the rest of the country, we may as well be on another planet. Fortunately, we're usually not the bellwether.
(Curiously, twenty years ago, I wouldn't have characterized that as "fortunate." But that was then, this is now: twenty years ago, California was at least planted on one of the inner planets fairly near Earth's orbit... not the frozen gas giant we evidently orbit today.)
The "far-out"-ness of my home state is especially true anent same-sex marriage... though at least this time, we're not the Judas goat: that "honor" falls to Massachusetts, still the only state actually to enact same-sex marriage -- albeit at judicial gunpoint.
Still, California's liberal legislators are itching so hard to foist "gay marriage" upon us that I'm taking up a collection to buy the state legislature a gigantic vat of Calamine lotion. They tried once already last September, notwithstanding California's Proposition 22, enacted overwhelming in 2000 (61% to 38%), which restricts marriage to a union between one man and one woman.
But now, a state judge has ruled that Prop. 22 is unconstitutional, and the appellate courts -- and possibly the California Supreme Court -- may uphold that ruling. To that end, a couple of different groups are circulating petitions for initiative constitutional amendments to define marriage as one-man, one-woman; it would take a constitutional amendment actually to protect traditional marriage from the rampaging Democrats in this state.
Note that I do not argue the case for traditional marriage or against same-sex marriage in this post; the case is assumed. I've argued it before -- for example, in a column here, and in this blog in The Mythical Three, With This Ring I Y'All Wed, and The Value of Uniqueness -- and will do so again.
But this post is solely about the Machiavellian matrimonial machinations and madness currently sweeping the state: the good (and personal), the bad (and judicial), and the ugly (very legislative).
So abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Slither on, dude...
First the unalloyed good news (without even Sergio Leone's question mark), which is probably of only the most academic interest to the rest of you: my sister Julie is getting married on Saturday. Three cheers! Mazel-tov! (And about time!) She's marrying her long-term boyfriend Aaron; and of course Sachi and I will be in the wedding party.
For some reason, Julie turned down my offer to be a bouncer at the wedding; but I'll be doing something, I suppose. Sachi won't be a bridesmaid; she has some other role, but we won't be enlightened what either of our tasks will be until the rehearsal tomorrow night.
Almost four months ago, on March 14th, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer gave his ruling in the case Woo v. Lockyer, overturning California's Proposition 22:
On March 14, 2005, Judge Richard Kramer of the Superior Court for San Francisco County, in a decision on six consolidated cases, ruled unconstitutional the two sections of California’s Family Code (sections 300 and 308.5) barring same-sex couples from access to marriage. Judge Kramer based his decision on the equal protection clause of the California constitution, concluding that California’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples failed to survive rational basis review, the test of legislation most deferential to the state. Furthermore, he concluded that the marriage law was subject to, and failed, the strict scrutiny test because it involved a “suspect classification,” namely gender, and a fundamental right under the California constitution, the right to marry.
The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals, First District, in San Francisco, where it's supposed to be argued on July 10th. Judge Kramer's ruling is stayed pending the appeal, of course. If the appeal fails and the ruling is upheld, then presumably the state Supreme Court will hear arguments next year (I cannot imagine they would refuse). But both the appellate court and, to a lesser extent, the state Supreme Court are liberal -- and it's entirely possible that Prop. 22 will be struck down.
Après ça, le déluge. The state legislature already passed a same-sex marriage bill in September, 2005, which was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger precisely because it flew in the face of Prop. 22; if the latter were struck down, the legislature would immediately act to pass the same bill again... and this time, especially if it were after the November election, Schwarzenegger would have no reason not to sign it (he personally favors civil unions but hasn't really said what he thinks about same-sex marriage).
Thus, if Prop. 22 is struck down and not replaced by a stronger initiative constitional amendment, Californians will wake up to having become the second state to have legal same-sex marriage (the first to do so without being forced)... and likely very quickly also polygamy, as the same proposition banned both -- and as most of the lefty activists advocating "gay marriage" also agitate for polygamy and group marriage. If Judge Kramer isn't willing to so rule, some other, even more liberal San Francisco judge will be found; it's not hard.
Traditional marriage in California is at grave risk... and nobody on the Left is paying any attention to what the citizens themselves want (now, there's a shock).
Interestingly, on the larger canvas, two states, New York and Georgia, dealt a blow today to supporters of same-sex marriage and other weird variants:
Activists had hoped to widen marriage rights for gays and lesbians beyond Massachusetts with a legal victory in liberal New York, but the Court of Appeals ruled 4-2 that the state's law allowing marriage only between a man and a woman was constitutional....
In Georgia, where three-quarters of voters approved a ban on gay marriage when it was on the ballot in 2004, the top court reinstated the ban Thursday, ruling unanimously that it did not violate the state's single-subject rule for ballot measures. Lawyers for the plaintiffs had argued that the ballot language was misleading, asking voters to decide on same-sex marriage and civil unions, separate issues about which many people had different opinions.
Excuse me... can we borrow the New York or Georgia courts, please?
Given the concerted attempts to subvert the will of California citizens and voters by ramming same-sex marriage down our throats, in spite of the overwhelming vote against it in the 2000 initiative statute Proposition 22 (it won by nearly 23%), it's not surprising that those of us who strongly support traditional marriage and vehemently oppose same-sex marriage (as well as "domestic partnership" laws that are marriage in all but name) want to put another initiative on the ballot... but this time as a constitutional amendment, so a San Francisco judge cannot simply brush it aside.
(It didn't occur to anyone in 2000 that an amendment that read, in its entirety, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," was in danger of being declared unconstitutional.)
The initiative process, however, is about as ugly as they come. All it takes is a few signatures -- 598,105 -- by an arbitrary deadline, after first crashing through the thicket of court rulings designed to prevent citizens from horning in on the parade of professional legislators.
The high signature threshold itself requires that any petition be backed by substantial money to hire professional signature gatherers... and that's just to get it on the ballot. Once there, millions will be required to pay for commercial advertising for traditional marriage; otherwise, the Democrats will redefine it into oblivion. (Did you know that anyone who supports traditional marriage hates gays, wants to restore the ban on interracial marriage, and engages in ritual human sacrifice?)
Despite the danger and despair, there actually is a ballot initiative circulating that would do just that. Unfortunately, there is also another ballot initiative circulating that would also do just that, and the authors appear to be quite unfriendly towards each other.
One group, Vote Yes Marriage, is led by Larry Bowler, Ed Hernandez and Randy Thomasson; their website is Vote Yes Marriage. The other, Protect Marriage, is led by Ivan Megediuk, Nikolay Bugriyev and Richard N. Otterstad, Jr.; they can be found at Protect Marriage... however, the front page hasn't been updated since January (!), so I'm not sure what their status is.
There is a tussle going on between these two groups. The Protect Marriage initiative favors using very simple language in their proposed amendment:
This is simple and easy to understand and very likely to get overwhelming approval from the voters. However, the Vote Yes Marriage campaign worries that it will be pecked to death by the ducks of the California judiciary, trying to find loopholes; they favor a more legalistic and complicated version:
Both initiatives would ban not only same-sex or polygamous marriage but also overturn California's civil-union law, which is basically marriage in all but name. I would certainly actively support and campaign for either or both. (If both pass on the same ballot, then the one with larger number of votes prevails.)
But I'm torn which is the better; there is no question in my mind that the first, shorter version is more likely to pass. But I agree with Vote Yes Marriage that it's also more likely to be twisted into a pretzel by the California courts. What I hope is that both campaigns combine and offer both propositions on the ballot: let the people decide by voting.
According to the website of California's Secretary of State Bruce McPherson (a liberal-to-moderate Republican), the long-form version by Vote Yes America failed to get on the ballot for the 2006 general election in November.
Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee (and the excellent Bee-blog California Insider) tells me via e-mail that it failed because of insufficient signatures... which makes me believe it's having money problems, possibly because of the kerfuffle with Protect Marriage. There are certainly enough supporters that they should have been able to clear the 600,000-signature hurdle.
Vote Yes Marriage is circulating another petition to get it on the ballot for 2008, for which the deadline is listed as November 27th.
Protect Marriage is also circulating a petition on their own short-form amendment for the 2008 election; their deadline is August 21st.
2008 is actually a better year than 2006 would have been: the appellate court should rule on Judge Kramer's challenge to Prop. 22 by early October (90 days after they hear oral arguments on July 10th, assuming that isn't delayed). If they strike 22 down, then the California Supreme Court will probably take up the appeal and rule either in late 2007 or early 2008. Thus, the insane California legislature could not pass a same-sex marriage bill until then; and we would know before the 2008 election whether or not the California government still believed in real marriage.
Prospects for passage -- if proponents can ever get either iniative on the ballot -- are good: even the Field Poll finds support for traditional marriage strong, with 51% opposing same-sex marriage to 43% supporting it, unchanged from 2004 and 2003.
This would undoubtedly rise if the courts struck down Prop. 22: everyone who voted for it back in 2000 will be even more determined to do so again, since they would feel the courts had just backhanded them in the mouth.
(Note that the Field Poll also notoriously underreports support for traditional marriage; in 2000, just before the election, the Field Poll found 54% of likely California voters supporting Prop. 22; a week later, it was passed 61.4% to 38.6%.)
Interestingly enough, the same Field Poll found 50% oppose amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as one man-one woman (40% support). While this may seem like a dichotomy, it's actually in line with other polls: according to Polling Report (ignore the first poll, which is about flag burning and mistakenly put in the wrong category), most Americans -- myself included -- believe the question of same-sex marriage should be decided by the states, not by the federal government.
And on the state level, we proponents of traditional marriage are winning big time. Initiatives defining marriage as one-man-one-woman have passed in every, single election they've been offered, in every state that has ever allowed its citizens to vote, from the deep South to Oregon to Michigan to the Midwest; no state's voters have ever rejected such a referendum: we're twenty for twenty.
The only two state legislatures that have ever voted for same-sex marriage are Massachusetts (which was responding to a direct order from the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts) and California (which has no excuse, but which was at least vetoed by the governor).
Currently 20 states define marriage traditionally in their state constitutions (by referendum), while 43 do so in statutory language (mostly overlap, since we don't have 63 states). Only five states "do not have statutory or constitutional language preserving the traditional understanding of marriage": Connectucut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island. (The Heritage Foundation says six, but that's because they were including New York... whose appellate court just upheld the state's marriage definition.)
In addition, initiative constitutional amendments are on the November ballot in six states and pending in an additional five, while legislation is pending in the state houses of six states.
The End -- At Long Last!
So that's the good about traditional marriage and the bad and ugly about same-sex marriage in California: if the two petition-circulating groups -- Vote Yes Marriage and Protect Marriage -- can get their acts together (literally) and get something on the ballot, it will pass. But this may be after Proposition 22 is struck down and the legislature rushes to legalize same-sex marriage in early 2008.
And this would be a tragedy... not because it would stand; it won't. With that spur, either of the initiatives would pass by 65%. But it would be a tragedy to those poor souls who actually believe that the liberals in the Assembly and state Senate care a snap about them -- other than as a stick to bash Republicans. Many gay couples would rejoice at the law and rush to get married, only to see their marriages annulled just a few months later.
That will likely embitter and enrage them, and it would set back a gay-rights agenda by years... which of course is exactly what the Democrats want. They revel in hatred, anger, and despair, because that plays into their divisive campaign strategy.
Liberal Democrats believe that all permanently aggrieved minorities who feel "disenfranchised" will automatically vote for the Democrats. Enacting same-sex marriage will give nothing to gays but heartache; but it will scrape up a few more hopeless, bitter-end Democrats, so it's a good thing.
(Note that I support gay rights, such as the Supreme Court striking down "sodomy" laws in Lawrence v. Texas; but I argue that legal marriage is not a right but an acclamation that cannot be forced.)
But in the end, the people will have the last word... unless the California Supreme Court finds a way to find the California constitution itself unconstitutional.
Felipe Calderón Wins
As Big Lizards first predicted in Teleblogging 2: I Think Calderón Has Won..., conservative Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN) of Vicente Fox has been officially declared the winner of the Mexican election:
The ruling party's Felipe Calderon won the official count in Mexico's disputed presidential race Thursday, a come-from-behind victory for the stiff technocrat. But his leftist rival refused to concede and said he'd fight the results in court.... [Why do I have this curious sense of déjà vu? -- the Mgt.]
With the 41 million votes counted, Calderon of President Vicente Fox's National Action Party had 35.88 percent, or 14,981,268 votes, to 14,745,262, or 35.31 percent, for Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party. The two were separated by 0.57 percent, or 236,006 votes.
This is, of course, nearly identical to the unofficial, preliminary tally of Sunday, which ended with Calderón ahead by 0.6%. In this age of computerized ballot counting, recounts usually are.
And right on cue, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) is calling out his supporters for an "informational" protest -- which I still predict will turn into violent street battles, as Big Lizards suggested. From the AP story linked above:
On Thursday, the former Mexico City mayor said that widespread fraud - not campaign missteps - cost him the election, and he called on his supporters to gather Saturday for an "informational assembly."
"We are always going to act in a responsible manner, but at the same time, we have to defend the citizens' will," he said.
He denounced election officials for going forward with an official count of poll-workers' vote tallies, as required by election law, and ignoring his demand for a ballot-by-ballot review.
"We are going to the Federal Electoral Tribunal with the same demand - that the votes be counted - because we cannot accept these results," Lopez Obrador said.
So keep a weather eye to the south, but don't let López Obrador cause you to lose sight of the fact that, regardless of "the citizens' will," the voters willed that Felipe Calderón should be the new president of Mexico.
The More I Hear From the Obradorians...
...The more convinced I am that the conservative Felipe Calderón has won. Even though the current (incomplete) recount has Obrador slightly ahead.
With nearly 95 percent of tally sheets recounted at 300 district headquarters across the country, former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had 35.9 percent, compared with 35.3 percent for Calderon. The preliminary count completed earlier in the week had Calderon winning by 1 percentage point.
Officials from Calderon's party said Lopez Obrador was only leading because more votes had been recounted in areas where he was strongest, and they insisted the trend would not hold.
They also accused the Lopez Obrador's party of stalling tactics in states where the conservative Calderon was strongest, saying it was deliberately trying to give the impression that Lopez Obrador was ahead as the count progressed.
All right, so that's the claim. How is the López Obrador campaign reacting to the count as it proceeds? Are they reacting as people who are confident of their victory -- or as people who are getting nervous, because they suspect it's not going to hold up? You be the judge:
Lopez Obrador insisted he was victorious and said there was "serious evidence of fraud."
Leonel Cota, president of Lopez Obrador's party, accused election officials of deliberately mishandling the preliminary count to confirm a win for Calderon, the ruling-party candidate. He said Lopez Obrador won Sunday's vote.
"We are not going to recognize an election that showed serious evidence of fraud, that was dirty from the start, manipulated from the start," he said.
I have no crystal ball (and my Magic 8-Ball says "Ask again later"), but people who really believe they've won an election typically don't scream about fraud or threaten not to recognize the election results, eh?
Cota said Democratic Revolution would not recognize the results without a ballot-by-ballot recount. But IFE President Luis Carlos Ugalde said that was not possible....
Cota said the party might take its case to international tribunals.
That's the view from inside the campaign: clearly, the Obrador camp does not believe its current lead is going to hold up. But how about the view from the masses of Obrador voters, the ones who might engage in violent street protests if they don't get their way? So far, the outlook is not good -- but it's not yet scary, either:
About 35 people set up camp Wednesday outside IFE's gates, draping banners that accused electoral officials of being traitors, and about 300 protesters marched down Mexico City's broad Reforma Avenue carrying a banner reading: "Respect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's victory!"
"We're not going to let them get away with this," said 62-year-old Enrique Flores, a retired Mexico City school teacher.
Well, I'd have to say they don't believe the lead will stand either, and they're already setting the stage for their grievance and riot when Calderón is declared the winner. I still can't say for sure that he will be, of course; when an election is this close, anything can happen.
But that's quite obviously how voters on both sides of the aisle expect the count to go. What do we make of that?
Date ►►► July 5, 2006
Wanted: Real Samurai!
Back in April, Japan faced a crisis over a little rock island which the Japanese call Takeshima: when Japan said they would send a survey ship to the area near Takeshima, staying within Japan's own "Exclusive Economical Zone" (EEZ), South Korea reacted with fury.
Since the 1950s, the Republic of Korea (RoK -- please don't confuse with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK, which is North Korea) has claimed ownership of Takeshima, which they call Dokdo, in defiance of the international community, which recognizes the island as belonging to Japan. Even so, the Japanese survey ship was not sailing into Takeshima's waters; its planned route kept it entirely within Japanese waters. Yet the RoK warned Japan that if the Japanese ship so much as left the port of Japan, the RoK would respond with military force.
As South Korean Coast Guard (Navy) ships were already interdicting Japanese fishing vessels near Takeshima and seizing and holding the crews (and had even killed one captain when a boat failed to surrender), Japan took this threat very seriously. The crisis was apparently "resolved" when Japan backed down and canceled the survey:
Japan and South Korea reached an agreement Saturday that says if Tokyo cancels a planned maritime survey near the Takeshima islets, Seoul will not propose naming seafloor topography around the disputed islets at an international conference in June.
I was furious at this so-called "compromise;" but my Japanese friends told me it was "a victory for diplomacy and for Japan." The RoK government -- which had refused to discuss the EEZ question for years -- finally agreed to "talk about it" in June 2006.
I was not convinced, and I predicted the talks would produce nothing.
They avoided a shooting war for now, but it's only a Band-Aid. The fact is that South Korea still surrounds Takeshima island [with warships] and considers itself legally and morally justified to threaten any Japanese ship -- fishing boat or scientific survey ship -- that comes near to "their" island. Besides, South Korea did not permanently give up renaming in Korean the seafloor topography around the disputed islets; they only posponed it.
However, being fair-minded, I decided to suspend judgment until the June talks. Well, June has come and gone; and yes, they did indeed "talk" about Takeshima. It turns out my prediction was wrong: the talks did not produce "nothing"... they produced something much worse.
South Korea did not formally propose Korean names for seafloor topography at the international maritime conference. Instead, they joined the topography naming committee, an obvious preparation for a future action.
For all the talk about the EEZ and Takeshima, all the RoK did was confirm their earlier rigid attitude: they announced that they would send their own survey ships whenever they felt like it; and (they threatened) if Japan tries to prevent it, South Korea will respond with naval force.
In fact, the survey ship just sailed yesterday, timed if not consciously then at least conveniently to coincide with North Korea's (DPRK) failed launch of the Taepodong 2 missile that hit the drink 40 seconds after launch. While Japan (and the rest of the world) watched the humiliating missile malfunction, the RoK sent their survey ship into Japanese waters.
A South Korean ship departed on Sunday on its way to survey waters near Seoul-held islands claimed by Japan, an official said, in a move that threatened to raise tensions with Tokyo.
South Korea announced last week its plan to conduct a survey of waters near islets known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, despite Tokyo's protests. The survey was to start on Monday and last until July 14...
Yonhap news agency reported the South Korean coast guard planned to escort the ship on the survey, presumably to ward off any Japanese interference. The coast guard did not immediately answer phone calls to confirm the report.
So, what have we got here?
- South Korea used the threat of military force to prevent a Japanese survey ship from entering Japan's own EEZ.
- But now a South Korean ship provacatively sails freely, not just into the waters around Takeshima, or even just the Japanese EEZ, but into Japanese territory itself... and backed by military force.
No English-language papers are reporting this, but for those who can read Japanese, here is the Yomiuri Newspaper account:
The [South Korean] survey ship sailed the Japanese territorial waters and the Japanese EEZ for 14 and a half hours and surveyed the area. Evidently, the survey inside the Japanese EEZ is limited to [July] 5th. According to the Japanese Coast Guard [Navy], at 6:41 AM Monday, the Korean survey ship entered the Japanese EEZ from west-north-west of Takeshima then headed toward Takeshima.
After passing Takeshima's north shore, the ship changed direction to south, then continued heading south-west. After confirming the survey ship had left Japanese waters, a Japanese Coast Guard ship accompanied the survey ship south-west.
So how exactly is this "a Japanese victory?"
Frankly, I do not believe that South Korea is really looking for a military conflict with Japan. Since the RoK is clearly in the wrong -- they're dictating not only what happens around Takeshima, whose ownership is not even in dispute, but around Japan itself -- South Korea certainly does not want to attract the attention of the international community. However, they are betting, quite reasonably, I'm sad to say, on continued Japanese inaction in the face of blatant provocation and intimidation.
And why should they not? Why should South Korea be afraid of the mighty Samurai spirit?
Japan has always backed down. Japan did nothing when Japanese fishermen were harassed, kidnapped, and even killed in their own ocean by South Korean Coast Guard vessels. Japan did nothing when their own survey ship was prevented from sailing in their own waters.
So why should anyone expect Japan to do anything when a South Korean survey ship invades Japanese territory, sailing waters that even the RoK recognizes as Japanese? (Or maybe they don't; maybe tomorrow, they'll give the Japanese mainland a new Korean name.)
I am disgusted. If Japan's response is another one of those calm, level-headed, adult attitudes of tolerance and forebearance, I'll be reaching for the Pepto-Bismol. If Japan has no Samurai spirit left to protect even a small rock from the RoK... then they don't even deserve to have a country.
So What's the Deal With the New Townhall.com Blogs?
Today, when I type in http://www.hughhewitt.com/, that URL is now just a "parked domain" pointing at http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/ instead. Hugh is evidently a partner in the new Townhall.com reintroduction.
But what does that mean? Hugh writes,
Attract. Inform. Activate. Motivate.
That's the purpose of the new Townhall.com, and I hope the launch will inspire you to begin blogging today, or if you have been blogging, to move your blog to the Townhall platform where we believe your traffic will increase substantially given the nature of the more than a million users Townhall.com already has.
I'm still confused, however: what is the incentive for someone moving his blog to Townhall.com? I clicked on the advert in the (gigantic) sidebar that reads "Create Your Own Blog," and it's less than informative, telling us only the following:
Start Blogging In 3 Easy Steps!
1. Name Your Blog
2. Choose a Template
3. Determine Your Blog Settings
This tells me exactly nothing, other than that the copywriter overcapitalizes and loves exclamation points. For example, here are some questions I still have:
- Townhall.com may have "more than a million users," but evidently what they don't have is SiteMeter, or any other independent traffic monitor... so it's a bit hard to tell whether traffic goes up or goes down when a blog moves there.
Granted such a blog ends up with more readers; but how much of the ad revenue does the blogger keep, if any? I presume Hugh gets a lot; but then, he's an actual partner, not just a random blogger.
Do the Townhall.com bloggers get readers but no money? Or do they get significant money? Nowhere on the site does it tell us; the site map currently has nothing on it but a list of the bloggers on the site. What's the business plan?
- If a blog already has a distinct style, such as (ahem) Big Lizards, would the owner really have to dump the style his readers have come to know and loathe, just in order to -- I mean know and love, just in order to get it on Townhall.com?
For those bloggers who already have a somewhat successful site, by the curiously low standards readers of Big Lizards have come to expect, can it be simply "mirrored" on Townhall?
That way, the reader could access one version by going to www.BlogMonkier.townhall.com, and see the site in one of Townhall's templates; or he could go to www.BlogMoniker.com directly to see the site in its pristine originality. Or does the agreement require that all other mirrors or versions of the site be terminated?
- How much control over the HTML code would a Townhall blogger have? (My off-the-thumbnail guess is "none whatsoever.")
Does anybody out there have an inkling of the answers to these questions? If so, will he tell us himself, or do we have to wait to hear the dirty version from Eric Lichtblau?
Here It Comes...
It appears that Hamas is so trapped in the quagmire of their own delusions of grandeur and persecution that they literally cannot even wake up to save their own lives: they fired another Kassam rocket -- Hamas claimed it was "upgraded" -- this time, as they had promised, at an Israeli school full of children.
"Tonight a grave escalation took place when a Kassam landed in a school in our southern town. This is a peerless and grave escalation in the terrorist war for which Hamas, which is in control of the Palestinian government, is responsible," Olmert said.
He said there will be significant ramifications for this "criminal attempt" to strike at Israeli citizens. He said Hamas would be the first to be hit.
I have long believed that jihadis actually worship an ancient death god who demands human sacrifices; "blood and souls for Moloch," perhaps. Now I think it may even be worse. Is it possible for an entire culture to be suicidal, to long for death in the hope that with enough letting of lives, the Great Old Ones will return to Earth and reclaim what was theirs? Do the Palestinians worship some sick version of H.P. Lovecraft's pantheon, some eldrich, imaginary being like Azathoth, the blind idiot god, or Yog-Sothoth, the lurker at the threshold?
It's difficult to come up with any rational explanation for their compulsion to launch feeble, impotent attacks on Israel, as if trying their damnedest to enrage the Israelis -- without actually impairing their ability to strike back at the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is like a berserker who rushes a man with a pike; he impales the berserker... who proceeds to pull the pike deeper and deeper into the wound, through and through, clawing at the pikesman with blood-soaked, detumescent fingers in a futile gesture of childish defiance.
Sorry. Carried away. But I still think it's a close analogy.
The reaction to the attack on Israeli schoolchildren is predictable, despite the fact that by sheer, benevolent luck, the rocket that hit the school missed all the children playing just outside:
In response to the attack, Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the IDF to step up the speed and intensity of Operation Summer Rains in the Gaza Strip, launched last Wednesday in an effort to retrieve Cpl. Gilad Shalit. "We intend to achieve the goals of our operations in Gaza," Peretz said, referring to stopping the Kassam rocket fire as well as retrieving the kidnapped IDF soldier....
Meanwhile Tuesday, the IDF stepped up its offensive on the Gaza Strip despite the expiration of an ultimatum issued by the kidnappers of Shalit, abducted from his military outpost outside southern Gaza last Sunday. On Monday, several tank squads, bulldozers and infantry companies took up positions in northern Gaza opposite Beit Hanoun. On Tuesday, additional forces were sent into Gaza establishing a battalion-level presence in northern Gaza.
This can only end one way: eventually, the war will stop, because there will be nothing left in Gaza to defend but rubble and more rubble, with starving, stunned Moslems wandering the shattered landscape, wondering what sin they committed that their god should so fail them.
But then, it will be too late. The Palestinians could flee to the West Bank, but Hamas will probably use that as a launching pad for more useless attacks against Israel.
Nobody in the Middle East will lift a finger to save the Palestinians, because all of their neighbors hate and despise them. The UN will fuliiminate and demand, as Golda Meir famously suggested, that Israel should commit suicide so that the world will think well of the Jews. The United States will shrug and perhaps offer some half-hearted admonition; but the reality is that nobody in the administration really cares if Hamas decides to go out in a blaze of ersatz glory, and nobody in Congress is fool enough to stand with the terrorists.
So at some point, either Hamas can stop itself, or the Palestinian people can stop them... or else the problem will be resolved the hard way. It's a remarkable spectacle; I've learned things I never knew about the grip that ego-boosting fantasy can have on a whole people.
Date ►►► July 4, 2006
Sullivan's Travails and the "One Percent Solution"
A wonderful Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Professor Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, discusses the current state of knowledge about global warming -- whoops, global climate change.
Actually, I should write "the current state of ignorance and confusion," because Lindzen's conclusion is that we really know next to nothing about what really causes the observed global climate change over the last several hundred million years (hat tip to Ryan Sager at Real Clear Politics blog):
First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists--especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a "moral" crusade.
Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce--if we're lucky.
Reading this op-ed, Andrew Sullivan finds himself in agreement... but rather than retracting his claws, Sullivan slashes out even more desperately in support of the "do something!" argument. He resurrects an argument used by the Jesuits in centuries past to extort belief by twisting logic:
Accrding to Ron Suskind, Dick Cheney's "one percent doctrine" means that if there's a one percent chance that a terrorist could have access to a WMD, we must act as if it were a certainty - because the outcome, however unlikely, would be too disastrous to risk. On global warming, Gore expresses a not-too-dissimilar equation: if there's a small chance that human behavior could lead to environmental catastrophe, we should act as if it were a certainty - because waiting too long is too big a risk to take....
A prudent attempt to rein in carbon dioxide emissions seems a no-brainer to me. A dollar rise in the gas tax would be the most effective way to achieve this.
Logicians of the Society of Jesus used to argue that, since perpetual damnation is an infinite catastrophe for a soul, then if there is even the slightest chance that Christianity is right -- even a 0.000000000000001% chance -- multiplying this miniscule chance by the infinity of damnation still means one had better believe... because "infinitely bad" times any finite percentage, no matter how small, is still "infinitely bad."
The response, of course, is that the same argument holds for Judaism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism: in each case, the consequence of non-belief, if one of them happens to be true, is infinitely bad; therefore, no matter how slight a possibility that each is true, one should believe it anyway. This sets up a bit of a quandry, since one must simultaneously believe both Judaism and also Philistine paganism, both Christianity and pre-Christian Roman Mithraism, as well as Shintoism, Tao, Hinduism, Anton Szandor LeVey's Church of Satan, and Scientology. (Well, maybe not Scientology.)
In Sullivan's case, however, the whole argument falls apart. This is because Sullivan -- who really ought to know his Jesuitical logic better, being a Roman Catholic -- does not claim that global warming leads to infinite bad. However, a moment's review makes clear that it's the very property that Sullivan's argument lacks -- the infinity of the bad result -- which makes the argument.
If the badness of global climate change is not literally infinite, then:
- Sullivan must actually calculate the probability that global climate change is primarily human driven (he can substitute his "1%" guesstimate here);
- Then multiply his 1% by the probability that a $1/gallon tax on gasoline will produce such a change in the amount of driving that it will actually significantly affect the amount of carbon entering our atmosphere;
- Times the probability that such a reduction in carbon dioxide will actually measurably reduce global temperature;
- Then calculate the probability of various negative effects from whatever measures we take to combat global warming;
- Finally, compare these two probabilities to see whether massive efforts to combat global warming (including another big tax on gasoline, which primarily hurts the working poor and citizens of western states) are more likely to do good or ill to America.
(Cheney's argument is more robust, because going after terrorists is sound policy, even if they turn out not to have WMD; while punishing those who live in the western United States or who must drive to work for a living is bad policy on its face... which means it must have a dramatically good counterbalance to make it worthwhile.)
I'm not sure where Sullivan thought he was going with this; but wherever it was, he didn't arrive.
"Democratic" López Obrador Threatens Revolution If He Loses
The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) edged away from "democratic" and closer to "revolution" today as Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in a throwback to the days before there was democracy in Mexican elections, vowed street action if he is not declared the winner:
Mexico's leftist presidential candidate, narrowly trailing his conservative rival in the vote, will call street protests if necessary to challenge an election he says was plagued with irregularities.
Senior aides to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday he was first taking his challenge to election authorities but may then bring out supporters to back his fight against the apparent razor-thin victory of ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon.
"We are not calling for immediate demonstrations but of course it could happen at some point," Manuel Camacho Solis, the candidate's main political operator, told Reuters.
But of course. López Obrador thus lives down to every negative campaign ad run by his opponent, conservative Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN) of Vicente Fox, comparing López Obrador to anti-Democratic thugs Oogo Chavez of Venezuela and his sock puppet, Evo Morales of Bolivia.
Yesterday, we asked the question, "has any political party whose name contains any variant of the word 'revolution' ever done anybody any good?" Yesterday, López Obrador was still pledging, per the New York Times, to follow the democratic process, even if he lost:
Mr. López Obrador said at a downtown hotel he would respect the decision of the election institute even if he lost by one vote. Yet in the same breath he maintained he was convinced he had won by 500,000 votes. "This result is irreversible," he said.
Today he dropped the respect and embraced the irreversibility:
Camacho Solis said supporters were already pushing Lopez Obrador, the combative former mayor of Mexico City, to take his cause onto the streets. Many militants remember the 1988 election when fraud was widely believed to have robbed a leftist of victory.
"People do not want a negotiation, they do not want us to accept the result, but we have to guide the movement politically so it doesn't end up in a greater confrontation."
Algore must be Green with envy, asking himself, "why didn't I think of that?" After losing the election, Gore clumsily tried to sue his way into the White House on the widely recognized legal theory that if the Democrat and the Republican are neck and neck in the vote, then there is no conceivable way the Democrat could have lost.
(A Gore-ollary: if a Democrat flips a coin and calls "tails," and it lands temporarily out of sight, then there is no conceivable way the coin could have landed "heads.")
The current count, with nearly all precincts reporting, has Calderón ahead of Orbrador by 1% of the vote, or 380,000 votes:
Unofficial results from more than 98 percent of all polling places showed Felipe Calderón, the fiscal conservative backed by big business, with a lead of one percentage point over Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the fiery leftist whose campaign championed the country's poor.
Several political and financial analysts said they believed that Mr. Calderón's 384,000-vote lead, narrow as it was, was unlikely to be reversed, with only about 800,000 more votes to be tallied, but Mr. López Obrador said that the preliminary tally was flawed and that he planned to challenge it in court.
For López Obrador to reverse the result in the remaining 800,000 votes, he would have to win 590,000 to 210,000, or 74% to 26%.
Late in the afternoon, Mr. López Obrador denounced the preliminary results, saying they could not be trusted, and showed copies of reports from polling places that did not conform to the results announced by federal election officials. He also asserted that three million votes were missing and had not been counted.
Assuming that is true, for those three million votes to turn the tide, he would have to win them by better than 56% to 44%; even if these phantom "three million votes" actually exist, López Obrador has not given any reason to believe they're all from poor and Socialist-leaning parts of Mexico. And what does he mean by "missing," anyway? Has he examined the voting machines? Or is he basing this on the fact that turnout in pro-López Obrador states fell short of PRD's expectations?
I suspect what he is actually doing is preparing a "battle cry" for the upcoming violent street protests, as he tries to seize by the bullet what he lost by the ballot: "Remember the three million disappeared!"
The PRD believes that it was robbed in a previous election in 1988:
The Democratic Revolutionary Party, or P.R.D., has come close to the presidency once before. In 1988, its candidate, Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas, lost the presidency to Carlos Salinas de Gortari of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
In that race, the computers whose tallies showed Mr. Cárdenas with a comfortable lead over Mr. Salinas mysteriously blacked out, and when they came back on line they showed Mr. Salinas in the lead.
The claim of electoral theft is not universally accepted by any means; but even if it were true, it's one Socialist/Leftist party (the oxymoronic Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI) cheating another Socialist/Leftist party (the PRD). The National Action Party of Fox and Calderón played at most a peripheral role.
This isn't the World Cup: even if the PRI stole an election from the PRD eighteen years ago, that doesn't give the PRD license to steal an election from the PAN today.
Mexico stands at a crossroads. On the left hand is the López Obrador-driven return to the dark days of Socialism, poverty, corruption, and violence; on the right is the dawn of capitalism and rule of law, led by Felipe Calderón and the National Action Party. If Mexico chooses the right path, confirming the stunning break of 2000 -- when Vicente Fox defeated the PRI, which had controlled Mexico under single-party rule for seventy years -- then I believe it will be democracy in Mexico, not Socialism, that is "irreversible."
And the fiery Andrés Manuel López Obrador can return to his home state of Tabasco or to Mexico City and give up his dreams of joining Fidel, Hugo, and Evo in trying to return Stalinism to Latin America.
Date ►►► July 3, 2006
Federal Judge Issues Orders to Navy
First the federal judiciary took control away from the president in the treatment of unlawful combatants; then they seized control away from Congress in the ratification and enforcement of the Geneva Conventions and for determining the jurisdiction of the federal courts -- which can now determine their own jurisdiction, and the Constitution be damned.
And now, a federal judge ("but some are more equal than others") has anointed herself the Commander in Chief of the armed forces; she has issued an order to the Navy not to use sonar during a "mid-frequency active sonar" test in the Pacific Ocean. Why? Because sonar might bother whales:
A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday barring the Navy from using a type of sonar, allegedly harmful to marine mammals, during a Pacific warfare exercise scheduled to begin this week.
The order comes three days after the Navy obtained a six-month national defense exemption from the Defense Department allowing it to use "mid-frequency active sonar."
In a lawsuit filed by [the usual suspects] before a judge appointed by [take a wild guess -- hint: 1999], Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled that there was a "possibility" (her word) that the sonar to be tested might kill, injure, or disturb the whales, dolphins, walruses, otters, beavers, dogpaddling elephants, or other mammalian species that just happened to be lounging around Hawaii... so therefore, she has ordered the military not to test it.
In a related decision, rumor has it that Judge Cooper is just about to rule that we can no longer use radar, because it might emit radiation; fighter jets, because they're too noisy (and too closely associated with George W. Bush); and Predator drones -- because, as a vegetarian, she doesn't like the sound of that name.
Were I giving advice to the president, I would tell him, "Dude" -- which is one reason I'm not advising the CinC -- "it's time to draw a line in the sand." (As a Texan, he should appreciate the reference.) Bush should call a press conference and announce that the federal judiciary does not have authority over the military; the Constitution clearly gives that authority solely to the president as Commander in Chief. So he thanks her honor for the suggestion, but the test will proceed as planned, and as the Pentagon has approved.
Lady, we are in a war, for God's sake. You don't stop the military from testing the weapons that save our lives every day just because your heart bleeds for Flipper, Shamu and all their undersea chums.
I realize your calendar stops at September 10th; but for the rest of us, what happened the next day changed everything. In particular, it changed forever the level of monkeyshines that we are willing to tolerate in the war against jihadis.
The chutzpah of the federal judiciary is exceeded only by the arrogance of the elite media.
So to be perfectly polite about it, Judge Florence-Marie Cooper can go take a long walk on a short pier. If the DoD believes we need these tests to defend the nation, and if the Commander in Chief agrees, then neither the judicial nor the legislative branch has the least thing to say about it.
Judge Florence-Marie Cooper: go away.
Teleblogging 2: I Think Calderón Has Won...
...But nobody is in a position to say for sure yet.
We're talking about the critical Mexican election yesterday, of course; both the mostly-capitalist candidate Felipe Calderón, of the National Action Party of Vicente Fox, and the Socialist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Democratic Revolution Party, claim to have won (has any political party whose name contains any variant of the word "revolution" ever done anybody any good?), and the election is too close to call via the cursory count Sunday night.
But look at the difference in what the candidates themselves say:
Lopez Obrador said late Sunday that he would respect the delay in declaring a winner, "but I want the Mexican people to know that our figures show we won...."
Calderon spoke minutes later, saying he too will respect the results -- but that the official preliminary results, as well as the exit polls, show that he's the winner.
Now, anything can happen; and I suspect Mexico is a lot less rigorous about their polling (and possibly their counting) than even we are. But it's very, very rare that when both the exit polling and also the preliminary count show one person winning, the other person ends up winning instead with the final count.
Of those two, the exit polling is the weakest reed; but it is a completely separate measure than the preliminary count. If both point to Calderon (and not even López Obrador disputes this), I have a hard time believing that both will be proven wrong. It's not unheard of, but it's very unlikely.
In a longer AP story, we get some actual figures:
Preliminary results posted by the electoral institute showed that, with 44 percent of polling stations counted, Calderon had 38 percent, Lopez Obrador 36 percent and Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party with 19 percent. Those results were tallied at polling stations, and had yet to be certified....
Exit polls indicated National Action did well in three governors races - Morelos, Guanajuato and Jalisco - while Marcelo Ebrard of Lopez Obrador's party easily won the Mexico City mayor's post.
As for Congress - key to determining whether the next president will be able to push through reforms - none of the parties received a majority. Two exit polls, both with a 1.5 percent margin of error, gave National Action 35 percent, Democratic Revolution 31 percent and the PRI 28 percent of the lower house of Congress.
Obviously, nothing is set in stone; but a 2% lead is good to carry into more detailed counting... and it's not as small as originally intimated (not within 1%). It's also not a good sign for a candidate when the only polls he can cite to show he's ahead are those conducted by his own campaign.
This election plays as a mirror of American politics. According to the New York Times:
Mr. Calderón, 43, said he would create jobs through securing more private investment and by cutting taxes. Mr. López Obrador, 52, said he would spend $20 billion on social programs and public works to jump-start the economy.
It's Bush vs. Gore! And another cliff-biter!
So keep your fingers crossed, and let Mexico get on with the counting.
Date ►►► July 2, 2006
Teleblogging 1: Finding Even More of the Wrong Kind of WMDs In Iraq
Proving themselves utterly without shame or humility, American forces have insisted upon finding even more chemical weapons in Iraq:
The U.S. military has found more Iraqi weapons in recent months, in addition to the 500 chemical munitions recently reported by the Pentagon, a top defense intelligence official said on Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, did not specify if the newly found weapons were also chemical munitions. But he said he expected more.
"I do not believe we have found all the weapons," he told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, offering few details in an open session that preceded a classified briefing to lawmakers.
He may not have specified, but I doubt he would have bothered telling the Armed Services Committee about finding a cache of AK-47s, IEDs, or cherry bombs -- which he knows nobody on that committee cares about.
At the Armed Services Committee, Maples also asserted that the rockets and artillery rounds that had been found were produced in the 1980s and could not be used as intended.
Ah -- this must be what the pooh-poohers mean by saying (in Mark Steyn's memorable phraseology), that no matter how much WMD we find, it's always the wrong kind. LG Maples' key qualifier, of course, is "used as intended."
Sadly, such autonomic gainsaying is not the exclusive reaction of Democrats or even of Democrats, the State Department, and the CIA; now we have to add the top brass at the Pentagon to the list of those who find it more urgent to find nothing than to find something, even if something is actually there to be found. (I'm probably being too harsh to LG Maples. Consider him a stand-in for the generals I really want to yell at.)
For example, even if the WMD found could not be used "as intended" (that is, being fired from and artillery piece), could it be used not-as-intended to cause death and destruction anyway? Judge for yourself. After first enunciating the soundbite above, he added the following, which completely undercuts the obvious point of the first statement:
If the chemical agent, sarin, was [sic, subjunctive case] removed from the munitions and repackaged, it could be lethal. Its release in a U.S. city, in certain circumstances, would be devastating, Maples said.
Devastating! So is it the wrong kind of WMD or the right kind? To me, it sounds like the right WMD but the wrong delivery system... and I'm very, very glad we got it away from the terrorists before they repackaged it.
Oh, and an addendum. In the category "shouldn't there be an IQ test before someone can run for Congress," here is the entry from Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA, 90%):
"It's very difficult to characterize these as the imminent threat weapons that we were told we were looking for," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat.
It has become a full-time profession, with a corner office and a pension plan, to inform Democrats that indeed, Bush never once said that Iraq posed an "imminent threat." Those words were never uttered -- except by shifty politicians and dunderheaded journalists looking to score a cheap knockout of a straw man.
For those who have forgotten, here is what Bush actually said about imminent threats:
Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
Readers Digest translation: we can't wait until Iraq becomes an imminent threat, because by then it will be too late to stop it. So let's strike now -- when the threat is not yet imminent.
That is why we needed a new doctrine, the Bush Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Warfare. If Iraq really were an imminent threat, attacking it would have been uncontroversial. It was controversial precisely because we admitted the threat was as yet inchoate -- like a felon stocking up on heavy-duty firearms -- and argued that in today's world, an imminent threat is a realized attack, because once you discover it, it's too late to stop it.
Got it now, Ms. Tauscher?
Date ►►► July 1, 2006
The "Hundredth Israeli" Effect
Is there a floor to stupidity? Or is it just turtles, turtles, turtles all the way down?
Take a look; let's see if we can't figure out a solution to this looming "humanitarian crisis" in the Palestinian Authority:
Israel last night threatened to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh if Hamas militants did not release a captured Israeli soldier unharmed.
The unprecedented warning was delivered to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a letter as Israel debated a deal offered by Hamas to free Corporal Gilad Shalit.
It came as Israeli military officials readied a second invasion force for a huge offensive into Gaza.
All right, quiz question number 1: What is the proper response from Hamas?
- Appeal to Kofi Annan for a UN relief force to drive the Jews into the sea;
- Threaten to kill Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert twice;
- Release the hostage.
At any point, no matter how bad it has gotten, the Palestinians can make the beating stop: all they need do is release the hostage and stop shootin' Jews.
Nobody is going to help them. No one will come to their rescue. Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan -- they're all going to sit quietly and hope the Israelis don't notice them; or maybe they'll sprinkle some borrowed luster-dust on their heads by shuttling back and forth in bootless "diplomacy." (What's to debate? The Palestinians know the one and only thing that will end this seige and save the shattered remains of the PA.)
Thousands of Hamas supporters protested in Gaza City late on Thursday over the arrest by Israeli forces of up to 32 Hamas MPs on the West Bank that day.
A Hamas spokesman said the group would never recognise Israel, in spite of a deal its leaders signed this week offering implicit recognition of the Jewish state in return for easing an economic blockade.
Quiz question number 2: When Israel sweeps into the PA like a hot bayonet through hummus, arresting a very significant portion of members of the Palestinian parliament, while Palestinian security forces utterly helpless and humiliated, the correct course of action from the Hamas leadership is:
- Scream like a girl and play "speed bump" in front of an Israeli tank;
- Sue Israel for damages in le Cour Internationale de Justice at the Hague;
- Release the hostage.
For decades now, Palestinian Arabs have been posturing as a force to be reckoned with. While Yassir Arafat was alive, he was courted by kings and couriers, parliaments and presidents, as if he were the blasted Pope -- instead of a cowardly, sexually perverted, miniscule troll of a terrorist thug.
For several years now, Israel has persisted in a lotus-dream of September 10th... a few suicide bombers here, a few Kassam rockets there, and what's a murder of a settler or twenty among friends? They accepted the absurd demonic pact that the Palestinians had moral authority to butcher and rape because everyone picked on them; and the Jews' lot in life was to suffer and cringe.
The Israelis forgot the most important two-word lesson of the Holocaust -- despite intoning it endlessly like a magical mantra (the words were there, but they never quite got the tune).
But now, for some reason, the sleeper awoke and tore a couple of pages off the calendar: at long last, September 12th has dawned in the Jewish state, and they realize that they must have zero tolerance for the murderous Palestinian shenanigans that they've tolerated and enabled for so long.
I don't know why IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit broke the camel's back; maybe it's the "hundredth monkey" effect -- which may well work for us humans, even though it turns out not to be true for macaques:
The "Hundredth Monkey Effect" is the name for a supposed phenomenon in which a particular learned behaviour spread instantaneously from one group of animals, once a critical number was reached, to all related animals in the region or perhaps throughout the world. Largely due to popularisation of this story, the "Hundredth Monkey Effect" phenomenon is now thought by some to occur in human populations with respect to ideas and beliefs in general even though the original story has been discredited (Myers 1985).
In any event, the abduction of Shalit has set in motion the most forceful reaction to Palestinian criminality since the invasion of Lebanon twenty-four years ago... and it may surpass that level, if Hamas cannot shake itself awake from its febrile delerium.
By the time they stop floccillating and take a look out the window, there may be nothing left to save.
Israeli fighter jets bombed 20 targets in Gaza, including the Interior Ministry, which it said had been used by militants to stage meetings, while artillery hit the northern strip with 500 shells in the 24 hours until yesterday morning....
Much of Gaza, including two main hospitals, was without power and running water as a UN aid chief warned that the 1.4 million residents of the strip were three days away from a humanitarian crisis.
"They are heading for the abyss unless they get electricity and fuel restored," said emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland, who urged militants to free Corporal Shalit and stop firing rockets into Israel.
There are two ways this ends: either Hamas relents -- or Israel simply runs out of targets. If Palestinians think it can't get any worse, they have only to wait a few more days; when you stare into the abyss, it stares back.
But they can end their tour of Hell anytime they want. They know what to do.
Quiz question 3: When the Damned dangle by their fingernails over the Abyss, they should --
- Shake a fist at the nearest Jew;
- Throw a rock;
- Release the stupid hostage already.
Must Israel obliterate them utterly? They will if that's the only solution. Or will the mad manage to find a way to connect with reality just long enough to save their worthless pile of dirt? Their fate is in their own hands; not many men can say that with such assurance.
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