Date ►►► September 29, 2006

Secure Fences - Do They Make Good Congressmen?

Hatched by Dafydd

I don't recall if I ever posted this prediction on Big Lizards, but in a private e-mail I sent to John Hinderaker, speaking of the "fence first" bill that was being discussed then in the Senate, I wrote the following:

I'll be quite surprised if cloture is even successfully called -- and if it passes, I'll be surprised if the president doesn't veto.

Well, color me surprised: the Senate just yesterday voted cloture on the Secure Fence Act of 2006 by a large and impressive margin of 71 to 28... which means I'm quite certain it will also pass, whenever they actually hold the vote.

So the question is, will President Bush sign or veto the bill? I hope he vetoes; but he may see that as a political negative.

Assuming he signs it, at that point, I will desperately hope that I'm likewise wrong in my other prediction about a "security-fence first" bill, which is that in reality, fence first = fence only; that once the House Republicans get their fence, they will never make good on their promise to allow votes on the three other major immigration reforms (or at least not on two of them):

  1. Some form of regularization of the 11 million illegal aliens already here, at least the portion of them who are only illegal because our immigration system is so messed up that it is arbitrary, capricious, and unjust (see 3 below).

    In this case, "regularization" shall mean sentencing them to some legal penalty that does not include deportation; to have the illegal entry not prevent them from being granted a work visa, assuming they should have been granted one in the first place (that is, if they have not committed unrelated crimes in the meanwhile). The legal penalty resolves the crime; the illegal immigrant has "paid his debt to society" and can get on with his life without fear;

  2. Some way to allow some number of non-permanent-residents legally to work for below minimum wage for any employer who will hire them. I personally would prefer those "guest workers" be fresh immigrants still trying to get their "green cards," rather than imported foreign labor with no intention of staying here... but that's my schtick (and Mark Steyn's);
  3. A rationalizing of the entire immigration system, so that those immigrants who work the hardest at Americanizing themselves are the ones who get to become Americans.

I still believe that the "fence-first" members of Congress will not fulfill their promise to allow votes on 1 and 2, now that they have their fence (assuming Bush doesn't veto the bill, which he still might). Ne'ertheless, I really and truly hope to be proven wrong, that they're more honorable than I pegged 'em, because I think the fence won't work without those other reforms.

Reform 3 is the most critical... and interestingly, I'm more sanguine about that one being enacted at some point than the other two, for the simple reason that neither party has expressed any position for or against it: thus, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans is locked into any position on rationalizing the system; neither side has painted itself into a hole.

Suppose I suddenly jumped in front of Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO, 100%), and before the Capitol Police could wrestle me to the ground, I asked him: "Sir, do you believe that those immigrants who work hardest to Americanize should be the ones who get to become Americans?" I am convinced that he would say, "uh... yeah. Sure. Why not? But aren't they?"

And from my prostrate position, as they clapped me in irons back and front, I would shout out, in my best James Boswell impersonation, "No indeed sir; there is in fact, sir, no correlation between Americanization, sir, and becoming an American, sir... sir, it is a complete crap shoot!"

And maybe he would ponder and think a bit as they bunged me into the paddy wagon and beetled off.

I greatly fear that we won't even have the debate about 1 and 2, and I think it only 50-50 at best that we'll ever get 3 (all right, it's a 50-50 chance that it turns out to be a 50-50 chance). But this is one of several instances where I jolly well hope my prediction will fail!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 29, 2006, at the time of 5:29 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Pro-Tribunal Democrats

Hatched by Dafydd

Big Lizards promised to have the list of the twelve Senate Democrats who voted in favor of the military-tribunals bill (S. 3930); Big Lizards delivers:

  • Tom Carper (DE, 90%)
  • Tim Johnson (SD, 95%)
  • Mary Landrieu (LA, 95%)
  • Frank Lautenberg (NJ, 100%)
  • Joe Lieberman (CT, 80%)
  • Robert Menendez (NJ, 100%)
  • Ben Nelson (NE, 55%)
  • Bill Nelson (FL, 80%)
  • Mark Pryor (AR, 90%)
  • John "Jay" Rockefeller (WV, 100%)
  • Ken Salazar (CO, 100%)
  • Debbie Stabenow (MI, 100%)

Five of these senators are running for reelection (boldface), but seven are not; there seems to be no consistent pattern to their relative liberalness. If anyone can detect a pattern here, beyond individuals simply deciding that national security is more important than party solidarity, let us know.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 29, 2006, at the time of 1:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 28, 2006

219 vs. 160; 65 vs. 34 - UPDATED

Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATED with cool graphics: see bottom!

No, not basketball scores; those are the votes in the House and Senate respectively on the military-tribunals bill that will go to the president's desk after final House passage tomorrow. The first number in each pair is the Republican vote to protect Americans from the terrorists; the second number in each pair is the Democratic vote to protect the terrorists from Americans.

Here is the roll call in the House: 160 of the 202 Democrats (79%) voted against military tribunals to try terrorists, because they believe it's more important to protect the terrorists' rights than to protect our country (additionally, seven Democrats failed to vote). Only 34 out of 202 (17%) voted for the legislation.

Since the Democrats also oppose detaining the terrorists without trial, I can only conclude that nearly four-fifths of House Democrats want the terrorists released, while 3% are indifferent.

219 of the 232 Republicans (94%) voted for the tribunals, while 5 did not vote. 7 Republicans (3%) voted with the terrorists and the Democrats.

In the Senate, 12 Democrats (27%) voted with all but one of the Republicans for a nearly identical bill; 33 of the 45 Democrats (73%, counting Jumpin' Jim Jeffords as a Democrat) voted against trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists via military tribunals.

One Republican, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R?-RI, 12%), joins Democrats in wanting to release the terrorists. Note that the liberal Americans for Democratic Action -- the group I use for the Democrats' ratings -- gives "Republican" Sen. Lincoln Chafee 75%... the same rating they give Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and higher than they give Jane Harman (D-CA, 70%).

In the House, the Republicans who voted against the tribunal bill were:

  • Rep. James Leach (R-IA, 33%)
  • Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS, 96%)
  • Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD, 84%)
  • Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD, 42%)
  • Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC, 80%)
  • Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH, 71%)
  • Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX, 76%)

Let's make sure they remember what they did, especially every other November. (I don't yet have a list of the twelve Democratic senators who voted for the tribunals bill; when I do, I'll update this post and post an addendum recognizing them for rising above party to think first of country.)

No difference between Republicans and Democrats?

UPDATE: Visuals are often a good way to really internalize numbers; try this (sorry if it's a tad raggedy; I've never done this before!):



Democratic support for military tribunals    Republican support for military tribunals

Left: Democrats for and against tribunals; right: Republicans for and against tribunals

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 28, 2006, at the time of 6:34 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The Real "Presidential Effect" On Midterm Elections

Hatched by Dafydd

Jay Cost has a post up at Real Clear Politics about the relationship between polls and elections that is actually comprehensible to me, for a change. Usually, he gets so deep into the technical weeds that my eyes turn into little spirals, like in a Tex Avery cartoon; but this one, while requiring attention, was very rewarding, even to someone who isn't deeply versed in the intricacies of political polling.

His argument is this:

  1. Presidential approval ratings do affect midterm elections, but not directly;
  2. By and large, individual voters do not vote for or against candidates for the House or Senate on the basis of the president's job approval;
  3. However, there is an effect, and here is how it works: potential candidates must decide no later than the year before the election whether they will run, because it takes that long to raise money and line up support;
  4. And a major consideration for a strong potential candidate is his perception of how well the incumbent's party is doing: if they're strong, he probably decides to defer; but if they look weak, then he's more likely to jump into the race;
  5. So for the 2006 election, strong potential candidates looked at the polls from late 2005 and early 2006... the very period when President Bush's approval was languishing in the low 40s and even the high 30s;
  6. Thus, Bush's low job-approval ratings persuaded a number of strong candidates to jump into the race against Republican incumbents, that this was a good time to run, rather than waiting two or four years.

And that's why so many Republicans now are having such a tough reelection campaign, and also why fluctuations in Bush's approval (up or down), along with gasoline prices dropping, have not had much impact on the "toss-up" races: because the effect of Republican weakness already had its impact eight or nine months ago.

If I've misunderstood Jay's argument, I hope he jumps into the comments here and corrects me.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 28, 2006, at the time of 4:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The New Tora Bora Bazora

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm listening to Hugh Hewitt, who (after a completely inaudible "interview" with Mark Steyn via bad cellphone) is now broadcasting the Senate blathering of Sen. Patrick "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, 100%) about the military tribunals bill. And this is what Leahy just said, word for word, near as I can recollect (and it is seared, seared in my memory):

Even though they [the Bush administration] had him [Osama bin Laden] cornered at Tora Bora, they yanked the special forces out of there to send them into Iraq.

Is it just me?

I was evidently misinformed that the Battle of Tora Bora took place sometime in December of 2001. There was not even a resolution on the table to invade Iraq at that time... the resolution was not even introduced into the Senate until October 2nd, 2002; it passed the Senate without amendment on October 11th, and was signed by the president on the 16th. And we did not send troops there until March of 2003.

So in the consensus reality -- rather than in Leahy's own private version of history -- more than two solid years elapsed between the battle of Tora Bora and the call-up of troops for an invasion of Iraq. Whatever caused us not to kill or capture bin Laden in 2001, it certainly had nothing to do with the not-yet-extant invasion of Iraq.

Has this been the Democrats' plan all along, why they took over the government schools: to so damage Americans' knowledge of history that demented demagogues like Pat Leahy can make risible claims like this on the Senate floor and not be laughed out of Congress?

I eagerly await the transcription in the Congressional Record, to see whether he decides to "revise and extend his remarks."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 28, 2006, at the time of 3:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Misunderestimated

Hatched by Dafydd

It's a truism -- pounded into our noggins morning, noon, and night -- that we continually underestimate our Islamist enemies. We think that we'll defeat them in a few months, we think they'll give up, we think they'll just go away. And of course, we're continually frustrated by their utter refusal to conform to our foolish stereotypes.

But you know what? The jihadis relentlessly misunderestimate us, the West... and they underestimate us far more egregiously and foolishly than we do them.

Seriously...

Never thought about it?

  • They thought that by taking a few hostages or bombing an embassy, they could force us to release prisones; but they underestimated our judicial system.
  • They thought that by attacking us on 9/11, we would crumble and beg for mercy; but they underestimated our determination.
  • They imagined that those two buildings would topple like dominoes, killing at least 100,000 souls; but they underestimated American architecture.
  • They thought that everyone inside would die, but they underestimated our rescue workers and other first responders.
  • They envisioned that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, would die from an Anthrax epidemic; but they underestimated the American medical system.
  • They planned that they could just melt into the mountains of Afghanistan, and we would be swallowed up like the Soviets and the Brits before them; but they underestimated the American military.
  • They expected the Brits to panic and pull out of Iraq after they blew up some trains, but they underestimated the tenacity of the victors in the Battle of Britain.
  • They thought that Canadians could just be bowled over by threats, but Canada responded by giving Paul Martin the heave-ho and electing the Conservatives under Stephen Harper.
  • Ditto Australia, which reelected John Howard by a much larger than expected margin.
  • They were certain that the Germans would bellycrawl; but Gerhard Schröder was given his walking papers, swapped for Angela Merkel.
  • They managed to get José María Aznar López out of Spain in 2004 and Silvio Berlusconi out of Italy in 2006, both elections very narrow; but the leftists who succeeded both leaders -- José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in Spain and Romano Prodi in Italy -- have not bowed to Islamist demands; in fact, Italy leads the coalition patrolling Lebanon (putting them in direct conflict with Hezbollah); and while Zapatero is the more ardent leftist and has succored and chummed around with the likes of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, and while he did withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, he actually increased Spain's committment to Afghanistan.
  • The jihadis thought they could drive us from Iraq and Afghanistan, but they underestimated our military resolve.
  • They tried to launch other terror attacks against us -- such as Jose Padilla and failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid -- but they underestimated the abilities of American police forces and even ordinary airline passengers, who subdued Reid when he tried to light the bombs in his shoes.
  • And now it even looks as though, when Crock Jacques Chirac steps down next year (and is promptly indicted), he will probably be replaced, not by Dominique de Villepin, but instead by hardliner Nicholas Sarkozy, de Villepin's bitter rival for head of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement).

The Islamists have misunderestimated and discounted us again and again, and always for the same reason: they are utterly convinced that our freedom and love of life are our weaknesses, while their own totalitarianism and love of death are their strengths. Per the National Review:

Another chapter from early Islamic history — serving as a lesson for today's Muslims at war against the West — is the concept of the love of death. This originated at the Battle of Qadisiyya in the year 636, when the commander of the Muslim forces, Khalid ibn Al-Walid, sent an emissary with a message from Caliph Abu Bakr to the Persian commander, Khosru. The message stated: "You [Khosru and his people] should convert to Islam, and then you will be safe, for if you don't, you should know that I have come to you with an army of men that love death, as you love life." This account is recited in today's Muslim sermons, newspapers, and textbooks.

This perverse belief is not confined to the Islam of antiquity:

Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah revealed in an interview after the recent prisoner swap between Israel and his group: "We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death."

But of course, the Islamists have it exactly backwards: it is their very love of death that is their undoing every time; for men will stand and fight to the death because they love life; but they will not stand and fight at all if all they love is death... for what solace is there in deathwish to give a man courage? A love of death is the mark of despair, not hope.

Because we love life, we revere sacrifice -- but not suicide. Life seeks life, and all those who also love life flock to our shores, desperate to become Americans de jure, as they are already Americans de facto.

And freedom, free-thinking, and individualism have given the world all the great advances in science and technology, in philosophy, in politics, and especially in the art of war. As the aphorism goes, there are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people.

Islamists are fools with no comprehension of the history of the West: we've butchered far more people than the jihadi's wildest wet dreams. And we did it with style... using industrialization and the market. (Even Hitler and Stalin had to bow to the market in practice, whatever platitudes oozed from their mouths.)

The model of the market shows how millions of individuals making billions of individual decisions will always outthink, outreact, and vastly outperform a command economy driven by totalitarian ideology -- and will outfight them, too. Every innovation in warfare over the past three or four centuries was originated in the West, not the Orient. The very guns they use are European (Kalashnikovs); their tanks and planes are knockoffs of ours; even their damned IEDs are less sophisticated than the Semtex bombs of the verminous IRA.

The jihadis desperately want the final war of Islam vs. the West. And now, as Max Boot so cogently writes in the Los Angeles Times, they're on the road to getting it, good and hard:

Ever since 9/11, a dark view of Islam has been gaining currency on what might be called the Western street. This view holds that, contrary to the protestations of our political leaders -- who claim that acts of terrorism are being carried out by a minority of extremists -- the real problem lies with Islam itself. In this interpretation, Islam is not a religion of peace but of war, and its 1.2 billion adherents will never rest until all of humanity is either converted, subjugated or simply annihilated....

The real enemy we face is not Islam per se but a violent offshoot known as Islamism, which is rooted, to be sure, in the Koran but which also finds inspiration in such modern Western ideologies as fascism, Nazism and communism. Its most successful exponents — from Hassan Banna and Sayyid Qutb to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden — are hardly orthodox interpreters of Islam. They are power-mad intellectuals in the mold of a Lenin or a Hitler. The problem is that the rest of the Muslim world, by not doing more to curb the radicals — whether out of fear or sympathy — lends credence to the most objectionable caricatures of their faith.

In an animalistic display of bestiality, the jihadis club together and circle-jerk themselves into a lather. In a pathetic imitation of teenaged gangs, they egg each other into wilder and more absurdly narcissistic "head-cutting" contests (the metaphoric term takes on a more sinister literal meaning here).

They win miniscule skirmishes, then caper like the demented adolescents in Lord of the Flies, parading their "heroism" for slitting the throats of sleeping children or blowing up a school.

But unless and until more "Moslem Methodists" emerge from the shadows of fear and nakedly confront their gibbering coreligionists, they drive the West closer and closer to an all-out response in which jihadism is outlawed; radical Imams are rounded up by the bushel and either deported or "detained;" Moslem countries around the world are heavily bombed; an American military newly expanded by a reinstated draft runs steel-shod across the face of the ummah; and objections are brushed aside to drilling for oil in American territory and building scores of nuclear power plants across the continent, leading to a complete collapse of the Arabic oil economy.

While some may see this as a "wonderful thing" in the abstract, bear in mind that it's accompanied in real life by the deaths of millions upon millions of people abroad -- most of them complete innocents whose only "crime" was being too afraid of the jihadis to speak out -- and a death-rate among American servicemen and women (mostly conscripts) not seen since the darkest days of World War II.

We would win; the Moslems wouldn't stand a tinker's chance against an aroused and united West.

But at what cost, both to them and us? Nobody reading this is likely old enough to remember how much everday life was regulated by the wartime federal government in the 1940s, via rationing, civil-defense drills, neighborhood organizations, internment of Americans in domestic concentration camps, confiscation by the government of anything useful to the military effort, and in general, a society that today's Americans could only describe as a military dictatorship... but which at the time seemed only natural and necessary.

I would not love life in such a country. Most Moslems do not love death enough to embrace it meaninglessly. So it's about time they stop misunderestimating us, realize that their entire world teeters on the edge of a bottomless pit, and grow a spine. For the love of God.

Show some backbone and beat down the marauding jackals who have hijacked your religion. Hang a few handfuls, and dispossess the rest. Drive them out into the desert and let them eat sand.

Because if you don't, pretty soon we'll be coming for you: and you won't misunderestimate anybody ever again.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 28, 2006, at the time of 3:26 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 27, 2006

Hey Hey Ho Ho, This Dissent Has Got to Go!

Hatched by Dafydd

Acting on a hot tip we personally received from Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK, 100%) -- he sent emanations through the penumbra that we should read the Drudge Report and follow the links -- we discovered this astonishing letter written by Bob Ward, "Senior Manager, Policy Coordination" of the British Royal Society -- the top scientific body in the U.K. -- in which he pretty much orders Exxon/Esso to stop funding scientists who disagree with the Kyoto-Protocol party line on global warming.

The leftist Guardian is on the case -- on the side of suppressing dissent, as customary:

Britain's leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change.

In an unprecedented step, the Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific academy, has written to the oil giant to demand that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence"....

In the letter, Bob Ward of the Royal Society writes: "At our meeting in July ... you indicated that ExxonMobil would not be providing any further funding to these organisations. I would be grateful if you could let me know when ExxonMobil plans to carry out this pledge."

Why now? Why so urgent? Actually, there is a very important policy reason:

The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be published in February, is expected to say that climate change could drive the Earth's temperatures higher than previously predicted.

Mr Ward said: "It is now more crucial than ever that we have a debate which is properly informed by the science. For people to be still producing information that misleads people about climate change is unhelpful. The next IPCC report should give people the final push that they need to take action and we can't have people trying to undermine it."

Those of you who have always thought of the British Royal Society as a "scientific body" can perhaps be excused for being gobsmacked at its conversion to a leftist activist group; but in fact, this is just a stage in the Left's gradual and insidious takeover of all manner of previously nonpartisan, apolitical, but patriotic American and British organizations (a non-exhaustive list in vaguely chronological order):

  • It started with civil-rights organizations during the 30s, 40s, and 50s, such as the Civil Rights Congress;
  • Then it was civic organizations;
  • Many Protestant and Lutheran churches and Reform and "Conservative" synogogues;
  • Charities;
  • The Red Cross;
  • The USO;
  • The entire court system;
  • The news networks;
  • Trade unions;
  • The music industry;
  • The television industry;
  • Science-fiction publishing;
  • The great universities, especially the Ivy League (the rot spread from Berkeley and Harvard outward);
  • The national newspapers;
  • The Democratic Party, which used to be chock-a-block with patriotic war hawks like Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan, Scoop Jackson and Al Gore sr., is now run by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and soon-to-be minority leader John P. Murtha;
  • The literary establishments and awards organizations (from the Pulitzer to the Nobel to the MacArthur Awards);
  • The primary and secondary government schools;
  • Libraries;
  • The JAG corps;
  • Walt Disney (especially during Michael Eisner's "de-Disneyfication" of Disney);
  • The Girl Sprouts (they're still working on the Boy Sprouts... but what they can't take over, they must destroy);
  • The Catholic Church (see above about what they can't take over);

So it should be no surprise that leftism and political correctness has taken over first the medical establishment, and now the great science bodies: remember the FDA banning silicone breast implants, primarily because feminists objected to the very concept of breast augmentation? Well, now the AAAS, the NSF, Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, Science Magazine, Scientific American, and many other scientific organs have toed the PC line on such issues as the Strategic Defense Initiative, nuclear power, artificial sweeters and artificial fat, second-hand smoke, AIDS, pesticides (DDT), preservatives, and yes, global warming (especially global warming).

Of course, any body that is even remotely international -- including the Royal Society and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the foremost body flogging the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which grew out of the first big IPCC conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 -- is even more in thrall to the PC police than the American versions.

The first rule of leftism is "No enemies to the Left;" but the second rule is "No dissent; shut up do your duty to the Party."

The totalitarian tendencies of the current Royal Society are simply breathtaking:

The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, adds: "I would be grateful if you could let me know which organisations in the UK and other European countries have been receiving funding so that I can work out which of these have been similarly providing inaccurate and misleading information to the public."

Translation: Tell me now everyone you fund, so we can investigate, harass, make life miserable, put career under microscope, and make sure nobody even to think of contradicting Comrade Lysenko, who has full faith of Comrade General Secretary of Central Committee.

If there really is a "scientific consensus," as the Royal Society insists, then why would they worry about a few gadflies saying the Earth was flat and disease was caused by demonic possession? Perhaps what they're really worried about is something like this:

In April 2006, sixty respected climatologists, atmospheric physicists, meteorologists, and other climate-related scientists (who didn't get the memo about the "scientific consensus") sent their own letter to new Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, begging him to reconsider the Canadian government's Kyoto-Protocol-driven energy policy. The current policy was rammed through the Canadian parliament by the former prime minister, the Liberal Party's scandal-ridden Paul Martin, who was ignominiously chucked out on a vote of no confidence last year:

As accredited experts in climate and related scientific disciplines, we are writing to propose that balanced, comprehensive public-consultation sessions be held so as to examine the scientific foundation of the federal government's climate-change plans....

Observational evidence does not support today's computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future. Yet this is precisely what the United Nations did in creating and promoting Kyoto and still does in the alarmist forecasts on which Canada's climate policies are based. Even if the climate models were realistic, the environmental impact of Canada delaying implementation of Kyoto or other greenhouse-gas reduction schemes, pending completion of consultations, would be insignificant. Directing your government to convene balanced, open hearings as soon as possible would be a most prudent and responsible course of action.

This group of -- of charlatans strike at the very heart of the international scientific community's diktat that global warming -- whoops, my mistake... global climate change -- is real, damn it; is anthropogenic; and is so bloody urgent that it must be addressed immediately, immediately, no matter what economic ruin it causes. If such groups as this are allowed to communicate directly to heads of state like Stephen Harper (especially ones who might listen... like Stephen Harper), without having to use the IPCC as intermediary, why who knows what mischief they might manufacture!

Viz.:

While the confident pronouncements of scientifically unqualified environmental groups may provide for sensational headlines, they are no basis for mature policy formulation. The study of global climate change is, as you have said, an "emerging science," one that is perhaps the most complex ever tackled. It may be many years yet before we properly understand the Earth's climate system. Nevertheless, significant advances have been made since the protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary.

Naturally, such freethinking must be suppressed; we cannot have such people with "scientific credentials" -- such as...


  • Dr. Tad Murty, former senior research scientist, Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, former director of Australia's National Tidal Facility and professor of earth sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide; currently adjunct professor, Departments of Civil Engineering and Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa;
  • Mr. David Nowell, M.Sc. (Meteorology), fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, Canadian member and past chairman of the NATO Meteorological Group, Ottawa;
  • Dr./Cdr. M. R. Morgan, FRMS, climate consultant, former meteorology advisor to the World Meteorological Organization, previously research scientist in climatology at University of Exeter, U.K.;
  • Dr. Freeman J. Dyson, emeritus professor of physics, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, N.J.;
  • Mr. William Kininmonth, Australasian Climate Research, former Head National Climate Centre, Australian Bureau of Meteorology; former Australian delegate to World Meteorological Organization Commission for Climatology, Scientific and Technical Review;
  • Dr. Richard S. Courtney, climate and atmospheric science consultant, IPCC expert reviewer, U.K.;

...and about 54 similar individuals of no account -- gumming up the smooth dismantling of the world's energy supply.

Oddly, however, neither the British Society, the AAAS nor NSF, nor even the IPCC itself, who all insist on a consensus that we must stop putting so much greenhouse gas in the atmosphere... none of these groups advocates a shift to generating electricity by nuclear fission, using modern, safe, clean, and non-breeder pebble-bed reactors or integral fast reactors.

No no; whether the problem is global cooling, global warming, or an unusal sameness in the climate, the solution is always the same: smash the looms.

And absolute conformity, of course; that is always part of any solution advanced by the Left... Comrade.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2006, at the time of 11:57 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Weak Leak Soup, Ctd: Evolution of a Punk Job

Hatched by Dafydd

I was going to put a post up here noting that the president saw fit Tuesday to declassify the "key judgments" of the National Intelligence Estimate from April (the one we discussed here too early Tuesday morn, before the announcement). If you'll recall, on Saturday, the New York Times published a story that claimed -- falsely, we now discover -- that the NIE concluded that the Iraq War had "worsened" the threat from terrorism:

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

But when the document itself was released Tuesday, it turns out the key findings were far more mixed and balanced; and nowhere did the NIE say that the Iraq War had made terrorism worse: to use the phrase Hugh Hewitt used all afternoon, the Times got punked. Its sources sold it a bill of goods; and like the Sy Hersh travesty on Abu Ghraib, its reputation (heh) lies in tatters. Tatters.

So the MSM came out swinging, here, here, and here: with grim determination, as soon as the document was made available by the NID, they slapped up their stories saying: it confirms eveything we said before! Don't look! Just take our word for it! We wouldn't lie to you 365 days in a single year, would we? (They're nothing if not persistent!)

So I was going to write a post quoting from AP, Reuters, and the New York Tombs, then quoting from the NIE itself, to make them all look like the farkakte macacas they are. Alas, I spent too long on my hobby of painting extra zeros on all my $10 bills... and you-know-who slithered in ahead of me, posting exactly the article that I was going to post (except mine would have been better; no, really). If only I posted it. Or wrote it. Or came out of my digestive torpor soon enough.

So I'm just posting to let you know I won't be posting on this topic. I think, where one's friends are concerned, it's only polite to keep them apprised of one's good intentions, for future reference.

Well... maybe just a little. This is a brief sketch of what I might have said, if I'd said anything (which I didn't, and I'm not).

Prior to the release, the elite media tried to play the Sy Hersh game of creatively (and tendentiously) misinterpreting classified intelligence someone leaked to them, confident that the "secretive" Bush administration would never dare declassify and release it... thus proving them liars. When Bush double-crossed them, they found themselves like a Wile E. Coyote, when he runs off a cliff but doesn't fall... until he looks down.

For God's sake, don't look down! The MSM's instinctive reaction was to double-down and pretend that the law of gravity had indeed been repealed. Here is how AP began their first story after the publication of the NIE showed the entire world that they had relied upon sources who lied to them (the first link in the "so the MSM came out swinging" paragraph above); this was from late Tuesday morning, shortly after the release:

The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush's portrayal of a world growing safer.

In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush's orders, the nation's most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.

Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration's glass-half-full declarations.

Note the specific word "bleak," which they used in their story before the release. In fact, this by and large is the same story they ran before the release; all they did was pop the hood and install an aftermarket clause noting that the report had been "declassified and released."

Don't look down!

By early Wednesday, the AP had added a bit more to their article, softening the hard line that the full document completely vindicated their clumsy hit job:

White House release of a previously secret intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat gives both political parties new ammunition in the election-season fight over the Iraq war.

For Republicans, the excerpts of the document - declassified under orders from President Bush on Tuesday - are more evidence that Iraq is central to the war on terrorism and can't be abandoned without giving jihadists a crucial victory.

For Democrats, the report furthers their argument that the 2003 Iraq invasion has inflamed anti-U.S. sentiments in the Muslim world and left the U.S. less safe.

In a bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

For the first time, AP recognized that there were points on the side of those supporting the Iraq War; but they refused to get all radical on us and actually quote any of those findings. That would have been asking too much.

And note that the NIE is still characterized as "bleak," which is interesting; throughout these permutations, they cling to that word as a liferaft... despite the fact that it never appears in the NIE key conclusions themselves, and the fact -- easily ascertainable by reading them -- that they present a picture that is neither bleak nor rosey but simply a list of challenges and assessments.

Later on Wednesday afternoon, AP put up this story -- still written by the same reporter, Katherine Shrader. It begins thus:

The White House refused Wednesday to release the rest of a secret intelligence assessment that depicts a growing terrorist threat, as the Bush administration tried to quell election-season criticism that its anti-terror policies are seriously off track.

Note the counterattack; AP begins to lay the groundwork here for an infamous argument made popular in the days of bulletin-board systems: the lurkers support me in e-mail. (I think it even became a "filk song" -- not a typo.) That is, the Bush administration is suppressing secret evidence that would actually prove we were right all along. Over the next few days (or weeks), this argument will take shape within other branches of the Democratic Party besides the antique media:

Oh, sure, the portion that Bush chose to release doesn't explicitly say that the Iraq War was a fiasco that made the world more dangerous for America... that part is in the sections he deliberately chose to leave classified! We demand he release every section, every paragraph, every line -- including the names of all the sources, all the top-secret intel we got from foreign spy agencies, and the names of every intelligence analyst who worked on this report... and if Bush refuses, then you know he's got something he's still hiding!

After a few paragraphs wasted arguing with Tony Snow over the release of the really heavily classified portions of the report, AP continues:

In the bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

Peppered with questions Wednesday about the report, he [Snow, we presume] said the NIE report was "not designed to draw judgments about success or failure, it's an intelligence document, it's a snapshot."

Snow said the report confirms the importance of the war in Iraq as a bulwark against terrorists. "Iraq has become, for them, the battleground," he said. "If they lose, they lose their bragging rights. They lose their ability to recruit."

He said that a bleak intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat was only a "snapshot" - not a conclusion

The last line I quote above is especially illuminating; no, I didn't accidentally cut off the period; it's missing in the original. It's clearly an editing mistake; she rewrote the line and separated "bleak" and "snapshot" onto two different lines, then forgot to go back and erase the original (so much for the vaunted "multiple layers of editing!") But note how important it was for Shrader, hence AP, to keep that word "bleak" prominently in the story. She was only dithering whether to place it lower or higher -- and she chose the latter.

AP picks up the Tony Snow argument again:

"The American people deserve the full story, not those parts of it that the Bush administration selects," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned, however, that releasing more of the intelligence assessment could aid terrorists. "We are very cautious and very restrained about the kind of information we want to give al-Qaida," Hoekstra said....

A separate high-level assessment focused solely on Iraq may be coming soon. At least two House Democrats - Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Jane Harman of California - have questioned whether that report has been stamped "draft" and shelved until after the Nov. 7 elections.

An intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the process, said National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told lawmakers in writing only one month ago that he ordered a new Iraq estimate to be assembled. The estimate on terrorism released Tuesday took about a year to produce.

AP rejects that obviously concocted explanation that an intelligence assessment might take longer than a month to prepare; it's patently obvious to Ms. Shrader that this is just a dodge to avoid releasing a report that would completely vindicate her -- oops, I mean vindicate the Associated Press -- along with the happy side-effect of bringing about the downfall, ah, defeat of the Republicans in the 2006 election. (Secret evidence that would support me...)

It ends with a couple of rollicking quotes from Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) and John D. Rockefeller (D-WV, 100%), savaging the president and the war without allowing supporters to confuse matters by participating in the discussion. And once again, AP does not quote those paragraphs that actually make Bush's case about the war -- the complete quotation from which the snippet "cause celebre" was cherry-picked:

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

  • The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

By contrast, here is how the Iraq War's effect was described in the original New York Times story about it that was published when the elite media still thought the NIE would remain forever classified and uncheckable:

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

Clearly, the Times' source is describing an earlier section before the "key judgments" that come later; but equally clearly, that earlier section cannot have concluded that "the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," as the anonymous source smirked; because if it had, then the corresponding key judgment would not have been so supportive of continued fighting in Iraq.

At worst, the early sections might have quoted one official saying such a thing (possibly Jay "100%" Rockefeller). But that is why we don't release the entire NIE: it's like a packet of court filings that contain arguments from both the plaintiff's attorney and the defendant's attorney... you can't just grab a claim from one and act as if it's been proven in court.

If there were such an assessment by one specific person -- and we don't even know that much -- clearly it was not accepted in the final analysis, not even for a candid document that none of the principals thought would ever be released.

So far, most of the mainstream news stories about the released NIE have shied away from quoting this paragraph in full... likely because it so clearly argues the case for the Bush policy: if, at the end of the day, the jihadis are seen to be winner in Iraq, they will be emboldened and their recuitment will soar; contrariwise, if they are seen as failures -- if Iraq remains as a democratic state in control of its own destiny, rather than a Somalia-like failed state full of terrorist training camps -- then the jihadis will suffer a terrible blow, and their recruitment will drop off.

So the real conclusion of the NIE anent Iraq is that we must win at any cost; cutting and running is not a viable option, no matter what Joe Biden and Jay Rockefeller -- or Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francsico, 95%) and John Murtha (D-PA, 75%) -- say.

Eventually, the media will be forced to admit this; it's been widely quoted in blogs and on the radio, and even in a few television programs. It's possible they've already snuck it into a few stories, buried deep.

But it won't help: they've been exposed, as Hersh was, not only as rampant partisans... but as DNC house organs so partisan they're willing, even eager, to lie, or at least pass along lies in reckless disregard for the truth, to further the political ambitions of their Democratic friends in Congress.

In Othello, the Moor of Venice, Shakespeare wrote:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

How much poorer then is a person, an entire organization, that throws its own century-old reputation into the sewer, merely to help elect its favored party into power?

I actually feel sorry for them. What must it be like to live behind those eyes?

Anyway, that's more or less what I would have written. Except I'm not going to post on this topic.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2006, at the time of 3:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 26, 2006

The Gatekeeper Effect, or, If Iraq Is Getting Better, Why Does the News Keep Getting Worse?

Hatched by Sachi

During the interview with in Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS, Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said the situation in Iraq is getting better. But how can that be, when the news reports sectarian violence is getting worse everyday?

Just this morning, I heard on the radio that the last two months were "the worst for the Iraqis since the Iraq war started." This sentiment is reflected in the recent USA Today/Gallup poll, which showed that 72% of likely voters believe that "civil war" is occurring in Iraq right now (in the link, scroll down to Gallup).

If things are getting better, why do we hear so much about the violence? Gen. Abizaid explains.

Baghdad's really the key problem. As a matter of fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of the sectarian difficulties that take place in Iraq take place within a 30-mile radius of Baghdad.

In those areas that we've been operating with U.S. forces and Iraqi forces -- and we continue to operate -- there is a decrease. But we're not everywhere. We're moving step by step, section by section, and it will take some time. We will begin to really see whether or not we're being successful in a month or two....

And it certainly -- look, it's a program that involves not just putting military forces on the street, but it also requires that Iraqi and U.S. special forces go after the death squads. We have to target them. We have to do the intelligence work necessary to know where they are. Then we've got to go after them and take them out of action, whether it's by direct military action or some other form.

Guess where 80% to 90% of the reporters in Iraq happen to be? That's right: in Baghdad, right where 80% to 90% of the attacks occur. This is probably not a coincidence; the terrorists know where their natural allies work, and they know the old newspaper adage, "if it bleeds, it leads."

In other words, what we've been hearing about all this time is the violence occuring within the immediate environs of Baghdad, and almost nothing about the rest of Iraq -- which is getting much better almost day by day: Iraq takes charge of Dhi Qar province .

“Today’s transfer of security responsibility in Dhi Qar province from the Multi-National Force – Iraq to the Government of Iraq and civilian controlled Iraqi Security Forces is another sign of progress toward a stable and secure Iraq. Dhi Qar is the second of 18 Provinces to be transitioned. This is an important milestone along the successful path toward Iraq’s capability to govern and protect itself as a sovereign nation.

Another example:Iraq chiefs vow to fight al-Qaeda

Tribal leaders and clerics in Ramadi met last week to decide how to confront the daily bloodshed in their city.

"People are fed up with the acts of those criminals who take Islam as a cover for their crimes," Sheik Fassal al-Guood told the Associated Press news agency on Monday.

He said 15 of the 18 tribes in Ramadi "have sworn to fight those who are killing Sunnis and Shiites", and had put together "20,000 young men".

In fact throughout Jim Lehrer's interview with Gen. Abizaid (remember that? that's what we're talking about), Lehrer's questions reveal his (willful?) ignorance in this subject:

JIM LEHRER: I'm sure you're aware, General, that there's been a lot of commentary back here that the U.S. hasn't put enough effort into the training of Iraqi forces.

Lehrer should have been reading Big Lizards instead of listening to PBS news! We've followed this issue for more than a year:

A well-connected journalist such as Lehrer should know what the coalition forces have been doing and the success they've had; it's his business to know. But most journalists live their waking lives sealed into an elaborate cocoon of left-liberal, anti-Bush, anti-Republican, and anti-Iraq-War propaganda, until it seems as natural an environment as the air. Everyone they know believes the same as they; if they ever hear a discouraging word, it's only when they interview some "Repuglican" -- and you know what they're like.

So maybe Lehrer is simply puzzled: since everyone knows that the Iraq War has been one colossal failure from beginning to end, why doesn't the president just "declare victory" and yank out the troops? All of Lehrer's friends say that's what Bush has to do, in order to avoid being impeached next year when the Democrats control supermajorities in the House and Senate.

His question to Gen. Abizaid has nothing to do with trying to find out what is really happening, and everything to do with making an impression on the audience's mind: the training of Iraqi troops has turned out to be a complete failure, gosh darn it! Why don't you just admit it, General?

Needless to say, Gen. Abizid -- who actually does know what is happening in Iraq -- completely rejects Lehrer's starting premise:

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: Jim, I really disagree with that. We have put an enormous effort into training and equipping the Iraqi armed forces and security forces. But it's also an enormous effort. It is literally building an institution from the bottom up.

So who is right, Lehrer or Abizaid? Per Bill Roggio's Fourth Rail, the Iraqi Army just arrested a top leader of Ansar al-Sunnah Shura, an Iraqi terrorist group with strong ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq:

The Iraqi government has arrested Muntasir Hamoud Ileiwi al-Jubouri, who the Associated Press describes as a “leader of Ansar al-Sunnah.” But al-Jubouri is not just an average leader in Ansar al-Sunnah, he sits on the terrorist organization's military Shura (or council), the decision making body for military operational issues. Al-Jubouri was captured in Al-Taeyh along with two aides. There is no information at this time if documents or computer equipment was seized along with al-Jubouri. Regardless, his arrest can potentially be a treasure trove of information for Task Force 145 and Iraqi counterterrorism commandos. [Note: Ansar al-Sunnah denies al-Jubouri was captured.]

The Iraqi army also arrested the leader of an insurgent group called the 1920 Revolution Brigades:

Iraqi troops arrested a neighborhood leader of a nationalist insurgency group early on Sunday, a military spokesman said.

Brigadier Qasim al-Musawi would not reveal the suspect's name but said he was the leader for western Baghdad of the 1920 Revolution Brigades insurgent group, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S.-led forces.

"We captured him at 5 a.m. (0100 GMT) this morning, along with seven of his aides, following accurate intelligence information in the Abu Ghraib district," he said. "It was an Iraqi army operation."

Although I don't like to judge before all the facts are in, it's beginning to look as though Gen. John Abizaid, the Commander-in-Chief of CENTCOM, knows more about the Iraq Army than even noted PBS journalist and liberal activist Jim Lehrer.

Speaking of good intelligence, based on a tip, our good friends the Brits have killed an important al-Qaeda operative hiding in Basra, Iraq:

British forces have killed a senior al-Qaeda fugitive in a raid on a house in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, security sources say. Officials named the dead man as Omar al-Farouq, a top lieutenant of Osama Bin Laden in south-east Asia.

Farouq was captured in Indonesia in 2002 but escaped from a US military prison in Afghanistan last year.

British military spokesman Maj Charlie Burbridge said Farouq, whom he called a "very, very significant man" had been tracked across Iraq to Basra. He said about 200 troops surrounded the house, from where they came under fire. A gun battle erupted and Farouq was killed in the exchange.

So if Iraq is getting better, why do we keep hearing nothing but bad news? The problem is the gatekeeper effect: the gatekeeper controls what information is allowed through and what information is kept away from the eyes and ears of the American people. An honest gatekeeper allows information through based upon its reliability; but a partisan gatekeeper never thinks any news is "reliable" if it contradicts what we call The Story -- the predetermined story-line that animates nearly all newspaper and broadcast coverage.

The Story is that Iraq has been a complete pig's breakfast, just as the elite media all predicted it would be. Oh, maybe we didn't get bogged down in the "quagmire" during the initial assault, as they said; but look, now we're trapped in the quagmire of the Iraq Civil War!

The Story provides the framework, and every piece of information is evaluated by how well it fits into The Story. Every fact is compared to this framework; if it fits -- dead American soldiers, dead Iraqi civilians -- the gatekeeper allows it through.

But if it doesn't fit -- peaceful provinces being turned over to the Iraqis, terrorists being captured or killed -- the gatekeeper knows that it must be unreliable... so he spikes it. And the worst part is, he believes he is actually doing his proper job as a journalist; he doesn't think of himself as a partisan... he thinks of himself as one of the "reality-based party" which is interested only in the truth ("just gimmie some truth!")

Jim Lehrer, along with scores of other elite liberals, is not really a journalist: he is a liberal gatekeeper, on the same moral level as the security guard at the gates of a country club, whose job to make sure that only the right kind of people get inside.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 26, 2006, at the time of 5:31 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Weak Leak Soup

Hatched by Dafydd

In keeping with the madly egotistical Big Lizards motto -- Never first, always final -- I've been pondering Saturday's New York Times story about the impact of the Iraq War on the global war on terrorism (GWOT) ever since, er, Saturday. (Maybe Sunday; Saturday, I think I was pondering whether to raise the pot on the strength of a king and a trey with a queen-jack-eight on the flop.)

There is a powerful lot that the Times failed to tell us about that story; my idol, John Hinderaker at Power Line, has a great story up quoting several other passages from that same national intelligence estimate (NIE) (enough with the alphabet soup already!) that tend to undercut, to say the least, the spin put on the thing by the Times, as well as their sidekick and pale shadow, the Washington Post.

But craven that I am, I shrink from duking it out with Power Line, who has the actual factual response pretty well covered. Oh, I could think of better arguments to make against the bizarre claims in the media; but I'd just be making them up, so I'd better not.

Let's instead focus on the problems and deficiencies in the two main antique-media stories... by an amazing coincidence, the two I already linked above. Slither on, dude.

Journalistic clairvoyance

Let's start with a startling admission against interest on the part of the "elite" media:

  1. Neither the New York Times reporters nor the Washington Post reporters have actually seen the NIE. Or any portion of it; they rely entirely upon their various sources' characterization of the NIE.

In other words, they do not actually know if the report "has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks," as the Times puts it in a traditionally quaint run-on sentence; they have absolutely no idea. All they know is that one or more of their (anonymous and undescribable) sources claims that's what it says.

Von Unaussprechlichen Külten

Here's another good one:

  1. Neither the Times nor the Post deigns to name even a single source. Not one. O, for the good old days of Watergate, when Ben Bradlee demanded at least two sources for every claim -- only one of which could be anonymous! (Were that rule in effect today, both the Times and the Post would have to shut down and convert operations to printing vacation brochures and cereal boxes.)

They don't even characterize these sources; for all we know, they could be Oompa-Loompas. Here is how the Times introduces the presumed humans upon whom the entire shebang depends, which they finally get 'round to doing in paragraph 6:

More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

So let's see... a senior CIA analyst would count, but so would a junior-grade employee of the Department of Agriculture. An "official" might be an aide to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%) or Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), both of whom sit on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (hence could have access) -- or for that matter, an aide to the disgraced, corrupt liar, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL, 90%), who sits on the House equivalent.

But we do know one thing about some of them, courtesy of the Washington Post; we know that some, at least, of these "officials" have a partisan axe to grind:

"It's a very candid assessment," one intelligence official said yesterday of the estimate, the first formal examination of global terrorist trends written by the National Intelligence Council since the March 2003 invasion. "It's stating the obvious."

If this source begins with the idea that it's "obvious" that the Iraq War has caused us to be less safe, then he's hardly an unbiased source for relaying what the NIE has to say about that subject.

Past the expiry date

  1. The assessment was begun in 2002, before the Iraq War began -- and it was completed back in April of this year... five months ago.

An awful lot has changed in the past five months... much of it for the better, including the increasing tempo of turning provinces over to the Iraqis, the stunning buildup of the Iraqi military and national police forces, and of course the death of Musab Zarqawi. But this NIE cannot have taken those changes into account, because they hadn't happened yet when it was written.

The school for wives

Here is a minor point that is emblematic of how easy it is to get so lost, you can't see the forest for the weeds:

The Times notes, in a paragraph notable mainly for being oddly out of place in the article, that one danger is that jihadis fighting in Iraq can learn techniques that they subsequently pass along to others:

The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.”

The implication is clear, if rather unbalanced:

  1. The Times frets that all we're doing in Iraq is training the next generation of jihadis, who will be faster, stronger, and more deadly because of the skill they learn from encounters with American forces.

But this discounts two very important points:

First, that it's the United States, not the jihadis, which has learnt the most from the Iraq War. The American military of 2003 was the most powerful and effective that had ever existed... but that is no longer the case: today, they could get their butts kicked -- by the American military of 2006. We have learned from every encounter, every battle, every victory, and even from the occasional defeat.

Our own effectiveness has grown much faster than that of the jihadis... that's why the death rate of our troops has dropped by nearly 1/3 from "period 3" (from the turnover of sovereignty to the Iraqis to the first set of elections) to "period 5" (from the last set of general elections to today) -- and dropped even further in the last year.

Second, this argument presumes that large numbers of Iraq-based jihadis survive their encounters with the Americans, so that they can pass their experience along to others. In fact, most of those who leave Iraq and head back to their home countries never actually engaged American forces, because we kill or capture a very high percentage of all the terrorists we engage.

In hock to post hoc

Finally, here is the most glaring omission -- whether from the NIE itself or merely from its mischaracterization by the elite media's "sources," we cannot possibly say without seeing the document itself:

  1. The storyline does not consider what might have happened had we not invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein.

A lot would have happened: most analysts believe that Hussein was on the verge of cutting a deal with the Europeans (via the corrupt U.N. "Oil for Fraud" program of direct and indirect bribery) to end the sanctions and inspections. As Charles Duelfer and the Iraq Survey Group (ISG... more letters, I'm afraid) assessed in its final report:

There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise.

Instead of considering this possibility and exploring which American action would have been better for the terrorists -- attacking Iraq or not attacking Iraq -- the argument of both these articles is strictly "post hoc ergo propter hoc": after the fact, therefore because of the fact. The Leftist, anti-war leakers in the CIA or NSA argue (through their sock puppets in the Times and Post) thus:

  1. We invaded Iraq, deposed Hussein, and occupied the country;
  2. Jihadi websites now cite the war to try to drum up recruits;
  3. Therefore, the Iraq War was a boon to jihadis!

But this is logical gibberish: if, after ranting on and on about Hussein, we had let him stay and even lifted sanctions, then that would be cited by jihadi websites to drum up recruits... just as they cite our failures in Somalia and Sudan, our refusal to retaliate for the Cole bombing, and so forth. The jihadis cite anything that shows us either running away or standing and fighting: either way, they'll spin it to their advantage.

If this is the central conceit of the NIE, as opposed to the media's misinterpretation, then this signals a fatal flaw still extant in the ratiocination of our top intelligence services: they are still thinking linearally, as if al-Qaeda and its spinoffs and wannabes are really just funny-looking Europeans in headscarves, using Western two-value logic and classical game-theory analysis of their own actions and our responses.

If we keep thinking that way, Western civ will fall.

Moslems in general, and especially Middle-East Moslems, and most especially Middle-Eastern jihadis, think in very different, apocalyptic terms. They don't perform a rational calculus to decide whether, say, to try to explode a nuclear weapon in the middle of a Western city: in fact, the "Hidden Imam" theory of players like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that Mohammed al-Mahdi will arise when the jihadis have precipitated the final battle -- and are losing it badly!

In other words, Ahmadinejad expects to start World War III (or IV, if you count the Cold War), and he expects his side to lose; after which the Mahdi will come, leading the heavenly host of Allah, and wipe away all the infidel armies, ushering in the age of Islam. How do we threaten a man who believes that? Should we threaten not to fight, allowing them to win, and thereby failing to fulfill the conditions that will activate the 12th Imam's return?

If the media's understanding of this not-very-momentous NIE is accurate, then the CIA is still fighting the Soviet Union in the Cold War; and we're in desperate trouble indeed!

As the Bangles sang, we've got to "Walk Like an Egyptian" (or a jihadi) to have a prayer of winning this last crusade. Doesn't mean we have to act like they; only that we must be able to think like they, lest we be surprised again and again by their unconventional and unexpected moves.

So nu?

What's wrong with this "report," at least as recounted in the mainstream media? Virtually everything. It's vague, unsourced, unbalanced, and shows clear signs of mental sclerosis.

But if this is not the NIE's real view, then how low the American media has sunk, if this is the best hit piece on the president and the GOP that they can muster in the last weeks before the election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 26, 2006, at the time of 5:15 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 25, 2006

"Immigration" Bill... Frist, That Is

Hatched by Dafydd

(All right, all right; a weak title. Don't blame me... it was that darned rough questioning by Chris Wallace; he's always on the phone, demanding to know what I did about the USS Cole bombing... and I wasn't even in the government, then or now!)

Interesting post by Power Line, which follows a post on Real Clear Politics:

Mickey Kaus poses the question whether Senator Frist was signalling an imminent flakeout on the border fence legislation on This Week yesterday. There is a cynicism in Kaus's instincts that I hope is not warranted, especially given the high regard in which we hold Senator Frist, but it is a cynicism that has been amply warranted in Kaus's past analysis of the politics of immigration reform.

The gist of the Kaus column is that he saw Maj. Leader Bill Frist (R-TN, 92%) on This Week With George Snuffleupagus, and he could tell by Frist's "guilty, knowing grin" -- as he said "right now I got a feeling the Democrats may obstruct it ["it" = the border-fence-only bill]" -- that Frist was really "feckless" about the whole immigration question, cynically bringing it up, only to drop it a few days later.

I read the Kaus column late last night, and I must say that cynicism is very unbecoming... particularly when it's not warranted. There is a simpler explanation:

  • Perhaps Frist really did think that everyone in the Senate, on both sides, would rise above what Frist sees as petty bickering to enact the plans for the fence;
  • But then, when the Democrats made it clear that they were going to filibuster, and a handful of Republicans joined them, Frist now realizes that the yolk's on him -- the bill he so loudly touted was going nowhere, and he (Frist) was going to look like an idiot.

This alternative explanation perfectly explains Frist's initial enthusiasm, his current probable intent (which we don't actually know yet to be true) to drop the subject again, and even the so-called "guilty, knowing grin" that Kaus insists he saw. It's certainly true, as Micky Kaus writes, that:

It's easy to let the fence bill drop and blame Democrats. Wink, wink. But a forceful majority leader who actually wanted either a) a vote or b) a sharpened issue against the Dems wouldn't give up just like that. He'd call a press conference to demand that the Democrats allow a vote. Put a spotlight on the issue. Make Harry Reid come up with an equally well-publicized explanation for why the Democrats oppose this popular common-denominator measure. That would be hard for Reid to do without hurting Dem election chances, and he might not do it--resulting in a Democratic cave-in and a vote. And the fence Frist says he wants.

But the problem with Kaus's reasoning is that, like so many others, he starts from his honest admission that "I can't think of any other possibilities" than "phoniness, fecklessness, or a corrupt bargain;" but then he makes the illogical leap from "I can't think of" to the conclusion that there are no other possibilities. I suppose his idea is that if he can't think of any, how could any lesser mortal?

But of course, there is a good reason -- one that we Big Lizards ourselves support -- for rejecting the enforcement-first approach to immigration reform. And it would be easy for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) to give exactly that press conference that Kaus so knowingly asserts cannot be given. And if Reid gave it (and did a better job than he usually does), it could indeed flip the whole immigration issue around and hang it like an anvil around the Republicans' necks.

Simply put, the fence is great; I'm all in favor of the fence; but there are other reforms equally vital, without which the fence alone cannot work. And here's the kicker: once we get the fence, the enforcement-first crowd in Congress will turn into the enforcement-only mob, and I am 100% convinced that they themselves will do everything in their power to obstruct and disrupt every other element of immigration reform.

The only incentive for "enforcement only" Congressmen to support other reforms is to tie those reforms to the border fence. It's a sad state of affairs for the nation -- but one that is forced upon reformers by the monomania of the enforcement-only representatives and senators. Both moderates and conservatives have immigration ideas that are vital to solving this problem; but the hard right refuses even to consider the moderates' ideas... even to the point of letting the border fence go unbuilt, if to build it means they have to accept some other reforms.

Let's put it in an analogy that everyone can understand, I think. Even after welfare reform, there are still way too many people on "perpetual welfare." Most conservatives want to cut a number of welfare programs, and I support those: welfare reform worked very well in the past, and I think it would work well in the future.

But at the same time, for a lot of people on welfare, it is the only life they have ever known; they literally have no idea what job skills are or why they're important. Thus, moderates believe that intense training in such job skills (starting from the basics, such as actually showing up at eight and staying until five, speaking respectfully, dressing and acting appropriately, and such) is necessary for the current generation of hard-core welfaristas to get jobs and become productive. (For sake of argument, assume the training itself is actually productive, not some liberal, namby-washy, self-esteem and preening course.)

So a grand compromise is proposed: cut welfare programs drastically while funding intense job-training. A number of moderates, who ordinarily resist program cuts, say they're willing to accept that compromise; it can work, they say, if the job training is also present, so those cut from the rolls will have some idea what to do to avoid ending up on the streets. But the conservatives dig in their heels and insist that we do nothing but cut the programs.

Impasse; the bill goes nowhere. And then suddenly, one of the conservatives proposes a new "compromise": "we all agree on one part of the solution, cutting the welfare programs," he says; "so therefore, let's start by doing only that... and then, some number of months or years in the future, we'll have a separate discussion about whether we should have the job training programs too!"

It would be reasonable and responsible to debate exactly what sort of job training we should do. It's also perfectly responsible to debate exactly what other immigration reforms we need in addition to building a wall.

But it's disingenuous to the point of flat-out lying for the hard-core conservatives to suggest a "compromise" that consists of giving them everything they want -- in exchange for their promise to someday consider what the moderates want. That's no compromise at all; it's simply saying "I get everything I want, and you get bupkis!" It's unAmerican; it's downright Palestinian.

So what are these other vital elements of immigration reform? We've talked about them many times here on Big Lizards (and going back to my stints on Captain's Quarters and Patterico's Pontifications:

  1. Making the immigration system itself rational, predictable, and just: an unjust and irrational system will always lead to millions coming here illegally. When people are arbitrarily and capriciously denied entry, while others less deserving get right in, the hopelessness and resentment inevitably lead some of those irrationally rejected (or worse, simply forgotten in the bureaucratic shuffle) to take matters into their own hands. The scum that we desperately need to keep out of the country hide among the millions who sneak in only because the system is so badly broken.

    If we create a path that is predictable, rational, and just, then no matter how long and hard it may be, the immigrants we actually want here will remain within the legal framework, because they can see progress.

  2. Allowing those who haven't yet earned "green cards" to work to support themselves, and to get another job if they lose one, without the fear that if the company they work for goes belly-up, they'll be instantly deported. They need to be exempt from the minimum wage laws... not only because many businesses rely upon such low wages (not just lettuce and grape picking), but also because most recent immigrants are not really worth minimum wage yet. (Neither are a lot of native-born Americans, but that's a whole 'nother argument.)

    I actually oppose minimum wage laws altogether; but if we must have them, temporary resident aliens who are in the process of becoming permanent need to be exempt: having a job is more important than having a job that pays well.)

    But I totally oppose so-called "guest worker programs," having been convinced by Mark Steyn that a permanent population of immigrants who see themselves as not really a part of America is very dangerous... even if they are primarily Mexican, not Algerian.

  3. Finding some method of regularizing that portion of the 11 million already here illegally who only resorted to sneaking across the border because of the irrational and unjust nature of our broken immigration system -- while deporting those who sneak in for more nefarious reasons, or who break the law simply because they're lawbreakers: just as in point 2, we cannot allow a permanent underclass of millions of people here, seething with resentment; and yet we likewise cannot simply "deport them all," both for practical reasons (it's not physically possible) and also the moral reason: most of them do not deserve deportation. They wouldn't be illegal aliens if the failures of our own immigration system did not leave them so despairing of ever getting in legally.

    Again with the analogies: you get accepted to university; you move there and attend for all four years, taking the same classes as all the other students, passing the same tests, doing the same projects. And then, at the end, you and about half of your fellow students simply don't receive your degrees.

    You may be told that the university decided it was awarding too many of them, or that they've changed their minds about the degree requirements. Or you may be told nothing at all. You call, but you can never get through. You show up, and after waiting seven hours in line, the officials say they can't find your records: come back in a few months and wait again. But even then, they won't even talk to you; someone suggests you simply apply again as a freshman and go through the entire university program a second time.

    But the other half of the class, who did no more than you did, get their degrees with no problem. If, in your hopelessness, you simply told everybody you had that degree, and maybe even hired someone to forge it, would you really think of yourself as a criminal who should be fired from your job, arrested, and forcibly removed from the state? (If so, you're a harsher person than I.)

I passionately believe -- as do the president and many sincere Republicans and a handful of sincere Democrats on the Hill -- that without these additional reforms, merely putting up a fence is doomed to failure. But I also believe that giving the anti-immigrant hard-liners their wall -- and I do mean anti-immigrant for many of them, not merely anti-illegal -- without linking the wall to the other reforms, guarantees that nothing but the security fence will ever be adopted.

Hence, while I love the fence, I oppose a fence-only bill like the one Frist is pushing. Life is a series of tradeoffs; and a political position that seems harsh today may turn out to be be vital tomorrow. In any event, those of us arguing that it is vital are just as sincere as those arguing the opposite.

Even if we occasionally grimly grin when we realize it's just not going to happen in this Congress.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 25, 2006, at the time of 2:18 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

The InSpecter General Returns

Hatched by Dafydd

First, it was Sens. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%), Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 96%), Susan Collins (R-ME, 32%), and John Warner (R-VA, 88%); they collectively defined what John and Paul at Power Line have aptly begun calling the "terrorist rights wing" of the Republican Party.

Then we started hearing the names of Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 32%), Mike DeWine (R-OH, 56%), and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI, 12%) bandied about. (Do I bandy a woman's name? I do indeed, sir!)

Then McCain cut a deal with the White House, and the first batch faded; control of the terrorist-rights wing passed to the minor-leaguers in the second paragraph. They sought a leader; they virtually cried out for a knight in shining armor to ride roughshod over the power-mad American crusaders who would trample the rights of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), merely to save a paltry few thousand American lives.

And now, the Great Man himself has stepped forward into the void, the vacuum, to seize the laurel wreath (that was tentatively offered to the hightest bidder) and crush it firmly upon his crown, crushing with the might of ten men, because his heart is evenly divided between ten different positions.

The new leader of the terrorist-rights wing is none other than... Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 63%), the InSpecter General himself!

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday he has a problem with the Republican agreement on rules for the interrogation and trial of suspects in the war on terror.

President Bush is pushing Congress to put the agreement into law before adjourning for the midterm elections, but Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Sunday he "vigorously" disagrees with the habeas corpus provision of the bill.

The provision would allow legal counsel and a day in court to only those detainees selected by the Pentagon for prosecution. Other terror suspects could be held indefinitely without a hearing.

"The courts have traditionally been open to make sure that individual rights are protected, and that is fundamental," Specter said on CNN's "Late Edition. "And the Constitution says when you can suspend the writ of habeas corpus, in time of rebellion or invasion. And we don't have either. So that has to be changed, in my opinion."

Specter scheduled a hearing on the issue for Monday. Otherwise, he said, most of the legislation is a "big improvement" over what Bush originally proposed.

This group of eight Republican senators -- with a mean average "partisanship" score of 57.4%, the most liberal subcaucus of Republicans in the Senate -- still threatens to stymie the president's bid to draw a clear line in the sand between the GOP, which treats national security as the most important issue facing the country, and the Democrats, who treat national security as the forgotten punchline to a joke told by some drunk at the office Christmas party.

If the terrorist-rights wing persists, the Democrats will be able to point to a number of "senior Republicans" who agree with them that we should care more about terrorist rights than American lives.

Arlen Specter was a former prosecutor (the District Attorney of Philadelphia), while Sen. Lindsay Graham was an Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG); both men seem to be absolutely fettered by their crazed idea that unlawful combatant terrorists in U.S. custody deserve the same panoply of rights as do ordinary civilians charged with carjacking or selling illegal Viagra. Both men are driven by the elevation of legalism to the point of near deification.

When last we caught up with the InSpecter General, he was exercised by the president's use of his own Article-2 powers from the United States Constitution: Arlen Specter was flogging a bill that would lend the "nihil obstat" to the NSA's al-Qaeda communications intercept program. (His idea was that nothing is real until the United States Senate says it's real.)

Sounding less every day like a man who wants to win the war against jihadi terrorism and more like a man who wants the Executive to become "Curly" to the Legislative's "Moe" and the Judiciary's "Larry," Specter now demands that the president defer to the courts on whether terrorist captured on the battlefield can file writs of habeas corpus, demanding their release if the government cannot produce "evidence" that they have committed a "crime"... which, if it required the production in open court of classified materials, would probably result instead in the complete dismissal of charges against KSM and his ilk.

I highly doubt that Specter will push his objection very hard, given the collapse of the McCain branch of the terrorist-rights Republican caucus. I'm sure this is yet another bid for attention, to trot every administration official he can bully into the Judiciary Committee's chambers to perform a ritual mea culpa, accompanied by the subtle strains of an all-bouzouki and -kazoo marching band, the only purpose of which is to assert the primacy of Congress over all -- and the primacy of Specter over Congress.

I can't resist quoting John Collins Bossidy's toast to the Holy Cross Alumni Dinner in 1910:

And this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod.
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God
.

If only Specter were the senator from Massachusetts instead of Pennsylvania ... for so many reasons!

This objection will fizzle after a hearing or two, during which Specter will get to play prima ballerina. Then the Senate will vote, and the Democrats will desperately try to mount a filibuster... but they'll probably be thwarted by several of their caucus who actually need to win reelection this year (including, evidently, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, 100%).

For some reason, I am perpetually amazed and amused by the self-importance, bordering upon narcissism, of everybody who opposes George W. Bush -- even those who are nominally Republicans. It's as if, because Bush is so self-effacing, his enemies are required by some obscure clause in the Code of Hammurabi to be preening egoists.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 25, 2006, at the time of 2:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 24, 2006

VegasBlogging 3: Bush Popularity Was Once At Its Lowest Point!

Hatched by Dafydd

Let us all join hands, bow our heads, and read this AP article; and let us ask ourselves, anent the very first sentence, what is wrong with this picture?

Since President Bush's approval rating sank to the lowest level of his presidency in May, nearly six in 10 of his appearances helping Republican candidates have been closed to all media coverage.

Well, how about this for starters: according to the Real Clear Politics round-up of polling on President Bush's job approval, and looking just at the USA Today/Gallup poll (because I don't want to calculate averages), Bush hit his low point on the poll conducted from May 5-7 this year: 31%.

The most recent instance of the same poll -- USA Today/Gallup, September 15-19 -- has his job approval at 44%. That's an increase of 13% in raw numbers, or a 42% improvement over his low.

Yet somehow, AP thought it best just to leave it lying there, like a kippered herring: "since President Bush's approval rating sank to the lowest level of his presidency in May"... as if it sank and just stayed there!

Welcome to the exciting land of Propagandia, where image is everything. The intro sentence tells more in subtext than text: Bush is a failure! Everybody hates him! He's got the lowest approval rating of any president ever! Nobody wants to campaign with him (that's the thrust of the article)... so why not just go ahead and punish the bastard by voting for your local Democrat, eh?

But the actuality of Bush's current job approval makes mincemeat out of the entire premise of this article -- which is titled "GOP Candidates Keeping Bush Under Wraps." Here is the summing-up graf:

Overall, from the first political event Bush headlined in March 2005 through the end of September, 47 percent of Bush's 68 political events - for candidates, the national GOP, several state counterparts and the campaign arms of House and Senate Republicans - will have been private. Before May's approval-rating slide, the percentage of closed events was 34 percent; since, it is 59 percent.

But of course, AP doesn't mean merely "since;" they mean "because of," as in, 'because of the ratings slump in May 2006, now GOP candidates want Bush money, but they don't want to be seen with him.'

But lo! Bush's job approval prior to May 2006, according to USA Today/Gallup, tended to range from 34% to 39%; earlier in the year, there were some low 40s... but going all the way back to September 2005, there was not a single USA Today/Gallup poll that had Bush's job approval higher than 45%.

To find the last time his job approval was significantly above the 44% it is right now (that is, higher by more than the margin of error), you have to go all the way back to July 22nd-24th, 2005, when it was 49%.

In other words, Bush's job-approval rating is as high today as it has been in well over a year. But if that is the case, then clearly any disinterest among some GOP candidates in having Bush openly campaign with them can have nothing to do with his poll numbers.

Besides, the evidence that candidates are "keeping Bush under wraps" is scanty, to say the least. For example, here is the campaign of Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH, 56%) when asked directly about this very point:

DeWine's campaign stresses that all the senator's fundraisers are closed and that there is no attempt to shun the president. "Not at all," said spokesman Brian Seitchik, who added that DeWine plans to appear with Bush during a tour, open to reporters, of a business earlier Monday.

Remember, here in Propagandia, nobody cares whether Bush is a drag on candidates or whether candidates are actually ducking him: all that matters is that readers are led to believe that is the case.

Many of us do not appreciated being led around by the nose by a batch of people more motivated to "save the world" (from Republicans) than to get at the truth; we would do well, when we encounter such a story, to stop and ask, does this claim match the reality of what I see and hear around me? Is this really what my Republican representative, senators, and the odd GOP challenger or two are doing?

Or is it just so much cud chewing by the "elite" media, a filler article... like the one yesterday gloating over the fact that more solidiers died fighting the terrorist enemy than the terrorists killed in one particular terrorist attack.

Enquiring minds will demand to know.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 24, 2006, at the time of 4:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 23, 2006

VegasBlogging 2: Bin Laden Is Either Dead - Or He's Alive

Hatched by Dafydd

Open post:

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

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 23, 2006, at the time of 2:53 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 22, 2006

VegasBlogging 1: "Milestones," Or Media Millstones?

Hatched by Dafydd

This AP story is one of the most maddening, infurating examples of elite-media manipulation I've seen in months. We start with the bizarre, defamatory, and demented headline:

War Price on U.S. Lives Equal to 9/11

Now the death toll is 9/11 times two. U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now match those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next. Add casualties from chasing terrorists elsewhere in the world, and the total has passed the Sept. 11 figure.

The latest milestone for a country at war comes without commemoration. It also may well come without the precision of knowing who is the 2,973rd man or woman of arms to die in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, or just when it happens [what, no picture for the Wall of Martyrs?]. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

In the first place... huh? What's the point of this article? I was about to note that we lost fewer than 2,500 at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941; while a quick glance at the right sidebar to this very blog tells you that during the war for which that attack was the starting gun, 400,000 brave American sailors, Marines, soldiers, and airmen (then still part of the Army) were killed.

There is no relation, cause-effect, or connection between the number of people who died in a precipitating incident and the number killed in the war it precipitates. For heaven's sake, wasn't the War to End All Wars "started" by the death of a single arch-duck?

But then I discovered I didn't even need to make the argument -- because Calvin Woodward, the writer of this very article, made the same blasted argument himself... completely undercutting any point the piece itself might have had:

The body count from World War II was far higher for Allied troops than for the crushed Axis. Americans lost more men in each of a succession of Pacific battles than the 2,390 people who died at Pearl Harbor in the attack that made the U.S. declare war on Japan. The U.S. lost 405,399 in the theaters of World War II.

...But then, immediately he admits he has no point whatsoever, he beetles on, as if he hadn't just shot himself in the mouth:

Despite a death toll that pales next to that of the great wars [another stunning admission against interest!], one casualty milestone after another has been observed and reflected upon this time, especially in Iraq.

[And who's doing the observing and reflecting?]

There was the benchmark of seeing more U.S. troops die in the occupation than in the swift and successful invasion. And the benchmarks of 1,000 dead, 2,000, 2,500.

Now this.

"There's never a good war but if the war's going well and the overall mission remains powerful, these numbers are not what people are focusing on," said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Boston University. "If this becomes the subject, then something's gone wrong."

You bloody well bet your bippy "something's gone wrong," Professor Zelizer... but it's not a failure of nerve of the American people: it's that, unlike any other war we fought prior to Vietnam, the post-Vietnam media has eschewed both the principle of "a search for the truth" and even the previous war principle of "may she always be right, but our country, right or wrong."

The new media motto is "Amerika, scourge of the world!" I want to make it absolutely clear that I don't question the media moguls' patriotism. I nakedly assert they have none.

I don't know if Woodward (any relation?) wanted to write this revolting article, or if some AP editor assigned it to him. But he clearly embraced his task with enthusiasm, an almost obscene gloating in the deaths of American military personnel. Perhaps I'm overreacting; but read this and tell me there's no trace of cock-crowing:

As of Friday, the U.S. death toll stood at 2,693 in the Iraq war and 278 in and around Afghanistan, for a total of 2,971, two short of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Pentagon reports 56 military deaths and one civilian Defense Department death in other parts of the world from Operation Enduring Freedom, the anti-terrorism war distinct from Iraq.

Altogether, 3,028 have died abroad since Sept. 11, 2001.

The civilian toll in Iraq hit record highs in the summer, with 6,599 violent deaths reported in July and August alone, the United Nations said this week.

Woodward reels off each number with the gusto of a sports fan reciting stats of his favorite baseball team. I almost get the impression he had them memorized already. (And don't forget, he already admitted that such milestones were meaningless; but not, evidently, to Calvin Woodward.)

The problem is not America. It's not the American people, or the right-wingers, or President Bush, or the neocons.

The problem is AP, Reuters, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the news division of the Wall Street Journal (which is as liberal as all the rest, in contrast to the editorial pages). The problem is Woodward himself, and all those like him -- arch grotesques who dance a little Snoopy dance when they can announce another "milestone" of death... and the milestones become millstones around our country's neck, trying to drag us from victory towards defeat like one of Tony Soprano's enemies sinking slowly into the Hudson River with a pair of cement overshoes.

Look at the language of Calvin Woodward:

  • He tells us each American death statistic in precise detail; but he says nary a word about enemy casualties, which have been staggingly higher.
  • He fails to mention the ouster of the Taliban and of Saddam Hussein, the democratic votes in those countries, the freedom of the people, successes such as the abandonment of nuclear weapons by Lybia's Qadaffi, or the many, many nations that have changed their spots in the last five years and now fight against the terrorists they once tolerated.
  • He triumphantly announces that civilian deaths in Iraq "hit record highs in the summer," without troubling to mention that after that peak, they receded very significantly.
  • And he uses misleading statistics to suggest comparisons of Iraq to WWII (to Iraq's detriment), when in fact the situations are incomparable.

That last point bears looking at:

A new study on the war dead and where they come from suggests that the notion of "rich man's war, poor man's fight" has become a little truer over time.

Among the Americans killed in the Iraq war, 34 percent have come from communities reporting the lowest levels of family income. Half come from middle income communities and only 17 percent from the highest income level.

That's a change from World War II, when all income groups were represented about equally. In Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, the poor have made up a progressively larger share of casualties, by this analysis.

The accusation is clear from the first paragraph above: "rich men" started the war, but they're sending "poor men" to fight it for them. I'm sure the statistic he cites is accurate; but I'm equally sure it's meaningless. What difference does it make whether a recruit comes from a community "reporting the lowest" or "the highest income level?" If you really want to argue that rich men are sending the poor to their deaths -- you need to look at the income level of the actual soldiers, not the "communities" from which they come.

And who chooses what constitutes a "community" anyway? If you draw the lines tendentiously enough, you can call any community either poor or rich, depending which is needed for the argument.

And of course, one reason that WWII, Korea, and Vietnam had greater participation by rich "communities" like the wealthy, liberal enclaves in New York, Connecticut, and Hollywood, California is that for those other wars, we had the draft. Does Woodward propose we bring it back, as liberal Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem, 100%) has repeatedly demanded?

The modern, all-volunteer, American military draws disproportionately from the South, not because the South (as a region) is "poor," but because its moral values are more traditional, and because it has a tradition of military service unlike any other region in America. When young men and women in San Francisco, Chicago, Bangor, Philadelphia, and especially Chappaqua are allowed to choose, they tend not to choose to enlist.

Very well; that's freedom for you. But don't, for God's sake, use freedom as a bludgeon against Republicans. There's a limit even to the liberal aphorism "any stick to bash a conservative."

Well... in a decent world, there would be.

It really is time for the antique media to pull up its pants and choose sides (those of them who haven't long ago chosen the side of America's enemies). Until they do, we should not let them get away with standing on the sidelines making snide comments and pulling sarcastic faces. Even New York Times readers deserve better.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 22, 2006, at the time of 7:29 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 21, 2006

The French Correction

Hatched by Sachi

A strange defamation trial draws to a close in Paris, France. A government-owned television station, France 2, is suing three people who dared to criticize it for broadcasting the now infamous -- and almost certainly fake -- Mohammed al-Dura "shooting" footage, an event which set the scene for the Second Intifada... and gave the Palestinians their most durable and fraudulent martyr.

Background

A detailed background of this trial can be read in Backspin. You can also read a long and very cautiously written account on Wikipedia, if you want more background.

In 2000, the second "Intifada" erupted after Yasser Arafat rejected an absurdly generous offer by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, an offer that President Bill Clinton virtually extorted from the Israelis. Just as the violence began, a Palestinian stringer for France 2, Talal Abu Rahma (sometimes called "TAR" in the trial testimony), presented video footage that was broadcast (repeatedly) on that station.

The video purports to show Jamal al-Dura and his young son Mohammed caught in the crossfire between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, the brave Jamal shielding his terrified son with his own body. Later, we see an ambulance loading up Jamal and his "slain" son Mohammed, both of them (the France 2 broadcast explains) having been shot up by the Israelis.

France 2 was very explicit: they flatly state that the Israelis killed the child, Mohammed al-Dura, who was subsequently declared a martyr who symbolized the entire Intifada.

The pair were whisked to hospital... where they vanished. Today, nobody can find either of them, or even whether Mohammed is alive or dead. Without question, France 2's footage inflamed the Palestinians, leading to hundreds of murders of Israeli Jews and Moslems by Palestinian suicide bombers and other terrorists.

However, later research from a number of independent sources revealed that the entire incident was staged.

In Nov. 2004, a French journalist named Philippe Karsenty published an article in Media-Ratings, a media watchdog organization, criticizing France 2 and demanding the resignation of Arlette Chabot, the head of the information desk at France 2, and Charles Enderlin, the narrator and chief defender of the program. Karsenty charged that France 2 had known even when they broadcast the footage that it was likely staged.

Among the pieces of evidence behind this explosive accusation is outtake footage that France 2 eventually had to admit holding and reveal to (a few) journalists... outtakes that showed repeated "staging" of other supposed Israeli atrocities (multiple takes, directors telling "dead bodies" how to sprawl more effectively, and so forth). France 2 maintains, however, that they don't have any footage of such obvious fakery specifically in the al-Dura incident -- though there is a discrepency between the number of minutes of outtakes they claim they have (27) and the number of minutes they have shown to interested journalists (24).

Rather than responding by presenting evidence that they were right or a point-by-point rebuttal of Karsenty, France-2 sued Karsenty and two others in 2005 for "defamation." The case was heard over the last few days in the 17th chamber of the Paris Tribunal.

The Hearing

Political Central has been covering the France 2 defamation trial in Paris for the last several days. Witness after witness has testified that:

  • Their own independent investigations show that the incident was staged;
  • That France 2’s Enderlin knew about the staging;
  • And that France 2 actively sabotaged their investigations.

So far as I can tell, France 2's entire defense consists of the following:

  1. Who the heck are these so-called journalists and professors anyway? They don’t know anything.
  2. How dare they criticize a respected established TV station such as France 2!
  3. Besides, even if the footage were staged, it's still "true," because the message was real.

In other words, France 2's primary excuse is that the al-Dura killing story was fake but accurate.

Means, Opportunity, and Motive

What bothers me most about this case is not the invalidity of the al-Dura report. Nearly every expert who has examined the footage concludes it was staged. Certainly, Talal Abu Rahma, the France 2 Palestinian stringer, had every opportunity to fake the footage -- he was there. And we know the means existed, because we have all seen many, many staged photos and even video footage since then: recall the "Pieta" body in the rubble, the Wailing Woman and her eight or nine demolished houses, and the Green Helmet Guy carting the bodies of dead children all around to "discover them" (right where he planted them) for the video cameras.

What’s bothersome is that it has become very clear that France 2 knew about the fakery, but they decided to run with the story anyway. Why? What possible motive could they have for such a blood libel against Israel?

I honestly believe it's because the story fit their prejudices against Israeli Jews... even though Enderlin himself is an Israeli Jew. This is hardly unprecedented; there are many Israeli Jews who identify rather with the Palestinian "cause" than the survival of their own nation.

I think France 2 saw its mission not to report abstract truth; rather, it was to spread the "real truth"... that is, its own anti-Israel, and probably antisemitic ideology, both of which are extremely popular in France right now.

That is why France 2 got so angry, "lawsuit" furious, at people who challenged the footage: who cares whether the Israelis really killed Mohammed al-Dura, or whether he may even still be alive? (To date, nobody has shown any evidence that he died at all.) M. Enderlin was more interested in the higher truth; he simply didn’t care how many lives were affected or even killed by his irresponsible reporting. Look instead at all those atrocities the Israelis commit every day!

Can't make an omlet without breaking a few legs.

But the implications of this trial are ominous. France 2 is a government-owned TV station. They believe they can say anything they want, and they will punish anyone who dares criticize them or attempts to thwart the broadcast of the higher truth.

If this trial ends in France 2’s victory, then freedom of speech has ceased to exist in France. There will be one truth, the government truth (pravda), and other voices won't be allowed "to confuse matters by participating in the discussion," as Robert Anton Wilson wrote in another context.

Dramatis Personae

Let's take a look at the cast of characters...

  • Philippe Karsenty, the most active of the three defendants, founder of Media-Rating.

Karsenty first became convinced that the al-Dura "shooting" was staged when ballistic tests made it clear that the al-Duras could not have been hit by direct fire from the Israeli position. But as soon as this was demonstrated, the immediate response -- not only from the Palestinians but from France 2 as well -- was that they must have been hit by "ricochets."

But Jamal says he was hit 9 times, and his son Mohammed 3 times. Twelve ricochets?

France 2 invited a few selected experts and journalists to show the outtakes, but they didn't invite Karsenty. During the trial, Karsenty was questioned by the judge about what happened next:

Q (judge): Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte, who viewed the 27-minute outtakes, said (Radio Communauté Juive) all the scenes were staged except the al-Dura scene. Jeambar cited a video of the father displaying his scars, a new element of proof shown by France 2 at a press conference.

A (Karsenty): I did not see the film because I was not allowed to attend the press conference. Leconte told me he was interested in the affair, and intended to investigate it. But Arte [French-German-Spanish cultural TV channel] warned him they would not work with his production company, Doc en Stock, anymore if he didn’t drop the subject. Jeambar was under pressure from inside l’Express, notably Jacques Attali. Alexandre Adler told me that Charles (who is his brother-in-law) was tricked by his fixer. Many people have told me privately that they know the scene was staged, but they won’t say it in public.

If you believe Karsenty (and the later witnesses), then there was a significant intimidation campaign conducted by a government TV station to stifle independent investigation, culminating in this very lawsuit.

  • Francis Balle, professor of media, former member of the CSA (French equivalent of the FCC), testified that Karsenty's expose of France 2’s al-Dura footage was persuasive; he called the original footage "dubious" and said the effect was "drastic."

Maître Dauzier (Karsenty's lawyer) asked Balle whether France 2 might have refused to show the outtakes to protect its source. Balle said non: "the footage should be shown so that the truth can be told."

Amazingly (for anyone who reads American newspapers; or blogs), one of the charges against Karsenty is that his language was "excessive." But Balle testified that it's normal to use such strong words on controversial topics. (Evidently, this is a foreign concept to France 2. Or maybe to France itself.)

To me, this sounds like the old Soviet charge of "boorish behavior."

  • Luc Rosenzweig is a "63 year-old retired journalist (Libération, Le Monde) whose last position was TV critic;" he tried to conduct an independent investigation for l'Express, to be published on the 4th anniversary of the al-Dura incident (or non-incident, as it appears).

The editor of l'Express at the time was Denis Jeambar, who eventually killed Rosenzweig's article after being pressured by Jacques Attali -- I don't know the connection between Attali and l'Express, besides the fact that he used to write for them.

Rosenzweig did not have any hypotheses about what "really happened;" he just found the France 2 report and the footage "dubious."

Originally, Rosenzweig was not allowed to see the outtakes because, he was told, the film was locked in a safe with other legal documents. When he finally did get to see them, Enderlin only showed him 24 minutes of staged scenes, not 27 minutes of "outtakes" from the al-Dura incident itself.

The time discrepency raises a question: did Enderlin misspeak, accidentally saying 27 minutes when he meant 24? Was Rosenzweig wrong about the timing? Or is there really another three minutes of outtakes that France 2 isn't showing?

If the latter -- then what is in them, and why wouldn't the TV station show those three minutes? These questions cannot be answered at this point.

Rosenwzeig tells what happened when he tried to do a proper journalistic investigation. Having gathered material from Shahaf and others on the Israeli side, he went after the other side of the story. He was told that the cameraman was receiving medical treatment in Paris; he left messages and has not had a reply to this day. He looked for a fixer who could take him to see Jamal [the father in the footage] -- that didn’t work either. He tried to see the doctors at Schifa hospital who reportedly received the corpse of a boy identified as Mohamed al-Dura [at noon or 1 PM, although the incident is reported to have begun at 3 PM] [that last bracketed statement is in the original]. He tried to go to Gaza but was refused entry. So, he concludes, I couldn’t get the other side of the story. As a journalist I can’t affirm that the scene was staged, but the probability that it was staged is much higher than the version presented by Enderlin.

Eventually, Rosenzweig wrote an article on la Ména's website, rather than for l'Express. The title is “Charles Enderlin is a liar in all languages."

  • Professor Richard Landes, medievalist at Boston University, put all the material on his website seconddraft.org for easy reference.

When Charles Enderlin showed Landes the "outtake" footage in Jerusalem, Landes realized that, although Enderlin said he did not believe al-Dura scenes were staged, in fact Enderlin was well aware that Palestinians routinely staged scenes (many journalists call it “Pallywood").

Landes saw several minutes of the al-Dura footage that had been cut from the France 2 broadcast... and which told a shockingly different story from the TV report:

What he saw was the few minutes of al-Dura footage that was cut: the boy moves, holds his hand over his eyes, looks at the camera. He is alive. Landes affirms that as a historian he would say there is a 95% probability the scene was staged.

Enderlin showed Prof. Landes a drawing of the Israeli position directly facing the al-Duras. But in fact, that drawing was totally erroneous: the position Enderlin showed was the Palestinian position ("Position Pita"), not the Israeli position.

Three years after the event he still doesn’t know the lay of the land? Or did he think I was too stupid to check for myself? And he told me the bullets had been found. Oh? So where are they? In a bag, in the Palestinian general’s desk drawer. You believe that?

Good question. Do we? Should we believe that vital evidence is kept in some Palestinian general's desk? Forgive me for being a bit skeptical.

  • Gérard Huber is a writer and a psychoanalyst who wrote Contre-expertise d’une mise en scène ["re-examination of a staged scene"]. As the Paris correspondent for la Ména, Huber tried to investigate the supposed al-Dura shooting; he too concluded that the scene was staged.

In his testimony, he said:

The cameraman who filmed the scene [Talal Abu Rahma, the Palestinian stringer for France 2] retracted the testimony he gave to the PCHR, he declared under oath that the Israelis shot the al-Duras “deliberately, intentionally, in cold blood.”

Think about that charge: in the midst of an intense firefight, when the Israeli were outnumbered, their position in a guardhouse untenable, under fire from three directions at once -- they decide to ignore the threats to their own lives and instead concentrate their fire on an unarmed father and son crouching behind a concrete post. "Deliberately, intentionally, in cold blood."

If that were really true, it wouldn't just be in cold blood; it would be in suicidal deathwish.

But that is the story that France 2 chose to run... in its own cold blood.

  • Maître Amblard, plaintiff’s attorney; her performance was bizarre. She declined to cross-examine any of the witnesses called by Karsenty; she presented none of her own on behalf of France 2's accusations against Karsenty and the other defendants; and her closing argument was pathetic.

Nidra Poller at Politics Central describes it:

Charles Enderlin is a distinguished prize-winning journalist, author of several books. He is an Israeli citizen, he served in the army. France 2 is a national television channel, reputable, reliable. On 30 September 2000 TAR is caught in a crossfire, trapped. He takes refuge behind a panel truck, risks his life, films a scene that the other reporters could not film, they ran for cover, he filmed the death of a child, sent the images to Charles Enderlin, they were viewed by countless members of the press corps [at the Beth Agron Press Center in Jerusalem]. The images were validated. Talal Abu Rahmeh is a reliable cameraman, he has been working with France 2 since 1990.

In other words, the al-Dura scene cannot be a falsification because France 2, Charles Enderlin, and TAR are above suspicion. Whereas, Philippe Karsenty and his so-called witnesses....

There is no proof of intention, no proof of motive. The day after the broadcast everyone agreed that the gunfire came from the Israeli position. Several days later other hypotheses were expressed; Charles Enderlin refuted them....

Then Maître Amblard proceeds to hold the witnesses up for ridicule. Who are these so-called professors and journalists, what do they know about war reporting and death scenes...?

What of the so-called staged scenes in the outtakes? None of them appear in the al-Dura news report.

Let me see if I've got this argument straight: the fact that France 2 is sitting on footage of staged scenes, rather than releasing it, is used by their lawyer to refute the notion that the scenes were staged. After all, if they were staged, then France 2 would release them immediately!

It goes on and on. The entire closing argument boils down to this: our report is correct because it would be so dreadful if we were wrong; and besides, all of our critics are associated with the news service la Ména; and in any event, we're talking about Israelis here... what do you expect?

As Poller puts it:

Questioning the veracity of a patently dubious report is an insult to the honor of France 2 and Charles Enderlin because they are honorable and those who question them are dishonest, confused, shabby, worthless hecklers who don’t know when to stop.

In the end, Amblard asks for 1 Euro of "symbolic damages" to "put an end to this shameful campaign that has been going on for years, spreading untruths." In other words, France 2's entire case is a fraud, and they're hoping that by asking for meaningless damages, they can extract a settlement.

What's It All About?

Depending on how it turns out, this lawsuit will either be the best thing or the worst that has happened to French journalism since Emile Zola penned J'Accuse. The trial has exposed the age old European traditions of media bias and ideological corruption: France 2 used their reputation as a shield to knowingly spread lies, then intimidated anyone who questioned them. In other words, the France 2 lawsuit is the French "Rathergate."

The French have been fed lies about Israel by a government-owned TV station. What else has the government been lying about? Once people start asking this question, there is no turning back.

Many years ago, because of a family connection, I stumbled into the controversy over silicone breast implants. I became interested and really researched it, medical journals and all. Lo and behold, I found out that virtually everything that was reported was either flatly false or utterly unsubstantiated.

After the initial sensationalism over "silicone disease," which referred to a huge number of unrelated and harmful effects supposedly attributable to the implants, the reporters never followed up with the many subsequent studies that found the implants to be perfectly safe.

That was the first time I realized that reporters are often stupider and more ignorant than even a lay person who takes an interest in some subject. I generalized my revelation: if the media could be so wrong about an issue I understood, how much could I trust them about issues I don't know anything about?

French journalism (and the French judicial system) are just about to cross that Rubicon. What are they going to do about it? From what I read, France 2 has no case. But it is France, after all, and you never know what rough justice you're going to get.

Let’s hope the judge and France 2 itself stop short of crossing that river... for France’s sake.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 21, 2006, at the time of 7:58 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Scion of Hopeful News: Frist Was Right

Hatched by Dafydd

So Bill Frist did indeed have inside information, and President Bush and his crickets in the Senate did indeed craft a compromise on interrogating captured terrorists.

But it's still unclear just exactly what was won and what lost.

The president is claiming victory:

The White House said the deal would allow the CIA's questioning of foreign terrorist suspects to continue.

"We got what the president asked for," White House spokesman Tony Snow said. "The CIA program to question detainees to get important information about al Qaeda, to foil plots and save American lives -- this program is going forward."

Reuters flatly states that Bush made concessions but doesn't give any examples:

Bush, who wanted authority for tough interrogations that critics said bordered on torture, was forced to make concessions after three leading Senate Republicans challenged his plan last week and offered a rival bill that drew more Senate support.

The Bush administration denies that prisoners are tortured.

So... is he is or is he ain't? Did the turncoats blink, or did the White House give away the farm? Or did they actually come up with some astonishing, real, hitherto unguessed-at compromise?

I find the one detail in the New York Times story very disturbing and worrisome:

The central sticking point had involved a demand from McCain, Sen. John Warner of Virginia and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for a provision making it clear that torture of suspects would be barred.

One official said that under the agreement, the administration agreed to drop language that would have stated an existing ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment was enough to meet Geneva Convention obligations.

Convention standards are much broader and include a prohibition on ''outrages'' against ''personal dignity.''

In turn, this official said, negotiators agreed to clarify what acts constitute a war crime. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he had not been authorized to discuss the details.

First, we don't know whether this "official" really knows what he's talking about, or for that matter who -- or what -- he is; second, we don't know what rules Congress will enact in place of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2004.

It's great to have clarity... but if Congress "clarifies" interrogation by saying waterboarding shall now constitute a war crime; a belly-slap, attention-grab, and harsh language shall now constitute war crimes; and continuing to interrogate a detainee after he has demanded a lawyer shall now constitute a war crime -- well, that's considerably worse than the situation of "uncertainty" we have now.

So the stink of sulphur is in the details (not the U.N.); who caved and by how much?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 21, 2006, at the time of 3:06 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Bench Warming

Hatched by Dafydd

It's hard to think of a sillier lawsuit than this one, filed by California's Democratic Attorney General (and candidate for treasurer in November) Bill Lockyer, with the undoubted connivance of Republican Governor and globaloney-lover Arnold Schwarzenegger:

California sued six of the world's largest automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.

In fact, it's not even a real lawsuit. It's a front. Its purpose is to force car makers to obey equally silly emissions rules, promulgated by California, to try to cram the Kyoto Protocol down everyone's throats -- and not just in California:

California has also targeted the auto industry with first-in-the-nation rules adopted in 2004 requiring carmakers to force cuts in tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks.

Automakers, however, have so far blocked those rules with their own legal action -- prompting one analyst to say California's lawsuit represents a way for California to pressure car manufacturers to accept the rules.

"That's the objective," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit organization that provides public research and forecasts about the industry. "They want to get the automakers basically to bow down and pay homage to the (emissions) law."

Since auto manufacturers are not going to make a completely separate line of cars for California than the rest of the nation, if the state wins this lawsuit, it means diesel econoboxes for everyone!

The absurdities of the lawsuit are manifold:

  • The auto manufacturers are being sued for obeying the law and all EPA regulations; if this becomes the norm, then nobody is safe from the most insane among us, no matter what he does. The public-policy implications are staggering.
  • Scientists are in disarray over the unanswered questions of "global climate change" theory, including how much (if any) is caused by human activity and whether it's on the whole bad or good for people: will the lawsuit explore whether increased CO2 yields larger, tastier, faster growing, and more pest-resistant crops?
  • How will damages be calculated? In figuring how much "global warming" has cost the state, will Lockyer deduct how much extra tax revenue the state has gotten from cheaper cars than it would have gotten if cars had been forced all along to include cockamamie, expensive anti-carbon-dioxide systems?
  • Will the defense be allowed to call expert witnesses who dispute globaloney theory, or will the judge rule that only scientists who agree with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) be allowed?
  • Which temperature figures will the judgment be based upon: the ones promulgated by the IPCC at the beginning of the case, or the revised (downward) estimates issued several years later, at the end of the case?
  • Finally, if the state wins, it will have succeeded in dramatically raising the cost of gasoline and cars in California, choking off the first glimmerings in the previously doleful California economy, as we recover from one economic catastrophe (Gray Davis), only to stumble into another: Bill Lockyer.

    It will be a disaster for the Democrats, as it will be rightly painted as a massive regressive tax on the working poor and middle class, launched by limousine liberals "in a hurry" to fix something -- quick, before we might find out that it doesn't need fixing after all.

    It pits the liberal elitists against the unions. It's anti-car, therefore unAmerican and especially unCalifornian. It's Rose Bird-ian legislating from the bench, substituting the bludgeon of the courts for the free choices of democracy.

The case is nonsense cubed. It's "junk science" in its worst form, attempting to legislate the 2006 understanding of climatology for all time, regardless of what may be discovered in 2008, 2020, or 2050.

And here is the kicker:

Lockyer -- a Democratic candidate for state treasurer in the November election -- said the lawsuit states that under federal and state common law the automakers have created a public nuisance by producing "millions of vehicles that collectively emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide."

What is the normal response to a public nuisance? To ban it, of course: so unless Bill Lockyer calls for the abolition of all cars, he makes himself into the Compleat Hypocrite (not to mention a complete ass). He is actually trying to sue Detroit out of business!

But in the end, the ludicrous lawsuit may have a very beneficial effect. Mull this:

Ford deferred comment to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which said the lawsuit was similar to one a New York court dismissed that is now on appeal.

"Automakers will need time to review this legal complaint, however, a similar nuisance suit that was brought by attorneys- general against utilities was dismissed by a federal court in New York," the industry group said in a statement....

But Sean Hecht, executive director of the Environmental Law Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the lawsuit has a "reasonable" chance of succeeding.

He also noted the judge in the New York lawsuit cited rarely-used legal doctrine in ruling that the question at issue was political rather than legal and should therefore be addressed by the legislature and not the court.

I think it very likely this "rarely-used legal doctrine" will prevail -- if not in Oakland, where it was filed, then when the 9th Circus Court hears it... and when the Supreme Court decides it. And this oddball legal theory -- that courts mustn't usurp the power rightly left to the legislature -- will suddenly become much more prominent.

Count on it. The reign of the robes draws to a close.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 21, 2006, at the time of 4:56 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 20, 2006

Hopeful News: Frist Still Expects Interrogation, Wiretap Bills

Hatched by Dafydd

The bill to put Congress and the White House on the same page anent interrogating high-value terrorist targets, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (hence KSM), seemed on life support just yesterday: the four Republican turncoats on the Armed Services Committee -- John McCain (AZ, 80%), Lindsay Graham (NC, 96%), Susan Collins (ME, 32%), and even Chairman John Warner (VA, 88%) -- had rejected the president's plan the first time, and they reportedly rejected Bush's revised plan.

Similarly, a bill to put Congress behind the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program was nearly derailed yesterday when Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM, 75%) proposed the main "wiretapping" bill for the House... and in her version, the president would only be able to order intercepts without a warrant after a devastating attack had occurred! She didn't quite seem to get the point, which is to prevent such attacks from occurring, not develop a legal case to prosecute, post facto, those responsible.

But today, things look perhaps just a little brighter. We're not at the dawn yet, but the East is brightening -- if Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN, 92%) can be believed:

President Bush's embattled anti-terrorism agenda got a boost Wednesday when a wiretap bill was revised and a Senate Republican leader said he was hopeful a deal was near on treatment of detainees.

But prospects for the two critical pieces of legislation remained unclear; Congress is speeding toward a recess next week as Republicans fight to retain majority control in the midterm elections.

First, Heather Wilson has now rewritten her bill to allow for such communications intercepts when the president believes an attack is imminent, not only after it's already occurred. Frankly, I still consider that a second-best: I believe the president has the inherent authority to order such warrantless intercepts of foreign intelligence with or without a finding of imminence of attack; he only has to find that national security is at stake.

But it's a heck of a lot better now than yesterday! And the "quo" she extracted for this "quid" is very positive in pointing the way forward:

Wilson's bill initially would have given legal status to Bush's domestic surveillance program only after an attack. Instead, her bill now would grant the administration's plea to allow wiretapping against Americans without warrants when it is believed a terrorist attack is "imminent."

But that concession carried a price for the president, according to a draft.

Under the measure, the administration would be required to share more details of the nature of the threat with the House and Senate leaders and the chairmen of both intelligence committees, who then would decide without administration input which lawmakers would receive the classified information.

"Excesses are best prevented when intelligence activities are operated within a framework that controls government power by using checks and balances among the three branches of government," Wilson, R-N.M., said in a statement.

Great Scott, is that all it takes? The critics in Congress will be satisfied with the "wiretapping" if a few more of them get to hear about it, so they can brag to their buddies? Of course that increases the risk that somebody will blab and the terrorists will figure it out; but that slim chance is to be weighed against not being able to intercept at all. I would happily trade congressional approval of the communications intercepts for that small increase in the number of those who know about each incident.

This may even help find compromise on the interrogations issue I discuss below. None of the turncoat Republicans is on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; maybe all it will take to reel them in is to commit to brief the chair and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee at the same time as the Intelligence chair and ranking are briefed, and then allow both chairs and both ranking members to brief whomever they choose.

It might be something as stupid and childish as three grumpy, old men (and one grumpy, old woman) having a fit of pique that they weren't "in the loop."

So much is my own speculation. The hopeful news in the AP story about the interrogations policy is more inchoate; it comprises the majority leader offering his prediction:

Despite the stalemate, Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist sought to reassure the GOP troops that a deal still was possible.

" I am hopeful that very soon agreement can be reached with the president and with the majority of Republicans," Frist, R-Ky., said in a statement. "But we need to do it in a way that were not sharing classified information with those terrorists who clearly will pass it on to others around the world to be used against us."

Take it for what it is: a prediction, not necessarily inside information about how senators will vote.

Here is the interrogation dilemma on a nutshell:

  • The Supreme Court, in Hamdan, held that we must follow Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, to which we are signatories;
  • Common Article 3 bans a number of offenses against civilians under enemy control (including captured terrorists); among those offenses are:

    • Cruel treatment
    • Torture
    • Outrages upon personal dignity
    • Humiliating and degrading treatment

    At their most restrictive, these prohibitions could stop CIA interrogators from asking any questions of KSM at all after he refused to answer;

  • In addition, the article requires that if such civilians are tried for offenses, it must be by "a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." At its most restrictive, this rule would allow KSM to see all classified information in any way related to his trial -- including sources, means, and methods. This could be passed along to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to hone their attacks and make them less detectable, hence deadlier. The danger of this would likely lead to the charges being dropped... and it's an open question whether we could continue to hold him under those circumstances; we might have to let him go....
  • If enforcement of the Geneva Conventions is going to become a part of the police power of the United States, as the Court ordered, then all of these terms must be legally defined in a way that a court or military tribunal can pass judgment on members of the U.S. armed services and on civilians (such as CIA interrogators) accused of violating them; similarly, the interrogators themselves must know what they can and cannot do during an interrogation -- without worrying that a court will come along later and second-guess everything (from the comfort of their chambers), with the interrogator possibly finding himself up on criminal charges or being sued.
  • However, these terms did not arise from American law and their legal meanings are not inherently obvious (such as a prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment" would be, since that's well defined by caselaw);
  • Thus, the terms must be defined by law now, in order to implement the Court's Hamdan decision, or our personnel will be under constant threat of criminal prosecution or civil litigation, merely for doing their jobs.

Curiously, as others have reported (John on Power Line, e.g.), all these terms were already defined in law: they were defined by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2004... the specific definitions in that act authored by none other than Sen. John McCain!

So McCain already defined these terms in a bill, and President Bush signed McCain's bill into law -- and now relies upon that exact definition (by name) in his bill to clarify detainee treatment following Hamdan... and McCain and three other Democratic senators say that's not good enough. We have to treat the terrorists even better than McCain himself wanted to treat them two years ago.

But Bill Frist still thinks he sees movement on both sides that could lead to an acceptable compromise. Most likely, nobody at AP bothered asking him what cause he had to say that. They probably weren't even listening; it's pro-forma to get a quote from the majority leader... if he happens to be a Republican, the journalist holds his nose and does it anyway. But he doesn't have to like it; and he doesn't have to listen to the reply.

So let's keep our collective digits crossed that both these two go through... along with the House-enacted bill that requires voters to show picture-proof of citizenship before they can vote in any federal election, regardless of any state laws to the contrary -- though I suspect this goes nowhere in the Senate; it's off-topic, but I thought I'd throw it in as something to watch as it goes through the sausage mill.

Happy days aren't yet here again, but at least the corners of my mouth are beginning to twitch upward.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 20, 2006, at the time of 6:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 19, 2006

The Chicks Lay Another Egg

Hatched by Sachi

As an obsessed anti-fan of Dixie Chicks, I was planning on talking about their hate-mongering movie premier in Toronto anyway, even if it hadn't been so fatuous and whiny. Of course, I haven't seen it, and I have no plans to go see it; but there's plenty of buzz from people who have:

In one memorable scene, Maines watches news footage of the president being interviewed about the furor that followed the singer's on-stage comment that she was ''ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas,'' which resulted in the group being dropped from most radio stations, as well as protests and plummeting sales. ''The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind,'' Bush told Tom Brokaw at the time, adding, ''They shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out. You know, freedom is a two-way street.''

After watching this footage, Maines repeats the president's comment about how the group shouldn't have their ''feelings hurt,'' incredulous, and then says, ''What a dumb f---.'' She then looks into the camera, as if addressing Bush, and reiterates, ''You're a dumb f---.'' [Thereby completely refuting the point about freedom being a two-way street, running rings around the president with her Vulcan-like logic. -- Dafydd]

Methinks their feelings are hurt by former fans (such as me) choosing not to buy their CDs or go to their concerts. I weep great crocodile tears. And today, I read an article about their press conference in Toronto; from the section subtitled -- I'm not kidding -- "the rough road to free speech":

Directed by two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple (“Harlan County, U.S.A.”, “American Dream”) and Cecilia Peck, the documentary chronicles Maguire, her sister Emily Robison and Maines’ transition from country darlings to bold symbols for freedom of expression....

“They’re from Texas. They’re supposed to be these women that people have put a box around, and here are these incredible all-American girls coming out and making a statement and not backing down from it,” Kopple told The Associated Press in an interview.

They may not be "backing down," but they're sure whining an awful lot. What they call "freedom of speech" is what the rest of us call "freedom from the perfectly reasonable reaction to their offensive words." (I mean, it's not as though we called them "crusaders" then ran out and burned down that church up in Nova Scotia that worships a giant graven image of Natalie Maines.) The Chicks can criticize the rest of us all the live-long day, using every four-letter word they can call to mind (which appears to be only one, endlessly repeated); but boy, if we criticized them, we're suppressing their freedom of speech!

If you want to know what real suppression of freedom of speech looks like, you should ponder that letter sent by powerful Democratic senators to ABC, threatening the network's broadcast license if it didn't cancel the miniseries "the Path to 9/11." That is true censorship -- fortunately unsuccessful.

And for an example of media hypocrisy, read Syrus Nowrasteh, who wrote the screenplay, discussing how he was treated by the antique media for speaking the unspeakable: that Bill Clinton was at least as responsible for 9/11 as George W. Bush (reparagraphed for easier reading):

In July a reporter asked if I had ever been ethnically profiled. I happily replied, "No." I can no longer say that. The L.A. Times, for one, characterized me by race, religion, ethnicity, country-of-origin and political leanings -- wrongly on four of five counts. [All emphasis added.]

To them I was an Iranian-American politically conservative Muslim. It is perhaps irrelevant in our brave new world of journalism that I was born in Boulder, Colo. I am not a Muslim or practitioner of any religion, nor am I a political conservative. What am I? I am, most devoutly, an American. I asked the reporter if this kind of labeling was a new policy for the paper. He had no response.

The hysteria engendered by the series found more than one target. In addition to the death threats and hate mail directed at me, and my grotesque portrayal as a maddened right-winger, there developed an impassioned search for incriminating evidence on everyone else connected to the film. And in director David Cunningham, the searchers found paydirt! His father had founded a Christian youth outreach mission.

The whiff of the younger Mr. Cunningham's possible connection to this enterprise was enough to set the hounds of suspicion baying. A religious mission!

A New York Times reporter wrote, without irony or explanation, that an issue that raised questions about the director was his involvement in his father's outreach work. In the era of McCarthyism, the merest hint of a connection to communism sufficed to inspire dark accusations, the certainty that the accused was part of a malign conspiracy. Today, apparently, you can get something of that effect by charging a connection with a Christian mission.

The Ditzy Chicks' belief in "free speech for me but not for thee" sounds strikingly similar to what too many Moslem extremists believe. In the last few days, we've been treated to their hysterical overreaction, all over the world, to the pope's innocuous statement. Was what Pope Benedict said so bad that it justifies calling for his assassination, burning down churches in Gaza, and shooting a nun in the back, for the crime of dedicating her life to saving Somali children... as part of a religious mission?

If I tried to count all the times that I've been called a "Zionist pig," just because I dare to support Israel's fight against terrorism, I would still be counting 100 years from now.

And all this time, Moslem extremists have not only verbally attacked those of other faiths as "infidels," they have killed Jews and Christians by the bushel. For that matter, they kill each other for not being the right kind of Moslem (their violent attacks against each other peak during the holy month of Ramadan.) And we have yet to see a single Jewish rabbi or Catholic nun blow up a Hummus stand in Jerusalem, except maybe to protest the Arabic rap music they play incessantly.

So the Moslems' feelings are hurt! Big deal. They're killing Americans nearly every day in the name of Allah; pardon me for thinking that's a little more aggressive than quoting some emperor from six hundred years ago who thought conversion by the sword was "evil and inhuman."

Unlike the "death threats" the Ditzy Chicks claim to have received (and let's see some of them!), the threat against modern civilization from the Moslem extremists is deadly real. We must take this threat seriously, but not by backing down. We must speak up aginst this bloodthirsty assault on freedom of speech. Threatening murder, mayhem, and assassination in response to words is completely different from simply refusing to buy a CD by some annoying chit with the brains of a Pekingese.

As for our suppression of the Chicks, we're just exercising our "freedom of wallet." Although their album hit the number 1 on Billboard (for a few weeks before dropping like an egg), ticket sales for the tour are less than half of the Chicks' last tour. Maines' decision to stick to arenas, instead of shifting to smaller venues (garages, bathrooms), cost them millions... but don't shed any tears: they're much happier with their new listeners, they say:

“We’ve basically been playing to about half the audience as on the last tour, but it’s a different audience. They just look good,” band member Martie Maguire told reporters at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the documentary “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing” premiered.

In the grand scheme of things, the problems of the Dixie Chicks rate somewhere between warm beer and a cold sore, and I don't even know why I wrote this. Never mind; don't read it!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 19, 2006, at the time of 6:27 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Hungary for the Truth

Hatched by Dafydd

Blah, blah, cut through all the nonsense. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany (say that three times fast) was caught on tape copping to members of parliament that he and his coalition have lied to Hungarian voters for four years straight. They lied about the state of the budget and the economy, and they did it to get reelected:

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany defied opposition pressure to quit on Tuesday after anti-government riots he called "the longest and darkest night of the republic."

The worst riots in Hungary since the end of communism followed the leak of a tape on Sunday in which Gyurcsany said he and his Socialist party had lied for four years about Hungary's budget in order to win a general election in April.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Budapest late on Monday, attacking the state television building in clashes which left 150 injured.

They got themselves reelected (barely) back in April. But the tape just surfaced Sunday... inconveniently in the midst of a riot over a completely different subject: the "austerity measures" which Hungary has adopted on orders from the European Union (EU):

Protests had already been planned this week over tough austerity measures imposed following the Socialists' victory in last April's election, which have seen the government's popularity plummet.

The measures, imposed under pressure from Brussels, include higher taxes and benefit cuts, are aimed at reducing Hungary's large public deficit.

But our correspondent says the leaked revelations were, for some of the protesters, the straw that broke the camel's back.

Bottom line: the EU (pronounced "eeeuww!") is like the Butcher in Lewis Carroll's "the Hunting of the Snark":

The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea--but, that one being "Snark,"
The good Bellman engaged him at once.

The financial mavins in Brussels (well, actually the European Central Bank is in Frankfurt, Germany; but who's counting?) see disasterous economies across the continent... and they have "just one idea" for fixing them:

  1. Dramatically cut benefits (good idea)
  2. Dramatically raise taxes (terrible idea that completely undoes idea 1 above)

The double-whammy of benefit cuts (so the huge unemployed underclass has no money to spend) and cranking taxes up on a hydraulic jack (so those few actually earning money don't get to keep any of it) sends economies into a death spiral... or as aviators would say, a flat inverted spin. (In a flat inverted spin, an airplane has the aerodynamics of a dropped brick, which pretty much describes most European economies as well.)

So for four years, Hungary has been struggling to obey the diktat from "Brussels" (I'm not going to get into that geographical argument again), while not actually crippling the economy to the point where the whole country -- parking lots, deserted industries, and the combined valuable blood chemicals of all the citizens -- is worth less than the price of a middling-sized three-bedroom home in Brentwood, California.

Had Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany ("I have said it twice: That alone should encourage the crew") actually gotten on the state-run TV station (before the rioters burned and looted it) and told the truth, the next sounds he would have heard would be ten million Hungarians saying "boil the tar, pluck a goose, and for God's sake, somebody find me a rail!" -- or Hungarian words to like effect.

So guess what? He lied. He told the populace that God's in His heaven and all's right with the world.

He's a Socialist. That's one of their best things.

So what are Hungary's prospects for the future? Not good, but looking somewhat brighter. Reuters:

The protests came two weeks ahead of local elections on October 1 and follow a slump in the ruling Socialist Party's popularity to 25 percent in polls from 40 percent at the election.

The Beeb agrees:

Local elections are scheduled in two weeks' time. The Socialists and their liberal coalition allies are trailing Fidesz in the polls. [Fidesz "is a large centre-right conservative and Christian Democratic political party in Hungary; as of 2006, it is the largest opposition party."]

Here is some more from Wikipedia:

Fidesz gained power in 1998 under leader and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who governed Hungary in coalition with the smaller Hungarian Democratic Forum and the Independent Smallholders' Party.

It lost the 2002 elections to the Hungarian Socialist Party, by 41.07% to the Socialists' 42.05%.

I wonder if the Socialists lied in 2002, too? In any event, after four years of admitted lying, the April, 2006 election was nearly as close as 2002; the Socialists won by 43.21% to Fidesz's 42.03%. (In the second round, Fidesz actually beat the Socialists 46.65% to 46.62%; but they couldn't catch up on seats.)

With the catastrophic plunge in the fortunes of the Socialists since April, the EU austerity package, the riots, and now the revelation of callous, deliberate, almost jubilant lying, I believe if there were new elections anytime soon, the Socialists would be ousted. But the PM is hanging on, supported by the Alliance of Free Democrats, who have 18 seats. The local elections will sting, but they can't alter the makeup of the parliament.

The moral here is threefold:

  • People dislike being told that their economic problems are less important than feeding a huge government maw with 31.6% of the gross domestic product (by contrast, the United States budget comprises only 17% of GDP, and even that's too big);
  • People really dislike being lied to about basic, critical facts -- like how well the government is handling the economy;
  • Socialism sucks.

But we already knew that, didn't we?

Hungary's first step, which Fidesz should start explaining to the Hungarian people, is to move the country back towards American-style capitalism and away from failed European socialism. Hungary will never climb out of its hole until it stops thinking of government as the people's first resort and starts thinking of it as the last resort.

I don't know if this will go down well; but they probably have plenty of time to educate the voters. If Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany ("I have said it thrice: What i tell you three times is true") has his way, the next national election won't be until everyone currently alive in Hungary dies of old age.

Let's hope that Fidesz doesn't simply decide to lie and tell everyone they'll slash taxes and double the choco ration!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 19, 2006, at the time of 4:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 18, 2006

Bride of Moslem Groups Speak Out

Hatched by Dafydd

First, the good news: two of the groups mentioned in the precursor to this post, Moslem Groups Speak Out Against Violent Islamic Reaction to Pope, have actually issued statements in response to the pope's remarks and what has happened since.

Even more good news, the Muslim Public Affairs Council said the following:

The Muslim Public Affairs Council today condemned the murder of an Italian nun in Somalia, which reportedly took place as a result of Pope Benedict XVI's remarks on Islam last week....

The Italian nun was shot in the back in the Somali capital of Mogadishu by two gunmen. The nun's bodyguard and a hospital worker were also killed, doctors said. In the West Bank, two churches were set on fire. MPAC unequivocally condemns any violence in response to the Pope's remarks as being antithetical to the teachings of Islam.

On Friday, MPAC reached out to American Catholic leaders urging them to convene a dialogue between Catholic and Muslim leaders. In a letter to Cardinal Roger Mahoney of the Los Angeles Archdioces, MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati and Senior Advisor Dr. Maher Hathout, stressed the need for the Vatican and Catholic leaders to clarify and explain the remarks. The letter states in part: "In this spirit of dialogue and understanding that we continue to further, we would like to call for a meeting and dialogue regarding the recent comments made by Pope Benedict XVI. We do not want to allow for those individuals who call for divisiveness at such volatile times to speak on behalf of our communities.

I would love to believe that this letter was in response to the previous Big Lizards post; alas, I'm quite certain they've never even heard of us. (Heck, the vast majority of people who read Power Line or Captain's Quarters have never even heard of us!)

At the same time, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has also finally issued a statement on this issue: U.S. Muslims Call for Dialogue Over Pope's Comments on Islam. It begins thus:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called for increased dialogue between Muslims and Catholics over the controversy sparked by remarks perceived as insulting to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad made by Pope Benedict XVI. CAIR is also seeking a meeting with the Vatican's representative in Washington, D.C., to discuss the remarks.

But here is the part of most interest to readers of this blog (well, to all but one of them), the part where CAIR also recognizes -- and denounces -- the Moslem violence sweeping the globe in reaction to the pope's remarks. It's actually quite encouraging that they would say this:

 

 

 

There, see? Even those most mired in religious tribalism can reform themselves and admit when their own fellow Moslems have gone too far!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 18, 2006, at the time of 3:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Eeny-Meeny Lesson Learn, Should We March Or Should We Burn?

Hatched by Dafydd

The "Mexican Left" has gathered to mull the great question of the day: should they actually accept the democratic decision, or should they try to start a civil war and kill thousands of fellow Mexicans, just to install their own dictator in Los Pinos?

That's a toughie.

Our previous blogging on this critical topic is here:

  1. Teleblogging 2: I Think Calderón Has Won...
  2. "Democratic" López Obrador Threatens Revolution If He Loses
  3. The More I Hear From the Obradorians...
  4. Felipe Calderón Wins
  5. Mexico Headed for Civil War?
  6. The Zarathustra of Zocalo Plaza

Here is the conundrum of the week, as the Obradorians ponder whether to light the fuse:

Supporters of leftist Andres Manuel López Obrador will hold an open-air convention in the capital's sprawling Zocalo square to hammer out strategy after losing the July 2 vote by a marginal 234,000 votes.

Organizers predict 1 million people will turn out at the event, which could name López Obrador the leader of a civil resistance campaign or the head of an alternative government.

Delegates will likely take the second path and symbolically declare López Obrador president, a softer option which means fewer street protests against Calderon, who is set to take office on December 1.

Say... who does this remind you of? Are López Obrador and his acolytes going to end up a bunch of sore-losermen?

Leftists had paralyzed the Zocalo and main streets in the capital for six weeks to protest what they say was vote-rigging but ended those demonstrations this week to allow a military parade to be held on Saturday.

Some other protests are planned before Calderón takes office, Camacho Solis said, and López Obrador supporters are adamant they will not go quietly.

"It is going to be very rough for Calderón. Wherever he goes, we'll be there to remind him he became president through fraud," said nurse Lidia Alvarado, 51, in the Zocalo.

Maybe Markos Moulitsas Zúniga can open a southern branch office. He grew up in El Salvadore, so the language is certainly no barrier. Perhaps Daily Kos will have more luck influencing future elections in Mexico than here.

In any event, I haven't seen anything in the news about what momentous decision the portentous and pretentious Obradi-Obradorians made, if any. We'll keep our ear to the grindstone and let you know what develops.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 18, 2006, at the time of 5:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 17, 2006

The Lidless Eye Award

Hatched by Dafydd

Well well, "international critics" at the Toronto Film Festival yesterday awarded a special "Fipresci prize" to the movie Death of a President:

The film, a fictional documentary showing the assassination of President Bush, was noted by the jury "for the audacity with which it distorts reality to reveal a larger truth."

Yes sir, you read it right: the movie that begins with Bush being gunned down and concludes with a "Monsters Are Due on Maple Street"-like denouement, in which America's underlying Fascism, tyranny, and violent anti-Arab bigotry is revealed, was awarded a prize in Canada -- for being fake but accurate!

I'm pleased as poisoned punch to see that Mapesery is alive and well in Toronto. Dan Rather and the lidless eye of CBS will be proud indeed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 17, 2006, at the time of 9:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Moslem Groups Speak Out Against Violent Islamic Reaction to Pope

Hatched by Dafydd

...And the worldwide spasm of Islamic violence in response to the pope saying that the emperor of Constantinople once suggested Islam was violent.

The firebombing of Christian (not even Catholic) churches in Gaza and other areas; the death sentence declared against Pope Benedict XVI by a top Somali cleric; riots almost everywhere there are Moslems. And all because the pope said, in the midst of a windy academic treatise on reason and faith:

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on-- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara-- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian.

The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point-- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself-- which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.

Responding to this almost comically ironic proof of everything Emperor Manuel II Paleologus told his learned Persian, in the midst of a terrible crisis in the Islamic world, where Westerners around the globe see the Moslem community as hysterical, violent, and utterly out of control, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, as of 01:33 PDT, September 17th, 2006, had this to say:

 

 

 

 

 

Well! Who could argue with that? It's a powerful counterargument to the thesis that Moslems are an excitable bunch, I'll tell you. But I'm not quite sure it really makes the case for the religion of peace. But we'll keep checking back with CAIR every now and again.

By contrast, the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee was much more voluble and forthcoming. Offering their position on the developing anti-Christian frenzy, President Hon. Mary Rose Oakar (former Congresswoman, D-OH) -- last seen rapidly exiting the House after cashing over 200 bum checks on the House bank -- addressed the issue forthrightly:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Muslim Public Affairs Council likewise takes the boiling froth of Islamic paranoia and violent reaction just as seriously as do CAIR and the ADC. Speaking candidly about the crisis, MPAC said:

 

 

 

By contrast, the youngest and fastest growing moderate Islamic organization in America, the American Islamic Congress, seems to have nothing to say about the issue. They did, however, announce the prize winners of the “Dream Deferred” Essay Contest on Civil Rights in the Middle East.

So there you have it; let no one say the major Islamic and Arabic groups in the United States haven't stepped up to the plate and at least shown how concerned they are about outrageous and unprovoked Moslem madness all around the world, in response to a minor anecdote in a speech that would seem otherwise to require propping one's eyelids open with toothpicks, à la Fred Flintstone.

Such courage must be encouraged wherever we find it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 17, 2006, at the time of 2:16 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 16, 2006

Great Writing For Our Times

Hatched by Dafydd

On Friday, the New York Times carried this incisive piece on the remarks of Pope Benedict, which all lament. While most readers only marvel at the completed newspaper product, comparing it favorably to the writings of Saroyan and Ionesco, not to mention the fine linework of Mondrian, sometimes it's educational to glance "behind the greatness," as it were, and see how such remarkable literary sketches and essays get that way.

Ordinarily, such excursions are off our diets. We rarely have access to the original draft submitted to the 36-person editorial board, nor to the voluminous comments they offer to the writer to guide him in his professional development. After (if!) the story is printed in an edition of the Times, all of this early paperwork is normally sent to the Vault in Bakersfield, California for permanent archive.

(A codicil to the will left by Henry Jarvis Raymond, founder and first editor of the newspaper and the inventer of bathing, also obligates the Times to send a mimeographed copy of each marked-up manuscript to a very puzzled Henry Kissinger, who seems still to be unaware that he is the only surviving heir of Mr. Raymond's beloved housekeeper, Frenzy. Make of that what you will.)

But clandestine sources within the Times, who spoke only on condition of anonymity and will be named only upon written request, have furnished us with the original, unedited version of the Times story, including all the bits that the editors excised for space purposes. (Actually, only editor Stoland Nebbish III and night janitor Felicia Elicia Gilhoolie "Goldie" Horsepapper made the "on request" offer; our third source, Times subaltern Wanda Bar of East Orange, New Jersey, insisted her identity remain absolutely classified, and we shall honor her request).

Merely for purposes of seeing how a great newspaper finds places to cut a story that comes in too long, here are the original versions of those paragraphs that were substantially edited. (We do not show those paragraphs edited only to bring them more or less into line with the English language. Note to writer Ian Fisher: (a) you should feel darned lucky you have editors, and (b) "antichrist" is not a verb.)

You may compare these original paragraphs to the published versions at your leisure. I prefer to spend my leisure time raising yak.

In Britain, source of many recent suicide bombers, Gaza, home of the infitada and Hamas, Iraq, which allows followers of Iranian accolyte Muqtada "Cuddles" al-Sadr in the cabinet, Syria, which funnels arms to Hezbollah, and Indonesia, which has never punished al-Qaeda affilliate Jemaah Islamiya more seriously than by pinching their tea things, Muslim leaders registered their protest.

Note how short this sentence becomes after removing these unnecessary adjectival phrases. Good writing must be concise.

The Parliament in Pakistan, which just released 2,500 Taliban fighters from prison to return to their units in Afghanistan, passed a resolution against the pope’s statements, and the government later summoned the Vatican envoy to express official displeasure by throwing rubber bands at his face, pointing to the Pakistani flag, and shouting incomprehensibly in Pashtun.

Once again, the parenthetical phrase adds little to the story, beyond turning New Yorkers against the nation of Pakistan... which could be construed as violating the Times' longstanding policy against hate speech towards any racial, sexual, ethnic, religious, philosophical, or hobby-based group, and also the policy favoring Democrats. The last subordinate clause is just a waste of ink, and they don't have "rubber bands" in Pakistan anyway. Whoever told the writer this bit of "local color" probably also supplies photographs to Reuters. Think and think again before attacking the keyboard!

(Before we go any further, I must convey this note which the chief copy-editor penciled in the margin of page 2: "whiel we appreciatew your attempt to 'bring some life to the old graylady,' as you put it, we have told you before time and Again that the TIMES DOes not use any colour ink but black. For stories. And we would like to know where you got the colored typewriter ribben, as we thot. we had put them all away." Perhaps I should have mentioned earlier that the blue type was in the original as submitted.)

And emotion spilled over in Islamist Turkey, where Benedict has scheduled a visit in November, as a top official in the Islamic-rooted ruling party said that the pope is “going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini.” In 2003, acting to aid Moslem mass murderer and anti-Semite Saddam Hussein, Turkey reversed its committment at the last second and blocked American troops from invading Iraq from the north, thus lengthening the war and causing unnecessary American casualties.

Come, come. Here the writer is just being mean. The Iraq war has nothing to do with the offensiveness, or not, of the pope's remarks. The pope is not a rhinoceros.

Reaction to the pope’s remarks — in which he quoted a description of Islam in the 14th century as “evil and inhuman” — unlike today, when the religion of peace has learned to restrict its slaughter to infidels (including Moslems of a different sect than one's own), blowing up rival mosques, practicing slavery, killing one's own daughter because some busybody in the village said he saw her perusing a Max Factor catalog, and attempting to conquer the entire world through terrorism and by opening falafel stands in Paris and on the Ginza — has presented Benedict with the first full-blown crisis of his year-and-a-half papacy.

The writer should have known that the Times does not allow an M-dash parenthetical comment within another M-dash parenthetical comment. This far and no farther. It's common sense.

Many Muslims are also comparing his comments with the unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad which stoked deep Muslim anger earlier this year. On an entirely unrelated note, eight new judges have been added to conduct a preliminary review of the more than 80,000 entries in the Iranian-sponsored "Holocaust cartoon" competition; also, a fifth category of prize has been added, the Sash Verdant, for the most moving depiction of Jewish persons with porcine features.

1. If the note is "entirely unrelated," why did the writer relate it? 2. Some readers of the Times in Brooklyn and Miami might be made uncomfortable by the reference to pork, which is of course forbidden, or "traif," and to the inappropriate use of the offensive term "Jewish persons" for persons of Hebraic ancestry; and some of our Moslem readers might be made uncomfortable by the reminder that persons of Hebraic ancestry still exist. For these reasons, this sentence was best expunged.

But unlike the cartoons crisis, the reaction has been verbal rather than violent. In Gaza, a grenade was thrown today at one of the gates of the Roman Orthodox church, though no one claimed responsibility and it was unclear if the incident was related to the pope’s statements.

The Times understood the writer's attempt at gentle irony here; but it was too heavy handed, and they were forced to remove it. The New York Times has no place on its august pages (or September) for slapstick or farce; subtlety should be the writer's watchword.

Alas, through a printer's error (I think he was drunk following hijinks with the fire extinguisher), the excised passage was accidentally printed. A correction forthcomes on Monday.

“I am convinced the pope did not mean to assume a position against Islam,” a leading German cardinal, Walter Kasper, told the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica. "The Church bureaucracy is no longer so exclusionary as to insist upon itself as the only true religion. We now accept that all religions are equally valid, including Wicca and Scientology; we are a tolerant faith these days." Glancing over his shoulder, Cardinal Kasper continued. "In fact, His Holiness has often expressed a desire to convert to Islam himself, if only it didn't involve so much praying."

The editors expressed some doubts as to the provenance of the excised remarks, as the writer claimed his tape recorder "ran out of tape" and only caught the first part. Since the recorder was actually digital, and had recently been given fresh batteries and a wax and lube, the Times editors were dubious.

Benedict, a respected theologian, is said to write many speeches, limericks, and sea chanties himself, and some commentators in the Italian press speculated that the Vatican would be forced into a more stringent review of his statements in the future, beginning with fines for venial offenses. 250,000 to 380,700 Lira was recommended for the use of divisive language about Jesus, the wearing of overtly sectarian jewelry (id est, an ostentatious cross or Vatican-flag earrings) when meeting with Moslems, and of course for wardrobe malfunctions. Mortal offenses — exempli gratia, noting the irony between what offends Moslems if one says it contrasted with what fails to offend them when fellow Moslems do it — may lead to a harsh penance of ave Marias, paternosters, and press-ups.

Besides the main offense -- the Times considers it inappropriate to resort to Latin phrases in a story about the pope -- there is the obvious threat of the overly detailed description of dangerous projects: children may attempt to imitate what they see, doing themselves an injury.

The rest of the writer's copy was allowed to proceed unedited, owing to the spread of the print-room hijinks (notably, the "out of ink" fountain-pen wheeze) to the editors' suite. A copy-editor swallowed some ink and had to be resuscitated. Then a spirited game of Pin-the-Führer-Mustache-On-the-President broke out in the break room, and all work was adjourned for the day. The Friday New York Times did not come out until three o'clock Saturday afternoon.

Allow to cool before opening.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 16, 2006, at the time of 4:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 15, 2006

Whack-a-Mole -- or Seal-a-Hole?

Hatched by Dafydd

The antique media is infamous for burying the lede: not understanding the real point of a story -- or else not wanting us to understand it! -- and instead hiding it deep within the article, where they know few eyes dare to scan (the eyes usually wandering off after the first two or three paragraphs of wretched writing).

In this case, an AP article focuses on a new tactic of digging trenches around Baghdad. The trench idea is interesting and probably smart; anything that makes it tougher for bad guys to creep like moles in the night into Baghdad can't help but be good for the war effort.

But AP lets slip a far more important point 22 paragraphs (out of 31) into the article: that Operation Together Forward, while being the worst-named operation in recent military history (which is saying a lot), designed to clear Baghdad of sectarian militia murders, is in fact working literally like gangbusters:

Both the Bush administration and military have said sectarian killings and violence are surging around Iraq and in the capital, although the military has said the attacks are limited to parts of Baghdad not yet included in the security operation.

In other words, it's working great in those areas where it has been used; and the violence is only spiking in areas that have not yet been subjected to the house-to-house searches and interrogations by the Iraqi Army and National Police and the American soldiers and Marines.

I later confirmed this unsourced claim by referring to a CENTCOM release:

This approach appears to be working in the focus areas, where violence is down, [Army spokesman Maj. Gen. William] Caldwell said.

However, he acknowledged that violence in other parts of Baghdad experienced a “spike” yesterday and noted that terrorist death squads “are clearly targeting civilians outside the focus areas.”

“Overall, Baghdad’s level of sectarian violence has been reduced,” he said, “but remains above the levels of violence we saw before the Golden Mosque bombing in Samarra in late February.”

It's glib and easy to say, "gee, there's still violence in Baghdad -- nothing has changed -- the war is a failure -- let's declare defeat and head home." In fact, that pretty much describes the Democratic Party's “Real Security Act of 2006.” Alas, even some Republican jellyfish, such as Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT, 20%) have wriggled aboard that bandwagon.

Shays doesn't entirely buy the Democratic defeatism; he does not advocate the Democratic position of cutting and running, for example. But the central conceit for all the defeatists is that, "since January of this year there has been no progress," as Shays claims.>

Fortunately, this position is nonsense on stilts.

If you see somebody playing a game where he keeps whacking plastic moles on the head with a mallet over and over again for hours, it would be easy to conclude he's playing Whack-a-Mole. In that game, the moles pop up again and again from the same holes; every time you whack one, it goes down, only to be resurrected moments later.

But when you look closer, you discovered that every time the player whacks a mole, the mallet stays stuck in the hole, permanently blocking it. The player grabs a new mallet and whacks the next one, sealing off another hole. You notice that the moles never come popping up through the sealed holes, only through the holes that are still open... and you also notice that there are a finite number of holes -- and the player is rapidly sealing them up.

This is a new game called Seal-a-Hole, and it has a very different dynamic from Whack-a-Mole: the normal game is one of futility; the game continues until the player gets tired and quits or he runs out of money. But Seal-a-Hole actually has a victory point: when all the holes are sealed, the game is over -- and the player, America, has won.

Even though Seal-a-Hole is not futile, it nevertheless requires a great deal of patience; there are many, many holes, and each hole has a mole who must be whacked. Some of the holes, such as Sadr City, are very big and will require many mallets to properly seal. But if we have the courage and fortitude of our American forebears, we will seal those holes... and we will win.

Like all analogies, this one doesn't "prove" anything. But I hope it gives you a different perspective from which to view the actual evidence of success emanating from the penumbra of Baghdad.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 15, 2006, at the time of 4:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 14, 2006

The Topology of Lincoln

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(Chafee, not Abraham)

Scott Johnson of Power Line posted the letter that Sen. Lincoln "12%" Chafee of Rhode Island sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on September 7th. It includes two amusing lines. First, this one:

Chairman Lugar decided to hold the vote over to a later date, and I support that decision.

As Friend Lee pointed out, it's hardly a shock that Chafee supported this delay... since Dick Lugar (R-IN, 88%) was simply acceding to Lincoln Chafee's own request! Thus, this sentence translates to, "Chairman Lugar granted my request to hold the vote over, and I support his decision in my favor."

But the more ominous passage comes two paragraphs later:

One of the key issues with many of our allies is the situation with the Palestinians. I support the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with its neighbor Israel. I believe progress on this front would be beneficial for the Palestinians, and futher America's, and Israel's security.

With Dr. Rice's PhD, she is probably better able to read a map than is Mr. Phillips Academy. But it's really not hard. Here, take a look-see:



Map of Israel

Map of Israel

I believe I already explained this in Contiguationness, on Captain's Quarters... but as we can plainly see, there are only two ways to make the Palestinian Authority "contiguous":

  • You can create a weird, narrow corridor of land that hugs the southern "V-cut" along the Israeli borders with Egypt and Jordan, connecting Gaza to the West Bank. But this is silly -- how wide should it be, just enough for a north-going Zax and a south-going Zax to pass without having to turn sideways?
  • You can create an aggressive spit of land that cuts straight across Israel to connect Gaza and the West Bank. In that case, "Palestine" would be contiguous, but Israel wouldn't be. You would have sliced it neatly in half.

I'm not exactly sure how chopping Israel in half would "further Israel's security," but maybe Chafee can explain it to me someday.

A simple glance at the map shows why a "contiguous" Palestinian authority won't fly. Not to beat a dead hearse, but when Lincoln drives, who is the navigator?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 14, 2006, at the time of 8:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Qwik Hitz

Hatched by Dafydd

Just some musings that don't seem large enough to warrant separate posts apiece. These are the nagging questions that sometimes jolt me awake in the middle of the day.

You're either with us...

In the international arena, we are fighting a battle that ultimately reduces to civilization versus barbarity.

But in the national arena, the real battle is between courage and cowardice: every man and woman in the county is either acting courageously... or he is playing the coward.

May I cut in?

Since this phase of the war against jihadi terrorism began five years ago, the British have been our most stalwart allies, while the French our weakest and most untrustworthy -- so much so that many of us consider Crock Jacques Chirac to have at least one doddering foot in the training camps of our enemies.

But now it appears that over the next two years, the British will drift away from the United States as Tony Blair leaves -- but the French will likely become much closer to us, if, as expected, Nicholas Sarkozy is the next president of France.

When the music changes, are our minds flexible enough to change partners?

Hair of the dog

Scientists have devised a fascinating scheme to repopulate the world with wooly mammoths by recovering mammoth semen (no jokes) from the creatures' frozen mammoth generative organs (all right, so I couldn't help myself).

Perhaps they'll come in handy when the global-warming crowd flip-flops again and begans warning, in dire, sepulchral tones, of the pending catastrophe of global cooling. You wouldn't want your mammoth to get cold, would you?

The premature-death tax

The current estate tax -- or "death tax," as anyone without pennies on his eyes calls it -- is currently slated to drop and drop until it finally reaches 0% in 2010; but then, the next year, if nothing it done in Congress to permanize the cuts, it's scheduled to leap right back up to where it began: 47%.

So if the Democrats continue to block meaningful permanent reform of the death tax... how many additional premature deaths will occur in late 2010 -- either voluntarily or with a little help from heirs -- as rational people act rationally, if not morally, to save an inheritance?

Call this figure the Democrats' "premature-death" tax.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 14, 2006, at the time of 7:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Globaloney Experts Predict Zero Scientific Progress in Next 100 Years!

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the wizards who brought us the Kyoto Protocol) have now revised their estimates of upcoming global warming downwards: now they believe mean global temperature will only be 3º C warmer in 2100 than today, if we do absolutely nothing about it.

If we fully implement the Kyoto Protocol -- then we can drastically reduce that ghastly warming... by 1º C. Whew!

But what does that say about Western science and technology? That over the next 100 years, we will not even be able to cope with a scant rise of 2 or 3º C... and that mostly during winter nights in the coldest regions of the Earth!

The only explanation is that globalony lovers believe that science has come to a screeching halt, and there will be zero scientific or technological progress in the next century.

It's no wonder global-warming scaremongering comes mainly from the anti-technology Left.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 14, 2006, at the time of 6:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mr. Graham Regrets He's Unable to Lunch Today

Hatched by Dafydd

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 96%), one fourth of the Lynne Stewart Quartet, was just on Hugh Hewitt's show, frantically trying to spin away his vote on the Senate Armed Services Committee (see below).

From what I could gather, what he thinks he was trying to do was not to allow al-Qaeda personnel to see all of our classified information... he only demands they be allowed to see any classified information that the prosecution wants to use against them.

If President Bush doesn't want them to discover sources, methods, and personnel... why, he has only to instruct the military prosecutor not to introduce any of the voluminous classified evidence at trial. Just allow KSM to walk for lack of evidence, and all will be well.

It's interesting to know that even under the rules rammed through committee by the Lynne Stewart Quartet, a terrorist on trial for mass murder in Iraq will not be able to demand a list of all our covert agents in Venezuela. But I am not reassured.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 14, 2006, at the time of 4:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Former Top General Demands Resignation...

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...Of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. (Did you think I was talking about Donald Rumsfeld? Tsk-tsk!)

According to an interview in Haaretz, former Army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon has demanded the resignations because of their scandalous handling of the brief war against Hezbollah:

Does the prime minister have to resign?

"Yes. He can't say he didn't know. He can't say that. Even if he was not an army person in the past and was not prime minister or defense minister, he knows how one goes to war. This is not the way to go to war. And he knows how a war is managed. This is not the way a war is managed.

Going to war was scandalous, and he is directly responsible for that. The war's management was a failure, and he is responsible for that. The final operation was particularly problematic, and he was directly involved in that. He was warned and did not heed the warnings. Therefore, he must resign."

The "bombshell" demand is actually not as momentous as it would ordinarily be; Ya'alon was Chief of Staff from 2002 until June 1st, 2005 -- when Olmert relieved him of command and installed his own man in the job: Dan Halutz.

But until that moment, Halutz had been Ya'alon's Deputy Chief of Staff; and I'm sure Ya'alon feels betrayed, believing, and not without good reason, that Halutz was probably working assiduously that whole time to undermine Ya'alon. Ya'alon has no cause to love either Halutz or Olmert.

In addition, although Lt.Gen. Moshe Ya'alon still (weakly) denies being interested in politics, many Israeli sources have cited him as the likely pick for Defense Minister in a possible second Benjamin Netanyahu government, or any other Likud government. So he does have a political agenda.

But having an agenda doesn't itself make one wrong; Winston Churchill had an agenda for many years to make Britain strong enough to resist the Nazis -- and thank goodness such an agenda-driven man became British prime minister!

Here is Ya'alon's bill of particulars against Halutz:

"The chief of staff failed in the management of the war. He gave the political echelon the feeling that he had the capability, which in practice he did not have, to bring about a political achievement by means of an extremely aggressive military operation.

"He entered the war without defining it as a war, and maybe without understanding that it was a war. He did not understand the implications of the measures he himself adopted. He did not mobilize the reserves in time, and did not open the emergency depots in time, and did not activate the high-command base.

"He managed the war from his office. He imposed missions such as Bint Jbail without any discussion and without consulting with the command about the consequences and implications. He created lack of clarity that rattled the forces in the field, caused a loss of trust and generated chaos. He did not give the commanders in the North backing. He did not build a structure that would help him overcome his weakness in the land sphere. He managed the campaign arrogantly and shallowly."

This doubtless raises a nagging question in your minds. Readers probably recall that I am adamant that Donald Rumsfeld remain as Secretary of Defense, despite the fact that a former Commander in Chief of CENTCOM, Gen. Anthony Zinni, demands his resignation. What's the difference between the two cases?

The difference is that Zinni was wrong and Ya'alon is right. In the actual warfighting, Rumsfeld did fine; we conquered the Taliban and deposed Saddam at astonishing speed and with virtually no casualties. And he is finally undertaking the Herculean labor of reforming our grand military strategy so that we can stop refighting World War II (which we've done five times since 1945) and finally begin confronting 3rd-millennium threats by looking forward, not back over our shoulders.

All the angst of Zinni and his yes-men centers on the post-Saddam insurgency and terrorist war; but in that war, Rumsfeld is trying to do what no one has ever done: impose modern democracy and self-sufficiency upon a tribal people who are, in many ways, still living in the demon-haunted world of the seventh century.

Zinni's pronunciamentos notwithstanding, nobody else has any better ideas than Rumsfeld about how to carry out the Commander in Chief's orders: turn Iraq into a reasonable facsimile of a modern liberal democracy... just enough so that it will not become a safe harbor for al-Qaeda and other terrorists in the forseeable future. Given the breadth and sheer audacity of the task, Donald Rumsfeld is doing extraordinarily well indeed. Anyone who smugly asserts he could do it better than the secretary is just blowing hot air through his hat.

Contrariwise, the war that Israel fought was as conventional as could be: their task was to invade neighboring Lebanon, drive the Hezbollah guerillas across the Litani River (and preferably out of Lebanon entirely), kill as many as they could and disarm the rest, and hunt for the two kidnapped soldiers.

But Halutz, Defense Minister Amir Peretz (who also comes in for some fisticuffs from Lt. Gen. Ya'alon), and Olmert failed at each of these tasks save one (they did kill a lot of terrorists); they were only saved from ruination by the fact that Hezbollah was even more incompetent than Israel.

So I applaud Ya'alon's "j'accuse" in Haaretz, I dismiss as nonsensical Zinni's and other Democrats' foot-stamping demand that Rumsfeld resign, and I here demonstrate that there is absolutely no contradiction between those two positions.

So there.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 14, 2006, at the time of 4:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The World Turned Upside Down

Hatched by Dafydd

It's impossible not to note the hysteria sweeping through Congress, culminating with the literally insane vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee to allow terrorists on trial -- and their al-Qaeda lawyers -- to see all the classified evidence against them, including (one presumes) information that would identify spies we have placed in that group, allowing for quick and easy executions of deep-cover agents, as well as blowing other surveillance programs to allow al-Qaeda to evade detection in their future plans.

I reckon if the "secrecy obsessed" Bush administration is unwilling to reveal to the world every last classified jot and tittle of intelligence information, human assets, and programs that we have... well, they can always just drop the charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other terrorists in Guantanamo and elsewhere and turn them loose. It's not like the pro-terrorist Left isn't giving President Bush plently of options!

I think the Warner bill would also require that every, last soldier involved in capturing terrorists on the battlefield be brought back to the United States to testify for each and every trial; I'm not sure whether terrorists will be released if it turns out the Marines and soldiers in the field didn't read them their Miranda rights before grabbing them, but I'm 100% certain that Sens. John Warner (R-VA, 88%), John McCain (R-AZ, 80%), Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 96%), and Susan Collins (R-ME, 32%) would demand that if they thought they could get away with it.

I think from now on I'll just call them the Lynne Stewart Quartet.

Four of the panel’s 13 Republicans joined all 11 Democrats in rejecting Mr. Bush’s proposal to keep defendants from seeing classified evidence against them. The vote came a day after the House Armed Services Committee adopted a measure that more closely parallels what the president wants....

As part of his plan, the president wants Congress to enact legislation that would authorize tougher interrogations of suspected terrorists.

And that is what Congress must not do, said Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state. “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,” Mr. Powell said in a letter to Senator John McCain of Arizona, one of the Republicans who differ with Mr. Bush’s policies.

Powell has at last demonstrated, for all the world to see, his unfitness for his previous office, which many of us realized as long ago as 2002. He exemplifies what Rep. John Boehner said yesterday:

"I wonder if they are more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people," said House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "They certainly do not want to take the terrorists on and defeat them."

Boehner was speaking of the Democrats; but Colin Powell may as well be a Democrat -- he is a Republican the same way Lincoln Chafee (R/D-RI, 12%) is.

Fortunately, the House Armed Services Committee had more huevos, overwhelmingly adopting President Bush's bill with some minor modifications, according to the Washington Post:

With prodding from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10 to 8 along party lines to approve a bill negotiated with the White House to allow -- but not require -- Bush to submit the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program to a secret court for constitutional review.

That bill, which could come before the Senate next week, is considered by many to be a ratification of the administration's current surveillance program, which monitors the overseas phone calls and e-mails of some Americans when one party is suspected of links to terrorism....

"The committee took the important step of acknowledging the president's constitutional authority to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), an ardent Bush ally.

At the same time, the House Armed Services Committee voted 52 to 8 to ratify the White House's version of legislation creating military commissions for trying terrorism suspects. The measure would give Bush the authority he seeks to withhold classified evidence from defendants, admit testimony that defendants might maintain was coerced, and protect U.S. intelligence agents from legal action over their interrogation methods. House Republican leaders plan to bring the tribunal bill to a vote next week.

By the arcane rules of the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN, 92%) can dump the Senate Armed Services Committee's stupid bill and bring a different bill to the floor of the Senate... in this case, the bill he supports -- which is the president's bill, the same one that just breezed through the House Armed Services Committee. We'll see if the Lynne Stewart Quartet is actually willing to join Democrats in filibustering the very congressional legislation that they (and the Democrats) say is urgently needed to put the White House back on the legal track.

It's one thing to vote against the wishes of the American people in committee, where few will ever see or find out. It's quite another to do so in a full Senate vote, especially when one has presidential ambitions -- as McCain surely does. In fact, here is a fascinating bit of behind-the-scenes information from the Times:

In recent months, Mr. Powell has been advising Mr. McCain in connection with the senator’s possible presidential candidacy in 2008, according to McCain aides.

Well well; small world.

Speaking of Powell, I know some of you doubted me when I pointed out that the reason cited by many of those demanding that al-Qaeda detainees get treated like criminal defendants at trial in civilian courts is that if we don't, then our terrorist enemies might start treating American captives harshly. Well, take a look at this:

Mr. Powell, a former four-star Army general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had a leadership role in the Persian Gulf war of 1991, said in his letter to Mr. McCain that redefining Common Article 3 would only deepen worldwide doubts about America’s moral stature.

“Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk,” Mr. Powell said in his letter to Mr. McCain. Critics of the Bush administration approach have argued that, if the United States is seen to be mistreating captives, Americans who are taken prisoner could be subjected to cruelty.

Let's all ponder that worry, straight from the mouth of former (thank God) four-star general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Colin Powell: we must accord al-Qaeda captives full Article 3 status -- including no coercive interrogations whatsoever... as those would, according to the Lynne Stewart Quartet, be considered either "cruel treatment," "outrages upon personal dignity," or "humiliating and degrading treatment," which precisely what Article 3 of the Third Geneva Conventions bans. Because if we don't treat them with kid gloves, then they might be "cruel" to captured American soldiers. Great Scott.

The corollary, which Powell, McCain, Warner, Graham, and Collins, not to mention all of the Democrats, must believe is that if we do treat al-Qaeda detainees gently and without interrogations, then they will do the same to captured Americans. Good grief!

This is the world turned upside down... and I'm sad to say, considering the people involved, that I believe it's caused by nothing more noble than base cowardice: they're frightened, and they hope that if they just appease the monster, it will go away and eat somebody else first.

(Just as I was about to post this, Hugh Hewitt's show began -- and he mentioned the Senate Armed Services Committee action and said "everything is upside down." Two great minds with but a single thought between them.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 14, 2006, at the time of 3:12 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 13, 2006

Essential Activism

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Patterico has the most extraordinary ability to generate fascinating discussion of legal issues on his marvelous blog, Patterico's Pontifications; if you're not reading it regularly, you're missing half the picture of any subject he covers.

That isn't to say I always agree with him, however. But the debate uniformly stimulates, forcing me to stretch my little gray cells (mine are actually mauve, for some unaccountable reason) to their limit. Yesterday, he posted on judicial activism, which he's absolutely agin'. In the comments, I opined:

Like jury nullification, 99% of the time and more, judicial nullification is a wretched idea; either it’s in a bad cause, or the unintended consequences are worse than the original problem.

But in a tiny percent of cases, it’s vital. Had the Court not ruled in what I consider a judicially active way in Brown [v. Board of Education], we would still have legalized segregation today in many parts of the United States, with all its evils, ills, and inequalities.

The problem is that those who support judicial (and jury) nullification wildly overuse it. Rather than being the “nuclear hand grenade” it actually is (50-foot throwing range, 5-mile blast radius), they treat it as a routine arrow in the quiver of abstract justice.

(There's more, but it's just my usual blather and can safely be ignored.)

Patterico, prodded by another commenter, took exception to my claim that Brown was an example of judicial activism, good, bad, or indifferent. In an emendation to the post, he argued:

UPDATE: A commenter reminds me that Brown v. Board of Education did not explicitly overrule Plessy. Rather, it evaded the clear holding of Plessy through dubious social science.

This merely strengthens my argument. Brown was an activist case in reasoning, but not in result -- because the result was proper, and could have been reached through a proper application of originalism. If the Court had done so, it would indeed have squarely overturned Plessy, and upheld the Constitution -- an action that would not have been “activist,” while the actual decision’s reasoning was. Not only would such a decision have been non-activist and proper, it would have had benefits for our Equal Protection jurisprudence.

I still demur, and the rest of this tedious exercise in pedantry, in which I once again play sea-lawyer with my betters, follows when one slithers on through to the other side...

Patterico's source for rejecting the "activist" label for Brown is Ed Whelan's article on NRO, the first one Patterico cites. Patterico sums up thus:

Brown was an activist case in reasoning, but not in result -- because the result was proper, and could have been reached through a proper application of originalism.

To me, this is nonsense. Here is that "proper application of originalism" from the Whelan piece:

Under an alternative originalist approach, as Judge Bork and others have argued, even if the ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment assumed that segregated public schools were consistent with equality, objective comparisons of facilities and resources had, by the time of Brown, long since disproved this assumption. Under this approach, an originalist opinion in Brown would therefore have concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment's clear purpose of establishing racial equality under the law required an end to segregated schooling.

Boiled down, this argument reads, "even if the framers believed that equality could still be achieved with segregation, thus did not intend the amendment to outlaw all segregation, we now know that they were wrong!"

To call this "originalism" is utter sophistry. To say "sure, the framers of the amendment thought X; but since we now know they're wrong, we'll say Y instead" is the very essence of judicial activism, indistinguishable from the "reasoning" in Roe.

Here's the proof: suppose a state had set up a segregated school system in which the white and the black schools were thoroughly and demonstrably equal in quality, the way men's- and women's-only institutions often are. Would that violate the guarantee of "equal protection of the laws?" How?

The conclusion that such equality is impossible under segregation is a perfectly valid conclusion. But it's a policy choice; and under originalism, such policy choices should be made by Congress (or the state legislatures, in this case), not by the Court.

This is hand-waving of the worst sort: because we all agree (today) that segregation doesn't work, we redefine originalism to include the argument that if the Framers believed something that we now believe was wrong, it's still within the originalist meaning to correct their factual error via the judiciary.

And we do it for no other reason than to claim Brown as an "originalist" decision... because to think otherwise would be bad news for originalist absolutists. It's true because it would be dreadful if it were false.

A Roe-ista would argue, with equal logic, that the Framers clearly erred in thinking that a zygote is a human person; we now know it's not a person until the Xth week of pregnancy... so we'll correct their factual error by enshrining our modern understanding into a Court ruling.

If one is activist, so is the other.

But Whelan makes another argument; he says that indeed, the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment really intended full desegretation all along; they just inadvertently forgot to spell it out in the amendment language.

Let's take the first part. His evidence of their intent is thus:

Further, as McConnell's law-review article shows, in the years immediately following ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, as Congress acted to enact legislation enforcing the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment, a substantial majority of both houses of Congress repeatedly voted to abolish segregation in the public schools.

All right. A "substantial majority." But was it 2/3rds, the number required to submit an amendment to the states?

Would 2/3rds have voted for an amendment that explicitly banned segregation? Would 3/4ths of the 37 states then present in the Union -- not even taking coercion into account -- have ratified such a desegregation amendment, given that segregation was not confined to the South?

Would such an amendment, explicitly banning segregation, have been ratified by Ohio, New Jersey, and Oregon, each of which subsequently tried to withdraw ratification of even the version actually submitted? How about Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, and Wisconsin?

How about West Virginia and Maine? Pennsylvania? None of these states had rebelled; thus none was occupied by federal troops, and none had to ratify the amendment in order to be readmitted to the Union: there was no handy federal lever to coerce any of them. [Per commenter Xrlq, I made a couple of state corrections in this paragraph.]

And would the occupied states have actually agreed to complete desegretation in the mid-19th century, even being a condition of readmission? Or would the legislatures have said "forget it?"

We'll never know, because the framers saw fit not to include such explicit language in the amendment. If they believed in desegregation themselves, they evidently decided discretion was the better part of abolition and chose not to say so in the bills (likely because they knew the amendment would then fail).

Sorry, but I consider Whelan's argument feeble. I think we all accept that any explicit reference to federally mandated desegregation across the land would have horribly complicated passage of the Fourteenth Amendment: which means that some of those voting in Congress and in state legislatures did not, in fact, share the understanding that "equal protection of the laws" was a euphemism for banning all segregation nationwide.

If originalism means interpreting statutes and clauses according to the commonly understood meaning of the words at the time they were adopted, then you cannot stretch it to include meanings that require a secret decoder ring, which some framers had but others didn't.

Brown v. Board of Education was an activist ruling in both reasoning and result... but one of the very, very rare good ones.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 13, 2006, at the time of 7:01 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Gulf What Syndrome?

Hatched by Dafydd

A "panel of experts" went looking for Gulf War Syndrome and couldn't find it anywhere!

See if this sounds familiar:

Exposed to combat stress in an environment with abundant sources of potentially harmful chemicals, nearly 30 percent of Gulf War veterans have suffered some kind of illness with multiple symptoms, compared with 16 percent of service members who did not go there. But there is no coherent set of symptoms that points to an overall syndrome, the [Institute of Medicine] panel reported.

"Gulf War veterans consistently report experiencing a wide range of symptoms, and this the case for both American veterans and military personnel from Canada, Australia, and other countries who served in the Persian Gulf," said Lynn Goldman, a professor of occupational and environmental health at Johns Hopkins University Baltimore.

"But because the symptoms vary greatly among individuals, they do not point to a syndrome unique to these veterans," added Goldman, who chaired the panel of medical and occupational experts.

Here is what we have:

  • "Gulf War Syndrome" (GWS) has been widely discussed for fifteen years in newspapers and magazines, on TV talk shows like Oprah and Jerry Springer, on the radio, and has even been referred to in the movies; probably every Gulf-War vet in America has heard of it.
  • A number of soldiers who fought in the Gulf War (and many others who were simply in some branch of service during that period) have reported various symptoms; they have asked for government-paid medical care.
  • The symptoms do not line up with each other; there is no consistent overlap. Some complain of running a fever, others complain their body temperatures are too cold. Some have pains in one part of their bodies, others have pains in completely different parts. Some have complained of flu-like symptoms, others have arthritis-like symptoms. And some sound almost childishly bizarre: burning semen and glow-in-the-dark vomit, for example.
  • In addition, vets have blamed any other disease they contract -- everything from pelvic cancer to cirrhosis to Lou Gherig's disease -- on a weakened immune system caused by GWS.
  • In the face of numerous studies finding no correlation, no special "syndrome," no statistically significant deviation from the norm of others in the service during this period, the vets who claim to be suffering from GWS say that they are the evidence, and this refutes any scientific studies.

MIchael Fumento has investigated GWS more than any other science writer, and he has argued for many years that there is no such "syndrome". If science exists and is at all believable, then GWS does not:

The latest Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness, stacked with GWS activists by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, said in so many words: "Damn the science and full speed ahead!" So doing, its September report – recently released – not only contradicted a previous advisory committee's findings but that of three different Institute of Medicine (IOM) panels; all appointed by the VA.

In doing so, it ignored that rates of both illness and death are lower among Gulf vets are no higher than those of comparable vets who didn't deploy; they're also far lower than those of comparable civilians. It also ignored the utter lack of commonality in symptoms, except that many studies have found GW vets have higher levels of stress-related illness. [Which could well be from the stress of being terrified about having GWS.]

Activists have attributed at least 123 symptoms to this "will-'o-the-wisp" syndrome, as former New England Journal of Medicine editor Marcia Angell described it to the New York Times." They include aching muscles, aching joints, abdominal pain, bruising, shaking, vomiting, fevers, irritability, fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, heartburn, bad breath, hair loss, graying hair, rashes, sore throat, itching, sore gums, constipation, sneezing, nasal congestion, leg cramps, hemorrhoids, hypertension, insomnia, and headaches.

Anybody who hasn't had most of the above symptoms is probably an android. But when a non-vet gets a cough, it's called "a cough." If a Gulf vet gets one, it's called GWS.

One claim is that GWS is caused by exposure to many chemicals during that brief war -- oil-fire smoke, possible chemical weapons stockpiled by Saddam and destroyed by U.S. troops, and of course, the ever-popular "evil vaccinations" that reportedly cause every illness known to Man, including AIDS and halitosis. But there is no correlation between individual soldiers' level of exposure and symptoms, except in those studies that rely entirely upon self-report of symptoms.

Other explanations (nerve gas, some unknow but ubiquitous Middle-Eastern virus) run into the same wall of non-correlation:

The reason the fad/theories come and go is because none ever pan out. Consider the nerve gas theory. It was given a bit of credence when it emerged that a battalion had blown up an Iraqi weapons bunker containing sarin gas. But sarin begins to dissipate in seconds, and the closest of these soldiers was three miles away. Others allegedly "gassed" from this explosion were hundreds of miles away.

Further, as General H. Norman Schwartzkopf pointed out in recent congressional testimony, during the war not a single soldier came down with symptoms of nerve gas poisoning. There is no evidence that an exposure to sarin so low as to cause no symptoms at the time could years later begin to wreak havoc on the body.

Finally, blaming nerve gas hardly accounts for all these stories we've been hearing about vets infecting their wives and children. Nerve gas is not contagious.

But science doesn't matter in the face of "we are the evidence" argumentation, just as evidence is irrelevant to creationists: when actual science gets in the way of hysteria, it is science that must give way to charges of "coverup" and "conspiracy."

The current study by the Institute of Medicine confirms what Fumento has said in many, many articles: you cannot have a single "syndrome" with symptoms unique to each individual and which doesn't even correlate with exposure to any conceivable agents or vectors. Modern medicine requires doctors, not voodoo priests.

I asked above whether GWS sounds at all familiar; it was actually a trick question, because the pattern is not merely similar, not merely identical, but literally the same game played with "silicone disease," "power-line disease," "post-partum disease," and today with "World Trade Center syndrome": it's really all one thing: it's I Feel Bad Complex in full cry.

The symptoms of IFBC include whatever any "sufferer" reports. It's caused by whatever unusual (or normal) life experiences the "sufferer" has lived through. The treatment is whatever the "sufferer" demands. And IFBC only goes away temporarily, returning with different symptoms, causes, and treatments the next time the "sufferer" feels bad.

We do no benefit to veterans by encouraging them to believe they have mystery illnesses with migrating symptoms and unlocatable causes, because they can never have any confidence that such phantom diseases ever go away. As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might say, luring vets into believing such nightmarish fantasies is "unhelpful."

It's time to put a stake through what Fumento calls "Gulf Lore sundrome," wreath it with garlic, and bury it at the nearest crossroads.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 13, 2006, at the time of 4:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Steele Cage Match

Hatched by Dafydd

Oddly, this wasn't carried on the AP, Reuters, or New York Times RSS feeds I follow, and I didn't see it in any of the blogs I read except Captain's Quarters; but Benjamin Cardin (95%) beat Kweisi Mfume (and a raft of also-rans) in the Maryland Democratic senatorial primary yesterday by a moderate 46 to 38.

Cardin will be the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes (100%); he will face Michael Steele, who cruised to victory with no serious opposition.

I'm surprised this result didn't receive national publicity, since this is one of the Senate races where the Republicans have a reasonably good chance to snatch a seat from the Democrats. If Steele wins, that puts the kibosh on any chance for the Democrats to capture the Senate.

Oddly, you read it here or on CQ first. But why?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 13, 2006, at the time of 8:07 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 12, 2006

Because We Trusted Bush... Yeah, That's the Ticket!

Hatched by Dafydd

The story that Democrats are attacking President Bush over his magnificent, almost Churchillian speech last night is already being adequately covered by many other excellent bloggers. Oh, and also by those guys in the elite media, if anybody still reads them (besides us excellent bloggers, I mean). But I think we've found just a tiny hook that has not yet been exploited. (I was going to say "just a tiny nipple that has not yet been sucked," but I thought that unduly vivid.)

Check out this line from the Reuters story:

Top Democrats on Tuesday accused President George W. Bush of exploiting the September 11 anniversary to boost his faltering Iraq war policy and his party's sagging popularity in an election year. [Good, good -- squeezed two Democratic memes into the very first sentence!]

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Bush should have tried to recapture a spirit of national unity in a televised Oval Office address on Monday night.

Reid told reporters Democrats had been so confident the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan that they had not sought equal time on television to offer their party's response.

Uh...

Uh...

Uh...

Say what?

Reid told reporters Democrats had been so confident the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan that they had not sought equal time on television to offer their party's response.

...Is it just me? Or does this sound roughly like Danish King Hrothgar saying "I was so confident that Grendel wouldn't come back and slaughter my warriors sixty-five times in a row, that I didn't bother posting any guards around Heorot last night."

(What do you mean, "what the hell are you talking about, Dafydd?" Couldn't you guys manage to stay awake during your high school English Lit classes?)

Considering that the primary meme of the Democrats is that Bush is all politics and no policy, what do you think are the odds that anybody in the DNC thought "the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan" in his prime-time speech on September 11th?

Of course, in reality, he was nonpartisan; he never even mentioned the Democrats (which is probably what really torqued them off). But this is a question of perception: if the Democrats think of Bush as the ultimate political-party animal (tomorrow, Bill Clinton sues for trademark infringement), then how risible is it for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Mirage Hotel and Casino, 100%) to claim it never occurred to them that he would be political?

(Friend Lee reminds me that Charles Krauthammer, in the commentary after that speech on Fox News Channel, correctly distinguished between a speech being political -- which it must be, if it's to talk at all about policy -- and the same speech being partisan, which requires not merely saying "this is my policy" but also "and here's the stupid policy of my opponent.")

So what's the real reason the Democrats didn't ask for equal time -- which I noticed and wondered about myself? Simple: for all the wrangling going on in the GOP these days over immigration, troops levels, and such, it's the Democrats who are in complete policy disarray. Look at their pathetic “Real Security Act of 2006,” where all they could get their caucus to agree on were three bland, vague platitudes -- and that Don Rumsfeld should be canned!

That's it; that's their entire defense + anti-terrorism plan for the looming November elections.

They didn't request equal-response time because they had no idea what they were going to say. An insider who must remain anonymous, but who was privy to the hastily arranged response conference, and who has secretly informed Big Lizards, reports the following minutes from yesterday afternoon:

3:08 PM EDT: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gaveled the response conf. to order, after a brief struggle with Minority Leader Harry Reid over who controls the gavel, which Rep. Pelosi won by repeatedly kicking Sen. Reid in the chest.

Rep. Pelosi: Shut up. Shut up you in the back, whoever you are. And stop clutching your chest like you're having a cardiac arrest. I took off my shoes before kicking you.

Now we all agree that Bush is essentially Hitler in all important points. But we can't say that. No, I will not recognize you, Russ; trust me, we can't say that. You shut up too, Bernie. We can't say that yet, so what do we say?

8:58 PM EDT: Meeting adjourned following five hours and fifty minutes of discussion; the 87 motions made were all tabled until next week by general consensus. Sen. Reid returned from Bethesda Naval Hospital just seconds before Rep. Pelosi banged the gavel down. No cause-effect should be inferred from the time relation between those two events.

See? No matter how long the media chickens have pecked at the story, there are always a few grains left to digest. I'm sorry, was that too vivid as well?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2006, at the time of 6:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Hackers, Slackers, and "Hot" Latinas

Hatched by Dafydd

Following up on our earlier post about California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's comments on the only Republican Latina in the state Assembly, Bonnie Garcia, in a privately recorded conversation that was released to the media a few days ago:

[Schwarzenegger's Democratic chief of staff, Susan] Kennedy offers praise for Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, the lone Latina Republican in the Legislature. The governor and Kennedy debate her ethnicity, and Schwarzenegger opines that whether she is Cuban or Puerto Rican doesn't matter much.

"I mean, they are all very hot," the governor says. "They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."

In our first post, we opined that there was nothing intrinsically offensive in the comment, nor was Garcia offended; in fact, she says she describes herself as a "hot-blooded Latina" all the time, and she has specifically used that phrase to describe herself to Schwarzenegger.

But this does beg an interesting question: how did the audio tape get into the grubby paws of the LA Times in the first place? That conundrum, at least, has now been answered... it came from campaign officials of Phil Angelides, Schwarzenegger's opponent in his reelection bid November:

Democrat Phil Angelides' gubernatorial campaign acknowledged Monday that it downloaded the digital audio file containing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's controversial private remarks on ethnicity, but said it did nothing inappropriate and accessed the recording through the governor's "publicly available" Web site.

But Schwarzenegger's legal affairs secretary, Andrea Lynn Hoch, said earlier that the access was "unauthorized" and that an internal audit discovered the six-minute audio file was hacked from the private computer system of the Governor's Office on Aug. 29 and 30.

After some fum-fahing, the Angelides camp finally admitted yesterday that they downloaded the audio file and sent it to the Times, according to ace Bee-blogger Daniel Weintraub. But they have a defense:

Angelides campaign manager Cathy Calfo admitted a few minutes ago that the Angelides campaign was the source of the Los Angeles Times story revealing a privately recorded conversation involving Gov. Schwarzenegger and his top aides. But Calfo says the audio file was downloaded from a link in a Schwarzenegger press release, and no one on her staff “hacked” the governor’s Web site or accessed a password protected area....

Calfo said the staff members, a press aide and a researcher, followed a link in an Aug. 29 press release that included a recording of the governor’s comments at CSU Long Beach regarding the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina....

Calfo said the staff “backed up” on that link to see the entire directory of files available (also not possible today) and downloaded more than four hours of material. She wouldn’t release those recordings Tuesday nor say what they contained.

Weintraub says (in a different post) that if it turns out the Angelides campaign workers actually "hacked" (in the legal defintion, which requires breaking a password scheme) the site to get the private audiotapes, then they'll be in trouble; but if it turns out they were available on the site without busting security, but with some monkeying around in areas known to be private, then they're off the hook.

I completely disagree. If we follow Weintraub's reasoning, that means if I forget and leave my front door unlocked, you have the legal right to burgarize the joint.

Morally and ethically, whenever an unauthorized person is trolling around the private area of someone else's website, he is hacking -- whether security was adequate or not. It's completely irrelevant, no matter what the law says.

The lack of good security procedures does not release Democrats from the necessity to act in a morally responsible way, any more than the lack of a good lock releases them from moral responsibility for black-bagging Republican campaign offices and Xeroxing donor lists.

Am I an anachronism? Is it now the general belief in America that it's morally acceptable to lift anything not literally nailed down? That if there isn't a secure enough lock, then it's all right to steal? Is that the logical end result of teenagers "ripping" music they want to hear but don't want to pay for?

If so, I'm hardly suprised to see California Democrats in the vanguard of defending such a despicable worldview.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2006, at the time of 4:38 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Newsflash: There's Violence in Iraq

Hatched by Dafydd

As part of the campaign by the antique media to demonstrate "the deteriorating situation in Iraq," which leads directly to "President Bush's plummeting poll ratings" and "the widespread expectation that Democrats will capture one or both houses of Congress in November," Associated Press sent out the following dire story:

Violence killed at least two dozen people across Iraq on Tuesday, including six who died when a car bomb blew up in western Baghdad.

The gist of the story is that, when AP toted up all the reports of killings they received on Tuesday, which is already over in that nation of 26.8 million people, it totaled 24. If this is the norm, then it works out to an annual homicide rate of 32.7 per 100,000... which is more than in the United States but less than Colombia and most other South and Central American countries.

I picture the AP Iraq editors sitting around misty eyed, reminiscing: "Remember the good old days, when we could rely upon a solid triple-digit death toll each and every day?"

What is the world coming to, when newsmen cannot even count upon Iraq, of all places, to yield actionable campaign material for the Left? Perhaps they should remember the stirring words of one of their own, William Randolph Hearst:

"You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war."

AP and Reuters had better get cracking: so little time, so much staging to do!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2006, at the time of 3:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Karl the Anti-Spammer!

Hatched by Dafydd

But if the accusation is true, does it hurt or help?

Attorneys for a man accused of fraud say he was charged at the behest of presidential adviser Karl Rove in retaliation for a flood of spam e-mails sent to a campaign Web site. A federal prosecutor says the claim is "absurd."

Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Siegal urged U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain on Monday to reject arguments that Rove caused the criminal investigation that led to charges against Robert McAllister.

Siegal said lawyers for McAllister made the "patently absurd argument that the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District is a shill for Karl Rove and has arrested and indicted their client in some sort of vindictive retaliation."

McAllister's lawyer Gerald L. Shargel said Monday he plans to try to call Rove as a witness, if the court allows it.

I would dismiss this as the desperate lie by a typically desperate defense attorney, and I would assume the risibility factor alone would make this defense a non-starter... except for one point: Laura Taylor Swain is a black, female Clinton appointee (2000) who got her degree from Harvard Law, and I think it better than 50-50 that she's going to seize upon this wild-eyed charge to launch her own assault upon old Karl.

In fact, I think there's a reasonable chance that she suggested the charge in the first place!

Even the last suggestion, calling Rove as a witness, which should be in the "no-fly zone," is a possibility; Swain may use her authority as a federal judge, once Rove is in the witness chair, to question him extensively about whether he suppressed the black vote using racist Diebold machines, thus stealing the 2004 election.

In the case before her, a huge flood of stock-scam spam inundated the website georgewbush.com, which was an add-on domain name to the website of the Republican National Committee; according to the Daily News, Rove tried to contact the company and get them to stop spamming the RNC's website:

The Daily News reported Sunday that e-mails, phone records and transcripts of phone conversations indicate Rove contacted McAllister and at least three stock promoters. The newspaper reported that White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Rove "vaguely remembered" the e- mail onslaught but could not recall whether he or any other White House worker contacted the Department of Justice.

This is the miniscule kernal of truth round which McAllister's attorney has wrapped the bizarre claim that the prosecution for stock fraud is all just a massive conspiracy to retaliate against McAllister, who is obviously the real victim here.

But I can't help think that, if his claim were bluntly put to a vote of the American people -- should stock promoters be tried on federal fraud charges merely for flooding the country with spam e-mails? -- about 90% of us would vote an emphatic Yes!

So if Judge Swain believes she will damage Karl Rove's national reputation, thus hurting the GOP's chances in November, she may be surprised by a voter backlash that instead hails him as a hero.

On the other hand, maybe she's just an ordinary, judicially minded federal judge, and she'll dismiss the claims with a single bang of the gavel... in which case, I doubt that Breitbart will see fit to report it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2006, at the time of 2:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sprint for Defeat!

Hatched by Dafydd

The Democrats, after years of threatening, have finally enunciated their own defense/anti-terrorist policy; it appears to be modeled on a pell-mell dash towards the exits, overturning the ottoman and the teakettle in their mad rush:

Mr. Reid and several colleagues offered what they called the “Real Security Act of 2006,” calling for the beginning of a phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of this year, a heightened effort to enlist more countries to take part in building a new Iraq, the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and a faster adoption of the recommendations of the independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

Whew, a blueprint for victory if ever I saw one! Though it loses points for the lack of originality, having a disturbing similarity (approaching plagiarism) to their earlier plans for Vietnam and Somalia, and their mentors' plans for defending la belle France during the late unpleasantness with Germany.

Let's take these one at a time...

"A phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of this year"

There are exactly 117 days left until the end of the year, and there are about 150,000 American troops in Iraq. That means the Democrats want a "phased withdrawal" of forces at the rate of 1,282 soldiers every day. (Perhaps more, if they require the Pentagon to stick to the unions' 35-hour work week.) Call it the "battalion a day rout."

Withdrawing 1,300 soldiers a day from Iraq is probably about as fast as we reasonably could do it. So by "phased withdrawal," what they actually mean is yanking them all out at breakneck speed, pedal to the metal, as fast as humanly possible.

When Ehud Barak ordered the mass exodus of Israelis out of Lebanon, he made them flee so fast, they left armor behind; the IDF actually had to send helicopters in to destroy the Israeli Merkava tanks left in Lebanon, lest Hezbollah snatch them up and use them against Israeli towns. I wonder if the American Democrats want us to do that with our Abrams tanks, just for the heck of it?

At that speed, it would be absolutely impossible for the Iraqi Army to keep pace with our hysterical retreat. Vast stretches of Iraq would be left utterly unguarded; they would quickly fill up with militias and terrorists, leaving Iraq rather like Lebanon. Are the Democrats confused about which Western defeat they're trying to recreate?

Perhaps al-Qaeda could supply us extra transports to use to flee in disgrace. No doubt Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) would immediately take to the TV screens, with his floppy wrist and weak, ineffectual -- dare I say "reedy" -- voice, crowing that he told us all along that it would end in tears.

If he meant it would end in a Democratic victory in 2006, then yes, the nation would soon be in tears.

"A heightened effort to enlist more countries to take part in building a new Iraq"

What, off in a corner? I'm unsure where exactly this "new Iraq" is supposed to be built: most of the territory in the Middle East is already spoken for... perhaps in the Australian Outback? I understand that's mostly unoccupied, and it's barren enough that the Iraqis might go for it.

Seriously, what on Earth does Harry Reid mean this time? How does he plan for us -- or rather, other countries -- to "build a new Iraq?" Will France depose the current government of Monsieur Maliki?

Who -- besides those "other countries" enlisted -- gets the oil? It seems as if the Iraqis have by and large already decided what sort of government they want: a parliamentary democracy, along with eighteen provinces headed by provincial governors. It's somewhat tribal and somewhat federalist... but I don't think they're anxious to rip it apart and rebuild it.

And certainly not to satisfy Mr. Reid's whim to be seen as the "founding father" of a brand, spanking new Iraq, the model of a major Middle Eastern state as the Democratic Party see the region: caliphates and satrapies controlled by Iran, the Democrats' favorite "Arabic" "republic."

Pardon me if I'm a bit skeptical, but I'm not completely persuaded that Mr. Reid can get the Iraqis to throw over their own political constructs for his.

"The ouster of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld"

Come to think on it, this is the only part of the Democrats' Real Security Act of 2006 that is actually specific, concrete -- and non-negotiable.

Has Donald H. Rumsfeld made mistakes? Sure; he's trusted Democrats to put the country first, for example. Has he made decisions that the American people don't like? Certainly... especially after the unhelpful Democratic Party and their willing accomplices in the elite media get through chewing their newscud.

Has he screwed up so spectacularly that he needs to be removed? Of course not; he's won two major wars and is doing as well against the terrorist/insurgent/sectarian militia challenge as almost anyone could. Have we lost the Iraq War? Only if we elect the Democrats, would could snatch victory from the jaws of a crocodile.

Does Donald Rumsfeld frighten the Democrats? Evidently so.

Have we finished interviewing ourselves? I think so.

"And a faster adoption of the recommendations of the independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks"

All right, I'll bite. What "recommendations of the independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks" in particular does Mr. Reid mean?

The 9/11 Commission -- sorry, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States -- offered a huge bunch of recommendations, which were followed by add-ons from numerous other commissions and groups:

  • The Gilmore Commission
  • The Bremer Commission
  • The Joint Inquiry of House and Senate Intelligence Committees
  • The Hart-Rudman Commission

You can read the entire schmear here, if you're really masochistic.

But for those of you who, like me, have the attention span of mayfly, here's the Campbell's Condensed Cream of Commission:

9/11 Cmsn Recs
  1. The U.S. government must attack terrorists and their organizations;

    Afghanistan. Iraq. Al-Qaeda. Got it... check. So how strongly do the Democrats support those attacks today? I'm just asking...

  2. The United States should be willing to make the difficult long-term commitment to the future of Pakistan;

    Pervez Musharraf; foreign aid; joint anti-terrorist operations. What more would Harry Reid do? Hm, maybe a case of bubble bath.

  3. The United States and the international community should make a long-term commitment to a secure and stable Afghanistan;

    NATO -- say, that's a good idea! Why didn't Bush think of that? Oh, wait...

  4. The problems in the U.S.-Saudi relationship must be confronted, openly;

    Hm... I'm sure there must have been a Democratic proposal in the House or Senate to work with Saudi Arabia to reform all the madrasses that preach nothing but hatred towards America, Israel, and the West; but I can't quite bring it to mind.

    Of course, the Bush administration has actually moved the House of Saud pretty significantly in the direction of shutting down al-Qaeda and some of the more radical clerics. I'm going to have to give the Republicans another upcheck on this one.

  5. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors;

    Let's see: leash-wielding, prisoner stripping, sex-obsessed guards at Abu Ghraib tried and convicted of crimes... check. Soldiers accused of rape or homicide arrested and threatened with the death penalty... check. Official policy opposing torture... check. Allow Red Cross to inspect prisons... check. All right, what more exactly would the Democrats offer, aside from cable TV (with the naked channel) and a high-speed internet connection?

  6. Just as we did in the Cold War, we need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously;

    Er... what is Nancy Pelosi's position on full funding for Voice of America anyway?

  7. The U.S. government should offer to join with other nations in generously supporting a new International Youth Opportunity Fund;

    If this is anything like the Boy Sprouts, we're probably already doing it -- and the Democrats are probably already suing it.

  8. Economic policies that encourage development, more open societies, and opportunities for people to improve the lives of their families and to enhance prospects for their children’s future;

    I think that would be called "Capitalism"... which to the Democrats is "the unknown ideal."

  9. Engaging other nations in developing a comprehensive coalition strategy against Islamist terrorism;

    I think that would be called "Democracy"... which to the Democrats is "the failed policy of the current administration."

  10. The United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists;

    If that means America must move to embrace the average of the interrogation procedures of Europe, then that would mean we should expand our list of acceptable techniques to include the rack, the thumbscrew, and crucifixion.

  11. The U.S. should make a maximum effort to strengthen counterproliferation efforts against weapons of mass destruction by expanding the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Cooperative Threat Reduction program;

    Uh...

    "The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is an international effort led by the United States to interdict transfer of banned weapons and weapons technology."

    "The Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program of the United States assists the states of the former Soviet Union in controlling and protecting their nuclear weapons, weapons-usable materials, and delivery systems."

    Now, I don't want to judge before all the evidence is in, but the fact that these are two long-term, ongoing programs of the United States would tend to imply that we're already doing this. But perhaps I've been misinformed.

  12. The U.S. should engage in vigorous efforts to track terrorist financing.

    Unless I miss my guess, that would be the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) terrorist-tracking program. And as I recall, but correct me if I'm wrong, the Democrats demanded it be killed after it was outed by the New York Times.

The American Left is not going to lie on the ground and merely play "speedbump" for the American response to terrorism; they're determined to rear up like underwater reefs and wreck the entire ship of state!

“Five years after Sept. 11, 2001, the American people deserve a government that has learned the lessons of the terrorist attacks,” the Democrats said in a statement. “Bush Republicans have talked tough but failed to protect this country.”

Given that the phrase "protect this country" in this context means protect it from violent attack, I can only conclude that there has been some significant terrorist attack since September 11th, 2001, on the American mainland -- or at least on our embassies, Marine barracks, or the USS Cole -- that Mr. Reid is privy to but which has been successfully concealed from the rest of us. I encourage the minority leader to file an FOIA request to liberate that information, so the Times or the Washington Post can publish it.

Either that or... do you think it possible that the Democrats (I know this is absurd) might finally have snapped, and are having a feverish argument with their own fantasy version of reality, like Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey? (More important, is Jimmy Stewart's character related in any way to Maureen?)

Oops, I might be in trouble under the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 for posting this so close to the November election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2006, at the time of 4:50 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 11, 2006

And Now, the Rest of the Story

Hatched by Dafydd

I hope most of us have heard the great Paul Harvey, who at 88 is amazingly still alive and (I think) still broadcasting. He is famous for announcing the page number of the copy he reads from; he uses page numbers to indicate the type of news he's reading at the moment.

He's also famous for telling what seems to be a complete anecdote... then saying, "and now, the rest of the story." Harvey then continues the tale, often completely reversing the impression you might take from the first part. It's an effective technique that teaches an important lesson: you really must look at all sides of a major issue before arriving at a legitimate conclusion.

In particular, this is true in elections. But to date, we've only heard the first part of the story of the upcoming mid-term contest: seats that Democrats might take away from Republicans.

We have not yet heard about seats that the GOP might steal from the Democrats. While this number is smaller than the other, it's not negligible; and every seat that flips from left to right negates a seat that flips the other way.

The Democrats need a to flip a net 15 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate to capture those bodies; but if four or five Democratic seats go Republican in the House, then the Democrats need 19 or 20 to go the other way. And in fact, there are a number of Democratic seats that are, at the very least, in some danger, according to the Los Angeles Times:

But Republicans have also identified a handful of vulnerable Democratic incumbents, and are hoping to pick off a few of them to thwart a Democratic return to power.

"Everyone's focused right now on where Democrats can gain seats, and properly so — it's a Democratic year," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "But if Republicans can steal even a few seats from Democrats, it will probably eliminate the chances of a Democratic takeover.

Amazingly enough, Times highlighted a couple of such shaky Democratic seats: GA-3, currently held by Rep. James "Jim" Marshall (D, 70%); and GA-12, held by Rep. John Barrow (D, 75%).

This year, Barrow, a former county commissioner from Athens, and Marshall, a former mayor of Macon, were left with districts that had fewer registered Democrats. Barrow even had to leave Athens, his longtime hometown and, as the home of the University of Georgia, a Democratic redoubt, because it was left out of the boundaries of his redrawn 12th District. He moved to Savannah in January.

In November, Barrow will again face off against Max Burns, a conservative farmer who served in the House for one term before being defeated by Barrow in 2004. In the 8th District [sic; Jim Marshall is in the 3rd district, according to Michael Barone's Almanac of American Politics], Marshall is facing Mac Collins, a trucking entrepreneur who was a congressman from 1993 to 2003 and lost a bid for U.S. Senate in 2004. [Did the 3rd and the 8th district swap maps in the recent redistricting?]

When the Republicans captured the Georgia state legislature in 2002 (state senate) and 2004 (state house), they were able to reverse 130 years of Democratic gerrymandering. They redrew the redistricts to reflect the state's increasingly conservative voters... and that means that both Marshall and Barrow have much harder battles than two years ago to retain their seats.

The two call themselves "conservative" Democrats; but that's not how they have voted. Their 2005 ratings from the Americans for Democratic Action and the American Conservative Union -- the premier left- and right-wing vote-rating organizations, respectively -- are here:

Georgia 3rd and 12th district representatives
Representative District ADA "liberal" rating ACU "conservative" rating
Jim Marshall 3rd 70% liberal 46% conservative
John Barrow 12th 75% liberal 40% conservative

By contrast, in the 3rd district, Jim Marshall is running against former Republican Rep. Mac Collins, who had a 100% conservative rating from the ACU in 2002 (his last year in office); while in the 12th district, Barrow is up against former Republican Rep. Max Burns, who had an 88% conservative rating in 2004, his last full year. Compared to this, the incumbents' ratings of 46% and 40% respectively don't look very conservative at all.

Here are some of the other races where Democrats could lose seats, per the L.A. Times:

Others include veteran Iowa Rep. Leonard L. Boswell, a septuagenarian who has had health problems and who is facing a well-funded Republican challenger; Rep. Melissa Bean, an Illinois freshman whose victory was aided by the lackluster campaign of her 2004 rival; and Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, whose district includes President Bush's Crawford ranch.

Larry Sabato still rates the two Georgia races as "leans Democratic;" on the other hand, Sabato is notoriously pessimistic, nearly always underestimating Republican victories. The fact remains that Democrats will very likely lose at least some House seats in November.

What about the Senate? Again, while there are definitely Republicans who are endangered -- with the recent rise of Sen. Rick Santorum (PA, 96%) in the polls, the most threatened Republican (if you want to call him that) senator is probably Lincoln Chafee (RI, 12%) -- there are also Democratic Senate seats that are in some danger. I list them here, more-or-less in order of vulnerability (in my opinion):

  • Robert Menendez (NJ, 100%), appointed by Jon Corzine to replace himself when he was elected governor two years ago; former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, jr. is currently running ahead of Menendez... and this was before the U.S. attorney announced that Menendez was under investigation for corruption!
  • Sen. Paul Sarbanes (MD, 100%) is retiring, leaving an open seat; depending upon the outcome of the primary (which is tomorrow), Republican Michael Steele will face either black activist Kweisi Mfume or establishmentarian liberal Rep. Ben Cardin (95%): if Cardin wins, the black voters may well be angry at him, and Steele has already made some inroads in this group; but if Mfume wins, many white voters who ordinarily vote straight Democratic will be appalled and frightened of this radical and may well vote for Steele. Either way, Steele has a very good shot at the seat.
  • Mark "Evacuatin'" Dayton (MN, 100%) is departing for greener pastures, leaving his seat open; recent polls (late August) have Democrat Amy Klobuchar leading Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy (MN, 84%) by 7-10 points. But there is plenty of time for Kennedy to catch up such a minor difference. If there is no Democratic "wave," then I suspect he will, and this seat will flip.
  • Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (100%) faces Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. A few months ago, Stabenow led Bouchard by 20 points; now (September 7th, Rasmussen) she leads by only 8%. But it will be tough to catch up, as she is well liked by Michigan Democrats. Still, this is another race to watch.
  • Maria Cantwell (WA, 95%) is still way ahead (17%) in polls by Rasmussen (9/7) and SurveyUSA (8/28-29); but a Republican poll by Strategic Vision at the end of August (25-27) had her ahead by only 5%. Again, what really matters is whether there is a Democratic "wave." If not, then Republican Mike McGavick, the Safeco turnaround king who managed Slade Gorton's successful 1988 campaign, has a good shot at catching her.
  • Sen. Ben Nelson (NE, 55%) is running for reelection in one of the reddest of red states; the last poll was conducted in July, I think, and Nelson led Pete Ricketts by 26%. But I've heard that Ricketts could be improving significantly. Consider this still a long-shot, but still one to watch.

Bottom line: Larry Sabato is right that this will be a "Democratic year," but I think not by anywhere near as much as people -- especially Democrats -- have been supposing. At this point, Big Lizards sticks with our earlier prediction of a net GOP loss in the House of no more than 9 seats, and in the Senate, no more than 2.

Be of good cheer!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 11, 2006, at the time of 8:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

In Memorium

Hatched by Dafydd

Today, September 11th, 2006, marks the fifth anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history, the September 11th attacks. We extend our continued support and condolences to the spouses, children, other relatives, and friends of the 2,997 Americans and many, many foreign guests who were murdered by al-Qaeda on that day, including those missing and presumed dead.

In Memory of...

  • 2,626 slain and missing (believed dead) at the World Trade Centers in New York City;
  • 125 slain at the Pentagon, Arlington County, VA;
  • 206 slain on American Airlines flights 11 and 77 and United Airlines flight 175;
  • And especially the 40 heroes on United Airlines flight 93, whose brave assault on the murderers undoubtedly prevented the deaths of many others at (likely) the Capitol and the destruction of one of America's greatest treasures and symbols of freedom, the United States Capitol Dome.

May they rest lightly and at peace..

This accounting does not include the 19 mass murderers, may their names be blotted out. God may forget them, but God willing, the rest of us never will.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 11, 2006, at the time of 2:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 10, 2006

No Difference Between Democrats and Republicans? Think Again

Hatched by Dafydd

According to CBS News, Democratic Senator John D. "Jay" Rockefeller (D-WV, 100%) -- who has announced to the world that he's a dimwitted "dupe" of the idiot evil genius George W. Bush -- still thinks that we'd be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in charge of Iraq:

Rockefeller went a step further. He says the world would be better off today if the United States had never invaded Iraq — even if it means Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq.

He said he sees that as a better scenario, and a safer scenario, "because it is called the 'war on terror.'" [Say, that's pretty hard to refute!]

Does Rockefeller stands [sic] by his view, even if it means that Saddam Hussein could still be in power if the United States didn't invade?

"Yes. Yes. [Saddam] wasn't going to attack us. He would've been isolated there," Rockefeller said. "He would have been in control of that country but we wouldn't have depleted our resources preventing us from prosecuting a war on terror which is what this is all about."

It's almost as if Karl Rove has been sending his mind-control beam directly into Jay Rockefeller's head, the latter having forgotten to wear his tinfoil hat. Are the Democrats actually trying to lose the election? If so, I certainly don't want to get in their way; but isn't if awfully precipitous for Rockefeller to rip the mask off before November 7th?

And is Rockefeller the only bloke in the Senate who doesn't understand that if we hadn't invaded Iraq in 2003, then today, in 2006, there wouldn't be any sanctions anymore?

Hussein would not be "isolated;" au contraire, he would be more powerful than at any time in the past fifteen years: he would have restarted his nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs; both the Iraq Survey Group and the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report say that was Hussein's intent all along. And European and Latin American representatives would be beetling to Baghdad to genuflect to the great man, hands out for oil allocations.

This is what Rockefeller considers "a better scenario, and a safer scenario" for America. And you want to know the worst part? If the Democrats win the Senate in the upcoming election, Jay Rockefeller will be the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Stick that in your pipe and step on it.

So Jay Rockefeller, nutty as a Froot Loop, would chair the Senate Intelligence Committee -- and spend the next two years investigating Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld... rather than al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Iran. All because some Republicans insist there's "not a dime's worth of difference" between Republicans and Democrats, which means between Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS, 88%) and Chairman Jay Rockefeller.

Yeah, stay home and sulk instead of voting. Better yet, vote for a third-party candidate to "teach the Republicans a lesson." Great idea!

I'm sure hard-core conservative Republicans will be elected in droves in 2008. And their first order of business will be to begin the task of rebuilding half a dozen major American cities that were destroyed by al-Qaeda, while Congress was busy impeaching Bush for intercepting al-Qaeda phone calls.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 10, 2006, at the time of 5:11 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Newsflash! 9/11 Flick Far Fairer Than Other "Historical" Docudramas

Hatched by Dafydd

This New York Post story, which appears to be trying to cast doubts upon the accuracy and even veracity of movie the Path to 9/11, instead shows it to be tremendously better researched, with more consultants and a greater willingness to change the script for historical accuracy, than any previous movie I've read about.

The showrunners metaphorically bent over backwards, tuchas over teakettle, to accomodate changes demanded by ultraliberal star Harvey Keitel to make the movie more historically accurate by his standards. (Keitel is still kvetching that they didn't rewrite the entire screenplay to make everything Bush's fault.)

I've never been involved in the production of big-budget TV movies, but I've hung around the set and "acted" in low-budget pictures many times, and I know what happens on a movie set. (In this context, "acted" means "stood stiffly and unconvincingly in a crowd scene, shifting nervously and wondering how many takes there would actually be before the two-minute scene was finished.")

Given Keitel's political leanings (about the same as Jack Lemmon) and financial contributions to Democrats:

  • He gave $2,000 each to Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 100%) and Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%);
  • $1,000 each to Sens. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%) and Bill Bradley (D-NJ);
  • $1,000 each to Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY , 100%), and Charles Schumer (for reelection to his House seat the same cycle he ran for the Senate, 1998);
  • $1,000 to leftist gadfly candidates Barry Gordon and Mark Green (Keitel contributed $1,000 each to all three candidates in the Democratic primary for Senate for 1998: Schumer, Green, and Geraldine Ferraro);
  • $1,000 to Majority 2000 (a Democratic PAC);
  • And $1, 200 directly to the DNC;

Given that, the many changes he demanded (and received) in the Path to 9/11 were almost certainly pro-Clinton or anti-Bush.

Anyone who has ever worked with directors and producers knows that the usual reaction when they're told by an actor that "this scene isn't historically accurate" is a glazed-eye stare and another snort of cocaine. The 1AD will then tell you haughtily that "this is a movie, not a documentary; just shut up and read your friggin' lines!" (Or, if you're a minor character, "take a hike, cement head.")

But look at the way the creators of this movie abjectly surrendered to Harvey Keitel:

When Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel signed on to play Deputy FBI Director John O'Neill, who perished in the World Trade Center attacks, he thought the film's aim was to be historically correct, he said.

"It turned out not all the facts were correct," which led to "arguments," he said on CNN.

Virtually from Day 1 of shooting, "Keitel put his own researcher on the case," looking to correct historical, character and other inaccuracies he found in the script, said John Dondertman, a production designer on the film.

That led to Keitel rewriting most of his own lines - which in turn meant almost daily revisions for cast members who had scenes with him....

On one occasion, Keitel holed up in his hotel for an entire day with director David Cunningham revising the script.

Other times, Cunningham would "fumble through the 9/11 Commission book trying to figure out how to correct details Keitel called into question," said the script supervisor....

Fulvio Cecere, who plays NYPD Chief John Dunne, recalls director Cunningham allowing Keitel to improvise entire scenes with fellow cast members.

(Those of you with movie-making experience, please pick your jaws up off the floor.)

And with all that, the Clintonistas still object to the movie and demand that ABC suppress it, so the American people don't finally understand what a prat and rube Bill Clinton was for eight years. Eight years during which al-Qaeda grew to become the most powerful terrorist organization in the world; attacked the United States on numerous occasions, killing scores of Americans and hundreds of other people, with barely a response from us; and conceived, planned, and set in motion the horrific attacks of September 11th themselves, likely the biggest terrorist attack in history.

Often supposedly historical movies use a technical consultant to "get the facts right"... one technical consultant; who isn't allowed on the set (he vets the screenplay) and certainly is ignored when he tells the director what's wrong with the picture. Did the Path to 9/11 use expert consultants? Take a look:

The network hired 9/11 Commission chairman and former Republican New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean [1] as the project's senior consultant.

"Kean was never on the set," said Greg Chown, an art director on the film. "The only adviser I worked with was a former CIA guy [2], who ensured that all the graphics and documents we used were accurate...."

[A commenter who says he is Greg Chown (and I have no reason to doubt it) writes, "I was definitely mis-quoted by the reporter for the Post. All I said during the interview is that I did not know who Keane was." -- DaH]

Another staffer, who spoke confidentially, said the only adviser she recalls is retired FBI agent Terry Carney [3]....

Barclay Hope, who plays FBI Assistant Director of Public Affairs John Miller, says he spoke briefly with Miller, although the FBI man indicated he didn't want to be involved in production.

Miller was a consultant on the film [4], and ABC had optioned his book for use in its teleplay.

This is an incredible level of consultation and willingness to change the script during production, all for as much historical accuracy as could be included and still make the movie watchable as a movie.

At this point, I think it fair to say that the historical accuracy of the Path to 9/11 is lightyears beyond the accuracy of most movies based upon real events or actual people (see our previous post for some other such titles).

The Clintonistas have no legitimate complaint; they can only whine that the movie unfairly depicts the Clinton administration being as feckless and pathetic as it actually was. We'll see tonight whether they managed to bully ABC/Disney into editing it beyond all recognition -- cutting out all the parts where Clinton ignores the problem, so it looks as though he were a two-fisted terrorist-buster. Or even whether they're going to air it at all.

Fingers crossed...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 10, 2006, at the time of 3:02 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 9, 2006

Bill Clinton: Pull The Path to 9/11!

Hatched by Dafydd

So now it's come to this: former President Bill Clinton has formally demanded, through his attorneys, that ABC simply shelve its 5-hour, $40 million docudrama, the Path to 9/11.

Well... maybe; I'm a little suspicious, given that the source for this claim is a blog that was linked on Drudge. None of the elite media is carrying this story, though all of them carried many other stories about the Democrat protest against the flick... and many others have demanded that it be pulled and not aired.

While I have no reason to doubt the accuracy (or veracity) of Greg Sargent, the author, I'm still skeptical about this. Sargent appears to be a sincere liberal who has posted many similar letters on his TPMCafe blog (some of which were straight from his host, Joshua Michah Marshall of Talking Points Memo) as well as other anti-Bush, anti-GOP posts; and this letter would certainly be in keeping with Clinton's personal attack on the movie yesterday.

So it's probably true and accurate; but bear in mind that this letter is not yet well sourced.

But what the heck... let's run with it anyway!

No reason is given to pull the movie other than the lawyers' claim that the movie departs from the partisan Democratic version of recent history. (Oddly, I don't recall them having any particular problem with Erin Brockovich or All the President's Men.)

The idea that a Hollywood movie, even one touted as being a "true story," must be held to rigorous historical standards is flatly comical. The Amityville Horror was promoted as a "true, factual story;" and what about Schindler's List? The real Oskar Schindler gave his Jewish workers guns, telling them that if they were discovered, it would be better to die in combat than be sent back to the death camps. Did we see that in the Steven Spielberg movie?

More recently, we have the movie Munich. Several of the Mossad agents -- who are still alive -- stepped forward to say that the movie was totally wrong in many respects... the most important of which was portraying them as tortured souls who doubted the morality of what they were doing (executing, one by one, the architects of the 1972 massacre of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, committed by Black September -- a front group for the PLO). To a man, they said they never had any such qualms about their mission.

Where were these finicky Democrats back then? I'm straining my brain to the white meat, but I can't think of even one who stepped forward to chastise Spielberg for either of those two a-historical "historical" docudramas.

The question is never whether a movie must be a strictly factual account; that would be a "documentary." By definition, a docudrama makes some stuff up, rewrites events, and combines characters, all for dramatic purposes. The question should be, how close to reality is the movie?

And from everything I've read about the antiterrorism history of the past few decades -- which is probably considerably more than Bill Clinton or his lawyers have read -- the Path to 9/11 is about as close to reality as Hollywood is ever likely to get. Live with it.

I have to wonder: suppose, as a thought experiment, a movie were made that simply blamed everything on President Bush, instead of insisting that Bill "Party Time" Clinton shoulder his much larger fair share for eight years of malign neglect. Suppose a movie were made that falsely claimed that Clinton was a dynamo of antiterrorist fervor, a zealous GWOT warrior who went to bed every night angry at the terrorists and woke up even angrier.

Suppose this movie also portrayed Bush as a dunce, controlled by vast, shadowy puppeteers -- multinational corporations (Halliburton, the oil barons, Coors), the neocons (but only the Jewish ones), and the military industrial complex. Suppose the movie portrayed Bush as callous and uncaring, eager to send young Americans to die just to line his own pockets. Suppose it even hinted darkly that Bush was somehow complicit in, or at least had foreknowledge of the pending 9/11 attack, but let it go forward anyway because it furthered the Blofeldian schemes of this feeble-minded evil genius.

If such a version of the attacks were presented in movie form, would these Democratic voices, so solicitous today of the "historical record" and the 9/11 Commission report, be as quick to leap forward, insist upon changes, and finally demand that the movie be yanked from distribution and never shown?

Somehow, in this purely hypothetical example, I doubt it. I suspect instead that they would honor and fête the filmmaker, call him one of the most important political voices of the twenty-first century, and maybe even give him a box seat at the next Democratic National Convention.

Sitting right next to Jimmy Carter, perhaps. You think?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 9, 2006, at the time of 4:00 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 8, 2006

Oh, THAT'S What Arnold Meant

Hatched by Dafydd

So the newest hysteria here in the golden state (or the granola state, take your pick) is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's verbal "assault" on a Latina Republican assemblywoman, Bonnie Garcia. This is the only part I had heard until now:

[Schwarzenegger's Democratic chief of staff, Susan] Kennedy offers praise for Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, the lone Latina Republican in the Legislature [that is, she calls Garcia a "ball buster"... but in a nice way]. The governor and Kennedy debate her ethnicity, and Schwarzenegger opines that whether she is Cuban or Puerto Rican doesn't matter much.

"I mean, they are all very hot," the governor says. "They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."

(Hat tip to Ryan Sager of Real Clear Politics, in between plumping for that mayor guy from New York City, whatever his name is.)

I assumed -- as I now assume most people assumed, if they heard only this part, which was the only part broadcast on the radio story I listened to -- that Schwarzenegger was making a sexual inuendo; I mean, the guy has a history of that sort of thing.

But for the first time today, I read the very next sentence, which casts the entire imbroglio in a different frame of reference:

[Gov. Schwarzenegger] goes on to recall a former weightlifter and competitor, Cuban-born Sergio Oliva. "He was like that," Schwarzenegger says.

Now, Schwarzenegger may have had a bit of a tough time keeping his hands off the starlets when he was just a movie star; but that's not even unusual in Hollywoodland. However, of all the things Arnold has been accused of, not even the Los Angeles Times has ever insinuated that Arnold Schwarzenegger is homosexual.

Therefore, I can only conclude that he did not mean "hot" in a sexual context. He meant passionate, enthusiastic, high-energy... all terms that a go-getting politician would love to have associated with her (and which I would be very puzzled about if anyone ever applied them to me).

But what about Assemblywoman Garcia? As the feminist Left insists ("shrieks" would be an apter word), sexual harassment is not determined by what the speaker meant, but rather whether it offended the target. Well... did it?

Garcia said the conversation didn't bother her in the least. She called herself an "unpolished politician" and said Schwarzenegger had shown nothing but respect for her.

"I love the governor because he is a straight talker just like I am," Garcia said. "Very often I tell him, 'Look, I am a hot-blooded Latina.' I label myself a hot-blooded Latina that is very passionate about the issues, and this is kind of an inside joke that I have with the governor."

So yet again, the whole election-year brouhaha boils down to the Schwarzenegger-hating Los Angeles Times trying to make a mountain out of a mohawk. I swear bedad, not a day goes by that I don't thank my lucky scars that we canceled our subscription to that "newspaper" three years ago.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 8, 2006, at the time of 11:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Senate Report: Iraq and al-Qaeda

Hatched by Dafydd

The first in a series of continuing, relatively short posts on the September 2006 report from the Senate Intelligence Committee comparing prewar and postwar intelligence on Iraq.

~

In contrast to the good news from Iraq, which the elite media bury in a dark editing room, in a locked closet, inside a filing cabinet, and stuffed into an old sardine tin, every headline today screams a wildly misleading characterization of what the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare to Prewar Assessments actually reports. Viz., this Associated Press story:

Saddam Hussein regarded al-Qaida as a threat rather than a possible ally, a Senate report says, contradicting assertions President Bush has used to build support for the war in Iraq. The report also newly faults intelligence gathering in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.

Released Friday, the report discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward" al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or his associates.

As recently as an Aug. 21 news conference, Bush said people should "imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein" with the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction and "who had relations with Zarqawi."

Democrats contended that the administration continues to use faulty intelligence, including assertions of a link between Saddam's government and the recently killed al-Zarqawi, to justify the war in Iraq.

The way that AP carefully parses their sentences, it's hard to argue; they imply rather than demonstrate, making it difficult to refute. But having just finished reading the entire Senate Intelligence Committee's report, I have to say that it's far more tentative than AP makes it out to be.

And even the report itself fails to draw obvious conclusions from physical evidence, often relying instead upon what actors in the drama say during interrogations... actors with interests of their own.

The Senate report is a marvel of missing the forest for the trees: the senators spend too much time in the weeds; they never take a step back, a deep breath, and look at the whole picture. This leads them into folly again and again... and the Zarqawi-connection section is a perfect example.

I am utterly persuaded that Saddam Hussein saw al-Qaeda, and especially Musab Zarqawi up in Ansar al-Islam, as a "threat" to his regime. But that does not mean Hussein made any attempt to remove Zarqawi, nor that he did not harbor Zarqawi, nor even that he did not have an operational relationship with Zarqawi.

For heaven's sake, many Americans in the 1940s saw Communism as a threat to the United States (though the president did not)... but that did not stop FDR, with the support of the entire political establishment, from allying with Josef Stalin against Adolf Hitler. There is an old proverb: Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer. Thus, the central dichotomy of the AP story is a canard: there is no inherent conflict between fearing an enemy and allying with that same enemy.

So let's get to specifics.

It's absolutely correct that in October 2005, the CIA issued a report with that quotation, that "the regime did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates." AP's style in this endeavor (attempting to "prove" that Bush lied us into war) will not be one of overt, bald-faced lying, but rather subtle inueno that allows the reader to leap to a false conclusion.

The CIA in 2005 thus reversed its earlier assessment (in 2002) that Hussein did tolerate Zarqawi's presence in the Kurdish north. However, what AP omits is that other facts cited in that same section of the Senate report belie that mysterious reassessment by the CIA.

Notably this, covered on pages 93-96 of the pdf linked above (pp. 90-93 of the actual document): in October 2002, an unidentified foreign government -- probably acting as an Iraq-United States go-between -- demanded that Iraq arrest Zarqawi and four associates and extradite them to the U.S. Hussein -- desperately trying to stave off the pending American invasion, issued a written order to the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) to arrest the five, who were up in Ansar al-Islam.

However, there is no indication that there was any serious attempt to act on these orders... which most likely means the written orders were for show and were countermanded by oral orders not to be vigorous about it. Instead, some low-level IIS agents were tasked with the job; but there's no indication they even went to Ansar al-Islam.

However, had Hussein really wanted to get Zarqawi -- thinking him such a danger to Iraq and having absolutely no connections to Zarqawi's group -- why didn't he use the IIS agents who had already infiltrated Ansar al-Islam? These infiltrators, discussed in the same passage of the Senate report, played no role in the supposed manhunt for Zarqawi.

Or for that matter, why didn't the Iraqis send troops into Ansar al-Islam itself to hunt for Zarqawi and his cabal? If Saddam Hussein really saw them as a threat, why not expend at least as much military force removing them as he expended massacring, relocating, and brutalizing his own people?

Eventually, Zarqawi left northeastern Iraq for Iran, transited Iran, and reentered Iraq in the south. But one of his associates named in the demand, Abu Yasim Sayyem, was captured. The Iraqis determined that he was indeed a member of (or contractor to) al-Qaeda, just as Zarqawi was. But rather than extradite him to the United States, they released him -- on direct orders from Saddam Hussein.

If we can pull our heads out of the weeds of specific bits and dribbles of intel for a moment, here is the big picture: Hussein's actions are not those of a brutal dictator who really wants to get rid of Musab Zarqawi or his band of merry men at Ansar al-Islam.

They are instead the actions of a brutal dictator who still thinks he can stave off a U.S. invasion and get sanctions lifted, especially "with a little help from his friends," the French, the Russians, and the Chinese. So he issues an order never intended to be obeyed, but which he can point to in order to show "good faith."

It turns out that the CIA's reassessment above was almost entirely based upon interviews with captured IIS agents and al-Qaeda members at Ansar al-Islam: each side denied there was any cooperation or treaty. Again, however, a little bit of common sense:

  1. Why would low-level flunkies in either the Iraqi Intelligence Service or Ansar al-Islam have any idea of a secret concordance between Hussein and Zarqawi? How many people do you think would be told about this?

    Is Zarqawi going to tell his fanatical Wahabbi followers that he's made a deal with that secular devil who outlawed Wahabbism? Is Hussein going to tell junior IIS officers that he has a cooperative agreement with the world's number-one terrorist, when that connection is already being used by the United States to push for war? This is silly; people at that level have no "need to know" and every reason to be kept in the dark.

  2. Even assuming that some of the detainees that the CIA interviewed were high enough up -- and trusted enough by Hussein or by Zarqawi -- to be privy to this information... why would they tell the truth to the CIA? What's in it for some fanatical Baathist or al-Qaeda jihadi? Answer: nothing!

So most detainees wouldn't even know, and those who did know have no incentive to tell the truth. Thus, the evidence upon which the CIA based its conclusion that there was no connection is utterly non-dispositive. So we're left with Hussein's actions: making no serious effort to capture them, and even turning loose the only Zarqawi affilliate he had.

At the very least, this is "turning a blind eye;" and it's equally consistent with "harboring" and having a "relationship." Once again, the CIA does yeoman work in muddying up the intel waters, casting vague aspersions on the Bush administration while never really coming out and alleging any specific crime, exaggeration, or moral failing... just a vague whiff of the "Bush lied" meme.

This first piece is important: for if the Senate report is faulty, vague, and misleading on the simple question of Saddam Hussein's relationship with Musab Zarqawi -- and if the pedestrian and non-specific "conclusions" of the report are mischaracterized into flat accusations by the elite media -- then how can anyone imagine they're dispositive on the much more complex questions of WMD programs, Saddam Hussein's intentions, his possible future relationship to terrorist groups, and indeed, the entire rationale of the war: that Hussein's Iraq represented a serious enough threat to the United States to warrant the invasion.

It cannot. This report is not, as Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, ) alleges,

A devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration’s unrelenting, misleading and deceptive attempts” to link Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda.

There is as much in this bipolar report to support such links as to refute them. Rather, Tony Snow is absolutely correct:

The White House spokesman, Tony Snow, told The Associated Press there was “nothing new” in the report, and that members of both political parties had agreed before the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States.

“In 2002 and 2003, members of both parties got a good look at the intelligence we had, and they came to the very same conclusions about what was going on,” Mr. Snow said.

Keep that in mind as we move on to other sections of the report over the next few days.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 8, 2006, at the time of 7:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 7, 2006

Deteriorata

Hatched by Dafydd

I've read at least five articles in the antique media in the last week that included some variant on the phrase "the deteriorating situation in Iraq." It was almost as if the entire MSM held a meeting and picked that week's buzz words.

According to the internationally accepted English-language dictionaries, "deteriorating" means "getting worse," of course; evidently, the media is using its own strange, new definition of which we were previously unaware.

In fact, we have several very good measures of how well or ill the Iraq strategy is working. Let's start with the easiest: how do American military personnel in Iraq fare these days?

Not too badly, actually; a lot better than in the previous two years. According to Iraq Coalition Casuality Count, the years 2004, 2005, and the first 250 days of 2006 have seen the following service deaths:

Deaths of American servicemen
and servicewomen in Iraq
Year Deaths Days Average per day
2004 848 366 2.32
2005 846 365 2.32
2006 480 250 1.92

That's a drop of 17% over 2005; and as the handoffs from Coalition forces to Iraqis continues, that number will continue to drop, as fewer American troops will be patrolling dangerous sections of Iraq. That may not be a stunning drop; but it sure as shootin' isn't any kind of an increase. Thus, by the standard of deaths (and the broader category of casualties) of our troops, Iraq is getting better, not worse.

Another metric is the number of civilians killed, wounded, or even attacked; after all, the whole purpose of an army is to do the fighting for the civilian population. If more and more Iraqi civilians were being killed every month, then that would inarguably be an example of things getting worse.

And we all know that things certain did get worse in July: Sunni and Shia militias turned on each other and began a wave of brutal "executions" and other murders. But July was more than a month ago; and the Iraqi security forces (the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi National Police, and the local, provincial police), along with their Coalition partners, responded to the spike in violence.

But was the response successful, or are the killings still proceeding apace? Alas, the website we just used doesn't report this number; instead, it combines Iraqi civilians and Iraqi military deaths into one lump sum -- which is rather useless when we're trying to separate the two.

The reality is that Operation Together Forward, despite its rather unfortunate name, has been quite successful, according to the best possible source: Multi-National Force -- Iraq, the Coalition itself.

MNF-Iraq spokesman, Maj.Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, gave a presentation and slide show to the press yesterday demonstrating how casualties, homicides, and attacks against civilians have all dropped markedly in Baghdad. But I haven't seen one word of this show up in the elite media today... so evidently, it didn't take.

(That's hardly a departure for them; as Sachi notes, they ignored the steady political and reconstruction progress made up to July, and they are ignoring the entire recovery after the July spike in violence. They focus like a laser beam, as Clinton used to say, on one bad month and pretend that's the norm.)

But in fact, we have some very cool slides from Caldwell's presentation that demonstrate this improvement in the Iraq endeavor (hat tip to Soldier's Dad; see the rest of the slides at the MNF-Iraq link above).

First, civilian killings in Baghdad -- the worst of the three provinces that are lagging the other 15:



Comparing sectarian casualties in Baghdad from July to August 2006

Comparing sectarian killings in Baghdad from July to August 2006

Gen. Caldwell, in his presentation, explains this slide:

This is what it was in density, with red being the most dense, the highest number of those who have been murdered executed being found in this location here, and then somewhat more right in the center, right up here, and to where it's less dense, down. This is across the entire Baghdad city area. These are deaths that are reported, that are recorded, that we know about. And this is what it looked like in July. This is what it looked like in August, based on the casualty figures, as reported.

And then up in the Kadhimiya and the Mansour areas, you can see literally almost down to nothing here and then a little bit here.

As easily seen, sectarian and terroristic homicides have plummeted since Operation Together Forward began. That's not a "deterioration," that's a strong improvement... and you can see it graphically with your own eyes.

"All right, Mr. Lizard," I hear you kvetch, "so much for actual deaths; but what about attacks themselves? Aren't they still rising, even if killings are decreasing?"

All right, let's take a look at another slide:



Comparing sectarian casualties in Baghdad from July to August 2006

Here is Caldwell on this slide (reparagraphed for clarity):

One more indicator that operations are in fact reducing the amount of attacks on civilians is shown here on this graph. What I'd like to do is talk you through.

This is the baseline in March. Without getting into specific, exact casualty figures, this is the casualty figures as we reported them, as we tracked them during the month of March.

We found in the month of April we had about a 3-percent increase over that baseline of March, and in the May time frame we had about a 39 percent increase from, again, the baseline in March. By the July time frame, we had experienced a 73 percent increase in the number of casualties -- these are murders, execution, indirect fire, IEDs, whatever it was -- attacks that were being levied on civilians within the Baghdad area.

And then in August, August 7th is when you saw that the operations commenced, Operation Together Forward phase two. This month at the end of the month it's an 8 percent increase from the baseline back in March.

That is a 38% drop in attacks in a single month of Operation Together Forward. (The only bad thing about this operation is the name; couldn't they change it to Operation Guardian Angel, or something?)

Caldwell continues:

Again, what this shows is the cycle of retaliatory violence has been slowed in the target areas as we have specifically focused our efforts here within the Baghdad area. Again, we remain very cautiously optimistic about these figures, but we also recognize that the real measurement of this progress isn't just this month's but rather the sustainment of this over the long period of time. As we said many times before, this operation is going to be conducted over many months, not over several weeks.

This is part of the greatest story never told: the increasing tempo of our success in Iraq. The antique media is terrified of reporting on any of this... because it utterly undermines the Story, which is -- here comes what we in the writing biz dub the "callback" -- which is "the deteriorating situation in Iraq."

Oh, how I wish I could lock the mainstream news anchors, the elite newspaper editors, and the wire-service presidents in a room and ask them a few questions, then just keep asking and asking until they finally broke down and answered. (All right, maybe just a soupçon of waterboarding.) For people who yammer endlessly about "the public's right to know," they're remarkably unforthcoming about anything that might hurt their patrons, the Democrats.

I'm still trying to sort out which newsmen are actively evil... and which are just useful idiots.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 7, 2006, at the time of 8:13 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Good Hunting Over the Weekend

Hatched by Sachi

Headlines in the various wire services during the weekend were still the same old recycled Democratic talking points: Another U.S. soldier killed in action! Setbacks, quagmire! The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have failed... it's time to declare defeat and head to Okinawa!

Sometimes I feel the media ghoulishly enjoy counting bodies, especialy our own guys and gals. But even AP could not ignore this remarkable achievement of Canadian troops in Afghanistan:

NATO: 200 Taliban, 4 Canadians Killed

PASHMUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Warplanes and artillery pounded Taliban fighters hiding in orchards Sunday during a big Afghan-NATO offensive that the alliance said killed more than 200 militants in its first two days. Four Canadian soldiers also were killed.

Oh, Canada! The Taliban has attacked the NATO forces from time to time; but it always ends the same way: lopsided defeat. I don't understand why they keep on doing thing that don't work... unless it's just a mass expression of "suicide by soldier."

Given that the terrorists believe "death is a promotion" (as Ralph Peters puts it, paraphrasing Cal Thomas), we really do need to consider the possibility that the Taliban knows their attacks will fail, and they'll die in droves -- yet they continue anyway as an act of martyrdom.

Meanwhile in Iraq, we had quite a weekend, according to CENTCOM. I wonder if you saw these headlines in the antique media:

Iraqi and US Security Forces Capture 30 Insurgents, 38 Suspected Insurgents, Over Weekend Ops in Western al-Anbar Province

Iraqi police and soldiers, along with U.S. Marines and soldiers from Regimental Combat Team 7, detained 30 confirmed insurgents and 38 suspected insurgents over the weekend throughout the western Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

Over the weekend, Iraqi and Coalition forces carried out numerous operations throughout Iraq, and the results were spectacular:

  • "In Rawah, 50 miles east of the Iraqi-Syrian border, Iraqi police identified and detained 18 of the 38 captured suspected insurgents."
  • "In Hit, 70 miles northwest of Ramadi, Iraqi and U.S. soldiers detained one known insurgent and 10 suspected insurgents Sunday."
  • "Through a variety of counterinsurgency operations Saturday and Sunday, Iraqi police, Iraqi soldiers, and U.S. Marines captured 27 known insurgents and four suspected insurgents in the Haditha Triad, a cluster of three cities -- Haditha, Barwanah, and Haqlaniyah."
  • "In Sa'dah, a town just east of the Iraqi-Syrian border, U.S. Marines captured six more suspected insurgents Saturday. Marines also discovered an ordnance cache near the border on Saturday. The cache consisted of 120 mm rockets, 155 mm rockets, and 122 mm rockets."

We've got even more good news from Camp Fallujah, according to Maj.Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for Multi-National Force -- Iraq.

During recent clearing operations in Adhamiyah - as part of Operation Together Forward - Iraqi forces and Soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, captured an improvised-explosive device-making facility. The find included a supply of bomb-making components, three mortar caches and engineering manuals.

On the heels of success in Adhamiyah, Marines from Regimental Combat Team 5, moving as part of Operation Rubicon, recently uncovered hundreds of weapons and combated insurgents in running gun battles in the town of Mushin, west of Habbaniyah.

If you'll recall, I promised that some of the security responsibilities were going to be handed over to Iraqis this month; but there was a brief delay. The elite media portrayed this as a "setback" for President Bush, implying the hand-over was never going to happen.

But of course, it turned out to be just what the Pentagon said it was: a brief miscommunication about certain duties and responsibilities. And now it's gone through with no problem:

Iraqi Soldiers Take the Lead

Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division transferred responsibility of security for the majority of the Kirkuk Province to two battalions of the Iraqi Army during a ceremony at an Iraqi military compound just outside of Kirkuk, Aug. 31.

“With this ceremony, we complete the transfer of security responsibilities from our friends, the Coalition Forces, to our Brigade,” said Maj. Gen. Anwar, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division. Two battalions in the multi-ethnic (Arab, Kurdish, Turkomen) 2nd Brigade had previously assumed security responsibilities in other sectors of the Kirkuk Province. This ceremony, with the final two battalions assuming responsibility, demonstrates the readiness of Iraqi Army forces in the province....

The event marks the third time this year that Coalition Forces have transferred responsibility to Iraqi Security Forces in the 1st BCT’s area of operations in and around the Kirkuk Province. The ceremony now places the majority of the province in Iraqi control. The city of Kirkuk and the village of Hawijah remain under the control of coalition forces.

And finally, the Coalition (which means the United States) has begun the process of handing over complete control of the New Iraqi Army, which we built, to the Iraqi government, which was elected by the Iraqi people. Today we handed over control of one of the ten Iraqi divisions, plus the Iraqi Air Force and Navy:

Iraq Takes Over Command of Armed Forces

On Thursday, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a document taking control of Iraq's small naval and air forces and the 8th Iraqi Army Division, based in the south....

Handing over control of the country's security to Iraqi forces is vital to any eventual drawdown of U.S. forces here. After disbanding the remaining Iraqi army following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, coalition forces have been training the new Iraqi military.

The nine other Iraqi divisions remain under U.S. control, with authority gradually being transferred. U.S. military officials said there was no specific timetable for the transition but U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Wednesday the Iraqis have "talked about perhaps two divisions a month."

AP, however, was far more enthused about a row that erupted between Sunni and Shiite members of the Iraqi parliament, which began when Sunni legislator Saleh al-Mutlaq accused the Shia of seeking "the division of Iraq." AP devotes more than half the story to that irrelevant non-news, instead of the hand-over in the headline.

(And I'm certain it's only a coincidence that such uncontrollable outbursts of unrelated, spurious copy in news stories -- "Spurrette's Syndrome," as Dafydd calls is -- always act to undermine any good news for President Bush, the Republicans, and the country. It's just "the luck of the draw" that Spurrette's Syndrome never interrupts or undermines bad news!)

So, folks, things are looking good. Let's stay the course, even if that means tacking back and forth a bit, to respond to changing conditions and enemy tactics.

Good hunting.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 7, 2006, at the time of 4:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Prediction: Lincoln Chafee Will Vote Against Bolton in Committee

Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE September 8th, 2006: See below.

Today, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R?-RI, 12%) balked at the planned vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to send the renomination of John Bolton to the full senate with a recommendation to confirm:

Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the only Republican who has not publicly committed to supporting Bolton, sought more time, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said. Chafee, locked in a tough re-election bid, faces a Republican primary election on Tuesday.

Is there any possibility, you think, that the two statements above are related?

I think it's pretty clear what's happening: if Chafee had voted for Bolton, that would have helped him in the primary -- but it would definitely damage him in the general election, where his re-election is already precarious. But if Chafee voteed against Bolton, he likely wouldn't make it to the general; because Steve Laffey, his conservative opponent in the primary -- already running neck and neck with Chafee -- would use it to win the nomination (and go on to lose the seat to the Democrat, Sheldon Whitehouse).

(One amusing side point: if Whitehouse should win, he would probably be the only senator in "the world's greatest deliberative body" who doesn't harbor any hope of becoming president, because nobody could say the words "President Whitehouse" without giggling.)

There is only one path for Chafee at this point: postpone the vote. The Rhode Island primary is next Tuesday, the 12th -- just five days away. There is no way that Chairman Dick Lugar (R-IN, 88%) can force a committee vote in the next five days; in fact, he doesn't seem even to be trying:

Committee Chairman Richard Lugar would only say a Republican member asked for the delay. He said the committee will meet on Bolton again, but did not say when.

"I'm not going to make any comments on time. It's going to require a lot of consultation with members on both sides of the aisle,'' the Indiana Republican said.

So how does this play out?

  1. The committee waits until after Chafee's primary to vote on the Bolton nomination;
  2. If Chafee wins renomination, then he must of course vote against Bolton to bolster his chances in the general election;
  3. If Laffey is nominated instead, then Chafee is a lame duck, and he's free to vote his conscience... which, since he's the most RINO of all RINOs in the Senate, likely means he votes against Bolton.

So pretty much any way we cut the cheese, it looks as if Lincoln Chafee plans to spike the renomination of John Bolton.

So what does that do to Bolton's chances? The Senate Foreign Relations Committee comprises nine Republicans and seven Democrats. If Chafee votes against Bolton, the absolute best the Republicans can do (unless they can flip a Democrat) is a 7-7 tie, which means Bolton is passed out of committee with no recommendation for or against.

The seven Democrats are:

  • Ranking Member Paul Sarbanes (MD, 100%) -- won't risk his committee status, since he would become chairman if the Democrats capture the Senate;

    UPDATE: Commenter Ruthg reminds me that Sarbanes is retiring, to be replaced either by Republican Michael Steele, or by Ben Cardin or Kweise Mfume, both Democrats. So perhaps this is a fracture point; maybe Sarbanes can be persuaded to vote for Bolton, since he's leaving the Senate anyway;


  • Chris Dodd (CT, 100%) -- leading the charge against Bolton;

  • John F. Kerry (MA, 100%) -- possibly running for president again;

  • Russell Feingold (WI, 100%) -- the most liberal Democrat in the Senate;

  • Barbara Boxer (CA, 100%) -- party-line liberal and dumb as a bag of walnuts;

  • Bill Nelson (FL, 80%) -- might have been a possible flip, since he's running for reelection in a Republican state. But with the nomination of Katherine Harris to run against him, he is now assured of reelection; he has no reason to run to the right;

  • Barak Obama (IL, 100%) -- elected as a moderate, he quickly flipped his coat and revealed himself as a doctrinaire liberal.

I don't see any room for a surprise defection there; none of the Democrats has anything to lose, and each has everything to gain, by opposing John Bolton and poking another finger in George W. Bush's eye.

If Bolton is sent to the Senate floor with no recommendation, it will be next to impossible to get him confirmed:

  • The non-recommendation would give cover to Chafee to vote against him, along with John Warner (R-VA, 88%), Lindsay Graham (R-NC, 96%), John McCain (R-AZ, 80%), Mike DeWine (D-OH, 56%)and possibly even George Voinovich (R-OH, 68%), for all that he has said he'll support Bolton this time around (he joined the filibuster against Bolton last time).
  • It would also give cover to a Democratic filibuster; there are enough Democrats to prevent the vote, if they more or less stick together.

So I believe that John Bolton's renomination is dead; I would be ecstatic to be proven wrong this time... alas, I don't think I will be.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 7, 2006, at the time of 2:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 6, 2006

Are Fascists Seizing Control of Japan? Or Has Leftist Rhetoric Run Amok?

Hatched by Sachi

The leading candidate to replace ourgoing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is Shinzo Abe, a hawk who is currently chief cabinet secretary and Koizumi's right-hand man. Abe is pro-American and has vowed to strengthen Japanese ties to the United States.

But what's remarkable about him is that he is openly discussing revisting the pacifist Japanese consitution, the third rail of Japanese politics.

“Japan will follow a foreign policy that makes firm demands based on national interests,” Abe told ruling Liberal Democratic Party members. “The security treaty with the U.S. forms the center of Japan's foreign and security policy. We must work to strengthen that stance”....

Abe favors expanding the security alliance with the United States, giving Japan's military more freedom to join peacekeeping and other international operations, and taking a tough stand with China and North Korea.

In speeches and a recently published book, Abe has vowed support for revising Japan's postwar pacifist constitution and creating Japanese versions of the National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency.

“We need a new constitution that fits better for how Japan should be in the 21st century,” Abe said in his speech Friday, vowing to win passage of a law allowing a referendum on the constitution by the end of his term.

This kind of talk upsets liberals and leftists of both Japan and the United States (Japan is far more leftist than the United States), and they are not shy about expressing their opinions. But now at least one American claims that the Japanese climate is such that leftists can't even speak up against "right-wing" rhetoric for fear of being murdered by Fascists.

In his column at the Washington Post, Steven Clemons states that "thought police" are threatening free speech in Japan [all emphasis added]:

On Aug. 12, Yoshihisa Komori -- a Washington-based editorialist for the ultra-conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper [Sankei Shimbun is similar to the Wall Street Journal] -- attacked an article by Masaru Tamamoto, the editor of Commentary, an online journal run by the Japan Institute of International Affairs. The article expressed concern about the emergence of Japan's strident new "hawkish nationalism," exemplified by anti-China fear-mongering and official visits to a shrine honoring Japan's war dead. Komori branded the piece "anti-Japanese," and assailed the mainstream author as an "extreme leftist intellectual." [It's important to note that the original article, attacking the Japanese government actions as "hawkish nationalism," was a government publication -- paid for by tax money.]

But he didn't stop there. Komori demanded that the institute's president, Yukio Satoh, apologize for using taxpayer money to support a writer who dared to question Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, in defiance of Chinese protests that it honors war criminals from World War II.

Remarkably, Satoh complied. Within 24 hours, he had shut down Commentary and withdrawn all of the past content on the site -- including his own statement that it should be a place for candid discourse on Japan's foreign-policy and national-identity challenges. Satoh also sent a letter last week to the Sankei editorial board asking for forgiveness and promising a complete overhaul of Commentary's editorial management.

The capitulation was breathtaking. But in the political atmosphere that has overtaken Japan, it's not surprising. Emboldened by the recent rise in nationalism, an increasingly militant group of extreme right-wing activists who yearn for a return to 1930s-style militarism, emperor-worship and "thought control" have begun to move into more mainstream circles -- and to attack those who don't see things their way.

Clemons of the Washington Post goes on to say that "militant" right wingers -- like the ones who assassinated Prime Minister Inukai in 1932 -- are now rising in Japan, threatening any critic of the administration via death threats and bombs.

I don't know who Clemons is. However, if he considers Sankei Newspaper to be "ultra-conservative," that tells me an awful lot about him. Sankei is as mixed and mealy-mouthed as the Wall Street Journal's news pages: if anything, tilted a bit towards the status quo, which is more liberal than here.

That aside, Clemons' description of Komori's protest is quite misleading. Clemons claims that Komori's only objection is that Satoh "support[ed] a writer who dared to question Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine." Komori must be a wild-eyed extremist, if merely questioning the PM is enough to rouse his ire!

But what did Komori really complain about? Here are a few excerpts from his letter to Satoh, translated by American Embassy in Japan (they spell the name of the president of the Japan Institute of International Affairs as Sato, rather than Satoh; it's a transliteration anyway):

[O]n reading some of the essays, I was astonished by the contents. The essays unilaterally condemned the thinking of the government and ruling camp, as well as a majority of views in Japan as dangerous, and categorized the attacks on Japan by China and other countries as proper....

The thrust of the essay rejects moves in the direction of Japan becoming an "ordinary country" from the aspect of its national security, which can be said to be the majority view in Japan, rejecting and denouncing them as dangerous "hawkish nationalism."

The English-language essay is filled with biased words such as calling those who support paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine the "cult of Yasukuni." The word "cult" is a derogatory term used to mean a fanatical religious group such as the Aum Shinrikyo believers in Japan. [オウム真理教, a.k.a. "Aum Supreme Truth": in 1995, they carried out a Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. Fortunately, they botched the operation; but even so, they killed twelve people and injured over a thousand.]

The essays contains much too many sensational, emotional and insulting words of the kind frequently used generally by the Western left or by China to bash Japan, such as calling the thinking of Japan's pragmatists "ahistorical imagination" and claiming "selective amnesia" regarding the war by the Japanese people. In that sense, the essay can be called "anti-Japan."

The Japan Institute of International Affairs or JIIA is a public institution that is operated by subsidies from the Japanese government. Its current director is Yukio Sato, a former diplomat who once served as ambassador to the United Nations. The opinions in JIIA's international dispatch could be taken as the official views of the Japanese government, ruling parties, and majority of Japanese....

[T]he author was Masaru Tamamoto, the English editor at JIIA. Tamamoto* is a long-time [resident] of America and is well known as a radical leftist scholar who has often attacked the policies of the Japanese government. In a Washington seminar in 2003, I myself heard him say such comments as, "The abduction issue with North Korea has already been resolved, but the Japanese side is using it as an excuse to keep a hard-line foreign policy stance"; and, "Japan should never dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq; such a dispatch will never occur."

That does not sound like threats or intimidation to me; perhaps Clemons has a more expansive definition. He is careful not to libel Komori, but he clearly implies Komori is egging on the extremists:

Sankei's Komori has no direct connection to those guilty of the most recent acts, but he's not unaware that his words frequently animate them -- and that their actions in turn lend fear-fueled power to his pronouncements, helping them silence debate.

In fact, what "silences debate" is exactly this kind of talk: Clemons' intent is to shut up conservatives by accusing them of instigating hate crimes -- exactly the tactic leftists use here in America: if you disagree, you're a Fascist, racist, sexist, homophobic bigot. I have seen such dirty tricks before; in fact, I've been targeted by them on Japanese websites.

If anybody deserves blame, it's Yukio Satoh, Director of JIIA, for letting such a paritisan as Masaru Tamamoto run the on-line journal in the first place; and then, upon a single complaint by Komori, shutting the site down without any explanation. This falsely made it appear as though Komori himself, a mere editorial writer (say, just like Steven Clemons!), was somehow able to shut down Commentary, leading to Clemons' nutty conspiracy theories.

If Satoh had any principles, and if he thought the essays were appropriate, he should have stuck to his guns, no matter what kind of protests he received. But if he agreed with Komori that the journal Commentary had gone too far and was not appropriate for JIIA, then he should not have published it at all.

At the very least, he owed readers an explanation why it disappeared; and he should perhaps have sought a less drastic step, such as simply replacing Tamamoto as editor. It was Satoh's wishy-washiness, not Komori's complaint, that caused the whole problem.

And if Japanese left wingers don't have the grits to speak their mind for fear of a few death threats -- which, sad to say, are common dangers faced by every public figure these days on both sides of the aisle -- then they have no business prattling on about "freedom of speech." The American Founding Fathers faced far worse.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 6, 2006, at the time of 4:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Everything Old Is New Again

Hatched by Dafydd

Gen. John Abizaid is Commander-in-Chief of United States Central Command -- thus in charge of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, plus military actions from the Horn of Africa across the Middle East to Central Asia, from Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. But he is something else: a driven reformer, in the true sense of trying to deconstruct and reconstruct American strategy in the war on jihadi terrorism.

And he is the subject of a lengthy piece in the Wall Street Journal by staff reporter Greg Jaffe... alas, available online only to subscribers. (Hat tip to Wretchard at the Belmont Club.)

Before assuming his current post heading CENTCOM, he was first offered command of the entire Army; he repeatedly turned down an appointment to be Chief of Staff of the Army, the position now occupied by his boss, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker. The WSJ article is not clear why, but I think I understand:

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Gen. Abizaid held top positions in the Pentagon, where he forged a close relationship with the often prickly Mr. Rumsfeld. In the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war, Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, leaned hard on Gen. Abizaid to take on the Army Chief of Staff post, the top job in the Army. Mr. Rumsfeld wanted him to shake up the service, which the secretary thought was too complacent and out of step with his vision to transform the military.

Gen Abizaid repeatedly turned it down, telling colleagues that if he didn't get the Central Command position he would likely retire to California. "Abizaid disagreed with the technology-focused view of warfare that had taken hold in the Pentagon," says one friend who talked with him about the job. In the summer of 2003, he accepted the job as the head of Central Command.

His friend only hints at what I think was going through Abizaid's mind. According to this article, the general has a very unconventional view of how to win the GWOT, which he wanted to implement service-wide; and I am sure that is why Secretary Rumsfeld tapped him for the job.

But like Gulliver in Lilliput, the land of the tiny people, Army Chiefs tend to wake up one day to find they've been tied down by a thousand snares of conventional thinking: they cannot offend this general, they cannot countermand that assistant secretary.

Senator Stickuphisbutt threatens to cut off funding unless they buy three hundred advanced attack helicopters from GruMart, based in his home state. Rep. Swivelspread of the House Armed Services Committee pointedly notes that generals who don't purchase the Big Giant Cannon That Can Shoot a Shell Halfway Around the Earth may not get that new division they need so desperately.

The only way to resist such a force for the status quo is to have an agenda that consists of techniques already proven in the actual crucible of the outside world. That way, you can look a congressman in the eyes and say "it would be a real shame if the American people found out how Congress is preventing the military from doing what has been proven to work."

And you can bark at your subordinate generals and colonels, "do this; it works." Nothing succeeds like success.

So Abizaid has trundled off to the lower postion at CENTCOM, because he doesn't want to become another service chief who spends four years in the top job "growing in office"... meaning that the only change he institutes is to change himself to better fit the status quo. He wants to arrive with proof in hand, the better to implement the sort of reform that the president and especially Secretary Rumsfeld promote -- and that America truly needs.

(It is a calculated risk; if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, the next Chief of Staff of the Army will probably be a Shinseki clone; see above, "growing in office.")

All right, enough with the recap. What exactly is Abizaid's new approach to fighting jihadi terrorism? If you noticed the title, then you're probably already ahead of me: having read the WSJ article (that's what this post is about, in case the exciting intro drove it from your minds!) Assuming they accurately described his strategy... then I think what he has done is reinvent the British Empire -- updated to 2006 and Americanized. We circle around, we circle around...

In the fall of 2002, the U.S. military set up a task force here on the Horn of Africa to kill any al Qaeda fighters seeking refuge in the region. The base was crawling with elite special-operations teams, and an unmanned Predator plane armed with Hellfire missiles sat ready on the runway.

Today, the base houses 1,800 troops whose mission is to build health clinics, wells and schools in areas where Islamic extremists are active. The idea is to ease some of the suffering that leaves the locals susceptible to the radicals' message, thus bolstering local governments, which will run the new facilities and get credit for the improvements.

I know this won't sit well with a lot of you. Too many of us -- yeah, I admit a tendency in this direction -- look at the paragraph above and think, "holy moley, it's midnight basketball for terrorists!"

Be prepared for a shock: "midnight basketball" actually works.

Hard-nosed criminologists -- the same ones who agree with John R. Lott that widespread gun ownership and concealed-carry permits reduce crime -- also agree on this one. A huge percentage of gang violence (not all, of course) is spur of the moment... high-energy teens and twenties, possibly on an amphetamine-like drug such as meth or crack, but maybe just cranked up by their own raging hormones, enter a store. They start horsing around, jostling each other. Then it gets a little more serious -- and suddenly, Stone Cold pulls a gun, shoves it in the proprietor's face, and says "gimmie everything you got, mofo!"

Often, they never intended a robbery when they entered. That's why they had no plan, made no attempt not to be seen on the security camera, and had no escape route planned out. Maybe they panic and shoot everyone; or maybe they just like killing people. But they never planned anything -- because planning involves time-binding... and these morons live in a universe that's thirty minutes wide: anything more than fifteen minutes in the future or longer than fifteen minutes ago... doesn't exist.

Sure, some gang crime is well planned; so is some terrorism (a tiny percentage). Mostly banging is just the natural result of kids with no moral compass whatsoever colliding with a universe where violence is easier than work.

And most terrorism is what Daniel Pipes calls "sudden jihad syndrome," though I think he far underestimates how common it is.

Moslems who feel alienated, drifting through life, cut off from the rest of humanity -- whether in the land of the infidels or an Islamic country -- suddenly pick up a weapon and launch an attack against... someone. Doesn't matter who: for a few brief moments, they feel part of something bigger than themselves (like the gang kids in the liquor store).

Then they start suffering the consequences of their "decision," which was never reasoned through in the first place. But it's too late: they've become hunted men, and they have nowhere else to go but straight to the only group of people who will embrace them, the jihadists.

Midnight basketball works to quell (not end) gang violence because it gives them something transcendent (sports), something to burn that excess energy, something to do with their friends -- at their favorite time of night -- that doesn't involve killing and being killed. It fills the same need that banging fills. And for a similar reason, John Abizaid's strategy may well work to quell (not end) terrorism: because it makes the societies in which potential jihadis live more functional.

Building things gives them work to do that tires them out physically and fills the need nearly all humans have to be part of something communal. And while they're doing that, they're not out shooting anyone.

It also gives them a stake in their own society: every time they pass the well or the school, they can think, "I helped build that." Few people enjoy seeing something they built destroyed; so perhaps they'll even argue some more disaffected friend out of blowing it up next week.

It shocks us how quick some Moslems are to kill their neighbors and blow up buildings in their own cities. The reason is clear: they don't feel like those are their neighbors, and it's certainly not their city. They're aliens in their own lands, as in others:

And how am I to face the odds
Of man's bedevilment and God's?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.

-- A.E. Housman, the Laws of God

Abizaid, more than anyone here, understands that often, you just have to kill the son of a bachelor and worry about what caused his madness later. But later must come eventually, unless we want to play an endless videogame where an infinite number of jihadis pop up and shoot at us forever. So he tries to ground them in their own countries:

But his view of the region is increasingly shaped by the inability of all that firepower to prevail against a violent strain of Islam seeking to expand its foothold. "The best way to contain al Qaeda is to increase the capacity of the regional powers to deal with it themselves," he says....

In Lebanon, Gen. Abizaid says, he saw firsthand how Hezbollah used guerrilla violence, political activity and social aid to grow over the course of decades. "We Western-educated people tend to view war as first you fight then you talk," he says. "Here you are always talking and fighting." The general's counter strategy -- particularly in the Horn of Africa -- in some ways mimics Hezbollah's hybrid approach to war.

Implementing the "long war strategy," however, has proved fiendishly difficult for troops in the Horn of Africa. The idea is to send small teams into some of the world's most troubled lands to train local forces, gather information and build clinics and schools that extend the local government's influence. The military has long dispatched humanitarian aid, civil affairs teams and military trainers to places like Indonesia, the Philippines and North Africa to provide relief and bolster allies. But the Horn of Africa task force marks the first time that a large military command has been established solely to address the root causes of terrorism in a region.

"This is the most complex thing I have done in my military career," says Rear Adm. Richard Hunt, the commander of the mission.

If this sounds familiar -- exporting modernity -- it's because this is eerily similar to the approach that the British Empire took to pacifying the lands they conquered. They believed in the idea of an "occupation force" that comprised not just soldiers, but civil servants: engineers to build dams and modern buildings, agricultualists to teach modern farming techniques, lawyers to set up Westminster-style legal systems, doctors of modern medicine, and of course teachers to bring "the natives" into the modern world.

These civil servants arrived with every intention of staying for years, decades, maybe even their entire lives. Their children were raised in India, South Africa, the East Indies and thought of those countries as "home;" England was a far-away land that they were forced to visit every once in a while, or even attend school there, so that they wouldn't "go native." (Which of course they did anyway, every chance they got.)

It worked sometimes and failed sometimes; often, it was just a cover for horrific exploitation. But very frequently, even when the Brits were kicked out, the "natives" kept many of the cultural improvements the British had crammed down their throats; India is a good example of this.

Britain wanted an empire, so occupation forces made perfect sense to them. America has never been "imperialist" in that sense, and certainly not in the sense of Spain, France, or Belgium; so the idea of occupation forces is foreign to our thinking. But that is exactly what Gen. Abizaid is trying to inculcate in the American mind: the idea that you cannot rule a country for long; so your best bet is to change the country so that it can rule itself in a way that's conducive to our own cultural standards and national interests.

The Brits did it high-handedly, because they truly believed that Englishmen were genetically superior to all those Hottentots and Fuzzy Wuzzies and Baboos. They believed that natives could never come up to their level, so why bother trying? Just teach them what they need to be good servants, make sure they get it (by force, if necessary)... and then live off the labor of others.

That's not what Abizaid is doing, of course; but it's the same principle at core: he wants to move the "natives" of Moslem lands into twenty-first century modernity, so they'll think just enough like Westerners not to worship death and killing. Then we leave and let them handle their own affairs.

It's not a new idea; but it's a very new and very American riff on an old idea. Everything old is new again.

I have no idea if Gen. Abizaid will succeed; I'm not even sure it's the best strategy. But at least, damn it, he's thinking about a permanent solution, instead of just playing a game of Whack-a-Mole that you can't win, can't draw, and can't even quit.

For some reason, people are allergic to the phrase "root causes." Probably because it's been used so often by lefties as code for "it's all America's fault." But there must be something, somewhere that causes people in one area to be relatively peaceful (such as the United States and Europe), and causes people in another area to be savage, barbaric, violent, unthinking, and filled with a creepy religious fervor that takes the form of wanting to kill anyone who won't convert.

It's not something in the water; and it's not some genetic defect in "Moslems," because Moslems come in all different races. Besides, it's not all Moslems, even in the ummah: look at the lads at Iraq the Model, and most of their readers. They didn't come from another planet; they grew up in Iraq, under Saddam Hussein.

That "something" must be a series of beliefs and attitudes... and beliefs can be changed.

Don't let yourself be driven from possible solutions by liberals who co-opt the language and twist it to use as a weapon against the rest of us. (Take back the lexicon! You have nothing to lose but your clichés.) If we truly could find root causes for some-but-not-all terrorism, we could at least reduce it. Every potential jihadi who opts against it is one fewer person trying to kill us.

So let's all hope that Abizaid is onto something here... and if so, that he is allowed to finish what he started. And of course, let's not stop fighting back whenever we can: the two approaches are not mutually exclusive.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 6, 2006, at the time of 5:17 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 5, 2006

The Zarathustra of Zocalo Plaza

Hatched by Dafydd

In Mexico Headed for Civil War?, we fretted that the continued defiance of leftist loser Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and his announced refusal to accept his defeat -- even now that it has been certified by Mexico's Federal Electoral Tribunal, the "top electoral court" -- has the potential to develop into an outright civil war.

What does a civil war entail? The organized mass killings we see in Iraq don't rise to the level of a civil war, for example, and there isn't even any similar deadly violence sweeping Mexico -- yet -- over the presidential election. So what is needed for that definition?

One requirement of a civil war is the creation of a "shadow" or "parallel" government, run by those who were not elected (either because they lost or because they never even ran). The parallel government issues proclamations as vox populi, the "voice of the people."

López Obrador appears on the cusp of taking exactly that step:

López Obrador barely mentioned the impending decision Monday during his nightly address to followers in the Zocalo.

Instead, he focused on an upcoming national convention of his supporters to decide if he should declare himself head of a parallel government whose members would propose a series of government reforms. [Ah yes... "reforms." If (false) "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel," as Samuel Johnson said, then false "reform" is the first refuge, as Big Lizards declares.]

"This movement is now about transforming the country," [López Obrador] said.

The lack of a shadow or parallel government is one reason there is no civil war in Iraq. But such a formation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a civil war; Great Britain, along with many other parliamentary democracies, has a "shadow cabinet" comprising the opposition leader and those who would be the real government were control of Parliament to shift. Thus, the Conservative shadow secretary of state for defence in Britain, Liam Fox, would ordinarily become the actual secretary of state for defence (minister of defence) if the Conservative (Tory) party were to win the next election. It's not required; he could be replaced; but it's customary. (And note the British spelling of defense, which should solidify my coolness factor.)

But this doesn't imply imminent civil war in the UK. Nobody suggests that David Cameron is going to declare himself the new prime minister, absent an election, and storm Westminster.

The other factor required would be for López Obrador's parallel government to raise its own army and put it in the field against the official Mexican army, with the intent to put López Obrador in Los Pinos, the presidential palace. So far, that has not happened; but we're still concerned about López Obrador's mob, which he controls from his tent-city in Zocalo Plaza:

Neither candidate was at the session. López Obrador ate breakfast with lawmakers from his Democratic Revolution Party, then arrived at his protest tent in Mexico City's Zocalo plaza where he has been sleeping for nearly two months....

The convention is planned for Sept. 16, Mexico's Independence Day in the Zocalo, where the armed forces traditionally gather for a march down Mexico City's main Reforma avenue. Both places have been occupied by protesters for more than a month.

The clock is ticking. López Obrador must realize that the longer President-elect Felipe Calderón, soon to be President Felipe Calderón, continues to function as he was elected to do, the more people will lose interest in López Obrador, eventually forgetting about him altogether. If he is going to move, he must move swiftly.

So we'll keep a patient, unsympathetic, lidless, lizardly eye upon events down south; it would be terrible if our next-door neighbor had to fight a civil war.

But better by far a war, than to allow a leftist revolutionary, close friends with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez (who himself is buddies with al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Iran), to simply seize power in Mexico without a shot, because the Mexicans were too indecisive to defend their democracy. So if López Obrador looks ready to move -- please, President Calderón, move first.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 5, 2006, at the time of 4:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Schwarzenegger Will Veto California HillaryCare

Hatched by Dafydd

According to famed Bee-blogger Daniel Weintraub, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto the ghastly socialized-medicine bill enacted by the sinister California legislature.

Thank goodness. There is no way the legislature can override the veto, and I doubt they'll even try -- as that would give the Republicans running for the Assembly and state Senate another good campaign issue.

As the dumb-looking guy in a fedora says (and I don't mean Roger L. Simon!), "developing...."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 5, 2006, at the time of 3:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 4, 2006

Debunking the Rebunking of the Debunking

Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE Sep. 6th, 2006: Just found out (by reading Power Line) that Zombie is a female... so I changed all the "Mr. Zombies" to "Ms. Zombies."

All right, let's see if we can follow the machinations of the Lebanese ambulance attack hoax of 2006...

Bunkum --

On July 23rd, during the late war between Israel and Hezbollah, the latter claimed that the perfidious Jews deliberately shot missiles at two ambulances toting the wounded in Qana, Lebanon -- presumably out of sheer ornery cussedness. You know what Jews are like: when they're not poisoning wells and eating Christian babies at Passover, they can generally be found shooting at hospitals, orphanges, and ambulances.

To prove Hezbollah's claim, they sent a shaky, amateur video of two ambulances to the U.K.'s ITV the next day, the 24th. One had a neat, round hole in the top -- exactly where the crosshairs of the red cross met. This was touted as proof that the attacks were "deliberate;" after all, you couldn't expect such a precise shot by sheer accident, could you?

Of course, this begs the point that you couldn't expect such a precise shot at night from a moving platform, even if the Israelis were deliberately aiming at the red cross, either. But what the hey.

The second ambulance shows some damage in the rear: some of the metal appears to be peeled back a bit.

Here's an International Red Cross press release:

The latest of these incidents occurred on 23 July, at 11.15 pm in Cana, a village in southern Lebanon. According to Lebanese Red Cross reports, two of its ambulances were struck by munitions, although both vehicles were clearly marked by the red cross emblem and flashing lights that were visible at a great distance. The incident happened while first-aid workers were transferring wounded patients from one ambulance to another. As a result, nine people including six Red Cross volunteers were wounded.

Showing their usual flair for independent reporting and expert analysis, AP swiftly followed with a story that was essentially a dramatic rewrite of the press release:

The rocket attack on the two vehicles wounded six ambulance workers and three civilians - an 11-year-old boy, an elderly woman and a man, Deebe said.

"One of the rockets hit right in the middle of the big red cross that was painted on top of the ambulance," he said. "This is a clear violation of humanitarian law, of international law. We are neutral and we should not be targeted."

Kassem Shalan, one of the ambulance workers, told AP Television News that nine people were injured. "We were transferring the wounded into our vehicle and something fell and I dropped to the floor," he said.

Amateur video provided by an ambulance worker confirmed Deebe's account of damage to the vehicles, showing one large hole and several smaller ones in the roof of one ambulance and a large hole in the roof of the second. Both were destroyed.

The only original line of reporting here was the last one, saying that both vehicles "were destroyed." Which was a flat lie, of course, since both vehicles still exist today -- completely intact, exterior and interior. Either an AP reporter saw the extant ambulances and decided to enhance the story by pretending they were obliterated (in which case he's a liar)... or else some AP editor let someone make a fool of him.

An Australian newspaper, the Age of Melbourne (I believe), was the first to report that the ambulance attack was on purpose:

Then the roar and smash of the missiles shattered the night. Both ambulances were hit, directly and systematically, by Israeli bombs, the medics said.

Remember this newspaper; this will be on the test.

DeBunkum --

Enter a blog called Zombietime. Ms. Zombie was the first that I saw who raised serious objections to the "evidence" in a systematic and convincing way. He noted several points:

  1. The hole in the roof of ambulance 782 was clearly not made by a missile... not unless we live in a Tex Avery cartoon, where missiles make perfectly circular holes, surrounded by screwholes -- and in the exact spot that such ambulances ordinarily have circular vent covers.



    Ambulance 782 Roof Hole

    Circular hole in ambulance 782
    is most likely from a vent cover


    Zombietime:

    In fact, the hole looks unmistakably like a pre-existing circular hole in the roof, to which some feature -- such as a light or a vent cover -- was attached, and then removed....

    Lo and behold, when we look at other pictures of undamaged Lebanese Red Cross ambulances, we see that many of them just happen to have a ventilation cover of the exact same diameter as the "missile" hole right in the center of the cross on the roof. [Emphasis in original]

  2. The holes in the roof of ambulance 782 are heavily rusted... which means they could not possibly have been made on July 23rd, since pictures of the roof (with the rusted holes) appeared as early as August 1st.

    Feeble attempts were made to claim that it was "flash rust" that completely rusted metal in a desert in a few days, but metallurgy experts scoffed at the claim.

  3. The damage on display in the photographs of both ambulances is completely inconsistent with a missile attack.
  4. There is no sign of a fire inside either ambulance.
  5. The supposedly "wounded" ambulance driver, shown in hospital with huge bandages on his chin and right ear, turned up in photographs a few days later with no injuries at all.

In other words, Zombietime (relying upon posts by Reihl World View and Infinitives Unsplit) completely demolished the claim that Israeli missiles struck either ambulance on July 23rd in Qana.

ReBunkum --

Now the Age has come out of its corner swinging (remember I warned you they would pop up in this story again?) They've raised the bet and gone all-in, still gamely insisting that those wicked Jews attack ambulances for the sheer joy of it, once a day and twice on Saturday Sabbath. (Hat tip Riehl World View, via Power Line.) In a story attributed to one "Sarah Smiles," they write:

The attack on two ambulances ferrying mildly injured people from the village of Tibnin to Tyre was widely reported by international media, including The Age.

But [Australian] Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has condemned press coverage of the incident, suggesting it was a hoax. He appears to have drawn his conclusions from right-wing US website zombietime.com that debunks all reporting on the incident using available press photos and television footage as "evidence".

Oh. "Right wing" is evidently Gregg shorthand for "no need to offer counter-evidence to Zombietime's points when an all-purpose sneer will serve nicely." (And note the scare-quotes surrounding the word evidence.) Here is how Ms. Smiles responds to some of Ms. Zombie's strongest evidence:

While some reporters wrote that an Israeli missile ripped a hole in the roof of one ambulance that was directly hit, the zombietime.com site argues a missile would have caused much wider damage. It argues the hole appears to be where there was an existing circular vent, with rust on some of the exposed metal showing that damage to vehicle happened before the reported time of the attack.

However, Red Cross volunteers manning the ambulances and Mr Fawaz insist the hit was caused by small weapons fired from unmanned drones that they heard circling above after the attack.

Well, if you insist! Who can argue with that?

The Age visited the yard where the bombed out ambulances are now parked.

One presumes those would be the two ambulances that "were destroyed," according to AP. Actually, one must presume... because despite sending a reporter to view these ambulances, the Age did not post a single photograph -- pictures that would allow us to see whether they're even the same two vehicles as the shaky, amateurish video footage shot immediately after the supposed incident and broadcast on ITV... let alone whether, even if they are the same ambulances, they're in the same condition now that they were on July 23rd.

In other words, Smiles has failed at the most basic task of any investigator: establishing a "chain of custody" of the evidence. How difficult would it have been to fire an RPG or anti-tank weapon at the stern of the Potempkin ambulance, to be subsequently observed and duly noted by the strangely incurious reporter for the Age?

When Ahmed Fawaz's leg was supposedly blown off by the Israeli missile, why no blood? Ah, the Age can explain that: evidently, the same missile that severed Fawaz's leg also cauterized it! (And how exactly did it do that? By the extreme heat of the explosion? Then why is nothing burnt inside either ambulance?)

Mr. Downer -- remember him? -- says the Israeli-airstrike-on-a-pair-of-ambulances story is a hoax. But it's not a hoax, says the Age, because Fawaz has only one leg.

Yeesh. It's beyond Sarah Smiles' limited visualization abilities to imagine that perhaps, just perhaps, Ahmed Fawaz might have lost his leg by some other means... since we have only his word, and that of the Lebanese drivers, that he was ever in that ambulance in the first place.

Everything in the Age story is "eyewitness" testimony by witnesses Ms. Smiles never bothers to qualify: she makes no attempt, other than asking the witnesses themselves, to verify whether any of them was even present; and if present, in a position to see; and if in a position to see, whether any had an interest in promoting the story that Israel was shooting at ambulances. She never even checked -- or doesn't tell us if she did -- whether any of the "witnesses" is a member of Hezbollah.

The ineptness of the Age's response -- amounting, more or less, to "it did so happen!" -- beggars the imagination. But this particular bit of testimony is priceless:

When [Fawaz] came to after the blast, he remembers reaching for his glasses that were knocked to the back of his head, adjusting them and then feeling a sense of malaise.

So this Hellfire or Viper Strike missile, with 20 lbs of high-explosives, blows Fawaz's leg off... but it doesn't even break his eyeglasses, merely knocking them askew! Yep; that's Tex Avery, all right. All we need is for Fawaz's eyes to telescope out when he sees his leg missing, and his jaw to literally drop all the way down to the floor and bounce.

In Riehl World View's post discussing the newest counteroffensive by the antique media, Dan Riehl incongruously seems taken in, to some extent, by the zeal of the Age:

Images of both ambulances do exist and I've edited a section of video, playing it back below at half speed to show the two ambulances together. In all honesty, I had set out to debunk claims by The Age that the photos we've been looking at were the wrong ones; however, careful analysis appears to depict what looks like a hit from something on a second ambulance and the location of it does line up with other basic elements of the story.

However, Riehl should realize that "a hit from something" is not the same as a missile strike by an Israeli warplane -- or even a drone, which carries a smaller missile: our Predator UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) come equipped with two Hellfire missiles; the same missile is also used on our Cobra, Apache, Commanche, Blackhawk, and Kiowa attack helos.

And the damage depicted in the video that Riehl finds so persuasive is simply nothing like what you would expect from a missile impact... even from a missile with a dummy warhead (as some apologists have suggested). Inside both ambulances, I see undamaged seats and gurneys, intact plastic or thin-metal cans, and door seals hanging loosely instead of being shredded. I see windows more or less intact... and both ambulances shown in the video still have operable rear doors -- both doors are open, held up by their own door piston supports.

Even a small Hellfire missile flies at 950 miles per hour (425 meters per second); with a mass of 46kg, that gives it a kinetic energy of 4.2 million joules; by contrast, even a .50 calliber BMG round fired from an M82 sniper rifle produces only between 13558 and 17625 joules -- less than 1/235th of the energy of the Hellfire. And the Hellfire has a larger cross-section, flying at a similar velocity... so it probably imparts more of its energy to the target than the .50 BMG would. And this is still not considering the warhead.

You would see a gigantic hole in the back, through everything in between, and an even bigger exit hole out the front, probably knocking the entire engine block out through the grillwork. Either that, or else the missile would have remained in the ambulance, absolutely wrecking it but leaving its own deformed body for the drivers to display (assuming they survived by some miracle).

And of course, if you add a 9kg warhead -- all "witnesses" describe explosions -- there would simply be nothing left but a twisted frame and some fire-scorched shards of metal.

Certainly, nobody inside either ambulance would have walked away unscathed from an impact that would be the equivalent of driving the ambulance into a brick wall at over a hundred miles per hour; with a warhead, nobody would even survive.

I'm sorry to contradict Dan Riehl, who seems to have been one of the first people to analyze this claim, but neither of the two ambulances depicted in the original video, which he has posted on his site slowed down for easier viewing, could possibly have been hit even by a smaller Hellfire missile -- let alone a big, huge AGM-65 Maverick, the standard missile found on an F-16 Fighting Falcon or F-15 Strike Eagle (the mainstays of the Israeli Air Force). A Maverick masses more than five times a Hellfire and flies at 2.7 times the velocity, giving it 36 times as much kinetic energy... plus a warhead containing from 6 to 15 times as much explosive power as a Hellfire.

If an ambulance were hit by a Maverick, I doubt anything would be left but a charred impact crater.

Re-DeBunkum --

Three conclusions are immediately clear, despite the Australian newspaper the Age's attempt to resuscitate the story:

  • No matter how you slice it, neither ambulance depicted in the video (shot the day after the supposed incident) could possibly have been hit by a missile and still be as intact as it is.
  • We have no idea whether the Age reporter, Sarah Smiles, was shown the actual vehicles involved, and neither does she. And there is no chain of custody of the ambulances: we have no idea what was done to them afterward, and the Age gives us no photographs to compare to earlier pictures.
  • None of the news reports has even bothered trying to "qualify" the supposed eyewitnesses, meaning their testimony is worthless. How about if an American soldier in Iraq is picked at random, and he testifies that he absolutely saw those ambulances not get hit by any missiles on that day? For all the Age can tell, our random testifier has no less of a chance of being a valid witness than those they actually interviewed!

This puts paid to the claim that the Israelis shot any ambulance at all on July 23rd: if there had actually been such an incident, Hezbollah and the International Red Cross would not have had to stage a fake one. They would have an actual destroyed ambulance to display.

Israel has not "admitted" the charge, contrary to early reports. And it seems most unlikely that they ever will, simply because all of the available evidence indicates it never happened.

The Lebanese ambulance attack hoax of 2006 joins the Jenin "massacre" as Great Fictional Israeli War Crimes of the Twenty-First Century; both stand as stark reminders that many Moslems see nothing at all immoral about lying, so long as the "lie" advances the world caliphate (just as Communists saw lies in the furtherance of world Socialism simply as "higher-level" truth).

Journalists know this; Anderson Cooper himself remarked upon Arabs staging "ambulance runs" for the camera, with journalists eagerly cooperating to get exciting "action" shots that they knew were as fake as a three-dollar bill. But the fakery goes beyond a desire for a cool shot; a close working relationship has developed between terrorists eager to spread their propaganda and reporters desperate to destroy Republicans and George W. Bush in particular.

The latter receive and pass along the propaganda with no trace of skepticism: if Hassan Nasrallah were to announce tomorrow morning that IDF soldiers had been seen poisoning Lebanese wells, the elite media would all report it in their afternoon editions.

Thus doth jihadism and leftism conspire to thwart "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind." I do not question the media's patriotism; I nakedly observe that they have none.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 4, 2006, at the time of 5:25 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 3, 2006

One of My Favorite People Has Just Died

Hatched by Dafydd

Word just hit the airwaves that Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, has just died (around 11:00 am Australian Eastern Standard Time, 6:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time). He was killed by a venomous stingray barb to his chest, suffered while on a dive in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland.



Steve and reptilian friend    Steve and Terri

Steve and reptilian friend (l); Steve and Terri

The stingray venom is bad but not usually fatal -- unless it's to the chest. Alas, that is exactly what happened. It's sadly ironic that on one episode of his show, the Crocodile Hunter, he noted that in his entire career handling dangerous and venomous reptiles and other creatures, he had "never once been envenomated."

His career began when he was a child; his father, Bob Irwin, ran the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. Steve's first real job was removing crocs and other dangerous reptiles from populated areas and bringing them to his father's zoo. When he was an adult, he continued to perform the same function... but he would release them to the wild instead.

He met his future wife Terri when she visited the zoo -- now renamed the Australia Zoo -- in 1992. They married and began producing the show Crocodile Hunter together. They had two children, a daughter, Bindi Sue, and a son, Bob Clarence.

He was only 44 when he died... a year younger than I. I never met the man; but his shows were so personal, I felt as if I knew him. I always hoped that one day, when I finally got to Australia, I could interview him.

Although he never wanted to talk about politics, in fact Steve Irwin was a politically active conservative. He was a very strong supporter of Prime Minister John Howard and his oddly named but conservative Liberal Party of Australia. Irwin always referred to himself as a "conservationist," never an "environmentalist."

I feel very sad for Terri, Bob, Bindi Sue, and the staff of the Australia Zoo -- who were more like family than employees, we found out on a companion TV show called the Crocodile Hunter Diaries, a reality show which showed the day-to-day operation of the zoo. But Steve Irwin died doing what he loved best: filming a wildlife documentary in his beloved Queensland, Australia.

Requiescat In Pace, Steve Irwin, the real Crocodile Hunter.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 3, 2006, at the time of 11:48 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Paul Mirengoff Clarifies and Extends His Remarks

Hatched by Dafydd

Paul over at Power Line has very kindly responded to our earlier post, which accused him of a minor lapse of logic, by clarifying what he actually meant:

Perhaps my lapse (if any) was less in my logic than in the clarity of my writing. I did not mean to suggest that Olmert could not have bungled even if Hezbollah got much the worse of things, but rather that he may not have bungled under that scenario....

In essence, I'm saying that if Hezbollah didn't suffer a defeat, then Olmert clearly bungled, and bungled monumentally. If Hezbollah suffered a defeat to the point that it will not attack Israel again, then the issue with respect to Olmert becomes more complicated, such that one at least "can defend" the approach he took.

I so much appreciate it when a thinker clarifies his remarks, because (like Dennis Prager) I'm much more interested in clarity than agreement. Though in this case, in the clearer version of Paul's argument, I think it's not only logical and accurate but a thought-provoking point: is it possible that Olmert realized that even the seemingly half-hearted version of a war that he conducted was enough to thrash Hezbollah? That he didn't need to do any more, so why risk more Israeli lives?

I don't really think so, because I don't think Olmert is that bright. Intelligent people like Paul Mirengoff sometimes tend to implicitly assume others are as smart as they, attributing deeper thinking to a political gefilte fish like Olmert than Olmert is capable of achieving -- the polar opposite of what Democrats to do George W. Bush.

(In my own case, I'm saved from this sin by regarding most mere mortals with the amused contempt that is a natural byproduct of me having an ego the size of the Greater Magellanic Cloud.)

Paul is unquestionably correct that it could be true, and also that it deserves consideration; I like this version much better than what I mistakenly read into the earlier. But upon reflection, the degree of perspicacity such a balancing act would require of Ehud Olmert is prohibitively high, I think.

I did not, by the way, say that Israel could have "obliterated" Hezbollah, and I don't believe they could have; I said this:

What it really means is that Hezbollah was stronger than we thought but weaker than we feared. It certainly doesn't meant that, with more effort and brainpower on Israel's part, Hezbollah couldn't have been wiped out. In fact, recognition, however delayed, of Hezbollah's true weakness should fuel the idea that, if Israel had just tried a little harder, it could have obliterated that awful terrorist group.

That is, seeing Hezbollah's weakness makes it somewhat more likely in my mind that they could have been wiped out, root and branch; but that's up from a very low percentage to a moderately low percentage.

I think it probable that, with somewhat more effort, Hezbollah could have been driven out of Lebanon and back up into Syria -- which would have been a Godsend to Israel, a far better result than what Olmert at least appears to have achieved.

And one I still think will happen; I'm a "Round Two"-er: I believe the dynamics are such that another go between Israel and Hezbollah is almost inevitable. Note that Olmert still (rightly) refuses to withdraw the IDF, refuses to lift the blockade, refuses to act as if it never happened. He realizes that if he were to acquiesce to allowing Hezbollah to stay in south Lebanon with its weaponry, and to be rearmed by Iran and Syria, he may as well sign the withdrawal orders -- and then resign as prime minister, getting out before folks can find a rail, a goose, and some tar.

So yes, it's an intriguing suggestion -- Ehud Olmert as Cesare Borgia. And I must confess the suggestion must be confronted and seriously considered. But doing so, I think the evidence indicates he was just being feckless -- and that Hezbollah was just weaker than we were afraid it might be.

It's like finding out that David was really aiming at Goliath's gonads, but he missed... and just happened to hit Goliath's head, his Achilles heel. Turns out David was just a lucky putz -- but Goliath is still room temperature.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 3, 2006, at the time of 3:45 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 2, 2006

The Slow Motion Collapse Has Begun

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Everyone on all sides in Israel now agrees that if new elections are held anytime soon -- as opposed to 2010, the next scheduled date -- Ehud Olmert and his Kadima party will lose big, along with their coalition partner Labor; the big winners will be Likud and other conservative parties. Thus, Olmert will do anything to delay new elections.

Alas for him, new elections can be triggered anytime the Knesset reports a vote of "no confidence" in the current government. As we all learned from Captain Ed's reporting on the equally slow-motion collapse of Canada's Liberal Party and its erstwhile leader, Paul Martin, there are several kinds of bills whose rejection would be considered a vote of no confidence, including the budget. I assume (without really knowing) that the same is true for Israel's Knesset: which means that Olmert must avoid any and all bills that could be considered votes on confidence in the government.

Which means that he can only stay in power if nothing at all happens, nothing important is proposed, and Israel simply drifts along like a log floating in a stream. Which would be fine... except that there are excited Arabs shooting at the log.

In particular, Olmert must avoid at all costs any independent inquiry into Israel's conduct during the recent Lebanon war... lest a serious condemnation lead to the very kind of vote he's desperate to avoid.

That means he can only allow an inquiry into his conduct that he, himself controls -- an utterly corrupt kangaroo court that will rubberstamp any conclusion that comes from Ehud Olmert's office. He has steadfastly refused to allow any independent inquiry for solid political reasons (though it seriously undercuts Israel itself not to let everyone know what went wrong).

Enter Amir Peretz, the minister of defense.

Peretz is the head of Labor; and as Kadima's partner in the current government, Peretz is in the same leaky rowboat with Olmert. However, Peretz has rival Labor leaders nipping at his heels... and were he to be replaced as head of Labor, which would take only an internal vote, he would become the forgotten man of Israel.

Those rivals, as well as the Labor chisel and file, are demanding an independent investigation... probably (I cynically aver) more to embarass and diminish Peretz than because they really want to know what actually happened. But the amazing result is that now, Peretz himself has joined the chorus demanding an independent inquiry:

Bowing to rebels in his own Labor Party, Defense Minister Amir Peretz of Israel called today for a full independent inquiry into the recent war in Lebanon, changing his previous position and putting him publicly at odds with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Olmert has so far prevented any independent inquiry; but the excuses are wearing thin, as more and more Israelis demand an investigation that is not controlled by the very person being investigated. Peretz is in a far weaker position, as the junior partner of a minority government... and he was unable to get away with the Olmert option:

Mr. Peretz, elected head of the Labor Party not long before the March 28 elections, was considered an unlikely defense minister, and his own performance during the war has been widely criticized, with many calling for his resignation. He himself appointed a panel, headed by an aide and former general, to look into the military’s performance, and was widely criticized again for trying to control the inquiry.

Mr. Peretz then halted the work of his own commission and appeared to back Mr. Olmert. With 19 seats in the 120-seat Parliament, Labor is a junior partner in the government with Kadima, which as 29 seats. But senior members of Labor, some of whom opposed Mr. Peretz, a former trade-union leader, have seen a chance to tame him or even pull him down. They have pressed him to support a full state inquiry, which he has now done.

The political dynamics of this are fascinatingly complex:

  • If there is an independent inquiry, it will likely find that both Olmert and Peretz behaved incompetently and insouciantly; this would probably crack the government wide open, forcing new elections that both Kadima and Labor would lose;
  • But if Peretz opposes an independent commission to investigate the war, he will be branded cowardly and corrupt (charges of corruption are endemic in Israel and often successful -- because too often accurate); he would likely lose his position as head of Labor even if the Olmert government managed to hang on;
  • So the only hope for Peretz is to call for an independent inquiry, but hope to hell that Olmert is able to stop it; that way, Peretz can shrug his shoulders and say, "Oh well, I tried;"
  • But this depends upon Olmert being able to hold the line against an independent commission... which is made vastly harder by his own defense minister calling for exactly the sort of inquiry that Olmert is blocking;
  • So in essence, Peretz must pray that he is so weak and powerless that Olmert is easily able to overcome Peretz's apostasy; but if this is true, then that makes it ever so much easier for Peretz's political rivals within Labor to oust him -- as a weak, ineffectual leader who cannot even persuade his own coalition partner to launch an independent investigation of their conduct during the war!

Thus, every way Amir Peretz turns, he's up to his yarmulke in alligators. But that's not his only problem; Olmert, unwilling to be Peretz's whipping boy, is fighting back:

Mr. Olmert, needless to say, was reported by Israeli media to be less than happy with Mr. Peretz’s latest change of position. Olmert aides, without being named, were quoted as saying that Mr. Peretz had caved in to political pressure and was again showing his inexperience.

Olmert is also trying to woo Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu ("Our Home Israel") party. Yisrael Beiteinu got 11 seats in the Knesset in the March 2006 elections... so the threat is obvious to Labor (which got 19 seats): if Yisrael Beiteinu were to join the coalition, and if a smaller party were also to join (such as the ultra-orthodox Torah Judaism Party, 6 seats, or Meretz, 5 seats, or Balad or Hadash, 3 seats each -- it's not hard to construct a 61+ seat majority without the Labor Party.

Kadima's current coalition comprises:

Kadima coalition
Political Party Seats in Knesset
Kadima 29
Labor 19
Shas 12
Pensioners 7
Total seats 67
(61 is a majority)

But the other parties that got seats in the Knesset, and who theoretically could replace Labor, are:

Alternative partners to Labor
Political Party Seats in Knesset
Likud 12
Yisrael Beytenu 11
National Union
National Religious Party
9
United Torah Judaism 6
Meretz-Yachad 5
United Arab List 4
Hadash 3
Balad 3
Total seats 53
(13+ needed to replace Labor)

However, once the shaky Kadima coalition breaks apart, there is no guarantee that Olmert will be able to hold them together long enough to put a new coalition in place; parties might decide to wait for new elections, thinking that with Kadima and Labor diminished, some of the smaller parties might pick up seats and become more important. Thus, Olmert's implicit theat to dump Labor and replace it with some more complicated coalition of other parties is, while not exactly empty, at least problematical.

So any way you slice the kosher bologna, there are interesting times ahead for Israel. But Big Lizards sticks by its prediction that the Olmert government cannot stand long: as Lincoln (Abraham, not Chafee) said, "you can't fool all the people all the time." Or even a majority of them.

Olmert's government will fall because it has proven to be dangerously incompetent in warfare... and war is the natural state of the state of Israel.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 2, 2006, at the time of 4:39 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 1, 2006

Mexico Headed for Civil War?

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(And if they are -- think of the refugees!)

This AP story builds upon the increasingly violent antics and agitation of losing leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the "Democratic" Revolution Party (not enough Democratic, too much Revolution). Evidently, he has completely rejected the very concept of democracy: Leftists always love democracy... when they win. When they lose, it's a bourgeois running-dog imperialist plot against the people:

Vicente Fox was forced to forego the last state-of-the-nation address of his presidency Friday after leftist lawmakers stormed the stage of Congress to protest disputed July 2 elections.

It was the first time in modern Mexican history a president hasn't given the annual address to Congress....

"Whoever attacks our laws and institutions also attacks our history and Mexico," he said [in a written version of the speech that was blocked], a thinly veiled reference to leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The opposition lawmakers took over the stage in Congress, waving Mexican flags and holding placards calling Fox a traitor to democracy. They ignored demands that they return to their seats, shouting "Vote by Vote" - a rallying cry for López Obrador's bid for a full recount in the election.

Hm... does "vote by vote" sound anything like "count every vote?" I wonder if the Obradorians are as hypocritical, cynical, and mendacious about their slogan as the Gore campaign was about its. (Probably so.)

We've blogged on this curious contest several times before; for those interested in spelunking, here are the earlier posts:

  1. Teleblogging 2: I Think Calderón Has Won...
  2. "Democratic" López Obrador Threatens Revolution If He Loses
  3. The More I Hear From the Obradorians...
  4. Felipe Calderón Wins

I reckon number 2 was the most prescient of the lot:

The standoff came six days before the top electoral court must declare a president-elect or annul the July 2 vote and order a new election. So far, rulings have favored ruling party candidate Felipe Calderón, who was ahead by about 240,000 votes in the official count.

López Obrador has already said he won't recognize the electoral court's decision, and he plans to create a parallel government and rule from the streets.

So we have a close presidential election -- Calderón won by about 244,000 votes out of 41 million, or 0.6% -- and the leftist sore loser won't concede, instead calling out his supporters to riot in the streets. Again, the name is unfamiliar, but you should at least recognize the odor.

Only López Obrador goes even farther than simply trying to sue his way into the presidency, as Gore did; López Obrador has more guts: he clearly plans the violent overthrow of the Mexican government (perhaps with help from his close friend, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías in Venezuela), then to install himself as the new "people's president," assuming Al Sharpton is finished with the title. More than likely, People's President for Life -- just like Chávez.

If he's serious, if he doesn't plan to back down, then there will be civil war in Mexico, something we haven't seen since the days of Santa Anna and the Pastry War of 1828 and 1838-9. But it looks grim down there:

Protesters occupying Mexico City's center said they were ready to do whatever it takes to support Lopez Obrador. Fernando Calles, a 26-year-old university professor, said he was ready to fight for the former Mexico City mayor "until the death, until the final consequences."

"We lived 500 years of repression, and now we represent the new face of Mexico," he said.

The tight election left the nation deeply divided, with Lopez Obrador - who portrayed himself as a champion of the poor - alleging that fraud accounted for an official count showing him 0.6 percent behind Calderon.

Rival Reuters has a few more facts:

López Obrador's supporters have paralyzed central Mexico City with protest camps and he has vowed to make Mexico ungovernable if Calderón's victory is confirmed....

López Obrador railed on Friday against what he says are Mexico's corrupt institutions, such as the courts.

"To hell with their institutions," he told a rally of supporters in Mexico City's central Zocalo square. But he called on them not to march to the Congress building, where violent clashes had been feared.

To me, this truly reads like a gang banger hyping himself up to start shooting; you know, when they start running the dozens with the rival bangers in the parking lot, getting more insulting and vitriolic with every exchange... until someone busts a cap.

It's hard to believe López Obrador can raise his mob of tens of thousands to a fever pitch... and then just walk away without a war.

This affects America hugely: if Mexico degenerates into a civil war, the first thing that will happen is hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of hysterical Mexicans will pour across our border, where we have no hope of stopping them at the moment... particularly since they will claim "refugee" status -- and not without a good case.

But the next problem is that the Bush administration and Congress will have a very difficult decision to make: do we just stand idly by and watch a Communist dictatorship take over our southern neighbor and ally? Or do we take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them -- maybe.

If you think we have a threatening "southern exposure" now, with a relative conservative like Vicente Fox (former high executive at Coca-Cola) as president, just imagine how bad it would be with Communist-leaning Andrés Manuel López Obrador... especially having seized power by force of arms.

Recall that López Obrador is extremely close to Venezuelan People's President for Life Hugo Chávez -- who has a tight working relationship with Iran, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. A Mexico run by López Obrador is a continuously open invitation for Moslem terrorists to flood into our country... probably hiding amongst the mass wave of legitimate refugees fleeing the forced-labor camps that López Obrador will start building.

But on the other hand, do we really want to intervene in Mexico yet again? I would rather we did, if the alternative is to allow López Obrador to seize control by civil war or coup d'état. But it might be a hard sell to Congress right about now, just before the elections.

On the third hand (yeesh, Kerryitis strikes again!) it would be another perfect opportunity for Democrats to prove themselves childish and feckless about national security, perhaps also waking people up to the dangers all around us -- and especially the danger of an unsecured border, with a goon like López Obrador lurking in the shadows.

Remember... every challenge is an opportunity! Unfortunately, it's as much an opportunity for failure as success. We must choose, and we may have to choose quickly.

I sure hope somebody in la Casa Blanca is on top of this.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 1, 2006, at the time of 10:07 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

That (Not So) Gloomy Pentagon Report

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Or, Sen. Harry Reid Demands America Declare Defeat and Go Home

The wires and the antique media are abuzz with the report they've been salivating for; here are their headlines:

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%), reacted with his usual brand of triumphal defeatism:

In response to the Pentagon's report Friday, the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, said it showed the Bush administration is "increasingly disconnected from the facts on the ground in Iraq."

"It is time for a new direction to end the war in Iraq, win the war on terror, and give the American people the real security they deserve," Reid said.

The report covers the period from Nouri al-Maliki becoming prime minister (late May) to August 11th; but that means it misses the period of declining Iraqi violence that we discussed in Disconnections, It's Time For Maliki to Sadr Off, and more generally in "The Last Men Standing".

Here is AP on the new report, just to give you a flavor of the excited coverage:

Sectarian violence is spreading in Iraq and the security problems have become more complex than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2003, a Pentagon report said Friday.

In a notably gloomy report to Congress, the Pentagon reported that illegal militias have become more entrenched, especially in Baghdad neighborhoods where they are seen as providers of both security and basic social services.

The report described a rising tide of sectarian violence, fed in part by interference from neighboring Iran and Syria and driven by a "vocal minority" of religious extremists who oppose the idea of a democratic Iraq.

Death squads targeting mainly Iraqi civilians are a growing problem, heightening the risk of civil war, the report said.

Well, you get the idea. Naturally, not a single one of these sources links to the report itself; I still haven't found such a link, and I'd be grateful to any Lizardite who can supply one in the comments section.

But if we don't have the report, we do have a story about the report on the Pentagon's main web page. In it, we find that the report contains several positive points undiscussed by the elite media:

  • The Iraqi government is "getting on its feet," having filled the entire cabinet during this period. The government also has a lot of support from rank and file Iraqis and is doing a good job assuming command and control of the New Iraqi Army and other Iraqi security forces (the National Police, under the control of the Interior Ministry, and local police under the control of provincial governors).
  • "The Iraqi economy is moving along. Estimates put gross domestic product growth in the country at about 4 percent for the year."
  • Oil exports are up, electricity is flowing, water is potable, sewage facilities are operational, and the rest of the country's infrastructure is rapidly recovering... not only from the war but from decades of decay during Saddam Hussein's repellant dictatorship.

The only major problem is security -- though of course that is a huge element of the equation. However, even there, the Iraqis themselves are responding, as the Pentagon story makes clear:

Violence is up, with most of the incidents being Iraqi-on-Iraqi attacks in and around Baghdad. Most of the attacks are in only four of the 18 provinces, the report notes. Fourteen provinces remain fairly peaceful and in one – Muthanna in the south –no coalition forces are operating.

Sullivan said training and equipping of Iraqi forces continues on track. Iraqi security forces are at about 278,000 trained and equipped in the Iraqi Army, National Police and local police. This is an increase of about 14,000 since the May report, he said. [Rear Adm. Bill Sullivan is the Joint Staff’s vice director for strategic plans and policy.]

What’s more, Iraqi forces are assuming the lead in their areas. This allows coalition forces to take a more supporting role. “There are currently five Iraqi divisions, 25 brigades and 85 battalions that are in the lead in their areas,” Sullivan said. “This is a 32 percent increase since the last report.”

Coalition trainers in Iraq are now focusing their attention on combat support, combat service support capabilities – medical, logistics, maintenance and so on. “That will allow the Iraqis to be more independent in their operations,” Sullivan said. “There is also a focus on improving the capabilities of the Ministry of Defense and the Interior Ministry which is required over the long [haul] for the Iraqis to assume full responsibility.”

And the plan is working; civilian casualties declined dramatically, starting just after the period of this report ended... another point the ever-so-fair elite media report only grudgingly, buried deep within the story. The Times:

The period of the study does not cover either a surge in bloody attacks during the past week nor a relatively low number of civilian casualties earlier in the month; a joint American-Iraqi security campaign in Baghdad is expected to contribute to a relatively low civilian death toll for all of August.

And AP:

Col. Thomas Vail, commander of a 101st Airborne brigade operating in the mostly Shiite areas of eastern Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday that an intensified effort to root out insurgents and quell sectarian violence in the capital is bearing fruit, leading to a decrease in sectarian murders in recent days.

And to be strictly fair ourselves, while Reuters doesn't mention this decline in violence in the article on the report, they do have a separate story out now that discusses the highly encouraging drop in violence the last few weeks -- even taking this week into account:

Iraq deaths down despite new carnage
Sep 1, 2006
by Alastair Macdonald

Violent deaths among civilians in Iraq may have fallen by a quarter last month, statistics indicated on Friday, despite a bloody week in Baghdad that ended with 70 dead in a series of explosions late on Thursday.

The partial data, provided by Iraq's Interior Ministry and based on figures from the Health Ministry, tend to confirm U.S. military confidence that a crackdown in the capital has slowed the bloodletting but also that dozens are still dying every day.

Yet the Times also illustrates an annoying tendency towards dissembling. Exhibit:

The assessment provides bad news on a variety of fronts.

It said that Al Qaeda [in Iraq] is active despite the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, because of the group’s “cellular structure,” that the Sunni insurgency is strong and that militias are undiminished.

The implication is that al-Qaeda in Iraq is just as strong as ever, despite us sending Musab Zarqawi on to meet Allah. But that isn't what the report says at all; in fact, it says precisely the opposite. From Reuters:

Conditions that could lead to a civil war exist in Iraq, the Pentagon said in a new report on Friday, as the "core conflict" has changed into one pitting Sunni Muslims against Shi'ites, with the Sunni Arab insurgency [al-Qaeda in Iraq] overshadowed.

But wait... wouldn't a general civil war be even worse than what Zarqawi was doing? Perhaps; but on the other hand, a civil war is primarily dangerous to Iraq, while Zarqawi -- having a wider vision of jihad via his close connection to Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri -- was more dangerous to the United States.

Since our purpose in invading Iraq was not to liberate Iraqis but rather to protect America, even a civil war in Iraq is preferable to a strong al-Qaeda presence there. But in any event, there is no indication that such a war has started; indeed, even Reuters admits the report makes that clear:

"Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq," the report stated, adding that concern about civil war has increased within the Iraqi civilian population.

"Nevertheless, the current violence is not a civil war, and movement toward a civil war can be prevented," added the report, which said the security environment was at its most complex state since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 that toppled President Saddam Hussein.

The Pentagon story underlines this critical point:

The fact that the national government is functioning is “one relevant data point” that shows Iraq is not engaged in a civil war, he said. ["He" is Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.]

So the real bottom line is that:

  • There was a big surge of sectarian violence in Baghdad --
  • Though it fell short of a civil war --
  • And was partially mitigated by a collapse in al-Qaeda in Iraq's terrorist war --
  • That started with the formation of the government...
  • But a major counteroffensive by Coalition and Iraqi forces in recent weeks has started to quell this violence --
  • Even taking into account several major massacres by Sunnis these last few days.

And brief though that summary is, it's deeper than anything you'll read in today's newspapers.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 1, 2006, at the time of 5:51 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Rare Logical Lapse From My Favorite Blog

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It's well known that Big Lizards strongly disagrees with Power Line about the effect and consequences of the recent Israeli-Lebanese war: Power Line believes it was an unalloyed, ringing victory for Hezbollah and an unparalleled catastrophe for Israel; while Big Lizards believes that it was a lose-lose scenario, where both sides lost -- but Hezbollah lost worse:

This is why I say that overall, neither Hezbollah nor Israel won this war; both lost. Hezbollah lost the actual ground war worse than Israel did; but Israel lost the PR war worse than did Hezbollah. Iran/Syria and the United States both had slight wins; and Europe showed itself to be, once again, feckless and unreliable....

I agree that Israel did not do anywhere near as well as it could have, had it a different government. But it's just plain irresponsible to don sackcloth, roll in ashes, and proclaim a total and complete victory by the forces of darkness. For heaven's sake, results were mixed on all sides.

Now, belatedly, along come some others who now, upon sober reflection, proclaim agreement with the Lizard: notably Charles "the Sauerkraut" Krauthammer and Col. Austin Bay.

The former notes that:

True, under the inept and indecisive leadership of Ehud Olmert, Israel did miss the opportunity to militarily destroy Hezbollah and make it a non-factor in Israel's security, Lebanon's politics and Iran's foreign policy. Nonetheless, Hezbollah was seriously hurt. It lost hundreds of its best fighters. A deeply entrenched infrastructure on Israel's border is in ruins. The great hero has had to go so deep into hiding that Nasrallah has been called "the underground mullah.''

Most importantly, Hezbollah's political gains within Lebanon during the war have proved illusory. As the dust settles, the Lebanese are furious at Hezbollah for provoking a war that brought them nothing but devastation -- and then crowing about victory amid the ruins.

Paul of Power Line finds some logical disconnect between these two sentiments. He believes that if the latter idea is true, that Hezbollah also suffered defeat, then this casts doubt on the idea that Olmert's leadership was "inept":

If Hezbollah has suffered a major defeat and if, as Krauthammer claims, Hezbollah will not attack Israel again, then one can defend Olmert's decision not to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of additional Israeli soldiers in order to accomplish more.

I'm puzzled; typically, Paul Mirengoff is the most logical of the three (John Hinderaker is the passionate Power Liner, especially when it comes to female beauty pageants; while Scott Johnson, with his emphasis on music, is the mystic). But of course, there is no conflict between the following two statements:

  • Ehud Olmert is an inept clod who mismanaged the war;
  • Nevertheless, Hassan Nasrallah still had his butt handed to him.

What it really means is that Hezbollah was stronger than we thought but weaker than we feared. It certainly doesn't meant that, with more effort and brainpower on Israel's part, Hezbollah couldn't have been wiped out. In fact, recognition, however delayed, of Hezbollah's true weakness should fuel the idea that, if Israel had just tried a little harder, it could have obliterated that awful terrorist group.

No illogicality at all, Paul; the two ideas go together like Michael Moore and a box of jelly donuts.

(By the way, just to sharpen Big Lizards' own nosehorn, here is what Austin Bay said on Strategy Page:

But the emerging "big picture" suggests the War of the Rockets physically punished and politically damaged Hezbollah, despite its media touts of victory.

On the other hand, Israel cannot claim a victory -- at least, not yet.

Heh; Col. Bay could have saved some time by simply reading our previous post!)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 1, 2006, at the time of 3:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Should We Withdraw From the Farce of the Geneva Conventions?

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Just a thought... I don't believe the United States has ever fought a war, incursion, conflict, police action, or any other military engagement against an enemy that actually obeyed the Geneva-Convention rules of warfare. Not one that I can think of, at least.

It's entirely possible that some enemy of ours was a signatory to them, but that's not the same thing, is it?

The first Geneva Convention was signed in 1864. The major revisions that turned them into the modern version of the Geneva Conventions we all know and love were signed in 1949; and in 1977 and 2005, the three major Protocols were enacted (not all of which we accepted anyway). During that time, we have fought a number of wars and military engagements:

  • The American Civil War
  • The Spanish-American War
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • The Korean War
  • The Vietnam War
  • Grenada
  • Haiti
  • Panama
  • Iraq
  • Somalia
  • Iraq
  • The Bosnia War
  • Iraq
  • The Kosovo War
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Iraq
  • The Afghanistan War
  • The Iraq War

Yet in every one of these conflicts, our enemies completely ignored the so-called "rules of war," routinely torturing and murdering American prisoners of war, striking at purely civilian targets, hiding their own military assets among civilian "human shields," and in general, behaving as barbarously (at least!) as did those enemies we and other nations fought before the Geneva Conventions.

Am I wrong? Have I missed some honorable enemy we fought during this period?

If I am correct... then haven't the conventions been a colossal failure from the year dot? Worse -- they serve as a club for the savage to bash the civilized: we follow such rules routinely anyway, but we're constantly being falsely accused by barbarians of violating them, each such accusation resulting in a massive orgy of breast beating, America bashing, and legal investigations that target soldiers simply trying to balance military necessity and the laws of civilized warfare as best they can.

A whole cottage industry of professional international suers and prosecutors has sprung up whose sole occupation seems to be leveling charges against the United States and Israel, while failing even to notice that their own "clients" -- typically Third-World countries with an envious grievance against us -- commit far worse atrocities every day, nakedly and openly, than they accuse us of doing.

Numerous "international courts" do nothing else but hear these charges and accuse the West of perfidy, while patting the hands of Communist and now Moslem butchers.

And all, it seems to me, because we're still signatories to this absurd idea: that a barbarous country like Iraq or Nazi Germany would be restrained from practicing its horrors because they signed a piece of paper.

Decent, civilized nations obey the Geneva Conventions; but they would even in their absence (or to the extent they don't, the paper wouldn't stop them). While the real culprits are no more restrained by the "law of war" than is a serial killer restrained by the fact that murdering and dismembering people is against the law in most states.

So I think maybe it's time for us to leave; I'm at least semi-serious about this.

The conventions are a farce. If we end up going to war with Great Britain or Luxembourg, we can always negotiate a quick side-agreement to abide by those or any other laws of civilized warfare. And if, as is more likely, we go to war with a country like Iran, then our compliance won't make any differenct to its behavior anyway.

Besides, it would be worth formally leaving the treaty, just to hear the squeals of outrage from the American Left... which has never failed to support a tyrannical, anti-American regime (including the Nazis!) merely because the regime fought wars with all the morals and reticence of the Tutsis and Hutus of Rwanda-Burundi.

End the Geneva Conventions now! We have nothing to lose but our legal chains.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 1, 2006, at the time of 2:02 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

The First Step of Recovery From BDS...

Hatched by Dafydd

...Is to admit you have a problem. And danged if the Washington Post hasn't done just exactly that and even begun to grope towards mental health.

The article, End of an Affair -- I can't find out exactly what section it's in, though it appears to be just a regular article, not an opinion piece -- takes note that the original leaker of Valerie Plame's not-so-covert name turns out to have been Richard Armitage, not Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, or Karl Rove.

[Commenter Dan Kauffman notes that it appears to be an editorial. That's fine; I only meant it wasn't an outside opinion piece by somebody other than the Washington Post!]

Mr. Armitage was one of the Bush administration officials who supported the invasion of Iraq only reluctantly. He was a political rival of the White House and Pentagon officials who championed the war and whom Mr. Wilson accused of twisting intelligence about Iraq and then plotting to destroy him.

Like his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Armitage is firmly in the anti-Bush camp of the State Department and would be more likely to leak to attack Bush over the Iraq war than do anything to further it.

So noting, the nation's premier political newspaper, which is notoriously left-leaning (though not as discreditably so as the New York Times, which has become a sick joke), now admits that the entire Joe-Wilson fantasy was just a fever dream:

It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame's identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue. The partisan clamor that followed the raising of that allegation by Mr. Wilson in the summer of 2003 led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, a costly and prolonged investigation, and the indictment of Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of perjury. All of that might have been avoided had Mr. Armitage's identity been known three years ago.

While noting that Cheney and Libby are "not blameless," the worst the WaPo can find to charge them with is essentially mopery with intent to gawk: they sought to discredit Wilson's lying claims.

But isn't that yet another staggering admission? This just keeps getting better and better:

Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials.... He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.

Including, of course, the Washington Post, though they fail to mention that part. But as a first step, this one has been magnificent.

Will it "take?" Will others in the elite media take their cue and admit that their own anti-Bush sickness, their Bush Derangement Syndrome, left them with a weakened idiocy-immune system and all too willing to believe any charge of evil leveled at the president and his White House?

Will the New York Times admit its own contagion? How about the TV networks, including cable weaklings CNN and MSNBC? Will Keith Olbermann go on a rant against Lyin' Joe Wilson and his nepotistic wife? Will some failed Democratic hack, who was forced to withdraw from a Senate race for being too nutty even for Howard Dean, ever refer to "Unterführer of Propaganda" Joseph Wilson?

Somehow I doubt it. But with this first crack in the dry ice of liberal confabulation, who knows? Maybe someday, in his dotage, Howard Dean will even admit that maybe he was wrong... for once.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 1, 2006, at the time of 1:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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