Date ►►► October 31, 2006
Kerrying Water for the Vision
Power Line already beat me to the punch on this one; but the line that struck me most in John Kerry's non-apology...
Oh, wait; for all those people who turn first to Big Lizards for all the day's news (poor fools) I'll give a brief recap.
Yesterday, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%) was fairly near me, though somehow I failed to get the word. He spoke to students at Pasadena City College, promoting his fellow loser, Democrat Phil Angelides, who is running for governor -- well, "walking" would be the apter word, or even the Briticism "standing" -- against incumbent California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
All right: backpedaling; that'll do it.
And here is part of what Kerry said:
You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.
Before we get to my favorite part, let's take a look at the original faux pas and how Kerry has feebly tried to defend it.
- First, a plea: I would really like to see the entire passage in which this line occurs; I always like to have full context, when a politician says something so outrageous.
- I can think of no plausible meaning of this than the obvious: Kerry is warning students that if they're too lazy and not smart enough, they'll end up in the military.
Now, perhaps this made sense back in the days when we had a draft, and we also had student deferments: back then, before I was old enough to be drafted, if you were too lazy to study or too dumb to pass your classes, you could lose your draft deferment and end up stuck in Vietnam.
But today, we have an all-volunteer army, a robust and vibrant economy, and the only people currently in the military are those who chose, for personal reasons, to enlist -- some combination of patriotism, family history of service, a belief in the rightness of the war against global jihad, or perhaps just the burning desire to kill jihadis.
- Kerry (through "a source close to" him) now claims that he wasn't really talking about the troops being "stuck in Iraq;" he meant the president; he just forgot a couple of words he meant to say.
No, really. This is rich:
A source close to Kerry tells NBC News that he was trying to make a "tough and honest joke" about Bush and that in the process he omitted two words which changed the intended meaning. Per the source, Kerry meant to say that he can't "overstress the importance of a great education" and that "if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy... You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq." Kerry mistakenly dropped the "getting us" from his initial remarks.
(Hat tip to Allahpundit, among thousands of others. Remember our motto!)
Of course, it's not really just two words; if you take out the two this source suggests Kerry meant to say, you end up with this: "you end up stuck in a war in Iraq."
But that's not what Kerry said; he said "you get stuck in Iraq." Let's reinsert the two "missing" words into what Kerry actually said and see how it comes out:
All right. If that's what he actually meant to say, then I think we have an even bigger problem with Kerry, and with the party that nominated him for the presidency. I mean, "misunderestimate" and "strategery" are one thing, but "you getting us get stuck in Iraq?"
- Earlier today, Kerry went on the offensive; he attributed the brouhaha to "despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.... who have never worn the uniform of our country [yet who] lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have." He was referring, one can only conclude, to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) and Lt.Col. Joe Repya.
Now, finally to my point: in all this kafuffle, the line that struck me most in John Kerry's non-apology was this one:
If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they're crazy. This is the classic G.O.P. playbook.
...But of course, in real life, "a veteran" did exactly that: one Lt. John Forbes Kerry, just returned from Vietnam, attacked his fellow crewmen and commanders of swift boats for war crimes, mass murder, cutting off body parts as trophies, raping, pillaging, and looting, and in general, behaving like "Genghis Khan," whatever that was supposed to mean.
I think that last comes from the common expression (common even in the early 1970s) that so-and-so is "to the right of Genghis Khan." I suspect Kerry mistakenly thought Genghis Khan was a Republican conservative Christian, possibly from rural Maine.
As the e-mailer to Power Line put it, "You bet your *** we think you'd slur the military because you've done it before." (I don't know whether the e-mailer wrote the asterisks or whether Paul Mirengoff edited.)
This goes to a larger point. Kerry clearly shares with many of his fellow Democrats, including fellow Democratic veterans, like John Murtha, Jimmy Carter, and Max Cleland, the notion that people in the military are just dummies. Most especially, this view is shared by the elite media and chickendoves like Howard Dean and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco, 100%).
How much does that anti-soldier attitude distort their understanding of the war in Iraq and how well or poorly it's going? If the media especially think of soldiers as uneducated rubes, rural hicks, and lazy slobs, mightn't that make them rather more willing to believe that they're screwing everything up?
And if they associate "military idiots" with "Southerners," then it makes perfect sense that they would lump Bush in with the rubes, hicks, and slobs, and be more than willing -- even eager -- to believe that Bush just bumbles everything.
Something of that ilk must be in play; because no matter how finely you slice it, it's just not possible to rationally believe the Iraq war is an unmitigated disaster, as clearly the Left and their cohorts in the media do:
- We overthrew Saddam Hussein in record time;
- We brought about several free elections in which the great majority of voting-age Iraqis participated (and their votes were counted);
- We've lost fewer than 3,000 people, even after three years and seven months;
- 16 of the 18 provinces of Iraq are relatively peaceful (as peaceful as any typical Arab country, that is);
- We have so far prevented terrorists from turning Iraq into another Somalia;
- Much of Iraq's economy and infrastructure is better today than it was before the war;
- And we have trained close to 300,000 Iraqi soldiers and national police, the vast majority of whom are serving honorably to protect their fledgling democracy;
- We haven't not been attacked since 9/11 by terrorism anywhere but where we're in combat.
Neither is it an unalloyed victory:
- We have failed to shut down the anti-democratic insurgency;
- There are still Salafist terrorists and Iranian-backed theocrats fighting in Iraq, in addition to the Saddamist insurgency;
- There is still a lot of killing in the two "bad" provinces (Anbar and Baghdad), in which a huge chunk of the population lives;
- There is still the potential -- though not yet the actuality -- of civil war in Iraq; it's still in the "gangland massacre" stage, but the possibility of expansion still exists.
The only rational conclusion is that the Iraq war currently has achieved mixed results, like the Korean war after the retreat down the Chosen and after we had begun battling our way back up the peninsula, but before the truce finally ended the war with an Allied victory. (No, Korea was not a "draw;" the victory condition for the North was to conquer the South, but the victory condition for the South was to survive as an independent nation, free of dominance by the crazy Maoists up north: that means that the good guys won in Korea.)
But if one believes that our soldiers, at all levels from raw recruit to the Commander in Chief, are complete incompetents and dolts... well, then obviously the problems in the second list are insurmountable; and the victories in the first list (to the extent the elite media even believes they happened) are attributable to the Iraqis themselves -- we had nothing to do with it. After all, how could Southern racists and ignoramuses possibly have achieved any of that?
This all flows out of what Thomas Sowell calls the Vision of the Anointed, from his book of that title. The subtitle says it all: "Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy."
Liberals don't merely believe their ideas are better than those of conservatives; they believe they are better than conservatives: intellectually and morally. This explains the repeated atttempts this year to run on the theme of "the culture of corruption," notwithstanding that Democrats are as apt to be corrupt as Republicans: "even when we take money from lobbyists or diddle the pages," they argue, "we're actually doing so to serve a higher moral purpose -- so it's totally different!"
Perhaps Liberals hate the military because they see them as stupid, inept, lazy, and inferior; therefore, like fairy-tale ogres, they break everything they touch. They despise Southerners for the same reason, and Westerners, and... well, basically everyone who doesn't share "the Vision" that Sowell discusses. Only the "anointed" -- liberal Democrats -- can be trusted with the levers of power.
And I believe that is what we just saw slip out of John Kerry's mouth when he wasn't listening (thereby joining the tens of millions of others who never listen to what he says): more than anything else, he is annoyed by menials questioning the wisdom of their betters.
Sure, Kerry himself might "criticize the more than [500,000] heroes serving in [Vietnam]" when he returns from that war; but that was totally different, not to be questioned... not by the likes of you lot. Remember, in this context, his response to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and their campaign against him: rarely did he try to argue with them, point by point; he left that to subordinates and his natural allies in the antique media.
Rather, he bitterly attacked his accusers for being the wrong class of veteran... not good ones like himself, but bad ones who don't share the Vision, hence should simply be dismissed.
That has been the liberal Democratic position for decades now, going all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s. After more than seventy years of failure, they still haven't learned their lesson: like all religious faiths, the Vision is not to be questioned. Ever.
Pakistan Kills Innocent Terrorist Trainees!
Yesterday's newswires were abuzz with the raid by Pakistan forces on a very radical "madrassa," or Moslem religious school, near Peshawar -- many of which "schools," especially this one, serve as sources of jihadism, radicalism, and even suicide bombers:
Pakistani army helicopters killed around 80 suspected militants on Monday in a dawn attack on a religious school run by a [now deceased] pro-Taliban commander wanted for harboring al Qaeda fighters, a military spokesman said.
The army said the religious school or madrasa in Chenagai, 10 km (six miles) north of Khar, the main town in the Bajaur tribal region bordering Afghanistan, was being used as a militant training camp.
The strike killed almost everyone present in the madrasa, although at least three wounded were taken to hospital in Khar.
The main purpose of the raid was to capture or kill the leader of the compound, Maulana Liaqatullah (or Liaquat Hussain, or just Liaqat; sources differ); he was in fact killed in the raid. Liaquat was a close associate of Ayman Zawahiri, the reputed Number Two in al-Qaeda (some say Number One). There was early speculation that Zawahiri himself might have returned and been hit; but that seems not to be the case, alas.
[Pakistan army spokesman, Major-General Shaukat] Sultan said there were no women or children present.
Some villagers said there were young children among those killed, but Maulana Faqir Mohammad, a militant commander at the target site, told Reuters Television that the dead were aged between 15 and 25.
But all is not well in the region, which borders Afghanistan and appears (from a BBC map) to be just north of North Waziristan: according to a local unbiased "eyewitness" interviewed by the Beeb, the dead were not militants and terrorist wannabes, no sir, not at all: they were students at the madrassa!
"We received confirmed intelligence reports that 70-80 militants were hiding in a madrassa used as a terrorist training facility, which was destroyed by an army strike, led by helicopters," army spokesman Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan told the Associated Press news agency.
However, an eyewitness told the BBC that the madrassa school was filled with about 80 local students who had resumed studies after the Muslim Eid holidays.
Pardonez-moi, but how does the second claim contradict the first? The whole point of this kind of madrassa is to teach students how to be proper terrorist jihadis. It's like saying that the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis isn't full of Naval personnel... just students!
One (now ex-) Pakistan cabinet member called the slain students innocent; but he offers no explanation why students at a radical, terrorist supporting madrassa should not be considered radical and terrorist supporting:
A cabinet minister from Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, Siraj ul-Haq, has resigned in protest over the attack.
"This is a very wrong action. They [the innocent victims] were not given any warning [say, there's a good point -- from now on, each attack will be preceded by a couple of days of warnings to the intended targets!]. This was an unprovoked attack on a madrassa. They were innocent people," Siraj ul-Haq told the Associated Press before resigning.
Many local tribesmen, who are very radicalized themselves (it's not Waziristan, but it's right next door), are protesting -- well, rioting is the better word -- by the tens of thousands; this more than anything tells me that we're finally getting some serious cooperation from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf (who seized power via a bloodless coup d'état in late 1999):
As many as 20,000 people protested Tuesday in Khar, the main town in Pakistan's northwestern tribal Bajur district, claiming innocent students and teachers were killed in the attack. They chanted: "God is Great!""Death to Bush! Death to Musharraf!" and "Anyone who is a friend of America is a traitor!"
"We will continue our jihad (holy war)! We will take revenge for the blood of our martyrs!" a local Islamic cleric, Maulana Roohul Amin, yelled into a loudspeaker at the rally. "The forces of infidelity are trying to erase us from existence!"
Oh, yeah; they sound more innocent every day.
Here is a test for the alert reader. This next excerpt raises the old Sesame Street question: "one of these things is not like the others / one of these things just doesn't belong!" Can you pick it out?
In January, a U.S. Predator drone fired a missile targeting al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman-Al-Zawahri in Damadola, near Chingai. The strike missed al-Zawahri, but killed several other al-Qaida members and civilians and sparked massive anti-U.S. protests across Pakistan.
Fears were high that Monday's attack will fan unrest across Pakistan, which also witnessed violent protests this year after European newspapers published cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, and after the August killing of a ethnic-Baluch tribal chief in another Pakistani military raid.
Yes, one of these protests is different from the other two...
Besides Liaquat, another Zawahiri lieutenant, Faqir Mohammed, "left the madrassa 30 minutes before the strike," sayeth AP. I think this may indicate that we're closing in on Zawahiri. It's worth noting that in the case of both the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Musab Zarqawi, we first systematically killed or captured all of their lieutenants, leaving the principals in the hands of less experienced, less competent, and less trusted associates.
He may still slither away; he's a slippery little devil. But at least we seem to be headed in the right direction.
Let's hope that is what is happening here; and let's hope that Musharraf continues until we actually grab the bad doctor. And who knows? Wither Zawahiri goes, there goes also Osama bin Laden... or so says the conventional wisdom.
The Pineapple Shrub
Say, I know this is trivial, but I think about it every election:
Do you all realize that 2008 will likely be the first presidential election in thirty-two years that does not have either a Bush or a Dole on the Republican ticket?
Every election since 1976 -- eight elections in a row -- has had the one or the other.
How about that!
The last election that didn't have one was Nixon's reelection in 1972; but unless Liddy or Jeb ends up on the ticket, 2008 will break the pattern.
But wouldn't be a sock in the jaw if Mitt Romney got the nomination -- and picked LIddy Dole as running mate?
Date ►►► October 30, 2006
Time Flies When Killing Nothing But Innocent Bystanders
By now, everybody and his unkie's monkle knows about the Lancet survey that purports to show that the Iraq invasion has killed about 655,000 extra Iraqis -- nearly all of them innocent.
Actually, since the Lancet's survey only went through July 2006, and assuming the rate is unabated, a total of more than 704,000 "extra deaths" should have occurred by now, the end of October 2006. I shall accordingly use this figure hence.
They arrived at this figure by interviewing a small number of grieving survivors (2,000 households) and asking them, offhand, how many members of their family have been killed by the wicked infidels (actually, they asked how many had died since the invasion; I doubt the significance escaped the respondents' notice).
Then they projected this figure throughout the entire population of Iraq to get a figure that is about 14 times the (likely inflated) "maximum" figure on Iraq Body Count, 49,760, and more than 20 times the more commonly accepted figure of 35,000.
Oddly enough, however, they must not be burying their dead, because mortuary records don't show anywhere near that many burials over the last 43 months, a fact at which even the Lancet hints.
Amazingly enough, it appears that half of all extended families in Iraq have lost someone -- assuming no overlap at all: I assumed that an extended family in Iraq would consist of a mother and father, an average of three kids, an average of three living grandparents (recall that grandparents in such a society could easily be in their late thirties or early forties), an average of five living aunts and uncles, who between them would have produced about eight cousins.
I'm probably underestimating much of this -- which would mean even more families would have to have lost members to evil, wicked Coalition soldiers, in order to arrive at Lancet's (reprojected) 704,000 figure. If there is overlap, that would increase the number of families that would have had deaths: each death would kill a father, an uncle, and a cousin, of three different households, perhaps.
To put it another way, if this guess were true, the war would have considerably more than doubled the national annual death rate of Iraq (5.37 per 1,000 per year), according to the latest figures from the CIA's World Factbook (or even 5.5, as Lancet calculates it).
What would it have taken to produce such a staggeringly huge death rate? The Belmont Club can help with that; they note that the Israelis bombed the heck out of Lebanon for 34 days, and only managed to kill 1,300 Lebanese (all of them innocent, once again; it's remarkable how luckless the innocent are in these Moslem countries, while the guilty seem to lead charmed lives... perhaps somebody down there likes them).
Whenever I see numbers, I have to whip out my calculator and play. It's a nasty habit, I know; but I'm too old a dog to change Spot now.
The Lebanese death rate works out to about 38 per day -- and that's with heavy, continuous bombing, shelling, and massive, daily assaults. Let's assume that same rate of death in Iraq; how long would it take to kill 704,000 people? A simple division: it would take 18,526 days, or approximately 50 years and 9 months.
Hm. Well, that doesn't quite work out, does it!
On the other hand, we have a lot more soldiers in Iraq than the Israelis had in Lebanon... so let's look at it the other direction: assume that we have killed 704,000 people in Iraq since the invasion, which began on March 19th, 2003; what is the daily rate of killing we would have to be seeing? (Lancet concluded that 601,000 of the 655,000 deaths were violent; projected forward, that would mean 646,000 of the 704,000.)
Again, it's a simple calculation, complicated only because we must first figure out how many days it's been: from invasion to March 19th, 2006 is 1,096 days (because 2004 was a leap year), plus 225 days since then, for a grand total of 1,321 days.
704,000 divided by 1,321 equals 533 innocent civilians dying each and every day, Sundays and holidays included. (Actually, since this is an Islamic country, we would expect to see more deaths during the Sabbath -- which is actually Friday, not Sunday -- and during holiday periods, like Ramadan.) If we restrict it to violent deaths, that's 487 violent deaths per day.
There was a lull from the end of major combat operations, May 1st, 2003, until the insurgency and terrorist activity really started to uptick, say about April 4th, 2004 with First Fallujah. But on the other hand, we would assume a very much increased daily rate during the month of MCO; even if they don't quite balance, it probably doesn't change much... we can assume the daily rate after the insurgency and terrorism started to be somewhere between 550 and 650 extra deaths per day.
I doubt even the wildest-eyed anti-war fanatic sincerely believes that all the reporters, non-governmental organizations, government departments, and the other medical researchers in Iraq (who actually check physical evidence, rather than relying upon surveys) could possibly have missed an additional 500 civilians dying per day, 460 of them killed violently -- and nearly all by Coalition forces, if you can believe the Iraqi respondents. But of course, figures don't lie!
The researchers assure us that asking Iraqi respondents how many have died is perfectly sound methodology. They don't need to look at death certificates, hospital records, or mortuary records; first, those hard data may be unavailable... and second, they don't yield a high enough number of extra deaths:
When death certificates were not available, there were good reasons, say the authors. "We think it is unlikely that deaths were falsely recorded. Interviewers also believed that in the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths," they write.
Fabricating deaths simply isn't done in Iraqi culture... quick, somebody, alert the Green Helmet Guy!
But I still want to know where the weekly quota of 3,731 bodies is being stashed; I should think that by now, every graveyard in the country would have been filled up, and the bodies would have to be packed into warehouses (refrigerated, one hopes) until the country can decide where to put them. Sort of like nuclear waste, I reckon.
If somebody can show me a photograph of a warehouse with bodies stacked like cordwood, or else dozens of mass graves dug post-Saddam, then I will believe it. Until then, I'm afraid I'm going to have to maintain a bit of skepticism about the Lancet's figure. It's conceivable that their methods are unsound.
So how does this relate to the election, as the category list indicates? Well, just an example of the goofy results that you can get from a poll when you deliberately disconnect it from any external, reality-based cross-checking.
Paul Mirengoff of Power Line makes a good point about the efficacy of putting Muqtada Sadr down. But it started a flock of seagulls in my brain.
Jack Kelly, national-security writer for the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, penned (phosphored?) a column forthrightly titled "We must get rid of al-Sadr." First, I must note that I'm very, very unimpressed by both the writing and thinking of Mr. Kelly. His column is written about at the level of a typical blog (Power Line is far more literate); it's conclusory and dismissive and drips with such sweeping opinion-mongering as "and people wonder why U.S. policy in Iraq is failing," and "it will be embarrassing for President Bush to admit the failure of the Iraqi government."
(Generally, Kelly thinks very little of the Iraq government; I certainly get the sense he thinks we'd all be better off if Iraq were our colony, much as the Congo belonged to France and Belgium.)
What's more, the only source he cites for anything is an anonymous "Army sergeant in a Baghdad intelligence unit," who e-mailed -- not Jack Kelly -- but the WSJ's James Taranto! Presumably, Kelly doesn't even know himself who the sergeant is or how qualified he is to make observations. Mr. Sergeant says just what Kelly longs to hear; to nobody's amazement, Kelly quotes Mr. Sergeant.
Nevertheless, the idea that we should kill Sadr is a good one. But I really wish I didn't have Mr. Kelly on my side, for he makes no particular argument at all how killing Sadr would help anyone -- nor does he consider any consequences other than Bush's "embarassing" admission of putative failure and a glib reference to an "uprising," as if that were of no consequence.
Paul has noticed this lack as well:
I wonder whether bringing down a given milita and/or its leader would make much difference at this point. My understanding is that the Shia militias exist mainly to inflict harm upon, and do battle with, the Sunnis. Given the "demand" for such units, it's questionable whether we can cut off the supply.
So let me fill in the missing argument that Mr. Kelly could not seem to articulate.
First, on the basic level, Paul is correct: killing Sadr would not put the Mahdi Militia out of existence. Actually, I would suggest killing not just Sadr, but the number two and number three guys, all more or less simultaneously (within a few days of each other). This would leave the lower tier people wondering which of them would become the new leader.
Let 'em fight it out.
Second, Paul asserts that there is a fixed "demand" on the part of Shia for killing Sunnis; but I'm not persuaded. Iraq has always been more tribal than sectarian. Many of the biggest tribes include both Sunni and Shiite members; and until Saddam came along and set the two sects at each other's throats (quite deliberately), they knocked together quite decently in Iraq.
I don't think the war between Shia and Sunni has gone on long enough in Iraq to have become the new norm. I don't even think the Shia thought of Saddam's as a "Sunni" dictatorship... more likely as the dictatorship of the Tikriti tribe, which included Shia, Sunni, and even a prominent Christian (Tariq Aziz).
I don't see this "demand" for continued butchery among most Iraqis... else we'd see Baghdad levels of sectarian slayings in the rest of the country. Were such demand universal, we would see armies of tens of thousands of Shia (and Sunni) fanning out across the country; it would be an actual civil war, not a tit for tat series of spree killings.
Rather, I suspect the killing continues because a small but very determined group of people thinks the gang-war is "winnable," and each person sees himself as the victor. It's less like the Civil War and more like the Mafia wars of mid-20th-century New York City: those, too, went on for decades... yet at no time could one say that the Italian population of that city "demanded" such killings.
If the leadership of that small cadre which is carrying out the slaughters were to be removed (by any means necessary), I cannot imagine that the Shia and Sunni residents of Baghdad would pine for the good old days of death squads committing 100 murders a day.
But what other effects would there be? Kelly casually mentions an "uprising" that would follow us snuffing Sadr; but he doesn't seem to lose any sleep over it:
If we act against Mr. Sadr, there will be an uprising. It will be bloody. But continued inaction pretty much guarantees slow motion defeat.
Well, yeah; but nobody is calling for "continued inaction." The Bush administration is not inactive; it's just active doing things other than what Mr. Kelly wants them to do.
But would there really be an uprising? Why? And who would lead it? Sadr, whatever his deficiencies in intelligence and theological knowledge (and they seem to be legion), has an immense personal charisma... obviously, otherwise that fat, unlettered slob wouldn't be the head of the strongest militia in Iraq. The Mahdi Militia gives all the appearance of being a cult of personality revolving around Muqtada Sadr's head.
By the same reasoning, Musab Zarqawi must have been astonishingly charismatic (it's a local function; he might not have impressed a gathering of Elks in Minnetonka). Zarqawi led al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia in two major uprisings in Fallujah... yet when we killed him, I recall no massive uprising in his honor or memory.
Uprisings rarely happen sponteneously; riots happen spontaneously, but uprisings need leadership. The Badr Brigades are not going to mourn the passing of Sadr; nor will the Shia, and the Kurds won't care. The secularists under Iyad Allawi will be glad to see the back of him. So the only group we must fret over is the specific sect of Shiite militiamen who owe allegiance to Muqtada Sadr himself.
I'm sure some of them may try to take revenge; but if the Badr Brigades are doing their job, as soon as they realize Sadr has been whacked, they will launch an attack on their greatest enemy -- meaning those Iraqis closest to them in belief, custom, and history, the Mighty Mahdi Militia. What with the external attack and the War of the Roses going on to decide succession to Sadr, I doubt anybody in al-Mahdi will have much energy to devote to attacking Americans for a while.
But I still haven't articulated the good that would come of this... that is, aside from the sheer schadenfreude of seeing Sadr's earthly remains. First and foremost, Sadr is Iran's toehold in Iraq: he is Iran's go-to guy. Of course they would get someone else; but it would take time, they would be in disarray until they did, and he would not likely be as powerful and charismatic as Sadr.
But here is the hidden charm. I believe Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would actually like to see the militias disarmed. Not because he's a good guy; don't mistake my point. Rather, I think Maliki reasons thus:
- I am the titular tribal warlord of Iraq.
- Yet I control no personal forces: the army and police belong to the state, not me personally; and I control none of the large militias.
- Now that I'm on top, it's time to blow the whistle and end the game. If the militias would all just "softly and suddenly vanish away," then there would be nobody who could challenge my military authority (except the infidels, and they don't really care anyway).
- But I cannot actually go after the militias... because that would require me to crack down on Moqtada Sadr, and I desperately need his voting bloc to stay in power.
Kelly referred vaguely and in passing to this point:
To maintain this fiction [of the Iraqi government], we won't take actions Mr. Maliki doesn't approve of. But he depends upon the 28 votes Mr. Sadr controls in the Iraqi parliament in order to maintain his tenuous grasp on power. Prodding from the United States has so far been insufficient to get him to give them up. Mr. Maliki has declared which side he's on, and it isn't ours.
True; but it's not Sadr's side, either. Maliki is on one and only one side: his own.
If Sadr were killed, and if Maliki were clearly not involved, then what would the "28" do? I can't see them allying with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), for they control the Badr Brigades. And they're certainly not going to support a Sunni or a Kurd.
This leaves the Dawa Party as the only other powerful Shiite political party. The head of Dawa is Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and his principal deputy is (ta da!) Nouri al-Maliki. Jaafari cannot be prime minister again; he was the one chucked out last time and is completely unacceptable to SCIRI, to the Sunnis, to the Kurds, and to the secularists.
So the only choice left for the 28 seats currently controlled by Sadr, in the event of his untimely demise, would be to continue supporting Maliki, as they have been doing all along.
Thus, were the Coalition to kill off Sadr, Maliki would still have the 28 votes of Sadr... but no Sadr sticking his hand up Maliki's badonkadonk (eew) to work the PM's mouth. Not only that, but with Mahdi in such distress, Maliki would have the green light to crack down hard on the Badr Brigades... the other Shiite party's militia. After all, Mahdi would be out of commission for a while.
So we would get a "twofer" -- the Mahdi Militia would be bereft of its leadership, leaving it to flop around like a beheaded snake; and the government of Iraq would likely move heavily against the Badr Brigades... and maybe even against the Mahdi Militia, once Maliki is sure of his power base in the absence of Muqtada Sadr.
Sometimes, when a situation has crystalized in a very unuseful position, the best thing we can do is vigorously shake the box: whatever we end up with will probably be better than what we have now.
I think this is one of those times. Rolling my eyes at the rest of Mr. Kelly's column, I second his call for us to put Sadr down.
Date ►►► October 29, 2006
We Found a French Extremist - Who Actually Likes l'Amérique
As I was skimming through a Japanese-language wire service, I found this distubing USA Today article about the continuing French intifada:
A group of marauding teenagers set fire to a bus Saturday in the southern French port city of Marseille, seriously wounding a passenger and leaving three others suffering from smoke inhalation, police said.
French police have braced for a surge of violence this weekend, a year after three weeks of riots swept through France's poor neighborhoods, where many immigrants and their French-born children live. Scattered violence was reported Friday, the one-year anniversary of the 2005 riots, and another attack was reported Saturday in Marseille....
In scattered violence from Friday night to Saturday morning, six police officers suffered minor injuries and 47 people were arrested, the Interior Minister said. Bands of youths torched two public buses, and in troubled neighborhoods around the country, youths set fire to a total of 277 vehicles, police said.
On an average night in France, up to 100 cars are torched. In a statement, the Interior Ministry described the anniversary night as "relatively calm." [Good grief! 100 cars a day -- if this were happening in Iraq, Democrats would call it a "civil war"]....
At the height of last year's rioting, about 1,400 cars were burned nationwide in a single night. The rioting was fueled by anger at France's failure to offer equal chances to many minorities -- especially Arabs and blacks -- and France's 5 million-strong Muslim population.
In the Japanese version of this article, the last part was missing, leaving it open whether the violent youths were Moslems or Catholic altar boys. While researching this story, I found another article: Youths set passenger bus alight in Paris from October 23rd.
Wait, Paris? Not Marseille? No; this was a completely separate incident. Two of the biggest cities in France have had near continuous Moslem riots for the last year, with scores of cars a day being torched. In the Paris attack, after the 30 "youths" who burnt the empy bus, they ambushed the arriving firefighters by stoning them:
A band of up to 30 youths forced passengers out of a bus in a southern Paris suburb in broad daylight, set it on fire and then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue, a police official said....
District police chief Jean-Francois Papineau called Sunday's bus attack "deliberate". [Gee, you think?] He said the vehicle was forced to stop at a road block at about 2 pm. Two youths then entered the back of the bus to clear out passengers before dousing it with petrol and setting it ablaze....
When firefighters arrived, the youths began stoning them, he said. No-one was injured. At least one person was arrested. The local prefecture said nearly 30 youths were involved in the incident.
Meanwhile, France's minister for social cohesion, Jean-Louis Borloo, called on citizens to act responsibly because "tensions are raw just as we're in the process of resolving the difficulties".
And if you believe that last...
Curiously, in this article as well, the ethnic background of the 30 "youths" is missing. However, we get a hint from this sentence:
The riots last year laid bare rampant discrimination in the housing projects surrounding France's big cities where numerous French of immigrant origin live, separated from mainstream life.
"French of immigrant origin" my eye. Everybody knows who they are; why can't the elite media just say it? Yes, Paris is burning, and young Moslem men are holding the match.
I heard elsewhere that ambushing police officers in these housing projects has become so commonplace that many policemen refuse to patrol the area, a fact confirmed by the article in the Age:
On Sunday, five people were placed under investigation for attempted murder in relation to an October 13 ambush in the town of Epinay-sur-Seine, north of Paris, in which police were lured to a housing project then attacked by about 30 youths. One officer hit by a rock required 30 stitches to the face.
Again with the ubiquitous, indescribable "youths." So what are the French to do? A French bloger, Sittingbull of Les Chroniqes de l'eXtreme-Centre -- "Chronicles of the eXtreme Center," I presume -- has an extreme suggestion in an extreme post aptly titled "Francifada":
Monsieur Chirac didn’t join the war in Iraq out of fear of his domestic Muslim population. And so, “unsurprisingly when faced with some unhappiness they [French jihadis] believe they can pressure the French state into submission.”
The way out for France is two-fold. Firstly to reform its welfare state and allow the Muslim dominated slums to integrate into French society. The second is to send a signal to the French Muslim community that France doesn’t buckle under threats, that it sees itself as part of the West, allied with America, Israel, and the Free World. On a domestic level, that means employing Mayor Giuliani-style “zero-tolerance” policing in the suburbs. On a national level, France would do well to send troops to fight the Islamists in Iraq and prove themselves to be true members in the coalition in the war on terror. As it is, France is learning the profound truth of which President Bush has begun speaking in respect of Iraq -- if we retreat, the enemy will follow us home.
To be honest, I've not had a very good opinion of the French for a while -- ever since they threw obstacles every which way we turned, before the Iraq war. In Japanese I often sarcastically call that country "Great France." If you know Japanese, you know how ridiculously ironical it sounds.
But it's not fair to condemn the whole country and people just because some French politicians are elitist snobs and arrogant jerks. Even in la belle France, we find "extreme centrists" like Sittingbull, who know what is at stake.
I hope the current situaton in France will not escalate into a full-scale national riot, like last year. And I also hope that the new French parliament will handle this Moslem problem head-on (or "grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face," as Dafydd says). Now that I know America has friends like this in France, I can actually hope for just that forceful response.
Of course, as President Bush said, "hoping" isn't a viable long-term strategy; but we'll see what happens.
I think we're beginning to see a new phenomenon among conservatives: CDS, or Condi Derangement Syndrome. Like its near namesake BDS, it's diagnosed by several recognizable symptoms:
- Reflexively gainsaying anything Condoleezza Rice says, disparaging everything she does;
- Reading every statement of hers in the worst possible light (preferably one that fulfills the descriptor "treasonous");
- Toadstool-picking statements to prove the above;
- Imputing astonishing conspiracies to her malignant influence;
- Caricaturing Ms. Rice as (a) a liberal, (b) a Socialist, or (c) feeble-minded.
Some of the kindest, most intelligent, and otherwise fairest people have fallen into the Carvillesque trap of CDS... including, sadly so, my friends over at Power Line. The latest example: in an interview, which Scott Johnson quotes and dismisses as "tripe," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the following:
[Cal] Thomas [for Jewish World Review] asks Secretary Rice what evidence she has that the denizens of such an independent state would give up the dream that actually seems to drive them -- the dream of eliminating Israel:
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you can look at any opinion poll in the Palestinian territories and 70 percent of the people will say they're perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace. And when it comes right down to it, yeah, there are plenty of extremists in the Palestinian territories who are not going to be easily dealt with. They have to be dealt with -- Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories -- they're terrorists and they have to be dealt with as terrorists.
But the great majority of Palestinian people -- this is -- I've been with these people. The great majority of people, they just want a better life. This is an educated population. I mean, they have a kind of culture of education and a culture of civil society. I just don't believe mothers want their children to grow up to be suicide bombers. I think the mothers want their children to grow up to go to university. And if you can create the right conditions, that's what people are going to do.
QUESTION: Do you think this or do you know this?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think I know it.
QUESTION: You think you know it?
SECRETARY RICE: I think I know it.
(Look, I may be hysterically overstating things; but it is Sunday morning, after all... the very time for histrionics and overstatement.)
Scott Johnson derides Dr. Rice's answers. But why? What exactly is wrong with what she said? One can (if one chooses) interpret them as ludicrously suggesting that all it takes is another peace-process agreement, and all will be well. But that's not the only, or even the most plausible, way to take her position -- especially considering later parts of the same interview that Scott did not quote.
Let's turn it around. Suppose Scott is right, and Rice's answers to Cal Thomas are completely, ludicrously wrong. What, then, must we conclude?
- That Palestinians are unique among all the people of the world in their irrationality;
- That while others, from Rwanda-Burundi to the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany, eventually come to their senses, act rationally for their own enlightened interest, and stop killing one another -- Palestinians are incapable of doing so;
- That their incapacity cannot be cured; nothing can be done; hence, it must be a genetic mental deficiency that prevents them from thinking rationally, even if reality were to be clearly separated from the decades of propaganda and privation that have warped and twisted their thinking.
This is, to say the least, a rather odd way of looking at the problem. The last point -- that it's genetic -- is implicit in the idea that nothing can be done to awaken the Palestinians to the reality of their situation... so why bother trying? This belief is the inversion of Condoleezza Rice's faith:
[T]hat kind of ideology of hatred and hopelessness does not have a chance against an ideology of hope and a better future. We just have to realize that because of the way that the politics of the Middle East has developed for the last 60 years, that ideology of hope and a better future has not been there.
She says, that is, that Palestinians have not had the opportunity to make a rational choice; when forced to choose between several irrational choices, they pick an irrational one. Scott chose not to quote this answer; I presume he considers it as foolish as the ones he did quote.
that people are really good at heart.
A lot of conservatives believe precisely the opposite: they believe that humans are born corrupted and evil, or at the best, utterly amoral, and that without careful watching and frequent walloping, any of us is one meal away from instigating an intifada.
The is a dour, neo-Calvinist view of the world, utterly at odds with rational-choice theory:
Rational choice theory assumes human behaviour as guided by instrumental reason. Accordingly, individuals always choose what they believe to be the best means to achieve their given ends. Thus, they are normally regarded as maximizing utility, the "currency" for everything they cherish (for example: money, a long life, moral standards). As the modern formulation of much older descriptions of rational behaviour, Rational choice theory belongs to the foundational theory of economics. Over the last decades it has also become increasingly prevalent in other social sciences.
Rational choice theory is an individualistic methodology and as such conceives of social situations or collective behaviors as the result of individual actions. However, rational choice theory is not only applied to individual human actors. Often, the same pursuit of cherished values is assumed for collective entities, for example corporations or national governments.
Neo-Calvinism presumes final collapse is predestined. They take Yeats as their prophet:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
But predictions of imminent obliteration litter the ground like broken leaves in October. The patron saint of American conservatism, Ronald Reagan, never bit into the dessicated wafer of neo-Calvinism; he was always exuberent, joyous, excited and hopeful. He was very much like Condoleezza Rice is today; perhaps some have forgotten?
When Reagan called upon Mr. Gorbachev to "open this gate" and "tear down this wall," Reagan's own closest advisors thought he'd gone loopy. Surely he knew the Soviet Union would last a thousand years; it was predestined! Only a madman (or a Reagan-era Sovietologist like Condoleezza Rice) could hope for the impossible.
But what does Rice actually mean when she says that "hatred and hopelessness does not have a chance against... hope and a better future?" What must happen? What timescale is she thinking of? Here is the illuminating rest of her answer from that same interview by Calvin Thomas:
I don't believe that most people in the Middle East really want to blow themselves up and believe in this ideology any more than most Russians actually wanted to believe in international communism. There are always extremists who are going to do that. There are always ideologues who are going to believe and they are always going to recruit from a pool of disaffected people. So you both have to lessen the pool of disaffected people, give them alternatives, and people choose other paths. I just don't see a society yet where that hasn't been the case.
She is not being Pollyanna; she is a realist of the old Cold-War school... but one who chose the Reagan model of hope over the Buckley model of fatalism.
She knows the monumental difficulty of what she asks; but she is unwilling to concede defeat before the endgame is even in sight. Rice does not say that Hamas can lie down with Israel next Thursday after lunch; but that the way to the future is ultimately through capitalism and individualism -- the only Godzillas strong enough to defeat the Monster Zero of jihadism. Militant Islamism will ultimately die because it is a religion of death, and the worship of death. If there is any predestination, it is that final darkness cannot defeat the light.
(Of course, if darkness does win, you lot won't be around to say "I told you so!" So I'm on firm ground here.)
IIII Recessional and Exeunt
To paraphrase the president, you're either with the rational-choicers, and you believe that if you remove the beam from the eyes of the Palestinians, they will, in the end, discover that they love their children more than they hate the Jews.
Or you're with the neo-Calvinists, who believe that we're all destined to fall at Ragnarok, and the best we can hope for is that we dwellers in Asgard drag the giants of Jotunheim down with us when we go.
We who live in a world of hope may be wrong; but hope does not make us fools, or at least not utter fools.
The Lynne Cheney Smear Blowback
So let's take a quick look at the Lynne Cheney/James Webb imbroglio. A few days ago, Sen. George Allen (R-VA, 100%) released passages from some of the books (fiction and non-) published by his Democratic opponent, Jim Webb... excerpts that denigrate women and are very sexually explicit (and one bizarre cultural scene that probably isn't sex related, but is still awfully weird).
In a powerfully idiotic response that smacks of panic, Webb lashed out... not at Sen. Allen, but at Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president:
There’s nothing that’s been in any of my novels that in my view, hasn’t been either illuminating the surroundings, or defining a character, or moving a plot. I’m a serious writer. I mean, we can go and read Lynne Cheney’s lesbian love scenes if you want to, you know, get graphic on stuff.
I rely for veracity of the quote above upon CNN, which showed a clip of Webb during Wolf Blitzer's interview of Lynne Cheney -- ostensibly about her children's book, Our 50 States. I think it unlikely -- at least! -- that CNN would manufacture a fake clip just to burn Jim Webb.
Hugh's transcript of what Webb said is completely accurate: here is the YouTube clip. Webb's insert starts at 5:45 into the video:
(If this thingie actually works, it's the first YouTube video ever posted on Big LIzards!)
Let's start with the easy reasons why this is just about the worst way Webb could have chosen to respond to the Allen attack:
- Lynne Cheney isn't running for election anywhere. Neither is her husband, Vice President Dick Cheney.
- Neither of the Cheneys is from Virginia; both are from Wyoming, thousands of miles away.
- Lynne Cheney is a very sweet lady, beloved in most of the country (like Barbara Bush the elder); attacking her is like attacking Grandma.
See if Secretary Webb can squeeze this in between his ears: you don't attack someone like Lynne Cheney in the middle of your tight senatorial campaign. You just don't.
Why not? Does she have absolute moral authority, like Cindy Sheehan or the Jersey Girls? No, not at all; Lynne Cheney mixes it up in politics, and you can debate her (as Blitzer does) without anyone calling you a degenerate. But the reason you don't attack her is that you just end up looking like a big, mean, stupid jerk -- who doesn't think very highly of women.
- But here's one more reason why this particular fight picked by Webb demonstrates judgment so bad, it alone should disqualify him from public office: the very claim he made is a complete fabrication, easily disproved -- even by looking at left-liberal, Democratic websites like this one!
There are fifteen different excerpts on that site from Lynne Cheney's novel Sisters; please take the time to read them all. It shouldn't take you more than a few minutes -- five, tops. Let me know when you're back.
Dum de-dum, dum-ditty-ditty-dum-dah-DEE! ...Oops, sorry about that.
All right, now for the $20,887,197 question (that's the total amount raised in the Virginia Senate race as of mid-October, by the way): Would somebody please quote me the passage from Cheney's 1981 book that constitutes a "graphic" "lesbian love scene?" (Believe me, I've read hundreds, and I know what they're supposed to look like.)
All right... how about a non-graphic lesbian love scene? The closest we come is "Sophie" (evidently the protagonist) seeing a couple of women "embracing" in a wagon (the book takes place in 19th-century Wyoming, so you can envision this as a pioneer's covered wagon, if you please; a conestoga; a prairie schooner). Maybe you could call that a non-graphic lesbians in love scene; but that's not the same thing, is it?
You can contrast those passages you just read with these, courtesy Jim Webb. See if we can determine which of the two is "graphic."
Now honest to goodness, I have nothing against Webb writing graphic sex scenes in his books (though they appear a bit florid and forced; but maybe they're better motivated in context). I've written such myself -- and in a science-fiction magazine read by children! I think Allen's attack was silly.
And there are a number of responses Webb could have made that would have defanged the attack, maybe even turned it back on Allen. For example, "what will Geoge Allen do next... attack Murphy Brown?" Or if that's too esoteric, how about, "when I write about bad guys, I make them act really bad. That's why we call them -- bad guys!"
But I am at a complete loss here. How could a major-party candidate for the United States Senate be such a chowderhead, such a dunce, as to allow the DNC (or whoever gave him the talking points) to make a complete ass of him?
Has James Webb literally never heard of Google? Or for heaven's sake, he could have just sent a gofer down to the library to check the book out, then spent a marathon night reading the thing, before making a foolish charge so publicly.
As I said: judgment this incredibly bad, in and of itself, should DQ him from the job he's currently pursuing.
(Thanks to commenter Keys for catching a couple of typos above.)
Date ►►► October 28, 2006
Genocide in Darfur? Blame Bush!
This post was hatched by Lee; Dafydd is not to blame for this one.
In recent weeks, left-wing money has been buying a lot of airtime urging President Bush to “stop the genocide in Darfur.” Maybe you’ve seen this spot. If only Bush would show “strong leadership” at the UN, the ad asserts, we could get a peacekeeping force into Sudan. The accusation is clear -- if Bush could save thousands of lives with some well-chosen words (and a bit of arm twisting), then isn’t he a monster to sit idly by?
Well, never let the facts get in the way of a good attack ad. The President, beginning in his first term, has spoken strongly about the plight of refugees in Darfur, and the atrocities being committed by the government-sponsored Janjaweed militia.
The Bush Administration has worked persistently on the diplomatic front, but Colin Powell ran into UN inertia, the intractability and complicity of the Sudanese government, and obstruction from other Islamic countries. The available African peacekeeping forces were too weak to make a difference.
Condi Rice is facing all the same obstacles now. The UN Security Council, standing firm (when it suits them) for the principle of the inviolability of the borders of a sovereign nation, concluded that a peacekeeping force could only be sent in at Sudan’s invitation; and what is the chance of that? Khartoum wants peacekeepers to stop the militia about as much as they’d like an extra helping of Moo Shu Pork.
Sudan’s government is up to no good, that’s for sure. But what about the folks behind those TV ads -- what is their motive? Given the UN’s paralysis, will the sponsors of these ads support non-UN intervention in Darfur (hoping perhaps that the US would redeploy troops from Iraq in the effort)?
Their primary goal, in my estimation, is to convince swing voters -- especially those who are wavering on Iraq -- that Republicans are to blame for every death in Darfur, thus using suffering in Darfur as one more reason to put the Democrats in charge of Congress.
Is it working? Does the ad have any traction? Consider: at Bush’s press conference on October 25, 2006, the press corps asked no Darfur-related questions. Zero. It was all about Iraq, except for the Fox reporter, whose question was about North Korea.
Darfur is a major humanitarian crisis, deserving of the world’s attention; but it affects us even more directly. Darfur is yet another example of Muslims acting inexcusably and not being held accountable for it. Given Sudan's long history supporting jihadism, the mass murder, displacement, and dispossession in Darfur risks turning it into a haven for al-Qaeda and similar groups, as it was once before.
Many sincere groups and individuals are concerned about refugees in Darfur, but I think this “stop the genocide” ad -- directed at President Bush -- is not being aired for the right reasons. If this ad continues to run after the election is over, then perhaps I will have been too cynical.
Date ►►► October 27, 2006
Morton's Monstrous Dilemma
UPDATE October 28th: Corrected the spelling of Mort Kondracke's name; hat tip to commenter Keys!
Today, Republican Michael Steele slapped back at his opponent in the Maryland Senate race, Ben Cardin... with a sledge hammer.
Michael J. Fox has been running a tear-jerker ad in numerous venues, in which we discover that the Republican in the race, [Jim Talent | Michael Steele | Tom Kean, jr. | Mark Green | Peter Roscam], is a heartless bastard who doesn't care about sick people, and who actually wants to see Michael J. Fox suffer and die; whereas the Democrat in the race, [Claire McCaskill | Ben Cardin | Bob Menendez | Jim Doyle | Tammy Duckworth], is a bold visionary who supports scientific research and actually cares about suffering people... and if we elect the Democrat, then Michael J. Fox will be cured of Parkinson's Disease.
Today, Steele fired a response-ad right back at Ben Cardin. Here is the text; you can watch the ad at the Power Line link above:
STEELE: I’m Michael Steele, and I approve this message.
TURNER: I’m Dr. Monica Turner.
Congressman Ben Cardin is attacking Michael Steele with deceptive, tasteless ads. He is using the victim of a terrible disease to frighten people all for his own political gain.
Mr. Cardin should be ashamed.
There’s something you should know about Michael Steele. He does support stem cell research, and he cares deeply for those who suffer from disease.
How do I know? I’m Michael Steele’s little sister.
I have MS, and I know he cares about me.
In fact, it's even worse: Ben Cardin, Steele's Democratic opponent, actually opposes research using embryonic stem-cells -- but only when it's non-destructively taken from the embryo without killing it. If you kill the embryo to get the stem cells, then Cardin is all for it; but if medical researchers manage to find a way to extract the stem cell from the embryo without killing the thing, then kindly Congressman Cardin loses all interest.
From a smack-back press release from the Steele campaign:
Michael Steele said, “There is only one candidate in this race who voted against stem cell research and it’s Congressman Ben Cardin. Ben Cardin had a chance to support stem cell research that would not destroy human embryos, and he voted against it – not because of his beliefs on the issue, but as a transparent political stunt. Both Senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes voted for this legislation. Ben Cardin wanted to politicize the issue instead of getting something done, so he voted against it. Marylanders deserve better than Congressman Cardin’s continued Washington double-talk, mistruths and sheer political gamesmanship on an issue as important as stem cell research.”
On September 6, 2006, the Frederick News Post reported: “[Cardin] opposes suggestions that stem cell research is acceptable if the embryo isn't destroyed. (Liam Farrell, “Pursuing Change,” Frederick News Post, September 2, 2006)
Michael Steele added, “I am an enthusiastic supporter of cord blood, adult stem cell and embryonic stem cell research that does not destroy the embryo, and I fully support expanding innovations in technology that make it possible to treat and prevent disease without the willful destruction of human embryos.”
In other words, the Michael J. Fox ad is even running in a race where the Democrat (but not the Republican) supports embryonic stem-cell research that does kill the embryo... and the Republican (but not the Democrat) supports embryonic stem-cell research that doesn't kill the embryo!
Nice, principled stand there, Mr. Fox.
So who's Morton? What am I talking about? As usual, I've lost my -- oh yes, here they are.
Consider all of the above prelude. Today, Hugh Hewitt, as is his wont, had on Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke, the "Boyz In Da Beltway." They discussed the Fox ad, Ben Turpin, Michael Steele, and young Doc Turner... and when Morton heard the Turner ad, he practically exploded.
I think that should have been "Ben Cardin" up there, not Ben Turpin; but I'm too lazy to go back and correct it. Oh, how perversely anti-work-ethic am I, am I! I don't know why I made such a mistake; they look absolutely nothing like each other: Cardin wears glasses and Turpin just desperately needs them:
The Big Bens: Cardin looks almost nothing like Turpin
Back to the point. Mort began shouting and screaming, attacking Michael Steele (in absentia, of course), and culminated with this particularly gruesome attack on Steele:
I think it’s a very effective ad. If Michael Steele were really so interested in having his sister cured, he would be in favor of all kinds of stem cell research.
I must admit, that brought me up cold; I don't think I've ever heard such a harsh, bitter, and unfair verbal assault from Mort, who is normally quite the gentleman. Granted, his wife Millie died of Parkenson's, the same disease that Fox has; but even so, considering that Steele is in favor of every, single form of stem-cell research that does not kill an embryo, Mort's intemperate attack is awfully misleading.
But he followed it up with another; and this attack revealed a soft spot in his argument so vast, I can poke it with my eyes closed. Consider this:
I mean, look. If…when my wife was ill with Parkinson’s disease, do you think that I would reject a potential therapy that could be good for her?
All right, Mort, consider this hypothetical: there is a therapy that could potentially cure your wife's Parkenson's, allowing her to live out a normal life free of the disease. There is one catch, however: the therapy requires the sacrifice of a five year old child. The kid must die in order that your wife should live.
So tell us, Mort... would you accept that trade? More to the point, would MIllie? I think we all know the answer to both questions is No: neither Mort nor his late wife would have accepted such a horrible trade, a child's life for hers.
But I didn't just pull this thought experiment out of left air. For those people who actually believe that human life and personhood begins at conception, that is exactly the trade embryonic stem-cell research demands of them. Instead of a five year old child, it's a child who hasn't been born yet; but it's still the sacrifice of a child so that Michael J. Fox, Millie Kondracke, or Dr. Monica Turner might -- might -- live.
I personally do not believe that personhood begins at conception; so I don't have that ethical dilemma. But Michael Steele does; and to tell him that he doesn't really care about his sister -- which is what Mort said -- because he isn't willing to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of babies to try to cure her disease is just this side of despicable.
I think Mort spoke without thinking; and I hope he realizes later what a horrible thing he said. Perhaps he'll say something about it tomorrow on his show. But even if he doesn't dredge it up again, he cannot possibly really mean what he says, because Morton Kondracke is not a monster.
Date ►►► October 26, 2006
Dean Barnett Goes the Lizard Four Better!
Over on Hugh Hewitt's blog, frequent guest blogger Dean Barnett makes a sensational senatorial prediction that's far more audacious even than mine (and not yet convincing to me):
But it’s in the Senate where I’m going to go out on a limb. All the close races? The ones in Virginia, Montana, Tennessee, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, and Missouri? We’re going to run the table except for one. I bet Ohio’s where we go down. In Pennsylvania or Michigan, either the brave Santorum or the increasingly impressive Bouchard will pull off the major upset. And in Rhode Island, heads they win, tails we lose. I personally hope the voters return Lincoln Chafee to private life where he’ll no doubt make a profound contribution to society as an eccentric philatelist or something along those lines.
In case you've lost count in all the excitement, I predicted a Democratic pickup of 3 seats (PA, OH, and Lincoln Chafee in RI). But Barnett predicts only one from the first batch he mentions. Since this list includes not one but two Democratic seats (New Jersey and Maryland), if we won all the races "except for one," that would be a net pickup of 1 seat for the Republicans, not the Democrats.
The PA and MI part would be a push as far as Barnett is concerned: either both senators retain their seats, or else they swap losses, with Rick Santorum being defeated in Pennsylvania, but so also Democrat Debbie Stabenow in Michigan.
Thus, adding in the tossed-up Lincoln Chafee (could go either way), the bottom line is that Dean Barnett predicts the Republicans will actually break even or even pick up 1 seat in the Senate.
I personally think he's crazy; but could he be crazy like Fox News? As Sarah Brightman sings, "only time will tell." And not much time at that.
Kennedy Upset In the Making?
No no, you misunderstood: I'm talking about Republican Mark Kennedy, who is running against Amy Klobuchar to replace retiring Sen. Mark "Evacuatin'" Dayton (D-MN, 100%). I'm not predicting anyone will unseat Teddy!
According to John Hinderaker at Power Line, Kennedy, who has been running behind (14.6 points average behind on the Real Clear Politics Minnesota election page), is now "surging" -- perhaps in response to an ad that straightforwardly supports continuing the fight in Iraq (Minnesota is a marginally blue state, having gone for Kerry by 51% to 48% for Bush in 2004, and for Gore by 48% to 46% for Bush in 2000).
It hasn't shown up in the reported polling yet; John takes his information from internal polling in Mark Kennedy's campaign. But if this is true, if Kennedy really is surging, it would be a remarkable turnaround: it would be a fourth "toss-up" race in a Senate seat currently held by Democrats, and that could no longer be ignored. I would have to award at least one and possibly two of those to the Republicans in next Tuesday's penultimate prediction, meaning the Democrats might only pick up one or two net seats in the Senate.
I'm not at that point yet, nor will be until I see actual public polling that reflects such movement. But it's a race to keep in view.
"De Minimising" De Marriage
A commenter in an earlier post, arguing in favor of same-sex marriage (SSM) -- or at least against motions to prevent it, such as initiative constitutional amendments -- made the following argument, which is interesting and deserves response:
De minimis non curat lex. The law does not care about trifles. Massachusetts had less than 7,000 same-sex marriages in the first year, about 2/3 of them between women and mostly between people over 35. Massachusetts had less than 7,000 same-sex marriages in the first year, about 2/3 of them between women and mostly between people over 35. Even if that occurred in every state in te Union it would be statistically meaningless compared to, for example, the number of illegitimate children.
The rejoinder obvious: there are many things that happen rarely but still concern us greatly, including AIDS deaths, eminent-domain seizures for private purposes, and a soldier being awarded a Medal of Honor. Whether something is a "trifle" is not determined by the raw number of people directly involved, but the larger effect on society. So let's focus on the actual effect that widespread SSM would have on Western culture, let alone our country.
There is a rhetorical trick often used to dismiss, without response, an argument warning against some practice: one takes a bunch of connected events in isolation, arguing that each one -- by itself -- either isn't that bad or isn't very likely... while ignoring that the danger is in the concatenation of those events, not any specific one of them; and each makes the next more likely, so a static, discrete analysis is doubly wrongheaded. I call this intellectually dishonest trick rhetorical autism.
If there were some cosmic guarantee that opening up marriage to same-sex couples would never lead to any more changes, then I wouldn't particularly care. My goal is to insure the survival of marriage as a unique institution, one of the cornerstones of Western culture; and in this hypothetical, SSM would indeed be "de minimis."
But nobody can make any such guarantee; in fact, all the evidence points the other direction. The moment the courts legally dispense with the idea that marriage is a special, unique relationship between a man and a woman, expanding the definition of marriage to include other forms of relationship, then it becomes nothing but a mere legal contract between any group of people.
For example, a federal lawsuit is currently working its way through the courts (it's being considered by the Tenth Circus, I believe) that would, if the plaintiffs succeed, force states under that jurisdiction to allow polygamous marriage. They argue using the constitutional right of "privacy" (which I actually support), drawing upon the Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas (which I also support); the dispositive response, of course, is that marriage is not a "private act" but a public acclamation.
But they could also argue, and eventually some polygamist will, that polygamy is a right conferred by the 14th Amendment's requirement that "No state shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." They will argue that men who love two or more women are as much a group that needs protection as men who love other men or women who love other women.
Logically, if the argument is that any two people who love each other (or are "committed") have a "fundamental right to marry," as held by the 3 dissenters (just one shy of a majority!) in Lewis, the New Jersey case, then how can one argue, with a straight face, that three committed people don't have that same right?
As one polygamist puts it in the article:
His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy.
An opinion piece that argues against a causal link between legalizing SSM and legalizing polygamy is this by Marci Hamilton:
Shortly after Lawrence was decided, and also famously, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court - in Goodridge v. Dep't of Public Health -- held that it was a violation of the state constitution's equal protection guarantees to prohibit same-sex marriages. Federal and state equal protection guarantees, however, will not aid the polygamists. Anti-polygamy statutes draw the line at the number of spouses, not their characteristics or status. There is long-settled precedent that limiting the number of spouses does not violate any constitutional guarantee, nor should it.
While I applaud Hamilton's defense of traditional marriage, I think she is living in denial if she thinks that a court willing to accept the "equal protection" argument to require SSM would not also seriously consider the same argument to require polygamy. After all, we also had "long-settled precedent" that limiting marriage to opposite sex couples "does not violate any constitutional guarantee." That didn't stop the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from overturning those precedents in Goodridge.
The underlying argument was this:
- People cannot control to whom they're attracted;
- Thus, love arises from an uncontrollable characteristic that is basic to a person's identity;
- Therefore, it's just like race -- and the state cannot restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.
The same structure can be used to declare that certain men have an "uncontrollable characteristic that is basic to their identity" that causes them to love more than one woman at the same time. A leftist court willing to accept the former may very well accept the latter; logic and rationality have nothing to do with it... politics trumps all.
And a more direct challenge: if any two committed people have a fundamental right to marry -- or even a 14th Amendment "equal protection" right -- then why can't a person marry his own sibling? Hamilton's argument doesn't even apply here, because the prohibition of incestuous marriage absolutely draws the line at the "characteristics or status" of those wanting to marry, not their number.
And if we allow SSM, polygamy, and consanguineous marriage, then we automatically have group marriage as well; and at that point, marriage, as a special institution, will cease to exist. Rather than a marriage, a union of opposites for the good of society, all we would have left is a legal construct between some number of people of any combination of genders... that is, marriage becomes nothing more than an LLC.
Given, for sake of argument, that SSM might lead to the end of marriage... why does that matter? Why should we have legal marriage at all? Isn't that just "privileging" one religious viewpoint above others, or above secularism? Many on the Left argue this point in all seriousness (which is why I believe that legalizing SSM will lead to serious litigation to overturn laws against polygamy and consanguineous marriage).
Society has a rational interest in preventing the further deterioration of traditional marriage, and even in reversing some of the deterioration that has already occurred (making divorce too easy an option, for example). All of the problems associated with modern marriage (cheating, abuse, neglect, breakup, serial meaningless marriages, and children being raised in a broken home) are tremendously compounded in every form of relationship other than traditional marriage.
I have argued many times before, citing evidence, that every child benefits most from having both a (male) father and a (female) mother; neither sex is expendable. Not every child has such a family; but there is no reason to increase that number by a willful act of defiance. If "committed same-sex unions" are to be treated exactly the same as marriage, however, that is exactly what will happen: if married families are not privileged in custody and adoption cases, then many more "Heathers" and "Hanks" will be adopted out, or sent into the custody of, families with no daddy.
After raising children, the second most important virtue of traditional marriage is that it brings about equality between the sexes. No other form of relationship does as much to promote sexual equality -- which means equality of women, since there has never been a culture in history where women had more rights than men (no, there never was a "prehistoric pan-European matriarchy").
Polygamy especially leads to the degradation of women, as we see in Moslem nations (and animist African nations) that allow it; but gay relationships damage such equality as well, because they isolate the sexes. Equality of women depends upon men, because men are on average physically stronger, more aggressive, dynamic, and violent; this doesn't make them better, but it does make them better able to seize control absent moral restraint.
Men must be persuaded of the moral rightness of equality; but when men are separated from women, they tend instead to become more misogynist. And women separated from men tend to be poor, because typically neither partner has the drive for success necessary to thrive economically. There are certainly exceptions, sometimes very big ones: Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, for example. But that is the way to bet it, and you can even give odds.
Patterico is correct that the most invidious problem here is the abandonment of democracy in favor of judicial dictatorship; he opposes decisions like Lewis and Goodridge, even though he has no objection to SSM itself and has said he would vote for it if offered in a referendum. But I argue that there are sound and compelling reasons for society to reject SSM even when presented as a vote.
Traditional marriage long predates our ideas of individual liberty, moral equality among the races and sexes, modern capitalism ("trade" has always existed, but not capitalism), governance by the consent of the governed, and all the other elements of modern Western liberal democracy.
There is good reason to believe the relationship is causal: that all of these things flow from the various columns of the foundation of Western civilization... including traditional marriage, which pressures two very different kinds of people, a man and a woman, to join together to make decisions: in a polygamous marriage, if you're mad at one wife (or one husband in a polyandrous marriage), you can just "solve" that problem by cutting that person out of your life, even without divorce, and turning to another spouse within the marriage. But in monogamy, you're stuck with the one wife -- so you'd better learn to live with her.
(Two of the other load-bearing columns are ethical monotheism and universal justice, both of which Western civilization got from the Jews.)
Polygamy is much more akin to monarchy: with four or five or twelve wives but only one husband, no individual wife is worth much; the man makes all decisions... and if a wife doesn't like it, she can live isolated from the harem (but still trapped in the marriage), and the rest of the harem will get along just fine without her. Group relationships with multiple males and females inevitably break into warring cliques, as the "Live the Dream" crowd has found out.
I am absolutely unwilling to idly kick over the foundations of Western civilization, just to see what might happen. The trivial benefits -- if they exist at all -- are so "de minimis" themselves that they cannot possibly justify overturning the ancient institution of marriage.
Date ►►► October 25, 2006
Will They Or Won't They: Pyrrhic Days Are Here Again
Well, at least they didn't go "Full Monty" on us.
The New Jersey Supreme Court stopped short of declaring "a fundamental right to same-sex marriage" in the state, but not so subtlely hinted that the legislators had six months to do one of two things:
- Institute full-blown same-sex marriage in New Jersey;
- Create civil unions so sweeping and all-encompassing that they may as well be marriage -- in everything but name.
There is barely any difference between what the court ruled and going whole hog (can I think of any more metaphorical phrases?), as they did in Massachusetts in the case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. Like the Massachusetts case, the New Jersey decision was 4-3, as divided as possible, to create a new right ex nihilio (whatever they may claim): the right to civil unions that perfectly mimic marriage.
However, in the Jersey case -- Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, et al. v. Gwendolyn L. Harris, etc., et al. (A-68-05) -- the three dissenters (Chief Justice Deborah Portiz, and Justices Virginia Long and James Zazzali, all appointed by "Republican" Gov. Christine Todd Whitman) only dissented in that they wanted the court to force full-blown same-sex marriage on the state. The Jersey decision is thus actually more left-liberal than Goodridge, because the three dissenters in Massachusetts (Justices Cordy, Spina, and Sosman) actually held that such a decision was properly left to the legislature, not the courts.
Massachusetts Gov. (and likely 2008 presidential candidate) Mitt Romney's response to Goodridge applies equally well to Lewis:
"Like me, the great majority of Americans wish both to preserve the traditional definition of marriage and to oppose bias and intolerance directed towards gays and lesbians," Romney began by way of preface.
Then he asked the question we should all be asking: "Given the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. . . Should we abandon marriage as we know it and as it was known by the framers of our Constitution? Has America been wrong about marriage for 200 plus years? Were generations that spanned thousands of years from all the civilizations of the world wrong about marriage? Are the philosophies and teachings of all the world's major religions simply wrong? Or is it more likely that four people among the seven that sat in a court in Massachusetts have erred? I believe that is the case."
Then Mitt Romney put his finger on where the error comes from: the limited perspectives of lawyers and judges. "They viewed marriage as an institution principally designed for adults. Adults are who they saw. Adults stood before them in the courtroom. And so they thought of adult rights, equal rights for adults. If heterosexual adults can marry, then homosexual adults must also marry to have equal rights."
But, he went on, marriage is not solely for adults. "Marriage is also for children. In fact, marriage is principally for the nurturing and development of children. The children of America have the right to have a father and a mother."
(I normally don't use such a long quotation from another source; but in this case, Maggie Gallagher, of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, is simply quoting from a speech by Gov. Romney, so she has no cause to complain. Now, if Mitt Romney calls and yells at me, I'll have no defense at all!)
In the interests of fairness, and so you won't think she does nothing but quote, here is Gallagher speaking for herself:
The result [of Goodridge] is not neutrality but the active promotion of a new unisex ideal, in which the distinctive features of opposite-sex relations will be submerged, marginalized, cast to one side, and redefined as discrimination in order to protect the new court-ordered public moral standard of the equality of same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
Even if there is no process for "citizen initiative" in the state of New Jersey, the legislature itself is certainly empowered to propose changes to the New Jersey constitution (by a 60% supermajority, or by majority vote in two consecutive years); which means a third response to Lewis is to send to the voters a constitutional provision to declare that marriage shall be limited to a man and a woman, that there shall be no "quasi-marriage" civil unions, and to leave it at that.
I am not one of those who would be satisfied by having marriage by another name for same-sex couples, or for groups of more than two, or for brother-sister relationships. I totally oppose civil unions, because experience teaches me that the moment a "civil union" exists, the courts will declare it must be exactly equal to marriage itself. But the whole point is that marriage is a unique institution and should be privileged above all others: that is one of the foundations of liberal Western democracy, along with individual liberty and capitalism.
What are the odds that the New Jersey legislature will propose such a constitutional amendment? I confess I have no idea. The Assembly is dominated by the Democrats (49 to 31), but the state Senate is closely divided, with a slim Democratic majority of 22 to 18. But that tells us little, because many Democrats are sane on this subject and oppose SSM.
If all the Republicans voted for such an amendment (I don't even know if that is likely), it could be sent directly to the voters in a single session with as few as 6 Democratic votes in the Senate (27% of the caucus) and 17 in the Assembly (35% of the Democratic caucus). Alternatively, by as few as 3 Democrats in the Senate (14%) and 10 in the Assembly (20%) in two successive years would also work.
So how about it, New Jersey? Care to step up to the plate and defend Western civilization as we know it?
The Friend Lee Lemma
Friend Lee, who assiduously follows all sporting events, including musk-ox racing in Nuuk Godthab, is of course watching each game of the World Series (of baseball, not poker), well-licked pencil stub in hand (yes, he's a stats freak; are you really surprised?) He suggests that we should all be rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals, because of a bizarre but nevertheless tenuous political connection. I have dubbed it the Friend Lee Lemma:
- In Missouri, Republican incumbent Sen. Jim Talent is running for reelection.
- By contrast, in Michigan, incumbent Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants another four years in the job, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow wants another six.
- It's a well known fact, which I just made up, that happy, gleeful voters tend to vote for the incumbent. By contrast, miserable, angry, bitter, resentful, hate-filled, and homicidal voters tend to vote for challengers.
- Hence, we want Missourians to be filled with transcendent giddiness, while Michiganites should be weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth (which is also good for the economics of modern dentistry).
- So therefore, we should all root, root, root for the birds, not the cats. Quod erat demonstrandum, which I think means "also sprach Zarathustra."
This is what Friend Lee spends his days doing, when he's not recalculating every ballplayer's batting average, error average, and body-fat average. Gruesome, isn't it?
Will They Or Won't They?
Only the hairdresser knows for sure...
As I write this, the New Jersey Supreme Court has not yet issued its ruling -- expected today -- on whether or not the courts will cram same-sex marriage down Jerseyites' throats. Doesn't anyone else find it ironical that the only way same-sex marriage (SSM) "wins" is when it's foisted upon us, against out wills, by a bunch of guys wearing dresses?
New Jersey could become the nation's gay wedding chapel should the state's highest court rule in favor of same-sex marriages, adversaries on the issue agree.
The New Jersey Supreme Court is poised to release its highly anticipated decision Wednesday in a case brought by seven gay couples who say the state constitution allows them to marry, said Winnie Comfort [see here now, enough of that!], a spokeswoman for the state judiciary.
The entire New Jersey Supreme Court -- which used to be called the Court of Errors and Appeals, until somebody noticed -- was appointed by ersatz Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (before she became the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and it went to her head), and by Gov. Jim McGreevey (and we all know how well that turned out). If the appointees reflect the appointers, we can expect it now comprises seven bisexual adulterers who wring their hands over global whaling.
It's hard to imagine such a court not leaping (gracefully) at the chance to rule in favor of SSM. After all, one can't trust voters to make such decisions, as time and again, they have decided the wrong way. The court, by contrast, knows what is best for voters; and they're going to give it to them, good and hard.
Consider that this same court ruled against the Boy Sprouts when they tried to expel a homosexual member (oddly enough, for not being "thrifty"); however, most of the current membership joined the club after that case was resolved. (I mean joined the court, not the Boy Sprouts; three of the justices wouldn't be permitted, being girls; and the other four probably can't fit into the uniforms.)
Massachusetts is the only state in the union that currently (as of Wednesday morning, 6:00 am) "allows" SSM; and by "allows," I of course mean judicially required the legislature to vote for it. But Massachusetts also has a law preventing people of the same gender from other states, countries, or planets getting hitched if the marriage would be illegal in their home worlds. And I'll lay you eight to one you can't repeat that three times fast.
That is, a California same-sex couple cannot fly to Salem (on plane or broomstick) and get married, because such marriages are agin' the law in the Golden State; so Gavin Newsom and Kinky Friedman are out of luck (I refer, of course, only to their political aspirations, I hasten to assure you and avoid litigation).
But New Jersy has no such law. If the court rules that the Garden State (see, I know these nicknames backwards and forwards) must allow same-sex couples, threesomes, lobster quadrilles, and the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir to marry each other, then folks will flock (if that is the word I want) to Jersey from the four corners of the globe, just to marry, go home, file for divorce, and sue their home states for violating the fundamental right to apply New Jersey law in Wyoming. The idea is to start up a cascade of lawsuits that will start by forcing same-sex marriage and end by outlawing popery.
I don't know whether New Jersey has a citizens initiative process in its constitution; but if it does, it probably gives preference to recently deceased voters over those who have been dead for longer; so the full electorate (living, dead, and undead) could well be too liberal to pass a defense-of-marriage initiative anyway. So why did I even broach the dreary subject? (If they don't have one, I suggest they submit a citizens initiative to enact a citizens initiative.)
In every state where such initiatives have gone to ballot, they have passed, usually overwhelmingly. It's on the ballot in several states for November, and we'll see how it fares; but I'm taking wagers.
In any event, I think we all have a pretty good idea what the Jersey girls and boys on the court will decide. It's not a question of "will they or won't they," but more like "will they really let their hair down and end the announcement by mooning the state?"
Enquiring voters want to know -- how they shall be required to vote.
Date ►►► October 24, 2006
Sprint to the Finish Rises From Its Grave
The previous three predictive posts on the upcoming election are here:
It's been a while (ten days) since my last prediction on October 14th; now that the election is just two weeks away, it's high time I got the leg out and updated myself.
You may recall (but I highly doubt it, so I'll repeat it, and to heck with the lot of you!) that last time, the Big Lizards bottom line was a Democratic pick-up of 12 in the House and 4 in the Senate, although I didn't clearly articulate that prediction until the next day, with Bride of Sprint to the Finish:
Big Lizards has been bucking the tide of Republican defeatism, predicting that the GOP will limit their losses to 12 in the House and 4 in the Senate, retaining both houses.
Today, I went through every last congressional race on Real Clear Politics' "election pages," making my determination how each would go... and I have favorable revisions since last time.
Let's start with the House. I consider the following races actually in play; the rest are pretty clearly holds for the incumbent (mostly Republican but a few Democrats). Note that I call it a hold if the Republican is ahead in the most recent round of polling or if the Democrat is ahead by only 2-3 points; I believe the GOP ground-game will make up for that small an edge, thus they'll hold such seats.
Districts in bold blue are pretty certain Democratic pick-ups; boldface districts are probable pick-ups; and italicized districts are potential pick-ups. There are no Republican pick-ups, not even potentially... unless things change rather drastically in the next fortnight.
Here is the list, sorted by alphabetically by district and ignoring the holds:
This works out to 2 certains, 7 probables, and 8 possibles. I gave the certains to the Democrats; and with the possibles (toss-ups), I gave the Democrats half. That makes a core of 6 pick-ups.
For the probables, I calculated them two different ways: with the Dems picking up 2/3rds of them (4-5 pick-ups), and with the Dems picking up 3/4ths of them (5-6 pick-ups). Thus, the total range is from a low of 10 to a high of 12 Democratic pick-ups. Thus, hitting right in the middle, Big Lizards is now prepared to predict a Democratic pick-up of 11 seats in the House, leaving the Republicans with a slim majority of 221 to 214.
Now to the Senate side of Congress. I'll mention each race here, because there are only thirteen that anybody cares about. The name is the name of the candidate from the incumbent party, whether that candidate is himself the incumbent or not.
This time, boldface means a certain pick-up (winner indicated by color); italics means probable pick-up; and color but no italics or bold means the party that currently holds that seat retains it. True toss-ups -- three of them -- are indicated by using italics with normal text color:
- AZ-John Kyl (R): Republican hold;
- MD-Ben Cardin (D): Toss-up; [I call MD a toss-up because it all hinges on the percent of the black vote that Michael Steele gets; if he gets 25%-30%, he wins.]
- MI-Debbie Stabenow (D): Toss-up; [I call this a toss-up because of the recent announcement by Ford that they're laying off many thousands of workers; if subsequent polling shows that voters aren't holding that against incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow, I'll move this to Democratic hold -- though it makes no difference to the bottom line.]
- MN-Amy Klobuchar (D): Democratic hold;
- MO-Jim Talent (R): Republican hold;
- MT-Conrad Burns (R): Republican hold;
- NJ-Robert Menendez (D): Toss-up;
- OH-Mike DeWine (R): certain Democratic pick-up;
- PA-Rick Santorum (R): certain Democratic pick-up;
- RI-Lincoln Chafee (R): probable Democratic pick-up;
- TN-Bob Corker (R): Republican hold;
- VA-George Allen (R): Republican hold;
- WA-Maria Cantwell (D): Democratic hold;
As you can see, assuming you can figure out my cockamamie type-decoration code, we have 2 certain Democratic pick-ups (Pennsylvania and Ohio); we also have one probable Democratic pick-up.
But the three toss-ups are all seats currently held by Democrats. The rest are holds, either Repubilcan or Democrat.
So let's use the formula to estimate Democratic pick-ups: 2 (certain), plus two-thirds or three-fourths of the lone probable, which makes 3; but for the toss-ups, we get either 1 or 2 Republican pick-ups. Which means we would predict a Democratic pickup of 1 to 2 seats; let's be conservative and say a pickup of 2.
But I don't have as much confidence in my back of the thumb guesstimate for the Senate races as I do for the House races (since there are fewer of the former); thus, I'm going to hedge and say a Democratic pick-up of 3. (Basically, I doubt whether the Republicans can really nab any of those three toss-ups.)
New Big Lizards bottom line: we predict a Democratic pick-up of 11 in the House and 3 in the Senate, in each case one fewer than we predicted last time.
I will revisit my predictions again in a week, and then one more time on Election Day itself. Let's see how close we come!
If you're curious why others, such as Election Projection, predict higher numbers of pick-ups for the Democrats, there is an easy answer: most of the other sites look at a race like, say, Montana Senate -- where Republican Conrad Burns is running 3 points behind on the last two polls -- and they simply project that forward in a straight line and predict he will lose. But 3% is within the margin of error of each poll; that means the polls are really saying nothing more than "they're neck and neck."
With a tie two weeks before the election, I conclude the challenger has not overcome the hurdle of incumbency; Jon Tester hasn't made the sale. So with the superior GOP GOTV program, the power of incumbency, the monetary advantage of the Republicans, and the natural tendency of all polling to slightly bias towards Democrats, and where the momentum is in the Republican's favor -- I instead believe that such a razor-close race will go to the Republican.
That is, Election Projection, et al, are telling you what the result might be if (a) the election were held today, instead of two weeks from today, and (b) assuming the Republicans have no advantage because of their superior ground game, which even the Democrats admit they do.
So here we are. (I like that better than "there we are," since I needn't explain where "there" is; "here" is obvious.)
The Obama Drama
(The "Elections" category refers to '08, not '06 -- forwarned is forsworn!)
So I'm just settling back down into my Hume-watching seat (which is generally lying prone on the carpet drinking a stiff apple martini through a Crazy Straw) -- having previously leapt to my feet in hilarity when Brit Hume accidentally introduced Mara Liasson as "Mort Kondrake" (I am too easily amused) -- when she said something that would have rocked me back on my heels if they hadn't been pointed ceilingwards.
Talking about Sen. Barack Hussein Obama, jr. (D-IL, 100%), Mara managed to blurt out that he had "a compelling life story."
After I ceased choking and extracted the Crazy Straw from my larynx, I ran to my infallible source, Wikipedia, to see whether there were some extraordinary event in Obama's brief life so far (he's younger than I, another reason he cannot be allowed to win the presidency).
I confess, I was surpised at what an adventurous, danger-filled life he lead, the things those oyster-eyes of his have seen. I learned a great deal I had never known about Obama. I think that after you hear about his disadvantaged upbringing and his sorrows, that you, too, will wish we could give him some sort of prize... other than the presidency, of course, since he's way too liberal and has virtually no experience. And there's that age thing, but I think I already covered that.
Obama was born in war-ravaged Honolulu in 1961 (what did I tell you?) His father was a Harvard economist, while his mother was an anthropologist from Kansas; yet despite this deprivation, Obama has gone on to be one of the most celebrated men of recent history.
He spent his formative years learning, teaching, and defending his ancestral manse from marauding members of the haole tribe, who frequently raided to capture slaves for the Dole Pineapple plantation -- which still grew pineapples, rather the tourists, in those days of yore.
During this period, Obama was described by many as the mainstay of the community, the one to whom everyone turned for advice on minimum wage, military redeployment, and animal husbandry. But then, at age two, tragedy struck: Obama's parents divorced. When Obama was six, his mother packed him off to the jungles of Indonesia, where he excelled in the simple but effective guerilla tactics that would later serve him so well as a statesman.
Rescued at age 10, when his mother returned to sanity and to Hawaii -- deadly though it may be, he still called it home -- he enrolled in the fifth grade.
We skip seven years, thankfully. I don't know if my heartstrings can take much more of this. When next we intersect the Great Man, he has graduated high school and enrolled in a junior college in Los Angeles. But he never forgot his deep, ethinic roots. Many years after leaving, he said:
The irony is that my decision to work in politics, and to pursue such a career in a big Mainland city, in some sense grows out of my Hawaiian upbringing, and the ideal that Hawaii still represents in my mind.
King Kamehameha himself would have been proud of the Kenyan-Kansan-American Obama, spiritual heir to the island majesty.
But such genius could never be satisfied by the cramped confines of Occidental College. Bursting forth, like Minerva from the brow of Zeus -- or was that Athena from the brow of Cicero? -- Obama and his entourage transferred base of operations to the world-renowned Columbia University in New York City (Los Angeles not having been quite liberal enough).
Obama was a pioneer in more ways than two: he took a daring combination major of both political science and international relations, demonstrating the finely honed ability to juggle many more balls than most men can ever dream of handling. I should rephrase that, but I'm under a deadline here.
Surprisingly, considering the manifold difficulties and dangers faced first by the boy, then the man, Obama graduated with a B.A. But he was not content to rush immediately to Harvard Law, as so many other lesser men have done. Nay, Obama knew that the first duty of any man who has clawed his way out of the Honolulu ghetto was to give back to the community.
Thus, rather than yield to his own selfish desires, Obama gave selflessly for a year at Business International Corporation, followed by a four-year stint as a missionary and freedom rider in late 1980s Chicago.
Then he went to Harvard. But you knew we were getting there eventually, didn't you? While at the world's greatest and most liberal law school, Obama became a pioneer once again, becoming the very first ever half-African, half-Kansan, who had grown up in Hawaii, elected president of Harvard Law Review. This is an inspiring "first" that no one can take away from him, no matter what else may happen in his life.
Rounding out this utterly compelling drama of his days before becoming a public servant, when he would devote the rest of his life to generously helping constituents (as all politicans do, that noble breed), I can do no better than simply to quote the great Wikipedia itself, documenting Obama's sweep from triumph to triumph:
On returning to Chicago, Obama supported a voter registration drive, then worked for the civil rights law firm Miner, Barnhill and Galland, and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.
I truly must doff my chapeau and hold it over my heart. It is rare to be touched by such greatness, even in a country as wide and thick as ours.
But Barack Hussein Obama did not rest on his laurels nor sit down on his well-padded plaudits. Rather, he busted his accolades to rise to the high ranks of the state legislature. Alas, Obama was unaware that his life, hitherto untouched by calamity (except for his parents' divorce, several screens ago), was about to come crashing down around his well-developed earmarks.
In a devastating blow in 2000, Barack Hussein Obama was informed that he had lost the primary for the Democratic nomination to the United States House of Representatives. His career in ruins, his future shattered, Obama hit the nadir of his life. But it was there, in such adversity, that he showed the true superiority that has marked him as Fate's special star since those bitter, threat-filled days in Honolulu.
Refusing to accept failure, he came back... and in a victory described as "brilliant" by many observers, Obama managed to shepherd a law through the Illinois State Senate that made it mandatory for health insurers to cover routine mammograms. Is there any wonder that such a man should be considered presidential timber?
But as the capstone of his life -- so far! -- he ran for liberal, Democratic senator in a liberal, Democratic state to replace the conservative, Republican Peter Fitzgerald; thus did Obama avenge the shameful evil that Fitzgerald committed by defeating one of the grand dames of American politics, former Sen. Carol Mosley-Braun, in an election that was widely thought to have been corrupt, in that the Chicago dead were deliberately disenfranchised.
In the midst of Obama's historic campaign -- where he achieved yet another pioneering goal, becoming the very first descendent of a Wichita native, and whose middle name happened to be the same as a famous tyrant, ever to be elected senator from Illinois -- Obama was tapped to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention... which was justly famous as the only political convention in modern American history not to give the party's nominee any "bump" whatsoever. But surely that cannot be laid at the doorstop of the keynote speaker!
And here comes Mr. Obama now, having served long in the Senate without even a single investigation, scandal, or night spent in detox to blot his record. Considering his mixed "salt" and "pepper" heritage, which he loses no opportunity to discuss, Obama truly is a man for all seasons.
And I'm sure it is now as clear as kristol what Mara Liasson meant by her understated description of the life of Barack Hussein Obama, with all the drama of a storybook, as simply "compelling."
Date ►►► October 23, 2006
Barron's Sliver Lining
Barron's Magazine believes that the GOP will do a lot better in the looming election than anyone else has predicted, based on their own, unique predictive method (even better than Big Lizards thinks!) They will hold both House and Senate by a sliver, says Barron's.
Although I'm not entirely sure I buy the premise -- predicting electoral victory on the basis of who has the biggest war chest -- I'm also not willing to dismiss it out of hand. Barron's makes a persuasive case, marred only by my own obvious bias in the issue:
We studied every single race -- all 435 House seats and 33 in the Senate -- and based our predictions about the outcome in almost every race on which candidate had the largest campaign war chest, a sign of superior grass-roots support. We ignore the polls. Thus, our conclusions about individual races often differ from the conventional wisdom. Pollsters, for instance, have upstate New York Republican Rep. Tom Reynolds trailing Democratic challenger Jack Davis, who owns a manufacturing plant. But Reynolds raised $3.3 million in campaign contributions versus $1.6 million for Davis, so we score him the winner.
The case has been attacked by many on both left and right; for example:
- University of Wisconsin Professor Kenneth Mayer has nought but scorn for the prediction; Power Line prints his e-mail;
- Jay Cost flatly rejects the Barron's prediction.
But I believe both of these gentlemen have missed the actual point behind the Barron's prediction. Which is hardly surprising, as Barron's themselves missed it; the article shows significant zig-zagging between two very different points:
- The actual dollars raised by each candidate;
- The small-contribution dollars raised by individuals, as opposed to those received from organizations (including parties) and from multimillionaire contributers.
Both these figures are important; but they are important for reasons that are orthogonal to each other. The first tells us how much cash is available for television and radio adverts and for get out the vote (GOTV) operations; the second is a proxy for "grass-roots support," as Barron's put it.
And therein may lie the solution to this conundrum. Barron's only directly addresses this once in their article:
In Rhode Island, we predict Republican Lincoln Chafee will lose to democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse, a former U.S. attorney. Whitehouse has raised more than $4 million versus about $3.5 million for Chafee. According to the Center for Responsive politics, nearly 80% of the challenger's money comes from individuals as opposed to political committees. Chafee has raised about 50% from individuals. Clearly Whitehouse has a better organization.
I think Barron's is onto something; but the comparison isn't only warchest to warchest; it's also fundraising capability among ordinary people. Here is where the misunderstanding comes in; Cost devotes his post to debunking the idea that the amount of money determines who wins:
(1) A dollar is worth more to a challenger than an incumbent [because the incumbent is already well defined]....
(2) Not all campaign dollars are created equal [early money does a better job of defining a candidate and his opponent than money spent later in the campaign]....
(3) Weak incumbents raise more money than strong incumbents [because they must]....
(4) Well-funded challengers almost always have good angles [else why would big-bucks backers bother?]
I assume as a given that Jay Cost is correct on each of his points; total money doesn't always determine the wnner, but a certain amount is required to be competitive. But this analysis does not distinguish between a self-financed (or Soros-financed) challenger who pours millions into his own election, and one who has raised his money across the district or state by lots and lots of $50 donations. Alas, Barron's analysis doesn't seem to distinguish between those either, at least not systematically.
(Both Cost and Mayer also point out that the Barron's analysis only uses Q3 figures; but the Q4 figures -- those from October and the first week of November -- are critical to determining late-breaking support.)
I think there is good reason to see the ability to raise many small donations from ordinary constituents as a proxy for voting, certainly more so than answering a poll question. I am pretty sure that virtually everybody in the district who donates $50 or $100 to a candidate will also vote for that candidate. (This doesn't mean the opposite: obviously, the vast majority of people who vote for a candidate never contributed any money.) When you have a district where one candidate has raised $2 million in small donations, and the other candidate has only raised $1 million in small donations, I think that does say something about the voter support for each candidate.
Whereas, a candidate who simply pours millions into his own campaign doesn't necessarily have the level of support that the raw warchest figures would indicate... just ask "Senator" Darrell Issa, who poured $12 million of his own money into the 1998 California primary campaign, only to see himself beaten by Matt Fong, who raised $3 million.
Barron's needs to recalculate its figures, this time paying attention not only to the total warchest of each candidate, but also the percentage of money raised by small donors. They need to craft some formula to combine these two, as both are important. And they need to include at least the October figures to try to pick up the late deciders. I'd also like to see a time series, so we can see if there is any significant momentum to the donations in each race.
Reframing funding as a proxy for eventual voter support by focusing on smaller amounts of money donated by ordinary people should address some of the rebuttal points that Jay Cost raised, especially (2) -- the money may be more important earlier than later, but larger numbers of ordinary people willing to donate is more important later than earlier, since it's a proxy for people finally making up their minds.
Even so, let's not be fixated on any single proxy method of measuring voters... either political polls, warchests, or any other. All should be considered.
Alas, what is happening right now is a political Tet Offensive, where the elite media publish attacks on Republicans, on everything from Iraq to al-Qaeda to the economy to embryonic stem cells to global warming, in order to persuade Americans that defeat is inevitable.
Just as the Vietnamese Communists in 1968 and the Iraqi terrorists this Ramadan tried to make Americans think they were winning -- aided and abetted by the same elite media -- the Democrats today have decided that the best way for them to win is to convince Republican voters that their votes don't matter, because the election is already over.
They tried the same tactic in 2000, 2002, and 2004.
Date ►►► October 21, 2006
Ain't That a Kick In the Head!
Just after September 11th this year, the Republicans began to move forward, picking up support in the elections. For two weeks, the GOP surged, and it started to look like they might pull the election out after all.
But all that came to a screeching halt on September 29th, when ABC and the Washington Post questioned Rep. Mark Foley, revealing for the first time that they had the explicit Instant Messages. Foley resigned that same day, and "scandal season" opened.
Bad for Republicans, right? Well, not so fast, partner!
The Democrats' support surged in the wake of the resignation; they hit their apogee about October 11th or 12th, in a series of polls that had a bunch of the antique media swooning over the possibility of a 1994-sized tsunami. Supposedly acute pundits who hadn't touched a drop bandied around numbers like 40, 45, even 50 seats changing hands from the GOP to the Democrats.
But now, two and a half weeks before the election, the pendulum begins to swing back the other direction. Republicans are starting to tick upwards again, as the scandal burns itself out -- and themes such as the vibrant economy, low taxes, and of course national security come to fore. Even Iraq now gets a vigorous defense as an integral part of the war on jihadis. The Democrats appear to have lost momentum.
But... if that is the case, then what about the earlier Republican renaissance? That would ordinarily have hit its high point about mid-October, after which the pendulum would have started swinging leftwards again. Had the Democrats ignored the Foley mess and focused on making their own electoral arguments (saying that the Bush administration hadn't made us any safer, etc.), and allowing the natural, sinusoidal wave pattern to continue... then at this very moment, we would be seeing the Democrats, not the Republicans, picking up steam.
The Democrats interrupted that natural cycle; and when it reasserted itself, the scandal had shifted it by 180°, flipping it upside-down, transposing the party that was falling (the GOP) with the party that was rising (Democratic).
In other words, the most noticible effect of the Democratic Party's scandalmongering was to prevent the Republicans from peaking too soon!
Once again, the Democrats come galluping in from stage left to rescue the GOP from its own folly. If we manage to hold both houses of Congress, I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the Democrats for nudging the cycle just when it had settled in to give them the victory.
"Thank you, masked man!"
Date ►►► October 20, 2006
"Flip Flopping" to "Stay the Course"
Patterico updated his post about Jonah Goldberg's column to note my response to it here. More or less, Patterico and I agree to disagree on the necessity of the Iraq War... but I did want to get at one point that seems important to clarify.
In this course of his update, Patterico says this:
I think Dafydd and I would probably agree that failing in Iraq badly hurts our military credibility. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he might well use that as an argument to stay the course. I think it’s an argument not to invade a country without a compelling enough reason, which I believe (again with the benefit of hindsight) that we did not have.
He's right that that's what I would say; but what would I mean? For that matter, what do I ever mean, if anything? Nothing, that's what! So 23 skiddoo!
First, I completely agree with Patterico that we must never "invade a country without a compelling enough reason." Where we differ is the definition of "compelling enough."
But more to the issue, what does "stay the course" mean? Let's start by getting rid of the straw ham: what does the phrase not mean? It does not mean you must rigidly maintain identical tactics throughout the war, never changing your orders even in response to an evolving enemy. Knock that off the table right now.
In fact, while Bush says "stay the course," his generals frequently switch tactics and even general strategy (or strategery, if you prefer): we run a riverine campaign; we fight along the borders; we attack in the provinces; we go door to door in Baghdad. Some campaigns are successful, others (such as the current Together Forward in Baghdad) are less so and need to be revamped.
But we're constantly changing; and in fact, such fluidity is precisely the point over which Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Shinseki fell out: the Secretary of Defense wanted a faster, more mobile, more responsive, and more flexible military with a smaller footprint. Gen. Shinseki wanted to stick with the Powell Doctrine, which was essentially how we fought Vietnam, Korea, World War II, and the Civil War under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
I liken the phrase "stay the course" to sailing a tall ship. If the wind is at your back, you can sail more or less straight towards your goal. But if you're sailing against the wind -- as we are in Iraq, with such a difficult but vital task ahead of us -- you must tack.
I know next to nothing about sailboats; so why did I even bring them up? God only knows. But what I do understand is that, when trying to sail against the wind, you must tack: you sail somewhat off your course to port, still making headway but also getting farther away from the straightline plot; and then, at some point, you come about and sail somewhat off the course, but this time to starboard. Thus, you zig-zag back and forth like a sewing machine, never actually sailing directly towards your goal (which would be impossible), but always moving towards it nonetheless.
To a person without any understanding of navigation, however, it can look like you just can't make up your mind which way to go: you keep swerving back and forth and back again! You're obviously lost, adrift, asea. And nobody likes you.
But if you keep at it long enough, you will suddenly discover that you've come down where you meant to be. And the passengers will be flabbergasted, because you spent the entire trip sailing in the wrong direction.
I think that is what's happening in Iraq right now: we appear to be sailing in the wrong direction, inconstant, hysterically swerving from left to right to left. But in reality, we know exactly where we're going, and we're just trying to find the right heading at any given moment to make way.
So with that caveat and under that definition, yes, I would agree with Patterico that failing in Iraq (which I don't think we're doing) would hurt our credibilty, and it would hurt the general war against terrorism more directly, too. And I would indeed cite that as an argument to "stay the course."
In Shocker, Arizona to Restrict Voting to Legal Voters
A lot of us are really scratching our heads... not at this U.S. Supreme Court ruling (overturning an injunction), but at the fact that the underlying law is even controversial at all:
Arizona voters will have to present identification at the polls on Nov. 7 after all.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that Arizona can go ahead with requiring voters to present a photo ID, starting with next month's general election, as part of the Proposition 200 that voters passed in 2004. The ruling overturns an Oct. 5 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which put the voter ID rules on hold this election cycle.
Now, this was not a ruling on the merits of the case. Rather, the 9th Circus Court of Appeals -- the most overruled circuit court in the nation -- issued an injunction on October 5th to prevent the 2004 law from going into effect... even though it already had gone into effect during the primary election.
What happened today is that the Supreme Court overturned the injunction by the 9th Circus:
The Supreme Court on Friday did not decide whether the new voter ID rules are constitutional. That decision is still pending in federal district court.
Instead, the court decided that the 9th Circuit made a procedural error by granting an injunction to put the new rules on hold without waiting for the district court to explain its reasons for not granting an injunction.
The Court ruled that the 9th improperly rushed to grant the injunction -- in my own opinion, because they were desperate to prevent it from being applied in the 2006 general election -- and that they should have waited to hear the reasoning of the district court for why they refused to grant an injunction earlier.
Since there is no way that the district court and the appellate court can have their exchange before November 7th, that means that Arizona will become a test case for the radical, new concept that only American citizens who are legally empowered to vote -- should be allowed to vote.
It's clear why Democrats are so worried about this law, as well as a similar federal law that was passed by the House of Representatives this term... yet another great bill passed by the Republican majority with virtually no Democratic help: the final vote on September 20th was 228 Ayes, only four of them from Democrats, to 196 Nays, all but three of them Democrats (counting Socialist Bernie Sanders as a Democrat, since that's who he caucuses with).
196 out of 202 Democrats, 97% of the party, voted against requiring citizenship ID in order to vote. Why? Because a large number of Democrats are elected with the help of illegal votes from non-citizens and felons.
If a wave of states, especially in the Southwest and possibly California, begin enacting laws requiring voters to show actual proof of citizenship before voting (or if the federal Congress does so nationally), then all of a sudden, we're going to have a lot fewer Democrats in the House.
I expect the Democrats to filibuster the House bill when it comes up in the Senate during the lame-duck session following the election; and Democratic-controlled state legislatures (such as California's) will never enact such bills. But as Arizona's Proposition 200 shows, state citizens can pass referendums for such a common-sense reform.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that when the Supreme Court actually rules on the merits (as I'm sure they will, if they lifted the injunction), that they actually uphold it. It's hard to see how this could violate the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, since there is no impermissible literacy test or any other racially based test for voting. Even when the Act was passed, everybody, including every member of Congress who voted for it and the president who signed it (Lyndon Johnson). Since there is provision for indigent voters to receive their ID for free, you can't even ding it for being an illegal poll tax.
It's time we reintroduced sanity to the electoral process. No Democratic politician has the guts to stand up and actually propose that non-citizens be allowed to vote; they want the courts to do it for them.
Not even legally resident aliens supposed to vote, let alone illegals; there is no coherent reason to refuse to check voter identification... other than a desire to circumvent the law and let non-citizens determine the results of American elections, to the advantage of the Democratic Party.
Now You See It --
The Associated Press rather casually reports that scientists have created a cloak of invisibility. Ho hum.
All right, anybody who didn't leap out of his chair is jaded, jaded, jaded, or has sat in some SuperGlue (try paint thinner to unstick yourself). Come on, look alive there! I said scientists have developed the world's first cloak of invisibility!
"We have built an artificial mirage that can hide something from would-be observers in any direction," said cloak designer David Schurig, a research associate in Duke University's electrical and computer engineering department.
For their first attempt, the researchers designed a cloak that prevents microwaves from detecting objects. Like light and radar waves, microwaves usually bounce off objects, making them visible to instruments and creating a shadow that can be detected.
Okay, okay; so it only shields microwave; you can still see the object via visible light. But the principle is the same: if you can shield an object (and its shadow) from detection by one part of the electromagnetic spectrum, then with a bit of tweaking, you can shield it from the entire EM spectrum, including visible light. But that's just an engineering detail.
We now know that actual invisibility, like Sue Storm, is scientifically possible. (I don't mean Sue Storm herself is possible; the simile was illustrative.)
What fascinates me is that this invisibility uses the same, exact method that I thought up when I was a kid, 11 or 12 years old. I was thinking about the Romulan cloaking device (being a science-fiction fan but not an avid comic-book reader), and I decided that the only way invisibility could work in real life would be to bend lightwaves around an object, so they didn't reflect off of it and into people's eyes.
In theory, if the bending worked in all directions, you would see whatever was behind the object as if there were nothing intervening. Sure enough, that's just what the researchers have done:
Cloaking used special materials to deflect radar or light or other waves around an object, like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream. It differs from stealth technology, which does not make an aircraft invisible but reduces the cross-section available to radar, making it hard to track.
The new work points the way for an improved version that could hide people and objects from visible light.
Although this sounds like a great idea, especially for military applications -- think of invisible bombers, invisible tanks, and even a platoon of Special Forces with a wall of invisibility around it -- there are some serious problems that the article does not address.
For example: if the invisibility cloak bends light around the object, then how would a human being inside the cloak be able to see out? In order to see, light needs to reflect off of some object into your eyes: but if the light headed towards your eyes is deflected around you, then it doesn't go into your eyes, does it?
Anybody inside the cloak would be blind to anything outside it. Soldiers could make their own light internally and see each other, but they couldn't see the enemy any more than the enemy could see them. Nor could they send or receive radio messages or satellite uplinks (microwaves), as those are also part of the EM spectrum.
It wouldn't affect sound waves, so other units could still communicate with them by bellowing; but some might see that as a dead giveaway. (Soldiers could be trained to randomly shout to nonexistent invisible allies, just to scare the bejesus out of some jihadis, if "bejesus" is really the word I want here.)
However, since the shouter and the listener still couldn't see each other, and GPS wouldn't work inside the cloak, it might be hard to avoid marching actual invisible troops into a cactus patch or off a cliff.
This minor drawback would be especially pesky for an invisible airplane. The pilot could still tell his altitude by a barometric altimeter, thank goodness, because his ground-avoidance radar will be useless and may as well be shut off to save electricity. But forget about GPS, VOR, TACAN, or celestial navigation. For that matter, you couldn't even navigate by VFR, since you wouldn't be able to see the ground.
A compass would still work; so if you were supremely confident in the inertial guidance system (similar to what cruise missiles use) -- I mean really, really confident, since you would literally be flying in the dark, even at high noon on Easter Sunday -- the pilot could kick back and read a Rex Stout mystery until over the target; then he could click off the cloaker, drop his bombs, then turn it back on and instruct the computer to get them the heck out of there.
So it's not entirely unworkable; but it would require a very different kind of warfare: soldiers, aircrew, and ships would spend most of their time inert, like a machine turned off; they would only come to life for a few brief moments of attack (and visibility) before disappearing again. Whew, what a life!
It would work well for missiles. Cloaking a missile would certainly help shield it from enemy ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems. During flight, the missile could click off the cloak every so often so it could take a peek at the ground or a nav signal (such as GPS) to see where it is and make any necessary course corrections. A fraction of a second later, it would click the cloak back on, probably too quick a flash to be noticed.
Defensively, this puts a premium on weapons like the Close-In Weapon System (CIWS, pronounced "sea whiz") on Aegis-equipped ships. This is a very fast Gatling gun (it fires 50 rounds per second) attached to detection devices (radar, visual-light target acquisition devices, or even downlinked from an airborne radar platform like the AWACS) and controlled by computer. When an object suddenly pops up too near to a ship for a missile defense, the CIWS jumps to life, centers on the incoming missile or airplane, and sends up a wall of lead (rather, a wall of depleted Uranium, DU) in its path, destroying whatever is incoming.
Such weapons can be adapted to instantly start shooting at any object that (a) magically appears in the vicinity, but (b) does not squawk the proper code signal for "friendly."
Another, more creative use of the cloak of invisibility is to erect a wall or fence somewhere, then activate a cloak around it. The wall will vanish, and the enemy will only find it by crashing into it. Hah, take that, you border crossers!
(If the bad guys tried to climb the invisible wall, they would be seen to levitate slowly and laboriously into the air. While this might initially be horrifying, I presume soldiers would be trained to find it suspicious, instead.)
This could be a lot of fun in the civilian world, too, if they get it working soon: cop cars could wait invisibly near intersections; a radar gun could be set up outside the cloak, with a shielded wire running inside. When a car passes at 85 mph, the radar guns sends a signal, which causes the cloak to click off, and off the cop roars. (Of course, this could cause some embarassment if the cop were doing something he oughtn't right at that moment; he certainly couldn't see it coming.)
As well, a cloaking device would be excellent for young lovers; they could enjoy each other's company anytime and anywhere. They can't see if it's day or night, but they're probably in that state anyway. Fortunately, however, it wouldn't work very well for voyeurs; high school girls needn't be paranoid in the locker room: the rule of thumb is, if the girl can't see the boy -- then the boy can't see her, either.
However, if one is willing to be caught, then there are possibilities. Adolescents acting like, well, like adolescents could creep into the shower room of the opposite sex, then snap the cloak off to magically appear at the most inopportune moment for the victims. So beware of "phantom giggling" in middle schools.
I seem to have wandered from my original point, but it's your own fault for reading. Who told you to, anyway?
Date ►►► October 19, 2006
Dear Leader Regrets...
Evidently, the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il, "regrets" the nuclear test. That's what he told the Chinese.
In fact, he regrets the test so much, he's even willing to return to the six-party talks... provided the United States grants unilateral, pre-negotiation concessions of, well, every concession North Korea has demanded in the past before returning to the table:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il expressed regret about his country's nuclear test to a Chinese delegation and said Pyongyang would return to international nuclear talks if Washington backs off a campaign to financially isolate the country, a South Korean newspaper reported Friday.
"If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Kim was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China.
Of course, they've always returned to the six-party talks anyway, even without such concessions. But only long enough to leave again and commit some provacative act: test-firing a missile (that topples over and crashes into the ocean), setting off a nuclear bomb (that fizzles faster than Democratic electoral hopes), or shooting an old missile they bought from China right across the Japanese mainland. Then they offer to return. In exchange for, shall we say, a few concessions?
So what specifically does the Democratic People's Republic of Korea want this time? Why, it's quite simple; painless, really:
North Korea has long insisted that the U.S. desist from a campaign to sever its ties to the international financial system. Washington accuses Pyongyang of complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction.
No big deal. What's a little counterfeiting and chemical warfare among chums? After all, he is the Dear Leader.
Big Lizards sincerely hopes that Secretary of State Condoleezza "Football" Rice picks up on the head-fake and rejects the Devil's deal. Any loosening of restrictions on North Korea must come about as part of the negotiations, not before negotiations even begin! And it must be in exchange for better guarantees against cheating, such as on-the-ground inspections by American-led inspection teams (we all still remember how Saddam punked UNSCOM and UNMOVIC).
I anticipate that when Dear Leader fails to get the pre-talk concessions he wants, his contrition will disappear faster than civility from a losing Democrat. But maybe I'm misjudging the fellow (he opposed the Iraq war, so that's a plus, as far as the nutroots is concerned).
Jonah and the Wail: the Virtue of Ignorance
This is one of those rare moments when I must vehemently disagree with Patterico, one of the people who got me into blogging in the first place (quite literally: Patterico's Pontificaitons was the first of two sites that allowed me on as a guest blogger). He gives a one-handed round of applause to neocon columnist Jonah Goldberg -- who now reverses himself, arguing that going into Iraq was "a mistake."
Interestingly, Goldberg, and by extension Patterico, make a pretty big whopper of a mistake themselves.
Here is Goldberg, as linked by Patterico:
I must confess that one of the things that made me reluctant to conclude that the Iraq war was a mistake was my general distaste for the shabbiness of the arguments on the antiwar side.
But that's no excuse. Truth is truth. And the Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq in 2003.
Oh, I quite agree: if Congress had known in 2002 that Iraq was only twenty minutes to midnight, instead of two minutes to midnight, it would have punted on the invasion. Congress would instead have settled upon a really, really, really strong letter to Saddam, asking him to be nicer.
But that's not the definition of a mistake, Jonah Goldberg notwithstanding. After all, had Congress known just how bad the Civil War would get, with 600,000 dead Americans and a nation ravaged by all four horsemen of the Apocalypse, it's very likely they never would have voted to go to war; they would have accepted the secession of the Confederate States of America instead.
I do not believe it was a mistake for the Union to fight the Civil War. So thank God they didn't know what was going to happen.
Suppose we'd had perfect knowledge of what would transpire in Iraq, and therefore, as we all (Jonah, Patterico, and I) conclude, we did not invade Iraq. What would have happened then? This is the question that neither Goldberg nor Patterico essay to answer... but I will.
- The Iraq sanctions regime would have collapsed.
This was already well on its way, as the sanctions were routinely circumvented and outright violated by European powers, even while the U.N.-mandated regime was still in place. Doesn't anybody remember that this was exactly what the Oil for Food scandal was all about?
European nations were already applying heavy pressure on the U.N. to drop the sanctions, which were "killing millions of Iraqi children" (remember? doesn't anybody remember?) Even Charles Duelfer of the Iraq Survey Group agrees that the sanctions were likely going away very quickly, certainly de facto and likely de jure as well:
Saddam was surprised by the swiftness of Iraq’s defeat. The quick end to Saddam’s Regime brought a similarly rapid end to its pursuit of sanctions relief, a goal it had been palpably close to achieving.
With increasingly shrill and bizarre claims of the death and destruction caused by sanctions, and the hundreds of oil deals Saddam cut with various countries that would only be implemented once sanctions were lifted, pressure to do so would have been irresistable.
And even if we used our veto power to keep them on the books, that is the only place they would exist: in the real world, sanctions only work when other countries cooperate. Europe had long ceased cooperating.
- When sanctions did collapse -- even if simply de facto, by rampant cheating and by European "inspectors" turning a blind eye -- Saddam was set to resume WMD development, using the knowledge, personnel, and WMD programs he had carefully retained from 1991 to 2003.
The ISG says this, too:
The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities. Several senior officials also either inferred or heard Saddam say that he reserved the right to resume WMD research after sanctions.
I think, after the revelations of Oil for Fraud, few reading this post think it at all farfetched that sanctions were already on life support and would have died entirely... probably in months, not years; and that when they did, Saddam Hussein had no intention of turning over a new leaf and becoming a peaceful member of the community of nations.
- Having once lifted sanctions, it would be politically impossible to reinstate them -- as France and Russia both have veto power as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council;
Does the picture become clear? It's true that we almost certainly would not have invaded Iraq had we "known then what we know now" about the cost in blood and treasure... and that failure would have been a dreadful mistake of historic proportions -- far worse, in retrospect, than the decision not to oust Hussein in 1991, following the Gulf War.
- There is very strong evidence of an increasing tempo of cooperation between Hussein and al-Qaeda, as well as cooperation with more traditional terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Evidence even from the 9/11 Commission (which admitted a few connections), but much more elsewhere, including here, for example.
- Saddam Hussein would have recreated his chemical and biological weapons, but this time attaching them to longer-range missiles that could strike any country in the Middle East.
- He probably would not have been able to develop working nukes on his own; but he could eventually have bought them from North Korea or perhaps Pakistan;
- He would have become the dominant player in the the region, and would very likely have funneled WMD to terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, with the international reach to strike in the United States.
- We would have had an American intifada -- and our response to further WMD attacks within our own country would have been a draconian clampdown on civil liberties here that would truly undercut the Constitution... unlike the minor and trivial "infringements" of the USA Patriot Act.
It amazes me that neither Goldberg nor Patterico even considers the question of what would have happened had we not invaded Iraq in March of 2003. Both buy into the idea that, if we would have made a different decision then, knowing how hard it would be, that the other decision would necessarily be better than the one we made.
We stumbled into the Iraq War by our own ignorance: but this was another one of those astonishingly fortuitous accidents that lead people like Michael Medved to believe that God directly intervenes in human affairs. While I wouldn't go that far, I will say this, echoing what I said above about the Civil War:
Thank God we didn't know in 2002 what we know now about the Iraq War! The "rational" response to that knowledge would have been a catastrophe for American security... and indeed for the entire war against jihad.
Date ►►► October 18, 2006
Bush Is Right: Iraq Is Like Vietnam
...But not quite the way George Snuffleupagus meant it, and likely not the way other Democrats mean when they hurl the charge.
What am I talking about? (Do I know?) Oh, yes, it's this interview by Snuffleupagus of the president, which includes this exchange of which ABC makes much:
President Bush said in a one-on-one interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that a newspaper column comparing the current fighting in Iraq to the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam, which was widely seen as the turning point in that war, might be accurate.
Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.
"He could be right," the president said, before adding, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."
Oh no! Bush is comparing Iraq to Vietnam! That means even he thinks we're doomed, right? What else could it possibly mean?
Well, it might mean that George W. Bush knows considerably more about the history of the Vietnam War than do George Snuffleupagus, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Harry "Invasion of the Landsnatchers" Reid, or any of a number of lefty bloggers.
Let's start with the basics. We all agree that, in the end, taking everything (including the politics) into account, we lost the Vietnam War. But that's about as much agreement as we're likely to get.
It is an article of deeply held faith among Democrats that the obscenely powerful North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and their allies in the South, the invincible People's Liberation Armed Forces (Vietcong, or VC), crushed and annihilated the American forces, sending us reeling back like the Nazis (that would be us) from the gates of Leningrad and Stalingrad, torn to pieces by the Mighty Red Army -- that would be the NVA and the VC.
That is, Democrats believe (the way Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus) that we Fascist, American, running-dog imperialists were militarily beaten by the people's revolution, and that was why we lost Vietnam.
The vision Democrats have of Vietnam is of mobs of hundreds of thousands of cowardly American troops fleeing in panic, deserting by the tens of thousands, being gunned down from behind by the victorious NVA. I'm not exaggerating; talk to any Democrat about the Vietnam War, and you will quickly realize that is exactly the picture that is seared, seared in his imagination.
The "proof" they offer for this bizarre fantasy is the Tet Offensive, a desperate attack by the NVA and the VC, which Wikipedia describes thus:
The Tết Offensive (January 30, 1968 - June 8, 1969) was a series of operational offensives during the Vietnam War, coordinated between battalion strength elements of the National Liberation Front's People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF or Viet Cong) and divisional strength elements of the North Vietnam's People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), against South Vietnam's Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), and United States military and other ARVN-allied forces.... The offensive began spectacularly during celebrations of the Lunar New Year, and sporadic operations associated with the offensive continued into 1969.
So divisions of the NVA poured across the border, while simultaneously, battalions of VC launched vicious attacks on virtually every major city in Vietnam. The idea was that, since (the Communists believed) the Americans and the government of South Vietnam were so unpopular, such an attack would trigger a nation-wide uprising, a revolution that would sweep the hated Capitalist pigs into the sea.
When Democrats say "Iraq is this generation's Vietnam," that is the context they mean: that Iraq is "unwinnable," as they claim Vietnam was; and that the Iraqi freedom-fighters have won battle after battle against the Fascist American imperialists. Soon, the Democrats fervently hope, America will be beaten and humbled (like on September 11th), and their own guilt at not being born poor, or at least black, will be mildly assuaged.
Well, the Tet Offensive didn't quite work out the way that the Commies planned -- or that the Democrats believe:
The Tết Offensive can be considered a crushing military defeat for the Communist forces, as neither the Viet Cong nor the North Vietnamese army achieved any of their tactical goals. Furthermore, the operational cost of the offensive was dangerously high, with the Viet Cong essentially crippled by the huge losses inflicted by South Vietnamese and other Allied forces.
Ah, but there is one other major pro-Communist force in 1968 that we haven't reckoned with yet: the American elite media, which desperately hoped for a catastrophic defeat of the American forces by North Vietnam and the National Front. Led by "Uncle" Walter Cronkite, the news media brazenly lied about the hammerblows that disintegrated the revolutionary forces; they reported instead that the attack was a historic victory for the Communists:
Many people, both at the time and in retrospect, have criticized the U.S. media for the negative light in which it portrayed both the war in general and the Tết Offensive in particular. Earle Wheeler, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, complained of "all the doom and gloom we see in the U.S. press" after Tết.
The most famous example of an anti-war attitude on the part of an influential press figure was Walter Cronkite's special report on the war of February 27, 1968. After touring the ruined streets and battlefields of the Tết Offensive and interviewing discouraged soldiers and officers in the field, he directly criticized the military leadership and the Johnson administration: "We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest cloud." He concluded by saying that the U.S. was "mired in a stalemate" and called for a negotiated end [that is, for an American surrender] to the conflict.
While the Tet Offensive was a military defeat of colossal proportions for the Communists, our own media turned it into a equally huge Communist victory via their relentless propaganda:
Nevertheless, the Offensive is widely considered a turning point of the war in Vietnam, with the NLF and PAVN winning an enormous psychological and propaganda victory.... The Tết Offensive is frequently seen as an example of the value of propaganda, media influence and popular opinion in the pursuit of military objectives.
It is clear from the context of the interview, even in the snippets that ABC chose to highlight in their online story, that President Bush is well aware of the real meaning of Tet; he makes it quite plain in the next thing he says after the bit quoted at the top of this post:
"George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave," Bush said. "And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here's how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause [the] government to withdraw."
In other words, the president correctly understands that the only sense in which the enemy in Iraq is "winning" is in the propaganda that they inspire and provoke among the persistently anti-American news media... as represented in this case by one George Robert Snuffleupagus, late communications director for President Bill Clinton -- now the victorious strongman of what used to be This Week With David Brinkley.
And its only victory would be if the antique media terrified enough people that they forced us into premature withdrawal of our troops, before they finished the job.
The Democrats want to negotiate a treaty with the terrorists determining how fast we hand Iraq over to al-Qaeda; this puts the Dems in the position of defeatists who declared in 1943 that we could never win the Pacific or European wars -- and who demanded that we negotiate a "settlement" with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan over how quickly they would be handed the entire eastern hemisphere.
And President Bush is absolutely correct: in the sense of political theater masquerading as warfare, Iraq indeed is very like unto Vietnam.
Quick, Somebody Find Mike Rogers a Map
Evidently, some Democratic dirty-tricks specialist -- and isn't there an extraordinary history of such people in the Democratic Party? -- named Mike Rogers has supposedly "outed" Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID, 96%) as "gay."
Craig denies it, as does his (heterosexual) family. Now, like Dean Barnett, I am completely indifferent to the truth or falsity of the charge (though unlike Dean, I very much oppose same-sex marriage). But as I read this on Hugh Hewitt, I was completely flummoxed: I didn't recall Craig being in any electoral danger, since his name hadn't appeared on any of the lists of senators who were in trouble. In fact, I couldn't find any polls about him at all.
But then I turned to Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball site and found out why: I discovered that Larry Craig isn't even running for reelection this year! He's not up until 2008, having been reelected in 2002.
What buffoonery the Democratic Party has embraced. For God's sake, if Democrats are going to sink to such despicable tactics as pointing and shouting "faggot!" at random Republicans, assuming that mindless Christian voters will recoil in horror from the unclean -- then wouldn't simple sanity suggest that such sleazy, homophobic attacks should be limited to people who are actually running for office that year?
Or does Rogers fantasize that if he calls Idaho's Larry Craig a homosexual, enraged voters 2,000 miles away will pull the lever for James Webb in Virginia?
As Jerry Pournelle likes to say, ye flipping gods.
Good Movies That Inexplicably Make Money
I haven't seen either movie (since neither has been released yet), but check out this comment by Hollywood hypestress and glam gal Nikki Finke. She's talking about the upcoming Tim Allen threequel the Santa Clause 3 and how it's "tracking" better, whatever that means, than the neo-surrealist, PoMoWood Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and she sez...
By contrast, few pics could be as low concept as Disney's "G"-rated Santa Clause 3, which comes out the same day as Borat. Starring middle-aged, middle-of-the-road Tim Allen, audiences don't appear to be tiring yet of this franchise which has inexplicably made money from its first day out.
Yes, that is a conundrum, isn't it? Now why on earth would a charming, family-friendly movie about a kind and decent man, played by Tim Allen, forced to take the place of the real Santa Claus, make any money? Why, there isn't a single breast baring, beheading, or homosexual cowboy (sheepboy) encounter in the entire film! What dork would want to go see something like that?
It's hard to fathom, but Finke appears to be serious in her befuddlement about the appeal of Tim Allen and the Santa Clause franchise. I have no idea how old Nikki Finke is -- the biographical page on her own website doesn't mention anything she has done pre-1995 -- but I wonder if she would be startled to learn that there used to be an era when kids (and adults!) actually liked movies that weren't mean, controversial, or edgy. When entire families could go to the movies together without the parents turning red with embarassment. When a depiction of school violence in a movie (Blackboard Jungle) was actually shocking.
There used to be a time when Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Rob and Laura Petrie, and the Bradys really were considered the standard, even by families that never quite lived up to it. There was something hopeful to be said about such loving, positive role models (as opposed to, say, the Sopranos), even when their reach exceeded our grasp. There was also something glorious about an age when "violence" on TV shows for kids meant the bloodless, comedy shootings of Get Smart or an anvil dropping on Wile E. Coyote's head... rather than a Saturday afternoon rerun of Friday the 13th Part 266.
Never mind mere murder; how many eviscerations and flayings has the average kid seen by the time he's 14?
So "surprise, surprise, surprise," as another prototypical good guy used to say (I'm sure Nikki Finke would make comical gestures more commonly associated with bulemia if forced to watch an episode of Gomer Pyle, USMC): many of us doddering ancients -- we actually remember a time before 24-hour porn channels and interactive internet self-abuse sites for the hard-up 12 year old who doesn't have a hook-up tonight -- many of us like watching movies that remind us of what we consider a better cinematic age.
I have failed to find occasion to go see the Black Dahlia... but then, I read the book, so I was forewarned. But last night, I did find time to watch Gene Kelly's the Three Musketeers on TCM (great, except for Van Heflin as Athos; I like Oliver Reed's interpretation much better), and tonight I watched Judy Garland, Angela Lansbury, Cyd Charisse, Ray Bolger, Virginia O'Brien, and Chill Wills in [see if you can guess this MGM musical!].
I don't think my time was ill spent on that trade. But what do I know? I'm not in "the business," however peripherally.
Date ►►► October 17, 2006
CAN the Polls All Be "Screwy?" Of Course They Can
Over at Power Line, John and Paul (but neither George nor Ringo) are intoning a mantra that "the polls can't all be screwy."
But in fact, they can be. I'm not saying they are; but it's entirely possible that every, last poll has made a critical false assumption that will only show up when the final vote is tallied on November 7th. However, even if this is true, it might not be enough for them to retain Congress, unless they also improve in the public polling.
(By an amazing synchronicity, just as I was finishing this post, Hugh Hewitt's show came on -- and he was interviewing Scott Rasmussen on this exact question!)
Here is what Paul wrote:
The White House is pointing out that the polls used by major news organizations to show that voters strongly favor Democrats this year all employ samples in which voter id does not reflect historical norms. Specifically, in polls by USA Today/Gallup, CBS/NYTimes, ABC/WP, Newsweek, AP/Ipsos, Time, and Pew, Democrats exceeded Republicans by margins greater than those that existed in any recent election....
But what about all of those polls by Rasmussen, et al that show Democrats ahead in so many of the key races in individual jurisdictions? As John said, "the polls can't all be screwy."
The bias problem doesn't show up much in the wording of questions; it's hard to mess up a question like "do you plan to vote for Republican Rick Santorum or Democrat Bob Casey jr.?" Especially when half the respondents hear instead, "do you plan to vote for Democrat Bob Casey jr. or Republican Rick Santorum?" Nor is there any overt, deliberate attempt to pick an overly liberal (or conservative) pool of respondents.
But before putting stock in any poll, we must understand the provenance of polling in general. What pollsters report is not the raw percentage of how respondents (hereafter, "Rs") answered the poll questions; nor should it be. If a state's electorate is 12% black, but the poll sample ended up being 18% black, then that pool of respondents is not representative of the electorate, and the responses should be "weighted" to bring that into line.
Weighting means that the number of responses for each candidate that come from (self-described) black Rs is multiplied by 12/18, while the corresponding responses from white Rs are multiplied by the corresponding fraction of 88/82, thus bringing the total responses from each group of Rs down or up to what the pollster expects. In fact, pollsters simultaneously weight for a large number of such variables, all based upon their predicted "turnout models" for each of those subgroups of voter... and therein lies the rub. [I misstated the second fraction up there, but alert commenter PBRMan Stone caught me, thank goodness. One hates being caught, but not as much as one would hate not being caught!]
In order to determine whether the poll sample includes too many or too few black, Hispanic, female, college-educated, impoverished, rich, or Catholic Rs, the pollster must first decide what the right number will be. But how do they do this?
First, of course, they look at past elections. In this case, that would mean the election of 2002, since the election of 2004 is not comparable: it's very hard to compare a purely congressional election to a presidential election, because the dynamics are completely different. But this backwards look is not sufficient, because circumstances have changed dramatically since then: for one thing, President Bush was polling at 60% or so in 2002 but only at about 40% today.
Thus, the pollster must adjust the expected turnout model to take these changes into account; and this is where the bias creeps in, probably unbeknownst to the pollster: how much less turnout should we expect from evangelical voters in 2006 vice 2002? How much more turnout of women, or blacks, or Hispanics?
Pollsters don't answer these numbers in the dark: they can start with demographic statistics from the Census Bureau, for example, telling them whether the black population of Pennsylvania has increased or decreased and by how much. But that doesn't necessarily predict whether the percent turnout of blacks in Pennsylvania will go up or down, or by how much: if a state passed a motor-voter bill that caused a big jump in registrations of 18 and 19 year olds, that doesn't necessarily imply an equivalent jump in 18 and 19 year olds actually voting.
But there is one controversial category that is the true wild card and will be the subject of the rest of this post: party identification. I'm not going to bother adding links for everything I say here; it's a research project all on its own. But here is the lowdown:
There is a huge, unresolved debate among pollsters: to what extent does party identification by an R actually reflect his party registration, and to what extent does it instead reflect which party he supports now? In other words, of all the people who now say they're "Independent," how many are actually registered Democrats or Republicans who are just saying they're Independent because they're unhappy with the direction their actual registered party has taken?
The vast majority of public pollsters resolve this problem by simply ignoring it: they use the possibility that party ID might reflect actual voter intent to reject weighting by party ID at all. In fact, of the major public pollsters, only Rasmussen weights for party ID... and even they use a turnout model based upon (wait for it) polling! Thus, they ask Rs their party ID -- and use that to weight other poll samples for party ID. Yeesh!
(Hugh failed to ask Scott Rasmussen one question, the answer to which I've been dying to hear: since Rasmussen does weight for party ID, how often is he forced to adjust in favor of the Democrats, implying an oversampling of Republicans? My guess would be that he almost always adjusts in favor of Republicans, implying his samples -- thus the samples of many other pollsters who do not weight for party ID -- tend to overpoll Democrats.)
How much to weight for party ID is a weighty question for a very weighty reason: if poll samples consistently come up with significantly more Democrats and Independents than voted in the last comparable election (and consequently fewer Republicans), does that mean that a bunch of registered Republicans now consider themselves more in the Independent or Democratic camps -- hence will vote that way -- or does it mean there is an unidentified but systemic bias in the sample selection that will disappear when voters actually go to the polls?
In other words, should polls be weighted to "correct" the typical "oversampling" in favor of the Left in the pool of Rs, or does that supposed oversampling actually reflect true voter intent -- hence should not be eliminated by weighting?
And there is a related question that even further complicates the situation: assume some number of Republicans are mad at the party, so when asked their party affilliation, they say "Independent" or even "Democrat," and when asked who they will vote for, they say "Casey." What percent of them will, in the end, come back to the fold and vote for Santorum, even if they must hold their noses while doing so? After all, if you believe that a person will "switch" his party affilliation one direction, then he could jolly well switch it back in the voting booth, too.
The reality is that the percent of overpolled Democrats and Independents who are in fact "false-flag" voters -- voters who say they're one party while actually being another -- is neither 0% or 100%; nor will all the false-flaggers actually vote for Democrats:
- Some of the increase pollsters see is genuine, and will result in greater turnout of registered Democrats and Independents, hence more votes for Democratic candidates;
- Some is false-flag, but committed: Republicans saying they're something else, but as a true sea-change in their thinking, which will carry through to the polls, resulting in more (Republican) votes for Democrats;
- But some is false-false-flag, meaning they're false-flagging now -- but in the end, for whatever reason, they will come to their senses and return to the fold, voting for the Republican candidate after all.
Every pollster would admit this, though you might have to get him drunk enough. But nobody, and I mean nobody, actually knows what percent of the supposed "oversampling" of the Left is actually Type 3 -- thus leading to an actual, systemic, bias in the polls in favor of Democratic candidates.
If (3) is but a small portion of the supposed overpolling, then the polls are likely fairly accurate -- as of this moment. Under this turnout model, the Left is not being oversampled much at all. But if the large increase in Democratic and Independent party ID is largely explained by false-false-flag voters, then the oversampling is real and could be significant.
The answer to this question changes from day to day, naturally: a committed false-flag voter can turn into a false-false-flag voter three days before the election, if he hears the right argument, either in an advert or from a neighbor.
For my own guess -- and that is all it really is -- I think that the percent of the overpolling that is false-false-flag is significant. Here is what the White House said in that press release linked by Paul above:
In short, between 1992 and 2004, only once did one party enjoy an advantage as large as 4 points over the other in party ID. But in recent polling samples used by eight different polling organizations (USA Today/Gallup, CBS/NYTimes, ABC/Washington Post, CNN/Opinion Research, Newsweek, AP/Ipsos, Pew, and Time), the Democratic advantage in the sample surveyed was never less than 5 points. All these organizations conducted surveys in early October. According to Winston, the Democrats held the following party ID advantages in these early-October surveys: USAToday/Gallup: 9 points
CBS/NYT: 5 points
ABC/WP: 8 points
CNN: did not provide sample party ID details
Newsweek: 11 points
AP/Ipsos: 8 points
Pew: 7 points
Time: 8 points
While I'm sure there has been some honest "false-flagging" by registered Republicans who actually intend to vote Democratic, hence identify themselves as Independent to the pollster -- and even some actual party-registration switching away from the Republican Party -- I do not believe that it is such a staggering increase as we see here. 8 points? 9 points? 11 points?
However, there is no question that Republicans are running behind right now, even taking the false-false-flaggers into account. Rasmussen polls do weight for party ID; and even though they base their guess of turnout on polling, Scott Rasmussen just said (on Hugh Hewitt, remember?) that many of the races (including Sens. Mike DeWine and Rick Santorum) have Republicans so far behind that even upping turnout to the 2002 level doesn't put them ahead.
That is why I have estimated that systemic bias in public polling accounts for only 1% - 2%: that's my back of the pants guess of the impact of type-3 "false-false-flag" Rs.
I also guess that the advantage Republicans enjoy on GOTV, money, and general skill at closing (including the power of incumbency) will give them an additional 3% - 4% on average, though not evenly distributed among the races. Thus, most Republicans who are only down by 4% or less in the last public polls before the election have an excellent chance of pulling it out.
So in answer to John's aphorism (and Paul's quotation of John's aphorism), yes, it's certainly possible that all the polls are, in fact, screwy. But it's impossible to know that for sure until after the election.
Also, even if screwy, there is no way to measure just how screwy they are: it might not be enough to make up for the Republican deficit.
But it might change the outcome in some close races. It's certainly worth pursuing the question of trying to figure out how much of the "oversampling" actually reflects a real shift in the electorate, and how much is actually an improper oversampling that should be corrected by weighting.
Date ►►► October 16, 2006
A Whopper a Day
As I have said to several folks in e-mail this week last, we must expect that every day, every media source that is elite (or wishes it were) will print yet another story whose only purpose is to demoralize Republicans.
Expect it. Gird your loins. Prepare like a Boy Sprout. Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics appears to have caught Adam Nagourney of the New York (Democratic) Times in just such a whopper. It all starts out believably enough:
Senior Republican leaders have concluded that Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, a pivotal state in this year’s fierce midterm election battles, is likely to be heading for defeat and [they] are moving to reduce financial support for his race and divert party money to other embattled Republican senators, party officials said.
The decision to effectively write off Mr. DeWine’s seat, after a series of internal Republican polls showed him falling behind his Democratic challenger, is part of a fluid series of choices by top leaders in both parties as they set the strategic framework of the campaign’s final three weeks, signaling, by where they are spending television money and other resources, the Senate and House races where they believe they have the best chances of success.
Republicans are now pinning their hopes of holding the Senate on three states — Missouri, Tennessee and, with Ohio off the table, probably Virginia — while trying to hold on to the House by pouring money into districts where Republicans have a strong historical or registration advantage, party officials said Sunday. Republicans also said they would run advertisements in New Jersey this week to test the vulnerability of Senator Robert Menendez, one of the few Democrats who appear endangered.
But Cost, who actually knows a thing or two about campaigns, was not fooled. He fumfahs around some, pretending to take this pearl seriously and puzzling at the contradictions:
Giving up on a race that is still probably winnable - even if the chance of victory is now at 33%, for instance - is something that a party does when it is suffering from scarce resources. And that is not one of the many GOP problems this year.
And of course, this does not take into account the fact that The Washington Post on Friday reported that the GOP was making Ohio part of its Waterloo-type stand....
Nor, for that matter, does it take into account the story last week from David Espo indicating that the NRC was involving itself in the Ohio Senate race, stepping on the toes of the NRSC in the process.
Then the Jay-bird drops the hammer:
I think there is something more to the story -- and whatever that "more" is, it exists in the undetailed details implicit to this paragraph:Mr. DeWine has proved to be a successful fund-raiser on his own, and, with $4.5 million on hand, already enjoys a large financial advantage over his Democratic opponent, Representative Sherrod Brown; he is not dependent on financial support to keep campaigning. The Republican National Committee and the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee have already spent $4.6 million on his race; party officials said they concluded that there were now simply more opportune races to focus on.
Maybe, then, the Times is drawing the wrong inference from their sources. Maybe they are interpreting Republican accounting procedures (i.e. the party being satisfied with the overall amount spent between the RNC, the NRSC and DeWine) as news of DeWine's demise. This paragraph certainly reads differently from the opener, does it not? This one reads as though DeWine is in fairly good financial shape, and the GOP is moving on to less well-heeled candidates. That certainly makes more sense.
Sorry to quote so lavishly from Jay's post, which is quite wondrous to behold. But yesterday, Jay linked to a fast and furious denial by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN, 92%). Nothing dissembling at all about it, not like Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) non-denial denial of wrongdoing in the Great Nevada Land Snatch. No, ma'am; Frist goes right for the juggler.
(My many layers of editors insist that this should be "goes right for the jugular," but I say they suffer a paucity of imagination. Why can't Frist for a juggler if he wants? Who's going to stop him? You?)
Be that as it may, Frist as much as calls Nagourney a liar or a madman:
Yet again, the Times is completely wrong.
The truth is that liberal Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media are anxious about positive polling for Senator DeWine and about the proven success of our voter mobilization efforts … and they are desperately hoping that Republicans concede Mike DeWine’s seat without putting up a fight.
That, old chums, is the sound of gloves being snapped off. Though why Bill Frist should be wandering around the office in gloves is anybody's guess; and let's hope they're not elbow-high opera gloves. (Perhaps he took them from the juggler as a prize or token.)
Get ready for it; it will not come creeping like some juggler in the night; at this point, the elite media will charge like a panicky rhino, crashing into furniture left and right and flipping the tea things high into the air. We will see story after story, sledge hammer after sledge hammer: Republicans are Communists! Republicans are child molesters! They're in league with bin Laden! They're puppets of the Jews!
But with every clumsy overhead blow, just smile -- and tell your grumpy Republican buddies to stop sitting out the election in a snit and stop blubbering that the end is near, but instead to rise up, go forth, and cast their votes against hysteria, fabrication, and poltroonery.
As Friend Lee predicted today, on November 8th, one of two things will happen:
- The jubilant Democrats will be dancing in the streets, screaming like little girls, and juggling cigar boxes in glee at having finally captured the House of Representatives in order to impeach the president;
- Or the Democrats will foam at the mouth, fall into a frenzy, bang their heads against the floor, frighten the horses, and begin chewing the carpet like starving goats working their way through the prize begonias. They might even spontaneously combust.
Either one would be intriguing, in a "horrified fascination" sort of way; but on the whole, I think we'd all rather watch number 2.
The Cagey Coronor
Actually, it's not really a "court decision;" but that was the closest category I have, and I didn't think it necessary to create a new one for a single story.
When I first read this tale Friday the 13th, I meant to blog on it, but it slipped my mind. But then a hiccough in the finely tooled Reuters machine caused a list of old stories to bubble up on their Excite RSS feed, instead of the new stuff. Seeing this thing a second time jogged my memory; and here we are, wherever that is.
This story is so explosively anti-Bush -- yet has created so little a stir in the antique media -- that I suspect they're just as skeptical about it as I:
One of Britain's most experienced journalists was unlawfully killed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, a British inquest into his death ruled on Friday, prompting calls for the perpetrators to be tried for war crimes.
Veteran war correspondent Terry Lloyd, 50, who worked for British television company ITN, was killed in March 2003 in southern Iraq as he reported from the front line during the first few days of the U.S.-led invasion....
The ITN News crew, which unlike most journalists covering the war was not attached to any U.S. or British unit, had first come under fire at Iman Anas, near Basra, while driving toward the port city in two vehicles marked "Press."
Lloyd, who had reported from Iraq, Cambodia, Bosnia and Kosovo during his award-winning career, was initially wounded in the stomach. He was then shot in the head by U.S. troops after he had been picked up and put in an Iraqi minibus, the inquest heard.
Note the obvious implication: the Americans must have stopped the minivan, gone inside, identified Lloyd, realized he was a journalist, and killed him execution style!
But in fact, other reporting makes clear the minivan was in a crossfire between Saddamite Iraqi and American forces, and was hit by machine-gun fire from either an American tank or helo; one bullet happened to hit Lloyd in the head. There was nothing deliberate about it, and no evidence was offered that any American had any idea a journalist was in the minivan (in fact, video evidence shows that we were shocked to find him there).
It appears from the story that nobody at the inquest took any evidence from the Pentagon; the article says that the soldiers declined to attend -- understandable, since they might have been summarily seized and held; and even the writer of this article, Eleanor Wason, seems never to have bothered calling for comment. The only response from the DoD is clearly a generic, pro-forma defense, probably lifted from some press release, probably issued at the time of the death:
U.S. Army Colonel Gary Keck, a Pentagon spokesman, said the death was a "tragic accident."
"We do not nor would we ever deliberately target a non-combatant, civilian or journalist," he said.
"We will continue to work with news organisations to do everything realistically possible to reduce the risk on an inherently dangerous battlefield but we must remember that there are inherent risks in covering a war."
A Washington Post article sheds some light on the lack of interest in contrary testimony: in fact, a number of soldiers submitted written testimony, but the coroner, Andrew Walker -- who appears to have functioned as both prosecutor and judge in this affair, making it more like an American grand-jury proceeding than a trial -- refused to allow the written testimony to be entered as evidence, since the soldiers didn't show up in person to be clapped in irons.
But videotape evidence and even testimony at the hearing show that the shooting happened in the middle of a firefight between American and Iraqi forces at the beginning of the war, before Saddam Hussein's government collapsed:
According to a videotape provided by the U.S. military and testimony from witnesses, including an ITN cameraman who was at the scene, Lloyd, 50, was killed after being caught in crossfire between U.S. and Iraqi forces near the southern Iraqi city of Basra on March 22, 2003.
The British coroner said Lloyd was shot in the back [back or stomach?] by Iraqi soldiers who had overtaken his four-wheel-drive vehicle. Lloyd then walked to a civilian minivan and was being driven away for medical treatment when U.S. forces opened fire on the van, killing Lloyd with a shot to the head, Walker concluded.
"There is no doubt that the minibus presented no threat to the American forces," Walker said. "There is no doubt it was an unlawful act of fire upon the minibus."
My first thought upon reading that was, how much combat experience does Coroner Walker have? How is he able to tell whether American soldiers -- in a war -- in the midst of combat -- with an actual enemy army -- did or did not see a moving vehicle on the battlefield as a threat? My second thought was that if this is the sort of "impartial" justice American soldiers can expect to receive in Oxford, then it's no wonder we're not willing to hand our soldiers over to such tender mercies.
The hysteria surrounding this death, including the inevitable implication that Lloyd was deliberately shot to death execution-style while he lay wounded, sounds remarkably like the fabricated claims that American soldiers "assassinated" Nicola Calipari, the negotiator who got Italian pseudo-journalist Giuliana Sgrena (a self-professed Communist who works for the Communist Party propaganda sheet Il Manifesto) out of her supposed captivity in Iraq.
In fact, the investigation in the Sgrena case ultimately showed that the car holding her tried to run a security checkpoint -- probably to avoid answering embarassing questions about whether they paid the terrorists a ransom -- and was fired upon by a National Guard specialist (a number of lefty blogs misunderstood and falsely reported that the guard was Special Forces, rather than a specialist; I suppose it fit the "assassination" theory better). The gunfire, aimed at the engine block, went through the windshield and fatally wounded Calipari.
But Sgrena instantly accused the Americans of trying to assassinate her, presumably because we were so frightened that she might denounce us in her Communist rag. And Italian authorities jumped to obey, charging the specialist with "political murder" (that is, assassination). The U.S. has said it has no intention of handing him over (I'm deliberately not using his name, and I will delete any comment that names him; he has suffered enough for just doing his job). However, the Italians now threaten to try him "in absentia."
I suspect the Terry Lloyd death will be dealt with similarly: Coroner Walker will continue insisting that we deliberately shot Lloyd... never mind the fact that there were many embedded journalists, a great many whom were anti-war from the beginning and reporting on "quagmires" and "friendly-fire incidents" and that we couldn't possibly win the initial phase; why would we be especially frightened of one more? And a foreign journalist, to boot, whose broadcasts would have significantly less impact here than those of lefty American broadcasters like Dan Rather or any of the one-the-ground reporters for CNN.
When the Pentagon refuses to yank the soldiers off of the line or pull them out of duty in Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa or wherever they heck they are to send them to a kangaroo court in Oxfordshire, I'm sure that Walker and the widow and child of Lloyd will demand they be tried not only in absentia but also anonymously. The wheels of justice grind exceeding fine indeed.
ABC ran a story, but it adds only slightly to the narrative. Here are the two most interesting parts:
The coroner said Friday that a civilian drove up in a minivan, pulled a U-turn and picked up four wounded Iraqi soldiers, then saw Lloyd with a press card around his neck and helped him into the van. Lloyd was shot in the head as the van drove off toward a hospital, the coroner said.
First of all, how does the coroner know that the minivan "drove off toward a hospital?" Did he consult a street map of Iman Anas, figure out where the hospital was, and deduce that that's where the minivan was headed?
But the second tidbit here is even more telling: before picking up Lloyd, the minivan picked up some Iraqi soldiers. The soldiers were supposedly wounded; but how should Americans know this when they see it driving around? There is no evidence we saw the minivan pick people up. Clearly, it was fired upon sometime later, because they subsequently picked up Lloyd and were shot at by the Americans after that point.
So if the Americans could see into the minivan at all, what would they see? An unmarked minivan full of Iraqi soldiers, possibly still armed, driving around a battlefield during an ongoing firefight. Yet Coroner Walker believes we should have known that the Iraqi soldiers were wounded, and that there was also a wounded British broadcaster -- shot by the Iraqis -- inside as well.
Some "war crime." The full story is a far cry from there being "no doubt that the minibus presented no threat to the American forces."
Here is a fascinating point that evidently came out at the hearing -- but was not deemed particularly important by the coroner. From the ABC story:
ITN cameraman Daniel Demoustier, the sole survivor, told the inquest that ITN's pair of four-wheel drive vehicles were overtaken by a truck carrying Iraqi forces and that gunfire erupted. [From the Washington Post story, we know that "erupted" means the Iraqis opened fire, hitting Lloyd in the back. Or the front, per Reuters.]
"The hell broke loose completely. I was absolutely sure I was going to die," Demoustier told the inquest. Driving blindly in smoke, Demoustier said he realized the passenger door was open and Lloyd was gone.
Demoustier, a Belgian, said he jumped from his flaming car and lay in the sand, waiting for the shooting to stop. Demoustier said he tried to stand to signal U.S. tanks in the area but that they resumed firing at the clearly marked ITN vehicles.
So in other words, the ITN vehicles -- and likely the minivan as well -- were right in the middle of a crossfire, with Iraqi forces on one side and American tanks on the other (unless you prefer believing we were actually sitting side by side with the Republican Guard, both of us collaborating in pumping lead into newsvans instead of fighting each other).
So even if the minivan itself were no threat, the Iraqi vehicles using it as cover to shoot at us were. Did Coroner Walker consider that possibility? Did he investigate the line of fire to see whether we were shooting at the minivan and the ITN SUVs -- or shooting at the Iraqis hiding behind them? Certainly nothing in any of the small handful of stories about this hearing tell us whether he bothered or not.
Perhaps this is why the American elite media have by and large not lined up behind this story the way they swarmed around, e.g., Abu Ghraib, the al Qaqaa ammunition dump, or even (heaven help us) Mark Foley. Maybe they remember how they got their heads handed to them following the revelation of the true story of the Sgrena "assassination", when satellite pictures clearly showed the car traveling very fast into the checkpoint and not decelerating before the soldiers fired upon it. Once bitten...
We'll see what happens over the next three weeks. At some point, the Democrats may decide that any such debunking can be suppressed until November 8th; and they may instruct their propaganda wing, the mass media, to run with it anyway. (Or maybe some Democratic candidate will use it in an ad slandering his opponent.)
But at the moment, everyone appears to be eyeing this story warily, rather than embracing it with both arms and a thigh.
Date ►►► October 15, 2006
The Lizardarian Manifesto
In the face of electoral adversity, I will be courageous, steadfast, loyal, honest, graceful, and optimistic. To wit:
I will not be a craven.
Regardless of media threats, I will not be cowed or silenced; I will not be shamed or frightened. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. I will not be made to feel guilty for being a partisan Republican. If they don't like it, they can jolly well get stuffed.
I will not be a doomhawker.
Despite adverse polls, I will not cringe. I will push forward, conceding nothing, yielding no land, handing no freebies to the Democrats. I will not roll over. I will not concede defeat before the votes are even cast, let alone counted. I will contest every contest until the last possible moment. While I may allocate scarce resources where they will do the most good, I will never start a sentence with "after we lose, we'll have to...."
Elections are like sunrises: you always know when they'll come, but you never know what they'll look like until they arrive.
I will not be a sore winner.
Where Republicans prevail, I will not engage in schoolyard taunts, no matter how disguised. I will never imply that winning makes us better people than the Democrats: we may be better, we may be worse, but neither is determined by who won the election.
I will not be a sore loser.
Where Republicans lose, I will not idly charge electoral fraud: that charge is a powerful explosive that must only be used when (1) the evidence is absolutely overwhelming, and (2) the fraud determined the electoral result, and (3) the fraud is reversible.
And even then, I will think three times before opening my yap... is this trip to the courthouse really necessary? Is it in the best interest of the party, or is it just my own rage at having lost? We're not a bunch of damned Democrats, for God's sake.
I will never tempt other Republicans to despair.
We get quite sufficient invitation to that state from the media, thank you. We don't need to do it to ourselves!
I will never argue that "the best way to win is by losing."
When we lose an election, that means we lost, you dolt. Nobody ever wins by losing; that's the loser's way of gloating over his own ineptitude, as if it were a plus instead of a big minus.
Finally, I will never use setback as my excuse for despair.
The first rule of Life 101 is that nobody always wins: even Douglas MacArthur was defeated and driven out of the Philippines. Even Ronald Reagan didn't get everything he wanted... his pick for Secretary of Education never managed to make himself unemployed, and we still have that department today.
Adversity is a given in this vale of tears. Take it like a man, even if you're a woman. Suck it up, fix your problems, and charge into the next election with courage, grace, and optimism.
We may lose a contest, but the Democrats can never defeat us; only we can do that to ourselves.
But if we pull up our pants with courage and vigor and step out bravely, sword in hand, even after being sent reeling;
If we never say die;
If we never recognize final defeat;
If we never give up;
If we stand ever ready to give the last full measure of our devotion;
If we have faith;
If we adopt the credo of the Spartans at Thermopylae, death before dishonor;
Then in the end, we shall prevail, ourselves or those who follow... and even the grandchildren of our adversaries shall have cause to remember our names.
And that is no mean thing.
Bride of Sprint to the Finish
The previous two posts on the upcoming election are here:
Big Lizards has been bucking the tide of Republican defeatism, predicting that the GOP will limit their losses to 12 in the House and 4 in the Senate, retaining both houses. And today, we got some support... from a couple of fellows named Bush and Rove:
Amid widespread panic in the Republican establishment about the coming midterm elections, there are two people whose confidence about GOP prospects strikes even their closest allies as almost inexplicably upbeat: President Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove.
Some Republicans on Capitol Hill are bracing for losses of 25 House seats or more. But party operatives say Rove is predicting that, at worst, Republicans will lose only 8 to 10 seats -- shy of the 15-seat threshold that would cede control to Democrats for the first time since the 1994 elections and probably hobble the balance of Bush's second term. [Say, Karl Rove is even more upbeat than the lizards!]
In the Senate, Rove and associates believe, a Democratic victory would require the opposition to "run the table," as one official put it, to pick up the necessary six seats -- a prospect the White House seems to regard as nearly inconceivable.
I'm sticking with my prediciton of a loss of 12 seats in the House for now; but then, I don't have access to anywhere near the level of information that Rove has: internal polling, intimate knowledge of the upcoming GOTV (get out the vote) effort, and the full accounting of the money raised by both parties. But I reserve the right to keep fiddling with my predictions every day, if I feel like it, until the day of the vote itself -- November 7th.
So take heart, and ignore the doomcryers: we optimists may be wrong, but by God and my right arm, we'll go down fighting like hell. We won't lie down and die just to avoid making a scene.
Get your rumps out of your chairs and go vote. Vote early, vote often! Make the Democrats struggle for every bloody district they win from us... give them no freebies.
From my favorite play of all time:
Then yield thee, coward,
And live to be the show and gaze o' the time:
We'll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,
Painted on a pole, and underwrit,
'Here may you see the tyrant.'
I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet,
And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'
That's how I live my life; that's how I manifest my politics. So lay on, MacPelosi!
Date ►►► October 14, 2006
Addendum to Sprint to the Finish
In Sprint to the Finish, I found the election picture nowhere near as bleak as does Power Line. But I neglected to add one more interesting twist to this already fascinating series of contests.
Keep your eyes on California and Florida!
- We have a governor's race here between incumbent Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic challenger Phil Angelides; in Florida, the race is between Republican Charlie Crist and Democrat Jim Davis;
- At first, both looked as if they would be close races; but now, Angelides and Davis are far behind and it looks like a foregone conclusion that Arnold will be handily reelected in Cah-lee-for-nee-ah and Crist breeze to the governor's mansion in Florida;
- In fact, Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee-blog California Insider reports that the unions in the Golden state have stopped giving Angelides money... not because they don't like him anymore, but because they consider it, in Weintraub's words, a "suicide mission;"
- Without this money, Angelides is not only unlikely to close the gap with Schwarzenegger, he may very well plummet further in the polls;
- All of the above can have a major effect on the downticket races -- including races for the U.S. House -- as dispirited Democrats turn out in smaller numbers than expected;
California and Florida... maybe it's something in the oranges?
I don't believe there were any California Republican seats on the endangered list; and California is one of the most heavily gerrymandered states in the country. But there may still be marginal Democratic seats that could surprisingly switch to the GOP. Even one or two such could spell the difference between holding the House and losing it to the Democrats.
Alas, I can find no comprehensive list of polling in California's 53 congressional districts.
In Florida, lower Democratic turnout may help retain the Foley seat (Florida 16, contested by Joe Negron), a possible Democratic pickup where the Democrat (Tim Mahoney) has a small lead, and ensure that Katherine Harris' seat (Florida 13, contested by Vern Buchanan) doesn't go to Democrat Christine Jennings (who leads slightly), staying with the GOP.
But let's turn also to what many call the "gold standard" of election projections... the website called, efficiently enough, ElectionProjection.com.
They "project" that the Democrats pick up six seats in the Senate to take control (I'm counting Lieberman as a Democrat, since he will surely caucus with them); but you have to read between the lions a bit: when they "project" a pick up, they count every race where a Democrat currently leads... including those with very small leads.
Of the six projected "pickups," half of them are listed as "Weak DEM Gain," which means the Democrat is ahead by less than 5%. Thus, for this projection to come true, Democrats would have to win every last toss-up race where they are currently ahead.
Of course, it's also true that there are Republican holds are listed as weak; or rather, there is one: Virginia. I believe that Republican Sen. George Allen will retain his seat -- there hasn't been a single recent poll showing James Webb in the lead, and the current Real Clear Politics average is Allen +4.6.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez is also listed as a "Weak DEM Hold," but I think it's a lot weaker than George Allen's (Menendez's average lead is only 3.9%); thus, it's a good bet (though not a sure thing) that Allen holds and Menendez is knocked off by Republican Tom Kean, jr. Combine that with a loss of one of the three "Weak DEM Gain" projections, and the Dems would only pickup a net 4 in the Senate. If two of the three weak Democratic gains remain in GOP hands, it's only a net pickup of 3.
Over on the House side, Election Projection currently only shows a net Democratic pickup (same as the raw, since they don't project any GOP pickups) of 13 seats; but again, many of those -- 9 of the 13 -- are weak. However, in this case, there are also 16 weak Republican holds and 5 weak Democratic holds.
I typically treat those as 50-50 races, in which case we get a net Democratic pickup of 14, rather than 13. Still, that's just barely enough for the GOP to hold the House... with a 219-216 majority (with 435 House seats total, 218 is the smallest majority). Katherine Harris' seat (Buchanan) is one of the weak GOP holds, and Mark Foley's seat (Negron) is one of the weak Democratic pickups; the lopsided Florida governor's race could favorably affect both of these.
This is dicey, of course; I very much hope that the polling trend continues, with the Foley follies continuing to exeunt stage left, and national security, terrorism, North Korea, lower gasoline and heating prices, and the robust economy seizing center stage. (I'm still amazed that the Foley imbroglio has helped the Democrats at all: after all, if your big fear is that gay congressmen might have sex scandals with the pages, the solution cannot possibly be to elect more Democrats!)
So again, right at the moment, a realistic projection has the GOP retaining both houses, albeit by the narrowest margin in recent history in the House of Representatives. But with even a small breeze at the Republican's back (fading Foley, rising seriousness), the House margin should be significantly improved. Especially if there are any surprises arising from the California and Florida gubernatorial blowouts.
Sprint to the Finish
Power Line is pessimistic about the election (so what else is new?); but I just went through the list of all 40 competitive House races on Real Clear Politics, and I found only 8 clear pickups for the Democrats.
Of course, many of the remaining races were tossups with the Dems slightly ahead, and they will win several of them. But I still don't see a clear path to a net pickup of 15, which is what they need to take the House back.
The Republicans have an incredible GOTV (get out the vote) drive, much better than the Democrats; this is probably good for 3%-4% in the polls. And the natural bias of polls towards Democrats is good for another 1%-2%. Thus, I call it for the Democrats if they're generally winning in the polls by 7% or better; closer than that, and it's questionable whether the Dems can make it across the finish line in first place.
Another point I noticed: a number of races were much worse for the Republicans just a week or two ago... which indicates there might be some momentum back towards the GOP, just as there was right before ABC dropped the Foley bombshell, which they had sat on for months.
On the Senate side, there is no race that is a clear blowout pickup for either party: Menendez (D) maintains a slight lead in New Jersey, Santorum (R-PA) is running slightly behind, and so forth. With a really good GOTV push by the Republicans and the natural advantage of incumbency, Republicans should hold half of their eight competitive seats, which would result in a back of the thumbnail prediction of the Democrats picking up 3 or 4 net Senate seats, depending on how New Jersey goes.
Much depends upon the next two weeks: if Republicans get their "groove" back, as they had it in late September -- and if there are no more October bombshells -- then I still think the GOP is likely to retain both houses of Congress.
All in all, I'm optimistic about the election. (So what else is new?)
Date ►►► October 13, 2006
On Provoking Ponderous Ponderings of Pyongyang and Palestine
Paul Mirengoff of Power Line has a great post up, "On Talking With the Enemy." Paul takes up the question of whether "I believe in talking to your enemies," as James A. Baker III, co-chair of the newly formed Iraq Study Group, likes to say, is a workable policy -- or just a mindless liberal slogan. Sorry for the redundancy. Paul's conclusion:
We should, of course, make an effort to find out the real views of our enemies. And if those views indicate the possibility of negotiations that hold a reasonable promise of a beneficial outcome for us, we ordinarily should hold such negotiations. But it's pointless at best, and dangerous at worst, to hold publicized negotiations when we know that the enemy's bottom line is one that we cannot accept. Indeed, while critics of the Bush administration like to remind us that we talked with the "evil empire" Soviet Union, we actually learned through bitter experience to avoid holding major summit-style talks unless there was reason to believe they would succeed in advancing our interests.
Paul considers this point in the context of the bilateral talks with North Korea that many Democrats, including Republican Baker, demand the Bush administration undertake, hoping for the same wonderful outcome we had when the Clinton-Carter team agreed upon the Agreed Framework (hence the name) with Kim Jong-Il in 1994. The net effect of the Agreed Framework, along with South Korea's Sunshine Policy of "engaging" North Korea, was described in the Washington Times by Dr. Yearn Hong Choi (and quoted in yet another Power Line post) thus:
North Korea kidnapped South Korean fishermen from the open sea and Japanese citizens from the seashore of Japan, and bombed a South Korean plane. The DPRK sold opium and produced counterfeit U.S. dollars. It has been starving its own people. But it has produced nuclear bomb(s) and long-distance missiles in order to threaten South Korea, Japan and the United States....
The appeasement policy and Sunshine policy just helped the North Korean dictator sustain his power, rather than have his country go bankrupt.
I really like Paul's criterion: no negotiations with the enemy if his bottom line is utterly unacceptable. It leads to quick resolution of a lot of thorny issues. Here's one:
- The bottom-line position of both ruling Hamas and opposition Fatah in the Palestinian Authority is the destruction of Israel and expulsion of the Jews;
- This is clearly unacceptable to Israel and to the United States;
- Therefore, negotiations between Israel and the PA, or between the United States and the PA, are utterly pointless and should be broken off.
I have long agreed with the Power Line crew that President Bush's "Roadmap to Peace" is a farce, his worst foreign-policy program... and not coincidentally, completely at odds with his stance on all other terrorist organizations, including, oddly enough, Iran's proxy, Hezbollah: Bush does not demand Israel commence negotiations with Hassan Nasrallah on how much of northern Israel should be ceded to Hezbollah.
What could change the climate on negotiations with the PA? Only a change in their bottom line. If something forces the PA to drop the idea that they will ever be able to destroy Israel -- perhaps a horrific war, such as the civil war now looming in Gaza -- and they truly accept the inevitability of a two-state solution, then and only then would negotiations be feasible.
But you cannot negotiate your way to useful negotiations. You cannot negotiate your enemy's unacceptable bottom line into being acceptable, thus permitting negotiations. They have to change the goals first; and they will certainly need an external event to do so.
Until then, let the Palestinians stew in their own juices.
Date ►►► October 12, 2006
As everybody and his monkey's uncle knows by know, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner -- who bowed out of a prematch with Sen. George Allen (R-VA, 100%), we all assumed so he could focus his energy on winning the 2008 Democratic nomination for president -- has now blown that one off, too:
Former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, who has been traveling across the country for more than a year exploring a bid for the White House, said today that, after “a lot of reflection, prayer and soul-searching,” he had decided not to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008....
He said his decision was based on family considerations, but he pointedly did not rule out another try for public office later on.
A centrist Democrat who has embraced some positions more commonly associated with Republicans, Mr. Warner has been widely regarded as an attractive presidential candidate, one who might run stronger in the South and other Republican regions than other Democrats. (For example, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the 2004 Democratic nominee, did not carry any of the 11 states of the old Confederacy.)
(Ignore the New York Times' sly dig at Bush in that last sentence -- Bush is a racist supported by Confederate-flag-loving Klansmen! "Forget it, Jake; it's Chinatown.")
Tom Bevan over at Real Clear Politics smells a fish:
This is shocking news. Unlike Kos, however, I'm not totally convinced by the explanation. Maybe it was a family decision, maybe it was something else. But when I saw Warner in Chicago back in April it seemed clear he was totally committed to runnning, and he hasn't offered the slightest hint in the seven months since then to indicate otherwise. He's gotten great press and been very well received by Democrats all across the country, so I find it hard to believe he'd just up and call it quits at this moment unless there is more to the story.
I don't know what "more to the story" Tom is thinking about. A pending scandal? Is young Mark being extorted by supporters of some other candidate? Does he have a medical problem? In any event, why he dropped is less interesting to me than what the effect of that drop will be.
(Michael Barone -- see link below -- tells a cute anecdote that relates to Bevan's suspicions:
As Prince Metternich asked when informed that the Russian ambassador had suddenly dropped dead, "What can have been his motive?"
So maybe we're too deep in the weeds...)
For such analyses, my first thought is always to turn to Power Line. Not that they necessarily have the best take on such events; but they're my security blanket... and whenever I must write about something on which my thoughts are conflicted, I always look there first, hoping they'll have something I can crib and pass off as my own sage wisdom.
Barone's bottom line is that this benefits the Republicans. Let me break it down (there -- that's my original contribution; think of me as "Speaker to Gentiles" for Michael Barone):
- We have been at partisan stalemate for the last two presidential elections.
In 2000, the popular vote percentage was about 48 to 48; in 2004, it was 51 to 48 in favor of the Republicans. But this actually extends to Congress as well, where the vote has been very close for a number of elections, which is one reason neither party has made a serious gain over the other.
(Jay Cost has a wondrous explanation of the other reasons, which is a must read... also over on Real Clear Politics. Why can't we get Cost over here as a guest blogger instead of there? Oh, yeah; 2,000 vs. 100,000, or whatever they are now after being gobbled up by Time. But that's neither there nor here; so where is it?)
- In order to avoid repeated ballot-box nailbiters, one or the other party has to "break out of the box" (my words, or actually, my choice to use a vapid, overused metaphor) and find a way to appeal to those who voted for the other party last time.
That means a candidate clearly identified with one party, yet who has clear appeal to members of the other. Ronald Reagan was a perfect example of that: he had been a New Deal Democrat, then he was a conservative Democrat, then eventually a conservative Republican.
He was widely and personally popular from his many years on the public stage -- first literally, as a very good actor in B-movies (and a few A-movies, like Knute Rockne, All American -- Knute is pronounced "ka-newt," by the way; just thought you ought to ka-no); then figuratively, as a spokesman for General Electric giving political talks all around the country; as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention that nominated Barry Goldwater; and later as governor of California. During both his presidential elections, Reagan appealed to Democrats as well as to Republicans.
There is nobody on the political scene today who even begins to approach the cross-party appeal of Ronald Reagan; still, neither party can expand its electoral vote without finding someone who at least moves in that direction.
- Mark Warner could have been such a figure.
He ran as a conservative Democrat against John Warner (R-VA, 88%), coming much closer than most imagined he would (he capitalized on conservative Republican dissatisfaction with the incumbent). Then he ran as a centrist for governer, won, and was perhaps the most popular governor in Virginia in many decades; when he left office this year, he had an approval rating of between 75% and 80%.
Clearly, Warner had excellent appeal in Virginia; but more than that, he could have eaten deeply into the Republican stronghold of the South: flip a third of the South's electoral votes, and the GOP's back would be up against the wall. (They could still win; but they would need their own "flipper" candidate to steal away normally Democratic votes in, say, New York. Hint hint.)
- With Mark Warner's departure, the only candidate left who could conceivably have such cross-party appeal is Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL, 100%); but Obama is a very iffy presidential candidate.
Obama's appeal to the right is based entirely upon treating them like mushrooms (keeping them in the dark and feeding them -- well, you know the aphorism). He has never played on the national stage in any way that his appeal could be measured. And of course, he is extraordinarily inexperienced, having served only a couple years of his first national Senate term. He gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a convention noted mainly for giving nominee Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA, 100%) no election bump whatsoever.
Other than Obama, the other candidates are extraordinarily party-polarizing:
- Sen. and failed health-care seizer Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-NY, 100%);
- Former senator, vice president, failed presidential nominee, and hysteric Al Gore;
- Sen., failed presidential nominee, and America denouncer John F. Kerry;
- Former senator, failed vice-presidential nominee, and class warrior John Edwards.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore (Gore is the one on the right)
Sen. JKF, Sen. John Edwards (Kerry served in Vietnam)
- But by contrast, there are several Republican candidates who have wide cross-over appeal.
The most obvious example is former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani (a.k.a., "America's mayor"); Giuliani tops everyone's short list of Republican candidates due to his strong and reassuring response to the 9/11 attacks; even the crazy lefties on a bulletin board I still sometimes frequent have little but praise for Giuliani.
There is little question that if Rudy Giuliani were the Republican nominee, he would trounce any of the known Democratic nominees, especially Hillary Clinton.
He is clearly more socially liberal than the great majority of the GOP... but that probably won't matter. If, as most of us believe, the only real issue right now is national security, then Republicans will probably overlook his support for abortion and embryonic stem-cell research (especially if the recent breakthrough allows such research to continue without killing embryos); they will base their primary votes on his national-security positions and experience vis-à-vis the other Republican candidates.
But Giuliani, unlike the cheese, doesn't stand alone. Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts clearly has strong support from Democrats, else he wouldn't have gotten elected in the first place. But he certainly is not as popular as governor as Mark Warner was in Virginia (though bear in mind that Virginia is nowhere near as "Republican" as Massachusetts is "Democratic").
If, as looks likely, Romney is attacked via his Mormonism either in the primaries or the general election, it will probably increase his appeal to both Republicans and Democrats: it's always a mistake to go after a man's religion, as those who attacked John F. Kennedy for being Catholic discovered.
Like it or not (the latter, in my case), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) has a lot of support from both Republicans and Democrats. But the continuing offense he gives Republican conservatives probably precludes him from being nominated. If he can get over that hurdle, however, he will be a formidable candidate who could, like Giuliani, probably knock off any Democratic candidate we know of at this point.
Sidebar: one interesting scenario that Barone doesn't consider: suppose Giuliani or Romney were nominated on the right, and Al Gore or Barak Obama were nominated on the left -- and McCain, deciding this was his last chance, were to run as an independent. What happens then? CW says that McCain would crush everybody; but I think that's awfully superficial.
Rather, I think McCain would draw very little of Giuliani's or Romney's voters, for the simple reason that so many Republicans already detest McCain (as a politician, however they might feel about him as a man); and those Republicans who are more moderate already would have their crossover candidate as the party nominee.
By contrast, I think he would draw away a lot of the Democrat's support: Gore clearly plays to what Paul Wellstone always used to call "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," and by the time of the election, Obama would have been unmasked as another lefty. So the moderates would have no champion in the wings, and many would be drawn to McCain -- even if they knew that would hurt Democrats in the election.
So in fact, an independent McCain candidacy might actually help the Republicans, too.
Thus, unless Republicans go mad in 2008 and nominate Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN, 92%), their standard bearer will probably be a candidate who has the potential to grab a number of blue states and win the sort of decisive victory we ordinarily associate with presidential battles. Mark Warner could have countered that on the Democratic side; but his withdrawal from the race leaves a huge advantage to the GOP.
Unless, of course, some previously unknown dark horse of a different color suddenly enters the fray for the Democrats... a Democratic "Eisenhower," that is. But I can't think of any such potential candidate: Colin Powell would not generate any enthusiasm on the right, and neither would Gen. Shinseki -- they would be more like the catastrophic miscalculation of the Democrats when they nominated General George B. McClellan to run against Abraham Lincoln in 1864; Lincoln crushed him, 212 to 21.
But back to Tom Bevan: why did Mark Warner drop out of the race? What can have been his motive?
Beyond the Democratic Event Horizon
In the midst of a curious piece carried on Breitbart, AP's Economics writer, Martin Crutsinger, straight-facedly reports a rollicking "180" rejoinder from the Democrats that almost gave me whiplash.
The tale ledes with an in-your-face "toldja so" to the tax-hikers and Paris-Hilton spenders in the Democratic Party (the tax-cutting, drunken-sailor spenders in the Republican Party differ from their co-conspirators across the aisle, in that economic growth does not actually hurl them into anaphylactic shock):
The federal deficit in the budget year that just ended fell to a four- year low of $247.7 billion -- a figure President Bush touted Wednesday as "proof that pro-growth policies work."
The deficit for the budget year that ended Sept. 30 was 22.3 percent lower than the $318.7 billion imbalance for 2005, handing Bush a welcome economic talking point as Republicans battle to hold onto control of Congress in the midterm elections.
Bush called the outcome for Fiscal 2006 a "dramatic reduction" that redeemed his 2004 campaign pledge to halve the deficit earlier than his original 2009 target date.
"These numbers show that we have now achieved our goal of cutting the federal deficit in half and we've done it three years ahead of schedule," Bush told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference.
Blah blah. Good stuff. Shocked it appeared on Breitbart, but not as shocked as if it had appeared on Reuters.
The Democrats respond predictably: Yak blah five years of surpluses in the Clinton era blah yak blah Iraq blah blah mismanagement twiddle twaddle tax cuts for the rich. But then some Democrat -- we don't know who it was, only who it was not, and that is Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND, 85%) -- adds the following:
Republicans said the big improvement showed that Bush's economic policies were working to stimulate growth and boost tax revenues. But Democrats said the narrowing of the deficit would be temporary as the pending retirement of 78 million baby boomers will send costs of the government's big benefit programs soaring. [Great Scott! Who'd'a thunk it?]
"The fact that some are trumpeting this year's deficit number as good news shows just how far we've fallen. Our budget picture is extremely serious by any measure," said Sen. Kent Conrad, the senior Democrat on the Budget Committee.
So I take it that the Democrats are now ready to get serious about resolving the unfunded liability of the Social Security scam and the Medicare manglement? Perhaps by --
- Switching Medicare from a defined benefits program to a defined contribution program;
- Capping automatic benefit increases in both programs to the actual rate of inflation;
- Privatizing all (or at least some significant portion) of Social Security for anyone who wants to switch over;
- Letting private investment and brokerage firms administer the accounts, instead of the government, which has a disturbing tendency to raid them whenever they run short of funds;
- Making contributions to Social Security fully deductable, even for those who take the standard deduction;
- Allowing taxpayers to deduct generously large payments to IRAs and MSAs (more than allowed now);
-- and other such elements to make both retirement and medical care part of the "ownership society," so that we can all control our own futures?
That the Democrats now believe that individuals are better able to handle their own savings, investment, retirement, and medical choices than Congress? That the party of Clinton, Carter, Johnson, and FDR is now willing, at long last, to embrace Capitalism?
Occam's Razor demands instead that we conclude that Democrats randomly belch out words and catch-phrases they vaguely recall having heard somewhere, in order to shout down the president... not even remembering that the danger they warn us about, Cassandra like, is precisely the same danger they scornfully rejected when Bush rang his own tocsin and demanded real, workable solutions.
The same imminent explosion they now raise to suggest the economy isn't as good as it looks is just what President Bush's programs were designed to prevent -- programs that the Democrats fought, filibustered, and finally finished off, with a great whoop and holler. (The hullabaloo was only topped by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 100%, triumphantly -- and prematurely -- ejaculating "we killed the Patriot Act!")
I call the panic reaction of uncontrollably shouting out spurious slogans and jingoisms "Spurrette's Syndrome": the Tourette's-like eruption of spurious, anti-Bush non-sequiturs in the middle of debates, arguments, news stories, and the like. (I've been working on a post about it, but my natural inclination towards sloth gets in the way.)
But God, what must it be like to live behind Democratic eyes? They live in a world that is three days wide: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Anything more than a day in past or future is beyond the Democratic event horizon and ceases to exist.
Date ►►► October 11, 2006
Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot
Something happened today that has not happened before in my lifetime, and I daresay in the lifetimes of most of our readers: an American, Adam Yehiye Gadahn, was actually indicted for treason:
A grand jury returned the indictment against Adam Yehiye Gadahn, 28, a suspected al-Qaida operative sought by the FBI since 2004, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous because the indictment was to be announced later in the day....
Gadahn appeared last month in a 48-minute video along with al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, calling on his countrymen to convert to Islam and for U.S. soldiers to switch sides in the Iraq and Afghan wars.
I have mixed feelings about this:
- On the one hand, we need to get over our absurd fear of charging and prosecuting this crime. It's a difficult one to prove -- properly so; but when the evidence is clear, there is no reason to shrink from it.
- But on the other hand, the Founding Fathers made that charge extremely difficult to prove up for a reason: in the days of King George III of England, the charge of treason was flung about willy-nilly as an all-purpose way to shut one's political enemies up -- permanently.
But on the third hand, in the modern era, where nobody has been convicted of treason for 54 years, more and more Americans seem to think they have sovereign authority to make war upon the United States without serious consequences. Maybe if we began enforcing the law, fewer people would break it.
(Note, this reasoning also suggests that we should start prosecuting newspapers and their officers under the espionage act, when they have revealed highly classified national-security programs, in the hopes they will cease doing so.)
- Plenty of Americans seem to think that treason is a joke, a lark, or perhaps a profitable business; and we rarely prosecute them for this most serious of charges. We let them get away with pretending they're just daring defenders of various constitutional rights (hence, they must fight on behalf of an enemy that rejects all rights whatsoever.) It would be worth this prosecution just to wipe the infantile smirk off their faces.
On the whole, I'm glad we're doing this... if for no other reason than I'm curious to see whether any jury has the belly to assume its responsibility to apply the law, even when the charge sounds so scary and other-worldly.
No American has been convicted of treason since Tomoya Kawakita, who had dual citizenship in both Japan and the United States; he was convicted on June 2nd, 1952 and sentenced to death for several counts of torturing American prisoners of war in Japan. President Eisenhower commuted the sentence to life in prison. The President Kennedy pardoned him in 1962 and deported him to Japan.
Some other World War II defendants convicted of treason were:
- Mildred Elizabeth Sisk, a.k.a. Mildred Gillars, a.k.a. "Axis Sally," convicted of one count in 1949 (paroled in 1961);
- Iva Toguri D'Aquino, a.k.a. "Tokyo Rose," convicted in 1949 of being one of the "Tokyo Rose" broadcasters (the others were never tried), sentenced to ten years, paroled after six, and pardoned by President Ford in 1977;
- And Hans Max Haupt, father of Herber Hans Haupt, one of the German saboteurs who were arrested in the United States in 1942, convicted by military tribunal, and executed that same year (of the eight saboteurs, two ratted out their co-conspirators and received lesser sentences, which were then commuted to deportation). The father, Hans Max Haupt, was convicted of treason for aiding and abetting his son in March of 1947 and sentenced to life; I don't know if he was ever paroled or pardoned.
There are plenty enough traitors around now that we ought to revive this charge. I'm certain this will create absolute hysteria among Democrats -- another good reason to do it! -- though if they're wise, they'll wait until after the election... don't want to spook the herd, after all.
Back to Gadahn, or Azzam al-Amriki, Azzam the American, as he was known to his Moslem brothers. Showing an extraordinary grasp of just the right words to bring American soldiers and Marines to his side, Gadahn was shown in a video saying the following:
"If the Zionist crusader missionaries of hate and counter-Islam consultants like ... the crusader and chief George W. Bush [sic, I'm sure he meant "crusader IN chief"] were to abandon their unbelief and repent and enter into the light of Islam and turn their swords against the enemies of God, it would be accepted of them and they would be our brothers in Islam," Gadahn said in English.
I'm sure the heart of every Marine who heard that call swelled in patriotic agreement.
Adam Gadahn is probably just an idiot kid having fun playing traitor. I really want to see his neck stretched and his feet dancing on air; but even if convicted, he'll probably get less than a three-time carjacker in Los Angeles.
Treason is notoriously difficult to prove in court because it's defined in the Constitution, no less -- Article III, section 3:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
Thus, we need two witnesses to the same offense; but since Gadahn saw fit to videotape his treasonous acts (levying war, adhering, and giving aid and comfort -- the Trifecta!) perhaps that won't be hard. I don't know if the court will accept viewing the videotape as evidence equivalent to witnessing the actual act, but maybe we have witnesses who actually saw and heard him with their own eyeballs and earballs.
This is history, folks. If any of you ever witnessed an American treason trial before, it must have been when you were impressionable kids. I hope large portions of it are broadcast on C-Span. It would be instructive, not only to loyal Americans, but to those loyal to a baser cause.
Date ►►► October 10, 2006
New GOP Bloggers straw-man poll
...So long as y'all bear in mind that these things are completely meaningless:
- It's a long, long road to 2008;
- It's on the internet;
- Since "yourself" decided to show up here and take the poll, it's "self selected";
- It assumes everyone knows who everyone on the list is; there are some here that I know only vaguely, like Sam Brownback and Mike Hiccoughy.
So with those caveats in mind, here you go...
Have fun, kids. Be back before 11:00. No drinking, smoking dope, or knocking up the landlord's daughter.
And as David Letterman used to say, this is only an exhibition, not a contest; so please -- no wagering!
Wretchard over on the Belmont Club -- which I used to think had something to do with horse racing -- links to an interesting study by "Harvard University's Robert Putnam, one of the world's most influential political scientists"... interesting mostly for the elephant in the bedroom that Putnam (or the Financial Times) fails to notice.
The title of the piece at the Financial Times is "Harvard study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity." But Wretchard posits that what it really shows is the danger of cultural diversity... and that's the point I want to pick up on.
Here is how the Financial Times phrases it:
His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone -- from their next-door neighbour to the mayor....
When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. "They don't trust the local mayor, they don't trust the local paper, they don't trust other people and they don't trust institutions," said Prof Putnam. "The only thing there's more of is protest marches and TV watching."
Putnam adjusted for "class, income, and other factors." But what other factors? Did he adjust for cultural beliefs, including religion, social expectations, and style of social interaction? It's hard to believe he would have done so and not made that clear to the (unnamed) reporter; but it's entirely possible he did make it clear, and the reporter simply botched the story.
Here is Wretchard's take (reparagraphed for easier digestion):
Apart from the FT summary, I can't find a summary of Putnam's work on ethnic diversity anywhere on the web.
About the only question that comes to mind is whether what is attributed to multiethnicity can really be explained by the word multiculturalism. Webster's defines ethnicity as "of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background".
Race is apparently only one aspect of ethnicity and maybe the least important one -- we find Swedes distinguished from Norwegians in one of Putnam's examples of "diversity" -- and it may be that communities which are homogenous with respect to religion, language and culture have a higher trust coefficient than communities of the same racial background but have different religious and cultural contexts.
I think he's got it right here... and this shows why we don't in general have riots in the United States, but we've had them twice in my lifetime in Los Angeles.
It's tempting to use race as shorthand for culture, just as it's easy to use party as proxy for political philosophy. However, anybody can change his culture, while nobody (except Michael Jackson) has yet managed to change his race; which should be a warning sign that Putnam may be barking up a tree of a different color. (Similarly, Republicans can range from Tom Coburn, R-OK, 100%, to Lincoln Chafee, R-RI, 12%.)
One cannot rationally dispute that Clarence Thomas and Louis Farrakhan come from and embrace wildly disparate cultures -- even though they're both black. Similarly, P. Diddy and M&M share a close cultural connection that neither shares with Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole. The vast majority of white conservatives would trust Justice Thomas, Dinesh D'Souza, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose political and lifestyle cultures they share, much more than they would trust Michael Moore or Jane Fonda, in spite of the latter having the same race and country of origin as the white conservatives.
And that brings us to America; we are the only country I know of that both allows massive levels of immigration and also expects -- and generally receives -- very strong assimilation from those immigrants. Yes, I know a lot of Mexican immigrants wave Mexican flags, speak only Spanish, and join groups like La Raza ("the Race"). But many more make a good-faith attempt to assimilate to the American way of life and American values than the yahoos we see parading around downtown L.A. in a massive protest every Columbus Day.
Oddly, Putnam is very much against the very idea of assimilation; therein lies the downfall of his research:
In an oblique criticism of Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, who revealed last week he prefers Muslim women not to wear a full veil, Prof Putnam said: "What we shouldn't do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us."
This is classic multi-culti nonsense, and it's precisely what causes the cultural dislocation that he attributes to "ethnic diversity": when aliens are not encouraged to become American but rather to make their neighborhoods into little, sovereign pieces of a foreign country, then no wonder their neighbors don't trust them!
And when these guests, egged on by scientists like Putnam, instead demand that American customs change and traditions fall to accomodate the rules of the "old country" whence came the immigrant, then cultural Americans will indeed hunker down for battle. They don't want to change and see no reason why they should.
And they're perfectly right. Many foreign customs and legalisms are completely incompatible with the culture we have built here (except in cities like Los Angeles and New York, where city leaders have applauded anti-Americanism for decades). A quick example is sharia law, which allows for "honor killings," rape, perjury, polygamy, mutilation, and other felonies if done in the name of Allah and to advance Islam; freedom, capitalism, and individualism simply cannot coexist on the same spot with a sharia-based culture, and the races of the participants are irrelevant.
In our approach, we demand that immigrants, even those from Islamic countries, conform to American standards; in exchange for this assimilation, we treat assimilated immigrants as full citizens, not just legally but culturally: no American I've ever met actually argues that immigrants should be confined to certain "foreigner zones."
In Europe, by contrast, it's commonplace for people to argue as Putnam does, that immigrants should not have to conform; that instead, society should change itself to accomodate their divisive beliefs. At the same time, they are typically restricted -- always by custom and very commonly by the law itself -- to certain areas and specific jobs.
Clearly, there is a huge difference in the level of trust engendered by these two approaches to "ethnic diversity;" there are Moslem riots in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia; Moslems are even rioting in Windsor now, in Merrie Olde England (home town of ye Merrie Olde Queen -- and I don't mean Elton John). I leave it as an exercise for the attentive reader which approach works best; but the mere fact that such massive differences exist show that for Putnam's results, the cultural element of "ethnicity" trumps the racial.
According to Wikipedia, Putnam is famous for his theories on bonding and bridging:
Putnam makes a distinction between two kinds of social capital: bonding capital and bridging capital. Bonding occurs when you are socializing with people who are like you: same age, same race, same religion, and so on. But in order to create peaceful societies in a diverse multi-etnic country, one needs to have a second kind of social capital: bridging. Bridging is what you do when you make friends with people who are not like you, like supporters from another football team. Putman argues that those two kinds of social capital, bonding and bridging, do strengthen each other.
But he appears to conflate race with culture, as does Wikipedia: "same age, same race, same religion, and so on." And I don't know if he has ever tried to separate them.
I would love to see a new study by Putnam, this one of a series of churches that have racially diverse congregations and others that have racially homogenous congregations. I suspect he would find they had very similar rates of "trust" among parishoners... which should put the racial meme to bed once and for all.
Vote for Dems to Beat North Korea!
The funny part is, I think the Democrats have started to believe their own bullroar. In their unintentionally hilarious hysteria, they blurt out arguments the GOP has made for years:
Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the president's rival in 2004 and a potential 2008 candidate, assailed Bush's policy as a "shocking failure," and said, "While we've been bogged down in Iraq where there were no weapons of mass destruction, a madman has apparently tested the ultimate weapon of mass destruction."
Hm... who was it who mocked the inclusion of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on the list of the "Axis of Evil?" Democrats said then that President Bush included North Korea only to prevent the list from being entirely filled with Moslem.
Previously, for six years under Clinton, the Democrats snoozed, confident that tossing a few tens of billions of dollars (and a nuclear reactor) to Kim Jong Il would placate the "madman."
Then when Bush initiated his policy of trying to line up allies for sanctions against the DPRK, the Democrats (especially including Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, 100%) fought it hammer and fang, every step of the way. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight Ashbury, 95%) hooted at the preposterous idea that we would ever need ballistic missile defense, and she led the fight -- successful during the Clinton Go-Go 90s -- to zero out the research on it.
So, Mr. Kerry and Mrs. Pelosi... do you finally, at long last, support missile defense? If so, then at least one good thing has come out of this piffle of a detonation.
"The Bush administration has for several years been in a state of denial about the growing challenge of North Korea, and has too often tried to downplay the issue or change the subject," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"We had the opportunity to stop North Korea from increasing its nuclear power, but George Bush went to sleep at the switch while he pursued his narrow agenda in Iraq," added Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat in a tough campaign in New Jersey.
Wow, tough stuff! I presume Sens. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) and Bob Menendez (Temporary D-NJ, 100%) can point to a long history of pushing for much harsher treatment of North Korea... for example, by conducting direct, face-to-face negotiations with them so we can settle how much tribute to pay and how many more reactors to send to appease that failed Stalinist state.
Reid is of course "changing the subject" from his obsession with the internet peccadillos of former Rep. Mark Foley, which have occupied about 137% of Reid's always-limited attention span since September 29th.
The Democrats' main argument seems to be that North Korea's now suspect claim that they have detonated a nuke actually helps the Democrats in the upcoming election... after all, Democrats have long been known as the party of cold warriors who come down hard on Communism.
(The nuke announcement really is producing some major-league skepticism. Bill Gertz reports in today's Washington Times:
U.S. intelligence agencies say, based on preliminary indications, that North Korea did not produce its first nuclear blast yesterday.
But remember... you read it here first!)
My worthy co-conspirator, Brad Linaweaver, informs me that he just saw Dr. Helen Caldicott on some screamfest -- anybody besides me remember that energumenic refuge from Bedlam? She opined that the North Korean nuclear (?) explosion leaves America with but one option in response: we must unilaterally disarm our nuclear arsenal!
Freeze now! The survivors will envy the dead! (Probably so, for they don't have to listen to Helen Caldicott speak.)
Let's see what happens to the polls, which jumped from 0 to a 65-point advantage for Democrats in 3.4 seconds (want to buy a slightly used Dyson sphere?) But that may flip right back, now that the conversation is no longer about Gary Condit.
Oh, wait -- my mistake. That was the last congressional sex scandal, which was front-page news in every newspaper and TV broadcast in America... on September 10th, 2001. (So I reckon at least one Democrat actually cheered when the twin towers were struck.)
Date ►►► October 9, 2006
Over on Power Line, Scott is honoring John Lennon. He makes it quite clear that he honors only the music, not the grotesque philosophy.
But I must say it, since nobody else will: The Beatles were the most overhyped group in history.
I'm not saying they were bad, especially; but they're widely dubbed the "greatest rock 'n roll group ever"... and they're not even within yodeling distance to being that. I could name fifteen groups off the top of my pointy head that are better, from Led Zep to Bowie to the Moodies to Crimso to Tull to Country Joe and the Fish.
Overhyped. Like Krispy Kreme, White Castle, and Bill Kristol. That's all I'm saying. And Lennon alone was so pathetic, I can only conclude he was one of those artists desperately in search of an editor.
He found one in Paul McCartney (ten times better a composer; and McCartney actually sang through his mouth, not his nose). So Lennon was reasonably good when the Beatles were in full scream, with Paul there to pull up John's pants. But take McCartney away from Lennon (like taking Bernie Taupin away from Reggie "Elton John" Dwight), and he hits his nadir with garbage like "Imagine" and "Cold Turkey," or my all-time antifavorite, "Working Class Zero." (Whoops, I meant "hero." Sorry.)
He and the virago were made for each other.
Of course I didn't jump on a chair and cheer when he was shot; it's a calamity when anyone other than a murderer is murdered. I remember the announcement came during a football game; Howard Cosell was announcing, and he said, "this is only a game; but today, a tragedy: John Lennon, former Beatle, shot to death in --"
And the other jackanapes interrupts, "Howard! Lookitthatsonuvabitchrun hesgoingalltheway!"
But face it, the world didn't lose much in 1980. Much less than a decade later, when up and coming Stevie Ray Vaughan took the place of has-been Eric Clapton on the helo that went down. God, what a horrible twist of fate that was.
Hey, but at least we got the "unplugged" version of "Layla," where Slowbrain makes the tart sound about as enticing as Princess Margaret. Wouldn't have wanted to miss that!
I'm just saying.
Date ►►► October 8, 2006
So Did They Or Didn't They?
So North Korea claims that it has actually set off a nuclear explosion.
Was it really a nuke? Or was it a huge mass of conventional explosives designed to simulate a nuclear explosion?
(On the bright side, as Friend Lee points out, Mark Foley is off the front pages. Somebody recently noted that the top story in every newspaper and news broadcast on September 10th, 2001, was -- Gary Condit!)
U.S. and South Korean officials could not immediately confirm the North Korean report but the U.S. Geological Survey said it recorded a seismic event with a preliminary magnitude of 4.2 in northeastern North Korea that coincided with the country's announced nuclear test.
The Colorado-based agency said it was unable to tell whether the event was the result of an atomic explosion or a natural earthquake.
We'll have to determine that pretty darned quickly. I think it should be possible to do so: in order to get a big enough explosion to create "a seismic event with a preliminary magnitude of 4.2," you'd need one heck of a lot of explosive material. All of that material has volume... which means you cannot pack it all into the same tiny space that a nuclear bomb occupies.
I imagine that the explosion, viewed microsecond by microsecond, would take a long time (relatively long) in the case of conventional explosives: first the core detonates, then the layer immediately surrounding the core, then the next layer, and so forth. I would expect such a chain-reaction explosion to be seen as sort of a rolling eruption.
But a nuclear explosion should be nearly instantaneous, since the entire bomb is smaller than a truck. I suspect the seismic signature of the two would be quite distinct. So we should know in a matter of hours whether Pyongyang really did explode a nuke, or whether they're trying to scam the world.
But how should we respond in each case?
If we determine it really is a nuclear bomb
We would know the following:
- The Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (DPRK) has nuclear-bomb technology;
- The DPRK has long-range missiles;
- The DPRK, speaking through Kim Jong-Il's "unofficial spokesman," Kim Myong Chol, has said that the purpose of their nuclear weapons is to turn American cities into "towering infernos."
So what should we do? Certainly we cannot give in to nuclear extortion: the same "rambling editorial" that Captain Ed links to in his post suggests that America will flee the Orient as soon as the DPRK threatens to nuke our bases. Obviously we will not, cannot do that.
But we also can't just sit there, waiting on the will of a madman whether tens of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines will be obliterated. We can hope that our ballistic-missile defense (BMD) works; but I don't know if relying totally on defense is good strategy.
(And while we're on the subject, thank God and Ronald Reagan the Democrats were unsuccessful in killing off strategic and theater missile defense!)
So if we are directly threatened by the DPRK with nuclear attack if we don't instantly "redeploy" our troops (to Iowa?), I think our only realistic option is to launch an immediate strike on North Korea -- albeit a conventional one. Unlike Iran, the North Korean population is not incipiently pro-American, so we needn't worry about offending them by a coordinated strike.
Even if we choose the second option, sitting tight behind our BMD shield wall until and unless the DPRK makes good its threat -- then if they really do try it, our only possible response would be a full-scale attack. However, if it's clear that the strike actually sent against our troops (and, one hopes, thwarted by our defense) really was nuclear, then the nuclear gloves are off.
We must demonstrate to the world that if we're attacked with nuclear weapons, we will respond with nuclear weapons. Else, our entire atomic arsenal is no more a threat than a pistol in Michael Dukakis's hand.
There are several "admittedly regrettable, yet nevertheless distinguishable" scenarios arising out of our determination that the explosion today really was a nuke. Our job is to choose the one that best serves America's national-security needs.
If we determine it really is not a nuclear bomb
This would leave us in a very peculiar position. If the world believes it was a nuke, and we're the only ones saying it wasn't, will everyone think we're just in a state of denial?
And suppose we're able to convince everyone that we're right: what kind of a maniac would fake a nuclear explosion, knowing what reaction that might provoke from the real nuclear powers? I've said for a long time that Kim Jong-Il is mentally ill... but this would convince the entire world.
What happens next? What sanctions can one put upon a nation led by a crazy man? It's the Ahmadinejad problem, in spades and doubled.
The correct response in such a case might also be a major conventional strike. Winston Churchill (or someone else, like Georges Clemenceau or Robert Benchley) once said something along the lines that, if you're not willing to attack your enemy when he's weak, what makes you think you'll be willing to attack him when he's strong? (Ten points to the first person who can supply the actual quotation.)
And the winner is... Navyvet, who supplied the following, which I've slightly corrected (the sentence begins with the word "still") and attributed:
Ten points to the Navy!
If the DPRK simultaneously demonstrates vast insanity and extreme weakness by trying to fake having nuclear weapons, I think it's time to squash the bug.
They also serve...
For the moment, there is nothing to do but wait for word from American scientists whether that really was a nuclear weapon or not. After that point -- well, enough to say I'm glad I'm not in the White House, Pentagon, the CIA or State Department, in Seoul, in Tokyo, or for that matter, in Beijing. A lot of folks are going to be getting very little sleep for quite a few days.
L.A. Times Foleygate Bombshell: Mark Foley Was Gay! UPDATED
UPDATE: See below.
In a stunning new revelation that may put the nail in the GOP coffin, ensuring without doubt that the Democrats take not only the House but the Senate, the Los Angeles Times reveals that a former page now charges that he and former Rep. Mark Foley did have sex: when the former page was 21 years old. After he had been out of the pages program for several years. In fact, after he had graduated from college:
A former House page says he had sex with then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) after receiving explicit e-mails in which the congressman described assessing the sexual orientation and physical attributes of underage pages but waiting until later to make direct advances.
The former page, who agreed to discuss his relationship with Foley with the Los Angeles Times on the condition that he not be identified, said his electronic correspondence with Foley began after he finished the respected Capitol Hill page program for high school juniors. His sexual encounter was in the fall of 2000, he said. At the time, he was 21 and a graduate of a rural Northeastern college.
This absolute shocker finally answers the most politically urgent question that hangs over the heads of the Republicans running for reelection, and answers it in a way that will shock and stun most voters: it appears that Mark Foley was indeed gay.
After the religious-right voters pick themselves up off the floor, they will surely rush to the polls -- probably before they even open -- and vote for the Democrats, who are the only party promising intense investigations of all suspected gays in Congress to see whether any of them has actually had sex with an adult member of the same gender. Finding such, the Democrats have promised to expel any such members (along with expelling any suspected heterosexual members who have ever had sex with someone other than the spouse, even if they were not married at the time).
Seriously, can somebody please explain to me how the L.A. Times advances the "Foleygate" narrative to tell us that Mark Foley, a now openly gay man, had sex with another gay man who was five years over the age of consent, a college grad, and long out of the pages program at the time? In fact, he was out of the pages program before Foley even sent him dirty Instant Messages... which were obviously not unwanted by the ex-page, since he chose (as an adult, not under Foley's supervision) to act upon them!
More stunning revelations from the Times that surely will carry this scandal forward another week:
Yet the former page's exchanges with Foley offer a glimpse of possible predatory behavior by the congressman as he assessed male teenagers assigned as House errand-runners.
In the messages, Maf54 described how years earlier, he had looked to see whether the former page had an erection in his tight white pants while the then-teenager was working near the congressman.
Good heavens! So Foley has now admitted that he looked at pages? Sure, he said nothing at the time, when the victim of his looking behavior was still an underaged page; but Foley was thinking about things -- which the Times describes as "possible predatory behavior." Good heavens.
The young man said that while serving as a page, he and his fellow pages gossiped frequently about Foley's overly friendly behavior but did not complain about him to program supervisors or other members of Congress. They nicknamed him "Triple F," for "Florida Fag Foley." One evening, four of the boys made an unannounced visit to Foley's home.
"We knocked on his door and he let us in. Nothing happened, but he was very friendly," the former page said.
They arrived at Foley's house... they went inside... Foley was "very friendly"... and then -- brace yourselves -- "nothing happened!"
I don't see how Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL, 100%) survives this jaw-dropping accusation.
Of course, after the ex-page's experience of this "possible predatory behavior," his life was destroyed:
"It most saddens me because of the damage it could do to the program," the young man said of the page system. "It was the most spectacular year of my life. I would love to do it all over again."
Again, what is the point of this lurid, astonishingly explicit account of gay courting and sexual behavior? The only reason I can think that the Los Angeles Times would even bother printing this is one that is so bizarre and disreputable, I hesitate to suggest it even about the Times. (Maybe I should have left this to Patterico to comment on, the Times being his bailiwick.)
But the only motive I can come up with is that the paper is trying to tap into -- and attach to the GOP -- the "ick" factor most heterosexuals have when they think about gay sex. Could this very liberal newspaper actually be trying to peel away conservative votes by associated the Republican Party with normal gay sexual behavior?
I wonder why we haven't heard much (anything at all, as far as I know) about this "scandal" from Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, 100%), or any other openly gay member of Congress. Perhaps it's time they make a noise: if the Democrats are going to "go after" the GOP by whipping up a general anti-gay frenzy, then "outing" several more gay Republicans, hoping a wave of homophobia hurts Republicans one month from today... then are Democratic gays really comfortable with that line of attack?
Which wins: Barney Frank's sexuality -- or his partisanship?
UPDATE: Patterico suggests that the L.A. Times might be trying to aid the eventual prosecution of Mark Foley under the law he himself pushed through Congress that criminalizes using the Internet to arrange sexual trysts with minors. But I don't think it's relevant: there is no example of any sexually explicit IM sent to someone who was then a minor that makes any attempt to arrange a meeting.
Were I a judge, I'd need more than that to admit this as evidence. I would have to see something obvious and proximate... if Congress were trying to criminalize mere "hot talk" on the internet between and adult and a minor, they should have said so explicitly.
If someone is merely striking up a friendship -- or even engaging in dirty talk -- with a minor, hoping that maybe sometime in the future they could get together when the minor turned 18, that shouldn't be covered by the law: the law clearly intended to stop predators from using the Internet to lure minors into illegal sexual activity.
A pathetic dweeb who more or less impatiently waits until some guy (or girl) he knows turns 18, so he can then legally hit on him (her), may be a sleazeball; but he should not be prosecuted for that.
I can make a good case for prosecuting Foley for sexual harassment of a minor, but not the Internet law above. And if that is the case, the L.A. Times story still has no relevance whatsoever.
Date ►►► October 7, 2006
A Kiss Before Lying
Check out this AP story; it is, quite literally, nothing but a campaign commercial for Democratic darling Patty Wetterling, who is running for Congress from Minnesota's sixth district, which leans to the right. The media are so much in the tank for Democrats, they no longer even trouble to pretend fairness or reporting. This story is beyond obvious; it's positively brazen.
Titled "Dem Candidate Jabs GOP Over Foley Matter," the story simply retails her charge that:
A Democratic congressional candidate whose son was abducted 17 years ago said GOP congressional leadership failed to protect teenage House pages from former Rep. Mark Foley's advances.
"Foley sent obvious predatory signals, received loud and clear by members of congressional leadership, who swept them under the rug to protect their political power," Minnesota Democrat Patty Wetterling charged in her party's weekly radio address Saturday.
"If a teacher did this and the principal was told but did nothing, once the community found out, that principal would be fired."
- What "predatory signals" did Foley send?
- Who exactly "received" these signals "loud and clear?"
- Since she clearly is saying members of Congress knew Foley was a sexual predator (if indeed he even is that) back in 2005, why wouldn't they have simply expelled him then, when he could easily and relatively painlessly have been replaced?
- How would sweeping these signals "under the rug" serve to "protect their political power?"
- Is Wetterling, in her teacher/principal analogy, literally suggesting that Speaker Hastert (R-IL, 100%) was actually told that Mark Foley had sent explicitly sexual Instant Messages (IMs)?
- What about those who did have access to the IMs before the primary but chose to wait until now to reveal them -- now, after the deadline has passed to replace Foley on the balllot? Did Democrats put more teenaged pages at risk for purely political purposes?
- Finally, who at AP is supposedly fact-checking her charges?
Frederic J. Frommer, who wrote the story, seems a most incurious fellow. He makes no attempt to investigate or fact check anything Wetterling has said. He doesn't even engage in the pro-forma, faux "balance" of asking Wetterling's Republican opponent, Michele Bachmann, for her response. He simply retails her charges and tries to make Republicans look stymied by her eloquence:
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has rejected calls to resign, saying he hasn't done anything wrong. Republicans, including President Bush, have closed ranks around Hastert in recent days.
Hastert had blamed Democrats for the election-season revelations, but on Thursday abruptly changed course and took responsibility for the matter.
Why, look! Those Republicans can't even answer her! They're panicking, like deer in the headlights! It must be so, because Frommer quotes not a single member of the GOP defending his actions or questioning the Democrats' role in this October surprise.
Frommer gushes over her "hard-hitting television ad" without mentioning that even Eric Black of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has found that ad (and her previous one) deceptive and unsourced. The ad claims:
Congressional leaders have admitted covering up the predatory behavior of a congressman who used the Internet to molest children.
Even more unanswered questions:
- Who has supposedly "admitted" to a cover up?
- And exactly which "children" have been "molested?"
Frommer doesn't know. Frommer doesn't care. It's enough that Frommer repeats the charges, softened just enough not to make Wetterling appear the raving conspiracy nut she actually is.
This fairy tale is just a big, wet kissy-poo from Associated Press to the Democratic Party and Patty Wetterling. And of course, it ends with the obligatory paean to Wetterling's absolute moral authority on this issue, which makes it a hate crime even to respond to her -- a terrible new twist to campaigning that Ann Coulter was first to notice and identify as the "Jersey Girl" syndrome:
Wetterling's 11-year-old son, Jacob, was abducted in 1989 on a rural road. Despite a massive search effort, Jacob was never seen or heard from again. The loss transformed Wetterling from a stay-at-home mom to a national advocate for missing children.
"For 17 years, I have fought for tough penalties for those who harm children," Wetterling said. "Members of Congress are not and should not be above the law."
I wonder whether "reporters" who write such transparent muck actually think of themselves as heroic? I suppose they must.
Stephen Jones: Threat Or Menace?
The Big Lizards Let the Cat Out of the Barn Award for this week goes to attorney Stephen Jones, of Jones, Otjen [Otjen?], Davis, Nixon [!], and Juhl in Enid, Oklahoma, who sent a nasty lawyer letter to some blogger named William "Wild Bill" Kerr, who runs Passionate America.
Evidently, Passionate America was the blog that broke the story that ABC accidentally identified one of the pages in the Mark Foley scandal as one Jordan Edmund. Edmund lawyered up, and now Stephen "Wild Steve" Jones is threatening Wild Bill with a gazillion-dollar lawsuit if'n he doesn't pull his post identifying Mr. Edmund.
I just Googled on "jordan.edmund foley"; the search returned better than 40,000 hits.
Now, I'm sure some of those are overlaps: some website mentions Jordan Edmund in two different posts, it pops up twice on Google. So let's cut it by four: let's say 10,000 distinct sites that mention Jordan Edmund in the context of the Mark Foley scandal. Including the Washington Post, the Washington Times, CNN, and more news sites than you can shake a leg at, if that's your idea of good time.
10,000. Maybe more. Some of them with even deeper pockets than Stephen "Barn Door Locker" Jones.
Counselor Jones, have you considered investing in a bulk mail permit?
Hat tip to Patterico, masquerading as one of his more obvious sock puppets, Justin Levine. (No, really, has anybody ever seen them together? And if you have, for God's sake, don't tell Patterica!)
Date ►►► October 6, 2006
It Just Keeps Getting Better and Better
In my previous post, Judicial Tyrants Teetering On the Brink, I discussed the California state appellate court that overturned the ruling by a San Francisco court requring same-sex marriages (SSMs) in this state, regardless of the 2000 ballot measure that restricted marriage to one man, one woman. I rather gloomily (and perhaps prematurely) wrote the following:
The sad part is that it was evidently an integral part of the ruling that in California, domestic partnerships are virtually the same as marriages.
In this, I foolishly relied upon the Associated Press story, which stated in unambiguous terms:
In reversing the March 2005 ruling of a San Francisco trial judge, the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed with the state's attorney general, who argued that California's ban on same-sex marriage does not discriminate against gays and lesbians because of the state's strong domestic partner law.
Lawblogger Xrlq was skeptical, however. Having at least skimmed the primary source (the court's opinion), he commented that "What I've seen so far indicates that the principal holding was that marriage is what the legislature/voters say it is - not that gays have a fundamental right to marry, but that right is satisfied by the domestic partnership law."
Intrigued (and more hopeful), I scurried after later, completer articles, and I found this Reuters piece. It completely backs Xrlq's position; if anything, it goes even farther... the state circus in fact enunciated a ringing endorsement of democracy over judicial tyranny:
"The Legislature and the voters of this state have determined that 'marriage' in California is an institution reserved for opposite-sex couples, and it makes no difference whether we agree with their reasoning," the California Court of Appeal held.
"We may not strike down a law simply because we think it unwise or because we believe there is a fairer way of dealing with the problem," it said in a majority opinion written by Justice William McGuiness....
The appeals court reversed a lower court, which had overturned California's ban on gay nuptials in a lawsuit triggered by the marriage licenses San Francisco briefly issued to same-sex couples in 2004.
"Courts in this state simply do not have authority to redefine marriage," the appeals court said.
It said a voter initiative or legislation would be required to legalize same-sex marriage.
This is a tremendously stronger slapdown of the SSM crowd than AP reported, and I am correspondingly much happier with it. However, one of the judges, Justice J. Anthony Kline, dissented. I hesitate to characterize his dissenting argument on the basis of a media account ("once bitten..."); but since Reuters seems to have gotten the rest of the story right (that is, it matches Xrlq's read of the opinion), I'll go for it.
Kline dissented on the grounds that domestic partnership laws constitute an unconstitutional "separate but equal" institution:
In its ruling Thursday, the court noted gay couples in California have rights comparable to married heterosexuals thanks to domestic partnership laws.
But gay rights activists said comparable rights are not equal rights, and, citing Justice J. Anthony Kline's dissent, they said the majority carved out an unconstitutional "separate but equal" standard for gays by supporting domestic partnerships, which Kline compared to laws enforcing racial segregation.
The domestic partnership act is "a form of pseudomarriage that stigmatizes homosexual unions in much the same way 'separate but equal' public schools stigmatized black students," Kline said.
"Like separate educational facilities, domestic partnership and marriage are 'inherently unequal,"' he said.
This is an emotionally powerful argument, but it's logically flawed. Let me take a few thousand words to show why that's obvious...
Origins of desegregation
First, what is the point of the Civil Rights Amendments and the racial desegregation they ulimately spawned? Prior to the Civil War, North America had a 250 year history of racial slavery stretching back long before the founding of America; and the West had an even longer tradition of racial slavery. (So did the Arabs and Turks, but that's irrelevant to this point.)
The Civil War was fought, whatever Southerners might absurdly argue, to end the practice of slavery. There were proximate causes, but that was the underlying one. But why is slavery wrong? Why should we put 600,000 soldiers into the ground just to end an institution that had stood in this place for two and a half centuries?
The Civil War was fought over the unique and unprecedented proposition that underpinned the very founding of our country:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In the end, no argument for slavery, no matter how recondite, could batter down this simple, "self-evident" truth... if all men are created equal, then how can a whole race of men be condemned to slavery merely because of their skin color?
Once the nation finally accepted that argument (with the Civil War as a resounding exclamation point), desegregation was the inevitable result: because people being what they were, segregated public institutions, even if they began as equal, would in short order become very unequal.
But not all inequality is wrong, let alone unconstitutional. We do not outlaw income disparity; nor do we follow the lead of Kurt Vonnegut's seminal short story "Harrison Bergeron" and handicap the talented so that they're no better than everyone else. What we hold to be "self-evidently" equal is the essence of personhood; and the laws we strike down are those that discriminate solely upon what a person is, not what he chooses to do.
Thus, the actual corollary to the segregation laws for gays would be a law that said, for example, that children determined to have "homosexual tendencies" were required to be educated in separate schools from those other kids who have "heterosexual tendencies."
So the first error in Kline's argument is that the marriage laws do not discriminate in such a fashion; they don't even mention heterosexuality or homosexuality -- and such a distinction is necessary for a law to discriminate against a person, rather than against an action: without a detailed description of the subset of humanity that is to be put down, how would anyone know who to discriminate against?
Segregationist laws always included a legal description of what makes a person black or white. The marriage laws contain no such distinction between heterosexual and homosexual... so right away we know Kline's argument is off base.
Moreover, the laws are exactly the same for all genders and sexual preferences.
Jon Davidson of the gay rights group Lambda Legal said the California law was unfair, and legal analysts expect lawsuits over same-sex marriage will continue for years across the United States.
"This violates a fundamental right that all people have in California, which is to marry a person of their choice," Davidson said.
But this is nonsense; there is no such right "to marry a person of their choice." There are many rules:
- You can only marry a person of the opposite gender --
- Who is not already legally married --
- Who is not too consanguineous to you --
- Who is of legal age --
- And who consents to marry you;
- In addition, you must obtain a marriage license first.
(There may be other restrictions as well.)
Note that the exact, same rule applies to men and women, to gays and straights, and to all races. There is no extra restriction on gays; a gay man can marry any woman who fits the above requirements, just as a lesbian can marry any man who qualifies as above... just as with straights.
Not even SSM advocates actually argue that the law is different for people with different sexual preferences; what they really argue is that it's easier for straights than gays to obey it. It's a disparate-impact argument, not an equal-rights argument: since it's harder for gays to find an opposite-sex person they want to marry than it is for straights, they argue, it should be unconstitutional.
But it's likewise harder for swingers to find a single person they want to marry; they would prefer to marry half a dozen folks together. So does that mean the Constitution requires we legalize polygamy?
At this point, I start to get out of my legal depth: I only play a sea-lawyer on the web... I'm not really an attorney! Even so, it's my understanding that "disparate impact" theory is based in statute -- specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights code, which relates specifically to employment discrimination. Beyond the obvious (marriage is not an employment contract), there is also the fact that even if some statute could be stretched to apply a disparate-impact theory to marriage, it would be a general statute... and there is a more specific statute, the Defense of Marriage Act, that explicitly restricts marriage (in federal cases) to one man and one woman; in addition, nearly every state has a similar act either as state law or in the state constitution.
The specific trumps the general, so this argument collapses upon inspection. Marriage laws are not in any way "unequal;" and if they have a disparate impact on people who prefer to marry members of the same sex -- or who prefer to marry their first cousins or marry two women at the same time, or marry a woman who doesn't want to get married -- that's too bad for them, but it doesn't make marriage law unconstitutional.
Finally, there is the ultimate question: who controls society? Another element of the Declaration of Independence -- which is actually federal law, by the way, one of the "Organic Laws of the United States" -- makes the answer to that question very clear:
To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
In no state of the United States have "the governed" ever consented to SSM; but if they did, I would argue that they do have that right: if the good people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were to enact through referendum (or through their legislature without the lege being compelled by the courts) laws allowing gay marriage, sibling marriage, or polyamorous marriage, I say fine; that is the job of the democratic arms of government, not the judicial.
When the courts order SSM, they usurp power that rightfully belongs to the voters. There is no clause nor amendment to the Constitution or any state constitution that says people have a "fundamental right" to "to marry a person of their choice;" some courts simply made that up, like the "right" to an abortion.
So there is a clear separation of powers argument against SSM that I doubt Justice Kline even considered.
The end -- at last!
As usual, it takes a powerful lot more argument to knock down a crazy theory than to propound one. But this is a nutter idea, that denying the "fundamental right" of gays "to marry a person of their choice" is the legal and moral equivalent of the discredited "separate but equal" doctrine. Such an argument results from the muddled and narcissistic emoting that masquerades as ratiocination at university today, where what matters is not what folks do -- but how they feel about themselves.
It has no place in a court of law.
See? I told you it was obvious!
Date ►►► October 5, 2006
Tom Reynolds Poll Shows No "Foley Effect"
Hat tip to Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics, who mentioned a poll "containing bad news for Tom Reynolds." I followed his link to this poll by 2 On Your Side (an NBC News affilliate, judging by the stupid peacock logo).
Tom had implied that the bad news demonstrated fallout from the Foley Bergere, and I was anxious to see what he was talking about. Because really, for the life of me, I haven't seen any such a thing so far. Here is how Tom Bevan put it in an earlier post:
There's a new AP-Ipsos poll out purporting to show just how badly voters have been turned off to Republicans because of the scandal, but the news story doesn't provide any specifics. But even without specifics, you know Foleygate is taking its toll. I'm told there will be a poll out this evening showing some bad news for Tom Reynolds in New York.
And the actual link came in a later Real Clear Politics post titled "Foley Fallout By the Numbers;" I think it pretty clear what Tom implies.
But the actual poll he links shows no such "Foley effect" at all!
Instead, this is what we see:
- In an earlier poll conducted on September 28th, Republican incumbent Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY, 83%) was ahead of Democrat Tom Davis by 2%, 45% to 43%.
- But in the poll just released today, Reynolds is now behind by 5%, 45% to 50% for the Democrat, Davis.
Aha, you cry, but doesn't that prove there was a Foley effect after all, Dafydd? Why do you claim there wasn't? Oh... did I forget to mention that in the first poll, there was a third-party candidate?
- Christine Murphy of the Green Party was on the ballot (and the poll) until two days before the first poll, when she was disqualified; but the pollsters still asked respondents about her anyway. She got 8% in that poll, so it was actually 45% Reynolds, 43% Davis, and 8% Murphy.
- But for the second poll, they removed Murphy's name... and in that poll, Green-Party Murphy's 8% support disappeared -- and the Democrat saw a 7% increase. At the same time, Tom Reynolds' 45% stayed rock solid.
So the Green Party gal is DQed, and the support she had went instead to the Democrat, not to the fairly conservative Republican. And this shows what, exactly? That people who support the Green Party are more likely to vote Democrat than Republican when their candidate is disqualified.
It also shows something else. Reynolds was one of the principals in the Foley imbroglio; he was the second guy told about the e-mails (which you can read here -- which puts you one up on Reynolds, who never actually saw them); and Reynolds discussed the situation with aides to Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL, 100%). Reynolds has been attacked, viciously and personally, by New York Democrats as the focus of evil in the whole Foley affair. If anyone was to be impacted by this, it would be Reynolds... who was already in trouble electorally, limping along with 45% in a race where he should have held a comfortable majority, especially with a leftist spoiler.
And yet his numbers haven't budged. He's now trailing, but only because the spoiler is gone; and she was disqualified long before this scandal broke, so it has nothing to do with Foley.
The NBC affilliate claims ignorance about the cause of Davis' increase in the latest poll:
It is not clear how much of the swing is due to Murphy's removal and how much is due to the involvement of Reynolds in the events surrounding former Representative Mark Foley.
But this is disingenuous, because the internals of their own poll make it clear:
Last week, 20% of Idependents [sic] voted for the Green candidate. Those votes now go disproportionately to the Democrat.
The real problem for Reynolds is one that I think he might be able to fix. In this Republican-leaning district -- it went for Bush over Kerry by 12% in 2004 and for Bush over Gore by 7% in 2000 -- Reynolds beat Jack Davis two years ago by 56% to 44%; but this year, he's pulling only 68% of the Republican vote, compared to Davis' 79% of the Democratic vote.
27% of district Republicans say they will vote for Davis, not Reynolds. This must have been pretty similar in the last poll as well, since Reynolds' total support is unchanged. (It's risible to suppose that a bundle of Republicans swung to Davis since the last poll -- and the same number of Democrats swung to Reynolds!)
All Reynolds needs to do to win is bring the Republicans home, from 68% to, say, 83% or better. If he does that, he leaps into the lead with (I reckon) about 53%... and that's good enough for a win.
But in any event, whatever may happen in the future, for the moment, there is no indication of any measurable Foley effect on this race.
Sadr and Masri: the Final Embrace
Excuse me, does anybody remember that there's a war on?
There is a lot to talk about in Iraq. So let's not lose focus; there is a lot more serious stuff going on than some stupid Republican creep and a bunch of Democratic political creeps.
It may be noble for us to keep our moral standard high (to the point of absurdity). But the bottom line is, if we lose this election, we will lose the war. It is just that simple; the Democrats have promised us a shameful defeat if they're elected, and this is one Democratic promise I believe!
Now, the important news. As Dafydd pointed out yesterday on Iraqi Police Bust Iraqi Police Brigade , there are several operations going on to clean out the militias. Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail reports that Coalition forces -- "CF" -- are finally cracking down on Moqtada Sadr's Mahdi "army" in the city of Diwaniyah, outside of Baghdad.
While much of the public's perceptions of the efforts against Sadr are shaped by operations in Sadr City in Baghdad, the Coalition and Iraqi government are chipping away at his power base outside of Baghdad. The series of raids and clashes, often masked as efforts against “criminals,” “thugs,” “death squads,” and “kidnappers,” are being conducted against the extreme elements of Sadr and his Mahdi Army. The goal is to remove Sadr from a position of influence, either by force or his surrender, and split his power base. Sadr's lieutenants are being systematically targeted, which will drive him to either fight or withdraw.
A window into these operations is available in the city of Diwaniyah. A joint U.S. and Iraqi operation, dubbed Constant Solidarity has been announced at the end of September. The operation is made up of elements of the 8th Iraqi Army Division, supported the soldiers of the Fires Brigade (artillery), 4th Infantry Division. The purpose is to “weed out more than 2,000 terrorists in and around the city of Diwaniyah.” Diwaniyah is a Sadr stronghold, the “terrorists” being referred to here are the Madhi Army. To demonstrate the seriousness of the operation, the U.S. has deployed MLRS launchers (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) in the region to hit back at the Madhi Army.
The operation, Constant Solidarity, has been going on since the beginning of September. But the first battle with the Mahdi army occurred on August 27th and 28th, when Iraqi Army forces killed 50 Sadrites, with a loss of only 20 of their own soldiers. Since then, CF has conducted various raids, including raiding the office of one of Sadr's top clerics.
In another action, according to Roggio, Operation Wilderness captured 32 of Sadr's death-squad terrorists. "On the 21st, another raid netted 'Salah al-Obeidi, a close colleague of firebrand Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, [who] was picked up from his home in Najaf along with cleric Bassim al-Ghuraifi,' according to Sadr's own office."
All this is designed to paint Sadr into a hole (as Dafydd says), and it is working: Sadr and his close allies are now calling for a "peaceful fight." Obivously, Sadr wants to survive politically; but I'm not so sure his militia members agree. They didn't join up for peace and reconciliation; they just want to kill Sunnis on behalf of Iran.
I have heard that Muqtada Sadr is losing control of his Mahdi milita. Without Sadr's Iranian connection, the rest of the militia won't have access to all the logistic help they need (intelligence) to conduct death-squad operations. That is a good thing -- for the good guys; but the Mahdi killers, none of whom have much chance of ending up in the government themselves, are seeing their happy, little excuse for serial torture and murder floundering... and they're not obeying Sadr's orders to quit fighting and start supporting his political ambitions instead.
Meanwhile, back at the al-Qaeda chicken ranch, CENTCOM's press release announced that "Coalition forces detained a former driver and personal assistant of Abu Ayyub al-Masri [the current leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq] along with 31 others during a series of 11 raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq activities in the Baghdad area Sept. 28":
This is the second close associate of Abu Ayyub al-Masri captured in September, also believed to have been one of his personal drivers. Intelligence indicates his participation in the 2005 bombings of the Sheraton and the Al Hamra hotels in Baghdad that killed a total of 16 people and injured 65 others.
Three days after this operation, the Iraqi government released a video of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the al-Qaida in Iraq leader, instructing terrorists on how to build vehicle borne improvised explosive devices from the inside of a tanker truck. Intelligence indicates the suspected terrorist captured was working directly for Abu Ayyub al-Masri when the video was created.
Now, the game is afoot in the hunt for al-Masri himself. There was an earlier unconfirmed report on al-Arabiya TV, which the U.S. never bought, that al-Masri was killed during a raid; but subsequent DNA testing showed it was not he. However, just as with Musab Zarqawi -- who was finally killed after a series of his subordinates were captured and turned into singing canaries -- Masri's days on Earth can be measured in very small numbers.
So, folks, let's keep at it. Things are looking up. But we still have a lot to do in Iraq; this is no time to get distracted by the Foley Bergere.
Democrats: Discount Every Vote
Former Rep. Mark Foley resigned. I know, this isn't news; he did it many days ago. But evidently, it's news to Democrats... who are now demanding that voters not be told that Foley is no longer the candidate, and that Joe Negron is running instead:
Rules prohibit taking Foley's name off the ballot so close to the November 7 election. So the Republicans' replacement nominee, Joe Negron, asked election supervisors to post signs at the polls telling voters that ballots cast for Foley will actually go to Negron.
Democrats cried foul, contending that such a notice is tantamount to posting a partisan political advertisement inside voting stations, which is not allowed.
"What they're attempting to do is electioneering communications, which is illegal because you can't do that within 100 feet of a polling place," said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski.
How is it conceivably "electioneering" to post a sign that simply says one guy is out and another is running in his place? It's not like this has never come up before in Florida:
The suggested language has been used in other such cases, and reads:
"Due to a withdrawal of a candidate after the Primary Election which resulted in the substitution of a new candidate by the respective party: In the race for Representative In Congress, District 16, any vote cast for Mark Foley (REP) shall be counted as a vote for Joe Negron (REP)."
That isn't electioneering; that's simply letting voters know that they're not actually voting for a sexual pervert. But evidently, that is exactly what the Democrats don't want: they don't want voters to know.
It was the Democrats themselves (the George Soros-funded group CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) who sat on the IMs until after the deadline had passed to replace Foley's name on the ballot. And now, they hope that at least some voters mistakenly believe that voting for Foley means that Foley himself will return to the House of Representatives.
This is the same party that, after forcing Tom DeLay out of the House by a bogus indictment, subsequently sued in court to prevent the Republicans from being able to replace him with another candidate on the ballot. And then, when the GOP quickly rallied behind a single write-in candidate, Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, they fought even harder (unsuccessfully, this time) to prevent signs being put up telling voters that votes for DeLay would be counted for Sekula-Gibbs instead.
Couple this with the Democrats' attempts in the 2000 election to disenfranchise not only a couple of thousand military personnel, but also 25,000 absentee voters in Florida's Martin and Seminole Counties, and a very, very disturbing picture emerges:
It is quite clear that the inaptly named Democratic Party is in fact overtly hostile to democracy in all its forms. They cannot stand democracy, because they cannot control it; too often, the people thwart the aristocratic vision of the Antidemocratic Party by rudely electing Republicans!
In the minds of "Democrats," this is an outrage that must cease immediately. Hence, they're constantly in the state and federal courts, trying to sue their way into the statehouse, the federal House, and the White House.
Sadly, this has become such a "dog bites man" story that nobody seems to care much anymore.
Judicial Tyrants Teetering On the Brink
The campaign by gay activists to force "gender neutral" marriage down our throats via judicial fiat suffered a catastrophic setback today. The 1st (state) District Court of Appeals overturned the ruling by a San Francsico state judge (a year and a half ago) that the state's marriage laws were unconstitutional because they restrict marriage to "a man and a woman."
The sad part is that it was evidently an integral part of the ruling that in California, domestic partnerships are virtually the same as marriages.
In reversing the March 2005 ruling of a San Francisco trial judge, the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed with the state's attorney general, who argued that California's ban on same-sex marriage does not discriminate against gays and lesbians because of the state's strong domestic partner law.
I would hope the court would have overturned the earlier ruling even if we didn't have any domestic partnerships at all; after all, there is no question more clearly left to the people than which relationships they will accept as "marriage."
Alas, I suspect that the court would have ruled differently. But at least they went this far upholding the 2000 ballot proposition by which the people of this state overwhelmingly limited marriage to one man, one woman.
But this is the part I find so amusing, indicating (as it does) that the Left no longer even remembers that the people in a democracy have any say at all:
The ruling does not guarantee, however, that same-sex couples will not ultimately be able to get married in California.
Of course; the voters could vote on a ballot proposition any time they want to allow same-sex marriage. Oh, wait -- that's not what the Associated Press had in mind. Here is the rest of the story:
The ruling does not guarantee, however, that same-sex couples will not ultimately be able to get married in California. Gay marriage advocates said beforehand that they would appeal to the state Supreme Court if the intermediate court did not decide in their favor.
What AP meant was that there was no "guarantee" because a higher court might overturn the appellate court and by golly go back to forcing it upon us willy nilly, whether we like it or not.
The Foley Bergere
Most of us have been arguing in a vacuum. We -- or at least I -- have been accepting the charactization of the Mark Foley e-mails as "creepy," "sick," and so forth ever since this mini-scandal began.
Yesterday, Michael Medved actually read them over the air; and I was shocked at how innocuous they really were. (I got them from stopsexpredators.blogspot.com, but I'm not going to link it. Go through Wonkette and find it yourself... I don't want to give them any link traffic.)
I don't know what you think you've read, but having now read them all, I have to say that they're even less suggestive than they were described. Reading through them, my response was not that this was the writing of a "sexual predator;" it was more like a little kid trying to buy a friend by offering his football.
Just so we're on the same page, here they are. When you read them, try to forget that you have read the IMs (which are very explicit, and which I'm not going to post here); when Rep. Reynolds, et al (not including Speaker Denny Hastert, who never saw them at all) read them, there were no accompanying text messages... he had to make his decision solely on the basis of these (the typos and other mistakes are in the original):
Glad your home safe and sound...we don't go back into session until Sept 5...si it's a nice long break...I am back in Florida now...its nice here...been raining today...it shounds like you will have some fun over the next few weeks...how old are you now?
I just emailed will...hes such a nice guy...acts much older than his age...and hes in really great shape...i am just finished fiding my bike on a 25 mile journey now heading to the gym...whats school like for you this year?
I am in North Carolina...and it was 100in New Orleans...wow that's really hot...well do you miss DC...its raining here but 68 degrees so who can argue..did you have fun at your conference...what do you want for your birthday coming up...what stuff do you like to do
How are you weathering the hurricane...are you safe...send me a pic of you as well...
(There was one more I heard about; but it just said something like "is this the right email," nothing substantive.)
And that's it. That is all that the GOP leadership had in 2005 when they made the decision to brief Hastert's staff (but not Hastert himself until later) and to counsel Foley rather than open an entire investigation over this garbage.
To me, this is more "pathetic" than "stalker." I would have thought, "I know DC isn't a friendly place -- if you want a friend in DC, buy a dog -- but couldn't this guy strike up a friendship with anyone?"
There is nothing in any of this, in and of itself, that would spell "sexual predator," unless one were predisposed to think that all gay males were incipient twink-hunters.
I'm not, so I wouldn't. But your mileage may vary.
Date ►►► October 4, 2006
Carter Judge Slapped Down By Circus
On August 17th, we wrote about 5-named Carter appointee Judge Anna Katherine Johnson Diggs Taylor, a Motown judge who took it upon herself to decide whether the president can intercept communications of al-Qaeda terrorists... and in fact, whether Congress can even allow the president to do so.
"The game is afoot," as Sherlock Holmes said. (Oh yes he did; in "the Adventure of the Abbey Grange," for example.)
The first federal judge has struck down President Bush's NSA al-Qaeda intercept program as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. Anna Katherine Johnston Diggs Taylor ruled for the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union [the AP link is now dead]:
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, monitoring phone calls and e-mails between people in the U.S. and people in other countries when a link to terrorism is suspected.
Now, ordinarily, when a judge overturns such a major program as this, especially when there are significant constitutional questions, she will stay execution of her own ruling until the relevant appellate court rules. Maybe I'm mistaken about this, but I sure recall seeing many other judges stay their own rulings; lawyers, am I wrong about this?
But in the Case of Anna Katherine Johnson Diggs Taylor, she refused to do so: rather, she agreed only to stay her ruling, demanding the immediate cessation of the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, for a single week. That is, she demanded that if the circus court of appeals wants to stay her ruling until they can rule, they'd bloody well better act quickly -- on her schedule, not theirs:
A federal judge in Detroit who has ruled President Bush's Terrorist Surveillance Program unconstitutional Thursday gave the federal government one week to get a higher court to say whether the eavesdropping program should be allowed to continue while her ruling is appealed.
Under the ruling by U.S. District Judge Anna [Katherine Johnson] Diggs Taylor, the National Security Agency program, under which wiretaps can be obtained without first getting warrants, would have to cease Thursday, unless the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules otherwise.
Well, if she wanted to provoke a reaction from the 6th Circuit -- she got one. Today, the Ohio-based court issued its own stay of execution. I can only imagine how irked they must have been, with district court Judge Anna Katherine Johnson Diggs Taylor telling them, in essence, to dance when she plays the tune:
The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave little explanation for the decision. In the three-paragraph ruling, judges said that they balanced the likelihood an appeal would succeed, the potential damage to both sides and the public interest.
Actually, I think that's a lot of explanation. Evidently, all three judges believed the following:
- There is a substantial likelihood that they will overturn Anna Katherine Johnson Diggs Taylor's opinion striking down the terrorist communications interdiction program;
- If the program were ended, it would substantially damage United States national security;
- And that there is a strong public-interest argument in favor of the program to counter the public-interest argument against it.
While it's rhetorically dangerous to leap to the conclusion that the circuit court will overturn the district court merely because they agreed to issue a stay, when the decision is unanimous, I think there is at least significant cause for optimism.
So the bony hand of the long-gone administration of James Earl Carter reached out, clutching for its last grasp at anti-Americanism; but it got slapped away by the 6th Circus. I wonder if Anna Katherine Johnson Diggs Taylor stamped her foot like Rumplestiltskin when she heard?
Iraqi Police Bust Iraqi Police Brigade
Stealing a march on my colleague in crime here, I'm going to scoop Sachi on a piece of good news:
Iraqi authorities have taken a brigade of up to 700 policemen out of service and put members under investigation for "possible complicity" with death squads following a mass kidnapping earlier this week, the U.S. military said Wednesday....
The Iraqi police officers were decommissioned following a kidnapping Sunday when gunmen stormed a frozen food plant in the Amil district, abducted 24 workers and shot two others. The bodies of seven of the workers were found hours later but the fate of the others remains unknown.
The action appeared aimed at signaling a new seriousness in tackling police collusion with militias at a time when the government is under increased pressure to put an end to the Shiite-Sunni violence that has killed thousands this year and threatened to tear Iraq apart.
That last paragraph is no hyperbole. Everyone has known for some time that the Shia-dominated Iraqi National Police was at least turning a blind eye to Shiite militias massacring Sunnis (and rival Shia) in their relentless, sub-rosa campaign of murder and revenge; at worst, many assume that police units were actually engaged in such mass murder themselves. But the general feeling among nearly all Sunnis and even a great many Shia who actually care about their country was that the Shia-controlled government would never crack down on their "allies" in the police.
But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has finally realized that the survival of his government, indeed, the survival of Iraq as a nation, depends upon stopping the tit-for-tat butchery from breaking out into a full-scale civil war. He offered a new "security plan" a few days ago that was praised and widely accepted by all parties... and this is the first bit of "earnest money" in that plan:
The top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, said the Iraqi police brigade in the area had been ordered to stand down and was being retrained.
"There was some possible complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely when they should have been impeding them," he told a Baghdad news conference. "The forces in the unit have not put their full allegiance to the government of Iraq and gave their allegiance to others," he said....
The Iraqi Interior Ministry said Tuesday that the commander of the unit, a lieutenant colonel, had been detained for investigation and the major general who commands the battalion that includes the brigade had been suspended temporarily and ordered transferred.
Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the chief ministry spokesman, said a random selection of troops in the suspended unit were being investigated for ties to militias.
This is major-league serious stuff. The investigated soldiers who turn out to have such militia ties will be prosecuted; if found guilty of killings, they may be executed under Iraqi law (which has the death penalty available). I don't know if this is likely, but it's certainly my preferred punishment.
And the commander of the brigade himself, if found to be complicit, should -- in my opinion -- also be executed. Hanged, in a proper legal way. In fact, even if there is no evidence that he knew about any militia ties, he should still be convicted in a court-martial of criminal malfeasance for failing to stop his own troops from participating in or enabling death-squads. At the very least, he should spend at least 5-7 years in a military penitentiary... Abu Ghraib, newly restored to Iraqi control, springs to mind.
That new security plan I mentioned sounds very promising, too. It includes several new ideas, of which one of the most intriguing is the creation of joint Sunni-Shiite "neighborhood watch" style committees to track violence. I firmly believe most Sunni and Shia just want the killings to stop; they're not interested in "defeating" the other -- they just want to live in peace.
While this is characterized as "vague" by the New York Times, it's actually perfectly clear. They even explain it themselves... once you get past all the defeatism, death-triumphalism (more dead Iraqis, more dead Americans, hoo-hah!), and attempts to drive away readers before reaching the good stuff. The negative occupies about two-thirds of the entire piece; once you get back to the actual story promised by the headline, see if this makes sense:
In an effort to make some strides against militias, Mr. Maliki’s security plan would create local committees of political leaders, tribal sheiks, clerics and members of the security forces that would monitor security in every Baghdad neighborhood....
The committees would have no control over the security forces and would instead function as arbitrators of local sectarian disputes, intelligence gatherers for security forces, and as a bridge between civilians and the police and army, according to lawmakers involved in drafting the plan.
“These commissions will never have any authority to lead or command security forces,” said Jalaladin al-Sagheir, a Shiite member of Parliament. “It will just let the people know that they are a part of their district’s protection.”
The local committees will report to a “central commission for peace and security,” which will work with Iraqi armed forces. There will also be a new commission for monitoring the news media, but no other details were available. The plan will be reviewed by lawmakers every month.
(That last point is probably to ensure that a supposed "news" organization isn't simply a communications relay from terrorist leaders to their troops in the field. Hm, tempting...)
This pretty specific plan actually addresses the "root cause" of much of the violence: I believe both the insecurity that makes people join or support militias and the license they think they enjoy to do anything they want (which also contributes to recruitment) stem from a single catastrophic problem: alienation. When people feel alienated from their own government -- not a part of society, disconnected from those who live around them -- they become afraid of those others, and they simultaneously see them as less than human, easily killed without a pang of conscience.
That sort of alienation from society is the major factor behind crime in the United States -- the criminal's idea that he's not really part of society, a predator on the outside looking in.
Thus, the best solution to terrorism, mass killings (whether "sectarian" or part of a power-struggle), and yes, even ordinary crime is to include as many people as possible into the arc of society. When people feel they truly belong to the society, and that the government is as much a part of society as they, they are enormously less likely to take up arms to kill their fellow countrymen.
Thus, to the extent that neighborhood-watch style committees comprising both Sunni and Shiite representatives can bridge that yawning chasm between the average Iraqi and his government, they will significantly diminish the number of borderline cases who ultimately decide to join death squads. Changing the center typically changes the margin; and if you retract the extremity of the margin, eventually you reach a tipping point where being in a death squad makes a person feel more alienated, not less.
At that point, roving death squads become unsustainable... as in the United States and other civilized countries.
(Note that in France, the riots were driven by the sense of alienation from French society by the rampaging youths of Algerian descent; this analysis is pretty universal. And no, I didn't invent it... I'm not that smart!)
Thus, I see great cause for optimism. I think that al-Maliki, whether by design or fortuitous accident, has hit upon a strategy that has a very good chance of success. Couple it with Operation Together Forward, where the U.S. concentrates more and more of its resources to Baghdad to reclaim it from the hard-core terrorists and militiamen and our systematic campaign against Muqtada Sadr outside of Baghdad (to disrupt his power base), and the basic plan emerges:
- Kill the current "irredeemables;"
- Cut power to the main militia leader, Muqtada Sadr;
- Undermine the sense of alienation that drive ordinary Iraqis to support death squads.
There's the plan; looks like a winner from here.
Date ►►► October 3, 2006
Does the Republican House Stand for Anything?
As a matter of fact, even just based upon the last week (let alone the last two years), I would have to say Yes it does: the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives pushed through a number of very important measures in the waning hours of the pre-October recess 109th Congress.
More than one commentator has remarked -- either snidely (if Democratic) or in a world-weary way (Republican) -- that the Mark Foley imbroglio proves that the House "doesn't stand for anything." I beg to differ; actually, quite a few very important pieces of legislation were passed out of the House this term; many in the last couple of weeks, others throughout the two years of the 109th Congress. Squeaker of the House Denny Hastert (R-IL, 100%) can certainly go back home to Illinois and campaign on a record of achievement.
Just within the last week, Republicans pushed the following major (and excellent) bills through to the Senate or to the White House:
- September 26th, 6:10 pm: a bill to protect public seals that contain religious elements (like the tiny cross in the seal of the County of Los Angeles) and other public expressions of religion from lawsuit under the First Amendment's "establishment" clause; 218 Republicans and 26 Democrats supported this bill. The bill has been received in the Senate.
- September 26th, 7:19 pm: a bill to expand and enhance the Border Patrol; passed by voice vote, no roll call available.
- September 27th, 4:45 pm: a bill authorizing military tribunals, almost exactly in the format that the Bush administration proposed; 219 Republicans and only 34 Democrats voted for it.. The bill was also passed by the Senate (54 Republicans, 12 Democrats supporting) and sent to the president for signature.
- September 26th, 12:48 pm: a bill making it a federal crime for a non-custodial person to transport a minor across state lines in order to procure an abortion to evade parental-notification requirements; 215 Republicans and 34 Democrats supported this. 153 Democrats opposed it! What on earth were they thinking? Are they nakedly championing adult cads who get some teenaged girl pregnant, then spirit her to another state for an abortion, so Mom and Dad won't find out? The Senate hasn't received this one yet.
- September 28th, 1:51 pm: a bill authorizing sanctions on Iran if they don't suspend their Uranium enrichment. Passed by voice vote, no roll call available.
- September 28th, 10:19 pm: a bill enshrining the president's terrorist-communications intercept program (NSA "wiretapping") into law; 214 Republicans and 18 Democrats supported.
- September 29th, 6:31 pm: a bill expanding the rights of private-property owners against eminent domain seizures by states or the feds; the aye vote consisted of 194 Republicans and 37 Democrats, and the bill has been received by the Senate.
And although this one was longer than a week ago, it still deserves a round of applause:
- September 20th, 1:11 pm: a bill requiring potential voters show proof that they are American citizens before being allowed to register; the bill passed with 223 Republican supporters and zero Democrats. Evidently, the Democrats support a right of non-citizens to vote in American elections... probably because that's the only way Democrats win close elections anymore.
This alone is enough to demonstrate the gigantic difference between a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic one, between the honorable House of Hastert and the putative Palace of Pelosi. Of all the 1,432 Aye votes cast on these bills, 1,283 (about 90%) were cast by Republicans; only 10% were cast by Democrats. On most of these votes, more than 90% of the Republican caucus voted Aye, while 80%-90% of Democrats voted Nay.
Bear this in mind the next time some morally outraged Republican (or hissy-fit-heaving Democrat) demands Hastert's scalp on the grounds that he cares about "nothing but pork."
Editor, Squeal Thyself
One of the hardest temptations for conservatives to resist is the mad desire to be so holier than thou, that they shoot themselves right in the halo.
Exhibit A: the Washington Times -- Tony Blankley, I presume -- just editorialized a demand that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL, 100%) resign his position, presumably for not being omniscient... along with, if we follow the logic:
- Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH, 100%), who knew about the innocuous e-mails but not about the smoking-gun IMs;
- Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY, 83%), who brought the matter up to Hastert's staff;
- Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL, 92%), who tried to resolve the problem by counseling Foley, telling him to stay away from the page whose picture he asked for and to be careful not to get "overfriendly" to any pages;
- Oh, and also "every Republican member of Congress," since according to the Washington Times, they are all "disgraced" by Mark Foley's twink hunt.
Here is editor Tony Blankley's prescription for how the GOP must immolate itself to atone for the weird actions of a single member:
- Hastert should immediately resign as Speaker (possibly even from the House itself);
- Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL, 88%) should quickly be elected Speaker -- not in spite of his pending retirement, but because of it!
- Hyde presides for three months, then retires;
- When the new Democratic House of Representatives returns, they elect either Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 95%) or John Murtha (D-PA, 75%).
...After which, all the breast-beaters at TWiT will feel ever so much better. They can go back to what they do best: railing at the majority Democrats, then heading off to the cocktail parties, secure in the knowledge that they don't really have to make any decisions (in fact, they will not be able to do so, since they'll be back to minority status).
Oh dear, is Big Lizards now predicting that the Democrats will take the House? Not under ordinary circumstances; Americans understand that the actions of one member do not "disgrace" the entire body, because people are individuals, not merely cogs in a big machine; cardinal numbers, not ordinal numbers. But if the GOP were to follow Blankley's advice and conduct a mass resignation of the leadership...? Oh, yes, they would lose the House: they would succeed in convincing Americans of the falsity that they all knew about the explicit IMs.
Democrats would then so hogtie the president that we lose the war. Thousands would die, and the terrorists would seize control of another oil-producing nation in the Middle East.
But at least, thank goodness, all 232 disgraced House Republicans will have gotten their comeuppance, good and hard! A brilliant plan, Tone: all other business of Congress pales to insignificance compared to punishing the Republicans for not being clairvoyant:
Red flags emerged in late 2005, perhaps even earlier, in suggestive and wholly inappropriate e-mail messages [vaguely suggestive and mildly inappropriate] to underage congressional pages [who were a few months from being legal adults]. His aberrant, predatory -- and possibly criminal -- behavior was an open secret among the pages who were his prey [except for all those pages who said they knew nothing about it and were not "warned," contrary to what one page said].
That last point is especially apt, given that Blankley's entire case for demanding Hastert's resignation rests on the idea that everyone should have known that Mark Foley was a sexual pervert who preyed upon pages; but even the majority of the pages themselves, who would have had the best vantage point to see such aberrant behavior, seem to have had no such knowledge, according to the New York Times. They saw him as a "caring ally":
Raymond Schillinger, 20, also a Georgetown student, echoed those thoughts. He worked for Mr. Foley this spring as an intern and said the congressman treated the young staff very well.
“He was very affable, always friendly with the staff, but never over friendly, nothing suggestive,” Mr. Schillinger said....
Matthew Loraditch, who worked as a page with Ms. Gallo and Mr. McDonald in 2001 and 2002, said a supervisor had once casually mentioned that Mr. Foley “was odd” and that he later saw sexually explicit text messages that Mr. Foley had sent to two former pages after they left the program.
But Mr. Loraditch said he was never warned by program supervisors to stay away from him. “He was friendly,” said Mr. Loraditch, who maintains a Web site for alumni and attends Towson University in Maryland. “He would talk to us more than some other members would.”
Loraditch, by the way, was the only page who told ABC they had been officially "warned" about Foley. But Loraditch subsequently retracted his statement and said that nobody "warned them," and that he had no reason to believe Foley was anything but friendly -- sometimes overbearingly so. There was nothing more than an informal observation by one congressman that Foley was "odd."
So even most of the pages had no idea what Foley was doing to -- or rather, in most cases, with the willing participation of -- a few of them.
Is this a defense for Foley? Not at all... it's a defense for Dennis Hastert, John Boehner, Tom Reynolds, and John Shimkus, along with "every Republican member of Congress." You know, those who were "disgraced" by the actions of Mark Foley; just as every Republican is presumably disgraced by Jack Abramoff (and every doctor in America is disgraced by the actions of Jack Kevorkian).
Do we really need supposed conservatives buying into the liberal, even socialist idea that individuals are defined, not by their own behavior, but merely as being part of a group? Are all blacks disgraced by the antics of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? Are all Moslems guilty of the suicide bombings of jihadists? And are all Jews defined by Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron?
And is Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of the Washington Times, "disgraced" by the actions of his fellow journalists at the St. Petersburg Times, the Miami Herald, and even Fox News?
Meanwhile, Florida newspapers — who were leaked copies of the e-mail with the Louisiana boy last year — defended their decision not to run stories. Both The St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald were given copies of the e-mail, as were other news organizations, including Fox News.
"Our decision at the time was ... that because the language was not sexually explicit and was subject to interpretation, from innocuous to 'sick,' as the page characterized it, to be cautious," said Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the Herald. "Given the potentially devastating impact that a false suggestion of pedophilia could have on anyone, not to mention a congressman known to be gay, and lacking any corroborating information, we chose not to do a story."
Why should we listen to a disgraced journalist like Blankley? Sure, he himself never knew anything about those e-mails; but other journalists did, and he's a journalist too. He shares their disgrace.
And yes, the journalists who did see the e-mails said they were so open to interpretation that they could not conclude there was any "there" there... not even enough to run a story or contact the authorities. But if that is a defense for the journalists -- isn't it equally a defense for the other members of Congress, who saw nothing more (and in many cases substantially less) than the reporters saw?
But Blankley stands firm: the entire GOP leadership should resign, hand the House over to the Democrats, and withdraw from politics. With Republicans like these, who needs Democrats?
GOP pundits will happily form a circular firing squad, just to prove we're ever so much more selfless (that is, self-abusing) than those selfish Democrats. Republicans have always been eager to commit suicide so people will think well of conservatism.
If Blankley wants to despise his fellow Republicans for not rising to the godlike standards he sets (for others, of course, not himself), let him do so; but when his self-loathing graduates to an attempt to flagellate the entire Republican Party and precipitate the loss of the House and Senate, just to parade his own moral superiority, he's "walking on the fightin' side of me."
The only guilty party here is Mark Foley. He resigned, as he should have. He may suffer legal penalties; I have no idea what laws are involved in having text-message "sex" in the District of Columbia with a 17-year old.
He's not a "child molester," as has been repeatedly claimed by Democrats -- who, by the way, never said any such a thing about Gerry Studds, who boffed a 17 year old male page back in 1973 (he took him to Morocco to evade American law), admitted it in 1983, and was censured by the House; but who refused to resign, was re-elected six times after that incident, and who was never cast out of the Democratic caucus.
Foley (and Studds) are in fact ephebophiles, adults who are sexually attracted to post-pubescent teenagers. Many heterosexual men are attracted to "Lolitas," while many gay men are attracted to "twinks." This is utterly alien to those adults who are sexually attracted to actual, pre-pubescent children.
Society considers sex with teenagers younger than 18 "statutory rape" (which is why Studds took his page to Morocco to have his fun); but anybody who cannot morally distinguish between having sex with a 17 year old and raping a 7 year old is himself morally diseased. It's like the difference between punching someone in the mouth during an argument -- and getting a gun and shooting him.
Is this a defense for Foley? From the infinitely more serious charge of child molestation -- yes, you bet it is. So far as we can tell, Foley actually engaged in "hot talk" only with willing participants who were 16 or 17 years old (or over 18, but that's not any sort of crime).
And it's also a further defense for the various members of Congress who Blankley thinks must resign: nobody has even suggested that Foley was endangering "children," except those who conflate a 17 and a 7 year old. All that Hastert, et al, knew was that he sent a few overly friendly e-mails to a former page who was almost an adult himself. He thought Foley's e-mails were "sick" (though they were not sexual at all), so Shimkus told Foley to leave the "kid" alone... and Foley did. This isn't "look[ing] the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away," as Blankley charges; it's resolving the problem... the only problem that was known at that point.
The only person here who should resign is perhaps Tony Blankley, for bearing false witness against Denny Hastert, Tom Reynolds, and the two Johns, and against "every Republican member of Congress." Blankley should resign from the Washington Times for accusing the entire Republican caucus of being accomplices after the fact -- when in fact, not a one of them had any reason to suspect anything at all was going on.
Tony Blankley has outed himself as a closet liberal... and for that, he should leave the Washington Times and go to work for the Post.
Date ►►► October 2, 2006
Bearing False Witness
Of all the kinds of lying, the most damaging and most despicable, practiced by only the most coldblooded and spiritually empty human vessels, is "bearing false witness." BFW is not a typical lie to duck accountability for something you did wrong, nor even a lie to get some undeserved reward. BFW consists of deliberately and with malice aforethought testifying falsely -- in court or elsewhere in public -- in order to "convict" an innocent of some heinous crime or moral turpitude.
It's not merely saying "I had nothing to do with raping that woman," when the speaker was the one who held her down. It's saying "I saw John Smith rape that woman," when in fact the speaker knows that Smith is completely innocent.
Or trying to mislead people into believing that various Republican members of Congress were accomplices after the fact in a case of attempted statutory homosexual rape -- when the Democratic liars know that those they accuse are in fact innocent.
New York Democrats trying to hang the albatross of disgraced former-Rep. Mark Foley around the neck of Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-N.Y., 83%) and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL, 100%) have deliberately confused two "threads" of e-mails and text messages that Foley wrote. And the elite media is playing along, equally knowingly, with this deception.
The first thread comprised e-mails that were peculiar but not sexual: for example, Foley asking one former page how he had "weathered" Hurricane Katrina; from the New York Times:
“How are you weathering the hurricane. . .are you safe. . .send me a pic of you as well."
This is what those Republicans who investigated these e-mails refer to as "over-friendly." There is nothing inherently wrong or sexual with asking how the kid did during the hurricane -- or even for asking for a picture. I can imagine a congressman having a bulletin board in the front office with innocuous pictures of all the pages who worked in his office.
But there was a darker, more sinister thread, consisting of much more explicit text messages that Foley sent to other pages; for example, one session was all about masturbation and read like two adolescents talking. Of course one was not only an adult (chronologically) but a member of Congress. Honestly, it's more juvenile than anything Bill Clinton ever did.
Well call these two threads the "over-friendly" thread and the "explicit" thread. The point is that the Republicans who were told about these e-mails either saw none of them at all, or else they only saw the "over-friendly" thread; nobody says he saw the "explicit" thread until ABC published them and they were on the internet... and no Democrat actually claims to have any evidence that any Republican knew about the "explicit" thread. This is important: they don't even pretend to have evidence that anyone actually knew that Foley was into twinks.
Yet even so, the Democrats are trying to make it appear as though Reynolds knew Foley was sending explicitly sexual correspondence to a minor -- when in fact, the Democrats are well aware that Reynolds knew only about non-sexual e-mails that were oddball but not threatening.
In so doing, they are attempting to destroy not just the career but the life of Congressman Reynolds -- trying to get him not only thrown out of the House, but also trying to get his wife to divorce him, his children to disown him, and everyone he knows to shun him... just so that his Democratic opponent might have a better shot at beating him in the November election.
I do not believe I have ever seen a more reptillian, repulsive smear job in my adult lifetime. What's next? Will they fly in the Green-Helmet Guy to plant dead children in Reynolds' home?
Note that Patterico discusses a related but distinct point on Patterico's Pontifications: that numerous well-known leftist bloggers are seizing upon the horrid false meme; combined with the news sources that are making the same error -- purposefully, in my opinion -- this looks less and less like an honest mistake; in fact, it reeks of the sociopathic tactics of Stalinists.
In a story datelined late last night (that is, very early on the morning of October 1st), AP gave this explanation of what the Republicans knew about Foley's inappropriate communications and what they did about it:
On Friday night, Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said the top House Republican had not known about the allegations.
Saturday's report includes a lengthy timeline detailing when they first learned of the worrisome e-mail in the fall of 2005, after a staffer for Alexander told Hastert's office the family wanted Foley to stop contacting their son. Alexander's staffer did not share the contents of the e-mail, saying it was not sexual but "over-friendly," the report says.
[That is, it was the first thread of e-mails, those that were non-sexual but somewhat strange.]
Hastert's aides referred the matter to the Clerk of the House, and "mindful of the sensitivity of the parent's wishes to protect their child's privacy and believing that they had promptly reported what they knew to the proper authorities," they did not discuss it with others in Hastert's office - including, apparently, their boss.
After the issue was referred to the clerk, it was passed along to the congressman who oversees the page program, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.
Shimkus has said he learned about the e-mail exchange in late 2005 and took immediate action to investigate.
He said Foley told him it was an innocent exchange. Shimkus said he warned Foley not to have any more contact with the teenager and to respect other pages.
As of 4:45 am October 1st, that is what the Associated Press knew. But just a few hours later, at 8:00 am, AP "shortened" the story -- by clipping out the entire explanation that made it clear GOP leaders had never seen any sexually explicit e-mails or IMs from Foley. The entire defense is reduced to this one paragraph:
The office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who earlier said he'd learned about the e-mails only last week, acknowledged that aides referred the matter to the authorities last fall. They said they were only told the messages were "over-friendly."
It would be easy to miss. (John Hinderaker at Power Line also noticed that the AP changed their story to remove exonerating facts.)
Seven hours pass; and now, at 2:50 pm, another AP version of the story introduces a whole new charge out of the blue... not merely that the Republicans knew about the "explicit" thread of IMs, but that they actively tried to cover them up:
Dems Slap GOP for Keeping E-Mails Secret
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said it was outrageous the House GOP leadership had not acted sooner. "It really makes me nervous that they might have tried to cover this up," he said.
Murtha said the House ethics committee should conclude its work on the Foley case before the November elections, so that voters can "hold people accountable." Doing so, he said, might help restore public confidence, since already "the reputation of Congress under the Republican leadership is lower than used car salesmen."
Here, one of the clumsiest of the Democratic character assassins lets slip his mask. Who cares about the teens? What's really important here is how it will affect the November vote!
But the conspiracy theory makes no political sense. It would have been fairly painless (politically) had this broken in 2005, because Foley would not even have been the Republican nominee. It makes no sense to sit on something this volatile, knowing that lots of others knew about it -- including the St. Petersburg Times -- and could release it at the worst moment... such as right now.
The separately written New York Times story (see above for link) plays along, adding its own misinformation:
Top House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children’s issues, Republican lawmakers said Saturday.
House Republicans said they kept it "secret?" There are no quotations to that effect in the story; this is a term made up by the Times and falsely attributed to the Republicans themselves, to make them look like accomplices.
So the "elite" media chops a hole in the basement and falls through to an even lower level than they were before: now they're not only pretending that the GOP knew about the "explicit" thread; they've added out of whole cloth the unsourced claim that Republicans were accessories after the fact by deliberately concealing this specific knowledge they supposedly had about Foley's sexal proclivities.
Finally, Reuters joins the fun by adding a very ambiguous term that means something very different, as Reuters uses it, than the normal meaning:
The Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives said his office knew a year ago about inappropriate contact between a former intern and newly resigned Rep. Mark Foley and called on Saturday for a criminal probe of the matter.
Do they mean readers to wrongly infer inappropriate physical contact? That is what "inappropricate contact" usually means. Though they're using "contact" as in correspondence, that's not how most people will read it.
Newspaper stories (and news broadcasts) do not exist in a vacuum: they feed off of each other; and the weight of them combines self-referentially, like a monkey-puzzle tree, to levitate raw allegation, rumor, or even deliberate lying into well-sourced fact. A becomes the source for B, which becomes the source for C -- which is then used as the source of A. Like a game of "telephone," a factoid circles round and round, becoming a "fact," and then a "well-known fact," merely through repetition.
It's the Snark syllogism: "What I tell you three times is true."
When this is used to destroy careers and lives by tricking readers into believing a lie, it becomes the dirtiest and most cowardly attack on the media's political opponents (Republicans) one can imagine. It's on the same moral level as Arabs fabricating evidence to make it appear that Israelis murdered 12 year old Mohammed al-Dura.
If we let them get away with this blood libel, believe me... we'll see worse. Pathological liars are emboldened, not chastened, whenever a lie works. Putting all politics aside, it's vital that we rise up and make those who bear false witness pay a terrible price, unless we want to see Pravda open branch offices in every major newsroom in the country.
Everybody who reads this post should send a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper if it prints any story that claims, without actual evidence, that any Republican other than Mark Foley knew what Mark Foley was really doing. Tell the editor what you think of those who falsely accuse the innocent.
Then cancel your subscription. Believe me, it will be no loss.
Date ►►► October 1, 2006
Ribbons and Strings and Lots of Nice Things
I was looking for more good news from Iraq; believe me, there's plenty for this post.
First from Bill Roggio, al-Qaeda's "Emir of Anbar" was killed by Task Force 145:
Task Force 145, the global hunter-killers of high value al-Qeda targets, is conducting a full court press in Iraq. The Kuwaiti News Agency reports al-Qaeda's Emir in Anbar province, Khalid Mahal, and Nasif Al-Mawla, his aide, were killed during an operation in the Thar Thar region. An American intelligence source will not comment on Mahal's death but did state “operations are ongoing."
Bill Crawford has a must-read recap of recent good news from Iraq at National Review Online. Here are some headlines:
- 1,500 people attended the Iraq national reconciliation meeting;
- Iraqi Kurds paid for a series of television ads thanking America for removing Saddam Hussein;
- Iraqi security forces now number more than 300,000; nearly 70 percent of Iraqi battalions have the lead for security in their area of operations;
- Tourism is returning to Dhi Qar province, which has many archeological sites; under Saddam, the area was closed to tourists and scientists;
- Marines (with local assistance) captured a high-value insurgent leader during a raid in Saqlawiyah. Residents in the area cheer the Marines;
- A top al Qaeda terrorist was arrested in Mosul; two others blew themselves up after being surrounded;
- Thanks to modern insecticides, Iraqi farmers in Diyala had their best date harvest in years;
And congratulations to 1st Lt. Neil Prakash, who received the Silver Star for his part in the battle of Fallujah.
There is plenty more. But I want to talk about this ribbon cutting event:
Soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 15 celebrating the re-opening of the Al Bawasil School in Muelha, a town in the northern Babil province, south of Baghdad.
Why is this important? A commenter on my last post said that good news -- such as opening a school -- is simply not "hot news." That may be... but when you look beyond the headlines, each case is unique in how our soldiers overcame the daily obstacles and bridged the divide between two cultures.
Al-Bawasil has many problems; for example, it needed a new middle school, since the closest was 10 miles away. In addition, the unemployment rate was very high in this area: people were eager to work, but there were no jobs.
Under ordinary circumstances, the solution would be obvious: hire all these out of work people to build a new school. But the local area insurgents wouldn't stop the violence against Coalition forces (CF) long enough to let them even start. Roadside bombs and terrorist attacks prevented the CF from getting involved at all in the civil affairs of al-Bawasil.
So what to do? Instead of just walking away in disgust (as most of us would have), the CF called upon the town council and negotiated a deal:
During a meeting with the town council in the spring, CF civil affairs officers brought up the school problems to the council and asked for a stop to the violence in exchange for refurbishment of the school.
“When the people in the area noticed we made the school a priority, the violence stopped,” said [Capt. Aaron] Scheinberg, (civil affairs officer, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment.) “People in the town are excited and surrounding regions are envious of the improvements made in Muelha.”
Rather than the CF dictating to the council what would happen, they bargained with them, making it appear as if the school were a payoff for stopping the violence. Then they hired the locals to do the actual work, of course, giving them jobs. The council members saved their faces and could even brag to the locals what a hard bargain they drove, forcing the Americans to build a school and give work to the local lads.
“Everything we used for the school is made in Iraq and is of the highest quality available in the country,” said Abdul Raza, Iraqi project contractor. “We took our time with this project and I ensured it received the best materials because the project is for the kids and the kids will be the future of Iraq someday.”
Coalition Forces (CF) prefer to hire local contractors and workers from the area because it is in their best interest to do a good job because they live there, said Capt. Aaron Scheinberg....
“It was easy for me to find workers because most of the people here do not have steady jobs,” said Abdul. “The people actually thanked me for giving them a job. A lot of times we had to split the work between two different groups because there were so many people willing to work to make some money.”
In Iraq, community involvement has its own unique dynamic: Americans supply the money, the Iraqis do the actual work, and the city elders get all the credit!
It's frustrating to me that the people in Al Bawasil have to be told that it's beneficial for them to stop shooting and bombing us while we're trying to help them; it seems so obvious. We can help Iraqis, and we do -- when they let us. One region at a time, we must convince them to help themselves.
After so many decades of brutal infantilization, it's not easy to suddenly grow up in a couple of years.
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