Date ►►► November 30, 2006

Attack Terrorist Funding - Unless That Means Attacking Terrorist Funding (Clinton Judges, Take 2)

Hatched by Dafydd

A federal judge has struck down a critical element of "connecting the dots" to fight against terrorism: she says it's unconstitutional to freeze assets of terrorist groups -- because terrorist groups are designated by the president, rather than by a laborious, multi-year process involving Congress and the judiciary, clerks and aides, and the entire labor force of the Bureau of Procrastination... during which multiple challenges could be filed, rulings made and overturned, written, published, discussed, stamped, mailed, folded, spindled, and mutilated, stretching the procedure out long enough to give the bad guys plenty of time (even at a snail's pace) to transfer all the funds to another dummy organization. Then we start all over again. (Though that's not exactly the way she phrased her opinion, I believe.)

A federal judge struck down President Bush's authority to designate groups as terrorists, saying his post-Sept. 11 executive order was unconstitutional and vague.

Some parts of the Sept. 24, 2001 order tagging 27 groups and individuals as "specially designated global terrorists" were too vague and could impinge on First Amendment rights of free association, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said.

The order gave the president "unfettered discretion" to label groups without giving them a way to challenge the designations, she said in a Nov. 21 ruling that was made public Tuesday.

The judge, who two years ago invalidated portions of the U.S. Patriot Act, rejected several sections of Bush's Executive Order 13224 and enjoined the government from blocking the assets of two foreign groups.

And here is the really shocking part: Judge Audrey Collins was appointed by -- wait for it -- President Bill Clinton! She was nominated in 1994 and confirmed by the Senate that same year, when it was still under the control of the Democrats.

Say, is there an echo in here?

The ruling was praised by David Cole, a lawyer for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Constitutional Rights, who represented the plaintiff Humanitarian Law Project. [Never trust any D.C. based organization that includes the word "humanitarian" -- as in vegetarian? -- in its title.]

It "says that even in fighting terrorism the president cannot be given a blank check to blacklist anyone he considers a bad guy or a bad group and you can't imply guilt by association," Cole said.

Sure you can! You aren't really trying, Mr. Cole. How about, "anyone who joins the Ku Klux Klan is guilty of racism?" Or this one: "anyone who joined any version of the Nazi Party after 1945 is a nutter who should be on a leash."

Similarly, I consider it quite reasonable to argue that anyone who joins al-Qaeda in Iraq is more or less a terrorist by definition (and an antisemite by hobby). And any fellow who joins a group called the Humanitarian Law Project is a screaming liberal guilty of utter jackassery... though that last might be more of a genetic disability than a guilty act: every mens rea first requires a rea, after all.

All right, I love picking on idiot rulings by Clinton judges; but there really is a deep point. I'm actually going somewhere with this.

The incoming Democratic majority insists that its primary interest, after raising the minimum wage, is defending the country. It's not your grandmother's Democratic Party -- no more of those anti-war protests, assaults on returning soldiers, bombings of ROTC buildings, attempts to exorcise Yog Sothoth from the center of the Pentagon, or concerned citizens against America chaining themselves to MX missiles. Not this Democratic Party! This is the steely-eyed party of John Murtha, Jim Webb, and Nancy Pelosi; of John McCain (oops, sorry about that), Harry Reid, and Joe Lieberman (oops, sorry about that).

And of course, everyone knows that terrorism travels on its stomach, to paraphrase Napoleon (which is about the only way to discuss what he said, unless you read French). The surest method of killing terrorism is to starve it out, cut off its funding.

Cut its funding by, you know, freezing its assets. Which raises an interesting question: are the Democrats actually in favor of cutting funding to terrorist groups -- hence will denounce this narcissistic, self-indulgent, flower-child, airy-fairy opinion?

Or will they remain true to their roots (and their BDS fix) and praise this decision as the first step in undoing all the horrible depredations against the precious civil liberties of Jemaah Islamiyah and the Tamil Tigers?

Alternatively, if you ask the Democrats, will smoke come out of their ears, as they intone in rising hysteria, "Norman, please explain -- only Norman can explain!" Sorry. Got caught up in a Star Trek moment; Captain Ed understands.

Most likely they'll take the fourth option, the one they've taken so often, it's on speed dial: say nothing. No comment. If a reporter is rude enough to ask Ms. Pelosi about this ruling, she can look blank and say that the 9/11 Commission already determined that there is no al-Qaeda.

Be thankful that President Bush is still president for a couple of years, and let's all hope that 2008 doesn't leave another coal in the electoral sock.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 30, 2006, at the time of 6:03 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Money - It's a Crime... (Clinton Judges, Take 1)

Hatched by Dafydd

A federal judge just ruled that money is discriminatory.

No, really:

The government discriminates against blind people by printing money that all looks and feels the same, a federal judge said Tuesday in a ruling that could change the face of American currency.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson ordered the Treasury Department to come up with ways for the blind to tell bills apart. He said he wouldn't tell officials how to fix the problem, but he ordered them to begin working on it.

The American Council of the Blind has proposed several options, including printing bills of differing sizes, adding embossed dots or foil to the paper or using raised ink.

And here's a shocker: Judge James Robertson was appointed by -- wait for it -- President Bill Clinton! He was nominated in 1994 and approved that same year, when Democrats still controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House (which evidently didn't violate the "separation of powers" doctrine and wasn't the sign of a looming "unitary executive" -- as it was during the time that Republicans controlled all three branches).

So what is wrong with this picture? Simply this: Judge Robertson evidently believes that if a person has a disability, then it is the duty of society at large (which means the taxpayers) to reinvent itself in order to "reenable" him, to make him whole. In other words, if Joe is blind, it is society's duty to completely compensate for his blindness... to make blindness utterly non-disabling.

Because otherwise, society is discriminating against Joe by not compensating him for his own handicap. They are violating the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act of Blob Dole.

In the march of risible court decisions, whose lineage is as long as Adam's and Eve's, this may perhaps be the most asinine in court history. Now there's a record to inspire awe!

By the same reasoning, every public library in the country discriminates against blind people unless it carries a Braille copy of every single book in the collection. And every CD is discriminatory unless the complete score and lyrics of all songs are printed somewhere on the jewel case (preferably also in Braille, if we don't want to discriminate against people who are both deaf and blind!)

Or maybe this only applies to government facilities and programs. Fair enough; I accept the limitation. But at some point, the Grand Canyon must install loudspeakers permanently droning on, as they describe the view from every scenic outlook, for the benefit of blind tourists.

And those funny chirps and yelps that the pedestrian crosswalk lights emit to tell blind walkers when to cross are good but not enough: hasn't anybody given a thought to the poor, beleagured, and discriminated against blind drivers? The traffic signals themselves should scream out their current color -- in every language that the local community employs to print government forms. Heavens, man! On your feet!

Naturally, every house must be retrofitted with a flashing indoor warning light that illuminates every room with a hellish glow in the event the air-raid sirens blow... else how will the deaf know to duck and cover?

Speaking (or signing) of which, don't public concerts in the city park violate somebody's right not to be inconvenienced in any way by his own deafness? Either stop them or supply earplugs to the hearing unimpaired so all will be equally unable to enjoy Beethoven's Ninth Symphony -- or at least enjoy it no better than he himself could.

And what about public auctions of property seized from drug dealers... how can the mute bid on the Ferraris and cigarette boats the DEA has cluttering up their warehouses? I suppose they could wave their hands to signal a bid. Unless they're blind, in which case they won't know how much money they have.

We needn't even get into the Boston and L.A. marathons; sure, the wheelchair bound can run (well, roll) in them... but it's nearly impossible for them to win! What an inconvenience. Next Thursday, I understand Judge Robertson will issue a preliminary ruling (in the case of Harrison Bergeron v. the People) that henceforth, all able-bodied marathon runners will be required to carry weights, like jockeys, just to even things up.

And now we come to the pizza resistance, the clowning glory: I've noticed that when I fill out my income tax return, it taxes my brain quite a bit to follow those labyrinthian instructions on the back of each form. It's a good thing I'm smart and literate. But many Americans -- some of them people of color! -- are neither smarter than the average nor particularly good at reading legalese. (In fact, I read somewhere that as much as half the population is below median IQ. I'm sorry, I can't find the citation.)

Clearly this goes far beyond a disadvantage: there are actual measurable damages here, as these people cannot fill out their own tax returns and must hire CPAs or lawyers to do it for them. Ouch!

Now, one way to resolve this problem is for Judge Robertson to order the IRS to make their forms simple enough that even a simpleton can fill them out. But this doesn't completely solve the problem, as many people fall below the medical community's precise measurement of simpletonhood. Ness. Hood. Whatevery.

Besides, it's clearly beyond the purview of the courts to order the IRS to do its job.

Since there is no way to raise every (I'm reading the official categories in order of increasing dumbth) moron, dolt, bonehead, cementhead, halfwit, lackwit, numbskull, vacuum brain, microcephalic, and Katzenjammer up to the level of smarties, the only alternative is to lower the rest of society down to the level of the lunkheaded.

Judge Robertson has already been considering possibilities, including the forced watching of Gilligan's Island reruns interspersed around the Best Boy's cut of An Inconvenient Truth. But the judge indicates he would leave up to Congress which particular season of the sitcom, as the federal judiciary must not overstep its jurisdiction.

Speaking of inconvenient truths, here's one: disabled people are not as able as able-bodied people. That's more or less the definition of "disabled."

Thus, there are some things they simply cannot do, or at least not do as well as others. Of course, I can't dance like Fred Astaire or play baseball as well as Fidel Castro (in his youth; I could probably hold my own today)... so there are compensations. Try as the courts might, I'm skeptical they will be able to make everybody in the country equal in ability to everybody else; they can, however, succeed in making us all equally poor and equally miserable. In fact, they're well underway along this road already.

Instead of trying to equalize everybody's experience of life, perhaps they should focus on ensuring that everybody, including the white male Christian, has equal justice before the court and under the law, and around the bend, over the rainbow, and through the woods to Grandmother's house.

Heck, that should be hard enough, what with the whole OJ Simpson/Robert Blake phenomenon.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 30, 2006, at the time of 2:56 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 29, 2006

Nancy Drew She Ain't

Hatched by Dafydd

Incoming (as in artillery) Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), responds to a press conference by President Bush. First the president:

"There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place [in Iraq], fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal," Bush said. "And we will work with the Maliki government to defeat these elements."

Now from the same article, we have the response by Nancy Pelosi, second in succession to the presidency (and who Rich Galen of Mullings fame has taken to calling "Pelosium-2007," evidently confusing her with the Polonium-210 that was used to assassinate former Russian spy turned dissident Alexander Litvinenko). After hearing Bush discuss the violence fomented in large part by al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group formerly headed by Musab Zarqawi (until we finally killed him), and now by Hamza Muhajir, the divine Ms. P. opines:

"My thoughts on the president's representations are well-known," Pelosi said. "The 9/11 Commission dismissed that notion a long time ago and I feel sad that the president is resorting to it again."

Blink. Blink blink.

Can it really be true that Nancy Pelosi has never heard of Zarqawi, Muhajir, and al-Qaeda in Iraq, hence misunderstood Bush to be talking about the larger al-Qaeda run by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri?

For some reason I can't put my finger on, this reminds me of the scene in the movie the Shining, where Shelly Duvall (Olive Oyl) discovers that the entire manuscript of the book that Jack Nicholson (the Joker) has been writing for months consists of nothing but "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," repeated thousands and thousands of times... you know, that moment of frisson when we realize that old Jack didn't just go insane... he's been a stark, raving lunatic for months -- and Duvall has been sleeping right next to him that whole time.

I don't know why this latest Pelosi escapade brought that scene to mind. Never mind, forget I even brought it up.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 29, 2006, at the time of 5:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Intimidating Imams and Ludicrous Lawsuits

Hatched by Sachi

The story of the six Intimidating Imams, whose suspicious behavior caused them to be chucked off an airplane at Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport, is starting to smell more and more like a conspiracy...

At first, it just seemed that six obnoxious, insensitive, and clueless Imams, who did not understand the concept of TPO (time, place, and occasion), exhibited behavior that would worry almost anyone -- and then got upset about being questioned by the police. But the more details I read, the less I believe they were simply oblivious to the surroundings:

  • They prayed loudly and as a group at the gate and made a point of criticizing the United States for everyone to hear before boarding;
  • Three normal-sized Imams asked for seatbelt extenders. Rather than put them on, they placed the extenders -- which would make excellent weapons -- under their seats, within easy reach;
  • Two of them then switched to unassigned first class seats, thus positioning the six around the cabin in a formation eerily reminiscent of the 911 hijackers.

The overtly (and deliberately) suspicious behavior of the Intimidating Imams cannot be dismissed as clueless; it was far too organized. They knew exactly what they were doing, and it was purposeful: the intention, made clear by their subsequent legal action, was to scare the crew and passengers enough to get kicked off the plane.

This gave them the perfect opportunity to raise a hue and cry about racism and racial profiling -- providing a cause of action to file a "civil-rights" lawsuit.

In fact, one of the Intimidating Imams has been involved in just such a lawsuit before:

Then there's the case of Muhammed al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan al-Shalawi, two Arizona college students removed from an America West flight after twice trying to open the cockpit. The FBI suspected it was a dry run for the 9/11 hijackings, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. One of the students had traveled to Afghanistan. Another became a material witness in the 9/11 investigation.

Even so, the pair filed racial-profiling suits against America West, now part of US Airways. Defending them was none other than the leader of the six imams kicked off the US Airways flight this week.

Turns out the students attended the Tucson, Ariz., mosque of Sheikh Omar Shahin, a Jordan native. Shahin has been the protesters' public face, even returning to the US Airways ticket counter at the Minneapolis airport to scold agents before the cameras.

The goal of the lawsuit is not simply to make money; it's much more sinister than that: the Intimidating Imams are trying to bully Americans into submitting to the "religion of peace" by manipulating our own cultural sensibilities, our legal system, and the incoming congressional majority Democrats.

Ultimately, the goal of such Islamists is to outlaw all criticism of Moslems or Islam itself, as in nearly all Islamic countries. But they intend to start by getting the incoming Congress to pass special legislation forbidding the "racial" or behavioral profiling of Moslems.

They figure they can use the appropriate code words and intimidate politically correct, weak-kneed Americans so much, they will be afraid to fight back. After all, it's worked in Europe.

In France, political correctness has gotten so ridiculous that the French media cannot even bring themselves to identify the gangs who burn a hundred cars a day (on a "relatively quiet day") as radical Moslems, not even after they seriously burned a young woman on a bus. Attacks on the police by Moslem youths during this "French intifada" have become so common that the police cannot even protect themselves, and instead are ceding swaths of territory to the intifada -- and essentially allowing those areas (some in Paris itself) to be governed under sharia law.

The same thing is starting to happen in Great Britain, though it's not so bad there yet. Dafydd will write about this in a subsequent post.

Nowadays, throughout much of Europe and nearly all the ummah, criticizing Islam, or even so much as speaking out against wearing the veil, can land you in 24-hour police protection... or the morgue. Militant Islamists are trying to bring this same war to America; let's not forget that the Intimidating Imams did not act out their little passion play in a vacuum... MSP is the same airport where Moslem taxi drivers have demanded they not be penalized for refusing to ferry passengers who are carrying alcohol; a cabbie of any other religion who refuses to carry a lawful fare is fined or even fired.

Four of six Intimidating Imams are now working hand-in-sock-puppet with the known Islamic terrorist-supporting organization CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- which now boasts its own member of Congress -- to bring their lawsuit. They are traveling around the country (who is sponsoring their travel?) and appearing on TV talk shows to promote their legal cause and disseminate anti-American propaganda. And the American media is lapping it up.

I don't have a transcript, but these are a couple of the tough, penetrating questions CNN’s Paula Zahn asked the Imams on her show:

  • "How humiliating was this experience?"
  • "Do you think, after 911, that Moslems have been unfairly targeted?"

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX, 100%) has also chimed in, according to the Washington Times story above:

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat, said the September 11 terrorist attacks "cannot be permitted to be used to justify racial profiling, harassment and discrimination of Muslim and Arab Americans."

"Understandably, the imams felt profiled, humiliated, and discriminated against by their treatment," she said.

So according to Jackson-Lee, not only can't we profile on racial or religious grounds -- we cannot even profile based upon suspicious behavior! (Maybe she thinks it's a case of "threatening while Moslem.")

Judging by the response of American liberals, one must say that Phase One of the Imam's strategy has worked. We're not yet in the dire situation of many European countries; but that can change almost overnight if we allow this nonsense to continue.

If we refuse even to profile suspicious behavior, then all the banning of liquids and X-Raying bags at the airport won’t do any good: nothing better indicates mal intent than threatening behavior.

We must realize we are at war -- war against radical Islamism and jihadism, as represented by these very Imams and their CAIRing sponsors. We cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated or bullied into submission. This is our country, these are our lives, and we must protect and defend them. Passengers and flight crews -- all Americans everywhere -- must be vigilant against such highly suspicious or odd behavior... it's our first and best defense against attack, something the Israelis discovered long ago.

There is one thing that radical Moslems don't understand: we Americans are the people who refuse to give up our guns. We are the people who say “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six.” For the same reason, I’d rather be called a racist by reporting potential terrorists than keep my mouth shut from fear of offending someone's sensibilities -- and be blown up.

I sure hope all my fellow passengers feel the same.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 29, 2006, at the time of 4:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Hostile Takeover

Hatched by Dafydd

I've been thinking about Iraq lately.

All right, all right; I rarely think about anything but Iraq lately, unless it's to think about Iran. Or Syria. Or the GWOT in general. A few days discussing the principles behind police raids was a welcome respite. But here I am again, like a junkie, back in Iraq (mentally).

Yep, I'm goin' to Mes'potamia in my mind.

The Iraq war was really two main phases. Some folks split it finer, but that's more detail than I want at the moment. Broadly speaking, we had the kick-out-the-Baathists phase I -- which was a screaming success -- and the build-up-a-stable-democracy phase II... which has been less than a screaming success. I wouldn't say phase II was a failure; but it was sure going a lot better a year ago than it is today.

For some reason, this reminded me of the classic example of a start-up technology company: they often have an incredible first two or three years; they introduce radical and highly profitable technological advances, allowing them to capture a small but still significant market share... but then they tend to stagnate.

Suddenly, they can't do anything right: they mismanage their IPO; they start having labor problems; QC becomes a big problem, and they're swamped with help-desk calls. They promote their smartest engineers to head up the European division, and within six months they're hopelessly mired in regulatory purgatory. They drop a bundle on TV advertising -- and sales actually go down, rather than up!

The Midas touch has turned to a black thumb. What's going on? How did they go from gold to grunge in such a short time?

Often the very person who made them such a success at the very beginning -- the entrepeneur who started the company and whose vision has been guiding it all along -- is precisely the reason they fail later. The successful engineer is not only creative and innovative, he is easily bored by the mundane reality of running a middling large company. Of course he is; if he weren't, then he probably would have continued working where he was before starting his own company!

The very act of starting a new company implies the entrepeneur prefers to roll the dice than slog through the day-to-day quagmire of corporate shenanigans. But when a company reaches a certain size, it needs an innovator at the helm far less than it needs a steady and experienced player who knows how to work the machine and where all the metaphors are buried.

Innovation is essential; but it's less essential than really knowing how to get a payroll out, how to mollify the workers and (if necessary) deal with the unions, and yes, how to grease the skids of foreign regulatory systems: who you must pay off to get certified for retail sales in Upper Iguana.

The company no longer needs an entrepeneur at the helm: it needs a CEO.

But the founder will rarely leave his baby voluntarily; thus, unless the board of directors ousts him and hires an actual corporate-manager CEO, the company will probably founder, becoming yet another failed start-up.

I think you may see where I'm going with this...

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been one of the most innovative SecDefs in American history; a recent article or blogpost I read about him said he had initiated over one hundred major reforms at the Pentagon. His "snowflakes" (Post-It notes asking tough questions or suggesting alternative ways to think about some problem) are legendary.

And he had a tremendous impact on the American military, probably moreso than any SecDef in the last forty years.

But Rumsfeld has also antagonized the hell out of the E-ring of that five-sided building. He has become the lightning rod for everybody who hates American hegemony. He has been subject to scurrilous and vicious attacks by former generals, foreign defense ministers, the U.N., NATO, and many other representatives of "the military industrial complex" around the world.

In other words, Rumsfeld, like the classic entrepeneur with a cool start-up, has been long (very long) on innovation but quite short on management and people-relations. For a good, long while, that was exactly what we needed.

But now that the Iraq war has shifted into a new state -- call it phase II.V, if you want -- where what it needs is finesse, management, diplomacy (to drag in more coalition allies and make them actually fight), diplomacy (to wheedle a reluctant Democratic Congress aboard), diplomacy (to sooth the ruffled feathers of the brass and hold their hands while the reforms creak slowly forward), and above all, diplomacy (to do a better job explaining to the American voters what the heck we're doing)... well, I think maybe it's time for the entrepeneur to step aside in favor of the experienced CEO.

Robert Gates may be just the fellow:

  • He's a career bureaucrat who rose up the ranks of the CIA from a mere analyst to the Director of Central Intelligence... probably the only man ever to do that; so he knows how to play a bureaucracy probably better than anyone currently in government. (In that respect, the Pentagon is likely little different from Langley.)
  • He has served in the White Houses of five different presidents, both Democratic and Republican; so he knows how to talk to both sides of the aisle and cajole them into doing what the current president needs to have done.
  • He worked closely with James Baker -- and with Ronald Reagan.
  • He can convincingly peddle the line that he had nothing to do with getting us into Iraq... but now that we're there, we'd bloody well better win, not lose.
  • He has credentials both as a "neocon hawk" (with Reagan against the Soviet Union) and as a "moderate realist" with Baker and Scowcroft... so he will probably get along better with various factions within the GOP.
  • And he might turn out to be better at communicating with everyone that Rumsfeld was -- which frankly wouldn't be hard, as the current SecDef is notoriously prickly and closemouthed.

The reforms that Rumsfeld initiated have become part of the system; the best person to shepherd them through now is probably someone who is part of that system, not an outsider imposing it from above. Such monomaniacal brilliance was necessary to kick-start reform in the first place; the insiders were too comfortable endlessly refighting World War II. But now that the bureaucratic reform ball is a-roll, I suspect we need a bureaucrat (who isn't afraid of innovation) to keep it rolling in the right direction.

The entrepeneur vs. the CEO; I have always suspected that the larger a corporation, the more it resembles government. I think we're about to see just how far that analogy applies.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 29, 2006, at the time of 5:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 27, 2006

The Times - Are They a-Changin'? Not Really.

Hatched by Dafydd

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a new story up: the informant who was said to have bought drugs at the Atlanta house that was later raided by cops, resulting in the death of 88 year old (not 92) Kathryn Johnston, now claims that he never did any such thing, and that some unnamed Atlanta narcotics officer called him up out of the blue -- after the shooting -- and told him to lie about the buy.

This sounds like gibberish on several levels:

  • If the officers had no reason to suspect narcotics at that residence, why would they have raided in the first place?

I asked this earlier in the comments of a previous post on this subject, but nobody has essayed an answer. Are we to suppose the officers just wanted to kill some random old lady?

  • If they were going to lie and claim that the informant (who is evidently known to the AJC) bought drugs there... wouldn't they have arranged this story with him beforehand, rather than call him for the first time after the shooting?

Assuming the raid was successful, netting a bunch of drugs and computers and such, wouldn't any defense attorney try to call the informant as a witness to see if the warrant were valid? And even if the judge wouldn't allow that (to protect the informant from retaliation), I assume he would want to see the informant himself in camera. If the guy expressed total bewilderment, that would be the end of the case right there.

If you're going to fake probable cause for a warrant, this is the most foolish possible way to do it, almost certain to come to light no matter what the outcome of the raid. It would be much easier for a cop to claim in the affidavit that he, personally, bought crack undercover. That way, there is nobody to contradict him.

The affidavit, by Officer Jason R. Smith, says that the informant told him he used $50 provided by the department to buy crack cocaine. It says that the informant had a conversation with a man named "Sam" (described), and that "Sam" talked about security cameras that were installed. Lots of details.

  • Why would a cop make that all up, knowing it would be discovered as fake the moment anyone investigated?

The security camera claim is especially odd: wouldn't officers who arrived later that night (the shooting was at 7:00 pm) notice the lack of such security cameras? And if there was one, wouldn't they grab the videotapes -- making it very easy for defense counsel to subsequently review the tape of the alleged buy that led to the warrant?

This is exactly the kind of detail that a cop would never invent, because he would know that it would be the first thing everyone would check. Thus again, I think it more likely the informant invented this whole story and tricked the Atlanta narcotics unit into believing it.

This opens up one possible new avenue for debate: ultra-libertarians could argue that the ease with which the informant duped the cops shows that they cannot rely on informants. But very often, that is the only way they hear about a crime being committed; and police resources are not infinite: they cannot send officers to every site where a drug buy is reported by a previously reliable informant, just to see if the undercover cop can make a buy himself.

If that's the level of checking and cross-checking you demand, then are you willing to double the police force to achieve it? That's an awful lot of new taxes.

So long as we have such a small ratio of cops to citizens, they're going to have to rely upon informants. Most are pretty good; in this case, it looks to me like one was a creep. So it goes.

This reminds me of something a libertarian friend of mine (a fellow science-fiction author) said once. This was during the OJ Simpson criminal trial, and my friend was 100% convinced that the Juice was innocent. (I won't go into his reasons for believing that; suffice to say they were not exactly logical. And if you guess who I'm talking about, please don't out my friend in a comment -- if you don't want your comment deleted, that is.)

During one of our frequent "discussions" of the case, my friend opined that no one should ever be tried for murder unless there is an eyewitness to the actual killing itself.

I pointed out that this would essentially make murder unprosecutable: any time someone committed a homicide, then all he had to do was kill any witnesses. Even if he were caught moments later standing over the body with a smoking gun in his hand, he could just laugh at the cops. It didn't matter; my friend quoted the aphorism that it's better a hundred guilty men be set free than one innocent man (he meant OJ) be sent to prison.

This is a ludicrous logical fallacy, of course; if it must have a name, call it the fallacy of unbalanced consequences. It has the same structure as arguing that, if it saves the life of just one child, we should ban all swimming pools. By the same token, arguing that because one group of cops were idiots, therefore no cop should be able to use a dynamic entry, commits the same logical fallacy: the consequences are risibly unbalanced.

Here is what I think actually happened in the Atlanta case:

  1. The informant tells Officer Smith that the house is selling crack;
  2. Smith gives the informant $50 to make a buy;
  3. The informant uses the $50 to pay off his bookie, who has threatened to break the informant's hands;
  4. The informant, belatedly afraid of what Smith might do if he finds out, spins the story about buying crack there;
  5. The cops believe him -- he's been reliable before -- and in good faith get a warrant based upon his perjury;
  6. Later, the informant concocts a new story: that he had nothing to do with it, the cops just raided the house for no reason at all, then contacted him after the shooting.

The one common element here is that, at every step of the way, the informant's word is taken by everyone: by Smith on the affidavit, and now by the Atlanta Journal Constitution about his claim that the cops told him to lie.

But does this change anything I wrote about this raid the last time, in our post Doom Is Nigh - for "Movement Libertarianism"? No, it does not.

The only thing that would change my original position would be if an investigation showed that all the cops were in on it, and that they deliberately faked the affidavit just to get someone. If that is the case, then that is good proof that they are thugs and should be behind bars. But the evidence presented so far falls very short of that mark.

Assuming it's not some wild conspiracy, then all of the major points I made remain intact... even if it turns out that the informant never really made a buy. In fact, my earlier post remains viable even if it turns out that Officer Smith himself concocted the whole thing, rather than the the informant (though I still think the latter is more likely, as the informant has much less to lose and less knowledge of how easily such a subterfuge would be discovered).

How so? Well, take a look at what I actually said...

First, here is what I said Patterico had brought out from earlier reporting:

The points about the shooting that Weintraub's brief brief missed, which Patterico brought out, are these:

  1. The police were attempting to search the premises on the basis of a legitimate search warrant -- not the "wrong house" (as early reports claimed);
  2. It was the old woman, not the cops, who began shooting;
  3. She shot three officers before they returned fire;
  4. Bullets fired by a 92 year old are just as deadly as bullets fired by a 22 year old;
  5. The police have every legal right, and 95% of Americans would say moral right, to return fire when fired upon.

Points 2-5 are obviously unaffected by this new claim. Point 1 is impacted, but only slightly: although it's likely the warrant was not fully legitimate (whether the liar was the informant or Officer Smith), it was in fact issued by a court; and it's highly unlikely that anyone but the actual miscreant would know it was illegitimate.

In particular, I doubt the cops who executed it would know there was any problem -- possibly excepting Smith himself, if he were the liar and also one of the people serving the warrant. But even in that case, I doubt he would inform the other officers that the warrant was bogus; that's the kind of thing you keep to yourself.

And of course, if the liar was the informant, not Officer Smith, then none of the officers would have any reason to doubt its legitimacy.

I think it clear that Ms. Johnston shot first; if the officers shot first, striking her two times in the chest, she certainly wouldn't be able to return fire -- unlike the cops, she had no bullet-resistant vest.

Nobody denies that three cops were shot. And the other two points are general truths.

The rest of the post is generalized discussion, mostly of ace reporter and Bee-blogger Daniel Weintraub's complaint that police spied on "peace protestors." When I discuss the Atlanta case, I talk mainly about the reasonableness of cops returning fire when fired upon -- which remains true, unless someone thinks that after deliberately murdering the doddering, old woman, they picked up her gun and shot each other, just to provide themselves an alibi; that's got more than a soupçon of "black helicopter" in it, and I don't buy it.

So we still have the situation that the cops (or at least all but one of them) were attempting to execute a warrant they believed, in good faith, was legitimately issued by Fulton County Magistrate Kimberly Warden; the warrant was a "no-knock" warrant; and the officers simply did their duty in serving it.

They were shot at; they returned fire; and an aged woman was killed. It's a tragedy, as I have said all along; but it's certainly not an example of jackbooted police thugs "murdering" an 88 year old woman.

And that is the point. What are the legit officers supposed to do -- refuse to execute what they believe is a legal warrant on what they fully believe is a crack house? Are they supposed to run away whenever they're shot at? Or are they supposed to knock politely, when they have been told the suspects are possibly armed and dangerous?

Nothing that has come out so far indicates a labyrinthian conspiracy to murder some old biddy they didn't even know, nor any recklessness on the officers' part, nor anything other than the weak possibility that one cop was dirty -- and a much higher probability that all the cops were duped by a good liar.

That proves nothing except that cops, like the rest of us, are human and can make mistakes. You go to the streets with the cops you have, not the cops you wish you could have.

So it goes, so it goes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 27, 2006, at the time of 11:57 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Gates of Mire

Hatched by Dafydd

The rap against Secretary-designate of Defense Robert Gates, former Director of Central Intelligence -- mostly from the conservative blogosphere -- is that he is too close to former Secretaries of State James "Mr. Realism" Baker and Dr. Henry "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger. Viz.:

The Pentagon is drafting its own recommendations for how to win in Iraq. Its goal is to provide the administration with a counterproposal in the event the Baker group's report is unsatisfactory. But the Pentagon's effort may face a serious complication in the form of the nomination of Robert Gates, who has been working with Baker, to head the Defense Department....

No wonder, then, that the Baker group seems poised to recommend that we enlist Syria and Iran to pacify Iraq. If Baker was willing to have Saddam do it, then why not Syria and Iraq?

So it goes. But these speculations are all fairy castles built on clouds; nobody has found any writings, talkings, or previous actions of Robert Gates that would imply that President Bush brought him aboard so he could order CENTCOM to surrender to the Iranians. And in fact, in a lengthy discussion of Gates by Michael Barone (hat tip to Power Line, of all places!) in his US News & World Report column, the noble Barone throws cold water on the fevered speculation:

The picture I get of Robert Gates from his book is that of a careful analyst, one who sees American foreign policy as generally and rightly characterized by continuity but one who sees the need for bold changes in response to rapid changes in the world -- and doesn't look for answers from the government bureaucracies. He is very much aware that we have dangerous enemies in the world, and he was willing over many years to confront them and try to check their advance.

Gates pal R. Emmett Tyrrell, jr., Lord Protector of the Washington Times, also pronounces the doomsaying "wild speculation":

Now in comes Bob Gates, and as is the custom in this town there is wild speculation. He is George Bush I's guy. He is James Baker's guy. He is the CIA's guy. He is coming in from the presidency of Texas A & M to pull the plug on our involvement in Iraq. Actually, he is George Bush II's appointee. And though I shall only mildly speculate, I suspect he will do as his boss tells him. That seems to mean he will apply a fresh set of eyes to Iraq.

But back to Baron Barone. Barone answers a number of the fantasized criticisms of Gates, who has not even been barbecued by the senatorial chefs yet, as a defeatist, a captive of the bureaucracy, an unreal Realist, a State-Department lackey, and as spineless. Just as with Harriet Miers, in about 60 seconds, we went from "I don't know enough about him" to "he's an agent of the Democrats sent to the Pentagon to declare defeat in Iraq and redeploy to Okinawa with Jack Murtha."

But the portrait Barone paints -- mostly from reading Gates' book, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War -- is of a career bureaucrat who nevertheless doesn't look to the bureaucracies for policy, who prefers continuity but is also willing and able to turn 90 degrees in response to changing facts on the ground, and who has often advocated forceful confrontation and going in hard. This is a very different picture than we have seen.

Some examples; Barone on Gates' flexibility and distrust of the very bureaucracies he rose through:

Yet Gates also discusses times in which policy had to change course sharply in response to rapid changes in the world, notably during the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. Interestingly, this career government bureaucrat did not find the government bureaucracies of much use in coming up with new ideas. Instead, his impulse was to create small committees of political appointees. In July 1989, he sent [former President George H.W.] Bush a memo citing developments in the Soviet Union and concluding that "we should not be confident of Gorbachev remaining in power."

As Gates recounts in his book: "Bush agreed to the contingency planning I had first considered in the spring, and in September 1989, I asked Condi Rice to gather a group of people and in very great secrecy begin this work. When I met with her to explain the task, I told her that I thought the planning was very important because the situation in the Soviet Union could go bad in a hurry, and the U.S. government was on 'autopilot' when it came to thinking about such dramatic developments.

And here is Gates himself, from his book (as quoted by Barone), on the need for forceful confrontation of the Soviets in Nicaragua:

"By the end of 1984, I concluded that we were kidding ourselves if we thought the contras might win. I wrote [CIA Director William] Casey on December 14, and began by saying, 'The contras can't overthrow the Sandinista regime.' I continued that we were muddling along in Nicaragua with a halfhearted policy because of the lack of agreement within the administration and with Congress on our real objectives. I urged moving to an overt policy including withdrawal of diplomatic recognition; providing open military assistance and funds for a government-in-exile; imposing economic sanctions, perhaps including a quarantine; and using air strikes to destroy Nicaragua's military buildup -- no invasion but no more Soviet/Cuban military deliveries. I concluded, 'Relying on and supporting the contras as our only action may actually hasten the ultimate, unfortunate outcome.'"

Once again, I think a lot of folks in the blogosphere are, as Mark Twain put it in Life On the Mississippi (1850), getting "such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

Can't we better restrain ourselves -- this time -- and at least wait for the confirmation hearings before shaking our heads "more in sorrow than in anger" at all the horrible things we imagine he might do?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 27, 2006, at the time of 4:53 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 26, 2006

A Challenge to Libertarian "Reason"

Hatched by Dafydd

Here is the fact situation of this gedankenexperiment:

  • A seemingly wealthy man named Achmed Khalid Mohammed Abu Fatwa lives in a high rise in Green City, surrounded by other high rises. He lives on the 15th floor -- he owns the entire floor -- of a 60-story building that houses 4,000 people. Similar high rise condo complexes surround this one.
  • Abu Fatwa tells everyone he meets that he hates and despises Jews, infidels, and especially Americans. He wishes they were all dead. He would be overjoyed if Allah would stretch forth His hand and crush them all, insh'allah.
  • He talks often about how his religion teaches that the most holy and righteous act a man can undertake is to die as a martyr killing the unclean. He prays that someday, he will be given that opportunity.
  • The owner of the local hardware store says that Abu Fatwa has ordered many tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer over the last three years; but you know as well as anyone that Abu Fatwa has no farmland, no fields, not even a window flowerpot.
  • The manager of a local camping store tells you that Abu Fatwa has likewise spent the last three years stocking up on massive quantities of kerosine, saying he likes to go camping and barbecue shish-kabob.
  • Abu Fatwa is known to have an extensive background in mining back in Saudi Arabia, whence he came. He might have knowledge of explosives, but nobody knows for sure.
  • He has not left his apartments for the last month; everything he needs he orders.
  • He can dimly be heard to be praying almost constantly, day and night;
  • But nobody can honestly recall ever hearing him explicitly threaten anyone or say that he is going to do anything to anyone. He has only talked in a general, philosophical way about his terrible hatreds and his love of martyrdom. He owns the 15th floor; he has no criminal background; he has no known contact with unsavory characters. He does have a high-speed internet connection.

Now, Mr. Libertarian... what do you believe should be done?

  1. The cops should raid Abu Fatwa's apartments, secure him, and search the place for explosives;
  2. The cops should surveil him as best they can, tapping his phone and trying to read his internet connection, hoping that before he does anything he will talk openly about it over some electronic instrument;
  3. Nothing! Regardless of what our anti-Moslem, anti-Arab prejudices may lead us to think, he has not made any overt threat to anyone; hence, the State has no moral right to invade his home or interrogate him. It is no crime to buy fertilizer; it is no crime to buy fuel oil; and it certainly is no crime to believe in an extreme form of Islamism.

Please answer in the comments -- and argue whether your answer conforms to your philosophy (and how so), or whether it violates it (and what principle allows you to do so).

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 26, 2006, at the time of 5:04 AM | Comments (60) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 24, 2006

Doom Is Nigh - for "Movement Libertarianism"

Hatched by Dafydd

Daniel Weintraub, in his excellent Bee-blog California Insider, published a brief little post about the 92 year old woman who was shot by Atlanta police after she opened fire on them when they attempted to execute a search warrant. This is Weintraub's entire take on the matter:

The government is spying on peace protestors in Sacramento and killing a 92-year-old woman in Atlanta after breaking down her door in a "no-knock raid" while looking for a drug dealer. Maybe it is time for the government to take a time-out.

As a fellow libertarian, I found his take rather disturbing. I thought maybe he simply wasn't aware of all the facts and was just believing the liberal hype. So I sent him links to the two stories on Patterico's Pontifications that brought forward factors that should mitigate too quick a pronouncement of police brutality:

(Patterico just now put up another post, Cops in Atlanta Shouted that They Were Police and Wore Vests Labeled “Police”; but I didn't send this one to Weintraub.)

Weintraub's response confirmed what I thought originally: he e-mailed me that, since he opposed the entire drug war and supports legalization, the fact that the cops were serving a lawful search warrant when she opened fire did not change his mind at all: police shouldn't break through doors (even after identifying themselves as police) to catch drug dealers. If they had to enforce such laws (Weintraub asks), why didn't they just stake out the residence and arrest him outside?

Daniel Weintraub and I are both libertarians, and his response perfectly encapsulates the terrible crisis facing contemporary libertarianism... which will shortly kill it if not addressed. His comment, and his subsequent defense of it appealing to the libertarian impulse against anti-drug laws, has touched a raw nerve: this, on a nutshell, is why, since 9/11, I find myself reluctant to admit I'm a libertarian. Libertarianism has not responded well (or at all, actually) to the crises we face today.

First, I also support legalization of all drugs (except antibiotics). But that's not the point, and it wasn't the point Weintraub made -- no matter what he intended.

First, surely he doesn't believe that cops should only enforce laws they personally support? For a libertarian, that would be far worse than the situation now -- since a libertarian (such as myself) must assume that the laws the cops don't support are precisely those that protect our liberties from abuse by the government. Police tend to be authoritarian; that's why they're drawn to law enforcement. Do we really want them picking and choosing which laws they like?

The points about the shooting that Weintraub's brief brief missed, which Patterico brought out, are these:

  1. The police were attempting to search the premises on the basis of a legitimate search warrant -- not the "wrong house" (as early reports claimed);
  2. It was the old woman, not the cops, who began shooting;
  3. She shot three officers before they returned fire;
  4. Bullets fired by a 92 year old are just as deadly as bullets fired by a 22 year old;
  5. The police have every legal right, and 95% of Americans would say moral right, to return fire when fired upon.

If you're going to attack the cops' actions, you must respond to these points; if not, the natural response of readers who have learnt them is to dismiss you as a crank, which I'm sure was not Weintraub's intention.

He raises the question of why they didn't just arrest that one guy. But how should they know he's the only person involved in the crime? For that matter, how does Weintraub know that the old lady wasn't involved herself? Old people commit crimes too. Maybe she liked the money.

Patterico also notes that a few days ago, a Texas state trooper pulled over a motorist to cite him for violating the state's seatbelt law. Now, I oppose seatbelt laws too, though I always wear my seatbelt (and always have since long before the same law was enacted in California); but again, I hope we agree that police shouldn't get to pick and choose which laws they enforce and which they routinely ignore.

As he approached, the motorist, who later stated he thought the stop was "unconstitutional," stepped out of his car and shot the officer point blank with a Ruger Mini-14 -- a gun that is functionally identical to the semi-automatic version of the M-16. The officer died.

The motorist was 72 years old. The police video got out to YouTube, and it's clear the officer hesitated to shoot at the motorist when the guy pointed his rifle... probably because he didn't want to shoot an old man; this hesitation led to his death.

We libertarians oppose seatbelt laws; so should we blame the Texas trooper for stopping the motorist, and think he more or less got what he deserved for enforcing such an anti-liberty law as the seatbelt requirement? Is this a mature political philosophy?

Movement libertarians (as opposed to Republican libertarians -- and not just the Libertarian Party) have opposed, almost en masse, virtually every security response we made to 9/11; but they have proposed nothing to take their place. They're worse on this score than the liberals, who at least accept that we need some security. The whole L. Neil Smith/Sam Konkin/New Libertarian/New Isolationist branch of libertarianism ("movement libertarianism") flatly states that "George Bush is the real enemy," and jihadism is either ficticious -- lies spread by "the State" -- or merely the moral, libertarian response of Moslems to our "oppression" of them (which they never specify).

This puts me in a real crisis of conscience: I have considered myself a movement libertarian since I was 19 years old; but on the other hand, liberties don't just float in air: liberty and duty are the obverse and reverse of the same coin.

E.g., as a libertarian, I believe that every sane, non-criminal, mature person should be allowed to carry a concealed gun. But by the same coin, it's also the duty of every person to intervene, as best he can, to protect the innocent from criminal attack. That's the bargain, that's the duty side of the liberty of carrying a gun. Without such social trade-offs, society crashes to the ground. Even libertarian "saints" like Murray Rothbard, Friederich Hayek, and Robert Heinlein understood that.

Suppose we had a libertarian society where anyone who wanted was allowed to carried a gun. Now suppose there is a violent criminal assault against an innocent victim who cannot fight back -- a child, say, or an old person, or a petite woman who cannot handle a gun properly, or a handicapped person. If none of the smug libertarians standing around intervene to save the innocent, if they "stand on their principles" that it's the responsibility of the victim to defend himself (even if he physically can't), and if such attacks therefore become routine... how long do you think that "libertarian society" will last? A society of pure narcissism is unsustainable.

The failure to recognize any duty whatsoever (in trade for liberty) is the great failing of the contemporary libertarian movement: it has morphed from Jeffersonian liberalism to ultimate narcissism. Most libertarians today demand an end to drug laws, not because they really believe in liberty -- because if they did, they would be at war with the greatest destroyers of libertry in the world today, Communists and jihadis -- but because they want to smoke dope.

Most contemporary "libertarians" are in fact simple libertines; but a society of human beings cannot be governed by libertinism. Even those who are not libertines but actually support (verbally, that is) human freedom have been duped by libertines into believing that we can have liberty without the responsibility to defend it, by force if necessary.

But Weintraub didn't just attack the Atlanta cops; he also attacked "spying on peace protestors in Sacramento" as a similar example of (one must presume) un-libertarian activity by the State.

Can he really be unaware that many of those "peace protester" groups -- such as International ANSWER, International Solidarity Movement, and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- are in fact front groups for either Stalinists or jihadis? That they raise money for terrorists and aid and abet "sleeper cells?"

Don't libertarians support "spying" on people who are plotting to take away our liberty, and who have demonstrated the willingness to kill us by the thousands in order to do so?

And we know that we libertarians oppose the drug war, but what about the drug problem? Drugs do, in fact, cause terrible problems in society -- and not just those associated with the artificially high price of drugs, like burglary and robbery to support the habit.

Drugs are very dangerous and destructive. So where is the libertarian program to minimize that destruction? I have been a movement libertarian for 27 years now, ever since I read David ("son of Milton") Friedman's book the Machinery of Freedom... and I have never heard anything but mantras that people have the freedom to "kill themselves." All right in theory; but in practice, rampant drug use destroys minds, souls, and society... what are we libertarians going to do about that, to take the place of the anti-liberty "drug war?"

The sound of crickets chirping.

Weintraub fails to mention that the "92 year old woman" opened fire on the officers first while they were simply trying to conduct a search pursuant to a lawful search warrant. They didn't simply kick down a door and assassinate some random nonagenarian, which is what his phrasing implied. Do we libertarians say that the cops should just refuse to enforce laws we don't like? Or are we saying those officers got what they deserved, and in future, they should just walk away whenever someone resists using deadly force?

If libertarianism continues down the path it currently follows, it will utterly discredit itself -- and utterly discredit the principle of maximal liberty in the process. If libertarians, working hand in hand with liberals, manage to overturn all the security measures we've enacted since 9/11 woke us up (movement libertarians oppose the Patriot Act, tracking terrorist financing, aggressive interrogation of enemy combatants, the Iraq war, the Afghanistan War, and surveillance of any kind, against any target, by "our enemy, the State"), then we will get hit again and again... and the response will not be pretty.

The American people, who (quite understandably) want to survive, will demand intrusions upon our liberty so much more severe than what we have now that even liberals will look back and long for the days of the Patriot Act, NSA surveillance, and the SWIFT program.

Like it or hate it, we are at war; the war was declared by the other side in 1979; and those people have not the slightest interest in, concern for, or even the vaguest understanding of liberty for Daniel Weintraub or Dafydd ab Hugh: to them, most of Americans are dhimmis, fit only to serve the Faithful... and Weintraub and I are nothing but Zionist pigs, fit only for death, as their version of the Koran demands. Why aren't libertarians standing up as a group -- or even as individuals -- to defend liberty against these monsters?

And if we're ever going to see the day Weintraub and I both hope for, where no drugs (in his case) or only one class of drugs (in mine) are proscribed or controlled by the State, then the absolute worst way to go about it is to imply that officers who get shot while trying to execute legitimate search warrants, and who return fire against the person shooting (rather than just walking away and refusing to enforce the law), are simply assassins who like killing old women.

We cannot skate by on Harry Browne libertarianism. Now that he's dead, let's bury that crabbed and egocentric vision of libertarianism deep, at a crossroads, with a stake through its heart.

We need a robust and responsible libertarianism that equally recognizes responsibility and duty alongside liberty, tails alongside heads, the yang to complement the yin. We need a libertarianism that can identify the true enemies of liberty, not simply those closest to home. And we need a libertarianism that accepts practicality when necessary, rather than always being willing to let the other guy die for our lofty theories.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 24, 2006, at the time of 5:12 PM | Comments (62) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 23, 2006

Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Response to Captain Ed

Hatched by Dafydd

In a Tuesday post, Captain Ed argues -- unconvincingly -- that the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down all "anti-sodomy" laws nationwide, necessarily leads to the legalization of polygamy and same-sex marriage.

But his argument founders on a fundamental misunderstanding of the distinction between the two cases.

Here is the captain's argument on a nutshell:

Quite a while back (two years ago), I wrote that the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v Texas would open a Pandora's box about all sorts of cultural norms currently supported by statute throughout the United States. At the time, Jonathan Turley had written about the impending sentencing of Tom Green for polygamy, and opposed it on the basis of personal choice. I wrote:

I don't see anything particularly wrong with gay marriage, as long as a majority of voters approve it. I also think that the Texas sodomy laws were about as stupid as you could have found in any penal code. ... However, the Court used a sledgehammer when a flyswatter would have prevailed, and the consequences of their decision has led -- logically -- to the appeal of all anti-polygamy statutes. If in fact the Court applies the same thinking to polygamy as it did to the sodomy statutes, then they have no choice but to free Green and declare all anti-polygamy statutes null and void....

Not everything that transpires between consenting adults is legal or should be legal, let alone given Constitutional protection. But that's where the SCOTUS has left us. They should take the opportunity to reverse their precedent and acknowledge the error they made in Lawrence, before Constitutionally guaranteed prostitution and adult incest come next.

First, we must set some ground rules:

  1. Just because lawyers cite Lawrence (or any other decision) in a challenge to laws banning polygamy doesn't mean there is a logical inference: lawyers will cite anything they can imagine, hoping something sticks.
  2. Notwithstanding (1), Professor Turley did not, in fact, cite Lawrence for that point.
  3. Lawrence did not hold that "everything that transpires between consenting adults is legal or should be legal;" it didn't overturn the drug laws, for example, so it's still illegal for consenting adults to transact with each other for crack cocaine. Lawrence only held that the right to privacy included a right of consenting adults to have sex without fear of being prosecuted by Peeping-Tom cops under sodomy laws.
  4. The mere fact that a liberty can be abused is not grounds for eliminating the liberty.

But once we admit all that, it's clear that Captain Ed in fact makes no argument at all either in the original post from 2004 or the more recent post that mostly recaps the first. He says, in effect, that since the Washington Post cited Lawrence in its attack on laws defining marriage as one man, one woman, therefore Lawrence must be overturned.

This is logical nonsense. If a doofus lawyer cited freedom of speech as a defense to his client having ordered a hit man to kill someone, that doesn't mean we must immediately repeal freedom of speech.

In fact, even if a doofus lawyer working for a newspaper cited freedom of speech as a defense against a charge under the espionage act of publishing classified national-security documents -- and even if the doofus Supreme Court agreed and struck down the act -- the problem is still not that we allow freedom of speech. The problem is that the Court made the wrong decision on the espionage case; and the solution is for a later Court to overturn that decision, not decisions protecting actual freedom of speech.

So with Lawrence. The Court made no ruling whatsoever on same-sex marriage, consanguineous marriage, or polyamory. Lawrence applied only to actions, finding a liberty right (under privacy) to engage in certain actions. But demanding approval of a license for legal "marriage" is not an act of privacy, or any act. It is a demand for social affirmation in the form of a legal document ratifying and celebrating the union.

It is a question of basic liberty to say the government cannot regulate sexual contact between adults; but legal marriage necessarily inserts the government, because by definition, legally approving a marriage is a public act by the government -- not an act by the spouses or a priest, rabbi, or minister. The government certainly has the authority to decide whether it will take that action, declaring two (or more) people to be legally married.

It's the difference between saying that I have freedom of speech and saying that I have the right to demand that something I write be published in a State Department document.

This is how I can simultaneously hold two apparently opposite positions without losing consistency:

  • I absolutely support the Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas that states cannot outlaw various kinds of sex between consenting adults on the grounds that they're "icky;" there is a liberty interest here that cannot be infringed without a compelling state need, which doesn't exist;
  • Yet I absolutely support privileging the traditional definition of marriage, and in fact might even support making divorce significantly harder (at least when the marriage has issue). There is no constitutional "liberty interest" that forces states to allow same-sex marriage, polyamorous marriage, consanguineous marriage, or marriage involving minors... though of course states likewise have the authority to allow any of these if they lawfully decide to do so.

I wonder if anyone who believes, as Captain Ed does, that the Lawrence decision requires the Court to force same-sex marriage and polygamy on the states will take up the cudgel and show why private liberty compels state approval of every imaginable way of exercising that liberty?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 23, 2006, at the time of 5:23 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 21, 2006

Good Hunting in Ramadi

Hatched by Sachi

After surviving three weeks in Virginia before, during, and after the election mania, followed by three weeks underway a-sea, I am finally back on land. As usual I did not get sick at all in the stormy weather on board. But I am quite land-sick at this moment! Now if I can somehow find my way back to California just before Thanksgiving without living the nightmare of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, I will be OK.

Now let's get back to the serious business of war shall we?

If the terrorists and "insurgents" in Iraq thought Democrats taking both houses meant American defeat in Iraq, they are devastatingly mistaken. Last week, American and Iraqi forces engaged in a series of attacks against Sunni terrorists, killing and apprehending a large number of targets without any deaths of our own. Bill Roggio reports: (Hat tip Belmont Club)

In Kirkuk, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 5th Division of Iraqi Army, in conjunction with the 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division conducted a brigade sized operation in and around the northern city of Kirkuk. The operation, originally announced on November 16th, was a major success. The Iraqi Army and U.S. forces killed nearly 50 insurgents and captured an additional 20 in a raid on a "large cache complex." "The caches included over 400,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, 15,000 rounds of heavy machine gun ammunition, five mortar bipods, three heavy machine guns, three anti-tank weapons, two recoilless rifles and numerous mortar rounds, grenades, flares and artillery rounds," according to Multinational Forces Iraq. The soldiers also found materials to make roadside bombs as well as "propaganda materials and a large amount of U.S. dollars." Seven al-Qaeda were detained in a separate raid in Kirkuk.

In Baquba, Iraqi and U.S. Army forces engaged Sunni insurgents. Eighteen were killed and 19 wounded, although it is not clear if these were insurgents or if civilians are included. Multinational Forces Iraq has not released information on the contact. [No] Iraqi or U.S. soldiers were killed in the fighting. On Saturday, Coalition forces killed nine insurgents and captured two during a raid in Yusifiyah. [The missing word "no" at the start of the last sentence is clear from Roggio's earlier summation that "in each engagement, Sunni insurgents took massive casualties with no U.S. or Iraq forces killed" and by the odd sentence structure. -- Dafydd]

In Ramadi, the flashpoint of the the Sunni insurgency in Anbar province, and arguably the most dangerous city in Iraq outside of Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S. forces conducted two large raids over the past week. On November 13 and 14, U.S. forces killed 11 insurgents in 3 separate incidents. The insurgents were emplacing roadside bombs and were engaged with tank and small arms fire....

On Saturday, Coalition forces killed 8 insurgents and detained 2 during a morning raid in Ramadi.

This kind of lopsided victory is typical of our battles against terrorists. Then why, you may ask, do "insurgents" keep on fighting?

There are two major reasons:

  • The western media, American reporters in the lead, keep telling them that any moment now, Americans are going to lose interest in the war and quit. If the terrorists will just persist, eventually they will win. (There are always plenty more where their lost comrades came from -- or so our own media keeps telling them!)
  • Second, we have not yet seriously engaged either Iran or its sock puppet Syria along the borders, putting an end to those two terrorist states supply of weapons, manpower, and terrorist training to the Iraqi Shia, specifically to the Mahdi Militia of Iranian agent Muqtada Sadr... who continue to kill ordinary Sunni at an alarming rate.

    Because of that, as Bill Roggio points out, Sunni terrorists believe they must "fight back"... not only against Iraqi Shia but also against American forces, who they see not as neutral arbiters but active collaborators in the "genocide" of Sunnis in Iraq.

I cannot completly blame them for believing that, since we pushed for this government and we're not forcing them to crack down on the Shiite militias -- so far, at least. But the Sunni must come to realize that siding with al-Qaeda and fighting against Americans is not the way to ensure their safety. Contrariwise, it's a certain path to their own ultimate destruction.

I believe we could seal the borders, if we were willing to continuously patrol them by air and change the rules of engagement (ROE) such that we simply fire missiles upon any vehicles or bodies of men crossing the border anywhere but one or two checkpoints manned by heavy joint American and New Iraqi Army forces. So far, we have not done so, at least so far as I've heard.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson is thinking along the same lines. Here is how he ended a recent column on NRO:

So yes, let us talk about sending more troops, or taking them out altogether, or cry about bad news coverage. But the truth is that, if they were given more tactical leeway to go on the offensive, we would already have enough soldiers in Iraq to win a victory that even a hostile media will have to acknowledge and enemies watching must respect — but only if we persevere here at home in this latest climate of renewed hysteria.

The time is now: we must disband all the Shiite militias, starting with the Mahdi Militia -- and Muqtada Sadr must go. Permanently. As long as they (and he) exist, there will be no peace in Iraq.

But, saying and doing are not the same thing. In the battle against the Shiite militias, American forces are facing the same problem we faced back in 2004 against al-Qaeda in Fallujah and elsewhere: while we have overwhelmingly superior forces and we win every battle, even after taking territory we cannot hold it. The enemy simply trickles back as soon as we leave. (In fact, that was Hussein's very intelligent resistance plan from the very beginning, something we didn't realize until two years after we invaded.) This is the "whack-a-mole" situation, and it's very hard to break out of that routine.

The way we resolved the Fallujah situation was to train up Iraqi troops -- and then use them to secure the cities we captured: Americans conquered, Iraqis held. The danger is that we cannot trust the Iraqi troops entirely: many of them are sympathetic to the Shiite militias. I still believe that is the only workable approach; but we need more American troops to keep and eye on the Iraqis as they hold the territories.

It will take time to purge the Shiite militia members from the Iraqi Army and police forces. But if we can secure the area temporarily with American troops, we will have time to clean up the Iraqi forces and kill off militia. Pace Victor Davis Hanson, but maybe that would be a good reason to send 20,000 or 25,000 more American troops to Iraq: to serve as occupation forces. (With such emphasis on lightning-war as we've had recently, could we even successfully occupy territory? I think we would still remember how to do that.)

I hope Americans will have the political will to commit ourselves to this. It can be done. Military victory can be achieved. All we need is a renewed commitment.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 21, 2006, at the time of 7:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Ban it, Janet!

Hatched by Dafydd

Oh ho! Janet Reno -- you remember her? -- has gone to court, leading a bunch of lesser legal accolytes to make it look like a movement, to overturn the anti-terrorism Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA).

The MCA was passed by Congress at the end of September 2006; it created the military commissions... you recall, the law responding to the Hamdan decision by the Supreme Court. It passed in the House by 253 to 168 (with 34 Democrats supporting it), and in the Senate by 65 to 34 with 12 Democrats supporting. (In the House, 7 Republicans voted against the bill; in the Senate, the only Republican to vote against it was -- wait for it -- Lincoln Chafee. (Aren't you sad that he's gone?)

Anyway, Stretch Reno really, really dislikes the MCA, and she wants it gone. She and her seven new best pals insist that terrorists can easily be tried in the ordinary criminal-justice system, alongside carjackers and welfare defrauders:

"The existing criminal justice system is more than up to the task of prosecuting and bringing to justice those who plan or attempt terrorist acts within the United States -- without sacrificing any of the rights and protections that have been the hallmarks of the American legal system for more than 200 years," the attorneys wrote.

They are of course correct that terrorist suspects can easily be tried by the CJS; what they can't be is convicted, which is fine by Reno and the Seven Consiglieri.

The problem with the CJS is discovery, of course: any smart lawyer (probably supplied by al-Qaeda) will demand all sorts of highly classified documents, claiming they are all vital and essential to his client's defense. Since there is no way that the federal administration can release such mission-critical information to terrorists and their terrorist shysters (think Lynne Stewart), they will refuse... and that will immediately trigger many federal judges to dismiss all charges and order the terrorist freed. Simplicity itself!

Thus, if Janet Reno, the last Democratic Attorney General, has her way, the carefully crafted work of Congress over the past year plus will be thrown out the window; instead, terrorist suspect will be tried by ordinary civilian courts in a "catch and release" program that will take our breath away. Perhaps quite literally.

So the real question before the house is... will the incoming Democratic majority in Congress support this lawsuit filed by their top cop? Will they agree that terrorist suspect should only be tried by civilian courts, where the terrorists' rights can be fully protected (and to hell with the rest of us)?

Or will they diss Hillary Clinton's closest ally and confidant among President Clinton's cabinet and argue for some form of military commissions... even if they don't particularly like the law that was actually enacted?

Or the most likely, in my opinion: will Democrats duck this issue, focusing instead on such urgent national business as raising the minimum wage and getting Alcee Hastings situated as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence?

No predictions today -- "only time will tell!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 21, 2006, at the time of 7:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 20, 2006

Reruns of the Zarathustra of Zocalo Plaza

Hatched by Dafydd

In our last chapter of the never-ending Mexican soap opera, discussing this summer's presidential election in Mexico -- in which the more-or-less conservative candidate, Felipe Calderón, beat the leftist candidate who (he says) speaks for the poor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador -- we posed the 701,696-peso question:

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

That's a toughie.

Well, today we know the answer. Today, in a farcical ceremony just eleven days before the actual inaugural of Calderón, defeated presidential candidate López Obrador had himself "sworn in" as the "legitimate president" (did the Rev. Al Sharpton preside?) His followers, gathered as usual in Zocalo Plaza, have sworn to raise violent street protests and national strikes until the courts overturn the election and declare the leftist candidate el presidente.

And in a more ominous turn, at least one of López Obrador's followers predicted that Felipe Calderón would not serve out his term:

"We are going to make Calderon realize at all times that he is an illegitimate leader," said 55-year-old Beatriz Zuniga, an unemployed professor of Latin American studies. "He's got a limited amount of time. This man will not finish his term."

Let us hope that Professor Zuniga -- presumably no relation whatsoever to Markos Moulitsas Zúniga -- only means that he expects Calderón to be legally removed, as unlikely as that seems, rather than something more sinister.

Our previous blogging on this critical topic is here:

  1. Teleblogging 2: I Think Calderón Has Won...
  2. "Democratic" López Obrador Threatens Revolution If He Loses
  3. The More I Hear From the Obradorians...
  4. Felipe Calderón Wins
  5. Mexico Headed for Civil War?
  6. The Zarathustra of Zocalo Plaza
  7. Eeny-Meeny Lesson Learn, Should We March Or Should We Burn?

An earlier story on Reuters predicted that huge numbers were going to turn out to see López Obrador enthroned, even if only as the "parallel president," as he sometimes styles himself:

Mexico's leftist opposition leader was to swear in as "legitimate president" on Monday to revive his flagging campaign against a July election he says was rigged and to prevent his conservative rival from running the country.

Tens of thousands of supporters were expected to cram into Mexico City's vast Zocalo square to see Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador take an oath of office in a ceremony that has no legal weight but could mark the start of new street protests.

Alas, I can find no word on how many of them actually made it. In any event, it's one thing to "cram into... Zocalo square;" but if Andrés Manuel López Obrador thinks the same number will grab torches and pitchforks and charge the Mexican parliament to drive away the man who actually won the election, the parallel president may suddenly look up and mutter, "say, where'd everybody go? And who turned out the lights?"

From the AP story:

It remains to be seen whether Lopez Obrador can keep up the momentum. Some members of his leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, have already expressed disagreement with Lopez Obrador's strategy of using Congress - where the PRD is now the second-largest force - as an arena for protests rather than negotiations.

Writing in the Mexico City daily Reforma, columnist Armando Fuentes described Lopez Obrador's "swearing in" ceremony as "laughable" and "a circus act, a farce."

But in fact, big lizards has been predicting just such a circus act for months now. López Obrador suffers from the dread afflicition of Post-Election Trauma, or PET, which is what he's in. PET begins with an endochronic phenomenon:

  1. An election is scheduled;
  2. Months before the vote, the Left decides that the election is in the bag, there is no way they can lose;
  3. By a mysterious process, "we can't lose" morphs into "we already won." (See Zippy the Pinhead: "am I reelected yet?") The election itself is demoted to a mere formality to announce to the world the results that have already occurred (in the minds of the leftist candidate and his supporters);
  4. Election Day comes, and bizarrely enough, the conservative ends up with more votes;
  5. The irresistable force, a "leftist win" that was preordained months earlier, collides with the immovable object: a vote count that runs counter to the duly recognized ante-election;
  6. The Left reaches the only logical and rational conclusion: the bloody vote was rigged, and everybody to the right of Hugo Chavez is involved in the vast conspiracy to steal the presidency.

(PET is also know by its synonym, Albert's Derangement.)

Alas, unlike most other diseases, sufferers of PET do not become weaker, aren't confined to their beds, and the only fluids they tend to drink are adult beverages, which actually fuel the disease. Thus, they can do a lot of damage as they rampage through a community; or in this case, an entire country.

López Obrador himself seems to embrace PET in every particular, right up to using force to get his way after failing at the ballot box:

Some of Lopez Obrador's closest aides have suggested they will follow Bolivia's example and try to use protests to force Calderon from office, as demonstrators did with a succession of leaders there. Lopez Obrador has not ruled that out.

"Nobody wants violence in our country, but there are people who give grounds for violence," Lopez Obrador said last week. "There are a lot of people who say that, after July 2, the path of electoral politics in no longer viable." [Translation: elections are quaint but so old fashioned! We "liberals in a hurry" have faster means to select a national leader.]

I am utterly certain that somehow, by some occult connection, Squeaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight/Ashbury, 100%) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) will find a way either to cure this disease within our southern neighbor... or at the very least, discover a way to blame it on President Bush.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 20, 2006, at the time of 10:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Democrats Feel a Draft

Hatched by Dafydd

This weekend, the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY, 100%), whipped his hobby horse into a frothing gallup: he insists upon trying to ram a restoration of the military draft through Congress -- as a way to "deter wars" by making military action as politically costly as it was during the Vietnam war.

Has there ever been a more blatant example of politicizing the military? Imagine that: Charles Rangel actually hopes that unwilling American conscripts will be killed, because that would cause political problems for the (presumably Republican) president who sent them into harm's way.

Here is his reasoning, straight from the horse's mouth:

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," Rangel said.

Well for heaven's sake, who does he imagine the congressional representatives from Texas, Virginia, the Carolinas, and even California and New York thought would be sent to Iraq? The First Regiment of Venus?

I believe that Charles Rangel's problem is that he's permanently stuck in the 60s: for him, the entire military consists of "people of color" who join up because the segregated schools won't educate them, and the all-white lunch counters won't give them jobs. He knows in his heart that "whitey" never has to go to war; that Operation Iraqi Freedom was conducted entirely by black, Hispanic, female, and gay soldiers (the latter Shanghaied under the "don't ask, don't yell" conscription rule).

Thus, he believes that if white people (and Jews) were "forced" to serve, all these war things would come to a screeching halt. This is structurally similar to feminists who lout that "if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament"... forgetting that women -- who already can get pregnant -- tend to be more pro-life than men (many of whom celebrated the arrival of the Pill more than did their girlfriends, who were deprived of a more potent counterargument than "I've got a headache").

(Actually, the feminists are correct, in a way: these feminists do, in fact, see abortion as a sacrament -- or at least a rite of passage.)

In reality, the American armed forces pretty much mirror American society; neither the force itself nor the subset who suffer casualties is any more "of color" than the general populace. Recruitment and even retention of Iraq-war veterans are at all-time highs; and as Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%) just found out to his discomfiture, an awful lot of soldiers, sailor, airmen, and Marines are well-educated college grads who would have little trouble getting a good job in this great economy... especially if they were "people of color."

But shhh! Don't tell Rep. Rangel... it's dangerous to awaken a sleepwalker.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 20, 2006, at the time of 6:46 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Four "Conservatives" In Search of an Ideology

Hatched by Dafydd

Again, the New York Times demonstrates its extraordinary cluelessness about any politics to the right of Bill Clinton.

In today's bizarre media outing, they headline that Henry Kissinger now says that "victory in Iraq is not possible" (which is only accurate if you sort of squint and lean over to one side as you read Kissinger's actual quotation) -- and then go on to dub him as one of "a growing number of leading conservatives" criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the war.

"Well there's your problem on a nutshell!"

Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who regularly advises President Bush on Iraq, said today that a full military victory was no longer possible there. He thus joined a growing number of leading conservatives openly challenging the administration’s conduct of the war and positive forecasts for it.

“If you mean, by ‘military victory,’ an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don’t believe that is possible,” Mr. Kissinger told BBC News.

Ah; so what Mr. K. is really saying is that he's pessimistic about the attention span of the American public. After watching the results of the election, I can see how a dour cynic like Kissinger could arrive at that conclusion. Being neither dour nor cynical myself, I don't share his defeatism... but regardless, he certainly is not saying that military victory is impossible -- just that he doesn't believe the public will sit still for one.

Fiddle de dee; that's not my point. My focus is the title the Times bestowed, dubbing Dr. Kissinger "Knight of the Conservative Countenance." Heavens to Murgatroyd, if the writer or any of the thirteen layers of editors had troubled to read Kissinger's Wikipedia entry, they would have discovered that he was flatly described as a "liberal Republican" whose first non-academic job was as a paid advisor to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York.

(He's best known for working for President Richard Nixon -- also not a conservative. Nixon introduced affirmative action, revenue sharing, and détente with the Soviet Union, the last being the brainchild of Kissinger himself. Nixon was also the president who said "we're all Keynesians on this bus.")

Joining Kissinger in the tank are such "leading conservatives" as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) -- "a respected figure on military matters" -- Sen. Lindsay "JAG-man" Graham (R-SC, 96%), and the Mouth of the Potomac, Kenneth Adelman; who after making ludicrously pollyanna predictions about the ease of the Iraq war ("it'll be a cakewalk!") -- now has grown disillusioned that, three years on, we haven't democratized the entire Middle East. ("Aren't we there yet?")

What is striking is that not a single one of these people could credibly be called a conservative by anyone with the least familiarity with the conservative ideology:

  • Adelman is a typical neocon, though perhaps more muddled, impatient, and whiny than most;
  • Graham, during the entire year of 2006, paraded as a Homer-Simpson populist on virtually every important issue, from judges to terrorist interrogations to the conduct of the war;
  • McCain's only religion is McCainism, and he's the pope of it;
  • And Henry Kissinger is the very model of a modern realpolitik.

These folks all live, breathe, and work worlds apart from Ronald Reagan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, or even John Bolton: they do not decide... they temporize. Instead of a compass, they carry a weathercock strapped to their backs.

It would be as if we were to proclaim that "leading liberals" now opposed tax increases -- and cited for our examples Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE, 55%), senator-elect Jim Webb, and former governor and senator Zell Miller!

But what is most remarkable is that the Times musters this mob in motley to present the appearance of "conservative" dissent on the future conduct of the war, to buttress the call for withdrawal from Iraq (the Times is ecumenical: they do not mind whether withdrawal is immediate or phased).

Yet each and every one of these gentlemen (no ladies, I notice -- is the New York Times going soft?) in fact calls for just the opposite: the addition of more troops, not fewer, to secure Iraq. Even in this very article, they all reject cutting and running out of hand. Yes, even "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger:

Mr. Kissinger, in the BBC interview, said the United States must open talks with Iraq’s neighbors, pointedly including Iran, if progress is to be achieved in Iraq. Mr. Bush has said the United States is ready for such talks, but only if Iran moves to halt its nuclear enrichment work. American officials say low-level talks with Syria have produced little progress.

But Mr. Kissinger also said that a hasty withdrawal from Iraq would have “disastrous consequences,” leaving not only Iraq but neighboring countries with large Shiite populations destabilized for years.

He said the United States would probably have to plot a road between military victory and total withdrawal.

Whatever that means -- if anything at all -- it sure doesn't mean what John Murtha or Carl Levin mean! So what does the Times mean? (If it means anything at all, either.)

Quote of the day goes to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%) -- who probably is not being touted by the Times as one of those "leading conservatives." He has thoughts about how effective diplomacy could be, were we just to give it a chance... and he has a singular example in mind:

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, cited Mr. Kissinger’s own negotiations with the North Vietnamese in arguing for engagement with Iran and Syria.

“If you pursue legitimate diplomacy, the way Henry Kissinger did when he made multiple trips, night after night, day after day, twisting arms, working; if you make the effort that Jim Baker did to build a legitimate coalition, I’m confident we can do what’s necessary to get the neighborhood — and I include in that Iran and Syria — to take greater stakes,” Mr. Kerry told Fox News.

Yes, well Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy certainly worked wonders in Vietnam. (Just imagine... were it not for the Boat People, where would dwellers in the inner city go to buy groceries each week?)

I'm always puzzled why organizations like the New York Times cannot seem to comprehend the modern conservative. You needn't be one; I'm not, but I daresay I have a better handle on the breed than does Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, jr., despite my lack of investigative resources, bureau chiefs on every continent, and multiple layers of editing.

Maybe the Times should open a Bureau of Conservatism? If they can find a translator who speaks the language, that is.

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

Date ►►► November 18, 2006

The Democrats Are All Ears

Hatched by Dafydd

In two previous posts, we discussed how incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy "Most Ethical Congress In History" Pelosi isn't quite living up to her mantra anent the "culture of corruption" in Congress, especially regarding earmarks:

What exactly are earmarks? We described them thus in the first post linked above:

Let's take a brief detour: we know what the politician gets out of the contact: loot. The lobbyist funnels a bunch of campaign contributions to the pol, or donations to the Clinton Library, or whatnot. This can add up to a lot of lettuce -- millions of dollars in the case of Cunningham, for example.

Now, we assume the lobbyists (and the special interests they represent) aren't the generous sort. They're not giving away bucks and perks for free! So what do they get in return? What would be so valuable to a corporation, say, that they would be willing to spend several hundred thousand dollars of squeeze to get it?

The payback, of course, is in government expenditures inserted into public bills which go to private corporations for purely private purposes. In a word, earmarks.

Just remember: an earmark is the primary means of payback by a politician to a private person or company in exchange for the legal bribery of campaign contributions; it is the "quo" in the quid pro quo.

A company bundles contributions of, say, $300,000 to a politician; in exchange, in the dead of night, often during House-Senate conferences, he (anonymously) slips an earmark into an unrelated bill that funnels $3,000,000 to that company to build a Museum of Earwax in Harrisburg, PA. The pol gets funding for his reelection; the company gets a 1,000% return on investment, and the taxpayers get hosed.

In today's New York Times, we've started to find out the contours of just what the Democrats meant when they said they would clean up the "Republican culture of corruption." Interestingly, it doesn't appear to include earmarks -- which are the biggest problem:

Their initial proposals, laid out earlier this year, would prohibit members from accepting meals, gifts or travel from lobbyists, require lobbyists to disclose all contacts with lawmakers and bar former lawmakers-turned-lobbyists from entering the floor of the chambers or Congressional gymnasiums. [That's harsh... congressmen turned lobbyists will no longer be able to use the Stair Stepper or the House basketball court. That's got to hurt.]

None of the measures would overhaul campaign financing or create an independent ethics watchdog to enforce the rules. Nor would they significantly restrict earmarks, the pet projects lawmakers can anonymously insert into spending bills, which have figured in several recent corruption scandals and attracted criticism from members in both parties. The proposals would require disclosure of the sponsors of some earmarks, but not all.

I have the strangest sense of déjà vu; where did I hear this before? Oh yes, here we go... in both of the two previous Big Lizards posts linked above, I noted that "Democrats in the House voted 147 to 45 against the Republican rules change that identified all earmarks and their congressional sponsors." That's more than 3-1 against identifying the sponsors of earmarks.

And this wasn't a revolt of the rank and rile; the opposition was led by the Democratic leadership. From Captain's Quarters:

The vote shows who on the Hill gets the new paradigm, and who still lives in the passing age of pork. Democrats voted 147-45 to defeat the new rule, and that included their leadership. Among those opposing the identification of earmarks are Nancy Pelosi, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Patrick Kennedy, Tom Lantos, Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, Betty McCollum, Allan Mollohan, Barney Frank, Henry Waxman, and Ike Skelton, some of whom have been named as committee chairs if the Democrats retake control of the House this fall. Alcee Hastings voted to continue the practice of secret earmarking, no surprise given his impeachment for bribery that removed him from the federal judiciary, and the Democrats want to put him in charge of the Intelligence Committee. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the committee now, voted to support the rule.

In contrast, only 24 Republicans voted against the rule, and all but two of those are appropriators. Twelve GOP appropriators voted for reform, however, including Ray LaHood, a surprise supporter of the rule.

Given such opposition just a few months ago, we opined that it's just not that likely that the Democratic leadership would have a sudden "road to Damascus" conversion... especially not after gaining the majority, which means starting to get the lion's share of those "quids" again. You don't reduce a taste for pork by offering a big plate of barebecued spareribs. So it's hardly a shock if the new majority decides it rather likes ears even more than it did as a minority.

It is a bit breathtaking, however, so watch them spin 180° after the election, but before even taking the gavel. That may have set a new land speed record for hypocrisy!

But if the Democrats don't see earmarks or other form of quid pro quo as the core of the "culture of corruption," what do they see? Oh, that's easy... the problem is just Republicans, who evidently are uniquely and genetically prone to corruption and evil-doing. From the Times article:

Other Democratic lawmakers argued that the real ethical problem was the Republicans, not the current ethics rules, and that the election had alleviated the need for additional regulations. “There is an understanding on our side that the Republicans paid a price for a lot of the abuses that evolved,” said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, alluding to earmarks. Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, said the scandals of the current Congress were “about the K Street Project for the Republicans,” referring to the party’s initiative to put more Republicans in influential lobbying posts and build closer ties to them.

“That was incestuous from the beginning. We never had anything like that,” Mr. Harkin said of Democrats. “That is what soured the whole thing.”

And there you have it: the problem with the "Republican culture of corruption" was only the first word; when Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, Harry Reid, Barney Frank, Tom Harkin, and Dianne Feinstein do the same thing, it's totally different. After all, as the Party of the People, when Democrats secretly insert earmarks into a transportation or war-funding bill -- it's for a jolly good reason!

So now we know what the Divine Ms. P. means by "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." She means a Congress where all the pork and beans goes to the good Democrats, rather the evil Republicans. And now that the electorate has thrown the old bums out, problem solved.

Meet the new boss...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 18, 2006, at the time of 4:36 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Spanking Nancy

Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times, of all sources, delivers a wallop to the behind of the incoming Squeaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco, 100%):

Nancy Pelosi has managed to severely scar her leadership even before taking up the gavel as the new speaker of the House. First, she played politics with the leadership of the House Intelligence Committee to settle an old score and a new debt. And then she put herself in a lose-lose position by trying to force a badly tarnished ally, Representative John Murtha, on the incoming Democratic Congress as majority leader. The party caucus put a decisive end to that gambit yesterday, giving the No. 2 job to Steny Hoyer, a longtime Pelosi rival.

But Ms. Pelosi’s damage to herself was already done....

As incoming speaker, Ms. Pelosi will be dogged by skepticism — from within the party and without — about her political smarts and her ability to deliver a galvanized agenda.

Ouch. I don't think the Divine Ms. P. will be attending any sit-down dinners for a while. (Link via Drudge.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 18, 2006, at the time of 6:02 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 17, 2006

What Is Wrong With Carol Platt Liebau?

Hatched by Dafydd

I tuned in to Hugh Hewitt to hear Liebau, whom I don't think I've heard subbing for Hugh before, though I understand she does so with some frequency. She was going on about Sen. Trent Lott (R-MI, 91%), of whom I am not fond, to say the least. (In fact, didn't I just note his ultimately successful bid for the minority whip position and ask, "is this Trent necessary?")

But I'm also not fond of unfairness and bad argument... and Liebau is either a dope or a typical, smarmy lawyer playing stereotypically smarmy lawyer tricks. Looking at her bio on Wikipedia (which she clearly wrote herself -- yeesh!), it's clear she's not a dope.

First, evidently Lott said in an interview that he would have fired Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld right after the 2004 election. I think that's an asinine thing to say, especially as Lott says in practically the next breath that he doesn't serve on the Armed Services Committee and doesn't know much of anything about the military. (Then what makes you think you have the right to an opinion on Rumsfeld's competence, you buffoon?)

But then she played another clip from that same interview, in which Lott makes a series of points:

  • He states that he favors some series of benchmarks or milestones for Iraq to achieve before the U.S. does this or that -- I think he means before we hand over any more provinces;
  • He vehemently objects when the interviewer (didn't catch his name, sorry, but it sounded like either Chris Matthews on Hardball or Tim Russert on Meet the Press) characterizes this as supporting a timetable: the interviewer asks whether this is inconsistent with Gen. Abizaid, who opposes a timetable, and Lott distinguishes between milestones and a timetable and says he is totally opposed to the latter;
  • Then he adds that we cannot pull out immediately, and we should not even have a "phased withdrawal."
  • Finally, he mentions that he was just talking with Sens. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 100%) last night on the floor... and they were discussing ways to "move forward in Iraq."

Now each of these points is news. But Liebau's characterization of them was actually more of a caricature, and a sarcastic one at that. First, in a voice dripping with condescension, she says, 'so Lott says he's for milestones but against timetables, or for timetables and against milestones, or something like that.' (The single-quotes are my memory of what she said; I wasn't taking notes while driving.) And she riffs of that for several minutes, the thrust of which is that Lott (she claims) was incoherent and babbling.

She brings up the commment about talking with McCain and Clinton... but by now, it has morphed into 'now Lott is taking his Iraq talking points from Hillary Clinton.' In fact, what he said was that Hillary was talking about ways to "move forward" in Iraq -- not pull out but move forward. Isn't that an important point that Liebau should have noticed?

In fact, everything Lott said in the clip that I heard (which didn't include the part about Rumsfeld) was coherent, sensible, and a good sign for the incoming whip: I would be stunned if our number 2 leader in the Senate were in favor of phased withdrawal or a timetable, for example... but he emphatically rejected both.

As I said, Liebau's Wikipedia entry -- which is actually her job resume -- makes clear she's not simply a doofus like Rosie O'Donnell or Barbra Streisand. I can only conclude she did understand what Lott was saying... but for reasons of Liebau's own, she decided to pretend that it was just bibble-babble, and that this portended dire catastrophe for the GOP.

This sort of unjust caricature really offends me. I haven't heard her before, and I'm loathe to judge someone on just one segment on one day. Maybe she woke up on th wrong side of the tracks this morning. But for those of you who have seen her more frequently, is she usually sarcastic, unfair, and snide? Or did I just catch her on a bad hair day?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 17, 2006, at the time of 6:16 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

La Bataille Royal de la France

Hatched by Dafydd

No, that's not a misspelling in the title; I refer to Ségolène Royal, who just won a bruising primary -- the first for France's Socialist Party. She beat up on two ponderous, old lefties with jowls.

Ségolène Royal moved a step closer to becoming the first female president of France early Friday, crushing her two male rivals for the Socialist Party nomination in next April’s election.

With most of the vote in, Ms. Royal, 53, a regional president and former minister, won 60.6 percent of the vote of the party’s nearly 219,000 members in an unusual primary.

Her closest rival, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 57, a former finance minister, received 20.8 percent of the vote, and Laurent Fabius, 60, a former prime minister, 18.5 percent.

For reference, this is what Mlle. Royal looks like:

Segolene Wearing Clothes    Segolene nearly naked

Mademoiselle of Curvature, Parlez-vous?

(Say, shouldn't John Hinderaker be blogging this instead?)

There is a reason everyone -- including Mlle. Royal -- emphasized her looks: evidently, she's not the sharpest hammer in the box. She has virtually no experience in the weighty issues of the day for France, neither foreign nor domestic; and she did not acquit herself well in the six debates (three were televised). In fact, her lead steadily dropped... and if the Socialists could have had an American-style two-year campaign, she might have lost.

Her inexperience in foreign policy issues surfaced last week when she said during the last campaign debate that Iran should never be allowed to have a civilian nuclear energy program. As her opponents quickly pointed out, Iran enjoys that right as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

But the party members’ enthusiasm for Ms. Royal seemed to trump any slips on policy issues.

Since her two competitors looked more or less like this --

Grumpy Dominique Strauss-Kahn    Grumpier Laurent Fabius

Gumpy Old Lefties: Laurent Fabius (left), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (even lefter)

-- She probably would have stabilized and won in any event, even with a ten-year campaign season!

Ms. Royal was repeatedly attacked in the campaign as naïve and inexperienced. In addition to questioning her foreign policy background, her opponents and other critics mocked her proposal to create “citizens” juries to pass judgment on the work of elected officials, calling it dangerously populist, costly and irrelevant. At one rally in Paris last month when she discussed the issue, she was booed repeatedly.

During one debate, she defended her call for a less centralized, more representative form of government, saying: “Democracy is like love. The more there is of it, the more it grows.”

Say, isn't that how Abbey Road ends? (I mean, except for "Her Majesty," which isn't even a real song. I think it was probably the musical equivalent of those Styrofoam® packing peanuts.)

As cute as she is, especially at age 53, I have a bit of a hard time believing that even la Belle France would be in such a state of denial, in this era of terrorism and the French intifada, that they would elect a complete tyro, Socialist, "kumaya," group-hug candidate like Ségolène Royal, in preference to the hard-as-nails Nicolas Sarkozy of the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement, part of the right-wing coalition in France).

But God knows, it's always dangerous to bet against French irrationality.

The polls show the two of them neck and neck, both in an initial match-up with other candidates, then later in a run-off. But then, the 2004 polls in Australia also showed the conservative Liberal Party-National Party Coalition of Australian Prime Minister John Howard running neck and neck with Mark Latham's Labor Party... and Howard convincingly beat Latham 52.7% to 47.3%. I don't know what this has to do with France, but I wanted to toss it in to illustrate my skill with Wikipedia.

Still, I think that once the debate is actually joined, and the French realize it's a choice of a cute face and lovely body on one side and Mlle. Royal on the other, I'm sure they'll go with M. Sarkozy.

But then, what do I know? I picked Austria-Hungary in the first World War.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 17, 2006, at the time of 6:56 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 16, 2006

Rogan, Great Guy, Would Be a Great Judge

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm late noting that President Bush just nominated former Rep. James Rogan for a federal district-court judgeship in California. He won't be confirmed -- but he should be.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 100%) will blue-slip him; if it must be a home-state senator, she'll get Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) or Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 95%) to do it. You see, Rogan was one of the House Impeachment Manglers in 1998... and one way or another, there'll be "hell to pay." He will never even be given a vote; Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT, 100%), incoming Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, might not even allow him a hearing in the committee (by just refusing to bring him up).

But that's not why I'm writing this. There are a bunch of district- and circus-court nominees who will never get up or down votes, but I usually leave blogging about them to brilliant lawyers like Patterico and the greats at Power Line.

I'm writing this for one reason, a very personal reason to hold James Rogan in the highest esteem: I am convinced that, were it not for him, my wife, Sachi, would not be an American citizen today.

I've written about this before; the INS's capriciousness and thuggishness is one reason I get very angry at people who say that anyone who has ever entered this country illegally is a "criminal" who should be "prosecuted" and forever barred citizenship.

First, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: Sachi was never illegal; she came here legally as a student for one year -- then she went back to Japan. A year later, she returned, this time as an immigrant. She was able to get a green card and was satisfied with that for a number of years.

We skip to the 1990s. When Sachi and I started going together, she told me that, although she was born in Japan and grew up there, living in Japan until she was about 20, she had never really felt Japanese; she always felt like "a stranger, and afraid, trapped in a world I never made," as A.E. Houseman put it.

When she came here first as a student, she abruptly realized she had always been an American. And when she returned to Japan, it hit her that she could no longer live in the land of her birth; she had outgrown it. (She actually outgrew it years earlier, but she couldn't diagnose the feeling then.)

"All right," I asked, "so you've been living here for years now as a legal permanent resident. Why haven't you become an American citizen?"

That brought her up cold: it's a very, very hard thing to become a citizen of a new country, because that requires you to publicly renounce citizenship in your native country. She had been scared what her parents would think, what her ancestors would think, and -- well, it's a scary step. But she realized she couldn't continue living as "half an American" merely out of fear. So she embarked upon the journey to citizenship.

I've talked about that dreadful experience many times, and I won't go into it again here. Except for one part of it -- which you can take as exemplifying the whole. At the very end, Sachi had satisfied all the requirements, passed all the tests, filled out all the forms, waited years and years, battled her way to the head of the line, and all completely legally. She only needed one more step to actually become a citizen: to hold her hand up and be sworn in (I usually say "be sworn at," but I'm not trying to be a joker today).

All she needed was an appointment. At those appointments, held at some federal building in the area, about two hundred people at a time are sworn in; it's not like there are no slots. But the INS (this was before they became the USCIS) would not give Sachi her appointment.

Nor did they give her a reason. Rather, they said there was no reason, she was good to go. But they wouldn't let her go!

For months, she called nearly every day; for months, they told her that "the system" hadn't spit out a date for her yet. Then the months became years... literally years. Every so often during this time, some document she had filled out before "expired," forcing her to come in and fill it out all over again. The kicker was when she was told that her fingerprints had expired, and she would have to get a new set taken.

Oddly enough, they looked just the same.

But still -- no appointment. She got a lawyer, and the lawyer couldn't get the INS either to budge or to say if there were some problem: she had never been in any trouble (not even a ticket), there was no reason. Even the INS insisted there was no reason; but they had "submitted" her case to "the system," and nobody had any idea what was happening. Nor did they care; they just told her to shut up and go away, she was holding up the line.

Finally, somebody -- I don't remember who, but it was probably Friend Lee -- suggested to me that we should contact Sachi's congressman, who was also Friend Lee's congressman. So we went to the office of Rep. James Rogan.

He personally wasn't there (Congress was in session); but his staffer talked to Sachi, took down all the information, and said that Rogan would have the case in his hands within two weeks. In fact, I think it was less than that before we received a phone call from the staffer, who said that Rep. Rogan had called the INS during a break from floor action, kicked some butt -- and we would be hearing from them within a couple of days.

A few (working) days later, Sachi received a letter giving her an appointment to go down and (all right, all right!) get sworn at by a federal magistrate.

Think about that: for more than three years, Sachi and I were unable to get her a swearing-ceremony date, even though the INS admitted that she had satisfied all requirements; but less than three weeks after contacting James Rogan, she had her date. I am utterly convinced that, were it not for his intervention, the INS would never have moved... because when it comes right down to it, they just don't care.

But James Rogan did care -- and that's why he made a great legislator, a great House manager during the impeachment, and would make a great federal judge, though he'll never get a chance at the latter due to Hillary's essentially vengeful and narcissistic nature.

Oh, there is one thing he didn't care about: nobody at his office ever asked Sachi whether she considered herself a Republican or a Democrat. She was a constituent; that was enough.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2006, at the time of 5:05 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Take Him At His Word

Hatched by Dafydd

After being crushed by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 95%) in the bruising battle to be number 2 -- there, there, Rep. Murtha, you'll always be number 2 in my book! -- John Murtha (D-PA, 75%) made the following petulant comment:

Murtha will chair the powerful defense subcommittee with responsibility for the war in Iraq and the Pentagon budget. "Nancy asked me to set a policy for the Democratic Party. Most of the party signed onto it," he said, referring to pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.

All right, let's take him at his word. There will likely be 232 Democrats in the 110th. Congress. Half of 232 is 116; so "most" is 117. Let's be generous and say 150, or 65%.

That would leave 82 Democrats who do not "sign onto" the Murtha-Pelosi defeat-retreat. Add in the 203 Republicans, and you get a solid majority against "redeployment to Okinawa" of 285, or 66% of Congress.

Even if some Republicans despair and want to throw in the towel -- though nobody has found a single House Republican willing to say so -- you would have to lose 67 Republicans to get a majority in the House to vote defeatist. And that's assuming that when Murtha said "most," he really meant an overwhelming "most," not a bare "most."

Even if he did mean overwhelming, it would have to be virtually unanimous, assuming the Republicans stick together (which they likely will; no Republican ran on a campaign promise to yank the troops out immediately, handing Iraq over to the terrorists, so far as I know). With 203 nays, the Democrats would have to hold all but 14 members to a campaign to ensure defeat in Iraq, a remarkable percentage of 94% of House Democrats anxious to spit on the graves of 2,800 brave American soldiers and Marines.

I think it will be virtually impossible to get a defeatist vote out of the Congress, either house; let alone a big enough one to override an inevitable veto by President Bush (which would require all the Democrats plus nearly 30% of the Republicans). John and Nancy are out of luck in more ways than one today.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2006, at the time of 12:00 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Guardian Spills the Beans

Hatched by Dafydd

In a longish and fascinating article linked by Drudge, the left-wing U.K. Guardian (once the Manchester Guardian) offers us more analysis and realistic speculation than any American newspaper I've yet read. It's definitely worth reading in its entirety.

The basic thrust is here:

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

I have read that George W. Bush is a very good poker player. I'm just a tyro, but I do know this much...

Suppose you're playing Hold 'Em. You're at the turn (the second to last face-up card dealt), and you have two pair and four to a flush. The only other guy left in the hand puts a really big bet down. Do you:

  1. Fold;
  2. Call his bet; or
  3. Raise?

There's no hard and fast answer, naturally. But were I the player, I would raise -- and I would go all in. The only other viable option is to fold; you're guaranteed to lose the hand, but you limit your losses. The worst decision, in my opinion, would be to call the bet... because then you're playing to his tempo, not yours.

If you go all in, you suddenly throw your opponent into his own quandry: he thought his hand was worth X, and now he has to decide if it's worth five times X. Good chance he'll fold: maybe you have a flush, maybe a full house -- is he willing to risk it?

You see? He's playing at your pace; or in military terms, at your operational tempo. That's why you raise -- and raise big. Here's the Guardian on Bush's decision and the impact it will have:

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

The four points are:

  1. Increase, rather than decrease the force level, possibly by 20,000 (I doubt the Guardian knows the exact number);
  2. More "regional cooperation," meaning more of Iraq's neighbors need to be persuaded that a full-scale civil war benefits nobody and is a disaster for many -- Turkey, for example, which is terrified of a widespread movement to create independent "Kurdistan" with the Kurds from Iraq and Turkey; and also Jorday, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia certainly don't want millions of Sunni refugees pouring across their poorly defended borders;
  3. A renewed push to get the Iraqi Sunni and Shia to "just get along," as Rodney King said; I don't believe the Iraqis really want a civil war: but that means a clampdown on the death squads and militias and a reinvigorated Sunni population ratting out more of the al-Qaeda terrorists.

    (3) can be helped a lot by (1), as I suspect a lot of Iraqis assumed that if the Democrats won, we would pull out instantly. If instead we send more troops and prove we're staying, we'll start getting more actionable intelligence;

  4. Pushing Congress hard to really get behind the war with more resources. This may be tricky, but if the Guardian and Big Lizards are right that the Iraq Study Group will recommend raising instead of folding, and with the anti-Rumsfeldian generals agreeing, the Democrats will be trapped between Scylla and Charybdis, caught between Iraq and a hard peace: they'll probably agree because otherwise, they'll be seen as the obstructionists -- a very bad move for the majority party.

Here is the neo-leftist take on the choice:

"You've got to remember, whatever the Democrats say, it's Bush still calling the shots. He believes it's a matter of political will. That's what [Henry] Kissinger told him. And he's going to stick with it," a former senior administration official said. "He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he's got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall."

Gee, I wonder who that "former senior administration official" could be? A former secretary of state, perhaps? Or maybe his former loose-lipped, shaven-head deputy? I am still amazed that so many people at such high levels of government are so determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq. How can they still be so invested in failure and disgrace?

The official added: "Bush has said 'no' to withdrawal, so what else do you have? The Baker report will be a set of ideas, more realistic than in the past, that can be used as political tools. What they're going to say is: lower the goals, forget about the democracy crap, put more resources in, do it."

I think "the official" is still mad that President Bush wouldn't listen to his wise counsel of doing absolutely nothing.

There is this possibility, raised by the Guardian: maybe the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group was all set to say "let's declare defeat and go home." But maybe after Monday's talk with President Bush, they realized -- as Big Lizards suggested -- that if the commander in chief were adamant about not quitting, but the ISG made that their primary recommendation, they would be dismissed out of hand like insolent lackeys.

Rather than be humiliated like that (this theory goes), they are rewriting their conclusions and recommendations to something that is acceptable to the administration. That way, their advice might be heeded, and they look like they actually matter.

If this is what happened, it's a marvelous illustration of the power of a willful president for whom defeat is not an option. That is far more in keeping with Bush's previous history anent the Iraq and Afghanistan battles and the larger GWOT itself, than the silly suggestions from some quarters that Bush was about to quit, withdraw, and hand Iraq over to the tender mercies of Iran and Syria.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2006, at the time of 2:00 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 15, 2006

Stem-Cell Two-Step - UPDATED November 16th

Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE November 16th, 2006, 00:23: see below.

Here's another example of the truculence of the drive-by media as it relates to scientific truths they just don't want to hear...

Here's the headline:

Stem Cells Help Dogs With Dystrophy

Wow, maybe there's hope for all those MD sufferers. How can those wicked right-to-lifers stand in the way of cures for so many? The article continues:

In promising new research, stem cells worked remarkably well at easing symptoms of muscular dystrophy in dogs, an experiment that experts call a significant step toward treating people.

"It's a great breakthrough for all of us working on stem cells for muscular dystrophy," said researcher Johnny Huard of the University of Pittsburgh, who wasn't involved in the work.

Sharon Hesterlee, vice president of translational research at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, called the result one of the most exciting she's seen in her eight years with the organization. Her group helped pay for the work.

She stressed that it's not yet clear whether such a treatment would work in people, but said she had "cautious optimism" about it.

Two dogs that were severely disabled by the disease were able to walk faster and even jump after the treatments.

At this point, a certain suspicion starts to creep through my brain. This is odd; why do they keep saying "stem cells," without any attached adjective?

Finally, six paragraphs into the story, they drop the other shoe -- the one alert readers must already have figured out for themselves:

The study was published online Wednesday by the journal Nature. It used stem cells taken from the affected dogs or other dogs, rather than from embryos. For human use, the idea of using such "adult" stem cells from humans would avoid the controversial method of destroying human embryos to obtain stem cells.

No kidding!

Of course, the headline should have read: Adult Stem Cells Help Dogs With Dystrophy; that would have been the more accurate (and more responsible) head. But that's not what AP wanted to hear... so the magic word just softly and suddenly vanished away from the headline and the first few uses in the body. And after clearly identifying the particular stem cells as adult stem cells in one paragraph, the remaining paragraphs simply refer to "stem cells" again (unqualified), as if political amnesia has already set in.

Now, please don't misunderstand: I'm all in favor of stem-cell research, including embryonic stem-cell research. Now that we have a method (which needs more work, of course) to extract embryonic stem stem cells without destroying the embryo, it should be a no-brainer; but even when we had to kill an embryo to get the stem cell, I personally supported it. (I do not believe human personhood begins as conception.)

But I'm equally in favor of research into the use of adult stem cells and placental stem cells... and I don't have to lie -- even by omission -- about the tremendous strides we've already made in those two areas, just to puff up the flimsy resume of embryonic stem cells.

(Mind, it's the "flimsy" resume of a 22 year old who just graduated magna cum laude from Cal Tech or MIT, but hasn't had his first job yet. It's not nothing; it's just not yet proven in the real world.)

I hate dissembling, and this article dissembles like a politician caught with his hand in the nookie jar. Come on, AP; give credit where it's due.

UPDATE: Commenter David has a post on his own blog about another tremendously exciting cure that could possibly come from adult stem cells: injecting a coronary patient's own stem cells (from bone marrow) into the artery that was blocked. The stem cells appear to repair the patient's heart, making future attacks and also degenerative heart failure much less likely.

This follows on earlier research showing that a coronary patient's own stem cells can help repair damaged heart muscle even before a heart attack.

This is especially interesting to me, as my good grandfather had multiple strokes and heart attacks, one of which killed him at the young age of 70... on New Year's Eve many years ago, sadly. (My other grandfather chewed broken glass and bayed at the moon.)

I suspect this history puts me at risk, though my physicals have never found any heart damage or coronary occlusion.

I'm a great believer in modern medicine (and modern sanitation, and modern preservatives in food); I always go to my annual physical... and if you don't, if you find excuses to skip it or postpone it, remember this:

Those who do not utilize their access to modern medicine have no advantage over those who have no access to modern medicine!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 15, 2006, at the time of 7:42 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Won't Say "We Told You So," But...

Hatched by Dafydd

Long, long ago (I mean last Saturday), we posted the speech that we hoped -- and thought -- President Bush would be making some time in December or January. The essence was this (this is supposed to be Bush speaking):

I always said that when it came to waging wars, I would always listen first to the professionals who actually have the responsibility for victory. After having consulted extensively with the commanders on the ground, and with both the new leaders in Congress and also those of my own party, I have concluded that I was wrong, and the critics were right. We sent enough troops to overthrow Saddam Hussein and win the war. But after major combat operations ended, I did not leave enough troops in Iraq to secure the peace.

So tonight I am announcing that I have decided to send an additional 75,000 troops to Iraq. The command staff shall submit a report as soon as possible detailing exactly how many more personnel of each service we need and where we need them.

Specifically, we pointed to three major goals that we simply had to achieve in order to win in Iraq:

  1. "Secure Iraq's borders with both Iran and Syria;"
  2. "Secure the Iraq frontier, primarily in the province of Anbar;"
  3. "Secure the capital city of Baghdad, where more than 20% of the entire population of Iraq lives."

The consensus around the blogosphere (both hemispheres) was that the Democrats -- many of whom ran on a Murtha-esque "yank 'em out now" or Sen. Carl Levin's (D-MI, 100%) "Murtha Lite" -- had thereby painted themselves into a hole: they would have to push for some species of withdrawal, whether it was total or just a draw-down. (To remind you, Levin is the senator whose spectacles are superglued to the bulb of his proboscis.)

But now, a whole new paradigm has burst forth, like whoever it was from the other fellow's brow; and it's being argued by none other than the New York Times, epitome of left-wingwallowing, with a headline that gives away the plot twist... Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say:

One of the most resonant arguments in the debate over Iraq holds that the United States can move forward by pulling its troops back, as part of a phased withdrawal. If American troops begin to leave and the remaining forces assume a more limited role, the argument holds, it will galvanize the Iraqi government to assume more responsibility for securing and rebuilding Iraq....

But this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies.

If this sounds familiar, it's because you read it here first (or at least "earlier"). For example, Big Lizards:

Certainly there is no consensus of the American people to give up, to surrender, to withdraw and leave Iraq to be dismembered by Iran and Syria. Americans aren't Spaniards.

Rather, Democrats were elected on a considerably more nuanced platform: they promised only a "change of course" in Iraq, mostly because they couldn't agree among themselves: John Murtha never convinced Anthony Zinni, and Eric Shinseki never persuaded Harry Reid.

The New York Times:

Anthony C. Zinni, the former head of the United States Central Command and one of the retired generals who called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, argued that any substantial reduction of American forces over the next several months would be more likely to accelerate the slide to civil war than stop it....

Instead of taking troops out, General Zinni said, it would make more sense to consider deploying additional American forces over the next six months to “regain momentum” as part of a broader effort to stabilize Iraq that would create more jobs, foster political reconciliation and develop more effective Iraqi security forces.

I would hate to think that the Times was taking its cue from Big Lizards for the proper response to win the Iraq war! If so, then why can't I get above 2,000 visitors a day "circulation?" (Of course, all the drive-by media may be headed down where Big Lizards is; maybe we'll pass them on the way up?)

John Batiste, another one of the "anti-Rumsfeldians," has chimed in supporting the Zinni proposal:

“The point of the proposal is to force the Iraqis to take hold of the situation politically,” Mr. [Carl] Levin said.

But some current and retired military officers say the situation in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq is too precarious to start thinning out the number of American troops. In addition, they worry that some Shiite leaders would see the reduction of American troops as an opportunity to unleash their militias against the Sunnis and engage in wholesale ethnic cleansing to consolidate their control of the capital [Baghdad].

John Batiste, a retired Army major general who also joined in the call for Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation, described the Congressional proposals for troop withdrawals as “terribly naïve.”

“There are lots of things that have to happen to set them up for success,” General Batiste, who commanded a division in Iraq, said in an interview, describing the Iraqi government. “Until they happen, it does not matter what we tell Maliki....”

Indeed, General Batiste has recently written that pending the training of an effective Iraqi force, it may be necessary to deploy tens of thousands of additional “coalition troops.” General Batiste said he hoped that Arab and other foreign nations could be encouraged to send troops. [Fat chance, unless by "Arab and other foreign nationals," he means Syria and Iran -- who would be overjoyed to send armies into Iraq!]

And what exactly should be the goals of these new American forces? Rather, "Coalition" forces... assuming there are any countries left in the West besides us who can actually fight. The Times answers that question:

  • Reduce Iraqi unemployment;
  • Secure Iraq's borders with both Iran and Syria;
  • "Enlist more cooperation" from tribal sheikhs -- in the Iraq frontier, primarily in the province of Anbar;
  • Weaken or crush the militias -- which primarily plague "the capital," i.e., Baghdad.

Finally, Kenneth M. Pollack, a Brookings Institution guy, argues that pulling out now will make a bona-fide civil war inevitable; as Wikipedia puts it, "the Brookings Institution is a center-left think tank, based in Washington, D.C.... currently headed by Strobe Talbott."

This is precisely the fig leaf the Democrats can use, if they choose, to turn on a dime and give a nickle change. Especially if the Iraq Study Group (the Jim Baker commission) recommends a troop increase, as I suspect they will, instead of a pull-out: then the momentum for sending in a bunch of troops to secure borders, borderlands, and Baghdad will become irresistable.

At least, let's keep our fingers crossed: not only will it make the war infinitely more winnable than if we were to pull out prematurely (like Onan did) -- which is the most important consideration -- but secondarily, it will enrage the nutroots and cause them to go all-out to force a Kossack wack-job on the party as the 2008 presidential nominee. I don't know if they'll succeed... but I like the idea of la bataille royale within the Democratic Party for the next two years!

One more thing; take a look at the last line from our previous post:

By the way... if I'm right, and the Democrats are willing to go for a change in this direction instead of insisting on that direction, then I predict they will also go ahead and confirm Robert Gates as SecDef.

And compare to Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) "top priority" that we quoted from an AP story yesterday:

[110th Congress Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid told The Associated Press that a top priority for the remainder of the lame-duck session will be confirming Robert Gates as defense secretary, succeeding Donald H. Rumsfeld. "The sooner we can move it forward the sooner we can get rid of Rumsfeld," he said.

Heh again.

The Democrats might surprise me and prove more stubborn and mulish in their demand for an American defeat than I imagined. But on the other hand, don't be too surprised if next month, or else at the beginning of the new year, you hear Bush give a (better written) version of the speech from our ancient post of four days ago.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 15, 2006, at the time of 4:42 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 14, 2006

Murtha Accuses Dems of "Swift Boating" Him

Hatched by Dafydd

This is almost too weird for the Weekly World News... but it's actually Associated Press:

[Rep. John] Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran who favors an immediate drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq, has fought charges for years of using his senior status on the defense appropriations subcommittee to award favors to campaign contributors. He voted against a Democratic package of ethics reforms earlier this year and was touched by but never charged in the Abscam bribery scandal a quarter-century ago.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a Democratic-leaning watchdog group, accused Pelosi of compromising her ethical standards by endorsing Murtha....

"I thought we were above this type of swift-boating attack," Murtha said in a statement issued by his office, referring to unsubstantiated allegations about John Kerry's Vietnam War heroism from a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential race. [Well, that's a nice, unbiased way of describing the controversy.] "This is not how we restore integrity and civility to the United States Congress."

The brouhaha of course is about whether Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 95%), the Minority Whip -- which is the number 2 Democrat in the House -- should succeed to the title of Majority Leader (the equivalent position for the majority)... or whether it should be Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 75%), hysterical anti-war fanatic and Pelosi's puppet [another unbiased description -- but one that at least has the virtue of being true].

I think we're finally zeroing in on the actual definition of "to swift boat":

Swift boat: verb phrase, 1 to level a damaging accusation to which the object has no good response; 2 to produce extensive documentation of same; 3 to beat any Democrat in any election -- general, primary, or leadership. Syn: question patriotism. Ex: You're trying to swift boat me. They're trying to swift boat me. He, she, or it is trying to swift boat me. Don't you dare try to swift boat me. I'll take your swift-boating attacks and cram 'em up your yin-yang. I only lost because the Republicans swift boated me and questioned my patriotism. We will never again allow ourselves to be swift boated.

But here is a very interesting tidbit, unrelated to the actual point of the article but far more momentous:

[110th Congress Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid told The Associated Press that a top priority for the remainder of the lame-duck session will be confirming Robert Gates as defense secretary, succeeding Donald H. Rumsfeld. "The sooner we can move it forward the sooner we can get rid of Rumsfeld," he said.

It looks as if it will be pretty smooth sailing for Gates; the Democrats appear willing to confirm anyone from John Ashcroft to Yogi Bear (or N.Z. Bear), if it will grease the skids beneath Don Rumsfeld. This is as fine a testimony to the value and effectiveness of the outgoing SecDef as any I can imagine.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MI, 91%) is challenging Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN, 88%) for the job of Minority Whip (the number 2 position after Minority Leader). Lott was ousted from being Minority Leader in December, 2002, after he said the following at a birthday roast for 200 year old Sen. Strom Thurmond, a veteran of the War of 1812 (he lied about his age to get into the Army):

I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.

As Strom Thurmond ran for president on the ticket of the States Rights (Dixiecrat) Party, whose major platform plank was racial segregation forever, some folks got the crazy idea that Lott was actually endorsing racial segregation. He did not explain what he meant by "all these problems," nor whether they had anything to do with lunch counters or drinking fountains.

However, a better explanation than "latent bigotry" is that Trent Lott is simply an insensitive, braindead yokel who doesn't know that his home state of Mississippi used to enshrine racism in the law. Or even that it used to allow slavery. Which of course raises the intriguing WWII-style question: is this Trent necessary?

Lamar Alexander, who has spent his entire adult life in politics, including (besides his current senatorship) eight years as governor of Tennessee, two years as Bush pere's secretary of education, and two subterranean stabs at the presidency, told reporters he was running for the whip job because "we need some new faces and some fresh themes."

Next week, Republicans are expected to fail miserably.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 14, 2006, at the time of 7:13 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 13, 2006

Hillary's Dream Is All Wet

Hatched by Dafydd

Just reading this Drudge-dredged story from Beitbart:

In her remarks, Clinton outlined a range of challenges she said Democrats would tackle in the coming months, such as trimming the federal deficit, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and improving the image of the United States abroad. [Say, reducing dependence on foreign oil: does that mean the Democrats now support drilling in ANWR and widespread construction of clean, safe, modern nuclear power plants?]

She also said Democrats would focus on improving the quality and affordability of health care -- a touchy matter for the former first lady, who in 1993 led her husband's calamitous attempt to overhaul the nation's health care system. The failure of that effort helped Republicans win control of both the Senate and House the following year.

"Health care is coming back," Clinton warned, adding, "It may be a bad dream for some."

(Wait for it...)

-- And a nightmare for America!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 13, 2006, at the time of 11:29 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

More Evidence Bush HASN'T Changed His Mind About Iraq

Hatched by Dafydd

The elite media is starting to backstep from its initial preposterous claims that President Bush planned to order a quick withdrawal from Iraq, handing it over to Iran and its lapdog, Syria.

An AP story today confirms the president's stability on the Iraq war and his rejection of any timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. It's now quite clear that the intention of both the U.S. and the U.K. is victory in Iraq -- not retreat and defeat:

President Bush traded ideas on Iraq with a bipartisan commission Monday and promised to work with the incoming Democratic majority toward "common objectives." At the same time, he renewed his opposition to any timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops....

Asked about proposals by [incoming Chairman of the Senate Armed Serviced Committee Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%)] and others for a phased troop reduction, Bush said, "I believe it is very important ... for people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon the conditions on the ground."

Even liberal Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME, 32%) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 96%) rejected a timetable, along with moderate John Warner (R-VA, 88%), current Armed Services chairman; not a single Republican was quoted supporting even the Levin proposal (withdrawal over 4 to 6 months), let alone John Murtha's (D-PA, 75%) demand for "immediate withdrawal." So Bush and the Republicans in Congress are still completely in agreement on this point. (Point of order: while Graham has a higher partisanship rating than does Warner, that is from 2005; this year, Graham has taken a sharp turn to the left and is currently one of the more liberal senators in the Republican caucus.)

But what about the meme being spread by the media yesterday and earlier that President Bush was about to hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria to "stabilize," which many in-BEDDD bloggers on the right were panicking about? Yesterday, I responded to that meme with a certain amount of scorn; but I had only my own judgment about Bush's committment to rely upon.

Today, there is evidence that the focus on Iran and Syria remains a "get-tough" policy, not appeasement. With Britain's lame-duck Prime Minister Tony Blair's tough speech, in which he essentially made Iran and Syria "a message they cannot refuse," and with the parade of high-level American security officials to Iraq to bitch-slap Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki for not disbanding the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, it's clear the only message being sent to Iran and Syria is to back off from Iraq or face total isolation:

The reference to Iraq's neighbors [Iran and Syria] coincided with a call by British Prime Minister Tony Blair for Iran and Syria to help stem bloodshed in Iraq and to join efforts to stabilize the Middle East.

In a major foreign policy speech Monday night, Blair warned there would be no incentives or concessions for doing so and that any failure to assist would lead to international isolation for the two countries.

As the definition of appeasement requires specific "incentives or concessions" -- "if we let you have Czechoslovakia, will you please give us peace in our time?" -- this is very heartening news. I certainly don't know whether it will work; unless we show a lot more muscle on the border, I doubt it. But this is clearly a stick-speech, not a carrot-speech.

A piece in the (London/UK) Times about Blair's speech confirms both the PM's ultimatum to Iran and Syria and also President Bush's committment to a free Iraq -- and his lack of interest in pressuring Israel to give up more concessions for "the peace process" (a.k.a., the process in pieces):

Mr Blair said there could be a new “partnership” with Iran if it stopped supporting terrorism in Iraq and gave up its nuclear ambitions. Syria and Iran could choose partnership or isolation, he said....

Mr Blair said that the choice for Iran was clear. “They help the Middle East peace process, not hinder it; they stop supporting terrorism in Lebanon or Iraq and they abide by, not flout, their international obligations. In that case, a new partnership is possible. Or, alternatively, they face the consequence of not doing so: isolation.”

Here is the Times on Bush's response to Syria (which the paper had earlier erroneously identified as one of "two countries once dubbed by President Bush as part of the 'axis of evil'" (the axis of evil actually comprised Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, not Syria):

But Mr Bush also had harsh words for Syria, a country with which, unlike Iran, the US has diplomatic relations. The President said that Syria should stop interfering in Lebanon and “harbouring extremists” and must begin helping “this young democracy in Iraq succeed”.

Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States, said that his country was willing to engage with Britain and America.

I really adore this truculent paragraph in the Times about Bush and Israel:

And, in words clearly directed at Mr Bush as he prepares for his final two years in power, Mr Blair called for the United States to lead a new drive towards peace in the Middle East, including peace in Palestine and the Lebanon, arguing that ultimately it was the only way to defeat al-Qaeda....

The Prime Minister still hopes to persuade the US to engage fully in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, but frustrated British diplomats in Washington say that the White House shows no real sign of being interested in the subject. Mr Bush yesterday said that he had discussed with Mr Olmert the two-state solution and the need for the Palestinian government to embrace the principles behind the road map for the Middle East peace process, but made it clear that their talks had focused on Iran and Iraq.


Back to the AP article about various American defense officials pressuring Maliki to disband the Shiite militias:

Abizaid was the third top U.S. official to visit Iraq since Oct. 30, and the meeting came a day after al-Maliki promised to shake up his government in a bid to end the sectarian slaughter.

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was first to visit, followed five days later by U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

Before Abizaid pushed the same theme, Negroponte also demanded that al-Maliki disband militias by year's end - but was met with a flat rejection. Al-Maliki told Negroponte such a move would be political suicide. Al-Maliki, a Shiite, relies heavily on two major Shiite political groups which run the heavily armed militias.

In Monday's meeting, the government said, Abizaid "emphasized the multinational forces' commitment to training Iraqi security forces to handle security in all Iraqi provinces." [That is, the New Iraqi Army and the Iraqi National Police -- not private militias, especially not the Mahdi Militia, which is controlled by Iran through Muqtada Sadr, or the Badr Brigades, which are at the least heavily supported by Iran.]

Note that, while Hadley and Negroponte delivered this message before the election, Abizaid affirmed the same demand today, not only after the election but after speculation that Bush would pull out of Iraq and hand it over to Iran -- and Iran's Iraqi militias.

This back-and-forth highlights the central conundrum in Iraq: Muqtada Sadr, the most pro-Iran politician (and militia leader) in Iraq, was the kingmaker who put Maliki on the throne and who keeps him there. But the United States is getting angrier and angrier about Maliki's refusal (or inability) to rein in the Shiite militias... both Sadr's Mahdi Militia, which is overtly pro-Iranian, and also their bitter enemy, the Badr Brigades (controlled by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, the strongest political opponents of Nouri al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party).

At some point, loggerheads will come to a head, and Maliki will be forced either to fish or get off the pot: he will have to choose between Sadr and Bush, because he won't be able to have the support of both. His attempt to get permission from the ruling parties to "shake up" his cabinet might be his first steps towards freeing himself from Muqtada Sadr's control; if Maliki succeeds, he might be able to substitute some SCIRI support for Sadr, thus freezing Sadr out of the government.

But in any event, it does appear that President Bush hasn't changed; he doesn't support withdrawal of U.S. troops; he isn't going to hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria; and even Tony Blair offered an ultimatum, not appeasement, to those two troublemaking states.


Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 13, 2006, at the time of 7:57 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Has Nancy Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Ears?

Hatched by Dafydd

Incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco, 95%), who led the failed Democratic resistance against the Republican House rule requiring full disclosure of members of Congress who sponsor earmarks (which includes Nancy Pelosi), now wants us to believe that she is poised on the brink of an about-face... now that the Democrats can get credit for what the Republicans already passed over Democrats' objection.

Incoming Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) now preens, fluffing up his feathers as another crusader against congressional pork.

But is there any reason to take seriously either of the two Democratic leaders who have captured Congress? Has either shown any previous interest in reforming congressional corruption, which is expressed most effectively in the form of "earmarks?"

Yesterday, in the Missing Earpiece, I noted that Mrs. Pelosi never seems to have met an ear she didn't like. The Los Angeles Times agrees:

[Nevada Sen. Harry] Reid is not the only powerful member known to use the practice. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a former appropriations panel member, has used earmarks prodigiously....

Last week, when Reid's status rose as Democrats took control of the Senate after the midterm election, the senator promised, like Pelosi, to make earmark reform a top priority when party members caucused.

Hm. Recall that the Democrats in the House voted 147 to 45 against the Republican rules change that identified all earmarks and their congressional sponsors. From Big Lizards' earlier post:

Whenever a new session of Congress begins, the majority typically incorporates the previous rules by voice vote; but it isn't required to do so. In this case, there is reason to doubt the zeal of Mrs. P. and her partisans for this particular program... given that she and the rest of the Democratic leadership, along with most of the Democrats, voted resoundingly against it by more than 3-1 when the Republicans forced it through.

(I link to Captain's Quarters in the previous post; Captain Ed, along with the rest of PorkBusters, has been one of the blogospheric leaders in the fight against pork.)

And recall also that the various changes that Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats proposed did not include any specific repudiation or ban on earmarks, or even a committment to maintain the Republican rule that makes them transparent (after the 2007 budget). Again, from the earlier post on this blog:

Now, I want to be totally fair about this. One of the planks of Mrs. Pelosi's program could perhaps be stretched to cover this most invidious legal bribery. It's the last one:

"And subject government contracts to public disclosure and aggressive competition."

But I'm dubious. Why not just use the word "earmarks," which everybody already knows...?

If the Democrats had meant to curtail earmarks, they would have mentioned them by name, rather than use such nebulous circumlocutions as "government contracts." Heck, they don't even say "all government contracts!"

All right; how about the Senate Democrats? Will they be the vanguard of reforming the culture of corruption in Congress? Doubtful, perhaps:

In earlier years, Reid has boldly claimed credit for getting earmarks for his constituents. Last year, he boasted of securing $300 million in earmarks in the transportation bill.

When pressed about his position on earmarks in an interview on public television in January, Reid acknowledged abuses, but added: "There's nothing basically wrong with earmarks. They've been going on since we were a country."

Actually, earmarks have skyrocketed in recent years, from 1,439 in 1995 to 15,268 last year, according to a Senate estimate.

That is, Reid insists there is "nothing basically wrong" with powerful senators and representives forcing Arizona and New Mexico and Vermont to pony up for a bridge that only benefits Alaska... and another one that only benefits Nevada -- and actually puts money directly into Harry Reid's own pocket:

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vows to make reform of congressional earmarks a priority of his tenure, arguing that members need to be more transparent when they load pet projects for their districts into federal spending bills.

But last year's huge $286-billion federal transportation bill included a little-noticed slice of pork pushed by Reid that provided benefits not only for the casino town of Laughlin, Nev., but also, possibly, for the senator himself.

Reid called funding for construction of a bridge over the Colorado River, among other projects, "incredibly good news for Nevada" in a news release after passage of the 2005 transportation bill. He didn't mention, though, that just across the river in Arizona, he owns 160 acres of land several miles from proposed bridge sites and that the bridge could add value to his real estate investment.

I suspect the rules change in the House will remain: if the same number of Democrats vote for it in January 2007, when it can be spun as a Democratic rule, as did in September 2006, when it was a Republican rule, that means 45 Democratic Ayes. Last time, 199 Republicans and Independent Bernie Sanders (I-VT, 100% Dem) voted for the earmark-transparency rule (and 24 Republicans voted against it).

Reformers need 218 votes in the incoming Congress to maintain this rule... assuming it isn't denied a vote via some bizarre manipulation of the process. If all those who voted in favor of the vote last time (Republican and Democrat) do so again, then subtracting those who were defeated (or who didn't run for reelection), and assuming that every Republican successor to a Republican who supported the rule will also support the rule, we have the following:

  1. 199 Republicans minus 28 defeated by Democrats leaves 171 votes supporting the rule;
  2. 1 Independent replaced by a Democrat still leaves 171 Ayes;
  3. 45 Democrats who voted Aye -- this is the only number I'm not sure of; how many of these Democrats retired and were replaced by Democrats who would oppose the rule? I have no reasonable way to find out.

But assuming number 3 remained steady, then that would give us 216 votes. So if only two extra Democrats support the bill now -- or if the new Republican Minority Leader can armtwist a couple of GOP Nays into Ayes -- the earmark-transparency rule will remain.

But the acid test will be how many Democrats vote to keep it. Words are a whisper, but deeds are a shout: unless Mrs. P. can bring an overwhelming majority of her caucus to support earmark reform in 2007 -- to match the overwhelming majority of Democrats who opposed it in 2006 -- she will have a very hard time claiming credit for it, and any future reference to the "Republican culture of corruption" will provoke howls of laughter.

This is a surprisingly good article from the newspaper that Patterico rightly calls the "L.A. Dog Trainer." The entire first part goes into some detail about Reid's boondoggle bridge, and how he introduced an earmark that likely will quite directly enrich himself.

But it certainly raises a very serious question whether either Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi is really the fittest person to lead a grand crusade against pork... or to sling around terms like "the Republican culture of corruption."

Too bad the L.A.Times didn't publish this piece a month ago. But I suppose it was merely the press of more important news (the Abramoff scandals, Tom DeLay) that pushed this example of blatant Democratic corruption all the way to November 13th, six days after the mid-term election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 13, 2006, at the time of 7:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 12, 2006

In-BEDDD Bloggers

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm coining a new phrase: Bush Election-Disappointment Depression Disorder, or BEDDD. (And that's just where some of them should be staying for a while, until they start to recover; I also recommend plenty of fluids.)

I've talked about this before, but it's not getting any better; rather, it seems to be sweeping the Right like an epidemic, despite the best efforts of Captain Ed, Hugh Hewitt, and myself. And one of the most seriously infected is my all-time favorite blog, Power Line. Read this post and see if you concur with my diagnosis (the indented bits come from the Kansas City Star article Power Line links):

The commission’s discussions are said to be focused on an option presented by a panel of experts that the United States concede that the situation in Iraq cannot be stabilized and make plans for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Iraq "cannot be stabilized"? That strikes me as a ridiculous statement. One can legitimately ask whether Iraq can be stabilized at acceptable political, military or financial cost. But that would require some hard analysis of what the stakes are and what those costs may be. Notwithstanding the results of Tuesday's election, I think the American people are adult enough for such a discussion.

[Director of National Intelligence John] Negroponte reportedly has come to agree with what is expected to be the most controversial of recommendations from the Baker group: that the United States approach Iran, and, in tandem with Israel, approach Syria, for help with Iraq, according to a source familiar with Negroponte’s thinking.

I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but this sounds like the kind of harebrained scheme that only a team of foreign policy "realists" could come up with. Why on God's green earth would Iran and Syria, individually or in tandem, help us to pacify Iraq? Both have been doing everything in their power to create disorder in Iraq for the last three years, presumably because they think it is in their interest to do so. How, exactly, do the "realists" expect to change those countries' assessments of their interests?

Puzzling: so John Hinderaker now believes that President Bush, who has fought against incredible odds to invade Iraq and then to maintain the U.S. presence there, specifically to prevent Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and jihadis, will now embrace a supposed recommendation that we simply negotiate with Iran -- the foremost sponsor of terrorism and the most jihadist state in the world -- and its sock puppet Syria to let them take over Iraq.

And what is the sourcing for these remarkable claims by the Kansas City Star? Let's examine the remarkably persuasive citations:

A top U.S. intelligence official has been meeting with Middle East counterparts to discuss proposals expected from the Baker commission on Iraq, Middle East sources have told Newsday....

The commission’s discussions are said to be focused on an option presented by a panel of experts that the United States concede that the situation in Iraq cannot be stabilized and make plans for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.

An alternative proposal, that the United States commit money and troops toward stabilizing Iraq before a withdrawal, appears less likely of adoption, according to sources familiar with the proposals.... [Say, this "alternative proposal" sounds remarkably familiar... where have I heard it before? And why didn't Power Line mention this part of the article?]

Negroponte reportedly has come to agree with what is expected to be the most controversial of recommendations from the Baker group: that the United States approach Iran, and, in tandem with Israel, approach Syria, for help with Iraq, according to a source familiar with Negroponte’s thinking. A spokesman for Negroponte did not respond to a request for comment Friday....

Whether [a pledge not to attack Iran from Iraq] would be enough to persuade Iran to be more helpful in Iraq is not clear, analysts say. Iranian intelligence officials are said to be extremely worried about a precipitous U.S. pullout from Iraq, and resulting chaos, in the wake of Tuesday’s elections....

“[Secretary Designate of Defense Robert] Gates’ world is Brent Scowcroft and Baker and a whole bunch of people who felt the door had been slammed in their face,” one former official who has discussed Iraq at length with Gates said Thursday. “The door is about to reopen.”

Well! Who could argue with that?

So what do we really have? The elite media, which is well known to obscure, distort, and outright fabricate evidence (Rathergate) to push "the story," whatever it is, publishes articles to the effect that a chastened and vacillating President Bush has decided to throw the conservatives under the bus, convert to liberalism, and has brought Bob Gates in to the Pentagon in order to cut a treasonous deal with Iran to subdivide Iraq.

All this so Bush can quickly yank the troops out of Iraq, thus turning against every last jot and tittle of what he has deeply believed and passionately argued about Iraq, Afghanistan, the GWOT, terrorism, Iran, Syria, and Israel... and every single source they cite is anonymous!

Yet we believe them!

This is almost ritualistically unhinged blather from the antique media, with the usual lack of any sourcing whatsoever. Why does any of us take it seriously?

Let's turn it around: suppose the same paper wrote the same tripe; but instead of saying it was Bush who was so anxious to get out of Iraq that he was willing to hand it over to our greatest enemies in the Middle East, suppose the Kansas City Star claimed that the American military, the soldiers and Marines, were calling for this. And suppose the same level of non-citation.

Would anybody in the dextrosphere believe a word of this folderol? Would any of us believe that the rank and file of the Army or the Marines were so anxious to bug out that they wanted us to hand over the real estate they fought and bled and died for to the enemy?

So why, praytell, do we believe it of the president? President Bush has been at least as stalwart and steadfast on this issue as has any member of the military.

If this turns out to be true, then I and nearly every Republican -- and even a huge number of Democrats -- will recoil in horror from the remains of what had been the Bush administration. They might even themselves call for impeachment... and the congressional Democrats, in that circumstance, would be only too glad to oblige. I would applaud such a man being hounded from office.

But for now, I haven't seen one scrap of evidence beyond the self-serving claims of the media. Remember, there is a "story" in progress here; the story is:

  1. The Republicans will suffer a catastrophic landslide in the 2006 midterm elections;
  2. The voters will repudiate the Iraq war, demand an immediately pull-out, and vent their spleens on the GOP candidates en masse;
  3. The Democrats will take over and immediately take steps to implement the Murtha Mandate: declare defeat and come home, or rather, redeploy just around the corner to Okinawa;
  4. The craven and feckless George W. Bush will turn on a weathervane and support the Murtha Mandate, thus proving that he and every other Republican is an unprincipled bastard who believes in nothing at all, and who has confessed to lying to everybody all along;
  5. The terrorists will be so moved and grateful to the Democrats for exposing the American tyrant that they will beat their swords into ploughhorses and study war no more;
  6. The Democrats will move on from victory to victory, John Edwards (or Hillary, or what-you-may-call-um) will be elected president, and the GOP will cease to exist, to be replaced by the Greens, the Peace and Freedom Party, and the Gay Marriage Party;
  7. The unified and triumphant Left will spread its fecundity to the stars.

Of these plot elements in the Grand Story of the American media, not even number 1 has come to pass: in fact, the Democratic electoral victory fell far short of a landslide and doesn't even look necessarily permanent. But already, the Star and other farsighted newspapers and broadcast TV news stations are working on convincing us of number 4.

In the meanwhile, they're going to have a dickens of a time with number 2, as a new survey by Newsweek reveals. Huge majorities of Americans supported the "legislative priorities" of the Democratic party:

  • 92% support the feds lowering drug prices for Medicare recipients by negotiating directly with drug companies;
  • 89% support increasing the minimum wage;
  • 88% support decreasing the rate of federally guaranteed student loans.

(Wow, three historic legislative revolutions there!)

But then this suddenly bubbled up; naturally, the headline made no reference to these findings [hat tip to Sachi, who e-mailed this to me today]:

While a bare majority of 51 percent called the Democrats' victory "a good thing," even more said they were concerned about some of the actions a Democratic Congress might take, including 78 percent who were somewhat or very concerned that it would seek too hasty a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Another 69 percent said they were concerned that the new Congress would keep the administration "from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism," and two-thirds said they were concerned it would spend too much time investigating the administration and Republican scandals.

Wait, I think I get it: Bush has become a weathercock who shifts with every political wind... which is why he will now cast all of his principles aside, go against everything he has ever argued, and spit upon the graves of American soldiers and Marines in order to implement a policy that is wildly unpopular among American adults.

Yeah. I believe it. And tomorrow, CNN will announce that Laura Bush has decided to join a hippie free-love commune in Big Sur.

Why are we always so quick to believe every horrible claim about President George W. Bush? I think the answer is twofold:

First, because, sad to say, what Thomas Sowell said about liberals in the Vision of the Anointed appears nowadays to apply equally well to conservatives: they have a vision; whoever shares the vision completely is one of the anointed and can do no wrong. But deviating from the vision in even the smallest degree of belief or ritual leads to excommunication; apostates are assumed to be unprincipled tyrants who will do every wicked thing for no reason other than nihilism and the joy of being beastly.

Bush deviates from the vision on one very important issue: rather than being a small-government conservative, he is a big-government conservative. Thus, he is utterly untrustworthy, and he's just looking for an excuse to stab us in the back -- so we'd better knife his back before he gets the chance!

Second, because I strongly believe that George W. Bush is still being punished for the sins of George H. W. Bush, the Judas-betrayer of Ronald Reagan. For after all, doesn't the Bible itself (Exodus 20:5) say...

I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of thy fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.

(Or if you prefer the Jewish version...)

For I the Lord your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me.

Bush the elder betrayed the god of conservatism; so many conservatives, who seem to believe moral weakness is a genetic trait (found on chromosome 19, perhaps), have assumed from the very beginning that Bush the younger was just waiting for a chance to do the same. Whether it's Harriet Miers, Dubai Ports World, or throwing Iraq to Iran like a baby to a hungry lion, these lay-a-BEDDDs are predisposed to believe the absolute worst of President Bush.

It's not just unseemly or even unjust; it's creepy. Why don't we all just back off and at least wait to see (a) what the Baker commission's recommendations are, (b) how Bush responds to them, and (c) what he can persuade the Democrats to do? It won't be long before we find out all of these; and there is nothing we can do in the meantime to affect the outcome of any of them anyway.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 12, 2006, at the time of 11:35 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 11, 2006

Bush's Iraq Speech Next January

Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE: I am remiss in forgetting to tip my hat to commenter jp phish, whose comment in a previous post started this train of thought down the narrow-gauge railway of my mind! Oops...

Contrary to popular belief (especially in the dextrosphere), the Democrats were not elected to control of Congress on a "platform" of withdrawing from Iraq: they were never that unified.

Certainly there is no consensus of the American people to give up, to surrender, to withdraw and leave Iraq to be dismembered by Iran and Syria. Americans aren't Spaniards.

Rather, Democrats were elected on a considerably more nuanced platform: they promised only a "change of course" in Iraq, mostly because they couldn't agree among themselves: John Murtha never convinced Anthony Zinni, and Eric Shinseki never persuaded Harry Reid.

Now of course, to most of the Democratic leadership, "change of course" meant "redeploy to Okinawa." But the very circumlocutions they used prove that they weren't certain that the American people would come along for the defeatism ride.

Actual words matter; and as the only Democratic policy everyone could agree on was to gainsay Bush's "stay the course" mantra -- that leaves the door wide open for Democrats to spin on a dish, now that they are responsible to more than just the nutroots, and argue the exact opposite course from the one many of them championed before the election.

Shortly after the 110th Congress convenes, I believe George W. Bush should demand network time; and he should make the following speech (imagine this being rewritten by Peggy Noonan, to give it that real Ronald Reagan Iran-Contra mea culpa flavor):

Good evening, my fellow Americans. The election of last November was decided on many issues: some, like eliminating corruption and scandal, we can all agree on. Others are more controversial.

The Iraq war is a controversial issue. Some Americans, good Americans who love their country, believe the fight is unwinnable. They believe the only option left to us is to leave defeated, since they do not believe we can leave victorious. I don't agree, and neither do most Americans.

Others believe we should withdraw to secure bases inside Iraq and let the New Iraqi Army that we helped the Iraqis build handle the rest of the fighting. They worry that if we continue to patrol, more Americans will die, and that our national will cannot withstand that. Again, I do not agree: we must continue to patrol and remain in close contact with the Iraqi people, because that is how we gather actionable intelligence to strike at the terrorists among them: if we don't interact with ordinary Iraqis on a day to day basis, we won't find out who the evil-doers are and where we can find them.

But for some time, many insightful Americans, both inside and outside government, have argued that we had not too many, but too few troops in Iraq to finish the job, secure victory against the terrorists and jihadis, and establish a thriving democracy, however different from ours it may appear, in the middle of the Middle East.

I have resisted ordering a major increase, because I know that the bigger the American footprint, the harder it will be in the end for Iraqis to see themselves as responsible for their own country. But the chorus has become a consensus; and now, even the generals on the ground in Iraq agree.

I always said that when it came to waging wars, I would always listen first to the professionals who actually have the responsibility for victory. After having consulted extensively with the commanders on the ground, and with both the new leaders in Congress and also those of my own party, I have concluded that I was wrong, and the critics were right. We sent enough troops to overthrow Saddam Hussein and win the war. But after major combat operations ended, I did not leave enough troops in Iraq to secure the peace.

So tonight I am announcing that I have decided to send an additional 75,000 troops to Iraq. The command staff shall submit a report as soon as possible detailing exactly how many more personnel of each service we need and where we need them. But we have three goals that must be satisfied in order to win this war:

We must secure Iraq's borders with both Iran and Syria. Both of those countries continue to smuggle weapons, explosives, and terrorists into Iraq. Until we can plug those leaks, we can never defeat the jihadis, because Iran and its proxy Syria can just send more.

We must secure the Iraq frontier, primarily in the province of Anbar. This is where many of the Sunni terrorists are based.

And finally, we must secure the capital city of Baghdad, where more than 20% of the entire population of Iraq lives. This means we must dismantle the Shiite militias, including the Iranian controlled Mahdi Militia of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Brigades, which also have close ties with the ruling mullahs in Iran. The bulk of our new forces will be sent to Baghdad.

The new troops will stay at least a year. But they will not leave until the job is done. That is why they volunteered for this dangerous duty: to finish the job and win the war.

We will consult with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. And as much as we can, we will work side by side with the Iraqi Army with the blessing of the Iraqi government. But we invaded Iraq in the first place for a purpose: not just to free the Iraqi people, but to protect the United States of America by denying al-Qaeda and other jihadist terror groups a safe haven in which they can plot their war against us, develop weapons of mass destruction to use against us, and from which they can strike out and kill Americans anywhere in the world, including the American homeland.

The United States will not leave Iraq without fulfiling that purpose. We are steadfast in adversity, we are courageous in combat. Until we are assured that Iraq will never again ally itself with extremism, terrorism, and never again threaten naked aggression against the rest of the world, including against American interests and even America itself, we will not falter or fail. We will do what must be done to protect ourselves, now and in the future.

I call upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to authorize this temporary increase in the level of force. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and their countparts in the Republican Party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Mike Pence, have already consulted their party caucuses in Congress. And we have all agreed that the only way to win a war is for everybody to pull together in the same direction.

Many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle made excellent contributions, and I thank them for their support. With the bravery and courage of the American soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine, and with the help and blessing of God, we shall prevail in this world-wide war against jihad, and in its most important battlefield, Iraq.

And now, all we need is for every American to have the same courage as those facing enemy bullets, bombs, and RPGs. Let's show the bombers and beheaders in Iraq what it really means to face a united America. They wanted a war with the West. They have one. Now let's make them rue the day they picked a fight with the United States of America.

Thank you, and may God bless every one of us.

Americans wanted several things anent Iraq:

  • A change of course to something that worked better and more visibly;
  • Bipartisan action from Congress;
  • A clear understanding why we're in it in the first place. We know what the Iraqis got out of overthrowing Saddam, but what's in it for us?

I hope that most Americans (unlike Nancy Pelosi) will be able to decide whether it's more important for us to win in Iraq or to leave Iraq... and that they will choose victory over defeat.

(The number 75,000 is arbitrary; it would be replaced with whatever figure Gen. George Casey, Commander, Multi-National Force-Iraq, recommends after consulting all the commanders on the ground, the Secretary of Defense, and -- close your eyes, quick! -- the Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress.)

By the way... if I'm right, and the Democrats are willing to go for a change in this direction instead of insisting on that direction, then I predict they will also go ahead and confirm Robert Gates as SecDef.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 11, 2006, at the time of 10:18 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

The Missing Earpiece

Hatched by Dafydd

Ladies and gents, this here post falls into that beloved category of What Is Wrong With This Picture? We seem to play that a lot on this blog.

Yesterday, AP rolled out the first of what will undoubtedly be a myriad of Democratic glorifications. This one was titled, humbly enough, Dems Pledge to Sever Ties to Lobbyists.

In it, the writer (Larry Margasak) gushes about the spanking new Democratic program (now that clean-government Democrats are in charge) to clean up the cesspool left by the "Republican culture of corruption" -- which was one of the major reasons the GOP lost control of both houses of Congress. Funnily enough, even in this paean to the new way, the elite media cannot help introducing a cynical note to mar the beauty of the symphony:

On Day 1 of the next session of Congress, newly empowered Democrats are promising restrictive rules to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation." The city's veteran lobbyists know what to expect on Day 2: requests for political donations from the Capitol's new stewards.

The divine Mrs. Pelosi, Speaker to Be, unveils the Democrats' Honest Leadership and Open Government program on the first day of the 110th Congress, January 3rd, 2007:

Fred Wertheimer, president of the ethics watchdog group Democracy 21, acknowledged there's no magic cure, but added: "There's a difference between doing nothing and doing something. We've got a real shot here of doing something important."

Pelosi says Democrats will end the culture that allowed one-time super lobbyist Jack Abramoff to hand out perks in return for lawmaker favors for his clients, and that led to the jailing of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., for accepting $2.4 million in bribes....

Abramoff faces a prison term, as do former congressional aides who worked for him and one of his lobbying targets, former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

Several other lawmakers in both parties are being investigated by the Justice Department, and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, has been indicted in his home state.

Here's one missing piece: nowhere does the story even mention Rep. William Jefferson (D-New Orleans, 85%), headed for a runoff with the number two vote getter -- another Democrat; a search of Mr. Jefferson's home found about $90,000 of cold, hard cash hidden in his freezer. But that's not the missing piece I meant; that's just garden mill media bias.

So what does the program do? The enthusiastic AP tells us (here is where you come in; please read this list and see if you can detect what is the missing piece):

  • "Ban gifts and travel paid for by lobbyists;"
  • "Double, to two years, the time in which lawmakers and senior officials are barred from lobbying their former offices;"
  • "Force lobbyists to disclose more of their activities;"
  • "Shut down efforts like the Republican 'K Street Project' - a forced alliance with lobbying firms, named for the Washington street that is home to many lobbying offices;"
  • "Require lawmakers to disclose when they are negotiating for private-sector jobs;"
  • "Require House-Senate conferences to be open to the public;"
  • "And subject government contracts to public disclosure and aggressive competition."

So what piece is missing from this enumeration?

Let's take a brief detour: we know what the politician gets out of the contact: loot. The lobbyist funnels a bunch of campaign contributions to the pol, or donations to the Clinton Library, or whatnot. This can add up to a lot of lettuce -- millions of dollars in the case of Cunningham, for example.

Now, we assume the lobbyists (and the special interests they represent) aren't the generous sort. They're not giving away bucks and perks for free! So what do they get in return? What would be so valuable to a corporation, say, that they would be willing to spend several hundred thousand dollars of squeeze to get it?

The payback, of course, is in government expenditures inserted into public bills which go to private corporations for purely private purposes. In a word, earmarks.

Where, Mrs. P., in that laundry list of anti-corruption measures, is the ban on earmarks?

If earmarks were banned, that would probably take care of most of the corruption... which is, of course, equal opportunity between both parties. After all, nobody is going to bribe a congressman if the congressman cannot funnel public funds into the briber's pocket. Jack Abramoff was called many vile epithets, but never a philanthropist... at least, not unless it would drum up some more business.

In fact, it probably wouldn't even be necessary to ban earmarks: a law making all earmarks public record, with a database accessible by anybody through the internet, would have much the same effect: very few senators or representatives are ballsy enough to let the whole world know who is bribing them and how much taxpayer money they're skimming in return.

If you thought charges of a "culture of corruption" were effective last Tuesday, imagine if every challenger in every state and district of the Union had access to a complete list of every dirty deal his incumbent opponent conducted in the past term -- and which slimy special-interest group got the benefit of the fellow's undivided attention!

That would be a novel and exciting thing for the Democrats to propos. Oh, wait -- the Republicans already enacted just such a sunshine policy for earmarks in the 109th Congress. The House passed a rules change on September 14th that requires listing all earmark sponsors in the Congressional Record. (Captain Ed Morrissey has been the go-to blogger on this important subject.)

Earmark reform has been a special project of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK, 100%) for many months now. He couldn't get a bill to ban them or even shine the light of day on them through the Senate; but he did manage to team up with Barak Obama and pass an actual bill creating the Coburn-Obama database; the bill was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president.

But wait, don't pop that cork just yet. The Coburn-Obama database covers spending by the federal administration -- the executive branch -- not special spending by Congress itself; although we would be able to search a database of executive-branch expenditures, there would be no link posted to the individual representatives or senators who inserted such payoffs... thus, no way to use this database to expose pork-chomping earmarkers.

And the new House policy of exposing earmarks was just a rules change, not a law.

Whenever a new session of Congress begins, the majority typically incorporates the previous rules by voice vote; but it isn't required to do so. In this case, there is reason to doubt the zeal of Mrs. P. and her partisans for this particular program... given that she and the rest of the Democratic leadership, along with most of the Democrats, voted resoundingly against it by more than 3-1 when the Republicans forced it through. From Captain's Quarters:

The vote shows who on the Hill gets the new paradigm, and who still lives in the passing age of pork. Democrats voted 147-45 to defeat the new rule, and that included their leadership. Among those opposing the identification of earmarks are Nancy Pelosi, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Patrick Kennedy, Tom Lantos, Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, Betty McCollum, Allan Mollohan, Barney Frank, Henry Waxman, and Ike Skelton, some of whom have been named as committee chairs if the Democrats retake control of the House this fall. Alcee Hastings voted to continue the practice of secret earmarking, no surprise given his impeachment for bribery that removed him from the federal judiciary, and the Democrats want to put him in charge of the Intelligence Committee. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the committee now, voted to support the rule.

In contrast, only 24 Republicans voted against the rule, and all but two of those are appropriators. Twelve GOP appropriators voted for reform, however, including Ray LaHood, a surprise supporter of the rule.

So we have a law that creates a database of the administration's spending, but not Congress's; and we have a strong committment to shining a spotlight on earmark bribery, but only a rules change that can be changed back with a simple majority on January 3rd.

Given Nancy Pelosi's vote against the rule in the first place, and given that there is no mention of doing anything about earmarks as part of the Mrs. Pelosi's Honest Leadership and Open Government program, I think it better than even odds that Captain Ed's joy will be short lived: the Democrats will likely do away with the new rule, quietly and without comment by the antique media, on the same day they introduce their new, improved replacement... which doesn't include any public disclosure of earmarks.

Now, I want to be totally fair about this. One of the planks of Mrs. Pelosi's program could perhaps be stretched to cover this most invidious legal bribery. It's the last one:

  • "And subject government contracts to public disclosure and aggressive competition."

But I'm dubious. Why not just use the word "earmarks," which everybody already knows?

There are thousands of contracts awarded by the government every year; but when someone says "government contracts," he usually means the huge ones worth billions of dollars. I think I'm not going too far out on a limb by suggesting that incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi actually has in mind all those contracts awarded to, ah, Halliburton Energy Services and its subsidiaries, such as KBR (née Kellogg Brown and Root).

Earmarks, by contrast, are often inserted in the dead of night, after a bill has been passed by both House and Senate, during or after the joint conference; the final bill voted on by the two bodies is typically made available to the members only a day or so before the vote... and 24 hours is very little time to read a 3,000-page transportation bill to locate the $12,000,000 allocation for a Grateful Dead museum in San Francisco, or $30,000,000 for a Steve Wynn Library in Las Vegas, or whatever else was slipped in by wily legislators.

If the Democrats had meant to curtail earmarks, they would have mentioned them by name, rather than use such nebulous circumlocutions as "government contracts." Heck, they don't even say "all government contracts!"

When this bill hits the floor on January 3rd... wouldn't it be a blast if Republicans in both houses were ready with an instant amendment to incorporate the House's original earmark sunshine policy into federal law? That way, no future House could simply brush it aside, changing the rules back to where they were before.

I would almost die laughing as I watched the Democrats' contortions, while they try to explain why Mrs. Pelosi's Honest Leadership and Open Government program could not include the anti-earmark rules change that Nancy Pelosi and 77% of House Democrats tried to kill in the first place.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 11, 2006, at the time of 6:49 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 10, 2006

Sit Down, Take a Stress Pill, and Let's Talk This Out

Hatched by Dafydd

Is it just me?

Why is it that wherever I look in the dextrosphere, all I see is:

  • President Bush will be too cowardly to confront the Democrats on anything, and will join with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid to undo everything he has done up to this point;
  • Bush is about to jettison everything he has believed all his life to become a Scowcroftian "realist;"
  • Bush is in an occult conspiracy to hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria to dismember between them;
  • Bush's nominee for secretary of defense, Robert Gates, is the leader of the Machiavellian Scowcroftians, and he has a secret plan to declare defeat in the entire GWOT;
  • Bush will never nominate another decent judge; from now on, he will only nominate Souters, Stevenses, and Ginsburgs;
  • Bush will announce next week that he just cut a deal with the mullahs: they'll give him a dacha on the Caspian Sea if he sells out his country, converts to Islam, acknowledges the imminent arrival of the Hidden Imam, and beheads Richard Perle.

Meaning no offense, anyone thinging any of the above is a wacked-out lunatic with Chicken Little syndrome who needs to sit down and engage in some deep-breathing into a paper bag.

For God's sake, people, get a grip. Bush hasn't "turned on a dime," he hasn't become a "Scowcroftian realist," and he isn't plotting to hand Iraq over to our bitterest enemies -- which incidentally would seal the legacy of Bush himself as more traitorous to this country than Jimmy Carter. Or even Jimmy Kimmel.

And give Gates a break. And a chance. I don't know what he plans to do... but you know what? Neither do you.

Gates did what he did as Director of Central Intelligence because that's what the president wanted him to do. He will do what Bush wants for the same reason: he serves at the pleasure of the president.

He will probably be less confrontational and more deferential to the E-ring at the Pentagon; but that doesn't mean that Bush has abandoned everything he originally selected Donald Rumsfeld to do -- that is quite literally preposterous.

This collapse into raging paranoia is not just unhelpful, it's unseemly. It smacks of panic... and Republicans despise panic, so it does not help the cause.

President Bush was very maladroit in the way he announced Rumsfeld's departure -- after first reassuring us before the election that Rumsfeld would be sticking around to the end. I'm not happy about that. But he has been maladroit before -- the way he responded to the Dubai Ports World disinformation campaign and to the conservative hysteria over Harriett Miers, for example, as well as to the smarmy lies the Democrats have spread about his policies from Iraq to Katrina. But none of these missteps presaged a wholesale repudiation of everything he has ever believed.

Conservatives went from "we don't know enough about Harriet Miers" to "Bush has decided to pack the Court with card-carrying liberal activists" in about ten hyperventilating breaths... but the next guy he sent up was Samuel Alito. With every setback, major or minor, conservatives have prophesied that George Walker Bush was about to abandon everything and turn into George Herbert Walker Bush; but he has shown a steadfastness and courage under fire -- which is more than can be said of many out there in conservative-land.

The stench of panic in the ranks is not just irritating and unseemly -- it's dangerous; it can spook the herd. Bush has been Bush ever since he was elected; he has not changed from 2001 until 2006: why leap to the conclusion that one lost election has abruptly turned him into his father?

Why did he pick Bob Gates? Perhaps he thinks -- rightly or wrongly -- that Gates, with his institutional creds, can do a better job of reforming the military and prosecuting the war on jihadism than the irascible and confrontational Rumsfeld could do at this juncture, five years in. Bush may believe that a bomb-thrower like Rumsfeld was necessary to kickstart the reform process... but that, as the program matures, it's better to have a steady hand that can lead the generals and admirals along, rather than continue to drive them with whip and cattle prod.

I hope he's right; but even if the president is wrong, it's absurd to fall into a frenzy and denounce Bush as a turncoat and one of the enemy. At worst, he's making a big mistake; but we won't even know that much until we see what happens over at least les cent jours of the new Congress. If clear and unambiguous evidence emerges that Bush has been taken over by the pod people, then I'll join you in the bunker. But until then, somebody has to man the wall.

Crikey. If you can't grow any natural courage, can't you at least drink a few shots of the liquid kind?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 10, 2006, at the time of 3:58 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Mrs. P Rallies the Troops

Hatched by Lee

Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was interviewed by Brit Hume on Special Report Wednesday. Hume asked her whether it was more important to win in Iraq or more important to leave Iraq.

Here is her inspirational answer:

The point is, this isn't a war to win, it's a situation to be solved. You define 'winning' any way you want, but you must solve the problem.

This certainly compares very favorably with the less sophisticated Shakespearian speech by King Hal in the Life of King Henry the Fifth, act 4, scene 3 -- the speech that ends this way:

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

It's too bad Shakespeare didn't have Nancy Pelosi editing him; the play would have been much shorter, and it would be easier for students to memorize the important bits.

Hatched by Lee on this day, November 10, 2006, at the time of 4:59 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 9, 2006

Les Cent Jours

Hatched by Dafydd

In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from his exile on the island of Elba and landed in France. The Fifth Regiment, sent to arrest him, instead turned their coats and put themselves under Napoleon's command. For the next one hundred days (les Cent Jours), Napoleon continued to fight and continued to call himself Emperor of France.

But then he was defeated by Wellington and von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th, 1815. Napoleon was captured, sent into exile anew (this time on the island of St. Helena), and died a little less than six years later -- still in exile.

But he had a hundred days in which he could possibly have recaptured the hearts of the French people. He failed.

The new Democratic 110th Congress will be sworn in on Wednesday, January 3rd 2007. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) will be the majority leader of the Senate, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco, 95%) will be the Squeaker of the House. As traditional with new brooms, they will be given les cent-jours to enact the agenda on which they campaigned.

Of course, they will actually have a minimum of two years and a maximum of anything, if they can win reelection. But if, after a hundred days, they haven't had some spectacular victories, voters with attention-deficit disorder will lose patience with them.

So what did they campaign on? I don't mean each individual representative and senator; I mean, what grand themes did all Democrats invoke to nationally brand their campaign? So far as I can recall, there were only three things they all publicly agreed on:

  • Raising the minimum wage;
  • Increasing funding for stem-cell research;
  • Implementing the few remaining pieces of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations that Bush hadn't already implemented.

They could not come together on tax policy; they could not come together on immigration; heck, they couldn't even come together on Iraq: many new Democrats elected Tuesday complained that we hadn't "listened to the generals" (meaning generals like Eric Shinseki and Anthony Zinni) -- and hadn't sent enough troops to Iraq!

Let's deal with each of these in turn.

Maximizing the minimum

The one thing that every Democrat supported was the exciting goal of raising the national miminum wage. Mind, they couldn't get together on exactly how much; but that's easy to resolve: they'll just average all the various proposals, and then throw that out in favor of the highest one.

Republicans' response to this should be very simple. Yes, it might be possible for us to filibuster in the Senate and prevent any increase passing; but while that is good economic policy (there shouldn't be any minimum at all), politically, it's a non-starter.

Instead, the Republicans should make the principled argument that the minimum wage is a job killer, that all economists except Paul Krugman agree it hurts the very people it claims to help... and then allow a vote. In fact, I believe word should go out that this is a "free vote": Republican members can vote their conscience or however their constituents want them to vote.

That means we'll have a few days of wrangling between Charlie Rangel and the new moderates, during which the Republicans will warn that they're really debating how many jobs they'll kill; and then they'll vote, some Republicans will join them, most will vote against it, it will pass, and President Bush will sign it. Done. Gone.

Stem winders

As soon as the Democrats start talking stem cells, President Bush should call a press conference. Before answering all the questions about why we lost (Tony Snow gave a preview on Hugh Hewitt today, it's all the stuff the center-right bloggers have been saying, including here), he should start with a statement, something like this:

As you know, I have always supported stem-cell research -- of all kinds. But in 2001, I sharply limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research to only those lines that existed at that time. I believe it's never right to save some innocent life by killing other innocent life.

But since that time, something remarkable has happened: medical researchers, denied the easy path of extracting stem cells by killing a human embryo, have responded with typical American ingenuity. They have brilliantly solved the problem: we now know how to extract embryonic stem cells without killing the embryo. This is a remarkable breakthrough... and it changes everything.

Congress has made it clear that we need more funding for stem-cell research. And you know what? I completely agree with them. And if they will send me a bill doing exactly that, I will sign it in a heartbeat... provided it contains two critical points: first, the same bill that increases funding for embryonic stem-cell research must also significantly increase funding for adult and placental stem-cell research, two forms of stem cells that have actually shown not just promise, like embryonic stem cells, but actual results, curing real people of real illnesses and conditions. [Short laundry list of cures here.]

Second -- and this is the most important point -- I will only sign a bill to increase funding for embryonic stem cells if that funding is limited to stem cells that are extracted non-destructively. If the bill makes clear that we won't kill one innocent life to save others, I promise to sign it. But if it ignores this spectacular breakthrough and tries to go back to the old way, where we kill a life to save a life, then I promise to veto it.

The ball is in Congress's court: send me a stem-cell bill that fully funds adult and placental stem-cell research and which requires embryonic stem-cells to be extracted without killing the embryo, and I'll sign it into law.

First, there is no reason the Democrats would object to the first condition; they're certainly not going to go before the American people and say "we're all in favor of stem-cell research if we get to kill embryos... but we're not interested in adult or placental stem-cell research, no matter how many cures it can produce!"

Second, it would be equally hard to argue that they want to kill embryos, rather than extract stem cells non-destructively... even though we now have that technology. It would play right into the worst fears of half the country about Democratic hatred of the unborn.

So more than likely, they would agree to both conditions and offer a bill just as President Bush outlined. At that point, there is no longer a serious ethical objection to stem-cell research, because we're not killing embryos; Republicans can vote for such a bill as enthusiastically as Democrats, and it will probably be passed by whopping margins in both houses. Bush will sign it with a rose garden ceremony, the news will cover it... and George W. Bush will have hijacked one of the signature issues of the Democrats without compromising a single conservative principle.

Commissioning the Commission

Finally, I don't think there is anything particularly politically controversial about the 9/11 Commission recommendations. There is no reason for the Republicans to filibuster or even oppose them. Most will sail right through with wide support.

Does this help the Democrats? In a sense, sure: they look masterful. But it also helps the Republicans in Congress, who can argue that they've learned the lessons of the vote: they want to return to their conservative roots and do anything they can to help fight the GWOT. And it's good for President Bush, because he was always in favor of enacting those provisions -- and he can jolly well prove it by reference to past speeches and signing ceremonies during the 109th Congress.

Les quatorze jours

What is my point? Simple: all of the above can be done in the first fortnight. There is no reason to drag it out a hundred days... and a great incentive for Republicans to get it done quickly. In fact, realistically, the last two could be done during the lame-duck session of the 109th Congress, while Republicans are still in command!

Why is that good? Because once those three points of universal agreement (among Democrats) have been enacted... that's it; the Democrats are dry. They will necessarily fall to bickering among themselves about all the other, more weighty issues of the day -- those huge, looming questions about which they have no concensus at all. Very quickly, the country will be treated to the spectacle of Democrats fighting each other, while Republicans stand in the sidelines issuing base-revving moral, national security, and economic pronunciamentos.

By the time the Democrats manage to ram weird compromises on immigration and the war through Congress, voters may well already be disenchanted, and some will be having buyer's remorse (this always happens, but we can speed up the process by not fighting against minor things that nobody disputed in the first place).

Bush can sign or veto any of these bills as they fit his bottom-line requirements: he would sign an immigration deal that resembled his, but he would veto amnesty; he would sign onto a change in direction in Iraq if it met with his generals' approval (especially Gen. George Casey), but he would veto anything that even smelled like cut and run.

And in all cases, he would have plenty enough votes to sustain his veto... probably with even a few moderate to conservative Democrats joining with Republicans. The Democrats will scream that he's a divider -- but Bush can rightly point to the first couple of weeks, during which he openly supported the only three things that all the Democrats and the American people supported. "I've always been willing to shake hands across the aisle; I signed several different bills they sent me. But there's a limit, and my bottom line is that we will not leave Iraq without a victory."

First impressions are lasting impressions: if Republicans can show themselves to be forward-looking, to have learned from their mistakes (they should openly use this phrase), they will leave a very good first impression. As Ronald Reagan showed, Americans hate truculent people who won't admit they were wrong; but they wildly and enthusiastically cheer "the sinner reformed," someone who steps up and says, "by golly, you were right and I was wrong; but I've learned from my mistakes; let's go forward into the future together."

If we quickly give the Democrats the only rational things they ran on (I oppose minimum wage, but it's not insane: it's just wrongheaded), rather than dragging it out for three or four months, kicking and screaming all the way, then we don't give the Democrats the opportunity to look like knight-errant heroes slaying the Republican dragon blocking us from the treasure horde of stem-cell research and port protection. Natural Democratic disunity will create a first impression of the gang that couldn't shoot straight... and that is an impression that lasts and lasts -- as the 109th Congress discovered.

If we have the discipline to do this, then I think Reid's and Pelosi's first hundred days in power will turn out about as well as Napoleon's last hundred days in power... rather than like the first hundred days following the much more significant 1994 Republican victory, during which Newt successfully brought every, single plank of the Contract With America up for a vote -- and passed almost all of them.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 9, 2006, at the time of 4:51 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 8, 2006

Why We Lost

Hatched by Dafydd

Earlier today, I noted the following:


Let's be philosophical; in 2006, all the stars were aligned against us. We had:

  1. The Abramoff scandals;
  2. The Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandal;
  3. The scandals in Ohio;
  4. The scandals in Pennsylvania (related to Abramoff);
  5. The Scandal in Bohemia... oh, wait, that was a Sherlock Holmes story;
  6. The Mark Foley scandal;
  7. The congressional earmarks scandal;
  8. The failure to enact meaningful immigration reform;
  9. The failure to rein in spending;
  10. The failure to win the Iraq War in a timely fashion;
  11. The "Gang of Fourteen," which prevented several jolly good judges from getting onto the bench;
  12. The infuriated conservative base, because of #s 8 though 11 above;
  13. The Tom DeLay indictment;
  14. Two safe Republican districts where the Republican running wasn't even on the ballot (because of the Tom DeLay indictment and the Mark Foley scandal -- both seats flipped);
  15. A GOP standard bearer with a 39% job-approval rating;
  16. And let us not forget... the traditional sixth-year itch: in 1986, Reagan's sixth-year election, the GOP lost 8 Senate seats and control of the Senate; and while they didn't lose as many House seats as this time, that was because they didn't have many to begin with: they went from a 182-253 minority to a 177-258 minority.


Notice something interesting about that list? With the exception of 13 and 16, every other problem that beat us down was a self-inflicted wound.


Sure, a crook isn't going to stand up and announce the fact; he might not even realize he's a crook (or a perv). But that's why we have detectives on the police force and prosecutors in the DA's office: their job is to investigate crimes, find the perp, and do something about putting him away.

The Republicans, both nationally and some state parties, failed miserably at purging their own ranks of ethically challenged elected officials, like Bob Ney and everyone who took money from Jack Abramoff. Heck, they even missed out and out criminals, like Randy "Duke" Cunningham. It may be a cliche, but cliches get that way because much of the time, they're true: about ethical issues, you must be proactive, not reactive.

Simply exercising better watchfulness over our own ranks to stave off old-fashioned corruption and sexual scandal would have eliminated problems 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 -- that last because it's such a no-brainer to eliminate earmarks, or at least shine some sunlight on those taking advantage of them, that failure to act on it is incompetence bordering on negligent particide.

Legislative disaster

8 and 9 are so obvious, they hardly bear discussing. Of course we should have gotten together, party-wide, and enacted some form of immigration reform that at least addressed the three main points -- however we chose to address them -- and then simply passed it. Even people who disagreed with some element would have preferred the Congress enact something... only the bitterest anti-immigration (yes, I mean that, not merely "anti-illegal-immigration") demagogues would rather blow up the whole bill and blow their majority in Congress than accept even the least, little compromise on their "throw the bums out" position, which it pleases them to call a "principle."

(There is something very disturbing about people who elevate every smallest political position of theirs to the level of a principle of righteousness versus evil; it's so Cromwellian.)

And can anybody reading these words dispute that the decision by the Republican majorities in both House and Senate to go on a spending bender that would make Captain Jack Sparrow blush with shame played a major role in losing them both the House and Senate? What was our slogan again? "Sure, we'll spend the country into bankrupcy -- but not quite as fast as the other guys will!"

Herding cats

The Gang of 14; or most particularly, the Seven Dwarfs: John McCain, Lindsay Graham, John Warner, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Mike DeWine, and Lincoln Chafee. Why did they defect? Why did they rush to prevent Republicans from changing the rules so the Democrats couldn't continue their unprecedented strategy of filibustering perfectly qualified judges, just because they preferred someone liberal?

Why didn't Frist find out? How about this: did any of those members have a personal reason to join up... like, say, a judge he wanted to see elevated to the federal bench?

Note: ordinary horsetrading in Congress is not "corruption." Corruption consists of taking money for political favors. Would it be worth it to have the president nominate two or three moderate federal judges... if in exchange, we got the rules change, and we could have confirmed thirty or forty more great, conservative judges? You bet it would have been.

Besides, the principle -- and here I really do mean "principle" -- of a straight up or down vote for every nominee is far more important that this or that individual appointment, even to a lifetime seat on the bench.

Did any of the Seven Dwarfs have a pet legislative project -- not an earmark, but an actual policy the senator believed in -- inoffensive enough that we could live with it, in exchange for his vote in favor of the rules change? We had 55 senators; we only needed two of the Gang to flip. But a good majority leader could probably have gotten all but one of them (Chafee)... which would have given us a cushion against the possible defection of Grassley or Specter. Once again, self inflicted: we had elected a weak and vacillating majority leader in the Senate, and he couldn't corral the cats.

Iraq and a hard place

Fixing the problems above would have taken care of numbers 12, 15, and half of 14: Bush's job approval would have been better, even without the Iraq war going much better... at least into the mid-to-high 40s. But even the Iraq war problems (on a political level) are self administered: our military has in fact been amazingly flexible responding to the terrorists and the insurgents; we have kept the same goal, but we have changed tactics and even large strategy many times, "tacking" back and forth to make way against the wind.

"Stay the course" never meant "change nothing, even when our strategies or tactics don't work." Alas, that's exactly how the Democrats cariacatured it... and President Bush did a wretched job of explaining both our strategy and why we were at war in the first place.

Oh, he said words that technically explained it. But to "explain" something means to make people understand the explanation! An explanation is worthless if most folks don't get it.

If Bush had even half the communicative ability of Ronald Reagan, he could have made the same points... but made them in a way that would have resonated and convinced. That would take care of 10 and 15.

DeLayboring the obvious

The indictment of Tom DeLay was out of our hands; but we could have responded much better. One of two ways: either by DeLay resigning immediately, so a successor could be put on the ballot to hold the seat; or alternatively, by the House GOP digging in its heels, refusing to retract their rules change, and defending Tom DeLay with everything they had. DeLay himself might have been able to hold the seat; heck, even as a write-in, Shelly Sekula-Gibbs got 42% of the vote, and held Democrat Nick Lampson to a bare majority of 52%. That's astounding, and it shows how profoundly Republican that seat truly was.

Instead, we had the worst reaction possible: we changed the rules to allow him to remain majority leader... but then, when the Democrats accused us of corruption, we instantly caved, thus "pleading guilty" to the charge. Great leaping horny toads. Then we didn't even pressure DeLay to drop out of the primary, so that an actual nominee could be chosen and be on the ballot, available for voting. TX-22 was totally holdable, except for Republican incompetence and hand-wringing.

Cat-scratch fever

That leaves only number 16, the "six-year itch." And we saw how prophetic that was in the 1998 election.

So fourteen self-inflited knife wounds to the Republican body politic -- et tu, DeLay? -- that combined to really damage us, turning a minor correction into just enough of a disaster to cost us the House and Senate, albeit by only small margins. None of which will be a problem on November 4th, 2008.

But of course, we're perfectly capable of creating ourselves 16 new problems by then!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 8, 2006, at the time of 5:42 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Tail of the Tape: Post-Mort

Hatched by Dafydd

So how did Big Lizards do on our picks? Pretty well on the specifics; pretty badly on the overall gestalt.

I made 15 specific picks in House races -- either "certain Democratic pick-up," "probable Democratic pick-up," or "Republican hold."

Of those 15, two are still in limbo: GA-8 and NM-1.

  • I thought GA-8 would go to the Democrats; the Democratic challenger, Jim Marshall, currently leads by 1,682 votes, 50.5% to 49.5%, with 99% of precincts reporting.
  • I expected NM-1 would be a Republican hold; Heather Wilson, the Republican incumbent, currently leads her challenger, Patricia Madrid, by 1,303 votes, 50.3% to 49.7%, with 99% of precincts reporting.

If those races stay the way they are, I will have predicted them both correctly. Of the 13 other House races I predicted, I got 12 of them correct; the only race I predicted and missed was OH-15: I thought it would go to the Democrats, but incumbent Rep. Deborah Pryce beat challenger Mary Jo Killroy by 52% to 48%.

So in specific predictions, I will probably end up with 14 out of 15 correct, or 93%. However, where I erred was in believing that the 16 races I called "toss-ups" were true toss-ups... that is, that they would break 50-50; had they done so, the GOP would have won 8 of them; instead, we only won 3, and one is still in question (GA-12).

Since I predicted 14 net Democratic pick-ups, the extra five from the tossups would make it 19. But the Democrats will probably end up with a total gain of 29 seats... where are the extra 10? Simple: those are races I never looked at, because they mostly were not on the list of 50 most threatened House seats.

Thus, I had no chance to make a prediction on them. I have no idea how many I would have called, so I can't include them either as hits or misses. I did, however, predict the Republicans would (by a razor's edge) hold the House... and of course, they will be down by about the same margin they are up today: 232 to 203. So that is a failed prediction. (I'll take this one, because even without the "invisible races," just the extra five from the ones I called toss-ups would have thrown the House to the Democrats.)

On the Senate side, I didn't do quite as well: I predicted 13 seats; no seats apart from those in the batch of 13 changed hands, so I had all the threatened seats at my finger-ends.

Of the thirteen I predicted, I correctly called 9, I definitely missed 2, and I will probably end up having missed 4 altogether; thus, I probably got 9 out of 13, or 69% correct. But again, I missed the biggie: control of the Senate, which (barring a miracle in Montana or Virginia) will slide to the Democrats, though I thought we'd be fairly safe.

I think Mort Kondracke gets the Prophecy Award this cycle; he hit it bang on:

Mort sees the Democrats picking up the following Senate seats: Rick Santorum (PA), Mike DeWine (OH), Lincoln Chafee (RI), George Allen (VA), Jim Talent (MO), Conrad Burns (MT), and of course holding onto both New Jersey and Maryland.

That puts his Senate percentage at, oh, carry the 2... at 100%. It would be rare to do better than that.

Fred Barnes thought we would retain Virginia and either Missouri or Montana; I can't remember which he said. It's still possible, but I doubt it.

And that's the way it was, yesterday, November 7th, 2006.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 8, 2006, at the time of 7:57 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Whither Now?

Hatched by Dafydd

Or should that be "wither now...?"

So what's the plan for the three Republican bodies affected by this turn of the card? In my usual breathtakingly audacious and arrogant manner, I'm here to explain it all for you!

The Republican caucus in the House of Representatives

First, we're not down by much in either chamber. At the moment, Democrats have only a 12-seat majority in the House of Representatives, though that will probably go somewhat higher. The Democrats won't have much more than the Republicans have now... and as we've seen, a 15-vote majority -- when a good portion of the majority caucus doesn't share the goals, let alone support the methods of the party leadership -- can be like herding cats, as Sen. Trent Lott and a whole lot of other folks have said.

So the Republican strategy is clear: wedgie, wedgie, wedgie.

The House GOP caucus has to find as many wedge issues as possible to separate the very, very liberal Congressional leadership from the much more moderate, even betimes conservative Democrats who make up the rank and file of the majority. See if we can split some of them off to support, say, making the Bush tax cuts permanent, or drilling for more oil, or pushing hard for the non-carbon-burning alternative fuel known as nuclear fission, or doing something about illegal immigration, or cutting taxes and spending, or doing something about Social Security and Medicare... and of course, winning the war in Iraq, rather than giving up, going home, and handing a stunning victory to the jihadis.

The Republican caucus in the Senate

In the Senate, we still don't know the fate of either Montana or Virginia; we don't know for sure that the Democrats will capture a majority. But we must assume they will at this juncture. (If they don't, we'll make a new plan, Stan!)

We may not be able to get a senator to turn his spots like Jumpin' Jim Jeffords; but there is certainly a good chance to get one or three or fifteen to defy Sen. Harry Reid and vote with the Republicans on some issues. In such a thin minority -- one seat! -- party discipline will be critical for the Republicans. But we're not going to be able to get senators like Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Charles Grassley, and Lindsay Graham -- not to mention the mischief-maker in chief, John McCain -- to go along with a hard-right, conservative agenda.

So we'll really have to pick and choose our fights; and confirming judicially conservative judges is a great place to start. Remember, not a single Republican senator voted against Chief Justice Roberts (and 22 Democrats joined in), and the only Republican senator to vote against Justice Samuel Alito is now packing his bags to head back to Rhode Island for a very long vacation; again, as with Roberts, Alito got Democratic votes: Sens. Robert Byrd (WV, 85%), Ben Nelson (NE, 55%), Kent Conrad (ND, 85%), and Tim Johnson (SD, 95%).

Republicans always hold together for conservative judges: it's a real party-loyalty builder. Make the Democrats go on record and try to defeat them... never give up, never surrender.

Republicans should make every effort to lure moderate Democrats into voting for President Bush's judicial nominees for the next two years, as well as for administration officials like John Bolton. But besides that, there are the same wedgies they can give the majority party as the House has.

Both Republican caucuses

What the Republicans have to do is (1) show discipline, (2) stand ready to capitalize on any missteps by the new Majority Leader and Squeaker of the House, (3) ruthlessly pursue an agenda of congressional reform -- eliminating earmarks, exposing anyone in either party who is in the same boat as Duke Cunningham or Rep. William Jefferson (and make a big point that the Democrats still haven't thrown Jefferson out of the caucus), and bang pots and pans for spending discipline.

The Democrats talk a good fight about cutting spending, but they don't really want to do it: they want to raise taxes to more than cover it, then spend even more wildly than the Republicans. The clock will be ticking for the Democrats; let's make sure they don't slip it into a back pocket. And hey... the Democrats were never shy about filibustering what they didn't like -- and the voters didn't hold it against them, did they?

Let's be philosophical; in 2006, all the stars were aligned against us. We had:

  1. The Abramoff scandals;
  2. The Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandal;
  3. The scandals in Ohio;
  4. The scandals in Pennsylvania (related to Abramoff);
  5. The Scandal in Bohemia... oh, wait, that was a Sherlock Holmes story;
  6. The Mark Foley scandal;
  7. The congressional earmarks scandal;
  8. The failure to enact meaningful immigration reform;
  9. The failure to rein in spending;
  10. The failure to win the Iraq War in a timely fashion;
  11. The "Gang of Fourteen," which prevented several jolly good judges from getting onto the bench;
  12. The infuriated conservative base, because of #s 8 though 11 above;
  13. The Tom DeLay indictment;
  14. Two safe Republican districts where the Republican running wasn't even on the ballot (because of the Tom DeLay indictment and the Mark Foley scandal -- both seats flipped);
  15. A GOP standard bearer with a 39% job-approval rating;
  16. And let us not forget... the traditional sixth-year itch: in 1986, Reagan's sixth-year election, the GOP lost 8 Senate seats and control of the Senate; and while they didn't lose as many House seats as this time, that was because they didn't have many to begin with: they went from a 182-253 minority to a 177-258 minority.

We just went through a "perfect storm" for the Democrats. You want to know how you can "beat something with nothing?" That's how.

Now, how many of those terrible problems will be hanging around Republican necks, like albatross bad-luck charms, in 2008? Probably none:

  • The stench of these scandals will fade in two years, and it's harder to solicit a juicy bribe when we're in the minority.
  • Nobody will blame the Republican minority for not fixing problems.
  • The conservatives will have had a chance to look the Devil in the eye for a couple of years, and they'll come home.
  • We'll have a new party standard bearer.
  • Texas-22 and Florida-16 will actually have Republicans on the actual ballot! (And maybe even a token opponent in California's 35th district to run against Maxine Waters... unlike this time. How 'bout it, guys?)
  • And most important -- we can go on the offensive against the Democrats, rather than having to defend the mediocre record of our own stewardship.

If we were fifty seats down, it would take many elections to claw our way back. But we'll only be down between 15 and 20 seats in the House, most likely, and only one seat in the Senate -- and that can be made up in a single good election.

To quote that great philosopher, Mr. Spock in "Amok Time":

[The Democrats] may find that having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting. This is not logical, but it is often true.

It's a lot easier to be in the large minority than to be in the small majority: for one thing, everyone will expect results from the Dems... but they'll have little more ability to do so than before winning Congress.

The biggest problem will be for the Democrats to come together. A lot of their newbies in the House are fairly moderate, even verging on conservative; about what are they going to agree with Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Appropriations Chairman John Murtha, Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, and the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence -- disgraced, impeached and convicted bribe-taker Alcee Hastings?

Minimum wage, stem-cell research, "fully implementing" the 9/11 Commission recommendations. All right... and what will they do on the second day?

American really like seeing the parties work together (I hate it, but it's popular with the others); so let's allow them to make the first move (heh). And if instead, the Democrats have any thoughts about finally getting to the bottom of all the lies and corruption and treason of the Bush administration... chuck it out the window, Macaca: that's the swiftest way to make sure their tenure in the majority is about 24 months long.

Republicans should be Republican: don't be afraid to fight; stand together as often as possible; give wedgies to the Democrats; and begin constructing a real Contract With America ver. 2008 right now: it will have to change to accomodate the eventual presidential nominee's own platform; but there's no reason not to come up with a new Contract planks anyway, in addition to whatever agenda Giuliani or Romney or whoever brings to the campaign.

And certainly never help override your own president's veto! If you turn on him, you will disgust Republican voters even further. Rather, support the president: you're not going to be able to enact a pristine, conservative agenda... you lost the friggin' election! So take a page from Reagan's playbook and accept half a loaf -- then use that as Ground Zero to start negotiations on the other half.

President Bush

So you're a lame duck, right? Can't get anything enacted with a Democratic Congress? Yeah, right: tell it to Ronald Reagan!

Form a working majority on each major issue; it doesn't have to be the same majority each time: consult more frequently with Congress (both majority and minority), solicit their input, and then push for as conservative a policy as possible in the circumstances.

The GOP should back you; and all you need is to peel off a few of those new Democratic moderates. Who knows? You might actually be more effective as a "lame duck" than you were in your first six years.

Here's a thought: offer to dramatically increase funding for adult stem-cell research, placental stem-cell research, and even embryonic stem-cell research where the stem cells are extracted non-destructively... in exchange for new Integral Fast or Pebble-Bed nuclear reactors to start weaning us off oil and reduce our carbon output: I'll bet a lot of Democrats in Congress would find that an offer they cannot refuse.

But don't be afraid to veto; you know it'll be sustained, unless about 60 Republicans in the House and 16 in the Senate join in humiliating you. If the Democrats bottle up judges in committee -- bypass 'em with a series of recess appointment. You're not running in 2008; you can afford to be ruffle a few feathers.

Don't "grow in office." Republicans will despise you, and Democrats won't give you any love anyway.

Above all, don't back down on the Axis of Evil: you've got more power as Commander in Chief than in any other aspect of the presidency. Do not, under any circumstances, cut a Nixonian deal with the Democrats to withdraw our troops in defeat.

The country will suffer; the West will shrivel; and the Dems will betray you anyway.

Put them in the position of having to be the bad guys who try (and fail) to shoot down your tax-cut proposals, who attempt to veto sending enough troops into Baghdad to really make a difference, and whose wild spending bills you keep vetoing. Don't worry about embarassing them; it can only help. You're not after the leadership anyway... you're after the rank and file -- that's your secret weapon, that many Democrats really don't like the Democratic leadership and feel secretly embarassed to be associated with them.

Those are my thoughts. I'm sure many of our gentle readers will happily chime in with more good advice from fellow losers...!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 8, 2006, at the time of 4:29 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Alas, the "Other" Turnout Model Won

Hatched by Dafydd

I said before that this was "a tale of two turnouts": I believed that the Republicans would turn out more than the polls were showing; the Beltway pundits like Larry Sabato believed that if anything, the polls were underestimating Democratic turnout.

Sadly for the GOP, it appears that Sabato, Mort Kondracke, Bill Kristol, and that lot were in fact correct: that is exactly what happened.

In the House, there were a bunch of races I called as "toss-ups;" nearly every one of them has gone to the Democrats, and they will end up with a 15-20 seat majority, a pick-up of 30-35. And in the Senate, there were five races that were razor close: Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, and Virginia; it appears that the Republicans will only win Tennessee, and the Democrats will have a 1-seat majority in the Senate -- though we're still not sure about Virginia.

This is almost exactly what Sabato predicted -- though actually, he only suggested a 27-seat pick-up in the House. In fact, Mort Kondracke will probably end up being the best prophet: I still don't know what he was smoking, but I think I want some of it!

So it's going to be an interesting two years. The Democratic control in the House may actually not be enough to push through any of the nutroots wish-list, especially over a presidential veto; but a single-seat majority in the Senate is still enough to bottle up any judicial appointments in committee (the new chairman will presumably be Sen. Pat Leahy, D-VT, 100%).

But how would it play in 2008 if the Democrats simply refuse to allow any judges out of committee, killing each one off by party-line votes? Suppose Justice Stevens or Justice Ginsburg (the two oldest) retires; if the Democrats keep rejecting without letting it go to the full Senate, could President Bush just recess-appoint a strict constructionist to the Court for a year?

(As Friend Lee says, "Hello, Professor Bork? Would you be interested in a short-term engagement?")

So we certainly lost, but we'll live to play another game in just two short years. I think I'll probably sign off for a few hours, let things percolate...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 8, 2006, at the time of 12:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Tail of the Tape - Big Lizards Big Election Prediction Results!

Hatched by Dafydd

NOTE: This post will be pegged to the top of the blog until midnight tonight, Pacific standard time (GMT -8).

New posts will appear underneath it! So be sure to check beneath this post throughout the day, if you don't want to miss a single scintillating sibilant of the slithering saurians.

Here are the tables of House and Senate predictions. As races listed on these tables are called by Fox News Channel, they will be bolded and possibly recolored.

If Big Lizards correctly predicted the outcome, the entry will be bolded and recolored green.

If Big Lizards guessed wrong, then the entry will be bolded and colored red or blue, depending which side won it; also, a marker will be appended indicating Big Lizards was wrong. (We hope there won't be too many of these, and all will end up red-colored!)

And if the race was listed here as a "toss-up," it will be bolded and colored red or blue, but no mea-culpa marker will be added. Remember: green always means "Big Lizards predicted correctly;" red or blue means either "Big Lizards blew it" or "Big Lizards was wishy-washy."

House of Representatives - competitive races

Legend: bold blue means an unexpected Democratic win; bold red means an unexpected Republican win; unbolded red or blue or normal-color italics means a toss-up that still could go either way (50-50), or just a race I haven't updated yet; bold green means Big Lizards guessed correctly (a tag saying "Big Lizards guessed wrong!" means just what it says):

  • AZ-5 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • AZ-8 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • CO-7 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • CT-4 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • CT-5 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • FL-16 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • FL-22 toss-up;
  • GA-8, formerly GA-3; Democratic hold
  • GA-12 Democratic seat, toss-up ~NRP~;
  • IA-1 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • IL-8 Democratic seat, toss-up ~NRP~;
  • IN-2 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • IN-8 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • IN-9 toss-up;
  • KY-3 toss-up;
  • MN-6 Republican hold;
  • NC-11 probable Democratic pick-up;
  • NH-1-- not even on the chart... ouch!;
  • NH-2 probable Democratic pick-up;
  • NM-1 Republican hold;
  • NY-20 toss-up;
  • NY-24 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • NY-26 Republican hold;
  • NY-29 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • OH-2 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • OH-15 probable Democratic pick-up; -- Big Lizards guessed wrong!
  • OH-18 probable Democratic pick-up;
  • PA-4 -- not even on the chart... ouch!;
  • PA-6 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • PA-7 probable Democratic pick-up;
  • PA-10 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • TX-22 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • WI-8 toss-up ~NRP~;

Senate - competitive races

Legend: bold blue means an unexpected Democratic win; bold red means an unexpected Republican win; unbolded red or blue means a toss-up that still could go either way (50-50), or just a race I haven't updated yet; bold green means Big Lizards guessed correctly (a tag saying "Big Lizards guessed wrong!" means just what it says):

  • AZ - Jon Kyl (R) vs. Jim Pederson (D): Republican hold;
  • MD - Ben Cardin (D) vs. Michael Steele (R): Republican pick-up; -- Big Lizards guessed wrong!
  • MI - Debbie Stabenow (D) vs. Mike Bouchard (R): Democratic hold;
  • MN - Amy Klobuchar (D) vs. Mark Kennedy (R): Democratic hold;
  • MO - Jim Talent (R) vs. Claire McCaskill (D): Republican hold; -- Big Lizards guessed wrong!
  • MT - Conrad Burns (R) vs. Jon Tester (D): Republican hold;
  • NJ - Robert Menendez (D) vs. Tom Kean, jr. (R): Democratic hold;
  • OH - Mike DeWine (R) vs. Sherrod Brown (D): Democratic pick-up;
  • PA - Rick Santorum (R) vs. Bob Casey (D): Democratic pick-up;
  • RI - Lincoln Chafee (R) vs. Sheldon Whitehouse (D): Democratic pick-up;
  • TN - Bob Corker (R) vs. Harold Ford (D): Republican hold;
  • VA - George Allen (R): Republican hold;
  • WA - Maria Cantwell (D): Democratic hold;

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 8, 2006, at the time of 12:01 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 7, 2006

On the Other Hand in VA...

Hatched by Dafydd

...Did Michael Barone just say the absentees have not yet been counted in Virginia? He also said that the Republicans made a harder push for absentee votes than did the Democrats; if that accounts for even 10% of the vote, and if Allen wins the absentees by, say, 2%, he would take the lead (if this is all correct).

That's a whole 'nother ball of fish than trying to eke 2,500 votes out of a recount -- which would be virtually impossible. Sitting tight for now, though Missouri and Montana don't look all that good at the moment.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2006, at the time of 9:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

With 100% of Precincts Reporting, Webb Is Slightly Ahead in VA

Hatched by Dafydd

...But it's going to a recount, so we won't know for a while. The margin is about 2,700 votes out of 2,000,000+.

I'm not going to call this until the recount. Hang loose, don't shed your skin...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2006, at the time of 9:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Washington Post Pulls Back From Cardin MD Call

Hatched by Dafydd

We'll see if this holds up; but I thought it was too early a call. Fox News hasn't called theirs back again: it all seems to depend on how many black votes Steele can "steal" from the Democrats... and nobody really knows at this point.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2006, at the time of 8:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrats Winning Toss-Ups, So Far

Hatched by Dafydd

I don't like how the toss-ups are shaping up. So far, the only ones I've been able to call have gone to Democrats:

  • CT-5
  • IN-2
  • IN-9
  • KY-3

On the other hand, at the moment, with over 50% of precincts counted, Republicans are ahead in two toss-up Democratic seats in Georgia, GA-8 and GA-12. So keep your fingers crossed!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2006, at the time of 7:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fox News Calling MD for Cardin - With Steele Ahead and Only 1% Counted?

Hatched by Dafydd

If this turns out to be accurate, I'll be annoyed, of course; but with only 1% reporting and Steele 11% ahead, Fox News Channel is going ahead and calling Maryland... for Ben Cardin!

Sorry, but I'm going to wait to change the "Tail of the Tape" until we see a lot more precincts reporting than that.


Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2006, at the time of 6:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sprinting Over the Rainbow

Hatched by Dafydd

There is a lot of "paint" in this post... so beware, slippery when wet! The previous seven predictive posts on the upcoming election are here:

There was a lot of activity in the last week before today's election -- both good and bad for Republicans. First, the House on the whole got a little less friendly to the GOP; so our final prediction for Republican losses in the House has increased a bit.

But on the other side of the Capitol dome, the Senate got a little brighter... and we reduced our final prediction for Senate losses accordingly. The final estimates are GOP -14 in the House and -2 in the Senate.

Here, as promised, is Big Lizards' final prediction chart for the House, sorted alphabetically by district. We noted holds only where we had previously listed them as possible pickups. Republicans enter this election with a majority of 232 to 203 in the House of Misrepresentatives (squashing the lone "Independent" Rep. S. into the Democrats, where he caucuses -- sometimes in broad daylight and without any shame).

Legend: bold blue means a definite Democratic pick-up; italic blue means a probable Democratic pick-up; normal-weight blue means a likely Democratic hold; normal-weight red means a likely Republican hold; and normal-color italics means a toss-up that could go either way (50-50):

  • AZ-05 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • AZ-8 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • CO-7 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • CT-04 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • CT-5 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • FL-16 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • FL-22 toss-up;
  • GA-8, formerly GA-3; Democratic hold
  • GA-12 Democratic seat, toss-up ~NRP~;
  • IA-1 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • IL-8 Democratic seat, toss-up ~NRP~;
  • IN-2 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • IN-8 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • IN-09 toss-up;
  • KY-03 toss-up;
  • MN-6 Republican hold;
  • NC-11 probable Democratic pick-up;
  • NH-2 probable Democratic pick-up;
  • NM-1 Republican hold;
  • NY-20 toss-up;
  • NY-24 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • NY-26 Republican hold;
  • NY-29 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • OH-02 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • OH-15 probable Democratic pick-up;
  • OH-18 probable Democratic pick-up;
  • PA-6 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • PA-7 probable Democratic pick-up;
  • PA-10 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • TX-22 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • WI-08 toss-up ~NRP~;

But there is yet one more complication: in the past week, a number of polls have moved significantly towards the Republicans -- both the generic congressional poll and also some of the more recent polling in individual Senate races. In most districts, no polls have been conducted since October 26th, before this movement; thus, we do not know what the polls would look like today if polling had been conducted in each district this last week.

But just because we don't know doesn't mean we can ignore it. The movement in some polls was significant. So what to do, what to do? First, I decided that the movement would only really affect districts that were already toss-ups; I have marked the twelve toss-up districts with no recent polling thus: ~NRP~

I picked two different ways to take this "invisible movement" into account: in one approximation, I assumed that only one out of ever six such districts would show enough drift to the right to move from toss-up to Republican hold (12 districts, 2 would shift, which would add 1 to the Republican total... because of the two toss-ups that shift to holds, statistically, one would have been held by the GOP anyway).

In the other approximation, I assumed that one out of every three would do so (4 shifts, which would add 2 to the Republican total). This drift will be factored into the final range below.

As you can see (if you care to count), there are 6 certain Democratic pick-ups, 5 probable Democratic pick-up, and 14 Republican seats that are toss-ups; however, there are also two Democratic seats that are toss-ups, which cancel out two of the others, leaving only a net 12 toss-ups. (The one Democratic seat listed as "leans Democrat" doesn't change anything.) So here are our two approximation formulas, one where 2/3rds of the "lean Democrat" seats switch, the other where 3/4ths of them switch. In each case, half of the toss-ups switch, which means another 6:

Republican losses, low and high estimate:

  1. Low: 6 certain + (2/3 X 5 leaners) + 6 toss-ups = 15.33, which means 15;
  2. High: 6 certain + (3/4 X 5 leaners) + 6 toss-ups = 15.75, which means 16.

But from the low, we must subtract 2 seats for the "invisible movement" factor; and from the high, we subtract only one seat... so the actual range is 13 to 15, with a mid-point of 14 net seats switching from the Republicans to the Democrats. This will leave the Republicans with a razor-thin and probably unmanageable majority of 218 to 216 -- ouch!

Thus, Republican "control," if you want to call it that, of the House will be balanced on a knife-edge: the slightest jar to the left, and it will be the Democrats who have the unmanageable majority. But unmanageable or not, they'll have control of the committee chairmanships -- and then Katie, bar the door, as Sam Donaldson used to say on This Week With David Brinkley, when it still was "with David Brinkley."

(As a secondary prophecy, Big Lizards predicts that if the GOP holds on, the Democrats will frantically offer all sorts of inducements to moderate Republicans to change parties, or at least to vote Democratic in the House organization. But the Democrats will ultimately be unsuccessful in finding a "faithless Republican representative." Why? Because the Republicans know that it's very likely that 2008 will see the Republicans return to the majority -- especially if Democrats get hold of the House and spend two years "investigating" every aspect of the Bush administration. Nobody wants to turn his coat and then find himself back in the minority in two years... just ask Jim Jeffords!)

Note that the next post on Big Lizards will be pegged to the top of the page all day... so be sure to read below it for more new posts!

It will duplicate the chart above (and the Senate chart below)... but periodically throughout the day, as Fox News Channel calls races that are on this chart, the entries will be altered:

If Big Lizards correctly predicted the outcome, the entry will be bolded and recolored green.

If Big Lizards guessed wrong, then the entry will be bolded and colored red or blue, depending which side won it; also, a marker will be appended indicating Big Lizards was wrong. (We hope there won't be too many of these, and all will end up red-colored!)

For example, here is a mini-chart before voting begins:

  • CO-97 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • OH-112 Republican hold;
  • OH-118 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • GA-88 probable Democratic pick-up;

When CO-97 and OH-112 are called, the first for the Democrats, the second for the Republicans:

  • CO-97 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • OH-112 Republican hold;
  • OH-118 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • GA-88 probable Democratic pick-up;

When the GOP unexpectedly takes GA-88 (note OH-118 still hasn't been called):

  • CO-97 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • OH-112 Republican hold;
  • OH-118 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • GA-88 probable Democratic pick-up; -- Big Lizards guessed wrong!

When OH-118 is finally called:

  • CO-97 certain Democratic pick-up;
  • OH-112 Republican hold;
  • OH-118 toss-up ~NRP~;
  • GA-88 probable Democratic pick-up; -- Big Lizards guessed wrong!

Note there is no mea culpa after the OH-118 entry; this is because we didn't guess wrong... it was a toss-up. But by the same reasoning, we didn't guess right, either, so there is no green.

Now we turn to the Senate, where the news is actually better than last week's prediction.

Here is the Senate chart, alphabetical by state. There are no probables here; we forced ourselves to pick Republican or Democrat for each state. Going in, Republicans held 8 contested seats and Democrats held 5, again painting the lone "I" as a "D" for the purpose of counting noses.

Legend: bold blue means a Democratic pick-up; normal-weight blue means a Democratic hold; normal-weight red means a Republican hold; and bold red means a Republican pick-up:

  • AZ - Jon Kyl (R) vs. Jim Pederson (D): Republican hold;
  • MD - Ben Cardin (D) vs. Michael Steele (R): Republican pick-up;
  • MI - Debbie Stabenow (D) vs. Mike Bouchard (R): Democratic hold;
  • MN - Amy Klobuchar (D) vs. Mark Kennedy (R): Democratic hold;
  • MO - Jim Talent (R) vs. Claire McCaskill (D): Republican hold;
  • MT - Conrad Burns (R) vs. Jon Tester (D): Republican hold;
  • NJ - Robert Menendez (D) vs. Tom Kean, jr. (R): Democratic hold;
  • OH - Mike DeWine (R) vs. Sherrod Brown (D): Democratic pick-up;
  • PA - Rick Santorum (R) vs. Bob Casey (D): Democratic pick-up;
  • RI - Lincoln Chafee (R) vs. Sheldon Whitehouse (D): Democratic pick-up;
  • TN - Bob Corker (R) vs. Harold Ford (D): Republican hold;
  • VA - George Allen (R): Republican hold;
  • WA - Maria Cantwell (D): Democratic hold;

Thus, we predict the Democrats will pick up Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, but the Republicans will pick up Maryland. All other seats will be held by the respective parties: net loss to the Republicans of 2 seats, leaving them with a 53 to 47 majority in the Senate.

That's our story, and we're sticking to it... at least until the returns start pouring in!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2006, at the time of 1:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 6, 2006

Maliki's Life of Quiet Desperation

Hatched by Sachi

In the wake of Saddam Hussein's death sentence, we should be jubilant; but we are not, because a dark, uncertain cloud still hovers over our heads.

Last week's joint operation with Coalition (American) and Iraqi troops in Baghdad caught many high-value-targets. This is the good news; Bill Roggio reports:

On Saturday, Iraqi special forces, backed by U.S. advisers, conducted a raid inside Sadr City, the Baghdad bastion of Iranian proxy Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. Three members of a "murder, kidnapping cell" were detained during the raid, and the Mahdi Army fired on Iraqi forces with small arms and RPGs as they departed.

This is the first operation inside Sadr City after Prime Minister Nouri Maliki ordered the lifting of the week-long cordon around Sadr City last Tuesday. On that same day, an operation inside Sadr City netted three terror cell suspects. The order to lift the cordon was hotly opposed by the U.S. military, and Iraqi's vice president also strongly disagreed with the decision. Serious questions have been raised about Maliki's commitment to quell the violence in Baghdad and suppress the power of Sadr's Shiite death squads.

The questions arise from the fact that Prime Minister Maliki heavily leans upon Sadr's political support to remain in office. He may not be wholly owned subsidiary of Sadr (as Sadr is surely an agent of Iran); Maliki shows occasional signs of independence, unlike his predecessor. But at the very least, he is torn between two teams of horses pulling in opposite directions.

The bad news is that Maliki is getting increasingly obstructionist against our effort to curb sectarian and tribal fighting. I'm sure readers heard about Maliki's controversial demand:

Mr. Maliki’s public declaration [lifting the Sadr City blockade] seemed at first to catch American commanders off guard. But by nightfall, American troops had abandoned all the positions in eastern and central Baghdad that they had set up last week with Iraqi forces as part of a search for a missing American soldier. The checkpoints had snarled traffic and disrupted daily life and commerce throughout the eastern part of the city.

The language of the declaration, which implied that Mr. Maliki had the power to command American forces, seemed to overstep his authority and to be aimed at placating his Shiite constituency.

The withdrawal was greeted with jubilation in the streets of Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite enclave where the Americans have focused their manhunt and where anti-American sentiment runs high.

I understand that Maliki is walking a tightrope, to use a different metaphore. He needs to look tough for the benefit of his constituency; he dares not be seen as an American puppet. But when the prime minister of Iraq is incapable of even trying to disarm the Shiite militas (either the Mahdi Militia or the Badr Brigades), he is hardly in the position to dictate terms to American forces.

And we shouldn't be obeying him as if he were an actual, functioning head of state: he is at best a junior partner in this enterprise; if Iraq wants us to respect their sovereignty, then they should act so as to deserve respect.

I get the feeling that Maliki is not expecting Americans to stay much longer. I wonder where he could have gotten that idea? He's banking on the idea that Sadr will survive and become a powerful political player in Iraq... but that American troops will soon redeploy over the horizon to Okinawa.

When that happens (reasons Maliki), he wants to be on the side of the Pit Bull, not the Pekingese: acting like a swaggering leather-boy against the mighty Americans probably seems like necessary performance art.

But like many others who underestimated Americans, Maliki is dead wrong. No matter what happens tomorrow, we're not leaving before we settle with Sadr and his Mahdi Militia, and then the Badr Brigades. The president has a lot of plenary power, even against a hostile Congress... as Ronald Reagan proved again and again: he, not the Squeaker of the House or the Majority Leader of the Senate, is the Commander in Chief; the president, not Congress, orders the troops around... especially as we already have an authorization for the use of force, which has the same legal consequence as a declaration of war.

I don't know why everyone underestimates our troops; yes, if you look at old history (in Clinton's time), America had a disturbing habit of bugging out... but that has not been true since the current president was elected. Why look to history when contemporary reality belies it?

We win battle after battle, and yet everyone (especially everyone with a "D" after his name) imagines defeat is always around the next corner (see today's astonishing paean to defeatism in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, via Power Line).

Of course, if you believe the Democrats' rhetoric -- and you believe they're going to win control of both houses of Congress -- then you would have to conclude that we'll engage in a "strategic rearward advance" before the job is done. All the elite media say so!

Al-Qaeda and Muqtada Sadr believe that if (when!) our congress turns Democratic, the terrorists will win. And they believe that the more people they slaughter, the more likely Democrats will take the control of Congress.

In fact, it's precisely the opposite: the more we are attacked, especially if we're attacked again in our homeland, the angrier Americans will get. Voters are hincky about the Iraq war, not because they're frightened of being attacked, but because the defeatists have convinced the American people that we're losing the war (by the timeworn technique of shouting it long enough and loudly enough that people start to believe it).

Maybe it will take a new president in 2009 to convince Americans that we really are winning (and some demonstrable, visible, and undeniable progress on the ground in Iraq); see Victor Davis Hanson's brilliant opinion piece on his blog yesterday, about which more later. For now:

Long forgotten is the inspired campaign that removed a vicious dictator in three weeks. Nor is much credit given to the idealistic efforts to foster democracy rather than just ignoring the chaos that follows war — as we did after the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, or following our precipitous departure from Lebanon and Somalia. And we do not appreciate anymore that Syria was forced to vacate Lebanon; that Libya gave up its WMD arsenal; that Pakistan came clean about Dr. Khan; and that there have been the faint beginnings of local elections in the Gulf monarchies.

But in spite of all this, all Nouri al-Maliki cares about is his personal political future. How did Iraqi get stuck with this oaf? (Oh, that's right: because they were desperate to get rid of the previous Sadrite: Ibrahim al-Jaafari!)

Maliki is wrong about another point, too: Sadr will not last too much longer. Someone kill him long before we leave Iraq. And very soon now, Maliki and the rest of the Shia will have to decide whether to fish or get off the pot... because if he is still tied to Sadr when Sadr goes down, he'll drag Maliki to the bottom of the Euphrates River like a Jersey canary with a lead weight chained to his ankle.

Hm... not a bad image!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 6, 2006, at the time of 5:54 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 5, 2006

Is Nancy Pelosi Predicting Failure to Capture the House?

Hatched by Dafydd

I was struck by several lines in a Drudge-linked election interview with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco, 100%) on the SFGate website (carried on the front page of the print version, I believe). There are so many wonderful examples right here of everything we've been saying about the Lady from Baghdad by the Bay; but there is one thing so divisive, so loathsome, that it dwarfs every other infelicity she utters.

But I'll get to that last. Let's have some fun, first.

Most folks seem to be focusing on this particularly rational, ladylike outburst from the moderate representative from San Franciso:

"We're going to take back the country for the American people -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- because it has been held hostage by the radical right wing of the Republican Party," Pelosi said.

"This is a freak show, and it has to come to an end," Pelosi said. "This is about a Congress and White House whose purpose is to concentrate wealth into the top 1 percent of our country at the expense of the middle class."

Leave aside her direct steal of "held hostage" from Rush Limbaugh... who of course meant it as a joke, while Nancy Pelosi is deadly serious; the idea that anyone who represents San Francisco, of all places, calling any other group of people a "freak show" is hilarious ("high-larious," if you're George Will).

As is the idea that any Republican can be called a "freak" after eight years of a Democratic White House driven by alternating greed, corruption, and satyriasis -- a vacillating, rudderless administration that encompassed, and is forever defined by, the president of the United States accepting millions of dollars from the People's Liberation Army of Red China (and changing U.S. defense policy to favor the Communists), pardoning Marc Rich in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Clinton library, being impeached, and trying to explain a stain.

Then there is this:

"If indeed it turns out the way that people expect it to turn out, the American people will have spoken, and they will have rejected the course of action the president is on."

So if it doesn't turn out "the way that people expect it to turn out," will that mean the American people will not have spoken? (Actually, that is exactly what she means; read on.)

Or this, immediately following. Rep. Pelosi offers the olive branch of bipartisan reconciliation:

If they win, Democrats will immediately reach out to Bush to find a bipartisan way to begin redeploying troops "outside of Iraq," Pelosi said. They will also apply pressure to disarm the militias, amend the Iraqi constitution and engage in diplomacy in the region.

There they go again! A "bipartisan way" to cut and run. And then, after cutting, and after running, they will "apply pressure to disarm the militias." What pressure would that be? Without Coalition troops, how exactly can we pressure Iraqis to do anything at all? Why... by a vote, of course! A big, bipartisan "sense of the House" resolution that militias are icky and Iraqis should disband them. Brilliant, simply brilliant.

The plan brings to mind a wonderful sentence from the G.K. Chesterton classic the Man Who Was Thursday: "You die for Mankind first, and then you get up and smite their oppressors."

(In fact, if the Coaltion were to redeploy to Okinawa, as Rep. John Murtha, D-PA 75%, demands, militias could only increase, not decrease; if neither side could rely upon American forces to hold down the other until Iraqi democracy is established, the only alternative would be to raise tens of thousands to defend their tribal territory. I suppose this is beyond Mrs. Pelosi's ken; at least, she doesn't seem to have thought of it.)

Or this:

"It just goes to show you, though, how bankrupt the Republicans are of ideas," Pelosi said. "This election is about the president of the United States; it's not about me. But it's interesting they've made the president of the United States the political hit man, and now he's making personal attacks, not only on me, but on the city I proudly represent."

Mrs. Pelosi... the president of the United States is not up for election. You are. If the Democrats win, you will (maybe) become the Squeaker of the House... not president. The election is all about you!

And here is one where the wannabe elite medium SFGate, gushing over the Speaker of Her Mind, demonstrates just how neutral it is about this race:

The refrain of "San Francisco values" has been used in campaigns across the country to tie more conservative Democrats to the liberal politics of Pelosi and the city, in what many view as a not-so-subtle reference to the city's embrace of diversity.

Diversity! Yes, that's what we have against San Francisco... can't stand all that -- diversity.

But frivolity must end; now is the time to sober up. I found these earlier lines much more chilling:

"I know where the numbers are in these races, and I know that they are there for the 15; today (it's) 22 to 26," Pelosi said Friday. [On a completely unrelated side issue, Mort Kondracke now predicts 4 to 8 more Democratic pickups in the House than even Nancy Pelosi fantasizes!]

Pelosi cautioned that the number of Democratic House victories could be higher or lower and said her greatest concern is over the integrity of the count -- from the reliability of electronic voting machines to her worries that Republicans will try to manipulate the outcome.

"That is the only variable in this," Pelosi said. "Will we have an honest count?''

This is not the way a confident person speaks. A leader who really believes she's headed for the big office does not start laying the ground work for the López Obrador Gambit.

What does that mean? It comes from the Mexican election, won by conservative Mexican President Felipe Calderón on July 2nd of this year. Despite all legal avenues now being closed to challenge Calderón's victory, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Democratic Revolution Party, has yet to concede that he lost, so far as I've seen. I'm sure there are probably still hundreds, if not thousands of his supporters crowding around Zocalo Plaza, insisting that López Obrador is the "people's president," assuming the Rev. Al Sharpton isn't busy with the title at the moment.

What is Nancy Pelosi saying here? That she's confident of victory, unless the Republicans have secretly reprogrammed the dreaded Diebold machines to steal the fourth election in a row? Is there any other way to interpret her words?

Honestly, it sounds to my ear as if she has realized that they're not going to make it... so she's setting up the next two years of Democratic false accusations: everybody knows we really won; if the count went against us, the only possible explanation is -- electronic sabotage!

I cannot imagine anything more divisive -- and destructive to America -- than convincing nearly half the population that our elections are corrupt and fraudulent and should be disregarded in favor of People-Power solutions. Is this really the world that the Democrats want to live in, a world where we have rioting in the streets after every election, as in a South American banana republic?

Do they actually think that, unable to prevail at the ballot box, they can win by mulish refusal to accept reality, suing their way into office, and when all else fails -- by riot?

This is incomprehensible to me. Even in 1980, I don't recall the Democrats claiming that Ronald Reagan's election was "stolen." This is something new and repugnant.

Say, how many levels of basement can the Democrats dig, anyway? Is it just "turtles, turtles, turtles, all the way down?"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 5, 2006, at the time of 3:06 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Fred and Mort Hold the Fort

Hatched by Dafydd

So on the Boyz 'n the Beltway today, Fred Kondracke and Mort Barnes -- oops, sorry; they seem almost like twins these days! -- gave their final predictions for Tuesday:

  • Fred Barnes prognosticates that the Democrats will pick up 4 net Senate seats and 22 net House seats;
  • Mort Kondracke prophecies a net Democratic pickup of 6 Senate seats and 30 (!) House seats.

My first question is -- what has Mort been smoking? 30 House seats is even more than super-pessimist Larry Sabato's crystal ball forecasts. For Mort to be right, Democrats will have to hold every threatened Democratic seat and also pick up every seat where they're ahead... and even three or four seats where they're behind.

He did tell us his system, however: Mort believes that the challenger will pick up every tie where the incumbent isn't over 50%. Of course (I rise tentatively to object), if the incumbent is over 50%, then there couldn't a tie, could there?

(Oh, well, maybe he meant where the incumbent's job-approval rating isn't over 50%; but he didn't say it. Or maybe he meant to say "like George Bush," but the joke went awry.)

Mort sees the Democrats picking up the following Senate seats: Rick Santorum (PA), Mike DeWine (OH), Lincoln Chafee (RI), George Allen (VA), Jim Talent (MO), Conrad Burns (MT), and of course holding onto both New Jersey and Maryland.

[What a great tyop! I just corrected "Jew Jersey" to "New Jersey," an all-timer! In my defense, if you'll look at your keyboards, you will note that the two keys literally touch corners, the northeast corner of N rubbing elbows, if typekeys can be said to have joints, with the southwest corner of J. A couple of people caught it; thanks, folks! And... where the heck were the rest of you?]

Fred agrees with Mort on every race except Virginia and Missouri, I think; actually, it's either Missouri or Montana, I forget which.

Big Lizards thinks the Republicans hold Virginia, Missouri, Montana, and win a seat in Maryland; but Big Lizards is a big chicken, and keeps hedging by saying "net 3," instead of the "net 2" this would actually imply. Somebody give the lizard a kick in the... well, I guess reptiles don't really have keysters, but you get the drift.

The Lizard is also sticking to Democrats gaining 12 in the House, though that is a little less out on a limb taking into account the pair of dicey Georgia seats held by Democrats. One of those (likely GA-12) would make up for a Republican seat unexpectedly flipping -- that Bass seat in NH-2, for instance (we consider that a toss-up that will float back to the Republicans on Tuesday).

Anyway, tune in to Brit Hume's Special Report on Fox News Channel Wednesday either to see Fred and especially Mort crowing... or eating crow!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 5, 2006, at the time of 6:04 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Big Lizards Makes a Stealth Correction!

Hatched by Dafydd

...Can anybody find it?

The same correction was made in two posts. Start digging!

(Friend Lee, who caught the error, is of course ineligible. And remember, this is a correction, not a contest. So please -- no wagering.)

If you think you know, post the initial letters of the corrected copy (either the error or the correction) in a comment. After a bit, I'll drop some hints. Unless everybody gets it right away, in which case I'll berate you all for not pointing it out, you rotten apples.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 5, 2006, at the time of 5:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 3, 2006

Will Saddam Get the Drop?

Hatched by Dafydd

The tribunal trying Saddam Hussein and many of his lieutenants expects to announce the verdict Sunday, the London Times reports; and most expect it to be guilty with the death penalty for "crimes against humanity" -- which might be the first time such a sentence has been handed out for that charge since the Nuremburg Trials. Or were there any others in between?

Saddam, his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Taha Yassin Ramadan, his Vice President, and Awad al-Bandhar, a judge, face possible death sentences for the execution of 148 Shia villagers from the town of Dujail after a failed 1982 assassination attempt on the then Iraqi leader. Four others face lighter sentences. Saddam is likely to win the right to appeal against any death sentence.

Meanwhile, lots of folks are expecting Sunni terrorists to launch a horrific wave of violence when Saddam is sentenced to death; but frankly, I doubt it: such predictions are predicated upon the idea that until now, the terrorists have been "holding back," but now they'll really be hopping mad. I think that's rot: these murderous butchers been going flat out for three or four months now; the pedal's to the metal, and I don't think there's any more horsepower in that engine.

But the real question for me is, even assuming Saddam is sentenced to death... will he ever actually be executed? Or will the Europeans or the U.N. or the Humane Society meddle to prevent it, on the grounds that:

  • We don't know for absolute, 100% certain that Saddam really ordered mass executions in the town of Dujail, or that he was really the dictator of Iraq. He could have had an evil twin.
  • Even if he did it, maybe he was insane; look at him before the invasion: he must have been inhaling junk food! (Hey, it worked for Dan White.)
  • Finally, even if Hussein personally ordered the executions and was in his right mind when he did so, we can't execute him because it would be a barbaric and un-Christian to put to death a man merely because he slaughtered between 300,000 and 5,000,000 people over a few decades. And it wouldn't be fair; you're singling him out... after all, nobody ever executed Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or Nicolae Ceauşescu. (All right, maybe Ceauşescu; but that was more like a revolution -- a people's revolution! -- so it doesn't count.)

As much as I doubt there will be "civil war" if Saddam is sentenced to death, that's just how much I doubt he will ever actually dance on air, be fried, gassed, needled, or given a haircut. I expect that, yet again, la Belle France will ride to the rescue of another mass-murdering dictator.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 3, 2006, at the time of 11:48 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

More On Polling

Hatched by Dafydd

Commenter Big D believes that polling is usually totally wrong, strongly biased towards Democrats:

I stand by my comment - the polls are almost always biased toward the Democrats and are almost always wrong.

Big D is right in a small way; polls are consistently biased left, but it's a very, very small bias (around 1%, maybe 2%). In a larger sense, however, the idea that polls are wildly and deliberately biased left is an electoral myth: the polls are not always wrong; generally, they're quite accurate. But there are some cycles where they're totally off... why is that?

First, a short detour. The 2004 polling was actually very good, very close to the reality of the vote. But the "poll" most often cited is the botched 2004 exit polling, conducted early in the day, which "predicted" that Kerry would win in a landslide -- and the way the media hyped it contributed to the false belief that the election was "stolen."

In fact, properly conducted exit polls are particularly useful... but not for predicting the electoral outcome! This is a particularly stupid idea; why do you need to see a prediction on Election Day of the election results? You'll know the outcome that same night in nearly all cases.

Rather, the purpose of exit polls is to understand why the election fell out the way it did, not try to guess how it will fall out. The proper idea is to conduct exit polling all throughout the voting period; then you compare it to the actual voting in each of those precincts, adjusting the exit poll to match the actual voting. That is, you have poll watchers who actually stay outside and count the number of men and number of women, the number of blacks, the number of whites, and so forth. (You can't count the number of Republicans and Democrats in most cases, alas.) And of course, the total number of voters in each precinct is public information. Then you weight your exit polling sample for the numbers of people in each weighting category who actually voted.

For numbers you cannot observe, you compare the exit polling demography with the known demography of the district, and you try to decide how much of the difference is due to polling methodology and how much is due to actual turnout differences among groups: black males turn out at far smaller a rate than white females, for example; but did they turn out more than expected in that distriction on that day?

What you have left is a very, very good snapshot of why various groups of people voted the way they did, who turned out, and how those two points affected the vote. The exit polling in 2004 that was conducted correctly -- which means, among other things, continuing to poll right up until the polls closed -- was, as always, very illuminating.

Back to regular public polling. I rise in its defense: given their assumptions, the well-known public polls (Gallup, Rasmussen, Pew, SurveyUSA, Field, Mason-Dixon, Quinnipiac, etc.) are by and large sound. The problem comes when the conventional-wisdom assumptions turn out to be wrong -- as in 1994, and perhaps 2006; we won't know that until November 8th.

There are three times I can think of when properly conducted public polling can be significantly wrong:

  • If the turnout assumptions are very wrong;
  • If the pollsters fail to take into account technological changes that may affect how people vote or how respondents are polled;
  • And the "Douglas Wilder effect."

Those turnout blues

First, there is turnout; we've discussed this a lot, as has everybody else. In very, very brief, pollsters must guess the turnout percentage of each of a large number of demographic groups, from blacks to Catholics to married women to blue-collar workers and many others. Then the demography of those who actually end up being polled must be adjusted, or "weighted," to correct it to the demography the pollster expects.

For example, if the pollster believes (based upon past history) that 15% of the electorate in a given district will be black, but his respondent pool ended up being only 9% black, then he weights the black vote, increasing its value in each response to the 15% level. Suppose he polls 1,500 people, of whom only 135 (9%) are black; he expects 15% of the voters to be black, so he should have gotten 225 in the pool.

If those 135 black respondents contributed 122 responses (90.37%) for the Democratic candidate (pretty normal), then in fact, the pollster would up that to 203 responses... which is 90.37% (rounding off) of 225. But note, you must do this for every demographic group you weight for simultaneously. And naturally, all this depends upon the pollster's prediction of demography: if he is badly wrong about that, then his poll will be off correspondingly.

The times they are a-changing

The infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" poll of 1948 was an anomaly, but one that can also bite us in 2006.

That was probably the first year when presidential polls were conducted by telephone... and it turns out -- and should have been suspected in advance -- that people who had home telephones in 1948 were not representative of all voters; they represented more affluent voters.

Given that limitation, the poll was actually correct: if only voters affluent enough to own a home phone were allowed to vote, then Thomas Dewey would indeed have beaten President Harry S. Truman *. Unfortunately for the pollsters' reputations, even the poor and lower middle class were allowed to vote, and Truman did very well among those groups.

* While it is true that Harry S. Truman had no middle name, only an initial, and that he sometimes said it shouldn't have a period, he must have been joking... because in all official documents he produced or signed, there is in fact a period after the initial.

That same error, which I (and nobody else, of course) call the New Technology Deceit, can jump up and bite us again this year (and for the next couple of elections), as more and more people vote absentee or vote eary via touchscreen or other early-voting systems: those who vote early might be unrepresentative of voters as a whole; thus, polls conducted during the time that early voting is allowed may be skewed, because voters who have already voted may change their minds when polled a few days later.

Again, we won't know that until the 8th. (Even if some contests are not yet settled, and even if those contests determine who will control the Congress, we'll still know on November 8th the outcome of virtually every race.)

The Wilder effect

And there is a third circumstance in which polling falls down, sometimes catastrophically. That is when they run into the buzzsaw that is now called (by me and everybody else) the Douglas Wilder effect: when a polling question has a strong component of "cognitive dissonance" -- that is, when answering a certain way would put the respondent at odds with what he knows, culturally or philosophically, he is "supposed" to answer -- then you cannot trust the answer. Respondents will often answer one way, but then, in the privacy of the booth, vote the opposite.

This was discussed yesterday by John McIntyre on Real Clear Politics.

In the Douglas Wilder case, he ran for governor of Virginia in 1989, trying (successfully) to become the first black person elected governor of any American state. All the polls said he would cruise to victory by at least 10-12 points. But when the votes were counted, although he did win, he defeated Republican Marshall Coleman by less than one half of one percent.

Did his supporters desert him? An "election-eve rally" by Coleman? No; pollsters now believe that many, many Democrats, who never really intended to vote for Wilder, nevertheless said they would... because they knew it was the politically correct thing to do to vote for the black guy. But when they got into the voting booth, they pulled the lever for the white guy.

How do they know it was Democrats who betrayed Wilder? Exit polls! The Republicans straightforwardly said they had voted for the Republican; it was the Democrats who said they voted for Wilder... in precincts where he got nowhere near that many votes.

There is one race, as John pointed out, where this effect may affect the election: a recent poll in the Maryland Senate race showed Lt. Gov. Michael Steele only 6 points behind Rep. Ben Cardin (D, 95%); that's in the "leans Democrat" range.

But the same poll also showed Steele's black support at only 12%, and most watchers believe he will in fact get higher than that -- at least 20%, perhaps as much as 25%. John McIntyre speculates that there may be a reverse Wilder effect at play here:

The derision of black Republicans among many in the black political class is some of the harshest and meanest in politics. If you don't believe me, just go and look at what many liberal African-American leaders have said about Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice. Is it possible that some African-American voters are giving pollsters the politically correct answer that they are voting for the Democrat, because they know that is what they are "supposed" to say, but might do something different in the voting booth ?

Well, yes; of course it's possible; but is it correct? We'll find out in just a few days.

Things fall apart, the center cannot hold

Actually -- yes it can hold. All of these three special circumstances together add up to a very small number of actual election years; the circumstances in which polls can fail catastrophically are rare. Normally, properly conducted polls are good indicators of the view of the electorate at that moment (which can change over time -- look at George W. Bush's poll numbers in March 2001, November 2002, and July 2006).

However, 2006 happens to be a year when, for interesting and unrelated reasons, all three anomalous circumstances may be in play:

  1. Pollsters have decided that Democrats are elated and Republicans depressed; thus they appear to believe that black turnout will be high (everywhere except in Maryland), married white turnout will be low, and evangelicals and other religious voters will stay home and sulk. If they're wrong about this -- and I think they are -- that will cause actual turnout to differ dramatically from projected turnout, changing results.

    (Also in the same category, people who choose to respond to pollsters may not be representative of voters as a whole; this is sometimes called the "Republican walk-away effect," mostly by people I don't know.)

  2. Because of early voting, pollsters may detect "changes" in the electorate that do not show up as strongly in the ballot box, because many of the respondents may already have voted before they changed their minds.
  3. And the Wilder effect might be in play in the Maryland U.S. Senate race.

On the other hand, I could be all wet, and conventional wisdom may rule. We'll probably find that out by November 8th, too, or at least before the end of the year.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 3, 2006, at the time of 4:58 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Stupid, Meaningless Observation

Hatched by Dafydd

Am I the only weirdo who has noticed that two of the "endangered" Republican senators -- who are, in fact, right next to each other on RCP's Elections Page -- are Burns & Allen?

Too bad there's no member of the House named Abbott; we already have a Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL, 80%).

And God knows, we have plenty enough Democrats who could be called "the Marx brothers!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 3, 2006, at the time of 1:23 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 2, 2006

A Tale of Two Turnouts

Hatched by Dafydd

Real Clear Politics links to Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, which has just released what might be Sabato's final prediction for the 2006 midterm elections. (He could release a new one at any time, of course; it's a web page, not a print magazine!) Today, Professor Sabato predicted that the Democrats will pick up 6 seats in the Senate and 27 seats in the House, seizing control of both bodies (fairly strong control, in the case of the House).

I just went through the 50 most vulnerable races in the House and the 13 most vulnerable races in the Senate, per the RCP election pages, averaging all post-October 15th polls in every race for which there were polls, and an interesting pattern emerged:

  • In the House, Democrats are currently ahead in 29 of the 45 races in Republican-held districts; Sabato predicted they would pick up 27 of those 29, or 93%;
  • In the Senate, Democrats are currently ahead in the polls in 6 of the 8 Republican-held states; Sabato predicted the Democrats would pick up all six of these races -- 100%.

These "leads" include quite a few in the House where the lead is 1%, 2%, or 3%; and in half of the Republican Senate seats where a Democrat leads, the lead is less than 3%... in fact, it's only 1.4% in MO and 0.8% in VA. But even so, Larry Sabato predicts that Democrats will win nearly all of these -- along with holding every seat of their own: the Senate seats in New Jersey and Maryland and the two House seats in Georgia and Illinois.

In addition, three House races in New York, where Dems are ahead in GOP-held districts, include some very strange results; in NY019, NY-20, and NY-25, the only public polls putting Democrats ahead are those pesky RT Strategies/CD polls... but in each case, RT STrategies/CD gives a whopping lead to the Democrat... far more than even Democratic polls do!

  • In NY-20, two Democratic polls put Kirsten Gillibrand ahead by 2.0 and by 3.0; a Siena College poll puts Republican John Sweeny ahead by 14 points... but the last two RT Strategies/CD polls put Gillibrand ahead by 12 and 13 points, more than six times her lead in the partisan Democratic polls;
  • In NY-19, a Democratic poll actually puts Republican Sue Kelly ahead by 2 points; but two RT Strategies/CD polls put Democrat John Hall ahead by 9 points and 2 points [this is corrected, per commenter Pete; I had switched the two names... but the point is accurate: the Democratic poll has the Republican ahead -- but the RT Strategies/CD poll has the Democrat ahead];
  • And in NY-25, Democratic polls also put the Republican ahead by 2 -- while two RT Strategies/CD has the Democrat ahead by 8 and 9.

(This is one of several reasons why I have lost nearly all faith in the RT Strategies/CD poll... it's just wacky.)

Knock these three off the charts -- not even Sabato himself predicts a Democratic victory in any of them -- and we're left with the conclusion that Sabato, in order to get his 27, must be predicting Democratic victory in at least one Republican district where the Republican is currently leading.

What can explain this? Simple: Larry Sabato is actually predicting a Democratic wave that will wash nearly every close race into their pockets. In other words, he agrees that the pollsters have bad turnout models: but Sabato believes they're being too biased towards Republicans... because ordinarily, a series of toss-up races is not all won by one party.

We can only get to 27 Democratic captures in the House and 6 in the Senate if Professor Larry Sabato believes that Democrats are elated and will show up in record numbers, while Republicans are depressed and will stay home in droves. His mental turnout model has the Democrats, not the Republicans, with the better ground game, such that they win races where they are only 1 or 2 points up now, and even win races where they are 2 or 3 points behind.

By contrast, as I have cautioned many times, the Big Lizards mental turnout model is just the opposite: I see Republicans not as more enthusiastic than Democrats, but more enthusiastic than the pollsters' turnout models, meaning that the polls are slightly biased towards Democrats. Similarly, I believe the GOP GOTV is superior to the Democratic GOTV, and the former will do a better job of turning out party faithful. I believe these two points will lead to a general 3% - 4% "unexpected" bump for the Republicans (which will be portrayed by pollsters as an "election-eve rally")... and at the moment, looking at the polls of today, that would lead to a Republican loss of about 12 seats in the House and 3 seats in the Senate.

All we can say for sure at this point is that Larry and I cannot both be right: one of us is -- or both of us are -- completely, utterly, catastrophically wrong.

Thus, this race has come down to a tale of two turnouts: the one believed by Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, Hugh Hewitt, Power Line, Big Lizards, and many other fast & furious new-media commentators... and the one believed by Howard Dean, James Carville (in public statements, at least), Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, Larry Sabato, and many other "Beltway Brahmins." In short, the one where Democrats have a mild breeze behind them, and the one in which it's more like a hurricane.

Am I hedging? Sure: I could be completely wrong about the turnout. Maybe Sabato (who is even wilder in his pro-Democrat predictions than Mort Kondracke) is totally right; maybe having buttered my bread, I will have to lie in it. But I'm not backing down just because a bunch of relentlessly conventional critics parrot the relentlessly conventional wisdom.

I'll see you all after November 7th -- where I will either make a triumphalist pest of myself, strutting about the board as if I were High Potentate of Next-to-Nothing and Windbag Extraordinaire; or at the very least, I'll go down swinging and take a few of the bad guys with me.

Heck, I've always wanted a honor guard on the road to Hell.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 2, 2006, at the time of 5:26 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Addendum 3 to Sprint: Will the Sleeper Awake?

Hatched by Dafydd

The previous six predictive posts on the upcoming election are here:

Commenter Watchman noted three races in districts currently held by Democrats that could prove surprising upsets on Election Day; at least two of them look very intriguing indeed:

I don't want to be overly optimistic, but you don't list the Dems two seats in Georgia or Bean in Illinois, and I think the GOP has a real shot at taking all three of those.

I'm a bit dubious about the internals of IL-8 (Melissa Bean's seat): via the analysis by RCP, the Daily Herald poll that showed Republican Dave McSweeny only 3 points behind gave a nutroots third-party candidate 8% of the vote, drawn almost entirely from the Democratic side.

Usually, such third-party protests collapse at the polls. People will tell the pollsters that they're going to vote for Pat Buchanan or Ralph Nader, but when crunch time comes, they sigh, close their eyes, and yank the lever for the nearest major-party candidate. Don't be surprised if, in the end, Bean suddenly picks up an additional 5 or 6 points, as the Democrats reject "third-party anti-war candidate Bill Scheurer" when they actually step into the booth. Still, it's a possibility.

As far as GA-8, currently held by Democrat Jim Marshall, we only have Democratic Party polls, which show a solid lead of 16%. However, the internals are very mixed up: the district went moderately strong for Bush in 2004 (55 to 45)... but it also went even more heavily for Marshall, who defeated the Republican by 26%. (Marshall won the seat in 2002 by only 2 points.)

Warning: GA-8 used to be GA-3; they swapped numbers in the 2005 redistricting. So you have to look it up in Michael Barone's Almanac of American Politics by the old number, GA-3. (GA-3 -- formerly GA-8 -- is currently a very conservative seat held by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland - R, 96%.)

So it's a race to keep an eye on, but I don't think there is good public evidence yet that this will be a Republican pick-up. The mixed 2004 results indicate that Marshall has the kind of strong personal backing within the district which can weather challenges, even in a district that is more aligned with the other party. That means Marshall, an Airborne Ranger in Vietnam and very pro-military Democrat, will probably pull this race out and is likely ahead even in Republican polls... which is why nobody is talking about it much.

But Watchman is right about GA-12. I just heard about this today for the first time from Denny Hastert, who was a guest on Michael Medved's first hour; and Hastert himself said this race was on no one's radar. The GOP was caught as wrongfooted as the Democrats.

Current polling (Insider Advantage, which is usually pretty clean) has Democratic incumbent Rep. John Barrow ahead by only 3 points; this is the first public poll listed by RCP since a couple of Republican polls three and a half months ago.

Barrow beat Max Burns last cycle 52 to 48; this is the rematch. But Burns himself is a former representative of this district, having won in 2002 by 55 to 45 against Democrat Charles Walker.

The 12th went for both Gore and Kerry by nearly identical margins, 10 and 9 points respectively; it has been tighter in its congressional races than in the presidential contests, and the Democrat has not always won.

This could be the sleeper race of the South. If the GOP is to win any of these three, I think it will be GA-12, rather than GA-8 or IL-8, despite the fact that RCP ranks the Melissa Bean seat in Illinois the 29th most vulnerable and the John Barrow seat in Georgia as only 35th most vulnerable.

If there are two pick-ups, Bean will be the other. I'm very, very skeptical about GA-8; in a huge Republican year, I think it would be vulnerable... but it doesn't look so in this year. Jim Marshall seems to be well liked in his district, and that is usually decisive.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 2, 2006, at the time of 2:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Addendum 2 to the Sprint

Hatched by Dafydd

The previous five predictive posts on the upcoming election are here:

Just a brief addendum. Yesterday, I listed Florida-16 as a "certain Democraic pick-up." This was the seat held by Mark Foley, which Joe Negron now runs for, hoping to hold it against the challenge by Democrat financier Tim Mahoney. I'd listed it certain pick-up for two reasons:

  1. The RCP average for October is Mahoney +5.7%; that would ordinarily have made it a probable, but...
  2. I assumed that it would be so confusing to voters, having to vote for the pervy Mark Foley in order to get the (presumably non-pervy) Joe Negron, that Negron's vote would suffer.

But I think I might have been buying into Democratic spin. Mea maxima culpa; it happens to the best of us -- me, for instance. Now, several factors make me question that judgment... all of which were brought to my attention by this curious New York Times article (curious because, five days before an election, it's actually pro-Republican, if anything)

First, the story (linked by Drudge) flatly states that Negron and Mahoney are tied:

When Mark Foley resigned from Congress in disgrace five weeks ago, his Democratic challenger seemed headed for one of the easiest victories of the election season.

But in this least predictable of states, Joe Negron, the Republican choice to run as Mr. Foley’s replacement, is getting powerful help as the clock runs down, and now appears to be running almost neck and neck with Tim Mahoney, the Democrat.

Second, I neglected to note that the latest poll in this race listed on RCP's elections page was conducted nearly three weeks ago! That is a lifetime in politics... and most particularly in this most peculiar race, the poll was conducted before the GOP hit on one of the all-time greatest campaign slogans ever devised to differentiate a disgraced pol from the honest and decent pol replacing him on the ballot:

With the National Republican Congressional Committee pouring nearly $2 million into the race and Gov. Jeb Bush campaigning at his side, Mr. Negron, a member of the Florida House, is hoping that even the misfortune of having Mr. Foley’s name on the ballot instead of his own -- a consequence of the last-minute nature of the change -- can be turned to his advantage. Republicans are posting signs urging voters to Punch Foley for Joe,” a reminder that a vote in the Foley column is actually a vote for Mr. Negron.

Finally, the NYT also mentions the following, which I had not known until I read it there:

A poll conducted in mid-October for The South Florida Sun-Sentinel [the "Research 2000" poll on RCP] showed Mr. Mahoney leading Mr. Negron by 48 percent to 41 percent, with 11 percent undecided. But this week two nonpartisan Congressional handicappers, Stuart Rothenberg and Charlie Cook, changed their assessments of the race from “leans Democrat” to “tossup.”

Well! Am I to be more conservative (small-c) than a couple of Beltway pollsters? Not this squamatan.

Consequently, I will change my rating of FL-16 from certain to toss-up as well. Thus, the new prediction chart for the House, sorted alphabetically by district and ignoring the holds; bold blue means a definite Democratic pick-up; bold black means a probable Democratic pick-up; and italics means a toss-up:

  • AZ-8;
  • CO-7;
  • CT-5;
  • FL-16;
  • IA-1;
  • IN-2;
  • IN-8;
  • MN-6;
  • NC-11;
  • NM-1;
  • NY-24;
  • NY-26;
  • OH-15;
  • OH-18;
  • PA-6;
  • PA-7;
  • PA-10;
  • TX-22;

And the new numbers: instead of 7 certains, there are only 6; and instead of 7 toss-ups, there are 8...

New first cut: 6 certain pick-ups + (4 probables X 3/4 = 3) + (8 toss-ups X 1/2 = 4) yields 13 Democratic pick-ups; this is the high-end prediction.

New second cut: 6 certains + (4 probables X 2/3 = 2.67) + (8 toss-ups X 1/3 = 2.67) yields 11.33 Democratic pick-ups.

Thus, the new range is now 11 to 13, with the middle road being 12, instead of 13 -- which is the new bottom line for yesterday's prediction.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 2, 2006, at the time of 4:50 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► November 1, 2006

Last Word on Kerrying Water

Hatched by Dafydd

Thanks to commenter Jonathan Haas, I have now viewed the comment in context (click on John Kerry Speaks a Rally In Pasadena, sic)... and it is now plain to me that it was, in fact, a botched joke.

However, it is also quite clear that Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA, 100%) said exactly what he meant to say. The reason he resisted apologizing for so long is that the "joke" was just what he said: if you don't study, you'll end up stuck in Iraq, as one of those lazy, dumb soldiers.

The opening is a series of three jokes, of which this is the third: but he says it smoothly, not stumbling; he does indeed have a smirk as he says it; and the audience laughs. There is nothing whatsoever to indicate, in even the faintest degree, that he meant to say "you end up getting us stuck in Iraq," referring to that lazy, dumb President Bush (who got at least a good a GPA at Yale and Harvard as did Kerry). Not at all.

This ends the discussion as far as I'm concerned. He was mocking the troops for being lazy and stupid; end of story, so far as this lizard is concerned.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 1, 2006, at the time of 3:12 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Revenge of Sprint to the Finish

Hatched by Dafydd

The previous four predictive posts on the upcoming election are here:

In our last fit in the continuing agony, our bottom line was a Democratic pick-up of 11 seats in the House and 3 in the Senate. First, here is last week's prediction for the House of Representatives:

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.

For this week, I'm afraid I have to increase the certains from 2 to 7, reduce the probables from 7 to 4, and run with 7 toss-ups. FL-16, IN-8, OH-18, and PA-10 all go from probable to certain Democratic pick-ups (with the caveat that there has been no recent polling in OH-18); IA-1 and PA-7 stay probable pick-ups.

But I'm shifting OH-15 from probable pick-up to toss-up. Why? Because I have decided I have scant confidence in the latest round of RT Strategies/CD polling, which consistently came in significantly more Democratic than the other polling in virtually every congressional district. I suspect they have changed their turnout model to make it more Democrat-friendly. When I ignore RT Strategies/CD in OH-15, there is no recent polling. Having nothing better to do with my life, I arbitrarily call that a toss-up.

Too, I have added NY-24 to the certain pick-ups, shifting it from toss-up last time. There has been no polling in between, but I think the Eliot Spitzer juggernaut will drown Ray Meier. And I'm shifting NC-11 from toss-up to probable Democratic pick-up. CT-5 has been added to the toss-up column (from Republican hold last time) because of some recent polling that put the Democrat marginally on top.

Anyway, here is revised list, sorted alphabetically by district and ignoring the holds; bold blue means a definite Democratic pick-up; bold black means a probable Democratic pick-up; and italics means a toss-up:

  • AZ-8;
  • CO-7;
  • CT-5;
  • FL-16;
  • IA-1;
  • IN-2;
  • IN-8;
  • MN-6;
  • NC-11;
  • NM-1;
  • NY-24;
  • NY-26;
  • OH-15;
  • OH-18;
  • PA-6;
  • PA-7;
  • PA-10;
  • TX-22;

Calculating our new bottom line, we again use a couple different formulas for the probables... and this time, for the toss-ups as well. For probables, I multiply both by 3/4ths and by 2/3rds; for toss-ups, I multiply both by 1/2 and by 1/3 (on the grounds that in a toss-up race, incumbents have advantages). We'll compare results from each of these calculations to get a range.

First cut: 7 certain pick-ups + (4 probables X 3/4 = 3) + (7 toss-ups X 1/2 = 3.5) yields 13.5 Democratic pick-ups; this is the high-end prediction.

Second cut: 7 certains + (4 probables X 2/3 = 2.67) + (7 toss-ups X 1/3 = 2.33) yields 12 Democratic pick-ups.

Thus, House Democratic pick-ups range from a low of 12 to a high of 13.5, which means from 12 to 14, centered at 13... though it's actually more likely 12 than 14. But let's say 13.

That would leave the Republicans with a nigh-unmanageable House majority of 219 to 216... but for organizational purposes, I do not believe the Democrats will be able to tempt any Republicans to switch just to flip the House (since the Republicans would bargain hard in the other direction), so I believe the Republicans hold the House -- and all the committee chairmanships.

Now for the Senate. Last week's predictions:

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.)

The easiest thing to do is just print the new chart and reason from there. Here it is, alphabetical by state. As above, bold blue means a definite Democratic pick-up; bold black means a probable Democratic pick-up (though there are none this time); and italics means a toss-up:

  • AZ-John Kyl (R): Republican hold;
  • MD-Ben Cardin (D): Toss-up; [I still 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): Democratic hold; as promised, I checked the polls, and none show even the slightest movement towards Mike Bouchard, despite the Ford layoffs. So I have accordingly shifted this to a certain Democratic hold.
  • MN-Amy Klobuchar (D): Democratic hold;
  • MO-Jim Talent (R): Republican hold;
  • MT-Conrad Burns (R): Republican hold [aside from a Democratic poll, the most recent Rasmussen poll shows Tester ahead by 3 points -- but it was conducted exclusively on Sunday, so it's probably more like 1 to 2 points... well within the range of a good Republican ground game] ;
  • 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): certain Democratic pick-up;
  • TN-Bob Corker (R): Republican hold;
  • VA-George Allen (R): Republican hold [I don't believe recent polls showing minor drift towards Jim Webb... it's too little, too late];
  • WA-Maria Cantwell (D): Democratic hold;

This gives us three certain Democratic pick-ups (Bob Casey defeats Rick Santorum in PA, Sherrod Brown defeats Mike DeWine in Ohio, and the amusingly named Sheldon Whitehouse defeats Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island); but I don't have any probables or toss-ups in Republican seats.

However, I do have two toss-ups in Democratic seats: Bob Menendez vs. Tom Kean, jr. in New Jersey, and Ben Cardin vs. Michael Steele in Maryland. For what it's worth, I think Steele will win but Kean will lose. This would be a pick-up of one seat for the Republicans, thus reducing net Democratic gains to 2.

But I'm still hedging. You can make a good case for calling both Montana (Conrad Burns) and Virginia (George Allen) toss-ups, if you believe that the recent polling isn't a fluke. If we do, that cancels out the NJ and MD toss-ups, leaving us with the same bottom line we had last time: a net Democratic pick-up of 3 seats in the Senate.

The next and last prediction will be sometime on Tuesday. We should know more about Montana and Virginia then. Crack your fingers that the polls don't suddenly go askew between now and then!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 1, 2006, at the time of 7:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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