Date ►►► March 31, 2007
Former Democrat Matthew Dowd Becomes Democrat As Election Looms!
The media madness continues, as the New York Times has found a new, er, scandal with which to bash President Bush and portray him as a hopelessly divisive figure who has destroyed America.
In a (presumably front page) story dated tomorrow, they interview former Bush "insider" Matthew Dowd -- once a Democrat, then a Republican, now a Democrat again -- who proceeds to spout every current liberal talking point to bash Bush. Alas, this does not appear to be an April Fools wheeze.
In 1999, Matthew Dowd looked at the field of presidential candidates and evidently decided that Gov. George W. Bush had the best chance of winning. Although Dowd was a longtime Democratic operative, he switched parties, joined the Bush team as top pollster, and helped elect him over Al Gore. In 2004, the Times claims that Dowd was named chief campaign strategist; but most sources say that Karl Rove held that job... and indeed, the Times agrees that Rove was Dowd's boss. Thus, I'm not sure what actual position Dowd held in the 2004 campaign... but he certainly worked to reelect George W. Bush.
But by 2005, Dowd's "doubts," which he had "suppressed," began to overwhelm him, he now says. He decided that Bush was a divider, not a uniter. Let's take a look at what precipitated those doubts...
Bush the uniter
In the beginning, what Dowd says first attracted him to Bush as a candidate was his stance on education and immigration:
“It’s almost like you fall in love,” he said. “I was frustrated about Washington, the inability for people to get stuff done and bridge divides. And this guy’s personality -- he cared about education and taking a different stand on immigration.”
But Bush's stand on both these issues is unchanged from 1999: Every budget he has submitted has pounded more and more sand down the rathole of the Department of Education; he has never repudiated the pro-affirmative action positions he took in Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003) and Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003); and he is still today pushing harder than ever for comprehensive immigration reform... even trying to work with the new Democratic Congress to get it.
Somehow, that no longer counts as "hands across the aisle" with Matthew Dowd.
Bush the divider
Now, Dowd sees Bush as arrogant and divisive, refusing to listen to the will of the people... thus forcing Dowd to publicly attack his former boss (and incidentally flip back to being a Democrat, just in time for the 2008 campaign season). What are the issues that drove him over the edge?
The September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks:
"[Dowd] said he thought Mr. Bush handled the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks well but 'missed a real opportunity to call the country to a shared sense of sacrifice.'"
Right. Of course, we mustn't consider the numerous speeches he made doing exactly that, warning of a long twilight struggle against global terrorism, and calling on every American to show the same sort of vigilance they did in World War II; going into diplomatic overdrive to get as many nations as possible involved in the fight; pushing through laws like the USA PATRIOT Act; reforming the intelligence agencies; and ordering Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to completely redesign the military to fight the threat we face, rather than the threat we used to face when there was a Soviet Union. No "shared sense of sacrifice" there!
And one certainly cannot claim that the American people responded. After all, Bush had an approval rating fell one point short of 90% on several polls -- and it only stayed extraordinarily high for a mere ten months, until July of 2002, when it finally sank into the high 60s for good. That's peanuts compared to the response a Democrat would have gotten.
Bush managed to limp along in the low-60s right up through the run-up to the Iraq war... and then, when the war started, Bush's job-approval only went back up into the 70s -- not the high 80s. That's just bubkes!
His approval did not finally drop into the low 50s, high 40s until September 2003, when it finally became obvious that Iraq was not going to be like Afghanistan, that it was going to be a long, hard war -- just as Bush said it would be back in 2002.
I'm not exactly sure what Dowd means by saying Bush "missed a real opportunity to call the country to a shared sense of sacrifice;" an approval rating well above 70% -- which he had through much of this time -- is about as "shared" as the American electorate has ever been. But of course, I am only an egg, not a deputy chief campaign strategist, like Mr. D.
"[Dowd] was dumbfounded when Mr. Bush did not fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld after revelations that American soldiers had tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib." [Where "tortured" here means "frightened and humiliated".]
Fire Rumsfeld? For what, exactly? The soldiers guarding Abu Ghraib were not following any Pentagon rules when they stripped prisoners, made them wear women's underware, threatened them, engaged in mock-execution theater -- and certainly not when Spec. Lynndie England herself reportedly stripped naked and paraded before the prisoners (and her own fellow soldiers).
They were investigated long before anybody in the news found out about it; in fact, Sy Hirsch only learned of the incidents at Abu Ghraib from the report that Maj.Gen. Antonio Taguba delivered to Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. Everyone involved was court-martialed, convicted, cashiered, and sent up the river.
Yet Dowd claims to have been "dumbfounded" that Bush didn't also fire his wildly successful Secretary of Defense, who had nothing whatsoever to do with any of this... at a time when the only people calling for his head were Democrats and the elite media. (I wonder; would Dowd also suggest firing the Secretary of Defense whenever a Navy ship runs aground?)
I begin to smell a rat...
Dowd wants us to believe that after Bush was reelected in 2004 as a Republican, Down was convinced that the president would start governing as a Democrat; it was his disappointment that Bush remained a Republican -- and two incidents in particular -- that sent Dowd around the bend:
He said he clung to the hope that Mr. Bush would get back to his Texas style of governing if he won. But he saw no change after the 2004 victory.
He describes the administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, and the president’s refusal in the summer of 2005 to meet with the war protester Cindy Sheehan, whose son died fighting in Iraq, around the same time that Mr. Bush entertained the bicyclist Lance Armstrong at his Crawford ranch as further cause for doubt.
“I had finally come to the conclusion that maybe all these things along do add up,” he said. “That it’s not the same, it’s not the person I thought.”
Naturally, the Times doesn't give us any details about the Hurricane Katrina charge; when serving up a tepid charge in a hit piece, it's always best to resort to vague rumblings about the target's "handling" of such and such; such accusations can never be disproven, unless the handling was literally perfect (which would only occur if we elected God to the presidency.)
The problem is that, when you really start to break down what the president did (and when he did it) before, during, and after that hurricane, you discover that the performance was far from being the bureaucratic disaster it is routinely (and falsely) painted by the drive-by media. In reality, the Bush administration acted swiftly, decisively, and effectively to minimize the Katrina damage and loss of life.
The mistakes they made were relatively minor, especially compared to the much larger mistakes made by soon-to-be-former Lousiana Gov. Kathleeen Babineaux Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (who squeaked to reelection in 2006 by 52-48 in a runoff).
Were it not for the Bush administration's rapid pre-landing response and post-landing followup, thousands more people would be dead.
So what exactly was it about Bush's handing of the hurricane that so saddened Matthew Dowd? I would love to know if Dowd still believes the long-discredited urban legends of multiple murders, rapes, and cannibalism in the Superdome...
And now we really get to the meat: Dowd was stunned that President Bush refused to meet -- for a second time -- with Cindy Sheehan, during the time she had become "the angriest dog in the world" (that's a David Lynch reference, not a comment on her perfectly average looks): camping out in front of Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch, calling him the most vile epithets, accusing him of "murdering" her son, and in general, acting like an unstable mental patient undergoing an episode.
But Bush should have met with her, Dowd says, because...? He offers no reason.
Has he even thought through what would have happened had Bush met with her? She would have berated him, hectored him, lectured him, screamed at him, insulted him and the office, issued diktats that he could not possibly obey, and belittled Bush, the presidency, and the United States -- all on national TV. This would be live, if Bush were foolish enough to allow cameras at the meeting; or if not, then later, when Sheehan would gleefully have reenacted her tantrum for the cameras.
It would have been a PR nightmare, and it would certainly have further damaged the war support, already precarious. If that really were Dowd's advice at the time (which I highly doubt), then thank God he's out of the White House. Were I a Democratic candidate for the presidency considering hiring him for the upcoming campaign, that comment alone would kill the deal for me.
It's as nutty as saying that Bush should attend an anti-war sit-in. It's not merely bad advice, it's stupid advice. But at last, this leads us into the crux of Mr. Dowd's complaints...
The war thing
It really seems to boil down to the Iraq war. But there is an aspect of Dowd's change of heart that particularly disturbs me (repels me, actually): Dowd admits arriving at his new moral denunciation of the war for reasons as personal, if not as drastic, as Cindy Sheehan's:
His views against the war began to harden last spring when, in a personal exercise, he wrote a draft opinion article and found himself agreeing with Mr. Kerry’s call for withdrawal from Iraq. He acknowledged that the expected deployment of his son Daniel was an important factor....
“If the American public says they’re done with something, our leaders have to understand what they want,” Mr. Dowd said. “They’re saying ‘Get out of Iraq.’ ”
First of all, there is no evidence the American people are saying "get out of Iraq." They're clearly saying they not happy with the Iraq war.
But does that mean they necessarily want to immediately abandon Iraq, the Iraqis, and all of our allies, leaving Iraq to complete collapse, to become another failed state -- and a new training and staging ground for al-Qaeda?
Or do the people mean they want to start seeing tangible victories?
To paraphrase Hermann Göring, whenever I hear a man say he is the vox populi -- I reach for my airsickness bag. Oh, please, Matthew Dowd; nobody elected you to lead the American people; they elected (twice) the guy you're now trashing!
But what tore it for me anent Dowd and his fabulous bag of Bush betrayals is his admission that what really turned him so strongly against the war was when "he watched his oldest son prepare for deployment to Iraq as an Army intelligence specialist fluent in Arabic."
That was when Dowd "[wrote] but never submitted an op-ed article titled 'Kerry Was Right,' arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq."
This is repugnant. Dowd was not particularly opposed to the war when other people's sons and daughters were bravely volunteering to defend democracy and modernity against the most horrific butcher in the Middle East, a man who supported barbaric terrorists and who was in talks with al-Qaeda to develop a closer relationship; he didn't speak up when other people's fathers and mothers were risking their lives to create a stable democracy in the heart of the Arab ummah, to try to rescue 25 million people from the hell of the Non-Integrating Gap and nationbuild them into the Functioning Core instead.
No, Down has his epiphany only when his own son nobly (and voluntarily) undertakes that same mission. My God, how humiliated that soldier must feel, now that the New York Times is about to plaster his father's grotesque road-to-Damascus conversion on Sunday's front page: his own father saying that this brave and committed soldier is on a fool's errand, has been duped, and is walking into an unwinnable disaster.
Dowd, with his vast military experience, must certainly know more than Lt.Gen. David Petraus and the troops who are actually on the ground in Iraq -- including, most likely, his own son, whom the Times did not see fit to interview (or perhaps they did, and they simply decided it was not part of "all the news that is fit to print"). Thanks again, Mr. D.
Of course, it's only a coincidence that a new election looms -- with Democratic candidates who might win. I'm sure that realization never factored into the calculations that led Matthew Dowd to reconvert back to the Democratic Party and start publicly Bush-bashing. Nor his decision to parrot back all the Democratic, anti-Bush talking points.
After all, he assures us he has no ambition to be involved in this year's presidential campaigns; and Matthew Dowd is an honorable man. So are they all, all honorable men:
Mr. Dowd does not seem prepared to put his views to work in 2008. The only candidate who appeals to him, he said, is Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, because of what Mr. Dowd called his message of unity. But, he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t walking around in Africa or South America doing something that was like mission work.”
He added, “I do feel a calling of trying to re-establish a level of gentleness in the world.”
So after first being "converted" to the Republican Party by the prospect of a winning presidential campaign... now Dowd feels a "calling" back to the Democratic Party -- now that there's a Democratic candidate who might be able to win. A candidate with a message of "unity" -- and a rating from the Americans for Democratic Action of 95%, the same rating as has Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sens. Barbara Boxer, Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Pat Leahy... uniters all. (Obama's rating from the American Conservative Union is 8%.)
Yes, I can see how Dowd might be attracted to such a non-polarizing figure as Barack Obama; but that doesn't explain Dowd's divisive attacks on the man he worked for, until there were no more elections in Bush's future.
This is truly sad; but it's just one more example of the biggest problem that George W. Bush had and continues to have: He has an inexplicable urge to trust liberals and Democrats in key positions and as key advisors, from liberal Republican Colin Powell as Secretary of State, to Democrat Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation, to Sen. Ted Kennedy as a partner on education issues and the AARP on prescription-drug policies... to Matthew Dowd as chief pollster and later deputy chief campaign strategist.
Like the scorpion and the frog, we know how that always turns out in the end.
Date ►►► March 30, 2007
And the Envelope Please #003
The winners of the Watcher's Council award for best blogposts of the week are...
Among Watcher's Council members:
- Demographics and the Medicalization of Human Existence, by Eternity Road. (I'm not sure why I didn't vote for this post; but I do know they really meant "demography.")
Among the slug-a-beds who haven't joined the Council:
- Tabula Rasa, by Michael Yon
But should you desire to read all the others who garnered at least one vote (which doesn't include Big Lizards this week -- we were shut out!), rush to make your own judgment by reading Watcher of Weasels' full report on Weaselpalooza.
And at last, I shall answer the burning question from last week: For whom did I vote in the last Watcher's Council linkfest?
Among Council members -- where we are not allowed to vote for ourselves -- I cast my primary vote for the American Ideon: Its Decay and Restoration (Eternity Road), and my secondary for Muslim Cashiers Refuse to Touch Pork (Colossus of Rhodey).
Among the great unwashed, my primary was for Quote of the Day, and Is CAIR Paying Lawyers to Intimidate Air Travelers? (my own nominee, from Power Lint), and secondarily for Good News Never Sells (Kobyashi Maru).
Now, let's see how well the guessers did... all two of them. (That is pathetic. Jeez.)
Soccerdad got one right for 25%; he guessed that I voted for the Muslim Cashiers. Binder beat him with 50%, picking both the Power Line post on CAIR and the Eternity Road post, American Ideon.
But since 50% is still a failing grade, I have to say that nobody really won, and I'll never do that again. Slackers.
That Was Then, This Is Still Then. To Them. You Dig?
Just a few Spring mullings...
The more I ponder the Democrats, the more amazed am I at their anachronism. They insist upon living in the past. But unlike Civil War reenactors or the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Left also insists that the rest of us live in their past, as well.
Virtually every position they actually take -- and there aren't many -- is an attempt to relive the "good, old days" of the 1960s (actually, a fantasy 60s that's more like Tribes, Billy Jack, or Hair). In their own tepid way, they are as anxious to recreate a bygone era as are Islamic fundamentalists... which may be one reason they find it easier to understand our enemies than fellow Americans.
Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho
First and most obvious is the Democratic/liberal/New Left support for governance by protest. Back in the very late 60s and early 70s, "protest" was more than a means of political expression; it became, for the first time in American history, a lifestyle choice for a small but influential segment of the populace... a populace that has now grown old (if not up) and seized the levers of governmental power.
The 1960s saw the rise of the professional agitator in America; in this, they mimicked the professional rabble-rousers of Europe, starting in the late 19th century and through the early 20th. But as usual in America, nothing succeeds like excess: Our professional agitators became an entire "class."
Thousands of people decided to take Timothy Leary's advice to "turn on, tune in, drop out" without having the least idea what Leary was talking about: There was a chance to freeload in there somewhere, and by golly, they were going to grab it! Most of the hippies weren't particularly political; but when the Yippies took over the "movement," it became explicitly hard-left; in fact, the Youth International Party paved the way for the Symbionese Liberation Army, the ultimate expression of "action directe."
Action directe, besides being the actual name of an actual terrorist group in France, is the philosophy that rational discussion is no longer sufficient to change the direction of the country towards socialism (or more often, Stalinism). Rather, revolutionaries must take "direct action"... that is, protest, sabotage, and violence.
Political violence is like a drug that comes with a built-in higher rationale:
- It gives the user an amazing high;
- It's addictive;
- It becomes all-consuming, so that the addict must drop out of the normal world. Soon, it's the only thing that matters in the addict's life.
(Terrorism is the ultimate example of action directe, of course; but that takes more courage than is found in most American lefties... to our great good fortune.)
As anybody knows who has paid attention in the past few years, protest as a way of life, which had faded from view for decades, is back... big time. Cindy Sheehan may be the best exemplar. (Warning, harshness alert!) She appears to have filled the void left by her son Casey's heroic death in Iraq with perpetual protest against... well, virtually everything. It's hard to pin her down.
But she has abandoned her real family (including her other son) in favor of the permanent-protester acolytes, who call her "Mother Sheehan" and treat her like a visiting saint.
Sheehan is joined on the agitation circuit by virtually every major Democratic politician; they drift from protest to protest, delivering drive-by remarks on a variety of subject about which they are ignorant. At each venue, they lead the audience in some version of the "hey, hey, ho, ho" chant -- e.g., "Hey, hey, ho, ho, western civ has got to go!"
Puppets and pageantry fill the empty corners of their lives the way that family, friends, and civic activities fill the lives of real Americans. I mean literal puppets: Giant marionettes and Hindenburg-sized inflatable animals are perennials at every major protest, just like they are at every children's party.
Most of the perennial protesting politicians did at least go to university during the 60s; but curiously, many were not, in fact, hippies, Yippies, or protesters themselves (think Hillary Clinton). So it may not be nostalgia so much as a "mulligan." It's an attempt to go back in time and actually engage in the socially conscious behavior they always secretly admired, longed to join, but lacked the courage to do: They wish they could have been, if not Jerry Rubin or Abbie Hoffman, at least John Kerry or Jane Fonda.
And of course, given the age advantage of most Democratic party leaders and the fact that they have at least confabulated memories of the great protest "movement" of the 60s, they still receive the worshipful attention of the mass of today's 20-something protesters -- giving them a hit of a stronger and more addictive drug: guruhood.
For those who want a taste of action directe but aren't gutsy enough to go skinny dipping in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the natural analog is governance by judicial fiat: They take their political theater into the courtroom, shop for a sympathetic judge, and parade a circus of pathetic victims whose woes can only be cured by the direct judicial imposition of socialism, atheism, infanticide, and euthanasia.
Hey, hey, LBJ...
The 60s protests had two distinct foci: the civil-rights movement and the anti-war movement. The latter is most obviously relevant today, with the Iraq war dominating the American consciousness like the Incredible Hulk.
It's one thing to protest the plight of the poor, American support for fascist dictators, genetically engineered corn, abortion rights, grapes, or trans-fats. It is an altogether finer thing to protest a war.
For one thing, wars are big, violent, and obvious; you don't need to enunciate a complex explanation of the evils of war -- as you do when protesting the evils of carbon dioxide, which everybody exhales and green plants love.
All you need do is show pictures of dead, bloody bodies, and you're in business. Who could possibly be in favor of dead and/or mulilated kids? The only trick is to make people believe that America is responsible whenever the enemy commits an atrocity... which is not a difficult task, as most people around the world believe that the American government is God and can do anything it wants. So if it's not preventing some catastrophe, the only explanation is -- they want it to happen!
Thus, President Bush wanted Hurricane Katrina to kill those hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, because the victims were all poor, black Democrats. He wanted the tsunami to wipe out large portions of the developing world. And he certainly wanted those 650,000 (or was that 650 million?) innocent civilians to die horribly in Iraq.
The first two are hard sells, because most Americans are somewhat skeptical of the ability of the President of the United States to prevent natural disasters by signing the Kyoto Protocol. But since we did, in fact, invade Iraq -- a peaceful country led by an enlightened leader who was keeping the Islamists at bay and bringing prosperity and love to his people -- that's an easy sell to anyone who doesn't like Bush. Or Republicans. Or Southerners. Or anyone who believes in the biblical God.
But being anti-war is more than just protesting; it too is a way of political life. Being anti-war means never having to say you're guilty: It provides absolution for any other sin you may commit. This time, think of the corrupt Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%) -- or the ambulance-chasing, settlement-extorting John Edwards.
You don't even need to enunciate a coherent anti-war position, one that tackles the original danger that sparked the war in the first place. All you need do is intone the appropriate mantra -- "war is not the answer," "give peace a chance," "the survivors will envy the dead," "Bush lied, people died" -- and you never have to answer the question of what would have happened had we not gone to war.
War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. So obviously, we must have peace at any price... even if the price is surrender to jihad.
No justice, no peace!
The original cause that spawned the protests of the 60s was civil rights; mass ant-war protest came later. There is a huge advantage to trying to recreate the civil rights era in today's political culture, but there is also a minor drawback:
There really, truly was a nationwide culture of racism and bigotry that had to be overcome, not just in the South but everywhere: Consider the "zoot-suit riots" in Los Angeles, for only one example.
Few people today could look back with equanimity at what ordinary Americans, just a few decades ago, could say and support without feeling shame. Segregation was not invented; and we really did have whites-only public facilities, government sponsored terrorism against Jews, blacks, Hispanics, and Chinese, and concentration camps for Americans of Japanese descent (Michelle Malkin notwithstanding).
- But on the other hand, no such climate exists today. Thus, effective protesters must invent one.
That challenge means the agitator must identify all three elements: the victim, the perp, and the crime. But this can actually be a strategic advantage (when life gives you lemons, squirt lemon juice in people's eyes). During the actual civil-rights era, it was easy for people to ensure they were on the right side: just oppose racial discrimination (Jim Crow laws) while supporting racial discrimination (affirmative action), and you were home free!
But when the Left gets to indentify not only the actors but even the crime itself, then everyone is potentially guilty... so no one is secure.
- Yesterday, the victims were oppressed atheists, the bigots were those who believe in the Judeo-Christian God, and the crime was allowing any cross to be visible anywhere in the United States, rather than hidden decently behind closed church doors. (And sometimes not even there; I cite the College of William & Mary.)
- Today, the victims du jour are radical Moslems, the bigots are those who support the war on global jihad, and the crime is failing to respect the jihadists' religion, which requires them to throw the Jew down the well.
- In early 2001, the victims were Afghan women, the bigots were freshman President George W. Bush and his administration, and the crime was doing absolutely nothing to boot the Taliban out of Afghanistan. See how adaptable the game is?
Maybe tomorrow, the victims will be religious Christian leftists who believe in liberation theology, the bigots will be secular Americans, and the crime will be refusing to vote for socialized medicine and same-sex marriage. We shall overcome!
Where have all the flowers gone?
The Democratic Party has three core crusades, in order of increasing abstraction:
- End the Iraq war at any price: So they agitate for withdrawal, release of political prisoners such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, and reinstating the draft, Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-Harlem, 95%) favorite hobby horse: Terror of the draft spawns million-mom anti-war rallies.
- Eliminate the Jim-Crow laws that elevate Judeo-Christian culture and oppress other religions, such as Islam, Wicca, and Santeria: So they agitate for polygamy, gay marriage, and animal sacrifice.
- Suppress democracy -- legislative action -- in favor of judicial decree and action directe: So they support activist judges and nominate politicians who cater to protest groups, from CAIR, to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, to NOW, to NARAL, to International ANSWER, to NAMBLA.
Each affords the opportunity for Democrats to revel in a past that never was -- or at least never was for them; to riot and agitate and feel the joy of bluster and bravado without the actual risk of combat; to fulfill every libertine fantasy they ever dreamt while toiling away in college; to feel self-righteous and wash away the sins that bedevil them; and simply to indulge the childish desire to run off and join the carnival (complete with a Washington freak show that dims the luster of the geek, the fat lady, and the half-man, half-woman).
Nostalgic for yesterday, frightened by tomorrow, and befuddled by today, the Democrats drive pedal to the metal, while staring fixedly in the rear-view mirror. I hope the American people prefer to watch where we're going.
Date ►►► March 29, 2007
Still the Fever
So the fever continues to rage; the entire Left (and elements of the Right) continue to demand that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resign for... well, for some nameless offense to be filled in later.
"Let the jury consider their verdict," the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first--verdict afterwards."
Despite the scary lede in the AP story (and in the New York Times, as well), there is actually nothing new in Kyle Sampson's testimony about Gonzales' involvement in discussions about firing eight U.S. Attorneys who flagrantly ignored the administration's prosecutorial priorities:
Contrary to his public statements, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was deeply involved in the firing of eight federal prosecutors, his former top aide said Thursday, adding that the final decision on who was to be dismissed was made by Gonzales and President Bush's former counsel.
"I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate," Kyle Sampson, who quit this month as Gonzales' chief of staff, told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign."
Get it? Sampson says Gonzales discussed the process, not the specifics of who would go and who would stay. The state of play is unchanged from our earlier post last Saturday, What the Meaning of "Fizz" Is. We wrote then:
Any ordinary person, when asked if he was involved in discussions about firing the attorneys, would understand the question to mean, "Did you participate in discussions about which attorneys -- if any -- to fire?" And he would honestly say "No, I did not."
Nobody but a Democrat in full cry, anxious to find something, anything, to justify more scandalmongering, would imagine that the original question would also include any ancillary discussions about the best way to break the news to the press!
And we're sticking by it... no matter how gravely Blake Dvorak over on Real Clear Politics shakes his hoary locks... more in sorrow than in anger, you understand.
We agree with Paul Mirengoff: So far, there is no "there" there, no evidence of any lying to or misleading Congress, the American people, or anybody else. Here is the sequence of events, best as I can suss it out:
- Around the time of the 2004 election and for some time afterwards, President Bush, Alberto Gonzales, and others receive complaints about some U.S. Attorneys: They've got a different set of prosecutorial priorities than does the administration; they're bad managers; they're unresponsive.
- Bush tells Gonzales to do something about it. Such appointments aren't eternal; some people should go, others should stay.
- Gonzales considers this a completely non-controversial issue (as it was and always had been), so he dumps it in the lap of his assisstant, Kyle Sampson.
- Sampson proposes firing them all, but Gonzales rejects that idea. It's positively Clintonian.
- Sampson has some discussions with Gonzales about what process to use to figure out who to sack, how to select replacements, how to go about getting the new attorneys confirmed (or whether to use the USA Patriot Act to bypass Senate confirmation), and finally how to announce the sackings.
- Sampson and others in the Justice Department hold discussions, meetings, send e-mails back and forth, talk on the phone, pore over records, all about which attorneys stay and which are asked to leave. There is at this time no evidence that Gonzales was any part of this process.
- The Justice Department group draws up a final list of people they want to replace. The list is sent to the AG.
- Gonzales signs off on the final list and gets the president's approval. He is still unaware that, notwithstanding all the other times U.S. Attorneys have been fired for similar reasons -- and notwithstanding President Bill Clinton's firing of all 93 U.S. Attorneys when he first took office in 1993 (one, Michael Chertoff, slopped over to 1994) -- this time, it will be played by the press as a horrific and unprecedented abuse of power.
- Democrats get hold of the list and gin up a fake controversy by falsely alleging that U.S. Attorneys were fired to stop prosecutions of Republicans. There is no evidence of this, but the Democratic Party's media wing promotes it as inarguable.
- Gonzales is asked whether he participated in discussions about the fired attorneys. He evidently interprets the question as asking whether he participated in the discussions about which attorneys, in particular, to fire; he says no, he left that to Sampson.
- Gonzales subsequently pours gasoline on the fire; when he is assailed in the press by nasty sound-bites from Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, Gonzales apologizes, clarifies, offers to testify, and showing other signs of weakness. Democrats scent blood in the water.
Democrats threaten to subpoena top presidential advisors, including Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, for political show trials -- which would likely violate the constitutional separation of powers doctrine. Nevertheless, Sen. Pat "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, 95%) obtains the authority to issue those subpoenas... on a party-line vote in the J-Com. But he seems to have quietly dropped the idea of issuing them.
(Was it all a bluff, just blustering to make Leahy look stronger than he really is? We'll know after a couple more weeks, I think.)
- Democrats release documents showing that Gonzales participated in some process meetings; the elite media takes the cue, running the story as if this "contradicts" Gonzales' earlier statement.
- Numerous members of Congress -- mostly Democrats but a few rancid Republicans, such as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%) -- accuse Gonzales of "lying" and "misleading" Congress when he said he wasn't involved in the attorney-firing discussions. Again, Democrats cast disagreement about the scope of the question as a federal felony, hoping to send the Attorney General of the United States to prison over political differences.
- (Not so) shockingly, several conservative commentators and bloggers ("I name no names..."), who never liked Gonzales in the first place, seize upon these accusations to join with Democrats in calling for Gonzales' ouster... hoping, evidently, to ensure he won't be named to the Supreme Court.
- Kyle Sampson voluntarily testifies before the J-Com, saying pretty much all of the above. The Democrats leap upon the table and perform the Grand Triumphal March from Aida, acting as if this proves everything they had alleged. (Academy awards are seriously being considered.)
The same conservatives noted above previously demanded and received Harriet Miers' withdrawal as Supreme Court nominee and Don Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense.
Many of them currently also demand the resignation of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, Michael Chertoff as Secretary of Homeland Security and the dismantling of that department. And they have complained bitterly about Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA Director, John Negroponte as the first Director of National Intelligence, and Mike McConnell as current Director of National Security. (I'm not sure what they do during the brief moments when they're not attacking the Bush administration.)
To some, this event-line provokes a non-stop threnody of the horrific "incompetence" and "dishonesty" of Alberto Gonzales. To me, it provokes nothing but annoyance that the traditional reactions and responses of bureaucrats must always be cast as demanding humiliation, dismissal, and incarceration for everyone even remotely connected... but only when the bureaucrats in question are Republicans.
Oh dear, have I discovered another Democratic double-standard... complete with conservatives eager to accept, in order it to trash their hated neocon rivals? Never mind!
Here, feast on this delicious irony instead. From the AP article linked above:
Democrats rejected the concept of mixing politics with federal law enforcement. They accused the Bush administration of cronyism and trying to circumvent the Senate confirmation process by installing favored GOP allies in plum jobs as U.S. attorneys.
"We have a situation that's highly improper. It corrodes the public's trust in our system of Justice," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. "It's wrong."
Yeah. And Webb Hubbell was appointed Associate Attorney General in 1993 solely because of his stellar record of legal achievement... and not at all because he was Hillary Clinton's partner at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas. And of course, those 93 U.S. Attorneys that Clinton fired (that would be all of them) were fired strictly for job-performance issues: Each and every one of them was a lousy lawyer. No politics there!
Where Are the Squeals From the Squeaker?
Continuing with the issue we first raised yesterday in Britannia No Longer Rules the Waves, regarding Iran's seizure of fifteen British sailors and marines on Friday and the subsequent treatment of those hostages... well, what about those violations of the Geneva Conventions, Mr. and Ms. Lefty?
On Friday, March 23rd, while British Royal Marines and sailors were inspecting a fishing boat for contraband in Iraqi waters, "a number of Iranian boats" swarmed up and kidnapped the British military personnel. Iranians "interrogated" the uniformed sailors and marines (violating the Geneva Conventions) and are currently holding them hostage. Iran has just released propaganda video of the hostages, in which they are coerced to confess and to praise their kidnappers (more violations of the Geneva Conventions).
Needless to say, the Brits were not "unlawful combatants," and there is no question that the Geneva Conventions cover them.
Today on Hugh Hewitt's show, Mark Steyn asked the same question: Where is all the weeping and geshreying and genashing of teeth from all those who screamed, protested, rallied, and attempted to hijack American war policy over dubious allegations of "violations of the Geneva Conventions" that supposedly occured at our military base at Guantánamo Bay and at the Abu Ghraib prison?
- Where are the shrill, denunciatory, hectoring voices of Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%) and John McCain (R-AZ, 65%)?
- How about from Democratic candidates (or coy flirts), including Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) and Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%), John Edwards, and Al Gore?
- Where is the finger-wagging of Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC? Where are the protesters who turned out to express their bitter hatred of America for "violating the Geneva conventions?" Where are the rallies, embassy sit-ins, and candlelight vigils for the fifteen British sailors and marines?
- Where are the international demands that Iran release their hostages? Why hasn't the U.N. Human Rights Council demanded release? If they have, they've sure been powerful quiet about it.
- And what about the further indignities inflicted upon Leading Seaman Faye Turney -- being forced into a burkha and head-covering, forced to "confess" that the British were in Iranian waters (when they clearly and undeniably were in Iraqi waters), and then forced to "write" a letter demanding that the UK withdraw from Iraq? Shouldn't the same folks above have been even more galvanized by this personalized assault upon a woman?
- Where are the demands that we freeze all Iranian bank accounts? I haven't heard a word from the usual suspects. Has any of you heard anything? How about calls for boycotts, divestiture, expulsions of Iranian diplomatic missions, shunning, and even (close your eyes, quick!) regime change?
You won't see any, and for a very simple reason: While the Geneva Conventions once were important to restrain the great powers during war between each other, in recent years, they have metamorphosed into nothing but a truncheon used by the Left to bash Western, democratic nations -- in defense of the indefensible.
In fact, "violations of the Geneva Conventions" by Western nations are invariably used to sanctify and grant absolution to evil: Sure, maybe al-Qaeda butchers people by the tens of thousands, wants to enslave all non-Wahhabis, wants to institute sharia law across the entire world, throw the Jew down the well, brutalize women, and round up gays and put them into death camps; but hey, look at what America did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed... they denied him his constitutional right to an attorney!
What can we say about the Geneva Conventions today?
- They are rigidly followed by all civilized nations, whom we will never fight... and who would adhere to them even in combat with (2) below;
- They are completely ignored by all barbarous nations and transnational groups in the Non-Integrating Gap, who are the enemies with whom we actually have a chance of ending up in open war;
- Therefore, the Geneva Conventions are in a state of complete and utter desuetude.
Hence I repeat myself (my favorite source!)... the Geneva Conventions are past their sell-by date; the United States and all civilized nations should withdraw from them and create a new law of war... one that recognizes the distinction between nations in the Functioning Core and those in the Non-Integrating Gap.
A treaty honored in full by both sides brings peace; but a "treaty" that is honored by only one side is a non-sequitur.
Date ►►► March 28, 2007
The Politics of Politics
The Democrats are finally understanding the underlying issue of the U.S. 8:
Democrats have described the firings as an "intimidation by purge" and a warning to remaining U.S. attorneys to fall in line with Bush's priorities. Political pressure, Democrats say, can skew the judgment of prosecutors when deciding whom to investigate and which indictments to pursue.
You got it at last! That is exactly the issue: the fired United States Attorneys were canned precisely because they refused to "fall in line" with the president's priorities. And I sure hope "political pressure... can skew the judgment of prosecutors when deciding whom to investigate and which indictments to pursue." What's wrong with that?
Under the Democrats, political pressure skewed prosecutors' judgment to not investigate, indict, or prosecute terrorists; and it skewed their judgment to investigate and indict corporate polluters and "institutional racism."
Political pressure under the Bush administration has skewed prosecutors' judgment to investigate and prosecute terrorism, financial support for terrorism, corporate accounting scandals, and election fraud. That is the consequence of rejecting a Democratic presidential candidate and electing (and reelecting) a Republican president instead: The Executive priorities likewise change.
[Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff Kyle] Sampson, who resigned this month because of the furor over the firings, is to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In his prepared testimony, he maintained that adherence to the priorities of the president and attorney general was a legitimate standard.
Of course it is. Congress may differ with the president; the Court may file its own flight plan. But we have a unitary Executive; every single person in the administration -- every department, every agency, all of the Gnomes of the EOB... and even the 93 United States Attorneys -- should "fall in line with [the president's] priorities."
The Secretary of State doesn't get to conduct his own foreign policy contrary to the president's. The Secretary of Defense cannot start a war or invade a country over the objections of the Commander in Chief... just as the VP of sales cannot decide simply to ignore the product priorities of the CEO and the board of directors and pursue his own policies, as if he were in charge.
If he does, he will be given his walking papers.
Thank you, Democrats, for finally understanding that. What took you so long? (Did you attend public schools in Democratic districts?)
"Presidential appointees are judged not only on their professional skills but also their management abilities, their relationships with law enforcement and other governmental leaders and their support for the priorities of the president and the attorney general," Sampson said.
He strongly denied Democrats' allegations that some of the prosecutors were dismissed for pursuing Republicans too much and Democrats not enough in corruption cases.
"To my knowledge, nothing of the sort occurred here," he said.
To my knowledge, though the Democrats frequently drop sly hints to that effect, none has had the honesty to point to a single, specific instance where a prosecutor was demonstrably fired for pursuing corruption cases against a Republican, causing the case to collapse. And a "scandal" must have many such instances to warrant attention. Democrats don't even trouble to make the case anymore, preferring to rely upon inuendo and journalists' morbid imaginations.
True, individuals, including Sampson himself, are at risk if they deliberately lied to Congress. But on the merits of the case itself -- firing the attorneys -- there is not only no underlying crime, there is no underlying scandal: The firings were completely proper.
And I'm pleased that the Democrats themselves seem to recognize that fact, albeit only tacitly; that explains their shift of focus from "what did Bush know, and when did he know it" to "what did Kyle Sampson say, and why did he say it?"
In the end, even there, I suspect nothing will come if it, except to convince the American people that the Democrats are obsessed with one and only one goal: to "get" the president, by any means necessary.
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.
Let Leahy tingle his bell. Poor fellow... what else has he got?
Britannia No Longer Rules the Waves
On Friday, March 23rd, while British Royal Marines and sailors were inspecting a fishing boat for contraband in Iraqi waters, "a number of Iranian boats" swarmed up and kidnapped the British military personnel. Iranians "interrogated" the uniformed sailors and marines (violating the Geneva Conventions) and are currently holding them hostage. Iran has just released propaganda video of the hostages, in which they are coerced to confess and to praise their kidnappers (more violations of the Geneva Conventions).
Needless to say, the Brits were not "unlawful combatants," and there is no question that the Geneva Conventions cover them.
The sailors and marines were on inflatable boats -- similar to Zodiacs -- that had been dispatched from HMS Cornwall, a Type 22 Corwall class frigate. Thus, here is the first question that should be answered at the inquiry -- the one where the captain of the Cornwall stands in the dock in a maritime court of inquiry:
Captain So-and-so... the Cornwall has excellent radar and surveillance systems. For God's sake, why didn't they detect those Iranian gunboats closing in on their position?
What if it had been a suicide attack instead of a kidnapping? How close would those little boats have gotten to HMS Cornwall herself before you noticed them? Was it... was it tea time?
The Iranian boats should never have been allowed to approach the dispatched boarding party without a fight. The moment the Cornwall detected them, they should have sent the Lynx helo aloft and radioed for air support. The ship was about 50 km from Basra, where the British have a sizeable contingent -- including Harriers.
At a relatively sedate 360 knots (667 km/hr), well within the Harrier's operational range, it would take a squadron about 4.5 minutes flight time. Add in 10 minutes to scramble (they should actually be faster, if they're doing their jobs right)... and a quick radio call when the Iranians first entered Iraqi waters would have gotten air support overhead before the Iranians even reached the marines and sailors.
When the Iranians began firing guns and threatening the British sailors and marines, it would have been child's play for three or four Harriers to sink the Iranian vessels in Iraqi waters. (What would the Iranians try to claim -- that the Brits actually sank those patrol boats in Iranian waters, then airlifted the wrecks two nautical miles to the Iraqi coast?)
Thus, question 2:
But what about the Cornwall herself? Please click on the HMS Cornwall link above; look at the right sidebar, scan down to "armaments" and "aircraft." The Cornwall can sink any ship in the Iranian navy.
Also, at 32 knots capability, it can catch any ship in the Iranian navy except for their "Karman class missile boats," which certainly were not the vessels that attacked. From witness descriptions, the Brits were intercepted by Iranian coastal-patrol vessels, the equivalent of our Vietnam-era Swift Boats, and probably max out at 25 knots.
Such boats could easily be caught and disabled by the Lynx helo that the Cornwall carries on her flight deck, or even the Cornwall herself, even if they fled into Iranian waters: Entering territorial waters of a country in hot pursuit of a military unit from that same country which has just attacked you has always been allowed under the laws of war.
If Iranian Qods Force units attacked us directly in Iraq, then fled back into Iran with us right on their tail, we would be perfectly justified in entering Iran and destroying the unit that attacked us. (It might be unwise, if we suspected a trap; but we would have "international law" on our side, to the extent that such a thing exists.)
The "hot pursuit" rule doesn't cover a third-party attacker; so when al-Qaeda attacks us out of Syria, we cannot simply follow them into Syria... that's a more complicated case. But in the present circumstance, an Iranian naval unit attacked a British naval unit, then fled to Iranian waters; so "hot pursuit" applies.
Thus question three:
Captain So-and-so, when you realized what was happening, why in God's name didn't you order the Cornwall herself into pursuit and at least put up a fight?
And why didn't your men being kidnapped fight back? Self-defense is always a legitimate defense, under any rules of engagement, except one: Fighting is never allowed by troops in the process of surrendering.
So Captain... at what point in this engagement did the Royal Navy surrender? Was it before the first Iranian shot was fired?
Unless the captain of the Cornwall can show a maritime court that he was under secret orders to allow the kidnapping to take place -- in other words, that the sailors and marines were actually spies from MI-6, and this is an intelligence operation, which I highly doubt -- he should be cashiered.
Any person up the chain who promulgated ROEs that led to this humiliation should be sacked. The ROEs should immediately be changed, and Great Britain and the United States should blockade Iranian ports and overfly Teheran -- flying very low at supersonic speeds -- until all the hostages are released unharmed. If Iran wants to fight... well, then it's time to implement the Herman Option.
And the British sailors and Royal Marines themselves should not be lauded as heroes when they return; they should have to face inquiry themselves about why they surrendered to a tin-pot, third-world dictator like Ahmadinejad without even the faintest semblance of resistance.
Evidently, Britons ever, ever, ever shall be slaves.
Date ►►► March 27, 2007
Double Secret Withdrawal Date
The most bizarre and grotesque suggestion -- risible, actually -- anent the Senate version of the emergency supplemental funding bill for the troops in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan comes from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR, 75%)... who should win the Northern Alliance's vaunted "Loon of the Week" award, if there's any justice.
Pryor bravely stood up and voted against the previous Democratic attempt to cripple our troops. But he's feeling the heat -- the molten lava -- from "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," as the late Sen. Paul Wellstone used to call his beloved nutroots. Pryor is desperate to find some accomodation that will allow him to vote for the bill.
But he cannot vote to have a firm timetable and simply announce it to the enemy: "Just hold on until this date, and you're home free!" He knows, as does every other Democrat, that this is a prescription for miltary defeat; but unlike the rest of them (including former political hero Ben Nelson, D-NE, 35%, this time), Mark Pryor actually doesn't want us to be defeated.
So he has come up with what he imagines to be a compromise:
Unlike the plan's Republican opponents, Pryor wants a withdrawal deadline of some kind. He just doesn't want anyone outside the White House, Congress and the Iraqi government to know what it is.
"My strong preference would be to have a classified plan and a classified timetable that should be shared with Congress," Pryor said yesterday. A public deadline would tip off the enemy, "who might just bide their time and wait for us to leave," he said. "Then you'd have chaos and mayhem and instability."
There you go! We have a firm withdrawal date... but we keep it a secret: It would only be known by the president, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, many people working in the Departments of Defense and State and in the CIA, all the generals, colonels, and many of the majors in Iraq -- and the entire United States Congress -- plus staff!
I make that out to be somewhere north of 1,500 people. So it's a secret that's only shared among the population of a small town. But wait -- Sen. Pryor has already thought of that, ah, potential source for leaks. He has an answer:
Pryor said a classified plan would be provided by the president, shepherded by Senate committees and ultimately shared with Congress and Iraqi leaders. He is confident that the plan would remain secret, because Congress is entrusted with secrets "all the time."
Yup... secrets such as the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, the SWIFT financial tracking program, spy satellite programs -- or for that matter, the fact that we had captured and interrogated some of the terrorists who hijacked the Achille Lauro.
Do we know for sure that each of these blown secrets was leaked by members of Congress (or their staffs, who would also know)? Some of them, yes; but not all of them. Some were blown by Democratic members of the CIA or the State Department (same thing)... and only confirmed by members of Congress. And in the end, it makes no difference whether the double secret withrawal date is blown by Congress or disgruntled bureaucrats in the administration; it'll be blown by somebody.
In fact, you wouldn't even need a direct leak to the New York Times. All it would take to blow this one would be a congressional budget that showed a sharp decline in Iraq war funding starting in a particular quarter. Hm... I wonder what that could mean?
Suppose Congress and the president did enact this double secret classified withdrawal date. Suppose you are a reporter for the Times, the Washington Post, CNN, or any other elite news agency. What would be you number-one priority? With hundreds of reporters calling every, single person they know to get that date, I cannot imagine that the "secret" would last longer than three days -- classified or not.
And if Pryor doesn't know that -- he ought to; he's been around D.C. since he was three years old.
Mark Pryor may be unique among Senate Democrats in actually feeling a slight twinge of regret at the thought of Congress forcing America to lose the Iraq war; but he certainly shares with his colleagues (left and right) the general congressional inability to follow a chain of events to its logical conclusion.
And in the end, it made no difference; the Senate has just voted 50-48 not to strip the timetable from the Senate bill; Pryor voted to strip the timetable... but in the end, he will vote for the final bill. Bush will veto it, and the veto will easily be sustained.
And the kabuki dance goes on, while our troops twist slowly, slowly in the wind.
Date ►►► March 26, 2007
The Worst Political Advice Tom Bevan Has Ever Offered...
Bob Novak reports today that a good source told him "the president never will ask Gonzales to resign."
If that's true, Gonzales should do the president a favor and submit his resignation. Staying on is only going to be a further drag and distraction for the administration. It may be unpalatable to some Republicans for a Bush cabinet member to "sacrifice" himself to the blood-thirsty Democrats. But, quite frankly, they didn't take Gonzales' scalp as much as he gave it to them by bungling the matter and then not being fully candid about his role.
Yeah. That would sure help matters. Here are the two possible Democratic responses to a Gonzales resignation:
They might take the gesture as reaching out, hands across the aisle, a heartfelt attempt by President Bush to be more bipartisan.
Accordingly, the Democrats would drop their demand to coerce testimony from Karl Rove and Harriet Miers (and their deputies), scale back the investigations of the Bush administration, drop talk of impeaching Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney... and in general, start acting like a responsible opposition party.
They would work together with the administration to resolve the nation's problems and win the war in Iraq.
Or they might seize upon the sacrifice as the admission of abject surrender -- and go on a bloodthirsty spree that would reenact the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572. The streets of D.C. would run red with the blood of Bushies.
Nobody that Bush nominated to replace Gonzales would even be given a confirmation hearing, let alone a vote.
Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer would instruct the president that he is to name David Boies as the new Attorney General, and the new White House Counsel will be David Iglesias; Erwin Chemerinsky is to be named Special Counsel to investigate the Bush administration for everything.
Bush would spend the remaining year-plus of his administration in misery and isolation, vainly staving off indictments, impeachments, and imprisonments.
I wonder which road the Democrats would follow?
To paraphrase a popular country song, I know what Tom was feeling, but what was he thinking?
The New Media Math: 3 + 2 = 2.5
Quick quiz: According to this AP article, how many Republicans have now turned against Alberto Gonzales and joined hands with Democrats to force Karl Rove to testify?
Republican support for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales eroded Sunday as three key [GOP] senators sharply questioned his honesty over last fall's firings of eight federal prosecutors. Additionally, two Democrats joined the list of lawmakers calling for Gonzales' ouster.
Several Republicans also urged President Bush to allow sworn testimony from his top aides about their role in dismissing the U.S. attorneys - a standoff threatening to result in Capitol Hill subpoenas of White House officials.
Let's see... "three key senators," plus "several Republicans" equals... mumble mumble, carry the nine... that would be -- less than three, right?
How is that possible? By the "new math" of the media elite, of course:
- The "three key senators" who questioned Gonzales's honesty yesterday were Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 83%), and Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 75%).
- Yet despite the AP trying their level best to make it appear as if those "several Republicans" calling for Rove and Harriet Miers to testify under oath were different from the group above, in fact they were the same -- with one MIA: Lindsay Graham opposes subpoenaing the president's close aides, urging instead that Congress accept Bush's offer of private discussions to answer questions related to the firing of 8 United States Attorneys.
So in other words, three GOP senators think Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is a liar; but only two of them want to see top White House aides questioned under oath. Hence, 3 + 2 = 2.5... not 5.
The rest of the article merely reiterates the malign mischaracterization of Gonzales's response about his attendance at meetings... and we have already thoroughly discredited this claim.
But at least now we know that the "elite" media, which so often appears illiterate in decoding simple English sentences, is evidently innumerate as well.
Date ►►► March 25, 2007
Here is something we've never done before (and for a darned good reason): Let's see who can invent the best caption to this pair of photos -- and then the exact same photos swapped left for right!
I was reading this long and boring AP story that had absolutely nothing interesting to say, but I was struck by a pair of pix they ran. I call them "Pointy Bush" and "Pointy Gonzales" (not to be confused with Speedy Gonzales):
Pointy Bush (l), Pointy Gonzales (r)
To me, this one is a touching juxtaposition that evokes Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, God's creation of Adam:
But I can't decide whether it's funnier pasting them in as above, or reversing the images:
Pointy Gonzales (l), Pointy Bush (r)
Alas, this one disturbingly makes me think of Custer's last stand!
Custer's last stand
Either way, you oughta be able to think up some real knee-slapper of a caption. So go to it! Get busy! What are you still waiting around for -- a picket sign?
Post your captions -- specifying whether they're for "Sistine" or "Custer" -- in the comments, and we'll see who is the most fertile.
(I mean "fertile" in a completely non-sexual way, of course, referring only to creativity and humor.)
Date ►►► March 24, 2007
What the Meaning of "Fizz" Is
Now that's a scandal!
I don't mean the firing of eight United States Attorneys who had agendas and priorities that differed from the president's; I mean the scandalous abuse of the English language by Senate Democrats, aided and abetted by their unindicted co-conspirators in the elite media. See if you can follow this:
Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of U.S. attorneys.
On Friday night, however, the Justice Department revealed Gonzales' participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed.
Ooh! Sounds bad, eh? Let's get a few more details...
At that meeting, the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials discussed a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Gonzales' aides said late Friday.
There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week....
The five-step plan approved by Gonzales involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval, naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.
(AP fails to inform us what the fifth step was; sacrificing some liberal toddler on the Cthulhu altar in the bowels of Karl Rove's office, no doubt.)
[Justice spokeswoman Tasia] Scolinos said it was not immediately clear whether Gonzales gave his final approval to begin the firings at that meeting. Scolinos also said Gonzales was not involved in the process of selecting which prosecutors would be asked to resign.
On March 13, in explaining the firings, Gonzales told reporters he was aware that some of the dismissals were being discussed but was not involved in them.
So let's parse this:
- Gonzales says that he was not involved in "any discussions about the impending dismissals of U.S. attorneys." He was not involved in selecting which USAs would be let go.
- Kyle Sampson was in charge of the actual selection process.
- Gonzales may or may not have signed the final document.
- But now we find out that he was, in fact, a party to discussions about how to go about revealing to the world that they had been fired.
And the Democrat's response at this "contradiction?"
Nonetheless Democrats pounced late Friday.
"Clearly the attorney general was not telling the whole truth, but what is he trying to hide?" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"If the facts bear out that Attorney General Gonzales knew much more about the plan than he has previously admitted, then he can no longer serve as attorney general," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is heading the Senate's investigation into the firings.
Added House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers:
"This puts the attorney general front and center in these matters, contrary to information that had previously been provided to the public and Congress."
Mindful of the language restrictions on this blog, I will constrain myself to acronyms: GMAFB.
Any ordinary person, when asked if he was involved in discussions about firing the attorneys, would understand the question to mean, "Did you participate in discussions about which attorneys -- if any -- to fire?" And he would honestly say "No, I did not."
Nobody but a Democrat in full cry, anxious to find something, anything, to justify more scandalmongering, would imagine that the original question would also include any ancillary discussions about the best way to break the news to the press!
Here is the analogy:
You order your subordinate Chris to go out and buy some new computers for your department; it's up to Chris how many and what kind, and who gets which computer.
Later, Chris has a meeting with you and a couple of guys from CIS, and you have a lively discussion about setting up whatever computers Chris decides to buy. The big question: Should you pay extra to have the CIS technicians set them up over the weekend, or should you have them set up during weekdays, potentially disrupting people's work. You do not discuss what Chris plans to buy.
Later, someone asks you, "Were you involved in any discussions about purchasing those eighteen Sun micros that Chris ultimately decided on?" And you say, "No, I was not involved in any such discussions. I left it entirely up to Chris."
Then the VP of your corporate rival finds out about the meeting to discuss whether they would be installed on the weekend or weekdays... and he calls a press conference to denounce you as a notorious liar and demands you be ousted from your company.
This isn't even as solid as clutching at straws; the Democrats are clutching at strands of gossamer.
To fire him over this utter rot would be almost as bad -- as if the Brits were to agree to vote against sanctions on Iran in exchange for the release of their Royal Marines. Heaven forfend that either should come to pass.
Date ►►► March 23, 2007
It's easy if you try...
This is quite remarkable: The Washington Post, normally a pretty good newspaper, published a front-page article about the Democratic House and Senate caucuses wrangling with their wayward members. They tussled over how to enact legislation that would begin to force an American surrender in Iraq within the next few months -- by hanging that legislation like an albatross around the neck of the president's emergency supplemental war-funding bill.
The Post managed to get all the way through the story... without ever once mentioning the Republicans in the Senate, who will almost certainly filibuster the bill to death. In fact, the Post seemed unaware that Republicans in either chamber would get to cast a vote.
For that matter, they never even mentioned that President Bush fellow, who would naturally veto it, if it ever came to his desk. Rather, the Post implied that passing the Mount Everest of roadblocks -- getting the liberals to agree with the Blue Dogs to agree with Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) -- meant that the bill would immediately become law!
What, have we suddenly become invisible?
"Liberal opposition to a $124 billion war spending bill broke last night," begins the story...
...when leaders of the antiwar Out of Iraq Caucus pledged to Democratic leaders that they will not block the measure, which sets timelines for bringing U.S. troops home.
The acquiescence of the liberals probably means that the House will pass a binding measure today that, for the first time, would establish tough readiness standards for the deployment of combat forces and an Aug. 31, 2008, deadline for their removal from Iraq.
A Senate committee also passed a spending bill yesterday setting a goal of bringing troops home within a year. The developments mark congressional Democrats' first real progress in putting legislative pressure on President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces.
Progress? Oh, please. They managed to get nearly all the Democrats to agree; I suppose that's progress of a sort... but it's like me saying I'm making "real progress" towards winning the Pullet Surprise this year because I convinced a few of my friends that I really deserve one.
This isn't the FDR era, when we had essentially one-party rule, and even Bob Hope (D-Hollywood, 120%) joked that there must be a Republican hiding in the bushes somewhere. "After all, somebody's buying all that caviar!"
Here is the only mention of the word "Republicans." It's not in the context of the Senate; they only mention House Republicans, who are powerless. I don't have a print edition in front of me, but I wouldn't be surprised if even this pair of grafs comes after the jump:
To the surprise of many antiwar activists, House Democratic leaders have been able to keep their conservative Blue Dog members largely onboard as they ratcheted up the bill's language. But with Republicans virtually united in opposition, Democrats can afford only 15 defections.
Bush and congressional Republicans have done their best to exploit the divisions, repeatedly mentioning that the Democrats are not united.
The editorial board of the WaPo aside, they still have to pass the bill in the United States Senate... where, contrary to the Post's fantasy, Republicans are still allowed to vote on the issue. There are 49 Republicans, 50 Democrats, and one Independent, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT, 75%); but Lieberman is certain to vote against the timelines and readiness standards and forced troop withdrawals. That makes the score 50-50... and since Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD, 85%) is likely still medically unable to vote, that makes it 50-49 against passage.
On the last go-round, one Republican senator, Gordon Smith (R-OR, 72%), voted in favor of Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) previous attempt to surrender. But two Democrats, Sens. Mark Pryor (AR, 75%) and Ben Nelson (NE, 35%), voted against the bill. (Had Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, 65%, voted, it would have been 51 to 48 against, for an absolute majority.)
If the Democrats manage to get both Pryor and Nelson to flip back, and if they retain the vote of turncoat Smith, the absolute best they can manage is 51 to 49 in favor. But the vote will never even occur, because the Republicans will filibuster it. And the Democrats are lightyears away from the sixty votes needed to break a filibuster.
So just like every other Democratic attempt to starve the troops out of Iraq, binding or non-binding, the result will be a possible victory in the House -- swallowed up by the Senate. No bill will even reach the president's desk for him to veto.
But you'd never realize that from the Washington Post article. If that were all you read, you'd think it was a done deal, and the troops were already on their way home!
The more intriguing question is what will happen after the supplemental funding bill dies in the Senate. Will the House Democrats have the guts to refuse to bring up a clean funding bill? I'm skeptical that they're willing to face the American people and say, "Yes, b'gad, we are cutting off all funding to the troops in the field! Screw them; let 'em all die." If they did that, they certainly could never claim any credit for a victory... but boy, would they own the defeat.
The Democrats are poltroons. They know that if they cut the troops off at the knees, the Democrats would hemorrhage seats in 2008, likely losing one or both chambers of Congress and the presidency. And Bush would find a way to keep the war going anyway. The Democrats are not willing to go to the mattresses for their "ideals;" not if it means sacrificing their majority.
Look at the ADA ratings for Pryor and Nelson: 75% and 35% (!) respectively, and they both represent red states; Ben Nelson is the Democrat's version of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%). What is the advantage for either of them in throwing away everything, just in order to force a defeat and withdrawal on America?
Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi may have the burning desire to recreate the Vietnam debacle, but I doubt Pryor and Nelson do... especially when there is zero chance of it passing -- but a 100% chance of a vote against the troops coming back to haunt them. Nelson is much more conservative, and he's safe until 2012; but Mark Pryor is up for reelection in 2008.
How many times are the Democrats going to go replay this commedia dell'arte farce? Have they enacted any substantive legislation through both chambers of Congress yet? I suppose they plan to gallop pell-mell through the entire 110th Congress, doing nothing but trying to cram defeat down the throat of victory in Iraq.
That's fine with me. They won't succeed in doing anything but pâté-ing their own foie gras... and I can live with that.
But next time, maybe Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) can give Washington Post Executive Leonard Downie, Jr. a call and sort of, you know, jog his memory a bit. I'm sure forgetting the very existence of Republicans was just an oversight.
Big Lizards Wins Watcher's Council Award!
So you see? Our plan worked! (Which plan was that, Dafydd you conniving reptile? Shh... it's detailed here.)
Anyway, the winners of the Watcher's Council award for best blogposts of the week are...
Among Watcher's Council members:
- The Contranomics of Global Jihad, by Big Lizards
Among the heathen beyond the pale:
- Four Years In, by American Digest
But if you want to read all the nominees (and you know you do!) then slither hither, my friends.
Note that neither of my two votes for the non-Council-member blogposts won; so I'd love to see you readers guess which of the nominees I picked. (One should be really obvious; the other more obscure.)
Also, neither of my two votes for Council-member blogposts won, of course, since we're not allowed to vote for ourselves. Yes, that was a very subtle gloat. So again, see if you can guess who I voted for among the 11 non-lizardian nominees.
The prize for the best guess will be a virtual margarita made with a double-shot of Jose Cuervo Tequilla Oro and Master of Mixes Margarita Mix -- which Sachi will drink in your honor when she gets back. So with that tantalizing prize (literally) to flog you on, be off with you! Head to Watcher of Weasels to get the full list of nominees, then guess which ones I voted for.
Avanti! (Which is also the only movie ever to show Juliet Mills, the nanny from Nanny and the Professor, "Phoebe Figalilly," half-naked.)
Date ►►► March 22, 2007
Or, Why I don't fear "Eurabia"
There is a reason, a strong reason, why the West dominates the entire world, sitting astride it as a colossus. It is because Western culture in general, and American culture in particular (as the West's "shining city on a hill"), is Borg culture: We assimilate the best parts of all other cultures we contact, becoming stronger thereby. Resistance is futile.
I do not see us bowing down and surrendering to these turban-headed, Koran-waving, fatwah-issuing, jihadist popinjays and blusterers... no matter what Mark Steyn thinks. We sent them reeling back from the gates of Vienna; we brought the Barbary pirates to their knees -- literally; we crushed Turkey and Araby as a side dish in the Great War; and we dispatched the Taliban and the Baathists in a campaign that lasted about as long as it took to ship our soldiers to the field.
That jihadists, Shia and Sunni, are still extant is a testament to their relative insignificance. Until 9/11, we were barely even aware of their existence; we were too worried about Communism -- a thoroughly Western perverson. Now that the sleeping giant has awakened, terrorists are dying hot and cowardly throughout the ummah; and we have even managed to turn their more modern Moslem brothers against them.
The men and women of the West are simply not going to kowtow to a gaggle (even a largish gaggle) of child-immolating minions of Moloch... not even in "Europe" (as if it were monolithic). And as exhibit A, read this:
A German judge has stirred a storm of protest here by citing the Koran in turning down a German Muslim woman’s request for a fast-track divorce on the ground that her husband beat her.
In a remarkable ruling that underlines the tension between Muslim customs and European laws, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, said that the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu, in which she said it was common for husbands to beat their wives. The Koran, she wrote, sanctions such physical abuse.
But wait! Doesn't that completely undermine everything I just said? A German judge -- a woman, in fact -- has just denied a fellow woman an emergency divorce from her abusive husband... in essence, on the grounds of Sharia law. She ruled that the woman must endure the legally required year-long separation... even if that means her violent and sadistic husband kills her for his "honor.'
Surely that must be evidence that Europe has given up and surrendered to the dark side! Oh, but read on:
News of the ruling brought swift and sharp condemnation from politicians, legal experts, and Muslim leaders in Germany, many of whom said they were confounded that a German judge would put 7th-century Islamic religious teaching ahead of modern German law in deciding a case involving domestic violence....
“A judge in Germany has to refer to the constitutional law, which says that human rights are not to be violated,” said Günter Meyer, director of the Center for Research on the Arab World at the University of Mainz. “It’s not her task to interpret the Koran,” Mr. Meyer said of Judge Datz-Winter. “It was an attempt at multi-cultural understanding, but in completely the wrong context.”
Reaction to the decision has been almost as sulfurous as it was to the cancellation of the opera.
“When the Koran is put above the German constitution, I can only say, ‘Good night, Germany,’ ” Ronald Pofalla, general secretary of the main conservative party in the country, the Christian Democratic Union, said to the mass-market paper Bild.
Dieter Wiefelspütz, a member of Parliament from the more liberal Social Democratic Party, said in an interview that he could not recall any court ruling in years that had aroused so much indignation.
The "cancellation of the opera" refers to the September, 2006 cancellation of a staging of the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart opera Idomeneo by the Deutsche Oper Berlin, because the performance contained a scene depicting the severed head of Mohammed... which was added by the current director:
The disputed scene is not part of Mozart’s opera, but was added by the director, Hans Neuenfels. In it, the king of Crete, Idomeneo, carries the heads of Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha and Poseidon on to the stage, placing each on a stool.
Even so, the hullaballoo throughout Germany was so cacophanous, the opera company was forced to restore the stricken opera. From our current story:
Last fall, a Berlin opera house canceled performances of a Mozart opera because of security fears. The opera includes a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad. Stung by charges that it had surrendered its artistic freedom, the opera house staged the opera three months later without incident.
But how about European Moslems? Are they rioting in the streets in support of the unnamed Moroccan husband's right to beat his wife, just as the Koran dictates? Is a pro-wife-beating intifada about to erupt in Berlin, demanding that a section of the city be set aside for Sharia law, where wife beatings, honor killings, and martyrdom operations are legally allowed?
In fact, exactly the opposite: German Moslems are hotly denying that the Koran allows spousal abuse:
Muslim leaders agreed that Muslims living here must be judged by the German legal code. But they were just as offended by what they characterized as the judge’s misinterpretation of a much-debated passage in the Koran governing relations between husbands and wives.
While the verse cited by Judge Datz-Winter does say husbands may beat their wives for disobedience -- an interpretation embraced by Wahhabi and other fundamentalist Islamic groups -- most mainstream Muslims have long rejected wife-beating as a relic of the medieval age.
“Our prophet never struck a woman, and he is our example,” Ayyub Axel Köhler, the head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said in an interview.
It is completely irrelevant whether they are correct about Mohammed or not, and even whether they are correct about the intent of that sura from al-Quran; the only important point is that a wide contingent of German Moslems are embarassed by it and want to pretend it doesn't exist... which is an excellent sign. Christians have done the same with verses such as Exodus 22:18 KJV, or 22:17 NAB/Tanakh: No Christian or Jewish theologian today literally advocates putting anyone to death for sorcery or witchcraft; the biblical verse is "interpreted" to require only spiritual condemnation -- not physical extermination.
But what about this poor, abused woman's case? Does she have to go through the dangerous, year-long separation normally required under German law? Her attorney was concerned that the husband -- who she says already issued death-threats against the wife -- might think that he had the legal right to kill her, since even Judge Datz-Winter said she was still his wife... and more or less sanctioned his violent abuse.
Well, the German courts worried about that message, too:
On Wednesday, the court in Frankfurt abruptly removed Judge Datz-Winter from the case, saying it could not justify her reasoning....
Judge Datz-Winter declined to comment for this article. But a spokesman for the court, Bernhard Olp, said the judge did not intend to suggest that violence in a marriage is acceptable or that the Koran supersedes German law. “The ruling is not justifiable, but the judge herself cannot explain it at this moment,” he said....
A new judge will be assigned to the case, but Ms. Becker-Rojczyk said her client would probably nonetheless have to wait until May for her divorce, since the paperwork for a fast-track divorce would take several months in any event.
So in the end, what do we have? We have a boneheaded judge essentially ruling that Moslem women cannot get a fast-track divorce just because their husbands beat them, because under Sharia law, that's all they can expect.
But then we have a huge, nationwide, explosive reaction by the political, judicial, and religious communities of Germany against that ruling... even including the Islamic community, male and female. No Sharia supporter can possibly be heartened by that response, which conclusively demonstrates that Germans are not at all willing to march down the multi-culti highway to hell.
That ruling was the social equivalent of 9/11... and it's had the same psychological effect there as the physical attacks that day had on us: It has awakened another Western power to the threat posed by the jihadists; and once awake, the giant begins to fight with mighty hammer-blows.
Mark Steyn is wrong, and I suspect he would be a happy man if we could but convince him that he is wrong: We are not "America alone." We are the West. And while America may have been the first to awaken, we are slowly managing to rouse our smaller, older, wearier siblings from their fitful slumbers.
And when we're all finally on our feet, the modern jihadists, from Iran and Hezbollah to the Wahhabis and al-Qaeda, will join the Barbary pirates in the dustbin of history.
New Kid On the Bayou
Warning: This is one of my infamous "too much time on my hands" offerings...
Yesterday, we noted that Bobby Jindal still stands a good chance of being elected governor of Louisiana, even after Gov. Kathleen Babineaux "Blankout" Blanco dropped out, to be replaced (everyone assumes) by the much stronger candidate former Sen. John Breaux.
Suppose Jindal does win this year and serves a full four years. Then suppose he runs for president at the next opportunity... how would the "child prodigy's" age compare to our youngest presidents?
First of all, we must clarify what we mean by the youngest president. There is no question that John F. Kennedy was the youngest person ever elected President of the United States. Kennedy was born on May 29th, 1917 -- the first president born in the twentieth century *. He ran for office and was elected on November 8th, 1960. (The first Tuesday was November 1st; but Congress in 1845 set the date for federal elections to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November; thus, the election is never held on the 1st.)
John Kennedy was thus 43 years, 5 months, and 10 days old when he was elected. Nobody else even comes within two years of that age.
However, that's not the end of it. There is another way to become president besides following your own election; and indeed, when William McKinley was assassinated, dying on September 14th, 1901, Vice President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt became president without being elected.
Roosevelt was born on October 27th, 1858; thus, he became president when he was 42 years, 10 months, and 18 days old. Kennedy became president on January 20th, 1961 -- and he had aged 2 months and 12 days to the ripe, old age of 43 years, 7 months, and 22 days. Therefore, while Kennedy was the youngest ever elected, TR beat him into the office by 9 months and 4 days.
(Roosevelt was not actually elected until November 8th, 1904, when he was a doddering ancient of 46 years and 12 days.)
So back to Jindal. He was born on June 10th, 1971. If he were to be elected president in the next election after serving a single term as governor, that would be on November 6th, 2012; and he would assume the office on January 20th, 2013: Jindal would be 41 years, 4 months, and 27 days old when elected and 41 years, 7 months, and 10 days when he assumed the office -- easily beating both Kennedy for youngest ever elected (by more than two years) and Roosevelt for youngest president (by more than a year).
But if Jindal instead serves a second successive term as governor -- which has only happened four times in Louisiana history (though some governors have served several non-sequential terms, such as Earl K. Long) -- then Jindal would leave that office in early 2016. The next presidential election would be November 8th, 2016; if he won, he would have been elected at age 45 years, 4 months, and 29 days.
That would be almost two years older than Kennedy was, but still younger than Teddy Roosevelt, the second-youngest person ever elected president. (Bill Clinton -- born August 19th, 1946 -- was elected on November 3rd, 1992, when he was 46 years, 2 months, and 15 days old.)
Jindal would, in that case, take the silver medal for second-youngest person elected, bumping Roosevelt to third youngest and Clinton out of the medals at 4th. However, because of that whole assassination thing, Jindal would only be the third youngest person (45 years old) to assume the presidency, after both Roosevelt, 42, and Kennedy, 43; Clinton would be fourth in this race as well at 46.
(If Barack Obama were to be elected in 2008, he would be 47 at both election and inauguration, far out of the running.)
In either case, Jindal would be the first former Hindu president and the first Asian.
We needn't wait for 2012; there are records poised to be made in the upcoming (2008) election as well:
- Obama would be the first non-white and the first former Moslem;
- Mitt Romney would be the first Mormon and probably the richest president;
- Hillary Clinton would be the first woman -- making her both first woman and First Lady;
- And Giuliani would be both the first Italian-American and would have the record for the most divorced president.
The first divorcé to win the presidency was Ronald Reagan; James Buchanan was the only bachelor president to remain unmarried throughout his administration, but Grover Cleveland was a bachelor until a year into his first term.
* There is some controversy about the first president born in the nineteenth century: It's either Millard Fillmore, if you count 1800 as 19th century, or Franklin Pierce (1804) if you don't.
Date ►►► March 21, 2007
Al Gore's Political Epitaph
Something that Dean Barnett wrote on Hugh Hewitt's blog sparked my latent urge to rewrite, and I succumbed. I believe this inadvertent collaboration (which will come as news to Dean!) has reduced Al Gore down to what will surely be history's epitaph when he finally withdraws himself from the public sphere (which will be like finally shaking a rock out of your shoe).
Here is what Dean wrote:
After watching hours of the erstwhile Veep’s congressional testimony, I think I finally understand him . Ultimately, he is a tragic if unsympathetic figure. Has there ever been a man who so desperately hungered for greatness who was so thoroughly suffused with mediocrity?
And here is the epitaph that sums up, I believe, the "erstwhile Veep's" entire adult life:
Heck, that's all I wanted to say.
Jindal Bells - Blanco Fires a Blank
Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has just breathlessly announced that she won't run for re-election... which is about as surprising a piece of news as if George Bush announced that he wasn't going to run for re-election, either.
Fortunately for all concerned, she managed to get through the stunning revelation without crying.
This clears the path for no-holds-barred battle between Bobby Jindal and John Breaux. While it will be a much tougher contest than Jindal vs. Blanco (which would have been a landslide for the Republican), in a way, this is better: At least if Jindal wins, nobody can say he was a weak candidate who only limped in because he was up against the thoroughly detested Blanco; the win will actually mean something.
But a win is not a gimmie; Breaux is a tough candidate... and that is exactly why I'm happy that Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has bowed out.
I know, I'm about to have my partisan credentials yanked. But I have said before that I'm a strong believer in the two-party system; and like Horton, I meant what I said and I said what I meant (an elephant's faithful -- 100%).
What's so good about the two-party system? At its best, we boil competing philosophies of governance down to the two most important coalitions, then batter them against each other until, after due consideration, one is chosen by the people in an election.
There are always many more than two sides to every controversial issue; but more than two major parties leads to electoral debacles, party sharing, coalition government, and all the woes that plague parliaments that have more than two main blocs (think of France and Italy). So we don't want three or four major parties. But on the other hand, one-party rule leads to a situation like Iraq and Syria (worst case) or Japan (best case), neither of which is an inspiring model.
But for the two-party system to work as advertised, we need several things:
- Two articulate defenders --
- Of two distinct philosophies --
- Each of whom is prima facie credible --
- To a voter pool willing to listen to both sides before deciding.
When any of those four is MIA, the two-party system skews wildly out of control. And Gov. Blanco's candidacy broke all four of those criteria, hence was a prescription for electoral catastrophe.
The voters had already tuned her out, as evidenced by the fact that, months before the election (this October and possibly November, not in 2008), Rep. Bobby Jindal (R, 92%) was stunningly ahead of the sitting governor:
The Democratic governor’s announcement ends months of speculation in Louisiana political circles, fueled by dismal poll ratings that showed her capturing barely a third of the vote against a Republican challenger, Bobby Jindal, a congressman from the New Orleans suburbs.
Her disastrous incompetence following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita meant she was no longer a credible candidate. What platform was she planning to run on -- that she promised not to be as dreadful as she was in her first term?
As the sitting governor, her primary campaign would have to be on her experience; but that was in fact a distinct negative... so she would have to fall back on some huge policy difference between her and Jindal. But the only real difference was that Jindal has a political philosophy, whereas Blanco is a political blank slate, concerned only with amasssing money for her cronies and campaign donors. She had no great initiatives, plans, or ideas; in fact, she barely even responded to the biggest one-two punch of natural disasters ever to hit Louisiana.
So no airing of two distinct political philosophies. And of course, the idea that Blubbering Blanco could be called "articulate" is not merely a joke, it's like laughing at a cripple. Next to Blanco, George W. Bush is Demosthenes.
But John Breaux is a different story. Here are a couple of contrasts to get us started:
Age vs. youth
Breaux is 27 years older than Bobby Jindal. In 1972, Breaux had his first congressional electoral victory... and Bobby Jindal had his first birthday.
On election day, Breaux will be 63, while Jindal will be 36. While Breaux has been around for decades, Jindal is something of a child prodigy: better educated than Breaux (including a Rhodes scholarship -- which, unlike the previous president, Jindal actually completed, obtaining an MA in politics from Oxford); a string of "youngest evers," culminating with a very credible and almost successful gubernatorial run in 2003 at the age of 32.
My guess is that the age difference is less important than the generational one: John Breaux was born during World War II, and he came of age during the "Camelot" era; his philosophy seems more than anything like that of John F. Kennedy.
Bobby Jindal was born in the throes of Vietnam, but he would have first become politically aware during Ronald Reagan's presidency, which lasted from when he was 10 until he was 18, his most formative years. I would be astonished if he were not deeply affected by the Gipper.
So it's Kennedy vs. Reagan in the mangroves... and I'd much rather see that than Reagan vs. Blank-out.
Philosophies of governance
John Breaux was always considered a "conservative Democrat;" that is, he supported tax increases, but nowhere near as large or as often as his Democratic colleagues. He was more or less pro-life and pro-gun, though he would nevertheless caucus with his party, even when it was run by wool-dyed liberals who were pro-choice on killing foetuses but anti-choice on killing rapists who attack you in your own home.
But I would expect Breaux, based upon history, to be more of a local-issues, retail-politics governor who probably would not intrude himself into national politics very often; think of a Democratic version of Haley Barbour, rather than a Bill Richardson, Janet Napolitano, or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bobby Jindal, by contrast, is much more of a committed conservative: a convert to Catholicism (from Hinduism; Jindal's parents were recent immigrants from India when he was born), Jindal is about as hard-core anti-abortion as one can be; the only exception being that he supports "emergency contraception," which many consider to be an abortificant. But his pro-life stance makes no allowances for the issue of rape, incest, or in cases where it's called a "medical necessity."
Jindal also has a 100% rating from the NRA. But the real difference, I believe, is that Jindal seems to have a larger goal than just being an effective governor; I suspect he intends to become president one day (he was born in Baton Rouge in 1971, so is legally qualified... unlike Schwarzenegger or Jennifer Granholm).
Jindal has mostly supported a pro-enforcement immigration policy; he has voted to withhold funds from the UN until they enact the Bolton reforms; voted to permanize the Bush tax cuts, the cap-gains tax cut, and the USA PATRIOT Act; and voted against setting an exit date from Iraq.
And most important to me, Jindal voted a resounding No on House Concurrent Resolution 63, the House Iraq Cut-and-Run Cri de Coeur. He was not one of the "Surrender-Seventeen."
(Neither Breaux nor Jindal has any military service, I believe.)
I believe the 2007 election will be won or lost on leadership and on ideas. I like both candidates (assuming Breaux runs; and why wouldn't he?) But of course, I'm rooting for Jindal.
So despite the fact that it will be much harder for the Republican to win with the Democratic candidate being John Breaux instead of Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, I still prefer us to win a tough race than essentially get a bye.
Contrary to popular opinion, a mandate does not come from a landslide victory; a mandate comes from an election between two good candidates, each of whom runs on a specific and well-articulated platform; the people speak, and that gives the winner the mandate to transform that platform to actual policy. With an election blowout due to competency issues, the only "mandate" the winner has is not to be as much of a cement-head as his predecessor was.
To quote a hero of mine, bring it on!
Date ►►► March 20, 2007
Imperial Congress Summons Its Subjects
Alone among all the issues that divide Congress, there is one that unites them all -- Republican and Democrat, Right and Left, conservative and liberal, good hair and bad hair: They uniformly agree that Congress should be the preeminent branch of government, and the other two branches mere appendages whose only function is to implement the decrees from the Capitol Dome... and be quick about it!
Accordingly, Congress demands that close advisors to President George W. Bush scurry over and take their seats for the "show trials" to come:
Mr. Bush reiterated his support for his embattled attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales, and said Mr. Gonzales would testify before the appropriate legislative committees. But Mr. Bush said he would only allow close White House aides to be interviewed privately by the lawmakers rather than be placed under oath.
“We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants,” Mr. Bush said, vowing to fight any attempt by Congress to subpoena his top political adviser, Karl Rove; the former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers and others.
“Initial response by Democrats, unfortunately, shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts,” Mr. Bush said. “It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available.”
Bush's use of the Stalinist-era term "show trials" is both heartening and illuminating. The key distinction between a "show trial" and a real trial is that in the former, guilt is assumed; the only purpose of the show trial is to humiliate and beat down the supposed "defendant" (actually, the victim of the State) and ideally force a public confession out of him.
After which, he is taken away and shot.
This pretty much describes the Democrats' intentions perfectly, except that shooting is replaced by forced resignation and being "frog-marched out of the White House," as Lyin' Joe Wilson so suavely put it. Thus, Bush enunciated the perfectly correct term.
We've all heard the phrase "the imperial presidency;" I believe it arose during the presidency of Richard Nixon, either coined or at least popularized by ultra-liberal historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and has been routinely flung against every Republican administration ever since (similar to what monkey tribes do to each other). By now, its use induces an immediate gag-reflex and symptoms of mal de mer.
But what has in fact happened during this period was the rise of the imperial Congress; House and Senate have taken on all the trappings of the old British House of Lords:
- Relection rate is so high that a huge percentage of members may as well be called Senator for Life So-and-So, or Representative for Life Thingumy. Congressional office has become a life peerage, and sometimes even passed to one's own issue or brethren -- the Kennedy seat, for example, or the Murkowski, Gore, and Chafee seats.
- Congressional staffs tend to be loyal to individual, powerful patrons within the Congress, rather than to the people that Congress supposedly represents... Congressional aides are actually courtiers.
- Congress has as many or more "advisory bodies" -- blue-ribbon panels, caucuses, and of course the all-powerful committees themselves -- than the administration.
- More and more, Congressmen tend to see themselves as above the ordinary laws; they routinely exempt members from the legislation that governs the rest of us, privileging themselves beyond lesser mortals ("privilege," from the Latin privilegium, privus plus leg- : a "private law" for one person or a group of people). And they certainly refuse to answer to the president in any way; in fact, it aggravates them that they must submit their legislation to him for approval or veto.
Today, Congress wants to haul Karl Rove and Harriet Miers (plus Does 1-99, to be named later) before an open congressional committee, with the cameras rolling, and embark upon a multi-day fishing expedition... hoping to extract a "confession" to any of a number of supposed crimes the Democrats imagine permeate the inner circle of the Bush administration. Failing of that, they will simply throw so many accusations and spitballs at Rove that it will seem as if he must be guilty of something... "where there's smoke, there's fire!"
Of course, sometimes where there's smoke, there's nothing but a giant smoke screen. But you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time -- and that's enough for a healthy percentage of the vote.
So imagine this thought experiment: Suppose that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales subpoenaed Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT, 95%), Chuck Schumer (D-NYC, 100%), Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco, 90%), and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%); followed by Reps. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%), Henry Waxman (D-CA, 95%), and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%). They're each hauled into an auditorium in the bowels of the Justice Department building, where about 150 print and television reporters await.
JD lawyers administer the oath to each member of Congress separately, then commence grilling them on the inner discussions within committees, caucuses, and even private conversations between senators, representatives, and their aides. Those aides have already been subpoened and extensively questioned; so if a member says anything that differs from what an aide said, the member is threatened with a perjury prosecution.
Would Congress put up with this? Would the courts allow it? I certainly hope not in both cases. But if we rightly recognize that the Executive branch cannot simply force members of the Legislative branch to testify under oath about their private advice, criticisms, and discussions with other members of their branch -- how the heck can the Legislative do exactly that to members of the Executive -- a supposedly co-equal branch of government?
The Democrats, however, are immune to shame and are not backing down:
The current White House counsel, Fred Fielding, offered this afternoon to make Mr. Rove and Mr. Miers available for private interviews -- but not sworn testimony -- before Congressional investigators.
But Democratic leaders immediately turned down the offer, demanding that President Bush’s aides testify under oath. That set the stage for a major political fight and perhaps a court showdown over the rightful powers of the executive branch and those of a Congress now controlled by Democrats.
It's quite clear that this is not an attempt to find out whether the eight U.S. Attorneys were fired (rather, did not have their contracts renewed) for legitimate reasons or in order to obstruct justice; they could most effectively find that out by private conversations. Rather, the Democrats are hot for some Testimony Theater!
(Say... do you think they might have a partisan political motivation for hauling Karl Rove in front of the TV cameras and badgering him under oath?)
I have no idea how the Supreme Court will ultimately rule on this... but I predict it will have to, because the Democrats who run the Judiciary Committee (including Schumer, Feinstein, and Chairman Leahy) are assuredly going to issue subpoenas -- and the president is just as adamant that he will not allow Rove, Miers, Deputy White House Counsel, William K. Kelley, Special Assistant to the Office of Political Affairs J.Scott Jennings, or any other close aide to testify under oath, where they can be asked anything at all, and in open session... completely obliterating the ability of the president to get candid advice and possibly even endangering national security by straying into discussions of FBI intelligence gathering and NSA surveillance.
If he did, Bush would not just be ceding the right to the 110th Congress; he would be throwing it away for all future presidents versus all future Congresses.
But heck, what's jettisoning a couple of hundred years of traditional governance and crippling the presidency in perpetuity, as compared to the opportunity of possibly indicting Karl Rove? We must keep things in perspective!
In the slither-on, a few more quotations from Democrats, who clearly have confused the Capitol building with Versailles and believe that senatorial blood runs as blue as that of Louis the XIV...
Mr. Fielding proposed that Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers be interviewed by members of the Senate and House judiciary committees at the same time, and that the interviews be limited to the events surrounding the dismissal of the federal prosecutors.
Mr. Fielding told the senators and representatives that he had been working for days “to accommodate your interests, while at the same time respecting the constitutional prerogatives of the presidency.”
Democrats angrily rejected Mr. Fielding’s position. “After telling a bunch of different stories about why they fired the U.S. attorneys, the Bush administration is not entitled to the benefit of the doubt,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader. “Congress and the American people deserve a straight answer. If Karl Rove plans to tell the truth, he has nothing to fear from being under oath like any other witness.”
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, was just as emphatic. “I was glad to meet Mr. Fielding, and I welcome the fact that these issues have his full attention,” Mr. Leahy said. “I don’t accept his offer. It is not constructive and it is not helpful to be telling the Senate how to do our investigation, or to prejudge its outcome.”
“Testimony should be on the record and under oath,” Mr. Leahy said, repeating a demand that he first made on network television over the weekend. “That’s the formula for true accountability....”
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also reacted coldly to the White House offer. Mr. Schumer said Mr. Fielding was proposing in effect that Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers be available for “conversations” with lawmakers.
“That’s fine,” Mr. Schumer said. “Let’s have a conversation under oath, with a transcript.” [A transcript is essential for subsequently demanding a special prosecutor to go after Rove for perjury... whenever his answers don't match Democrats' expectations.]
Mr. Leahy has already said that his committee would vote Thursday on whether to subpoena Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers, as well as William K. Kelley, the deputy White House counsel.
“I do not believe in this ‘We’ll have a private briefing for you where we’ll tell you everything,’ and they don’t,” Mr. Leahy said Sunday on “This Week” on ABC. “I want testimony under oath. I am sick and tired of getting half-truths on this.”
I'm not a sack of oats... I'm the king! I want my noodles, and I want them now.
The Contranomics of Global Jihad
So the burning (sorry) question is -- can Iran actually be brought low by mere economics?
The answer is not yet known for certain; but a new wrinkle in the ongoing crisis about Iran's development of nuclear weapons makes the answer to the riddle above seem more and more like "Yes, it can."
What am I talking about? (Does anybody really know what I'm ever talking about?) Yesterday, Russia announced that it was suspending its shipment of low-grade enriched Uranium fuel to Iran -- ostensibly on the grounds that Iran has missed two payments of $25 million to Russia. However, sources say the real reason is that Iran refuses to stop enriching the low-grade fuel at its centrifuge complex at Natanz:
Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials say....
For years, President Bush has been pressing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to cut off help to Iran on the nuclear power plant that Russia is building at Bushehr, in southern Iran. But Mr. Putin has resisted. The project is Tehran’s first serious effort to produce nuclear energy and has been very profitable for Russia.
Recently, however, Moscow and Tehran have been engaged in a public argument about whether Iran has paid its bills, which may explain Russia’s apparent shift. But the ultimatum may also reflect an increasing displeasure and frustration on Moscow’s part with Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium at its vast facility at Natanz.
“We’re not sure what mix of commercial and political motives are at play here,” one senior Bush administration official said in Washington. “But clearly the Russians and the Iranians are getting on each other’s nerves -- and that’s not all bad.”
I maintain that it's impossible to separate the "commercial and political motives," because each drives the other: Russia has a political interest in stopping Iran from being nuclear armed; but that is also an economic interest, because a nuclear Iran would force Russia to deploy more military power to the region to prevent itself being bullied and extorted by Iran. Force projection costs money, especially for a country with inadequate access to the open sea.
Similarly, the better Iran gets at enrichment, the less enrichment it must buy from Russia. Already, the United States has dangled a proposition for Russia to do all the Uranium enrichment for Iran -- at a staggering charge.
But American officials have been trying to create a commercial incentive for Russia to put pressure on Iran. One proposal the Bush administration has endorsed since late 2005 envisions having the Russians enrich Iran’s uranium in Russia. That creates the prospect of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in business for Russia, and a way to ensure that Iran receives only uranium enriched for use in power reactors, instead of for use in weapons.
Iran has rejected those proposals, saying it has the right to enrich uranium on its own territory.
Iran is desperate to develop the ability to enrich their own Uranium in part because they can't afford the fee to have Russia do it... at least not if Iran keeps pouring money down a pair of rat-holes...
- Why hasn't Iran paid the $50 million in bills it owes Russia? (Iran denies this, but nobody believes them or cares what they say.) They haven't paid because their economy is currently broken -- and headed like the Titanic towards the iceberg.
- Why is Iran's economy broken? Because they've been spending so much money on two things: nuclear enrichment at Natanz... and global jihadism.
Force projection is dreadfully expensive, even if you call it global jihadism: Iran is supporting Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, the Qods Force in Iraq, a war against Israel a few months ago, assassins all over the world, and Shiite revolutionary movements from Malaysia to Venezuela. But at the same time, the drain on their resources from trying to develop a nuclear "Qods bomb" and buy a delivery system from North Korea, Russia, or Red China has caused Iran to stop investing in its oil infrastructure.
Not investing in oil extraction and gasoline refining is crippling Iran; they must import between 40% and 60% (depending on who is making the estimate) of their gasoline from third-party countries -- who, not surprisingly, charge Iran an arm and a leg and an arm, since they have the mullahs over an oil barrel.
But for the Iranians to return to investing in maintenance and expansion of their oil economy, they would have to cut back on both WMD development and on global jihadism... which their religiously driven ideology won't allow them to do!
It's the ultimate Catch-22... and it illuminates the central conundrum:
- Only those nations with vibrant economies can afford to both develop new weapons technology and also to project force around the world.
- Only those nations with capitalist financial systems will have a vibrant economy.
- But nations with capitalist financial systems must, of necessity, be free and open, connected with the rest of the world, democratic, and operate under a transparent rule of law: in other words, members of what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the Functioning Core.
- But if a nation is in the Functioning Core, it is not a national security concern if they develop nuclear weapons; attacking the West is the farthest thing from their minds. Aside from the United States, Core countries spend much less money either developing new weapons technology or projecting their force (yet another instance of American exceptionalism). When we try to get them to do so -- for example, in Afghanistan or Iraq -- it's like pulling fingernails.
Thus, Iran appears to be imploding due to the built-in contradiction of wanting to be a super-power -- and simultaneously wanting to be a closed society run by fanatical religious totalitarians. They will only be able to afford military technological development and serious force projection when they transform themselves into a society that has no interest in military technological development and serious force projection.
It looks more and more like Iran will be defeated, not by military invasion, not even by missile attack, but by the economic realities of Western style capitalism. (The irony is so thick, you could cut it with a sword.)
Econ. 101: It's not just a good idea; it's the natural law of the universe.
Date ►►► March 19, 2007
Gonzales Must Stay
Once again, the Politico is quoting a raft of anonymous "mentioners," as Reagan used to put it -- "party sources," "administration officials," and "a well-connected Republican Senate aide" -- to flog the line that President Bush is about to precipitate a Saturday-night massacre at the Department of Justice, where the top two officials, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, will resign or be fired.
Why? In order to placate the "conservatives," who are supposedly lining up with the Democrats to demand the scalps of Gonzales and McNulty. Of course, I haven't heard any conservatives saying so; but perhaps they're "mentioning" it in private -- to the elite media. (Or in this case, to the not-quite-so-elite upstart Politico.)
Chief Political Writer Mike Allen -- formerly of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time Magazine -- paints a bleak picture of the complete collapse of the Bush administration's Department of Justice, followed by the imminent implosion of the administration itself:
Republican sources also disclosed that it is now a virtual certainty that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, whose incomplete and inaccurate congressional testimony about the prosecutors helped precipitate the crisis, will also resign shortly. Officials were debating whether Gonzales and McNulty should depart at the same time or whether McNulty should go a day or two after Gonzales....
In a sign of Republican despair, GOP political strategists on Capitol Hill said that it is too late for Gonzales' departure to head off a full-scale Democratic investigation into the motives and timing behind the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
"Democrats smell blood in the water, and (Gonzales') resignation won't stop them," said a well-connected Republican Senate aide. "And on our side, no one's going to defend him. All we can do is warn Democrats against overreaching."
A main reason Gonzales is finding few friends even among Republicans is that he has long been regarded with suspicion by conservatives who have questioned his ideological purity.
Forgive me if I think Mr. Allen should try breathing into a paper sack for a while until he stops hyperventilating. It's hard to imagine a stupider response to the fired-attorneys non-scandal than to sack Gonzales, sack McNulty -- and then to nominate a new AG and DAG who would be "movement conservatives."
Let's engage in a little Politics 101, a new category I just added. What would actually happen in real life if Bush took the Democrats' advice?
- He fires Gonzales and McNulty;
- Regardless of whether they depart arm in arm, or if McNulty sneakily waits a few minutes before leaving, the net effect is the same: There would be two slots to fill at Justice, each requiring Senate confirmation;
- Bush nominates a "movement conservative" to replace Gonzales;
- Senate Democrats reject his nominee in committee;
- Bush nominates another, who is also rejected;
At this point, the path bifurcates, as the president has two possible options; and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT, 95%), Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, have an obvious response to each choice.
I. Assume President Bush responds to the rejections by nominating a "moderate" (that is, liberal) Republican, someone in the mold of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%) or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:
- Leahy and Reid congratulate the president on truly "uniting the country" with his nomination. The nominee sails through committee and is strongly confirmed in the Senate by a "bipartisan" vote -- getting far more Democratic than Republican votes.
- In fact, a solid majority of Republican senators votes to reject, but they're overwhelmed by the Democrats plus the liberal to moderate Republicans. This cripples Bush in the Senate and shatters the recent Republican solidarity that has blocked various Democrat surrender bills.
- The new attorney general becomes as anti-administration as the State Department under Colin Powell or the CIA from January 20th, 2001;
- Bush spends the next two years in utter misery and isolation. Everything he has done to fight terrorism, on both the foreign and domestic sides, from the Patriot Act to immigration prosecutions, is undone. He leaves office as the most unsuccessful president since Jimmy Carter.
- Worse, Bush leaves a weaker America that has been defeated, humiliated, and humbled. Global jihadism is triumphant. Al Gore or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpet Bag, 95%) is elected president, and things go from worse to worst. It's the end of the world as we know it, and the Democrats feel fine.
II. Assume instead that Bush refuses to nominate a "uniter" (that is, a RINO); he stands firm, nominating movement conservatives over and over:
- Every nominee is rejected in committee;
- The Republicans, who hoped that the American people would punish the Democrats for "overreaching," instead turn against the president, blaming him for nominating "ideologues" and for being stubborn;
- This perception is encouraged by the Democrats' propaganda efforts, which earn a grade of B-... in contrast to the administration's propaganda machine, which gets a D+. Bush loses the spin cycle (surprise, surprise);
- Because there is no political appointee in either of the top two slots at Justice, the department ends up being run by the career bureaucrats -- who are uniformly liberal. In fact, they're more liberal than any imaginable Republican Bush might nominate;
- See numbers 8 to 10 in the previous scenario.
Note that the complete, catastrophic concatenation of calamities begins with number 1: Bush firing Gonzales and McNulty. In fact, it doesn't even depend much upon firing McNulty, except insofar as there would be someone reasonably conservative running Justice during the confirmation comedy.
However, McNulty, being only the "acting comandante," would not have the power over the bureaucracy of the actual Attorney General; and the nomenklatura would eat him alive. We would more or less be back to bifurcation II.
Therefore, if Bush wants to retain any possibility of achievement in his last two years -- or even of staving off the slavering hordes of Democrats who desperately want to undo the last six years -- then he must not fire Alberto Gonzales in the first place.
Nothing good can come of it. We won't get another John Ashcroft; we'll get another Janet Reno. Or worse -- we might get another Ramsey Clark.
Gonzales is far from perfect; I consider him a thoroughly mediocre pick, though probably the most conservative AG Bush could have gotten confirmed following Ashcroft's resignation. But please understand: If Gonzales goes, any conceivable future scenario for de jure or de facto head of the Justice Department is much, much worse.
There is no upside to firing Gonzales. I do not believe that the president is so politically inept as to do so, nor that Congressional Republicans are so suicidal as to push it. But even if I'm wrong about Bush's fortitude on this issue, I'm afraid I won't be much wrong about the dreadful consequences.
For the sake of the nation, the party, and for Bush himself, Alberto Gonzales must stay.
Date ►►► March 18, 2007
Quote of the Scandal
I know you're more used to seeing "Quote of the Week" or "Quote of the Year;" but I am oriented more towards substance than calendar... so allow me to call this the Quote of the Fired-Attorneys Scandal. And you're not going to budge me; I am adamant!
The Drudge Report linked Politico.com -- how can I get him to link Big Lizards? and would Hosting Matters explode into flinders if he did? -- about the continuing saga of eight U.S. Attorneys fired from the Bush administration for having their own set of priorities that did not match those of the White House. And let's lay one talking point to rest right away: Of course the firing was political!
It was political because policy itself is necessarily political: The administration has a set of principles of governance during time of war; those principles lead to a set of priorities of law enforcement. For example, Bush believes that controlling immigration is critcal to national security; therefore, he believes that the U.S. Attorneys should "privilege" immigration cases.
Democrats and some liberal Republicans by and large believe the opposite, that there is no connection between uncontrolled immigration and national security. Therefore, they tend to "deprivilege" immigration cases. This is a very deep, very consistent political split.
Thus, when several U.S. Attorneys (two or three of the eight) refused to prosecute or focus on immigration cases, they did so for political reasons: because their political priorities conflicted with those of the administration. And when they were subsequently fired, that too was political. However, those particular political differences form a perfectly valid basis for discharge.
Likewise anent the attorneys fired for refusing to take seriously allegations of Democratic electoral corruption: They were let go for political reasons, but those reasons were nevertheless perfectly proper.
This by way of prologue; now to the Quote of the Scandal...
The Democrats are clearly fanning the flames of scandal here -- you're way ahead of me -- for partisan political purposes: They want to make Republicans appear corrupt so they can beat them in 2008. As a prime example, here, from the Politico.com story, is Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL, 90%) on the subject of Republican corruption:
"Every time you get more memos, or more communications between the White House and the Justice Department, you get more facts that don't look good," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "The White House either hired a bunch of incompetent U.S. attorneys to start with, or hired a bunch of competent U.S attorneys that were incompetently fired...."
[Emanuel fails to consider a more plausible alternative: Eight of the 93 U.S. Attorneys the White House hired were competent, but they had their own agendas that prevented them from earning the pleasure of the president. So they were canned.]
Emanuel said his party would continue to focus on the corruption cases that several of the prosecutors had under way when they were fired. "One operative theory, and that doesn't mean that it's right," Emanuel said, "is that if you believe corruption was at the root of the election results, one way to handle that is to get rid of the U.S. attorneys who were pursuing corruption cases."
Why does this statement take top honors, in my opinion?
- It conveys the implication that Republicans are somehow corrupt without actually coming out and making a specific, rebuttable accusation;
- It looks vague but is in fact meaningless;
- It will likely be picked up and recycled by the media, as if it were some crushing argument to which there can be no response... which is true, in a way, as you cannot respond sensibly to absolute nonsense.
Thus, Rahm Emanuel's summation is the Platonic ideal of a political statement in the midst of this entirely political non-scandal.
Is Emanuel saying that this is only one theory among many? If it may not be right, yet he offers no criteria by which to judge, then why bother saying it at all? (One operative theory, and that doesn't means that it's right, is that Howard Dean is a centipede.)
Is he saying that the Bush administration believed that corruption was at the root of the 2004 election results? Does he mean Democratic corruption or Republican corruption? Does Emanuel imply that the Bush administration believes that they, themselves only won by corruption?
Or is he saying that the Democrats believe that Bush only won by corruption? Which states does he believe were so corrupted that they wrongly cast their electoral votes for Bush?
And in any event, does "you," the subject of the primary verb "believe," persist as the implied actor of the infinitive "to get rid of" in the final clause? If so, that would mean it was the Democrats who "got rid of" the attorneys -- so that can't be right! But then, who is the implied actor... the Bush administration? How many separate and contradictory subjects is a sentence allowed to have?
So what in the hell is he actually saying? I don't see any hands raised, except for the grammarians in the back... and I suspect theirs are raised, not to answer the question, but in unconditional surrender.
Thus I dub this quotation the synecdoche of the Democratic response to this firing, and to the Bush administration in general: They know (in a Gnostic sense) that there is some horrific, Lovecraftian corruption in there somewhere, but they just can't quite wrap their tentacles around it.
At Last - a Real Iraqi Civil War!
A funny thing happened on the way to the civil war...
Since about three hours after the invasion of Iraq began on March 20th, 2003 (yes, the fourth anniversary is this Tuesday), the anti-war peaceniks have insisted that Iraq is in a "full-blown civil war." If that's true, then for consistency, we would have to say the same about Los Angeles during the 1970s gang violence between Crips and Bloods.
But the Left has been disappointed time and again by its arms-length allies, who consistently fail to field opposing armies, capture territory, enunciate a national front, set up a shadow government, or any of the other requirements of a civil war. It's getting increasingly hard for even the elite media to keep a straight face when they report that Iraq in 2007 is in the same boat as Spain in the 1930s, America in the 1860s, or England in the mid-17th century... or even Haiti in the 1990s. Hoi polloi insist upon going about their normal lives; don't they know there's an American election looming in a scant twenty months?
But recently, a bona-fide civil war has erupted in Iraq... in fact, two of them. And the Democrats would be applauding -- except that, just like all the WMD we've found, "it's the wrong kind" of civil war!
First, we read about Sunni tribal leaders throwing in their lot with the American and Iraqi forces, joining the battle against al-Qaeda. In response, the terrorists have begun to direct their car-bombs and "martyrdom operations," not against the Americans or even the Shia, but against their own people, Sunni Iraq:
Al Qaeda's activities in Diyala are stirring up local resistance to the terror group. Al Sabaah reports Local sheikhs in Diyala are organizing against al-Qaeda and its Islamic State in Iraq, "which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts." The Iraqi government [is] beginning to plan military operations in Diyala as well. The Diyala sheikhs are beginning to organize, and are said to be forming a anti al Qaeda group akin to the Anbar Salvation Front, a grouping of former insurgents and tribes that oppose and fight al Qaeda's presence in western Iraq.
As a sign al Qaeda is concerned about this development, the terror campaign against hostile tribes is now underway. The homes of Sunni and Shia tribesmen who oppose al Qaeda are being burned to the ground on the city of Muqdadiya. Unconfirmed reports indicate 30 to 100 homes have been torched in the city. Two days ago, a police station in Hibhib in Diyala province was overrun. One policeman was killed, 3 wounded and 10 have been reported missing.
And Thursday, we learned the same sort of "red on red" violence had begun among the Shia:
Gunmen opened fire on the convoy carrying [Muqtada Sadr loyalist] Rahim al-Darraji Thursday in eastern Baghdad, seriously wounding him and killing two of his bodyguards on Thursday, police and a local official said.
Al-Darraji was the principal negotiator in talks with U.S. officials that led to an agreement to pull fighters off the streets in Sadr City, a stronghold of the feared Mahdi Army, and a local commander said suspicion fell on a group of disaffected militiamen who are angry about the deal....
He said the attack has created tension within the ranks of the militia and renewed a debate on the merits of allowing the Americans to operate in Sadr City without resistance during a security sweep aimed at ending the sectarian violence that has raged since a Feb. 22, 2006, bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.
In January, when we first heard about Muqtada Sadr's plan to "stand down" his Mahdi Militia during the US and Iraqi forces' new security operation, then "return to power" when the coast is clear, it was plain Sadr had not really thought this through: the Mahdi Militia and their rivals, the Badr Organization (ne Badr Brigades) are not regular armies; they have no military dicipline and no patience to wait quietly for very long.
Rather, they're gang-bangers with AK-47s and explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) supplied by Iran's Qods Force. In addition, Sadr is hiding in Iran, and his orders from so far away cannot carry much weight, in contrast to the direct orders of "commanders" on the ground in Iraq.
Sadr ordered his men not to resist even if they were arrested; but we also know Sadr sold out some of his less-than-loyal followers, fingering them to the Americans and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces (Sadr is using us to punish his rivals). So imagine you're one of Sadr's men who is in imminent danger of being arrested during this security crackdown; what would you conclude?
Is Sadr going to rescue you, as he promised? Or is he going to sell you to the highest bidder between the U.S. Marines and the Iraqi Army?
If you think the latter (for which you have good justification), it would make more sense for you to rebel against Sadr now, rather than wait until he returns to power -- and until you get a change of address to the Sadr-City Sing-Sing.
"Sadr is weak," you would argue; "he's not fit to rule. He fled when he was needed the most, and he's cooperating with the infidel invaders!" He cannot sit on everybody's head at once; somebody is going make a move... and now, somebody has
So let's review the betting. Since the 2006 elections, which "crippled" President Bush, turning him into "the lamest of lame ducks," we have see the following:
- Bush's enemies among al-Qaeda and the Sunni rejectionists have begun to battle each other, wasting time and ammunition that could have been used against us;
- Bush's enemies among the Shia death squads have fallen upon each other hammer and tooth, initiating a war to choose a successor to Muqtada Sadr -- who is shocked, as he was unaware he was in such urgent need of succession;
- And Bush's enemies on Capitol Hill are locked in internecine warfare over how quickly to surrender in Iraq.
Thus, all the president's nemeses are busy locking horns with each other, leaving him free to jet around South America and look presidential. Not a badly played hand for the man that the dean of American political thought, Donald Trump, has called "the worst president in the history of the United States."
Date ►►► March 16, 2007
Don't Worry. Be Happy.
Is it just me?
Members of extremist groups have signed up as school bus drivers in the United States, counterterror officials said Friday, in a cautionary bulletin to police. An FBI spokesman said "parents and children have nothing to fear...."
The bulletin, parts of which were read to The Associated Press, did not say how often foreign extremists have sought to acquire licenses to drive school buses, or where....
It noted "recent suspicious activity" by foreigners who either drive school buses or are licensed to drive them, according to a counterterror official who read parts of the document to The Associated Press.
Foreigners under recent investigation include "some with ties to extremist groups" who have been able to "purchase buses and acquire licenses," the bulletin says.
But Homeland Security and the FBI "have no information indicating these individuals are involved in a terrorist plot against the homeland," it says.
Whew! Dodged that bullet. Fortunately, it turns out that these "foreign extremists" (which I believe is Newspeak for "known jihadis") aren't currently involved in "a terrorist plot against the homeland." That we know of. So let's just forget the whole thing and go back to sleep.
I can't be the only one who believes that the phrase "foreign extremist" is more or less defined as "a person in this country plotting some sort of extreme action against someone." How do we know it's not against the United States -- which is, after all, the "Great Satan?" (Israel is merely the "Little Satan.")
Just because he hasn't yet settled on an actual plan of terrorist attack -- assuming our intel is correct about even that much -- doesn't mean he's not positioning himself to have access to 30 or 40 American schoolkids at the drop of a turban, whenever he finally decides how best to use them.
If we strongly suspect that a person is a "foreign extremist," is there some constitutional reason we cannot bar him from any job that puts large numbers of Americans at great risk? Favorite occupations for known jihadis could include:
- Flying a commercial airliner
- Inspecting cargo at a port
- Working in the infectious diseases ward at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Working at an explosives factory
- Driving a truck containing large quantities of nuclear waste
- ...Or driving a bus full of school children.
At the very least, let's call in the potential employer, apprise him of some of what we suspect about this particular subject... and then remind the employer that, now that he knows the risk, if "anything happens," his company will be liable for any damages. That should cause the employer to reevaluate its hiring procedures.
I know it may be decried by Democrats as racial profiling; but it won't be decried loudly or for very long: I doubt there is any great groundswell of public sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked jihadis in America who are unable to gain employment as school bus drivers; so there's little the Democratic Party can do for this natural constituency of theirs.
Maybe they can pass a non-binding resolution.
And the Envelope Please #001
One of the requirements for continued membership in the Watcher's Council is to announce the winners each week of the council's blog vote. Watcher of Weasels has put up his post of all the nominees who received at least one vote this week for either first or second choice.
Every week, each council member (except for the WoW) nominates a post of his own and also a post by someone not on the Watcher's Council. We vote on these 24 nominations -- 12 posts by council members, 12 by persons not on the council -- and a pair of winners is determined by an abstruse and complex procedure (Watcher of Weasels counts the votes).
Congratulations to this week's the winners:
- Council post: Serving While Republican, by Eternity Road;
- Non-council post: Tenured Deceit, by Sigmund, Carl and Alfred.
The two posts are well worth reading... as are the 22 others that didn't win anything; think of them as 22 "honorable mentions!"
Date ►►► March 15, 2007
Democrats In the Dental Chair
One of the weirdest -- and funniest -- segments of the original Roger Corman movie the Little Shop of Horrors is when dental patient Wilbur Force (Jack Nicholson in a very early role in his career) demands that the dentist, Phoebus Farb, drill Force's teeth without anaesthetic: Wilbur Force is a masochist, you see, and that's how he gets off. (When first we see him, he's sitting in the waiting room, reading an issue of Pain Magazine -- and giggling.)
Whenever the Democrats throw another handful of defeatist red meat onto the floor of Congress, I always think of Jack Nicholson squirming in the dental chair, laughing in masochistic glee. I'm not sure why I have that association...
The latest volley of dueling Democratic defeat-o-ramas -- one in the House, three in the Senate -- raises my earlier question to greater urgency: Does the 110th Congress plan to do anything besides making symbolic gestures of surrender?
Do the Democrats have any agenda at all, other than to bring the troops home in failure and disgrace? They seem to believe that if only America can be "chastened" and "humbled," if we stop acting as though we're somehow "better" than other countries, then maybe the rest of the world will love us again. It might be true: The reaction to 9/11 proved that the world loves America when America is on its knees.
But as usual, the result of these non-binding (or binding but unpassable) resolutions outside of the liberal fantasyland is just more pain and humiliation for the Democrats. As witness today, when the House Appropriations Committee only narrowly passed along an emergency supplemental surrender bill to the full House... and the Senate actually rejected a similar cut-and-run bill by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%), 50-48.
Yup: The Democrats needed 60 votes; they couldn't even get 50. And if both McCain and Johnson had voted, it would have been an absolute majority against, 51 to 49.
Only one Republican, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon [72%], voted in favor of the measure. Two Democrats, Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas [90%] and Ben Nelson of Nebraska [55%], voted against it, as did Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut [80%]. Senators Tim Johnson, a Democrat from South Dakota [95%] who is ill, and John McCain, an Arizona Republican [65%] who is in Iowa, did not vote.
(The House bill was passed by the committee with one fewer vote than there are Democrats on the panel: Rep. Barbara Lee -- D-Berkeley, 95% -- decided it was too pro-Bush and too right-wing, since it didn't call for an immediate pull-out... not today, man, yesterday!)
Meanwhile, a pair of -- wait for it -- non-binding resolutions in the Senate, each promising that funding would not be cut for troops in the field, passed overwhelmingly, according to Paul at Power Line:
The [Sen. Judd] Gregg Amendment, which I understand calls says that Congress should not eliminate or reduce funds for troops in the field, has passed 82–16. The [Sen. Patty] Murray Amendment, which I understand calls for Congress to provide funds for training, equipment and other support for troops in the field, has passed 96-2.
How many holes can we drill before the Democrats are left utterly toothless?
The New Anti-War Math
Everybody is already talking about the new Democratic Iraq surrender plans (I think this makes numbers 16 and 17, according to the count by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%), and we have little to add -- just one amusing giggle that symbolizes the lucklessness of the Democrats as they struggle through les cent jours...
The Democrats are desperate to lose the war, quick, before we accidentally win it. But they've already wrong-footed, judging from the boneheaded response by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) to McConnell:
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said passage of the withdrawal measure "would be absolutely fatal to our mission in Iraq" - and he sought to rebut Democratic supporters with their own words.
He quoted Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada as saying in 2005 that setting a timeline was "not a wise decision because it only empowers those who don't want us there, and it doesn't work well to do that."
That was McConnell's jab plus right cross; here is Reid's attempted block:
"To take a statement that I made five years ago, to think that things haven't changed in five years is without any degree of sensibility," he responded to McConnell a few moments later on the Senate floor.
Five years? From 2005 to 2007? I think Harry Reid must be punch drunk!
The judges just called that round for the Right corner. Now let's see whether the Democrats can even get a bare majority on the House bill, let alone get anywhere near 17 Republicans, like last time. (The Senate is drawing dead on its own plan, to muddle up the boxing metaphor; there is no way they can even get 60 senators to shut down debate and call a vote.)
Has the 110th Congress passed any actual legislation? I don't believe they've even raised the minimum wage yet, as far as I know.
Date ►►► March 14, 2007
Putting Into Perspective
Here is a thought experiment...
Suppose you're the CEO of a huge corporation, UsCo Inc. You and the BoD have decided that the strategy for the next few years will be to transition more and more of UsCo's business away from what it's been doing (with declining market share) for the past 20 years -- contracting to other companies for their accounting needs. It's been squeezed out in the last decade by a number of new competitors.
Instead, you're going to transition UsCo to primarily an accounting software company: UsCo has a product it has used in-house for the past six years, and it's better than what any of the competitors use. It's been selling it for the past three years, and the company is already having much more success (more profit) from that small division than the whole rest of UsCo combined.
However, eight of UsCo's 93 senior managers seem to have a problem with the new strategy: They think it won't work, they're not comfortable with it, they think the company should continue to contract accounting services as they always have. Worse, they're simply refusing to move towards the new focus; they continue doing business as usual as if the board hadn't said a thing.
More and more mid-level managers and worker-bee employees working under these eight managers are complaining that when they try to follow the new corporate focus, they run into a brick wall: They're told in no uncertain terms to stop changing things and go back to what they were doing.
These eight managers listen politely when the VPs and even board members of UsCo tell them to get with the program; but then they go back and continue doing exactly what they were doing in the first place. They seem excessively comfortable with the status quo.
What (if anything) do you, as CEO, do about this?
America's Newest Civil-Rights Group: CAIR
This truly is "media madness," as the post category says. The New York Times has just published a virtual hagiography of the Council on American Islamic Relations, our chums of CAIR. In it, we discover that the "critics" of CAIR are all Moslem-hating fanatics -- and Jews:
CAIR and its supporters say its accusers are a small band of people who hate Muslims and deal in half-truths. Ms. Boxer’s decision to revoke the Sacramento commendation provoked an outcry from organizations that vouch for the group’s advocacy, including the American Civil Liberties Union [surprise!] and the California Council of Churches.
“They have been a leading organization that has advocated for civil rights and civil liberties in the face of fear and intolerance, in the face of religious and ethnic profiling,” said Maya Harris, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Northern California....
“Traditionally within the government there is only one point of view that is acceptable, which is the pro-Israel line,” said Nihad Awad, a founder of CAIR and its executive director. “Another enlightened perspective on the conflict is not there, and it causes some discomfort.”
The Times even slyly hints, a wink and a nod, that such authoritative sources as University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard Kennedy School of Government Professor Stephen Walt work hand in glove with CAIR... so how bad could that civil-rights group be?
The Times doesn't actually name Mearsheimer and Walt, of course; that might allow net-savvy readers to Google them and discover just who they are. (For the record, they are the two academics who torpedoed their careers -- except among other antisemites -- trying to prove that the "Israel Lobby" actually controls the American government.) The paper refers to them as "two prominent academics who argue that the pro-Israeli lobby exercises detrimental influence on United States policy on the Middle East." But they're not fooling anyone.
(For more about Mearsheimer and Walt, follow the link to Power Line.)
Let's get a taste of how the Times sees this epochal struggle between the religion of peace and the Israel lobby:
The group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, defines its mission as spreading the understanding of Islam and protecting civil liberties. Its officers appear frequently on television and are often quoted in newspapers, and its director has met with President Bush. Some 500,000 people receive the group’s daily e-mail newsletter.
Yet a debate rages behind the scenes in Washington about the group, commonly known as CAIR, its financing and its motives. A small band of critics have made a determined but unsuccessful effort to link it to Hamas and Hezbollah, which have been designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department, and have gone so far as calling the group an American front for the two....
Government officials in Washington said they were not aware of any criminal investigation of the group. More than one described the standards used by critics to link CAIR to terrorism as akin to McCarthyism, essentially guilt by association. [Lost in this lurid analogy is the curious fact that McCarthy was right: FDR's State Department and other government entities were, in fact, riddled with Stalinist spies in the 1930s and 1940s -- as Ann Coulter's book Treason clearly and meticulously demonstrates.]
“Of all the groups, there is probably more suspicion about CAIR, but when you ask people for cold hard facts, you get blank stares,” said Michael Rolince, a retired F.B.I. official who directed counterterrorism in the Washington field office from 2002 to 2005.
So what exactly is that determined but unsuccessful effort to link the fine, God-fearing folks at CAIR to Hamas and/or Hezbollah? Let's see what those "blank stares" actually look like:
Broadly summarized, critics accuse CAIR of pursuing an extreme Islamist political agenda and say at least five figures with ties to the group or its leadership have either been convicted or deported for links to terrorist groups. They include Mousa Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader deported in 1997 after the United States failed to produce any evidence directly linking him to any attacks.
There were no charges linked to CAIR in any of the cases involved, and law enforcement officials said that in the current climate, any hint of suspicious behavior would have resulted in a racketeering charge.
Curious that the Times says that critics claim "at least five figures" connected with CAIR have been convicted or deported; but they only mention one, Mousa Abu Marzook... and him for the sole purpose of ridiculing the charge ("innocence by association," I suppose).
Even more curious is that nobody claims that Marzook is a member of CAIR -- just as nobody but the Times denies he is a major terrorist figure. The Times appears to have mixed him up with Ghassan Elashi -- who was convicted of laundering money to Marzook (see below). The elite media's multiple layers of editorial scrutiny strike again.
All right; but what about the unnamed others? Perhaps the small band of critics are referring to these chaps, as documented by Daniel Pipes:
Rabih Haddad, CAIR fundraiser, deported for being the co-founder and executive director of Global Relief Foundation -- an al-Qaeda front group masquerading as an Islamic charity. The United States Department of the Treasury lists GRF as an al-Qaeda entity:The Global Relief Foundation (GRF), also known as Fondation Secours Mondial (FSM), and its officers and directors have connections to, and have provided support for and assistance to, Usama bin Laden (UBL), al Qaida, and other known terrorist groups.
- Ghassan Elashi, Texas-chapter founder and board member and co-founder of the Holy Land Foundation -- yet another terrorist group, according to the United States government (USG). Elashi was convicted in federal court on 21 counts of funding the terrorist organization Hamas via Marzook; Elashi is currently serving seven years in a federal calabooza. (Funneling money to Hamas? Oh, another determined but unsuccessful effort to link CAIR and Hamas; another blank stare.
- Bassem Khafagi, director of community relations (!) for CAIR, was busted by the FBI and charged with funneling funds to terrorist groups. Copped a plea to visa and bank fraud and agreed to be deported to Egypt.
- Randall "Ismail" Royer, erstwhile civil rights coordinator (!!) for CAIR; arrested in 2003 as part of the "Virginia jihad group." Royer pled guilty to 32 counts of "conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and to the Taliban" and got a cool 20 years in the stripey hole. But wait -- no connection to the dangerous terrorist groups Hamas or Hezbollah here -- merely al-Qaeda; so CAIR is off the hook for this one!
- Siraj Wahhaj, CAIR advisory board member; in 1995, Wahhaj was named by U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White as "a possible unindicted coconspirator in the plot to blow up New York City landmarks led by the blind sheikh, Omar Abdul Rahman."
- Omar Ahmad, CAIR co-founder; Ahmad, along with Elashi, attended the 1993 meeting that hatched the fake Islamic charity scheme by which groups like the Holy Land Foundation and the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) would raise money to fund Hamas. Uh-oh, the determined effort is starting to seem a little less unsuccessful.
The IAP was such a big player in funding Hamas that in 2004, a federal judge found them liable for millions of dollars in damages for having "aided and abetted the Hamas murder of David Boim, an American citizen."
And who ran the AIP? Its president was Omar Ahmad, co-founder of CAIR; the public relations director of IAP was Nihad Awad, the other co-founder of CAIR; another president of IAP was Rafeeq Jabar, a founding director of CAIR; and one of IAP's employees was Ibrahim Hooper -- CAIR's current communications director.
(Oh, wait; I forgot: Pipes, being a vocal Jew, is declared a member of the "Israel Lobby" by Mearsheimer and Walt in their "seminal" study. To quote Emily Litella, never mind!)
Evidently, the Times is aware of none of this. Rather, they state emphatically that --
Some activists and academics view the controversy surrounding the group as typical of why Washington fails so often in the Middle East, while extremism mushrooms.
Yeah. That explains it.
Perhaps the real reason "why Washington fails" is that the frequent cases where CAIR openly defends Hamas and Hezbollah, calls Israel a terrorist state, defends nearly every Moslem accused of terrorist connections -- and even the raft of top CAIR officials who have been arrested, convicted, or deported for terrorist activities -- has not "resulted in a racketeering charge" against them. CAIR appears to have high-level protection.
There appears to be a widespread belief within the USG that, if we were to declare CAIR a terrorist front group, the "Moslem street" would erupt with fury and violence.
Yes, it probably would... if by "Moslem street" we mean the interconnected chain of terrorist organizations, terrorist states, and apologists for terrorism. That group would almost certainly erupt with violence if we did the manly thing and sent CAIR packing.
But of course, that same group erupts with murderous violence when Shiite pilgrims head to Karbala to worship... so I wouldn't take the threat too seriously: al-Qaeda and its affiliates don't need an excuse to slaughter innocents; the drop of a veil will serve just as well.
Date ►►► March 13, 2007
So -- I'm not making this up -- here is Dean Barnett:
In a blog post a week or so ago, Dinesh D’Souza promised to expose the “massive ignorance” of the legion of critics who had the audacity to criticize his latest book, “The Enemy at Home.” To that end, Dinesh is publishing an extensive four-piece ignorance-exposing extravaganza on National Review’s site this week....
In case, for whatever reason, you want to track this controversy from its roots, here’s my review of “The Enemy at Home” in which I unwittingly revealed my massive ignorance. Whoops!
Bah. Euphemisms... always euphemisms.
Hey - Let's Accept!
Matt Drudge is running a link to this Politico post about Air America (do they still exist?) offering to host a Republican candidates debate in four states, "tweaking" (Politico's word) Fox News Channel:
Tweaking the Fox News Channel, the president of liberal Air America Radio this morning sent a letter to the chairmen of four state Republican parties, offering to host and broadcast the state parties' upcoming presidential debates.
Agreeing to the debate “would allow Republicans to differentiate themselves from Democrats,” Air America President Mark Green wrote to the Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina Republican chairmen in a deadpan communication provided this morning to The Politico.
This picks up on the dog's breakfast the Nevada Democratic Party and the Democratic candidates served themselves a few days ago by pulling out of a Nevada debate... because Fox News was one of the sponsors.
John Edwards, covering himself with near-Marcottean glory, was first; the Nevada Democratic Party pulled out a few days later because, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%), Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes cracked a joke at President Bush's expense, implying that Bush was too dense to know the difference between Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 100%) and Osama bin Laden (terrorist nutcase with delusions of godhood, 100%).
(No, I don't get it either. Why should Ailes making fun of Bush mean that Fox News questioners would treat Democrats unfairly? Somebody has slipped a cog here, and I don't think it's I.)
You know what, though? Mark Green is right! Accepting Air America's offer would absolutely differentiate us from the Democrats -- and show Republicans to be unafraid of debate, to boot.
Let's go ahead and accept... but demand a partnership with another ultra-liberal (but larger) media source, like CNN; and just like the Fox News offer, demand a mix of liberal and conservative questioners... but allow Air America to supply one.
I have complete confidence that Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Fred Thompson, or whoever is in the debate will have no difficulty fielding a question or three from an Airhead America reporter; and that some insulting, offensive, "have you stopped preventing your wife from getting an abortion yet" question will actually enhance the appeal of whichever Republican responds to it with sang-froid.
Propaganda is a very powerful tool. Gee, I wish we had someone who understood it.
Expect to See Much More of This In Iraq
According to Bill Roggio, the security operation is having an excellent effect in Baghdad; but some of the Sunni terrorists have shifted the launching-point of their attacks from Baghdad to Diyala province, which stretches northeast of Baghdad to the Iranian border.
But this isn't sitting well with many of the tribal leaders there -- who are reacting more or less the way their fellow anti-al-Qaeda tribal leaders are reacting in Anbar province, on the other side of Iraq:
Al Qaeda's activities in Diyala are stirring up local resistance to the terror group. Al Sabaah reports Local sheikhs in Diyala are organizing against al-Qaeda and its Islamic State in Iraq, "which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts." The Iraqi government [is] beginning to plan military operations in Diyala as well. The Diyala sheikhs are beginning to organize, and are said to be forming a anti al Qaeda group akin to the Anbar Salvation Front, a grouping of former insurgents and tribes that oppose and fight al Qaeda's presence in western Iraq.
As a sign al Qaeda is concerned about this development, the terror campaign against hostile tribes is now underway. The homes of Sunni and Shia tribesmen who oppose al Qaeda are being burned to the ground on the city of Muqdadiya. Unconfirmed reports indicate 30 to 100 homes have been torched in the city. Two days ago, a police station in Hibhib in Diyala province was overrun. One policeman was killed, 3 wounded and 10 have been reported missing.
This year has seen a tipping point in the emphatic rejection of al-Qaeda by the very people it purports to "protect" and whom it desperately needs for its continued survival. More and more Sunni tribal leaders are not just walking away from al-Qaeda murderers; they're taking up arms against them.
In response, we've seen a dramatic increase in "red on red" violence, where Sunni al-Qaeda attacks Sunni tribal chiefs because the terrorists are just not getting any support from "their" populations.
American forces have already built sufficient flexibility into our security operation that the remaining three brigades yet to enter Iraq may choose to head to the Baghdad 'burbs, like Diyala and Karbala, instead of the city itself. And unlike previous "surges" (which this is actually not), we're not just clearing and leaving. This time we're clearing and staying.
Roggio also notes that the 23 Joint Security Stations (JSSs) we've already established around Baghdad are so successful, we've decided to double them from the original plan of about 35 up to at least 70. JSSs are stations where American and Iraqi forces live together, eat together, sleep in the same barracks, and in general share the space as if they were a single military unit, instead of two different units from two separate and quite disparate countries.
(And pssst... it also significantly helps the embedding process, allowing us to train the Iraqis to take over for us at an accelerated pace.)
Finally, Iraq is finally beginning to understand the symbolism of leadership, along with the brute-force aspect. Tell me if this doesn't sound like something George W. Bush or Don Rumsfeld would do. From AP:
Iraq's Shiite prime minister on Tuesday made a groundbreaking and unannounced visit to Ramadi, the Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, a senior staff member told The Associated Press.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had flown to the insurgent bastion Tuesday morning.
An AP reporter in Ramadi said police in the city told him al-Maliki was meeting tribal leaders and the Iraqi chief of security for the province at a U.S. base.
Maliki could of course have simply sent a surrogate, even a Sunni surrogate: There is a Sunni vice president, for example. But he decided that he could not resist the propaganda coup of marching right into the capital of Anbar province -- home of al-Qaeda In Iraq -- like he owned the whole country (which increasingly he does, or rather the Iraqi citizens do).
Good news is just busting out all around Iraq these days. Somebody better break out the smelling salts; I'm afraid Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) has got the vapors again.
Date ►►► March 12, 2007
Beldar vs. Dafydd Under the Big Top
Beldar has kindly responded to my post, Begging the Biggie, with his own -- which is even longer than mine!
Even the title has a lot of heft: Fitzgerald, Libby, and the roles of, and viewing windows for, big lizards (be they mere prosecutors, Special Counsel, or Independent Counsel Godzillas) in the legal-political jungle -- whew! But it's definitely worth reading, as it frames the debate nicely.
Simply put, it boils down to this: Which is more important -- that all the privacy rights and defendant's rights of those examined in the course of the Fitzgerald investigation be protected... or that the integrity and honor of the United States government (USG) and the country itself be defended and questions resolved?
Being only moderately concerned about privacy rights under any circumstances, and especially where government officials are involved, I opt for the latter. Let me explain, please...
The Plame Name Blame Game began as a two-pronged assault upon the integrity of the USG and the honor of the country itself:
- Lyin' Joe Wilson claimed that Bush defrauded us into war in his 2003 State of the Union address and other speeches by making a false claim about Iraq, Niger, and Uranium ore, or "yellowcake."
- Wilson and the elite media claimed that the administration subsequently used the power of the USG to silence Wilson by "outing" his CIA-employed wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, though a series of orchestrated leaks to the media.
In December of 2003, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, then the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, was named Special Counsel to investigate whether there was any crime in the revelation that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. (Fitzgerald was fresh off a corruption investigation of Republican Gov. George Ryan that netted 40 indictments, including that of Ryan himself, who was convicted of 18 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud, extortion, bribery, and suchlike.)
There were two reasons for the appointment of a Special Counsel, one micro and the other macro:
- Micro: Fitzgerald was obviously appointed to uphold the law, to investigate crimes, to prosecute plaintiffs if necessary and prudent, and to gain convictions where they were guilty. Call this the legal quest.
- Macro: But, like all cases where a Special or Independent Counsel is brought in, there was a political side as well. As the integrity and honor of the United States and the USG had been questioned (by Democrats, for the most part), both Democrats and Republicans wanted those questions answered, either to restore the good name of the country (for the former), or to demonstrate that it had never been besmirched in the first place (for the latter). This is the quest for cosmic justice.
(The terms micro and macro relate to the focus: Micro is focused upon the particulars of this investigation; macro looks at the integrity of the government as a whole.)
Both of these purposes (or principles) are vital; but they can sometimes clash. And under the cosmic view of justice, whenever two principles clash, we must resolve that dichotomy by deciding which is more important.
While I'm certain that both Beldar and Patterico see both principles as important, I believe, based upon their writings, that they see (1) as more so -- perhaps because it's more tangible. Too, as lawyers, they have devoted their lives to upholding the law, and it would not be hard to see each case as a synecdoche of Law itself. This is what I meant by "thinking like a lawyer."
(To be fair, if they didn't think as lawyers, they wouldn't be anywhere near as good at their jobs as they clearly are!)
I, however, see the opposite: While both micro and macro are very important, I see (2) as more so... precisely because it's less tangible; that is, less "concrete-bound," as Ayn Rand might say, if she were still among us the living, I mean... less tied to the specific facts of one specific instance. The United States as a country and America as a culture can more easily survive injustices in individual cases than they can the cosmic injustice of losing national honor and governmental integrity, so that Americans cease to believe in America.
The proof is that we've all seen injustice in the courtroom many times: the O.J. case, the retrials of the police who were acquitted of beating Rodney King, the McMartin and other "pre-school molestation" cases, the Red-Light Bandit trial and execution, the "Lindbergh baby kidnapping" trial of Bruno Hauptman, the repeated prosecutions of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle based upon nothing, and the trial of Dr. Samuel Mudd for treating the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth... these all popped into my head with two minutes thought.
Yet none of these egregious examples of injustice has shaken the widespread belief among the mainstream within the United States that if the cops arrest you, you'll get a fair trial. Everyone knows that sometimes it doesn't work right; but we also know it usually does, and it works better than any other system.
Injustice anent the macro principle, however, is a different story.
At any moment, government -- every government -- hangs by a thread. Sometimes the thread is like a hair, even gossamer; other times, in other places, it's more like a steel cable. But government in general always depends upon people choosing to obey the orders of those empowered (de jure or de facto) to issue orders... what Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci calls hegemony, or as I put it, "perceived fitness to rule."
Congress passes a law and the president signs it. A court issues a decision sending a man to prison or making one person pay "compensation" to another. The IRS audits a taxpayer and orders him to pay $2000 in back taxes. A state agency declares some geographic area a historic site, with heavy restrictions on building. A city council sets zoning laws the prohibit commercial businesses in some neighborhood.
Each of these is an order; each is backed by the threat of force, but it rarely comes to that. Instead, people generally obey the order simply because they perceive the entity that made it is "fit to rule," legitimate and authoritative -- even when the obeyer disagrees with the decision.
But even the phrase "backed by the threat of force" requires sufficient hegemony that the police or the Army will obey the orders of the government official: If Geoge W. Bush were to order the U.S. Marines to arrest Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama, I guarantee you they would not obey that order. (In fact, the Marines who received it would testify against Bush at the impeachment trial in the Senate.)
Similarly, if Bush ordered the Marines to shift from one city in Iraq to another, they would obey; but if Hillary gave the same order, they would not. These refusals occur because Bush has hegemony as president (Commander in Chief) over the Marines; while Hillary, a mere senator, does not. But even Bush's hegemony is limited; there are legal and illegal orders, and the troops generally will not obey an obviously illegal order -- such as arresting the Democratic candidates for president.
There is, however, another way that hegemony can be lost: when those required to obey cease to recognize the moral authority and legitimacy of the people authorized to issue orders. This occurred, e.g., in the Soviet Union in August of 1991, when large portions of the Mighty Red Army refused to obey orders issuing from the Kremlin... because they knew that Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party, had been seized by several generals and hardline Party members in a coup d'état.
Instead, most of the command structure within Russia itself shifted allegiance to Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia: The army, the police, even the people themselves lost faith in the larger government of the USSR... so they simply ceased to pay attention to their agents and orders.
A bad leader, a corrupt leader, or even too weak of a leader will cause far more damage, of a far more permanent nature, to the country than even the most bizarre and unjust courtroom outcome... because in a very tangible sense, the vast majority of the country identifies far more with the Executive and even the Legislative branches of government than the Judicial -- which is seen as an afterthought. To paraphrase the old bank commercial, the Judiciary is the branch you don't have to think about. It doesn't "represent the country" the way the president does, or to a lesser extent Congress.
There you have it. I know Patterico and Beldar -- and every other lawyer -- won't like it; but I think few would argue the point. They may opine that it should represent America more than any other branch of the USG, or at least just as much. But it simply doesn't, and nothing at all to be done about that.
So back to my dissent from Beldar's post. Beldar is focused almost entirely upon the integrity of the judicial process itself, from the very beginning of the investigation (the FBI interviews) right up through the grand jury testimony, the indictment, and the trial. And he is assuredly correct that, were Fitzgerald forced to answer the questions I posed in the previous post, some elements of judicial integrity would be compromised.
At the very least, workproduct that cops and prosecutors had every reason to expect would remain private would suddenly become public... at least to members of Congress, but probably even to the American people. At worst, the rights of the accused (Lewis Libby) and even those investigated but not accused (Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage, Bob Novak, etc.) would be infringed.
Libby might have a harder time getting a fair hearing in the appellate courts or the Supreme Court. Those not charged might still have somewhat damning facts come out that they would prefer remain hidden.
But no right is absolute, and no decision is taken in a vacuum. There are other rights here, not the least of which is freedom of speech. Properly understood, this right has two parts: the least important is the right to speak; far more important is the right to hear.
The American people have the right to hear whether or not their government is corrupt; if it is corrupt, but they are never told because the Special Counsel will not spill what he found out, how are the people ever to correct it and restore integrity, honor, and hegemony?
Too, anyone who enters into government service necessarily forfeits some of his rights. Not perhaps in a legal sense, but certainly in a de facto sense: notice that virtually every president (and presidential nominee) makes his income-tax return public, for example; when was the last time anybody reading this post did the same?
Public servants also de facto give up much of their First Amendment rights... there are certain things you simply cannot say when you're a senator, or even the Junior Assistant Deputy Secretary of State for International Curling Competitions. Not if you want to keep your job. As Superchicken used to say to his assistant Fred, "you knew the job was dangerous when you took it."
And another of those infringements is the loss of much of one's right to privacy -- and Libby, Rove, Cheney, and everyone else in the administration knew the job entailed this when they took it. (Cluck!)
Libby, et al, simply have less of an expectation of privacy than does Dafydd or Beldar. In fact, even Patterico has a less robust set of rights than we, because the need for integrity and perceived integrity of the public sector is so much greater than among private citizens.
(The importance of hegemony also explains why killing a cop or the governor is so much greater an offense than killing a banker or a bus driver: To allow a banger to kill a cop is to allow him to tear up the Constitution and stamp on the pieces. It is and should be "special circumstances" all by itself.)
Not only does the silence of the Counsels infringe a very important national right, it's also very dangerous: The United States of America is fundamentally built upon a foundation of transparency and speech. It's always best to know the worst, no matter how bad, because at least that will tell you what didn't happen.
When all the people hear are the dire accusations, the hysterical claims, the alarums and excursions offstage, they envision a problem tremendously worse than it actually is... and, as with the similar case of the Iraq War, they can lose all faith in the USG based upon inuendo and overreaction. And that would be a calamity, for without faith, any government is nothing but a collection of loudmouthed head-butters and buttheads.
Each baseless accusation and fabricated outrage is a lit match thrown into a gasoline-soaked house; the truth about what Patrick J. Fitzgerald found -- and what he didn't find -- is a firehose of water: It may itself cause damage, but it will be dramatically less than the damage caused by withholding it.
Finally, Beldar may be correct that that the law prevents Fitzgerald from answering any of the questions I pose. He's a lawyer, I'm not (though I do play a "sea-lawyer" in the blogosphere). But if that is true, then the law stands in the way of justice and must be changed.
We used to have such a law, the Independent Counsel statute. Beldar disliked it and is glad that it's gone; but I think what we have now is actually worse... we have unresolved accusation and eroding integrity. If letting the Independent Counsel statute expire and setting up a Special Counsel "in but not of" the Justice Department was supposed to de-politicize the process, it has failed spectacularly.
We are much better off, and it's more in keeping with America's national character, to turn on the firehose of information let it spray where it will. A biased Counsel can write a biased report; but on the other hand, we've also seen what a biased D.A. can do in Austin, Texas or Durham, North Carolina with just a pocketful of subpoenas.
Corrupt people can corrupt any process; so the fact that a process might be corrupted is not a valid argument for dropping it. Everything is a trade-off; we must weigh the bad versus the good... and as a general rule, except under extraordinary circumstances, I favor greater disclosure over greater secrecy.
I think the United States should -- and does -- agree with me. Change the law, if necessary -- but turn on that blasted hose!
I simply love this headline:
Angelina Jolie overwhelmed at 1st? Heck, considering her extensive experience -- particularly in taxicabs -- I would have expected her to be pretty comfortable at every base, especially home plate.
Not to be outdone (or underdone), Reuters offers this provacative gem:
Probably used lots of brass and African drums, I'd imagine. Did they get Lalo Schifrin to do it?
And this, yonder:
North Korea Nuclear Disarmament Complex: That's when all you can think about is having... oh, let's not continue that thought.
Instead, here's a charming example of a "gremlin," a newspaper word for a headline that can be read equally well two very different ways:
Well... Bedlam springs to mind.
I reckon I'm pretty normal; I put my pants on two legs at a time, just like everybody else. I typically read only the headline, rarely the body of the story.
And sometimes, as in these cases, the headline is just too darned good to muddy up with quotidian content!
The Lidless Eye of Big Lizards
Big Lizards has been granted the singular honor of being drafted into the Council of Watchers, as administered by the all-knowing, all-powerful Watcher of Weasels.
("Honor," ho! Actually it's a dreadful lot of work. Why do I do this to myself? Why do I ask rhetorical questions? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?)
Note how gallantly the Watcher words his post:
After careful consideration of all the applications I've received, I finally managed to reach a decision on the replacement... Big Lizards will be filling the vacancy left by American Future.
5 will get you 8 he received exactly one application... from one besotted reptile. Everyone else fled in horror at having to wade through even more blogposts every week than normal.
You can now look to the right of your screen and see the Watcher's Council blogroll. It should be easily identified by its label. (This sentence will only be operative for pages other than the main page when I get around to rebuilding the blog -- which will be very shortly. But it takes forever.)
I actually have an answer for why I do this to myself: Despite frequent shots on goal and more than $11 in bribes spread around, I have utterly failed to win a Watcher Council's award in the larger blogosphere (I think I qualify for the Susan Lucci Consolation Prize). Thus, I reasoned that I could improve my odds immeasurably if I only had to compete against 12 other bloggers, instead of a cast of thousands.
See? There's menthol in my mattress, or however that saying goes.
But here's where you come in (yes, you knew it had to happen): Since I don't have time to read every single post published in the entire blogosphere -- I have barely enough time for half of them! -- I rely upon you, my faithful followers, my right arms in battle, to suggest posts on sundry people's blogs (including, if you wish, your own) that you think qualify to win a Watcher's Council award.
I promise to at least take a look. But woe betide anyone who suggests a dog: If the first paragraph I read doesn't grab me, it will also be the last. I know how to do this; I was on the SFWA Nebula Short-Fiction Jury for two years... and I did less work than anyone else on that jury, let me tell you!
(I am the laziest person I know. Though actually, I don't have a very large sample set; hunting around for comparison lazy people is a bit too much effort, I'm afraid.)
Every week, I will post the winners of the Watcher's Council award, plus a link to the full voting results, so you can humiliate your enemies, or make new enemies by humiliating your friends.
So that's the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short of it, I'm afraid. Well, what did you expect?
Date ►►► March 11, 2007
Begging the Biggie
Beldar has put up a post, extensively excerpted by Patterico (who calls it "brilliant"), that does an excellent job of defending Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald from charges of legal incompetence: Beldar argues that Fitzgerald:
- Had sound legal reason to haul Lewis Libby before the grand jury and give him the opportunity to repeat and expand upon his lies to the FBI in that setting;
- Had sound legal reason to indict him for perjury and obstruction when he did so;
- And exercised reasonable prosecutorial discretion in pursuing that indictment, in spite of the fact that he filed no other criminal charges related to the Plamegate probe.
But both miss the larger point, it seems to me: A Special Counsel does not exist in a vacuum; he is not an ordinary district attorney, as Patterico himself is. When Patterico investigates a charge of, say, assault, he is doing so as a normal part of his day-to-day job: He and his colleagues are always the people who investigate charges of assault in the normal course of events.
But naming a Special Counsel is primarily a political, not a legal action -- for two reasons:
- Because he is invariably appointed in order to investigate a political scandal: Plamegate, Whitewater, the Iran-Contra scandal. This makes it a highly-charged political event whenever a Special Counsel is named, riveting the nation's attention on the legal implications of a political donnybrook. No Special Counsel would have been named to investigate a charge that Libby cheated on his income taxes or was using illicit drugs in the White House; there is nothing political about that claim.
- And most particularly, because naming a Special Counsel announces to the entire country -- indeed the entire world -- that the Justice Department itself is implicated in this scandal, hence cannot be trusted to undertake the investigation itself. That also makes it a higly political event.
Both Patterico and Beldar are "thinking like lawyers," to quote the Paper Chase... which makes perfect sense, as they are both lawyers, of course: an assistant district attorney and a crusty, old trial lawyer. But I think they're allowing their legal brains to seize control from their ordinary citizens' brains, and that's an occupational hazard they should recognize.
There is a sense in which Patrick Fitzgerald may have been woefully inadequate to this task: Not only has he failed to fully explain what did happen in the Plame name blame game, he also made a comment during the final arguments that politically implicated the Vice President Cheney... without actually presenting evidence that he did anything wrong.
Let's take the first charge first...
Where is the final report?
Fitzgerald conducted a lengthy inquiry into the critical question of whether there was an organized conspiracy among senior administration officials to "out Valerie Plame," as many have put it; but he finally decided to file no charges on this point. I say Patrick Fitzgerald has a duty to the nation to explain exactly why and why not.
His job is not the same as a regular DA, who is under no obligation to explain why he doesn't file charges against a private citizen suspected of assault or robbery. Fitzgerald was a Special Counsel, and special rules should apply... not as a legal matter but as a political matter, in keeping with the essentially political act of the appointment of a Special Counsel.
Now, there is one caveat: He clearly cannot reveal grand-jury testimony; Rule 6(e)(2)(B) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibit it, and a special counsel has no countervailing legal authority to do so -- unlike the old Independent Counsel, who I believe was granted statutory authority under the IC law, unless I'm misremembering, to issue a final report, in which he could include such grand-jury testimony as he saw fit.
I don't know just how broad a shield this is. Presumably it wouldn't cover anything that Fitzgerald uncovered in his investigation that he never presented to the grand jury in the first place, as that would not be "a matter occurring before the grand jury." But does it prohibit disclosure of the results of his independent investigation that he later brought before the grand jury, assuming he doesn't specifically quote from any grand-jury testimony?
Suppose, in the course of that investigation, he discovered that Plame was not covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA); I presume that if he never brought this fact up to the grand jury, he could publish it later. But suppose he did bring it up -- just to say that she wasn't covered, so he wasn't going to talk about it. Is that enough to prevent him from ever telling us that she wasn't covered by the IIPA?
Fitzgerald himself has shown a great willingness in the past to discuss what he knows and does not know due to his investigation, as he did repeatedly in his press conference of October 28th, 2005. But everything he said there was also mentioned in the indictment, which of course must be public.
But some things in the indictment were odd, to say the least: Both in the indictment and in the presser linked above, Fitzgerald makes a big point about her employment being "classified" when Libby revealed it (he does not mention what level of classification).
Yet he never charged Libby (or anyone) with intentionally revealing classified information. Thus, we are left simply with the logical conclusion that he did not believe he could prove in court that Libby knew it was classified... but if so, what is the point of even mentioning it, and of mention it so prominently?
Having come this far and cast this much inuendo, he should at least, then, answer the following questions... excepting those that would be prohibited by grand-jury secrecy rules:
- Was Valerie Plame a covered person under the IIPA? This is a simple matter of record-keeping that shouldn't require violating the seal.
- Did anyone acquire knowledge of Plame's CIA employment via the legal channels required for a prosecution under that act? He doesn't have to reveal testimony here, he can simply answer yes or no.
- Was Plame's affiliation with the CIA actually classified, as Fitzgerald claimed in the 2005 press conference linked above? Did anyone who revealed it actually know it was classified? Was there evidence that anyone intentionally revealed classified information? Was there any other way to discover her employment other than through authorized, classified channels -- for example, was it discussed at Washington cocktail parties? Did any official first find out about her CIA employment from reporters?
Since Fitzgerald such a point of mentioning that her employment was classified, but then failed to charge anyone with revealing classified information, the American people are right to be suspicious.
- Did Fitzgerald choose not even to attempt to get an indictment from the grand jury related to the revelation of Plame's employment? And if so, did he do so because he believed no violation of the Act and no deliberate revelation of classified material occurred -- or just because he did not believe he had sufficient evidence against anyone to secure a conviction?
- Was there any evidence that members of the Bush administration were trying to destroy Joe Wilson through his wife -- the main allegation -- or did it appear they were only trying to rebut charges that Wilson himself made? For example, was there any memo or other document urging retaliation that went beyond rebutting Wilson's allegations?
- Was Ms. Plame's career damaged? Is there evidence that she suffered any harm or was put into danger -- both of which were alleged by members of Congress, among others?
- Did anyone in the administration say anything about Wilson or Plame other than that the latter worked for the CIA and initiated the Niger trip of the former?
I believe that as a Special Counsel, not just an ordinary DA or Justice-Department investigator, he has the duty not merely to decide not to indict, but also to exonerate those who were actually cleared by his investigation: The charge itself is so politically and institutionally damaging that mere failure to indict is insufficient.
The philosopher Alexander Meiklejohn famously remarked, "Some crimes are so heinous that not even innocence is a defense." In this case, some accusations are so damaging that a lack of legal charges is not a just compensation. Having smeared the reputations of Karl Rove ("Official A"), Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and numerous others with his high-profile investigation, Fitzgerald owes a duty to the American people to drop the other glove.
At the very least, Fitzgerald should issue a short final report of his findings, clearing up whatever he can without revealing any specific grand-jury testimony. But if he does not, then he should be summoned as a witness in any Congressional investigation of this affair... for example, in the one Rep. Henry Waxman is about to conduct before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. I want these questions asked under oath; and if he claims grand-jury secrecy, I want a judge to rule whether the specific questions he refuses to answer are covered.
Especially so, since Fitzgerald himself has not been particularly shy about spreading inuendo. Not only the heavy emphasis on the classified nature of Plame's employment -- which casts a cloud of suspicion upon everyone else who mentioned her name, besides Libby -- but also a more explicit attack on the vice president.
Consider this statement, which he made during closing arguments in the Libby trial -- a trial in which Cheney was neither called, nor named an unindicted co-conspirator, nor even accused in testimony of having masterminded any attack on Wilson or Plame:
"There is a cloud over what the vice president did," Fitzgerald told jurors in the prosecution's closing arguments. "That's not something we put there. That cloud is not something you can pretend is not there."
Fitzgerald should have known beforehand (and certainly knows now) that this quotation would be pulled out and used to tar the vice president of the United States with the unrebuttable taint of corruption. "Unrebuttable" because, since he was not indicted, he has no opportunity even to be acquitted.
This is the most outrageous part of Fitzgerald's handling of this case. While holding himself up as an impartial observer, he has in fact leveled accusations by inuendo against others besides Libby, but given them no venue to respond. And when pressed for what he means exactly, he always falls back on the grand-jury secrecy rules.
Neither Patterico nor Beldar really addresses either of these points -- the lack of some kind of final report containing whatever Fitzgerald concluded that isn't shielded by the secrecy rule, and some explanation or consequences for Fitzgerald's own attacks on the administration in ways that appear unrelated to the trial of Scooter Libby.
(Beldar comes closest: Dramatic foreshadowing from 2005 on Congress' 2007 probe of L'Affair Plame. He says that Congress probably cannot obtain grand-jury testimony; but he doesn't address whether they can obtain other workproduct of the Special Counsel, such as documentary evidence related to Plame's covert status or an explanation of exactly what "cloud" he meant.)
I would really like to hear from Patterico and Beldar on these points. What exactly is Fitzgerald prohibited from saying? Do they think he should file a final report, saying what he can ethically and legally say, to close as many quesions as possible? Do they believe he was right or wrong to make the allegation against Dick Cheney if he were not going to indict him for whatever is under that "cloud?"
We, the American people, have the right to know what Patrick Fitzgerald found... and also, to quote a memorable phrase, what he didn't find.
Date ►►► March 10, 2007
Boy, You People Could Be Editors for the New York Times!
I wrote a piece that I meant to title "Despite Libby's Guilt, Prosecution Was Outrageous;" but I accidentally titled it instead Despite Fitzgerald's Guilt, Prosecution Was Outrageous... and nobody noticed!
At least, nobody who noticed bothered mentioning it in a comment... and it got quite a few comments (nine, which is pretty good for Big Lizards). Yeesh.
I have corrected the title, no thanks to you lot. Next time, be more on the ball. Let's try and stay ahead of the power curve here. You're falling down on the job. You screwed the pooch. It's all your fault for not telling me.
Ho! Heads up there for next time, there's a good fellow.
(The Department of Good Excuses would have put this post up yesterday, but traffic was very heavy on the 405, and there's a war on.)
SiteMeter Question for Tech-Heads
SiteMeter is working fine on Big Lizards; but Sachi has her own Japanese blog, In the Strawberry Field (it's all in Japanese)... and for some reason, her SiteMeter counter abruptly stopped a few days ago and hasn't registered a single hit since then.
We can't figure out what's wrong: none of the templates were changed at all, nor was the SiteMeter script call on the templates. I checked, and it's the correct script call. I tried rebuilding her blog, but that didn't restart the meter (not that I thought it would).
I sent a couple of e-mails to David Smith, who runs SiteMeter; but I haven't heard back from him. Can anybody suggest something else I can do? Is there a better way to get in touch with Smith besides sending an e-mail via his Sitemeter address? Does any of you know him personally?
It wouldn't be a big deal, except we're about to try to get some advertising for Sachi's site... and of course, nobody is going to advertise on a site that is getting "zero" hits every day! (In fact, it should be getting around 300-400 per day; that's what it was doing before suddenly dying.)
Date ►►► March 9, 2007
D.C. Circus Overturns D.C. Gun Ban - UPDATED
UPDATE: See below.
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has just overturned the longstanding (since 1976) ban on private gun ownership in the District of Columbia, and has also overturned the requirement that even those guns allowed must be kept in a partially disassembled condition locked in a safe.
The ruling was 2-1; the majority opinion appears to have been written by Reagan-appointee (1985) Judge Laurence Hirsch Silberman; the dissenting vote was by Karen LeCraft Henderson, a Reagan-appointee as a district judge, 1986, and a George Herbert Walker Bush-appointee to the circuit court in 1990.
The Associated Press characterizes the majority and dissenting opinions thus:
In a 2-1 decision, the judges held that the activities protected by the Second Amendment "are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued intermittent enrollment in the militia...."
"The district's definition of the militia is just too narrow," Judge Laurence Silberman wrote for the majority Friday. "There are too many instances of 'bear arms' indicating private use to conclude that the drafters intended only a military sense."
Judge Karen Henderson dissented, writing that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District of Columbia because it is not a state.
That last argument -- if that's really what she said -- is preposterous, since that would open the floodgates to deny incorporation within D.C. of a host of other rights guaranteed by the first ten amendments to the Constitution... including freedom of speech, freeedom of religion, the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, and so forth. I can't imagine the Court taking that tack; but I can very much imagine AP mischaracterizing the core of Judge Henderson's dissent: She might have written something much more intelligent.
The New York Times truculently complains about this decision, as --
Most federal appeals courts have said that the amendment, read as a whole [by which they mean only reading the subordinate, dependent clause -- the Mgt.], protects only a collective right of the states to maintain militias -- in modern terms, the National Guard. But in yesterday’s decision, the majority focused on the second clause [that would be the actual subject-verb-predicate of the sentence -- the Mgt.], saying that the amendment broadly protects the rights of individuals to own guns -- an approach that has been embraced by the Justice Department and by some constitutional scholars ["some" meaning in this case "virtually all" -- the Mgt.].
It may be true that "most federal appeals courts" think the Second Amendment protects the rights only of members of the National Guard; but if so, that's because most federal appeals courts have racked up a dismal record comprehending the only Supreme Court case to address the issue: U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).
In Miller, the Court held that the Second Amendment's purpose was to ensure that we would always have a ready supply of trained and armed citizens to be called up as the militia. They ruled, therefore, that the amendment only applied to the kind of weapons ordinarily in use by individual soldiers in armies and militias.
Jack Miller, suspected of robbing banks, was arrested under the National Firearms Act of 1934 for transporting a short-barrelled (or sawed-off) shotgun across state lines without having purchased a special stamp from the government. He defended himself on Second Amendment grounds and usurpation of state police powers, claiming the NFA was unconstitutional; the judge agreed and struck down the law.
The United States attorney appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings (which never took place). The Court issued three substantive holdings:
- That the Act was a federal revenue act, therefore within the jurisdiction of Congress;
- That the Second Amendment only protected the keeping and bearing of military-style weapons;
- And that short-barrelled shotguns did not qualify.
(The prosecution actually argued that Miller did not qualify for Second Amendment protection because he was not a member of any organized militia, but the Court considered and rejected this argument. Instead, they wrote a lengthy analysis showing that "the militia" consisted of all military-aged men -- which refutes the misunderstanding that Miller restricted gun rights to members of the National Guard.)
The finding about short-barrelled shotguns was simply wrong; such guns are widely in use in military units today (including ours) and have been since long before Miller. Alas, Miller failed to show up at his Supreme Court hearing, having inconviently been murdered in prison; his attorneys also failed to show up, their case being moot. (The co-defendant, Frank Layton, also didn't show up; but I'm not sure why.)
Thus, no defense argument was made. Had there been one, they could easily have demonstrated that both machine guns and short-barrelled shotguns were in widespread military use, and (one presumes) the district-court decision would have been upheld.
Since then, appellate court after appellate court has wrongly -- and I believe deliberately and with malice aforethought -- misinterpreted Miller as having claimed that only the gun rights of members of the militia were protected... and also that "the militia" consists of the National Guard.
If today's Court holds to the precedent of Miller, they must rule that the right to possess a pistol, which is certainly part of the ordinary accoutrements of ordinary soldiers in modern armies and militias, is undeniably protected by the Second Amendment; and that this right inheres in all individual persons, not just those in the National Guard.
The Court must reach the same conclusion textually if they examine the very words: the phrase "the right of the people" is never used in any other part of the Constitution to mean "the right of the states," but always as an individual right enjoyed by each individual person, subject to reasonable restrictions (for example, you can prevent convicted felons and the dangerously insane from possessing guns, just as you can restrict their liberties in other ways).
But if the Court holds that the D.C. law is unconstutional, it would also mean that the decades-long federal prohibition against possession of sawed-off shotguns and of machine guns is likewise unconstitutional. I will listen eagerly for the weeping and the wailing and the gnashing of liberal teeth if the Court is bold enough to carry this decision to its logical end.
In fact, the same decision should also toss out all state or federal laws prohibiting concealed carry, except in extraordinary circumstances, such as in a court room or other governmental building. Concealed carry is much less disruptive to civil life, and I prefer it.
This is a very good case to finally have it out in the Supreme Court; and this is a very good Court to resolve such a case. I don't know how Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ruled on gun-rights cases, but I wouldn't be surprised if Justice Samuel Alito were more open to the constitutional argument. Justice Antonin Scalia may not like people owning or carrying guns; I have no idea. But he certainly believes in following the actual words of the Constitution; same with Justices Clarence Thomas, Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts.
I'm pretty sure that the usual suspects would vote to overturn the D.C. Circuit: Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter. As usual, the swing vote would be Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Power Line and Patterico know much more about such matters than I; I hope they will comment.)
There is no reason that "reasonable restrictions" could not include demonstrated proficiency with whatever general class of weapon you possess (not of each and every possible model within the broad category; that would be quite unreasonable). Thus, a person should be able to "qualify" with a pistol, a rifle, or even a select-fire weapon capable of firing continuous rounds with a single trigger-pull (a machine gun). Thereafter, the qualifying person could not be prosecuted simply for possessing or carrying such a weapon -- though carrying a gun openly could still be prohibited as "brandishing" or "threatening."
But I long to see a final resolution of this long-term legal controversy. More than anything else, the right to keep and bear arms is a hallmark of a free people... and I want to know whether we Americans are still free.
The "Burqini" - Shaken and Stirred
A symphony of cultural symbiosis
This New York Times piece is a very badly written article that nevertheless reveals a very good development: There is life after jihad.
In fact, there's even surfing!
We're back to sunny Australia, where it's late summer/early fall, because they're on the wrong side of the globe. We're at Cronulla beach (in literary spirit, I mean, not our corruptible, mortal bodies), site of many previous clashes between Moslem "Lebanese" (mostly Palestinians, actually) and white, Christian Australians.
Our previous forrays into this neutral zone were:
The good: The point of the article is to show that moderate Moslems really can assimilate into Western culture without having to jettison their faith.
The ugly: That hideous lexiconic creation, the word "burqini"... as mutt-ugly as the word looks, its referrant is tossing a "life saver" to thousands of Australian Moslem women who don't want their religion to chain them to an old way of life.
The bad: The Times cannot help itself; it simply must whitewash the violent contributions of Australian Moslem hotheads and play up those of the whites, leaving the impression of "good" (Moslem) vs. "evil" (Christian).
One of the biggest impediments to Moslem women immigrants fully assimilating into their new culture is the modesty required by devout Islam for women's dress: They must wear the burqa, which covers the entire body, from the hair atop their heads to the ankles. While some women without question feel oppressed and burdoned by the burqa, others embrace it willingly, even eagerly, like Orthodox Jewish men embracing the yarmulke.
But every woman who wears the traditional burqa is constricted in movement and activity: There are certain things she simply cannot do while wearing a burqa... including going for a swim on the beach. The heavy cotton cloth would hamper her arm and leg movements and might even lead to drowning -- think of swiming while wearing an asbestos fire-fighting suit.
But no longer do... I mean, there's a new...
Oh, heck. On the rhetorical supposition that one picture is worth a thousand weirds, take a look; you see perhaps the beginning of a Reformation - Enlightenment of Islam:
The figure on the left is a man dressed in the traditional uniform of an Australian "Surf Life Saver," what we would call a lifeguard.
The figure on the right, believe it or not, is a girl dressed in a burqa.
From the Times:
Ms. Laalaa is a Muslim and has voluntarily worn the burqa, the traditional head-to-toe covering for Muslim women, since she was 14. It is hard to swim, she said, if your body is swathed in cotton, which is very heavy when wet.
Now, her clothing quandary solved by a novel fashion, the burqini, Ms. Laalaa, a vivacious 20-yearold, has become a Surf Life Saver, as volunteer lifeguards here are known, lured to the beach by a new outreach program for Australia’s Muslims.
This burqa satisfies the strict Islamic dress restrictions; the girl, Mecca Laalaa, is fully covered. Even her hair is covered by the bright-red sack-like protuberance at the top, and you can see that the yellow of the burqa-bikini, called a "burqini," unfortunately enough, comes all the way up her neck into the hair covering.
But this burqini is made of form-fitting spandex, and it's perfectly suitable for swimming. My guess is that the designer, a woman named Aheda Zanetti, got the idea from what contemporary Olympic swimmers wear -- full-body-covering Lycra (spandex) swimsuits:
New Olympic high-tech swimsuits
This "novel fashion," as the Times cluelessly puts it, is far more than just a cool way for young, faithful Moslem girls to hang out on the beach. It represents something brand new to Islam: the idea of creatively reinterpreting scripture to more easily conform to the modern world.
That was the stunning breakthrough Christendom went through from the early sixteenth century through the end of the eighteenth: first the Reformation, followed by the Enlightenment. By 1800, Christians had a completely different conception of their faith than they did in the 1400s and earlier. No longer was religion a totalitarian system, governing every minute of every day; no longer would innovation itself be a kind of heresy, something to arouse fear, or at least suspicion.
No longer was the material world to be considered nothing but a foul, oppressive punishment designed to purge sin from the spirit in preparation for the eternal afterlife. Yes, Christians still often pay lip service to that idea, even today; but they do not live like that, and that was the conceptual revolution.
At once, it became perfectly natural to invent labor-saving devices and systems to increase the general wealth of everyone. Hard work was no longer your "just punishment" for the inherited sin of Adam and Eve; it was just what you did to earn la dolce vita.
I have said for some time that the real solution to the problem of jihad was not for the West to annihilate all of Islam -- we can't; nor for the West to surrender -- we mustn't. Rather, it is for the West to encourage Islam to undergo its own Reformation-Enlightenment. Some (like Robert Spencer) seem to believe it's impossible; but they tend to use static analysis... they look at the suras of the Koran and say 'it's not possible to interpret that any other way than violence and terrorism,' because (after all) that's how they always have been interpreted.
Such static critics need an injection of creativity, or they need a Hollywood lawyer (preferably one who has litigated the Talmud). It's always possible to interpret even the most restrictive proscription in a way that makes it easier to live with, and easier to accomodate to modernity. You just have to think hard enough.
If the burqini catches on, it might spark other accomodations. Those accomodations, no matter how small, are the first cracks in the dam; and eventually, the sea of modernity will flood the low valleys of religious fundamentalism.
All right, so we've been through the ugly (the word "burqini") and the good (the burqini concept itself). Now for the bad...
In our previous posts, we discussed the long, escalating tensions between the Lebanese-Palestinians who immigrated to Australia (they or their children) and the white Australians, whose ancestors immigrated to Australia a long time ago (and often involuntarily) What follows is lifted from our earlier article, Riot Boyz Clash, So No Bikini Atoll, linked above:
December 11th is the first-year anniversary of the infamous Cronulla riot, which began on Cronulla Beach in New South Wales, near Canberra.
A riot in Australia? I never heard about that!
Evidently, before the riots, beach-goers had been attacked and harassed for quite some time by "Middle Eastern youths" and "Arab youths" -- mostly Moslem Lebanese immigrants, or "migrants," as they're called in Australia.
According to the Wikipedia link above, a few days prior to December 11th, 2005, a couple of white Australians were assaulted by a dozen Moslem youths at Cronulla beach; one man was beaten, as was another man who tried to come to his aid; the attackers are said to have shouted "we own this country" during the assault. A few days later, three lifeguards were also assaulted and seriously injured at the same beach, also by a dozen young Moslem males (thought not necessarily the same ones):
On Sunday 4 December 2005, a group of male youths of Middle Eastern descent were playing soccer on a Cronulla beach when the North Cronulla surf lifesavers are reported to have asked them to stop, as it was disturbing other users of the beach. The response from the youths was: "Get off our beach. This is our beach. We own it."
Gerard Henderson, columnist at The Sydney Morning Herald, alleges that the surf lifesavers then provided the youths with "a degree of verbal provocation", and "reminded the south-western suburb inhabitants that they could not swim". Shortly thereafter three surf lifesavers (aged 15, 19 and 20) were confronted by initially four, and then later up to twelve individuals, and in the process were allegedly assaulted. Not all of those present were directly involved in the melee, and several of the larger group were reported to have attempted to break up the altercation.
Police later claimed that there was no apparent racial motive behind that assault. [Isn't it interesting that this is always the first thing they claim? But note that the police don't mention whether there was a religous motive behind the assault.] A teenager was later charged with assault in company occasioning actual bodily harm.
According to Wikipedia, these incidents (and likely the repeated claim that the migrants owned the country) ticked off local Aussies of "Anglo-Celtic" descent. Wikipedia goes on to say that the Australians heard "inflammatory comments" and some rhetoric that could be taken as racist by radio hosts Alan Jones and Steve Price.
The following weekend, more than 5,000 Australian activists showed up at the beach to protest against Moslem violence; but the party atmosphere soon morphed into a mob mentality, or so says Wiki. When a Middle-Eastern looking man was chased to nearby hotel, the actual riot erupted. Several Middle-Eastern looking people, without regard to their actual nationality, were attacked, their property vandalized. Even an ambulance was attacked.
That night and the following few days, "Arab youths" roamed the street, looking for "revenge" on the whites and sporadically attacking people and burning and vandalizing properties. The violence continued to December 15th.At the tail end of a Christmas carols service at St Joseph the Worker Primary School drive-by shots were fired into cars and parents and primary school students were verbally abused by men described as Middle Eastern. Furthermore, a total of four Churches in Sydney's South-West were attacked during the evening. The Uniting Church hall in Auburn, which is next to an Islamic centre, was set ablaze about 1.30 a.m. (AEDT) on 15 December. Premier Morris Iemma stated that "it may be" linked to the ongoing riots.
That is our summation starting from Wikipedia, but reviewing every, single external link supplied in the lengthy article... which seems pretty fair-minded, as it doesn't whitewash anybody.
But contrast that to how the New York Times describes the Cronulla riots; ask yourself this question: What is missing from this picture?
The outreach was the response to an ugly episode on Cronulla Beach, about 20 miles south of downtown Sydney, in December 2005, when skinheads and neo-Nazis, many drunk and with racial epithets painted on their bodies and T-shirts, marauded through the area beating up Lebanese men.
Many here and abroad wondered if Australia was headed for a period of rising racial tension. The riots set off a round of soul-searching and left many Australians asking if the violence reflected an underlying racism in their society.
What's missing is quite obvious: The Times simply omits all of the Moslem anti-Australian provocation before the riot and all the Moslem retaliation after. It's as if it never happened.
That would be like describing the Pacific theater of World War II thus: One day, American bombers swooped down upon Japan and dropped two atomic bombs, killing 214,000 innocent Japanese. The end.
This is typical of the drive-by media. Before writing the first word, or even gathering information, the press already had "the Story": white Christians committing hate crimes against teenagers of the Religion of Peace™. They didn't bother digging to find out what really happened, because there was no need; they already knew. And if they accidentally uncovered something that just plain didn't fit, well, they might puzzle over it for a while; but then it will be dropped and forgotten, as a monkey would drop a magazine that was beyond its comprehension.
It's necessary, however, to truly understand how close to the brink these rival gangs danced... in order to appreciate how much better relations are today between Christian and Moslem at Cronulla Beach. So far as I know, there has not been any violent attack on either side since December 2005. Such a de-escalation shows that it truly is possible for ummah and Christendom to rub together without causing so much irritation that a riot breaks out.
What it seems to have taken, in Australia's case, was a fairly firm response by the police against both sides, driving home the point that they don't have to like each other, but they must learn to tolerate each the other... or cool their heels and heads in la calabooza. It seems to have worked; and how we have the burqini as some odd offspring of the two disparate cultures. Long live the half-breeds!
So the bad, the ugly, and the very, very good, all in one package. It exemplifies the Times' new motto: All the news we see fit to print!
Date ►►► March 8, 2007
Democratic President Will Only Talk to Fellow Liberals
Presidential candidate John Edwards became the first Democrat to withdraw from a debate because it will be hosted by Fox Network -- which liberals equate with Fox News Chanel, which liberals equate with Julius Streicher and Der Stürmer:
Former Sen. John Edwards campaign announced that he will skip the Nevada Democratic Party's planned August presidential debate, the latest fallout from the party's decision to have the Fox Network host the event.
The move sparked an outcry, particularly among liberals and activist bloggers, who accused Fox of being too sympathetic to Republicans and demanded that the Democratic candidates boycott the forum.
MoveOn.org, one of the nation's leading progressive organizations, gathered more than 250,000 signatures asking the Nevada Democratic Party to drop Fox as a debate sponsor....
"We wanted to send a clear message to voters, the media and the presidential candidates that Fox is part of the right-wing smear machine, not a legitimate source of news," said MoveOn civic communications director Adam Green.
Hillary Clinton declined to state whether she also would boycott, and the Washington Post declined to permit Fox News to confuse matters by denying it was "part of the right-wing smear machine."
This brings up an interesting point: it is becoming increasingly clear that Democrats simply refuse to talk to Fox News, to come onto center-right radio shows, to campaign in Republican areas, or to communicate in any way with anyone who is not a liberal.
If a Democrat should win the 2008 election, the best guess is that he or she would continue the practice: For four or eight years, the President of the United States would refuse to allow anyone but the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, CBS, and whatever remains of Air America to attend White House press briefings.
Mr. or Ms. President will initiate a formal policy of only talking to the Left; the sub-cabinet level position of Speaker to Smearers will be created for any unfortunately necessary interaction with right-wingers, which by law will be conducted while the Speaker wears a clothespin on his nose.
Townhall meetings will be restricted to card-carrying members of the ACLU (literally carrying their cards). Markos Moulitsas Zúniga will be named chairman of the FCC; and Helen Thomas, doyenne of the White House press corps, will be named Secretary of State (hoping to restore the glory days of Madeleine Albright).
The NRA will be declared a terrorist organization, Gavin Newsom will be the new Secretary of GLBT Issues, and the Boy Sprouts will be forced to accept gay scouts and gay scoutmasters -- then will promptly be sued out of existence by the former alleging inappropriate (but fun!) contact with the latter.
And all for the want of a unified Republican Party.
So unless you want to regress back to the day when the president could call up a studio head and order him to make a hagiographic movie about Josef Stalin, perhaps you should consider ceasing to attack every conservative who gets uppity (or gets on your nerves), and instead focus your energy on the people who actually want to transform the United States of America into the United Counties of Sweden.
Despite Libby's Guilt, Prosecution Was Outrageous
I believe I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was rightly found guilty by the jury a couple of days ago. But that doesn't mean the entire lengthy investigation, grand-jury antics, and eventual criminal charges filed by Special Persecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had even the slightest bit of merit. In fact, I agree with Ann Coulter's assessment of what actually happened:
It was not a crime to reveal Valerie Plame's name because she was not a covert agent. If it had been a crime, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald could have wrapped up his investigation with an indictment of the State Department's Richard Armitage on the first day of his investigation since it was Armitage who revealed her name and Fitzgerald knew it.
With no crime to investigate, Fitzgerald pursued a pointless investigation into nothing, getting a lot of White House officials to make statements under oath and hoping some of their recollections would end up conflicting with other witness recollections, so he could charge some Republican with "perjury" and enjoy the fawning media attention.
In this case, despite the actual guilt of Libby (that's my belief; Coulter believes he was actually innocent), justice was definitely not served: the crime would not even have occurred had Fitzgerald done his job properly... which in this case means he should have done the following:
- Investigated the leak;
- Discovered that Plame was not a covered person under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act;
- Discovered that the leaker was State Department aide Richard Armitage, an outspoken opponent of the war;
- Determined that Armitage leaked the information as a juicy tidbit of gossip, not by any political calculation or at the behest of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, or George W. Bush;
- Realized that it was the political fabrications and lies of Ambassador Joseph Wilson that forced the White House to go into overtime trying to rebut his libelous claims.
All of the foregoing Fitzgerald did; but based upon those results -- which he had very early in the investigation -- he had one more responsibility:
- He should then have simply closed the investigation and dismissed the grand jury (or not even convene one in the first place), with a single curt statement: "Our office has found that no crime was committed, there was no conspiracy to out Mrs. Wilson, and there is no point to further interviews, subpoenas, or testimony.
Alas, like every other special prosecutor before him, after spending a few million dollars ramping up the prosecution in the first place, Fitzgerald found he simply could not stop gnawing on that hatchet. He couldn't just walk away, because people might think he was covering up for the president... or worse, they might think he was an incompetent prosecutor.
Most people tend to see the law as a bludgeon to achieve "cosmic justice." A very large percentage of people who believe Bush "lied us into war" likely saw Fitzgerald as the crusading lawyer who was going to "bring down this criminal regime" by indicting all the top people for... well, for something or other. Had he failed to indict anyone for anything, the hysteria would have probably exceeded the furor surrounding the 2000 vote.
Therefore, Fitzgerald went hell-bent for leather to get at least one notch on his belt: somebody had to be sent up the river. To paraphrase Pontius Pilate, Fitzgerald needed a crime.
Stupidly, and despite clear instructions from the president to cooperate and tell the truth, Libby gave the special prosecutor what he desperately wanted. It would have been easy enough not to; every other person Fitzgerald questioned managed to avoid lying. Libby could simply have invoked the Fifth Amendment; or for that matter, he could simply have told the truth, as his boss, Dick Cheney, and as Karl Rove did.
Nobody told him to lie; his lawyers did not present any evidence that anyone ordered him to lie, or even suggested that he lie: Although his attorneys promised to the jury that they would present such evidence, they broke that promise; the claim that he was a "sacrificial lamb" appeared only in their opening statement (and were I the judge, when they rested their case, I would seriously have considered a contempt of court citation -- or at least required them to explain why the hell they made such a serious charge in their opening statement if they had no evidence to back it up at trial).
Therefore, the following two statements are simultaneously true:
- Lewis Libby was properly convicted of perjury and obstruction because he did, in fact, say two wildly different and contradictory things under oath, and the jury simply did not believe he had a brain seizure;
- Lewis Libby would never have been put in the position where he panicked and lied if Patrick Fitzgerald had acted as a D.A., not as a "special persecutor."
What do I mean "acting like a D.A.?" Take Patterico, as an example (he's the only assistant D.A. I know personally). When evidence of a possible crime is forwarded to him by the police or by some other means, he does not go into the case determined to find somebody, anybody, to put in prison. Instead, he goes into the case with the first intent to see whether, in his expert opinion, any crime was even committed.
Just because the cops arrest someone doesn't automatically mean a crime was committed; and it certainly doesn't mean the detainee is guilty.
If Patterico determines that no crime was committed, then I would presume that marks the end of his investigation. He writes some sort of report to his boss, and he moves on to the next case. God knows, I'm sure he (and every other prosecutor) has enough cases on his plate that he's overjoyed when he can legitimately and in good conscience drop one!
He certainly does not begin interviewing hundreds of people only peripherally connected to the case (after he has determined no crime was committed), threatening dire consequences and hoping to frighten one of the interviewees enough that he perjures himself.
But that is exactly what a special prosecutor does routinely. And that is why I completely oppose the very existence of special prosecutors -- except in cases where it is the Justice Department itself that is being investigated for corruption... for example, if the Attorney General of the United States is suspected of accepting bribes. (Obviously, no one can be trusted to investigate himself.)
In this case, there was no reason why Alberto Gonzales could not have taken charge of this investigation; nobody had accused him of leaking Valerie Plame's name.
Fitzgerald came perilously close to having manufacturing the crime he later prosecuted. He didn't quite cross that line, because nobody forced Libby to lie; it wasn't legal entrapment. But Fitzgerald certainly realized early on that there was no underlying criminal conspiracy; yet he kept the process going, knowing there was a better than even chance that, if he interviewed enough people, one of them would do something stupid, retroactively "justifying" the original investigation.
It is that, rather than Libby's little black lie, that is the true "obstruction of justice," in a moral not a legal sense. Yet even so, I don't see any grounds for the president to pardon Libby: The purpose of the pardon is not to rescue idiots from themselves.
The president advised Libby to tell the truth; and the president, like every other boss, is, to quote Larry Niven, "not responsible for advice not taken."
In Stardom, Patterico Forgets the Little People
...And in the blogosphere, there is nobody littler than Big Lizards!
Once again, Patterico has overlooked this, ah, cozy little blog: Ever since he started regularly hitting 8,000+ visitors per day, he never calls, he never writes. Would it kill him to link every now and then?
Especially right here, when he quotes Mr. trial-lawyer-not-a-litigator Beldar and Mr. I-write-for-National-Review Andrew McCarthy, on why Scooter Libby really was guilty. Then Patterico starts kvetching about the "typical" Republican bloggers:
I regret to say that Beldar’s and McCarthy’s opinions appear to be rare among Republicans. More typical is this screed by Dean Barnett at Hewitt’s site (h/t DRJ), which careens wildly from acknowledgements that Libby is guilty to pronouncements that Fitzgerald was a wild prosecutor, out of control.
Mr. big-shot prosecutor. Mr. 8,000 hits. What is Big Lizards, chopped liver? What about this screed right here, from yesterday: Why Was Libby Convicted? Probably Because He's Guilty. Published two hours before Patterico's post. Two hours! He had plenty of time to notice us, if he weren't so busy with his army of 8,000.
With my gastritis, he has to give me more tsouris? (I have this pain -- never mind, from such pain, you shouldn't know.)
He doesn't notice when we agree; he doesn't notice when we differ. Here, Patterico wrote Coulter Screams for Attention, Again -- Losing Whatever Supporters She Still Had:
I have criticized Ann Coulter countless times on this site. (For some examples, see here, here, here, here, and here.) [What, I should link every one of his posts?] I have taken a lot of flak from many of my commenters for this.
But this time, I think even her past supporters will agree that she’s gone too far.
Then he quotes from a bunch of bloggers who agree with him, including Confederate Yankee, Bob Owens. He's, what, same size we are? Couple inches shorter?
Him Patterico quotes. Him Patterico makes much of. Him Patterico puts his arm around, hail fellow well met. Such a mensch! Let me just cut off my arms and legs and throw myself off a bridge (or have somebody throw me off, I guess, since I wouldn't have any arms or legs left to do it myself).
Does Patterico even mention our lousy defense of poor Ann? (It's a great defense.) Don't make me have a heart attack; from him, I could starve!
Doesn't the k'nocker have any respect for his elders? I'm old enough to be Patterico's -- older brother. Oy.
Never mind me, I'll just sit here in the dark with no advertising.
Former Top Iranian Defense Official Defects
In a stunning blow to the mullahs of Iran, former Defense Minister Ali Rez Asgari has defected to the West, according to U.S. officials:
A former Iranian deputy defense minister who once commanded the Revolutionary Guard has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran's ties to the organization, according to a senior U.S. official.
Ali Rez Asgari disappeared last month during a visit to Turkey. Iranian officials suggested yesterday that he may have been kidnapped by Israel or the United States. The U.S. official said Asgari is willingly cooperating. He did not divulge Asgari's whereabouts or specify who is questioning him, but made clear that the information Asgari is offering is fully available to U.S. intelligence.
Asgari is a very, very big fish, despite having been out of office for the past couple of years:
Former Mossad director Danny Yatom, who is now a member of Israel's parliament, said he believes Asgari defected to the West. "He is very high-caliber," Yatom said. "He held a very, very senior position for many long years in Lebanon. He was in effect commander of the Revolutionary Guards" there.
Ram Igra, a former Mossad officer, said Asgari spent much of the 1980s and 1990s overseeing Iran's efforts to support, finance, arm and train Hezbollah. The State Department lists the Shiite Lebanese group as a terrorist organization.
"He lived in Lebanon and, in effect, was the man who built, promoted and founded Hezbollah in those years," Igra told Israeli state radio. "If he has something to give the West, it is in this context of terrorism and Hezbollah's network in Lebanon."
Not much more to say about this story. Consider this a heads-up for tomorrow's news -- and next week's hysteria in Teheran.
Date ►►► March 7, 2007
Why Was Libby Convicted? Probably Because He's Guilty
Reading the New York Times story on the guilty verdict against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, I have to say I find the jury's verdict convincing: I believe that Libby did in fact lie to the grand jury and others, that he did so to try to deflect danger from himself (needlessly, as it turns out), and that he was, therefore, guilty as charged.
Were I sitting on the jury, I think that is how I would have voted -- unless there is a whole bunch of exculpatory evidence that nobody is telling us, which I rather doubt.
Here is one of the strongest arguments: One of the major charges against Libby was that he told the grand jury that he did not know that Joe Wilson's wife Valerie was in the CIA until he was told so by TV personality Tim Russert, of Beat the Press fame. Later, Libby testified again, this time saying Vice President Dick Cheney had told him much earlier; but he "forgot" all about it:
One particularly important focus, Mr. Collins said, was testimony about a conversation Mr. Libby had with Tim Russert, the Washington bureau chief of NBC News. Mr. Libby had said Mr. Russert told him about Valerie Wilson’s job with the Central Intelligence Agency around July 10 or July 11, 2003.
Although Mr. Libby acknowledged that he had heard earlier about Ms. Wilson from his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, he said he had forgotten about it until the July exchange with Mr. Russert, when “it was like hearing it for the first time.”
There was a problem with that story, however: As it happens, eight separate witnesses, many in the administration, testified about conversations they had with Libby... several of which predated his interview with Russert. In those conversations, either others told Libby or Libby told others about Valerie Plame (though he may not have known her actual last name).
But [jurors Rosemary Russo and Denis Collins] said it was just too much of a leap for them to think that Mr. Libby’s contradictory accounts were the result of a bad memory.
“There was no wiggle room about it, unless you think all these people who work for the administration were lying,” said Mr. Collins, who emerged as a de facto spokesman for the 11-member jury and later discussed the verdict in a phone interview.
Once they decided that one of the major charges was true, that Libby did indeed lie to the grand jury, his believability dropped. Thereafter, his explanation of forgetfulness (his only defense) was simply no longer credible. The jury believed the alternative explanation: that Libby lied.
Collins, by the way, is the guy who called Libby a "fall guy" and demanded to know why Karl Rove and other members of the administation weren't on trial for revealing Plame's status. Collins is a registered Democrat who thinks that somebody should be punished for the Iraq invasion -- but who agrees with the rest of the jury that this trial was not about Iraq:
There also was no discussion about the subtext of the trial — the decision to go to war against Iraq.
“This was not a question about who can we punish for going to Iraq,” said Mr. Collins, 57, a registered Democrat. “We just never allowed ourselves to go there, and I am not going to go there now.”
(The telling detail is Collins' diction: not "whether we can punish someone," but "who can we punish.")
Despite his obvious anti-Bush bias, Collins nevertheless believed that the administration witnesses were telling the truth about their pre-Russert conversations with Libby about Wilson's wife and the CIA.
I do not think it reasonable for President Bush to conclude that Libby actually forgot that he knew about Plame and actually told people; logically, the president must conclude that Libby really did lie and really did try to obstruct Fitzgerald's prove. Thus, as far as issuing a pardon goes, the question reduces to this: does the president believe that it's ever legitimate to prosecute a witness for perjury -- when the underlying issue is determined not to be a crime, as evidenced by the fact that, according to the special persecutor, nobody has been or will be charged for outing Valerie Plame.
If Bush believes that it is ipso facto wrong to prosecute for perjury in a case where there is no underlying crime, he can pardon Libby; but this is a radical step that would open up a whole 'nother kettle of worms: Shouldn't he then also pardon Martha Stewart? How about others who are convicted of the same crime? We could be talking about hundreds, even thousands of convicts clamoring for a pardon on the same grounds as Libby.
If Bush pardons them all, he would basically spend the remainder of his term doing so. But if he ignores the others, he opens himself to very appropriate charges of political cronyism: It's okay if Scooter Libby does it, but the rest of the public can drop dead.
I suspect that in the end, Bush will not pardon Lewis Libby. Libby may or may not ultimately have to serve time; but his exoneration, if any, will have to come from the judicial system itself -- not from the president of the United States.
Date ►►► March 6, 2007
Three Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Let's count all the lies in the Washington Post!
Oh, wait; we haven't all day. All right, let's just count the lies in one story reporting on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's conviction today in federal court of four out of five charges brought against him by special persecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Besides the smarmy inuendo, there are three clear and obvious falsehoods, starting with this one:
Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, was sent by the CIA on a mission to Niger in 2002 to assess reports that Iraq had sought to buy nuclear materials there. He concluded the reports were false.
Not according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, he didn't.
To begin with, here are the famous (infamous?) "sixteen words" that President Bush used in his 2003 State of the Union speech, delivered on January 28th, 2003:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
...Just so we know what Lyin' Joe Wilson later claimed to have refuted. But when Wilson was debriefed by his CIA handlers, he actually affirmed Bush's claim -- which was that Iraq had sought -- tried to obtain -- Uranium from Africa (not that we claimed Hussein had actually gotten his mits on any). In the Senate Intelligence Committee report cited above, we read this:
The intelligence report based on the former ambassador’s [Wilson's] trip was disseminated on March 8,2002....
The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki... said, however, that in June 1999, [redacted by Senate committee]-businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales.
(Page 43 of the document, page 8 of the pdf linked above.)
Remember, this is from the intelligence report by Joe Wilson's CIA handlers, based upon Wilson's oral debriefing of what he found in Niger.
This is very strong evidence that Iraq was, in fact, seeking Uranium from Africa... and Bush was absolutely right; and Wilson is totally wrong when he says today that he found nothing to back up the "sixteen words".
Wilson lied, and now the Washington Post has knowingly perpetuated that lie in order to boost Ambassador Wilson and damage President Bush.
Next big lie:
Testimony and evidence revealed that the vice president dictated precise talking points he wanted Libby and other aides to use to rebut Wilson's accusations against the White House, helped select which journalists would be contacted and worked with Bush to declassify secret intelligence reports on Iraqi weapons that he believed would contradict Wilson's claims.
"There is a cloud over what the vice president did," Fitzgerald told jurors in the prosecution's closing arguments. "That's not something we put there. That cloud is not something you can pretend is not there."
Wait, wait, wait -- ! Isn't that a subjective opinion? How can an opinion (let alone anything subjective) be a "lie?"
Let's deal with this question immediately. What is the definition of a lie? A lie is any word or action intended to deceive. Whether objective or subjective isn't part of the definition... that only speaks to how easy or hard it is to prove. Case in point:
Suppose one of the rabid Republican Coulter-haters were to say, at the end of a harangue about Ann Coulter, the following: "And on top of everything else, she's so fat, it's obvious she's still stuck back in the oral phase of development; she cannot be trusted, because that developmental phase doesn't even understand the distinction between right and wrong."
Is that subjective? Absolutely. Is it an opinion? No question about it: "so fat" is a comparative, and without knowing the thing it's being compared to, it's not a factual statement. Ann Coulter is certainly fat compared to Mahatma Gandhi during a 25-day hunger strike, for example.
Nevertheless, such a statement would be a lie. It's clearly false -- she is actually very thin -- and the intent is to deceive the listener into ignoring what she says on the specious grounds that her "fatness" means she's untrustworthy. A subjective opinion can be a lie, if the intent is to deceive.
Let's get back to Fitzgerald and his imaginary cloud...
The special prosecutor knows that Vice President Cheney has not been convicted of any crime. And why not? Well, for one reason, because Fitzgerald was not even able to get the grand jury to indict him, despite having had ample opportunities before that body.
And why wasn't Fitzgerald able to get the grand jury to indict Cheney? Clearly because the grand jury did not believe there was evidence that Cheney committed any crime!
Thus, what "cloud" is he talking about? Why, the only one we can see is a black cloud of suspicion. And since neither the court nor the grand jury put the suspicion there, Patrick Fitzgerald could only have been talking about what he, himself planted -- precisely by saying "There is a cloud over what the vice president did."
Which makes his second sentence a lie as well... the one where he said, "That's not something we put there." Oh yes you did, Mr. big-shot Special Prosecutor.
And the Washington Post knows it's a falsehood; yet it helps Fitzgerald put it across. The Post is an accessory after the fact to a big, fat, sloppy lie.
Finally, this one is really fascinating:
Fitzgerald and fellow prosecutors showed notes hand-written by Cheney and Libby indicating that the vice president was deeply disturbed by Wilson's explosive accusations that the White House had used bogus intelligence to justify the war. Witnesses and evidence showed Cheney orchestrating a point-by-point response to Wilson's claims -- some of it misleading -- that the administration gave to hand-picked reporters.
What is interesting is the ambiguous way the Post chose to slip this one across. What is the referrant of the word "it" in the parenthetical phrase? What is "misleading" -- Wilson's accusations or Cheney's response?
Fortunately for us (but not for the Post), we can definitively answer that question. "It" is singular... so it cannot refer to Wilson's accusations, which are plural. The pronoun can only substitute for Cheney's singular response.
We all know about the multiple layers of editorial input to which all stories in the elite media are subject; and while they may miss minor things like deceit, misrepresentation, and bare-faced fabrication in the body of a story... I'm certain they're quite strong on noun-pronoun agreement.
When they wrote "some of it is misleading," they meant some of Cheney's response.
This, then, is a direct accusation of deception against the vice president. But there is no attempt to substantiate the charge; it just lies there like a lox, waiting to be gobbled up.
This is clearly meant to make readers believe there is some legitimate body of evidence indicating that Cheney's response to Lyin' Joe Wilson was intentionally deceptive. But by dropping the deception depth-bomb without any intent to back it up, the Post's fraudulent claim itself is an attempt to deceive.
And therefore, this is a third Washington Post lie in the same story.
So that's that, there you have it, and I'm washing my hands of the whole affair. The Post retailed three obvious, provable lies -- in a story about a guy just convicted of lying!
That may become the new dictionary example of chutzpah.
I must apologize for the title; I could not resist. Anyway, I'm not talking about "Abe," the diminutive of Abraham; I mean Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- and the family name is pronounced "Ah Bay," with both syllables stressed equally.
Here we are, with yet another non-binding resolution from the Democrat-controlled House (do they ever pass binding resolutions anymore?)
Note: I have steadfastly resisted using the term "the Democrat Party," instead of the Democratic Party, because I think it's a silly and insulting affectation.
But just a couple of days ago, I heard, with my own ears (not a loaner pair), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) refer to "the Democrat majority in the Senate."
Taking my cue from the senior Democrat in the upper body of Congress, I shall now have no compunction about using the adjective "Democrat" instead of Democratic. If it's good enough for the senator from Searchlight, it's good enough for me!
Anyway, we have yet another non-binding resolution -- from the House, not the Senate, naturally; the latter won't be able to overcome the fillibuster. This one is really a lollapalooza: the Democrats demand yet another apology from Japan for the use of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese "comfort women" -- sex slaves -- by the Japanese Army before and during World War II... though you wouldn't know there were any Japanese forced into prostitution by reading the New York Times article (that doesn't fit "the Story," you see).
Abe has already announced that if the Congress passes such an offensive resolution, Japan will reject it out of hand:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today that if the United States Congress demands that Japan apologize for his nation’s use of foreign women as sexual slaves during World War II, his government will refuse to comply.
So this is yet another Democrat exercise in legislative futility; they have turned the Congress of the United States into the Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes, and Little Men's Chowder & Marching Society. Cushlamocree!
Abe is right to resist this nonsense... but the poor sap is right for all the wrong reasons. He is trying to defend Japan against the charge by denying that there were any comfort women in the first place; or failing that, by insisting that the Japanese government and military had nothing to do with it... all the coercion was carried out by private contractors.
...Who were merely hired by the Japanese government and military. So you see, there's no connection!
Speaking in Japan’s parliament, Mr. Abe reiterated the position of conservative scholars here that Japanese soldiers and government officials had no hand in forcing women into brothels during the war; they say that private contractors hired by the Japan’s military were to blame.
Former comfort women have testified before a House committee that they were kidnapped by Japanese soldiers to serve in military brothels. But Mr. Abe said that any such testimony was “a complete fabrication.”
He also criticized the proposed House resolution, which holds Japanese authorities responsible for the coercion, saying that it “was not based in objective fact, and does not consider the Japanese government’s measures so far.”
That last sentence demonstrates the real problem here: for years and years, the two Koreas (and to a lesser extent China) have been demanding more and more demeaning apologies; it's not just bullying, however. There is method to their meanness: the ultimate goal is to force Japan to pay billions of dollars in "reparations" to the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China.
And so far, whatever Korea wants, Korea has gotten. Japan has a terrible guilt complex, and the Japanese Left hates and despises Japan even more than the American Left hates and despises this country.
So why is Abe actually right to refuse yet another apology? And why, then, are his reasons wrong?
First, let's start with a few admissions against interest. Here are some facts that really are not in dispute:
- There is no question that some Korean and Chinese women -- and Japanese women -- were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in the 1930s and during World War II;
- There is no question that it was the Japanese government that ordered such slavery... and no question that the Japanese military carried it out. Whether they worked directly or through "private" proxies is irrelevant;
- It's irrelevant because there were no truly private companies at that time in Japan: Japan was a Fascist dictatorship... which means the party of Tojo controlled every business, every company, every transaction. Nothing moved without the government allowing it to move.
But it that's true -- then why shouldn't Japan apologize? And even more, why shouldn't they have to pay reparations for the terrible wrong that they did? For a simple reason that is just as undeniable as the facts above:
- The Japanese government that did these horrible things ceased to exist on September 2nd, 1945, when Japan formally surrendered -- unconditionally -- to Allied forces, signing the surrender documents on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
- The current government of Japan did not come into existence until May 3rd, 1947, when it adopted its current constitution; or perhaps in 1952, when we formally turned over all remaining control to Japanese elected officials; or maybe even 1956, when the U.N. recognized the new nation of Japan;
- Thus, the current Japan did not even exist at the time these crimes were committed;
- In fact, neither did the current countries of the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China: All are post-war creations.
Neither the perpetrator (Imperial Japan) nor victims (united Korea, pre-Communist China) still exist, and all members of the perpetrator government (the military dictatorship) are dead and buried.
This makes complete nonsense out of virtually this entire article, which espouses a theory that can only be called "racial guilt" -- the racist idea that all persons of Japanese descent who happen to live in the modern nation of Japan are racially guilty of the crimes of completely different persons who also happen to have been of Japanese descent and who lived in the same geographical area as modern Japan, but before modern Japan was created.
Yes, you read that correctly: the New York Times is espousing a racist theory of propagation of guilt through the DNA, solely in order to benefit two Communist countries and a grubby, greedy capitalist one. Let's read the Times article carefully:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today that if the United States Congress demands that Japan apologize for his nation’s use of foreign women as sexual slaves during World War II...
Abe's nation did not exist during World War II, so it could not have used foreign women as sex slaves.
Japan has already lobbied hard against a resolution now under consideration in the United States House of Representatives, which would call on Tokyo to take clearer responsibility for the Japanese army’s enslavement of about 200,000 women, mostly Korean or Chinese, who were euphemistically called comfort women.
How can present-day Tokyo "take clearer responsibility" for what other people did under the previous regime -- a regime that enslaved and brutalized the Japanese people as well, making them the first and worst victims of its totalitarian National Socialism?
It is not morally possible: If a man commits murder but then dies himself, do we send his child to prison?
Japan has apologized over the matter before, including in 1993. But there are widespread concerns that Mr. Abe and other conservative Japanese lawmakers may try to water down or reverse such public admissions of guilt, as part of a broader push to change the way the nation regards its wartime history.
"It" doesn't have a "wartime history," because "it" didn't spring into existence until a minimum of two years after the war ended (not with a whimper, but with a pair of big bangs). And on and on.
Here is the correct way for Abe to reject this spurious charge:
To the American Congress, we thank you for illuminating the atrocities and war crimes, committed by the National Socialist dictatorship that occupied Japan for a number of years in the early part of the last century, against the innocent people of Korea and China. That same socialist tyranny committed equally horrific crimes against the Japanese people, and we join with you in expression our abhorrence of all such totalitarian systems.
The current governments of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the People's Republic of China must surely be familiar with the horrors that mass, coercive socialism can inflict: each has plagued its own people with even more murderous and torturous atrocities since World War II ended. And each, unlike Japan, still has the same government that perpetrated those crimes against humanity: Mao's so-called "cultural revolution" and his murder of seventy million of his own countrymen; and Kim Il-Sung's unprovoked invasion of South Korea in 1950 which precipitated a war that killed 2.5 million... and the more millions who have died from starvation under the government of Kim's royal successor, Kim Jong-Il. Not to mention the deprivation of liberty under both those Communist systems.
We extend our sorrow not only to those who suffered under one form of totalitarianism, we also extend our sorrow to those who have suffered under another form of totalitarianism. But we cannot apologize or accept responsibility for crimes that none of us in the government today, nor the government itself, had any hand in committing.
So we thank the American Congress for its interesting history lesson; but as to apologies or reparations -- bite me.
Imagine, a head of government talking like John Bolton (Japan has no "head of state"). Now that would be something to hear!
Date ►►► March 5, 2007
How to Smear the U.S. Marines Without Visibly Moving Your Lips
This one is really disturbing. Maybe you shouldn't read it... go away!
The fight in Afghanistan has picked up lately; you all know that (if you've been reading here as assiduously as you should). Last year, we killed 3,000 Taliban, while the latter managed to kill 850 civilians and 150 American or NATO soldiers.
In several recent incidents, American troops have come under attack; they have responded... and because the enemy loves to use innocent people as "human shields," some presumptively innocent people were killed in the crossfire.
The past is prologue; here is my point. The elite news media have decided to revert to their old habits: They appear uniformly to be reporting this as "Americans gone wild," accusing the Marines of panicking, of fleeing from the scene, and especially, of "firing indiscriminately" at civilians. (I don't quite understand how we can simultaneously fire indiscriminately while also deliberately targeting civilians, but perhaps that's just my hectoring, schoolmarmish defense of the English language.)
They use a number of classic techniques. Let's dive right in.
Warning: I have blue font, and I'm not afraid to us it.
Establishing and disestablishing authority
When charges of indiscriminate violence are hurled at Americans, they are given the voice of authority: either "officials say," "witnesses say," or else the charge is simply stated as fact -- vox populi vox Dei.
But whenever the reporters are forced by circumstances to admit the Marines (or American forces in general) may have their own side of the story, they make plain there is a "void" of authority: This is just what those buggers claim. (One can almost picture the reporter rolling his eyes as he types that.)
A coalition airstrike destroyed a mud-brick home after a rocket attack on a U.S. base, killing nine people from four generations of an Afghan family including a 6-month-old, officials and relatives said Monday - one of the latest in a string of civilian deaths that threaten to undermine the government.
It was the third report in two days of U.S. forces killing civilians. The airstrike took place late Sunday in Kapisa province north of the capital, some 12 hours after U.S. Marines opened fire on civilian cars and pedestrians following a suicide bombing in eastern Nangahar province....
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said coalition forces will always respond in self-defense when fired upon: "It is often the enemy that is putting innocent peoples' lives in danger by where they're conducting these attacks on our forces."
Does AP actually question the claim that "it is often the enemy that is putting innocent peoples' lives in danger?" Do they really deny that the Taliban thinks of civilians merely as human shields, convenient speed bumps to slow down Western forces -- who, unlike jihadis, actually have respect for innocent human life?
If not, then why put it entirely in the mouth of the estimable Mr. Whitman? AP could simply have noted that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have frequently launched terrorist attacks against innocent civilians out of the blue, not even in response to any attack upon the aggressors. (You know, that whole "September 11th" thingie.)
Nine members of a family were killed in an American airstrike in central Afghanistan, including five women and three children during a battle with militants, Afghan officials said today....
The incident came just 12 hours after American forces in eastern Afghanistan opened fire on civilians when a suicide car bomb exploded next to their convoy Sunday morning, leaving at least 10 people dead and 25 wounded, according to Afghan officials....
United States forces at a small base at Tape Ahmed Beg, in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul, called in the airstrike after coming under rocket fire around 9 p.m. local time on Sunday, the American military said in a statement.
Now let's be realistic here: "Afghan officials" have no official knowledge of what happened; they have not yet conducted any investigation, the events just occurred. All they know is what local Afghans, who may have a dog in the fight, tell them.
The Times knows this, just as they know that "officials" trumps "the military," just as "medical researchers" trumps "the tobacco industry." Nevertheless, the Times allows the accusation to hide behind the amorphous and vaguely authoritative "officials say," while the Marines are reduced to a whiny, personal defense -- and we all know those sexual assaulters and baby killers will say anything to weasel out of their rightful condemnation!
Reuters is the worst, as par for the course -- they are British based, and they typically use local stringers to write their stories... as in this case, where the reporter is Sayed Salahuddin:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned U.S. troops for shooting dead 10 civilians at the weekend as officials said nine more -- five women, four children and an old man -- had been killed in an air strike....
U.S. marines shot dead 10 civilians in the east on Sunday, in what the U.S. military said was a "complex" Taliban ambush involving a suicide bombing and gunfire in a populated area outside the city of Jalalabad, near Pakistan.
The military said the soldiers fired in self-defense and 16 civilians were killed in the suicide raid and subsequent firing.
Tit for tat is where it's at
Reuters' Mr. Salahuddin finds occasion to drag in the international community to supply the mandatory moral equivalence between U.S. Marines (not Europeans!) and the Taliban:
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop [or is that Hoop de Loop?] Scheffer said he understood both incidents involved U.S.-led coalition forces rather than NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), but told reporters in Brussels:
"Every civilian casualty is one too many ... I do not think it will influence the great support there is for NATO ISAF forces in Afghanistan...."
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, whose country has 1,900 soldiers in the ISAF force, told reporters in Brussels that no officer would order troops to fire on civilians.
Yes, those Americans can be such cowboys, can't they? I certainly hope the Afghan people understand that we Europeans would never return fire when fired upon!
(If anyone reading this detects a subtle bias in this post towards the Marines' version and against the version retailed by "local" Afghans of unknown provenance -- then by jiminy, I think you've hit upon my mean, little secret.)
Human Rights Watch said neither side was taking enough precautions to prevent human casualties and accused the U.S. and international troops of using excessive force.
"International forces don't have carte blanche to shoot anything they want in response to insurgent attacks," said John Sifton, a New York-based researcher for the group.
And lest we forget, the Times:
But a local representative of the provincial council, Suraya Bahadur, who comes from Nejarab district where the bombing occurred, condemned it. “I condemned both the suicide attacks and the rocket attacks by the enemy of Afghanistan, and also I condemn these type of mistakes,” by American and NATO forces, she said. “We never want our civilian people to be killed.”
A favorite tactic is what I call the rim shot: That's when you allow the bad guy -- that would be us -- to make a case, giving him plenty of rope... so that your conclusory, parting shot can hang him. Viz., from AP:
Two men with automatic rifles were seen leaving the site of the rocket attack and heading into a compound that was then hit by two 2,000-pound bombs, a military statement said. Rural homes in Afghanistan are built in a compound style with one large outer wall often encasing several small rooms; many families tend to share the same compound.
"These men knowingly endangered civilians by retreating into a populated area while conducting attacks against coalition forces," said Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman. "We observed the men entering a compound and that compound was targeted and hit by an airstrike."
The bombs left a large crater of twisted lumber and chunks of mud and killed four women, four children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, and an 80-year-old man, said Gulam Nabi, a relative of the victims.
Sayad Mohammad Dawood Hashimmi, Kapisa deputy governor, confirmed the nine deaths.
Among those killed were Gulam Nabi's parents, his sister, two female relatives by marriage and four of the extended family's youngest children.
Yeah, so a couple of guys -- who were merely retreating, for God's sake -- enter a "compound," which is just a rural home... and then the military spasms, and we have dead women, dead children, and a dead octogenarian. Ba-dum DUM.
And how do we know that was the death toll? Well, reading between the lines, we have the word of Gulam Nabi, "a relative of the victims." No possible bias there. Oh, but it was "confirmed" by the deputy governor; which means, reading between the lines, that we have the word of Gulam Nabi. (Did you imagine that by "confirmed," Reuters meant the deputy governor went to the site and made a detailed forensic investigation of the bodies? Or that, after talking with Nabi, the deputy governor said "Crusaders and Zionists are always doing this kind of thing! Long live Mullah Omar!")
This bloody vote's been rigged!
We have the obligatory sly inuendo from Reuters -- I warned you they were the worst, but you never listen -- that there's dirty work afoot... and we know who's footing it. The intended response by the reader is, "Can you believe this? What chutzpah!"
"Karzai strongly condemned the incident that took place," the presidential palace said in a statement on Sunday. Karzai has ordered an inquiry, but previous such investigations by NATO and the Afghan government have done nothing more than confirm witness accounts that those killed were civilians.
Despite hundreds of civilian deaths, no foreign soldier has ever been found guilty of any wrongdoing.
I suppose it would be jingoistic of us to suggest that perhaps that's because no foreign soldier has actually been guilty of wrongly killing civilians. I know, I know. Baby killers. Abu Ghraib. Attica. But shouldn't the elite media pause for even a moment to consider the possibility that sometimes, behind the smoke, we just find -- a big smokescreen machine?
Sympathy for the devil
I don't want the New York Times to feel neglected. One of their signature tactics is to redefine the terms of the situation so that we feel sympathy, or even solidarity, with the terrorists. Usually, they invoke the "disproportionality" argument, knowing that Americans -- unlike those we're supposed to feel sympathetic towards, by the way -- tend to champion the underdog when we perceive a mismatch:
John Sifton, senior researcher at the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, also expressed concern at the level of force used by coalition and NATO troops. “That is heavy firepower to respond to two men, even if they have Kalashnikovs,” he said in a telephone interview. “If that version of events bears up, it would strongly suggest that the attack was disproportionate.” Mr. Sifton said insurgents also regularly violate the rules of war by using force near civilian areas ["...but don't quote me on that!"].
Forgotten in all the excitement is that everybody agrees that the American military called in the strike not just because they men were carrying AK-47s, but because they had just launched a rocket attack on an American military base. Having observed the two men firing a rocket at a base that has been repeatedly bombarded with rocket fire, it's reasonable for us to conclude that they kept more than mere rifles in their safehouse. Like, perhaps, more rockets.
So we're actually talking about responding to rocket fire by dropping a bomb -- which no longer sounds all that "disproportionate," does it?
Can't we all just get along?
Finally, sticking with the Times, we close with the faux attempt to get everyone to sit down and talk things through... as if that's the real problem: the terrorists just don't understand what fine fellows we really are:
Civilian casualties have increased in the last year as the insurgency has seen a resurgence in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Mr. Sifton of Human Rights Watch called on the Afghan government and NATO and coalition forces to sit down and work out operating procedures for troops in these circumstances in order to prevent further civilian deaths.
I call this a "faux attempt" for a particular reason: Look who Mr. Sifton calls on -- presumably those he holds (a) responsible for all these civilian deaths, or (b) to be the adults on the scene: the Americans, the Europeans, and the democratic Afghan government. He doesn't even pretend that the Taliban and al-Qaeda may be at least a small part of the problem.
That's like saying in 1985 that the United States and West Germany should sit down and work out what to do about all those Pershing II missiles in Europe, in order to avoid the threat of nuclear war. The cowboys are on the warpath again!
I utter the words, "and in conclusion" -- and the crowd leaps to its feet in sustained applause
Even if the elite media never wearys of being on the wrong side of the United States, you'd think they would at least get tired of being on the wrong side of history. Evidently they're indefatigable.
Let's Not Be Overly Hasty...
You want a perfect example of what is wrong with American journalism -- and the CIA -- today? Can't find a better one than this.
As we moved in force into Sadr City yesterday, one of the serendipitous effects was a raid that turned up a Sunni torture-beheading room. We even found two living victims:
Lt. Col. Valery Keaveny described breaking through a double-locked door to find an Iraqi police officer and another Iraqi man who had undergone "considerable torture." The policeman had been shot in both ankles and the other man had been dangling from the ceiling and "beaten severely by a pipe for a good deal of time," Keaveny told reporters.
The captives told U.S. soldiers they had been convicted to death [sic] by an insurgent court at the site - about 18 miles west of Baghdad near the village of Karmah - and had the choice of either beheading or a fatal gunshot, said Keaveny.
They were spared immediate death, Keaveny said, because the insurgents' video camera didn't work and they had gone to get a new one to film the executions. "(The insurgents) said they would be back in the morning," he said. "And that's when we came in, that night."
But that's not all that we found at that site; we seized something a bit more alarming: one million pounds (500 tons) of bomb-making chemicals.
AP, however, does not want to leap to any conclusions...
The site also contained a huge stockpile of more than 1 million pounds of aluminum sulfate, which can be used as a component in nitrate-based fertilizer explosives. But it also has other commercial uses, including water purification.
Gentlemen... a million pounds of "water purification?" What are they trying to do, make the entire Euphrates River potable?
This absurdist attempt to latch hold of any possible benign explanation, to avoid having to conclude that these torturers and beheaders may have been up to no good, follows the pattern laid down by the CIA anent WMD: No matter what components we find -- including 55-gallon drums of Cyclosarin sitting in the same camouflaged ammo dump as a big pile of empty chemical rockets and artillery shells -- the Iraq Survey Group always had a great story of how it could possibly be used for civilian purposes... so it didn't count as WMD. (Saddam Hussein was very anxious that his troops have pest-free ammunition dumps.)
And whenever they found something that was undeniably WMD... well, as Mark Steyn said, it was always the wrong kind.
The job of the CIA is not to cover for Hussein; it is to report intelligence and fairly analyze it, so that the civilian policy makers have the best available information. But as this AP article shows, if your standard is not "reasonable doubt" but "any conceivable doubt whatsoever," you can always find some wild story that ends with the bad guys really being misunderstood.
That proves nothing, except the obvious fact that unreasonable premises yield irrational results.
Maliki No Longer Malingering
This AP article is extremely encouraging -- not just because of the good news it contains but because of the trend it represents: more and more elite-media news stories are admitting that the security operation is going very, very well so far... and we haven't even inserted the last three or four brigades yet (I'm not sure whether two or only one have gone in to date).
Though there is an amusing and somewhat telling mistake that somehow slithered through the six layers of editorial oversight: while discussing our attempts to move Maliki to split with Sadr, and how reluctant he has been until now, one of the paragraphs reads thus:
But pressure for change has mounted since President Bush ordered 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq last January despite widespread opposition in Congress and among the U.S. public - weary of the nearly five-year-long war.
That would be the "five years" from March 20th, 2003 until March 3rd, 2007, I suppose. Perhaps AP uses some really, really bad lunar calendar...
But on the whole, the article is much fairer and more accurate than we've grown accustomed to seeing over the last four years. (Or five years, if you prefer.)
The good news bits:
- The prime minister is going to "shake up" his cabinet... which evidently means giving the boot to the six Sadrites in his cabinet and shuffling some other offices around;
- Maliki also says he will start arresting "top officials" and members of parliament for aiding and abetting the Shiite death squads.
That last part is going to be especially welcome to the Sunni in Iraq, whose cooperation we need in order to bring Iraqis together as a nation, instead of allowing them to disintegrate into discrete groups separated by sect -- or even by tribe.
The government must convince Sunni Iraqis that it's not the Shiite Iraqi government, but a government for all Iraqis. Everyone knows that high-ranking Shia have been funneling money and weapons to the death squads, which use those resources to butcher Sunnis (who may or may not have any connection to al-Qaeda); thus, the only way to convince the Sunni that Prime Minister Maliki is finally serious is to start busting top Shia and chucking them into la calabooza:
Last month, U.S. and Iraqi troops arrested Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili, an al-Sadr ally, for allegedly diverting millions of dollars in government funds to the Mahdi Army and allowing death squads to use ambulances and government hospitals to carry out kidnappings and killings.
During the interview, al-Maliki said other top officials would face prosecution for ties to insurgents, sectarian militias and death squads - including members of parliament.
"There has been coordination between us and the Multinational Forces ... starting at the beginning of this year ... to determine who should arrested and the reasons behind arresting them," he said.
Al-Maliki did not elaborate on the U.S.-Iraqi coordination but said Iraqi judicial authorities were reviewing case files to decide which to refer to an Iraqi investigative judge, who must decide whether there is enough evidence to order a trial.
This problem is quite serious, and Iraqi authorities estimate as many as 100 government officials could end up in the dock.
One example is MP Jamal Jaafar Mohammed:
One Shiite parliament member, Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, is believed to have fled to Iran after U.S. authorities learned that he was convicted by a Kuwaiti court in absentia and sentenced to death in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait.
Mohammed fled Kuwait for Iran before he could be arrested and returned after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. U.S. officials have alleged he was a conduit for Iranian weapons and supplies smuggled to Shiite militias.
All in all, this news is excellent... and coming on the heels of the drop in homicides (even including the big blast today that killed 20-30 innocent civilians at a market), it definitely shows Iraq's significant movement towards becoming a stable democracy, able to handle its own defense with little help from us.
But of course, the Democrats in Congress are still determined to "stop the surge." More and more, however, it becomes clear they're not worried we might fail...
Date ►►► March 4, 2007
So Ann Coulter Went Too Far. So What?
I realize it's become fashionable on La Rive Droite to trash Ann Coulter.
She's over the top; she's gone too far; I used to be a fan, but I'll never read her again; she's a liability; she gives conservativism a bad name; we should dump her; she's evil; she just craves attention; she's a rightwing Keith Olberman; she's Hitlerian...
I also realize I'm not about to make the NRO hit parade -- but honest to goodness, I think Ann Coulter has done more for conservativism -- and plain, old Americanism -- than most of those savaging her today.
Did she "go too far" in her failed joke that implied John Edwards was a homosexual? Yup. Does that mean I'm going to throw out everything she has ever done and make her a conservative unperson? No; and anybody further right than Bill Clinton who does so is throwing the baby out to spite his face.
It was a stupid, unfunny joke, and it cut the thin thread that separates humor from cruelty and bigotry. But frankly, if an edgy comedian doesn't cross that line every now and again, he's not doing his job.
There are two basic kinds of comedy:
- There is the quiet, gentle, self-deprecating comedy of Robert Benchley, Dick Van Dyke, Fred MacMurray, Bill Cosby, and Buster Keaton;
- Then there is the slashing, ripping, dancing on the edge of the precipice comedy of Don Rickles, Jon Lovitz, Steve Martin, Rowan Atkinson, Andy Kaufman, Lenny Bruce, and H.L. Mencken.
For Hank's sake, we need them both; and I speak as one whose comedy, to the extent I can manage any, is almost entirely Type 1.
Coulter does comedy the way Debbie does Dallas: she strips it all off and does everything you can imagine -- and a lot you never dreamt in your philosophies. But besides having a sense of humor, she also has a sense of serious. And because of her serious books on serious subjects, from High Crimes and Misdemeanors to Slander to Treason to Godless, she has earned her place in the pantheon of conservative goddesses. (Some of the attacks on her exude the distinct whiff of Venus envy.)
And yes... sometimes she "crosses the line." Name a Type 2 comedian who hasn't.
So what? Is conservativism or capitalism or Americanism a fragile piece of Tiffany glass, so that all it takes is a chance, unfortunate word, and all will fly to flinders? Have we actually bought into the great deceit of liberalism -- that individuals have no innate value (good or ill) but merely exist as representatives of some group -- so that everything Ann Coulter says taints Thomas Sowell, P.J. O'Rourke, William F. Buckley jr., Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, Michelle Malkin, and Dafydd ab Hugh? (Dafydd ab Who?)
If you think that, you've let some liberal make a donkey out of you.
We still read Mencken, even though he made horribly disparaging comments about Jews and blacks -- and Christians, Moslems, whites, Asians, men, women, cripples, presidents, and everybody else on the planet, including himself. We still laugh at Rowan Atkinson, even though he makes jokes about mental illness, racial bigotry, and snot. And I will continue attending Mel Gibson movies, even though he got commode-hugging drunk and turned into his blithering, racist father.
I loved Sweeney Todd (cannibalism), Tom Jones (mother-son incest), and Gulliver's Travels (vulgar and disgusting sexual content -- you really do need to read the unexpurgated version next time). Did they o'erleap Coulter Canyon? Should Sondheim, Fielding, and Swift turn in their pundit cards?
Those who condemn the gal set a standard of moral purity too high for my corrupted, mortal existence. They cut themselves off from so much that is good, even great, in a pursuit of holiness that ends only in rank sanctimony and schoolmarm finger-wagging.
Yeah. Bad joke. Naughty joke. Maybe the next will be funnier. And her next book will once again take a dangerously sacred cow and loft it out of the park (why, that's my favorite manglephor of the last three weeks!)
And the next time she says something that pushes "edgy" to "over the edge," the usual suspects will predictably jump on a chair, pull up their skirts, and scream. And I will shrug again
Ayn said "A is A;" I say "Ann is Ann."
Date ►►► March 3, 2007
Did We Chop the Chopper-Killers?
The "U.S. military" -- Reuters isn't any more specific than that -- says we killed several "senior insurgents" yesterday suspected of shooting down some of the eight helicopters we recently lost:
A U.S. air strike killed senior insurgents suspected of targeting American helicopters in Iraq, and the Iraqi government said 39 militants had been killed in volatile western Anbar province in recent fighting.
The U.S. military said on Saturday the air strike took place on Friday north of Baghdad near the town of Taji, which is home to a major U.S. air base. It said weaponry, including a vehicle mounted with anti-aircraft artillery, was destroyed.
"Coalition forces believe key terrorists were killed during the air strike ... Intelligence reports indicated this network is responsible for threats to coalition aircraft," the military said in a statement without elaborating. [Maybe it has something to do with the "anti-aircraft artillery" we destroyed.]
AP doesn't mention the "39 militants," but they have a few more details about the raid against the anti-aircraft artillery terrorists:
Also Saturday, the U.S. military said American warplanes bombed an area near Taji, on Baghdad's northern outskirts, killing "key terrorists" who were using anti-aircraft artillery to fire at military helicopters.
Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, told The Associated Press that insurgents near Taji had been firing at U.S. helicopters with heavy machine guns mounted on the back of truck.
"It's mobile and it can inflict damage to our helicopters," Garver said. "Anything that can threaten our helicopters, we're going to try to get it off the battlefield," he said of the Friday air strike.
Not much to say about this one; we'll just have to wait and see. But AP mentions another raid of interest:
In a separate raid in the Taji area on Saturday, nine suspected insurgents were captured, including two believed to be responsible for recruiting and helping foreign militants join the insurgency in Baghdad, the U.S. military said. The suspects were also accused of harboring al-Qaida in Iraq leaders, it said.
Iraq's defense ministry said Saturday that Iraqi troops killed three suspected militants in Khan Bani Saad, a mixed town northeast of Baghdad. Two men were arrested in the raid, the ministry said in a statement. Seven others were captured in Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, it said.
The 39 terrorists killed in Anbar died in a long-running firefight by "Iraqi security forces." (Don't you just love the precise specificity of the elite media? We don't even know if the terrorists were killed by the Iraqi Army or the Iraqi Police Commandos.)
In Anbar Province, a number of Sunni tribal leaders have turned against al-Qaeda and are helping us fight them. Enjoy it while it lasts; tribes can be fickle.
Regardless of the missing specifics, clearly the security operation is working very well at the moment. I wonder if the Democrats are as pleased as I.
Mooching For Free Legal Advice
I'm entirely serious here. A bizarre situation has arisen, and I'd like to have some vague idea where we stand. It's nothing as complex as a lawsuit, or anything; and I'm loathe to pay an attorney hundreds of dollars for an opinion, when the total amount involved is so much less.
Here is basic conundrum...
My wife and I own a condo. In that condo, we have cable TV, as do most folks in the building; but some residents have DirectTV satellite TV, complete with small dish antennas on the roof.
The homeowner's association (hereafter HOA) has gotten a bee in its collective bonnet about those antennae on the roof; they forbade any further such, claiming it could "cause damage" to the roof -- though they haven't explained exactly how, or even whether there already has been damage or whether it's entirely hypothetical at this point.
But all of a sudden, they have this plan: they want to put one big dish antenna on the roof, and have everybody tap into that. All well and good, except -- DirectTV won't do that unless every single unit in the building (80 of them) signs up.
So now the HOA is trying to pass a resolution at the next business meeting formally accepting that offer... after which they will rip all the cable access out of the walls, and nobody will be able to have cable anymore; it will be satellite or nothing (we get virtually no reception without cable or satellite).
Now this would hit us very hard, because we have cable internet access: if forced to switch to satellite, several extreme annoyances would ensue:
- We would have to change our e-mail addresses, which means notifying scores of entities (human and corporate) that communicate with us that way;
- We would have to make do with much slower internet access: we currently have 5MBps download and 512KB up; for the same price in satellite, we would get about 768KBps down. The best we can get is 1.5, which is a lot more expensive for a third the speed;
- We currently rent our DVR; under DirectTV, we would have to buy it for about $250 net (and it would only work on DirectTV... so if we moved and got cable, we couldn't use it).
- And anybody who has taken advantage of our cable system for his phone service -- which the cable company has been pushing lately -- would also have to change his phone number, I suppose. Fortunately, we didn't go with that... but I'm sure others did.
All in all, we really, really don't want to switch from cable to satellite... but I'm very concerned that a bunch of homeowners who only have basic cable will vote for satellite, because it's marginally cheaper for that low level of service.
So my question is, does the HOA really have the authority to make this decision, to cut off cable and tell everybody to switch to satellite instead, no matter what that does to our internet access? Is there anything we can do about it, other than just hope they lose the vote?
I'd love to hear from any lawyers out there who have any experience at all in this. If the advice is "get a lawyer," perhaps you could also indicate the best way to select one... given that I have no experience with getting one.
Date ►►► March 2, 2007
Romney Confronts the Gap - Though Not by Name
I just read Mitt Romney's speech that he gave at CPAC 2007, the conservative convention. I was particularly struck by this section, which I have reparagraphed for greater clarity (it's a transcription of an oral speech; my paragraphing is no less authentic than the transcriber's!):
We will defeat the violent jihad with a two-part strategy. First, an unquestionably strong military. The best ally peace has in the world is a strong America. We need more men and women in the military, better armaments, and a Strategic Defense Initiative.
And there's a second aspect of our strategy: we must bring together all the civilized nations of the world in what might be called a Second Marshall Plan. Together with them, and with volunteers, businesses and NGOs, we must support moderate Muslim nations and peoples.
They need public schools that are not Wahabi schools, the rule of law, property rights, modern banking and agriculture and pro-growth economic policies. In the end, it is the Muslim people themselves who will eliminate radical jihad.
I have several orchids for this prescription, but one onion as well. First the flowers...
Let's start with the simplest point made by this section of the speech:
- At last, a conservative American politician is forthrightly defending the idea that our country needs to do more than just "kill people and break things" in Iraq and elsewhere.
After destroying the evil governments (and transnational terrorist groups) that strangle a third of the population of the planet, we must also help them build better, freer, and more economically sustainable institutions, from governments, to churches or mosques, to corporations. We cannot just break the bad and then walk away, shrugging: "Hey, it's your mess, not ours!"
- It's also spectacularly helpful that Gov. Romney has clearly identified this nation building with America's own national security: "a second aspect of our strategy."
A friend of mine has not actually read Thomas P.M. Barnett's book the Pentagon's New Map, but has only heard one of Hugh Hewitt's eight interviews with Barnett. When Barnett's name came up recently, my friend raged at me that Barnett was "just another f-----g altruist!"
(My friend is a dyed-in-the-wode, small-l libertarian, for whom "altruist" is as vile an epithet as "statist" or "neocon." He often quotes the Ayn Rand definition of altruism: a man who would take food from his own starving child to give to a stranger's starving child.)
I immediately diagnosed the problem: The interview my friend heard must have been one where Barnett was talking about "shrinking the Gap," about rebuilding the nations in the Non-Integrating Gap to be more interconnected economically, legally, and culturally with the rest of the world, and about introducing them to individualism, liberty, and capitalism (henceforth, IL&C). But what my friend did not hear from earlier interviews -- or read, as yet, in Barnett's writings -- is that Barnett's motivation is only partially compassion.
He also believes, and I agree (and agreed with intellectually even before ever hearing of Barnett or his Core-Gap thesis), that it's absolutely critical for American national security to shrink the Gap... because that's where all of our enemies come from nowadays.
For exactly the same reason, I believe -- and my friend emphatically agrees -- that besides confronting and defeating Communism by force of arms during the Cold War, it was also vital that we confronted them ideologically, that we dealt head-on with the claims of Marxism and socialism and rigorously demonstrated why IL&C not only allow you to eat better -- they were more just.
In contrappunto, the gap between Gap and Core is not an ideological divide, though certainly ideologies (both Islamism and also plain, old Communism) "carpe diem" anent the divide. The yawning gulf is actually one of implementation, not theory.
Jerry Seinfeld, talking to Kramer; Jerry comes back and finds he's been burgled, and Kramer confesses he left the door wide open:
KRAMER: How can you not have insurance?
JERRY: Because I spent my money on the Clapgo D. 29. It's the most impenetrable lock on the market today. It has only one design flaw: the door...[shuts the door] must be closed!
I believe just as strongly today as I did 20 years ago in the power of IL&C to convert cringing masses into self-actualized actors for their own enlightened self interest. But there is only one design flaw: the target population must actually be exposed to IL&C for the recruitment to work as advertised.
The danger of disconnectedness is precisely that it exploits that "design flaw": governments and terrorist groups seek to prevent integration between Gap populations and the globalized world, so that the former never get to see what they're missing. By treating whole populations like mushrooms -- keeping them in the dark -- the Gapsters can also feed them the offal of jihadism or Communism. It's too easy to sell future paradise to those currently living in hell.
Thus, after battering down the walls erected by the Gapsters, we have to complete the sequence by bringing in our own moral axioms of IL&C, so the starving, brutalized masses can see that they're not just more just, which is of little consequence to people who are born with one foot in the grave; they also allow you to eat better.
That is how we destroy jihadism, as Romney said: we not only show them we're the strong horse, we show them how our system can pull them out of hell and into, if not paradise, then at least into the twenty-first century. That is clearly in our national-security interest.
- Finally, it is good to see a presidential candidate clearly state that "it is the Muslim people themselves who will eliminate radical jihad."
While this is the one area that President Bush has communicated well with the American people, there are many other putative "conservatives" who seem to believe that Arabs have a genetic predisposition towards tyranny and jihadism, or at least that the only way we can destroy jihadism is to "convert [the ummah] to Christianity."
This is dangerous defeatism: One flavor of defeatism is to insist that victory requires a policy that you know, deep down, is impossible... thus covertly implying that victory itself is likewise impossible.
Moslems do not need to convert to Christianity; Islam needs to have a Reformation followed by an Enlightenment. Gov. Romney understands this point and expresses it vividly.
As much as modern-day Christians may wish to forget, Christianity used to be just as violent, expansionist, intolerant, antisemitic, and bloodthirsty as Islam is today. Think of the crusades, which may have started as a defensive move to restore the Holy Land to Christian control, but which resulted in the mass murder of Jews they happened to encounter along the road and the looting and burning of Christian Constantinople, and other Christian cities whose wealth beckoned and tempted. Think of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. Think of the autos-da-fé, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the religious wars and persecutions in England, France, the Netherlands, and so forth. And there were Christian justifications for slavery, just as there were Christian denunciations of the "peculiar institution."
The movement that changed all of this began with the 16th-century Protestant Reformation and culminated with the 18th-century Age of Englightenment (including the American Revolution). Western society did not cease being Christian; but it did utterly change how it viewed Christianity. From a Mediæval concept of religion as the source of all law, the West shifted to the idea of religion as the source only of inspiration, while law, like all governance, comes ultimately from the consent of the governed.
All that "moderate Moslems" need do is bring about a similar transformation of Islam, forcing it to evolve from primitivism to modernity. It was done in Christianity, and "what Man has done, Man can aspire to do."
But of course, the last time, it took more than 200 years!
Let's hope that with that example behind us and a much brighter yet more challenging future ahead of us, we can shorten that transformation down to a few decades. Whether we can or not, however, this bold strategy is yet another reason to "shrink the Gap."
So what is the one onion?
- Romney makes the classic mistake of thinking that "the Gap" consists entirely of Moslem cultures: his prescription is applied only to stop "jihad."
Barnett calls this the "arc of instability" fallacy... and it's simply not true. The Non-Integrating Gap includes much of Southeast Asia, the African interior, and large tracts of South America -- none of which is especially Moslem. Islam was not a factor in the horrific massacre of Tutsis and Hutus by each other, nor does it enter into the narcocratic hell of Colombia and Peru, the bestial depredations of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, or the brutal, disconnected dictatorship of Kim Jong-Il in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The ummah and the Gap are not coterminous; and the non-Moslem parts need to be evolved and rebuilt every bit as much as do the traditional fundamentalist Islamic countries.
That is one reason I'm pretty sure Mitt Romney has not read Barnett... or at least not much and not attentively.
A Question for Anyone Who Questions "Swift Boaters"
I'm getting awfully tired of the verb-phrase "to Swift Boat," meaning "an unfair and corrupt attack that should be banned from the airwaves." Here is the latest, tossed into a story about Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-At Large, 100%) senior thesis at Wellesley College in 1969:
With Clinton’s opponents in the 2008 presidential race looking for the next “Swift Boat” attack ad, and the senator herself trying to cast off her liberal image, Clinton's 92-page thesis is certain to be read and reread by opposition researchers and reporters visiting the campus.
Clinton's thesis was subtitled "An Analysis of the Alinsky Model," referring to the leftist agitator Saul Alinsky, considered a mentor by many of the radical student protestors in the 60s -- though Alinsky himself was less impressed by them than they were by him. Clinton's "analysis" consisted of a consideration of whether his tactics of personal confrontation and what another speaker called "coercive protests" were more or less effective than other tactics.
Now, to be fair, this particular article does not come out and say that "Swift Boat" attack ads should be banned; but it certainly plays into that popularly held opinion on the Left. Bill Dedman uses the phrase as shorthand for right-wing attacks launched by Republicans against, to pick an example at random, Hillary Clinton.
And he's not alone; I've seen the same type of phrase used for the same purpose at least five times in the the last month... always by "progressive" writers who naturally assume the reader accepts their vision of those anti-Kerry ads as lying, manipulative, and corrupt. (This is a perfect example of trying to control debate by defining the terms.)
Those same invokers of "Swift Boat-ism" uniformly believe that the FCC or the FEC should "regulate" ad content to prevent such attacks in the future. But I have a question for them:
Suppose that in 2004, a group of fighter pilots at the Alabama Air National Guard had emerged, many of whom had personally known Lt. George W. Bush when he was there in the early 1970s. Suppose they stated that they had personal knowledge that he had been AWOL many times during that period. Suppose they made TV commercials saying exactly that.
My answer would be No: They should be allowed to tell their story; President Bush should be allowed to rebut with his own ads, in news conferences, or during the debates; and the American people should decide which side they believe.
So far, I have never heard any prominent Democrat complain about (for a similar but much more egregious example) the September 8th, 2004 CBS 60 Minutes segment introducing the "Killian memos." (Note that none of the documents brought forth by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was ever discovered to be a forgery.)
So I suspect I have the answer to my question: It's just another tired repetition of "free speech for me but not for thee." I'm shocked, shocked to discover politicking among political activists.
In the slither-on, I finish the story about Sen. Hillary Clinton's senior thesis at Wellesley: did she embrace or reject Saul Alinsky's radicalism? Click to find out...
As an aside, the central question of the MSNBC story is whether Clinton's thesis supported Alinsky -- who certainly verged awfully close to Marxism, saved only by his self-conscious desire to be an iconoclast -- or whether she rejected his radicalism.
Answer: she eagerly embraced his goal, but she questioned his tactics... not on moral grounds, however. In fact, during Clinton's graduation speech at Wellesley -- where she was not valedictorian, by the way -- she attacked the featured speaker, a black Republican, for rejecting "coercive protest," thus lauding it by implication.
Rather, Hillary Clinton's objection to Alinsky's aggressive and coercive tactics was that they weren't as effective as the government strongarm tactics that Clinton later chose for herself. For example, her health-care model envisioned "health-care alliances" that bore such an uncany similarity to Benito Mussolini's "business alliances," that one must almost conclude she wrote the proposal with a history of Italian Fascism open in front of her.
That is, Hillary Clinton rejected Alinsky's model of personal, confrontational protest in favor of seizing the levers of power and using government to cram socialism down the people's throat, good and hard, for their own good... the exact tactic Thomas Sowell identified in his seminal book the Vision of the Anointed.
Thus, those who thought Alinsky's thoughts were the key to Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton Rodham were, in fact, vindicated: in 1969, while she rejected his tactics as ineffective, she thoroughly internatlized his goal of world socialism and unionism... simply driven by law, not personal conscience. Her progressive soulmates who tried to downplay the Alinsky connection were foolishly wrong.
Dedman sees no particular irony in his conclusion; he seems to believe that this discovery enhances Clinton's appeal; and among her set, it probably will. He appears charmingly unaware that it's not just Clinton's "critics" who might find it less appealing that a presidential candidate, as a young woman, so ardently agreed with the goals of a radical leftist organizer.
They might wonder whether she still does today. And judging by her 2003 autobiography Living History, the answer is Yes, she does:
“I agreed with some of Alinsky's ideas,” she explained in “Living History,” her 2003 biography, “particularly the value of empowering people to help themselves. But we had a fundamental disagreement. He believed you could change the system only from the outside. I didn't.”
Er, Care to Rephrase That, Armando?
Heard scant moments ago during a newsbreak on KRLA, the local radio station that carries Ingraham, Medved, Hewitt, and Savage:
A path of destruction across several states, as Bush tours the South.
(I suspect they were talking about the "path of destruction" caused by yesterday's tornadoes -- not by the president.)
Dividing the Tar Baby
Or, the text and subtext of black gold
This AP story amazes; it manages to encapsulate, in a very few words, the essence of what is happening overall in Iraq; what America's role in the transmutation; and even points to the challenges and achievements still to come.
This is a tale of shrinking the Non-Integrating Gap, one country at a time; and this is exactly how it will be done:
The Iraqi Cabinet approved draft legislation Monday to manage the country's vast oil industry and divide its wealth among the population, a key U.S. benchmark for progress in this country. The legislation now goes to parliament for approval....
All major parties [of the Shia, the Kurds, and the Sunni] have agreed to work for approval of the measure by May, but there are no guarantees in Iraq's fractious, sectarian political system.
There it is in a nutmeg: Representatives of the entire country of Iraq have finally agreed that their own economic and political interests are best served by constructing a national rule-set for divvying up the oil leases, oil contracts, and oil revenue -- rather than every Arab for himself.
We all hope it will pass parliament; but even if it does not, the impetus is there: The government will simply amend the bill to take the objections into account and try again, and eventually it will pass.
That's not Gap thinking; that's Core thinking. And it's beautiful to see.
But wait, what exactly is the deal? Is it really fair and just to every province?
Under the measure, revenues will be distributed to all 18 provinces based on population size -- a concession to the Sunnis whose central and western homeland has relatively few proven reserves. Most of Iraq's oil is in the Kurdish north and Shiite south, and many Sunnis fear they would be cut out of a fair share....
Under the oil legislation, regional administrations will be empowered to negotiate contracts with international oil companies. The contracts will be reviewed by a central government committee in Baghdad headed by the prime minister.
Note the strong appeal to an almost American-style Federalism: the central government does not control how the provinces or regions distribute their oil revenues, nor is the ultimate power to negotiate held close by parliament. Instead, the regions or provinces can negotiate deals, subject only to a veto by the national government. This is a huge improvement from the traditional parliamentary system, which is Nationalist, not Federalist (the central government decides everything and tells the states, provinces, or prefectures what to do).
All Iraqi provinces get a per-capita share of the revenue, whether they actually produce oil or not. This represents the long-awaited recognition by Iraqis that they'll all in this game together. The Sunni may not have any oil, but they carry out other services (anything high tech, for example) that enables the oil to flow... and without the cohesion of a unified national state, there would be no oil to pump or sell.
But why is it so important to come up with a new economic rule-set for oil revenues and contract negotiation? Why don't the majority Shia just seize all the oil revenues from the southern fields and let the Kurds keep all the revenue from the north? Why not just have warlords and tribal leaders control everything, using oil as a way to bribe the West, as Saddam always did?
Because they desperately want foreign investment, which further integrates Iraq into the global economy:
A new law is needed, most outside experts believe, to encourage international companies to pour billions into Iraq to repair pipelines, upgrade wells, develop new fields and begin to exploit the country's vast petroleum reserves, estimated at about 115 billion barrels.
According to Iraqis familiar with the deliberations, the draft law would offer international oil companies several methods to invest, including production-sharing agreements. Those would give U.S. and other international companies a substantial share of the oil revenues to recover their initial investments and then allow them big tax breaks.
The correlation is absolute: Iraq needs the huge Western companies, with their staggering financial and engineering resources, to heavily invest in the oil fields in order to fully exploit their potential value. But such companies as Exxon-Mobile and Royal Dutch Shell will not invest any significant money at all -- unless they are assured that there is a just, fair, and predictable rule-set that will ensure Iraq doesn't treat them like Hurricane Hugo in Venezuela:
- There must be strict rules governing who gets what from each deal;
- The rules must be in writing and known in advance;
- The interpretation of rules must be consistent from contract to contract; you cannot have a tax of 10% suddenly become a tax of 30% because a creative judge decided the government needed more revenue;
- There must be a civil-court system that has actual teeth and will treat all litigants with fairness and justice;
- Above all else, business wants stable growth: they hate surprises... and a system like Iraq had under the late and unlamented dictator was full of 'em. Every time Saddam's mood changed, so would change the contracts, like a weathervane.
This new law -- when passed by parliament -- will go a long, long way towards reassuring "big oil" that they will make a profit, that they will be able to predict the profit, and that the profit (or even the original investment) won't be "nationalized" away from them, and that they won't be forced to pay a bribe at the drop of a turban.
But did the United States have anything to do with this? Are we doing anything in Iraq besides killing people and breaking things? I'm glad you asked:
The tortuous negotiations are reminiscent of the intense American arm-twisting, public pressure and backroom dealmaking that have pushed nearly every step in Iraq's political transformation since the U.S.-led invasion nearly four years ago.
The process sometimes has produced agreements that enabled Washington to declare success but ultimately created a new set of problems -- such as a divisive 2005 election that invigorated the Sunni insurgency, and a new constitution that the U.S. now acknowledges must be amended substantially to bring peace.
Hey, how about that? Is this perhaps the first time that the Associated Press has admitted that America has been working just as hard to build a nation, where once there was only a criminal state, as we have to kill the bad guys?
And notice now negatively AP sees this process: How else do they expect a nascent country like Iraq to make the painful transition from tribalist, traditionalist Gap state to Core state but by being dragged, kicking and screaming all the way? And that "new set of problems" they worry about is akin to the new challenges faced by a child when he transitions to being a teenager.
We are giving Iraq a future; we are slowly raising them to Core status. In a generation, Iraq will be a free, stable democracy with a very significant per-capita GDP... and they will be our allies. How do I know this? Because fellow Core nations always end up allied against states and transnationals in the Gap.
(Yes, even France: they're not doing any fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan because they're incapable of doing so, due to decades of neglect of their military obligations. But they are helping us in many other ways, from intelligence gathering to police training to helping with technological upgrades.)
There are problems; traditionalists (religious and nationalist) will fight against Iraq integrating with the global economy, the global legal assumptions, and most especially the global communications grid. They'll scream and lash out against internet porn and trashy Hollywood movies. Heck, Tipper Gore did a pretty good job lashing out herself against smutty rap lyrics, right here in the United States.
And as far as amending constitutions, of course Iraq will have to do so! As major problems or challenges arise, they must change their operating system to take them into account. For heaven's sake, we ourselves have amended our own Constitution twenty-seven times -- the last time as recently as 1992. (We even used one Genie wish to unwish a previous wish.)
This is a spectacular breakthrough... but AP is so mired in Bush Derangement Syndrome and so terrified that a Republican might win the presidency in 2008 that they don't even recognize what is happening right under their collective proboscises. (Or worse: They do, but they hope that we don't!)
This single act is just as important as our security operation, the enactment of the Iraqi constitution, and the parliamentary vote... because it's the first really big example demonstrating that the constitution and the government actually work to benefit the Iraqi people, all of them, in "real time." Their rule-sets are not purely ornamental, as with the "constitution" of the old Soviet Union (whose only function was to serve as a Potempkin document.)
Similarly, in our own history, the four "Organic Laws of the United States of America" comprise four documents:
- The Declaration of Independence;
- The Articles of Confederation;
- The Constitution;
- And the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
Why that last? Because that act of Congress created the Northwest Territory... the first expansion of the United States beyond the foundational thirteen states. The Northwest Ordinance was the first real demonstration that America was to be a real country, not simply a historical quirk, stifled in its cradle by the inability to grow and eventually reabsorbed back into Mother England.
For a country to thrive (or even exist) in actuality, it needs not only an intellectually rigorous set of rules; it must also demonstrate that those rules can actually operate for the good of its citizens in the crucible of the real world. Because of the Nothwest Ordinance, and because of the new oil-sharing law (when it's finally approved), we can honestly say that the United States and Iraq are more "real" than the United Nations -- which consists of unbridled intellectualism deliberately divorced from any real-world application.
I say that's a hell of an achievement by our "decider" in la Casa Blanca, one with which he is not generally credited, even by Republicans.
Date ►►► March 1, 2007
Democrats' NEW New Peacenik Position
Ooh, this one is really good:
House Democratic leaders have coalesced around legislation that would require troops to come home from Iraq within six months if that country's leaders fail to meet promises to help reduce violence there, party officials said Thursday.
Let's see if I can unpack this: In other words, if al-Qaeda strikes, creating "violence" in Iraq... then under the newest Democratic proposal, our response would be to pull our troops out! That'll scare the robes off Mr. Masri.
The Democrats also tossed this into the bill, kind of offhandedly, as if it were no big deal:
The legislation also would require Bush to seek congressional approval for any military operations in Iran.
Think about that one: If Iran sent bombers into Iraq, and they directly attacked American troops then scurried back across the border -- we could not respond until we first got a congressional authorization for the use of military force... which of course would require:
- Six weeks of hearings on the WMD question in Iraq;
- A post-resignation performance review of Donald Rumsfeld;
- Impeachment proceedings against the president and vice president (spearheaded by Squeaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%, of course);
- Revisiting the confirmation hearings of Roberts and Alito, with an eye towards a revote;
- "Living Wage" legislation of $25 per hour;
- Free drugs for everyone at government expense;
- The repeal of the Patriot act, to be replaced by the Diplomatic Engagement Furthering Efforts Against Terrorism act;
- And lengthy consideration of the Kerry bill to ban all commercial advertising by Vietnam veterans who refused to join the Winter Soldier project when they had the chance, those scoundrels.
By which point, Iran and southern Iraq would have merged; independent Kurdistan would be formed from pieces of Iraq, Turkey, and Iran; and the erstwhile Sunni portions of Iraq would be renamed Independent Wahhabistan.
I suspect this legislation will squeak through the House; but there is no way it's going to get even a majority in the Senate, let alone the 60 votes needed for cloture -- and let even further alone the 67 votes necessary to override President Bush's predestined veto.
Isn't there some point beyond which doomed-to-fail "protest" votes simply become legislative self-abuse?
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