Date ►►► May 31, 2007

Hewitt Responds - Sort of - to Big Lizards Point!

Hatched by Dafydd

During today's interview with Mark Steyn, Hugh responded, vaguely and without attribution, to the point we raised in Where's Walid? He could at least have mentioned Big Lizards.

Referring to his interview yesterday with Tamar Jacoby -- that was the female journalist whose name I couldn't recall in the last post -- Hugh said that she had argued that terrorists could be traced using the Z visa, as they worked inside and traveled outside the country. Actually, she didn't... Big Lizards did. She tried, but she couldn't get the words out, being only a journalist (heh).

But Hugh then offered the most unanswerable argument I have ever heard; it's hard to see how anybody could fail to be moved by it. (Moved to something, at least; I was moved to scorn and mockery, but that's just me.) Note: Except for the last three words, this is a paraphrase to the best of my recollection; it's not word for word accurate until the very end:

Hewitt: Jacoby said they could be tracked as they moved around and worked and went in and out of the country... and that's laughable.

Well! Who could argue with that?

Hugh then turned to Steyn; "that's just laughable, isn't it?" Steyn -- who also calls the bill "amnesty" -- dutifully agreed that the scenario was laughable.

Both Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn failed to tell us exactly why it was laughable. True, Hewitt's baccalaureate is in government, so he probably took no science classes and only the barestly minimum of math classes; and Steyn is a high-school dropout. But surely Hugh's experience as a lawyer and Steyn's as an art critic, and the experience of both of them as pundits, should make up for complete ignorance of science and technology, even when the subject is technology.

Steyn then rambled on, saying that it didn't matter what anybody did about visas or immigration law, because "nobody ever checks anything anyway." Of course, if this is true -- then what makes him think a strict, enforcement-only bill would be, well, enforced? Or does he, perhaps, believe there should be no further law whatsover, since it's all useless and hopeless?

Sidebar: Too many years ago, at university, I was getting lunch at a Chinese fast-food restaurant on campus. I took some rice, then I poured some soy sauce over it. A woman (occidental) standing behind me in line, who I had never seen before, said "that's too much salt! You'll get high blood pressure." (This was at UC Santa Cruz, where RadFems were encouraged to believe that everyone wanted to hear their opinions on every issue.)

I had just read an article on that very point. "Actually," I responded, "several recent studies found that a moderate amount of salt, which they defined as what the average American eats, does not negatively affect people with normal blood pressure."

"The average American doesn't eat a moderate amount of salt! They eat much more than that."

"I'm sorry, the study defined 'moderate' as the amount that an average American ate."

"That just proves those studies are bogus... because the average American eats way, way more than a moderate amount of salt!"

I thought for a pair of seconds. "You're a Womyn's Studies major -- aren't you?"

"And what does that have to do with anything?"

For some odd reason, when I heard Hugh's argument against using the Z visa and the Total Information Awareness data-mining system, I had an LSD-like flashback to that afternoon at the Omei restaurant at UCSC.

At first, hearing what Hugh said and Steyn eagerly seconded, I took offense; I shouted at the radio. But upon further reflection, I suppose expecting either Hugh Hewitt or Mark Steyn to even understand a technological, information-science argument, let alone craft an informed response, would be like expecting me to write a brief for a tax-law case.

I just wish they would follow "Dirty" Harry Callahan's advice in Magnum Force: "A man's got to know his limitations."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 31, 2007, at the time of 4:20 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Where's Walid?

Hatched by Dafydd

I listened in mounting frustration yesterday to Hugh Hewitt grilling some poor woman journalist or blogger or somesuch whose name I didn't catch; she supported the immigration bill, and Hugh was -- er -- "interviewing" her. I was frustrated because Hugh had gone into total prosecutor mode, and he was running her through a cross-examination harsher than Spencer Tracy gave Fredric March in Inherit the Wind.

Hugh would ask a question, and two seconds into her answer, he would ask another, loudly cutting her off in mid-sentence. It was clear he had no interest whatsoever in allowing her to make her case; he wanted to get her so rattled she would say something incriminating, so he could convict her.

On the other side of the coin, she was probably a good journalist or trial lawyer or whatever political worker she was... but she didn't know Jack Squat about the various technologies involved in tracking bad guys. In particular, she could not give a coherent explanation to the bellowing Hugh how the smart Social-Security card could possibly help catch a terrorist hiding among the other Z visa or Parole Card holders.

This, of course, allowed Hugh to conclude that it wouldn't help a bit; after all, it's a well-known syllogism that if one particular flustered person cannot answer your question, then clearly the question has no answer, and you have refuted the other guy's argument.

So please allow me to step in and make the case that Ms. Whatsit couldn't; let me explain how we could use Z visas to catch evil-doers.

As Rudyard Kipling wrote...

Take up the Smart Man's burden --
Explain what they really meant --
It's the duty owed to morons
By the super-intelligent;
Rewrite their stupid debates,
Square up their ducks in a line...
Then watch as the oily ingrates
Take credit for all that is thine!

(All right, he didn't really write that. But he should have.)

Ms. Whosit couldn't figure it out, and neither could Hugh, because you have to make connections between seemingly unrelated scientific or technological processes... and that is more within the purview of a science-fiction writer than a lawyer. Let me explain what I mean...

Suppose the bill passes, and a bunch of illegal immigrants apply for Parole Cards (the provisional Z visas -- at least, that's what Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, 92%, calls them). Hugh's worry is that among all the Gonzaleses and Ramirezes and Garcias will be hidden a few Mohammeds and Zarqawis... or even a Padilla or two.

Hugh is terrified that these terrorists could also apply for Parole Cards, and then be able to move around the country, get work, and even exit and reenter the United States at will. Of course, they can do that today... but Hugh seems to believe that they're more likely to be caught and deported today, with no bill, than they would be next year with a bill and Z visas and Parole Cards. (I have no idea what current mechanism for capturing and deporting them Hugh sees; it certainly eludes my sight.)

Let's carefully break down what it means to exit and reenter the country and to work: The border-crosser must show a passport and a SmartVisa. Specifically, he must swipe the card through a reader; this necessarily creates a record of leaving and reentering. Too, moving from place to place within the U.S. and working also creates a phosphor trail. But so what? How does that help capture terrorists?

Enter the CIA's old computer connection-tracking program, Total Information Awareness. Congress got hysterical in 2003, defunding it -- or so they thought; but it's widely believed still to be in existence, just shifted under the umbrella of black-ops programs and funded by secret accounts.

The reason it was so effective is that it was simply an object-oriented database data-matching application. It was not programmed with any pre-existing biases for one type of connection above the others; it noted and kept track of any and all connections between datapoints -- between Walid the terrorist and Guido the Mafioso, for example. Then it allowed for queries at any level of complexity.

The operators looked for connections where they would not expect to find any. Of course you could find a connection between the Secretary of State and various unsavory political leaders; that's the secretary's job. Nobody thinks Condoleezza Rice is in league with Bashar Assad simply because she met with him during a trip to Syria.

But suppose some dentist in Minneapolis calls Zarqawi in Iraq, then is called by a known terrorist in Pakistan, then is spotted by the FBI having lunch with an arms dealer in Minneapolis, then shows up as a co-signer on a loan to buy an airplane, when the other co-signer is a radical imam operating at a mosque out of Idaho.

Those connections are completely unexpected; why would one lousy dentist know all these people? In fact, that pattern is so suspicious that we should initiate surveillance to see what our "dentist" is up to.

But without TIA, the authorities would never have stumbled across the connections because they cross jurisdictional boundaries: The CIA identifies the terrorists abroad; the NSA records the calls; the FBI is tracking the arms dealer; and nobody is paying any attention to the imam. Without a single, unified database to bring all these observations together, nobody would notice the previously unknown dentist at the center of the web.

Now we take the TIA database... and we add to it the Parole Card and Z visa. Suppose we're looking for Walid Achmed Mohammed, a suspected jihadist who is thought to have sneaked into the United States in 2006 under an unknown alias. Today, we would have no idea where Walid could be found; because he is underground, he could be anywhere, under any name, working for anyone.

We make some educated guesses; let's suppose, just as Hugh fears, that Walid gets himself a Parole Card so he can move about and in and out.

CIA informants report that Walid was spotted at a "terrorism convention" in Pakistan in January of 2008; then another source believes Walid was at a training and planning session at a safehouse somewhere in Madrid in July. But that's all we know.

Under today's rules, that doesn't help us at all. But under the rules established by this bill, the very first thing we should do is query the TIA database to see which holders of Z visas traveled to Pakistan in January 2008 and to Madrid in July of 2008... I'd bet there were not that many. (Check not only direct routes but the roundabout routes that terrorists tend to use; the CIA is actually pretty good at that nowadays.)

Then you take that list of Social-Security numbers, winnow out the obvious non-targets, and plug that into the Z-visa employment database. This will tell you where the eight or nine potential "Walids" have worked in the past year. Since the real Walid has no reason to believe he has been outed, he will probably follow the same pattern... criss-crossing the country carrying messages and money and working for the same set of employers along the way.

By staking out each of those employers around the times he usually shows up, we suddenly have a very good plan for grabbing Walid Achmed Mohammed and hustling him off to Gitmo. And the best part is, neither he nor anybody in his cell would have the slightest idea how we did it!

And there you have it; that is just one way that the provisions of this bill could help us catch terrorist infiltrators who are completely unlocatable today. There simply is no disputing that by putting themselves into the database, terrorists become much more likely to be caught.

But what if Walid is afraid of this very scenario, so he does not get a Parole Card? But if that's the case, his movements will be severely impeded... because we will require anyone crossing our borders (whether by car, boat, or airplane) to show not only a foreign passport but also some form of visa -- whether tourist, student, former illegal (Z visa), guest worker (Y visa), or permanent resident. (For citizens, the United States passport itself could be remade as a smart card, at least including the mag strip or bar code or whatever.) If Walid doesn't have a visa, or if the name on his passport doesn't match the visa, he gets caught.

If he tries to get multiple visas, the fingerprints will out him.

And if he doesn't have a visa that permits working, he will not be able to find a job after this bill is enacted. Again, his operations will be severely impacted, because he will have to rely upon smuggled funds to survive.

The question "where's Walid?" has no answer today; but if the bill passes, it could be answered with a reasonable degree of certainty for a lot of little Walids now hiding among us.

Make sense, Counselor Hewitt?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 31, 2007, at the time of 4:59 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 30, 2007

A Balance of Question

Hatched by Dafydd

A mostly anonymous group of "experts," speaking to the previously unheard-of Intelligence Science Board, has condemned some mostly unnamed methods of interrogation for mostly unspecified reasons. And the President of the United States hasn't even responded yet!

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

According to this glossary, the Intelligence Science Board...

...advises the Director of Central Intelligence and senior Intelligence Community leaders on science, technology, research, engineering, business, organization, social sciences, the humanities, and other matters of interest. The ISB strengthens the capabilities of the Intelligence Community by providing expert advice, unconventional thinking, and early notice of advances in science and serves as a link between the Intelligence Community and the Scientific Community.

Back to the Times story. The primary criticism appears to be that we're not using the same techniques that worked well during World War II against captured German and Japanese prisoners:

President Bush has insisted that those secret “enhanced” techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone.... A 2005 Harvard study supported the selective use of “highly coercive” techniques.

But some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called “Educing Information,” say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.

“It far outclassed what we’ve done,” said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., “had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly,” and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.

Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts “amateurish” by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.

Maybe I'm just hypersensitive; but to me, this testimony reads like a textbook case of academic myopia, where some professor's own minute specialty (World War II interrogation techniques) becomes a "poor King Charles' head," bubbling up in every conversation as the answer to everything.

Perhaps Kleinman also testified about the rather large differences between 20th-century German and Japanese National-Socialist prisoners and 21st-century theocratic, martyrdom-seeking jihadist prisoners; but if so, the Times chooses not to illuminate us.

From what Sachi tells me, under the Japanese code of honor at the time, a soldier was supposed to die rather than allow himself to be captured. If necessary, he was to commit hara kiri, as we saw in the movie Letters From Iwo Jima.

Thus, if they were captured instead, they tended to consider themselves spiritually dead. Their honor already irretrievably lost, they answered questions readily and without evasion, no longer caring whether they lived or died or what happened to their unit or even the Empire of the Rising Sun itself.

And as far as Nazis go, they were more like Baathists than jihadis. Being Socialists, they did not believe in any sort of afterlife; and the high-ranking ones were definitely not into martyrdom.

By contrast, most jihadis really do believe that if they die, especially under torture, they get Paradise and the 72 virgins (or raisins; the text is unclear). It is much more difficult to make such a true believer talk than to make a thoroughly secularized German or Japanese prisoner talk.

(Evidently, female jihadist martyrs go to Paradise and get 72 dwarfs, rather than virgins, hunks, or even raisins; this calls to mind possibilities simultaneously disturbing and hysterically funny. I am honestly not making this up.)

Another track is that we should base our interrogations on techniques used by police detectives and -- I rib you not -- advertising marketers:

The Intelligence Science Board study has a chapter on the long history of police interrogations, which it suggests may contain lessons on eliciting accurate confessions. And Mr. Borum, the psychologist, said modern marketing may be a source of relevant insights into how to influence a prisoner’s willingness to provide information.

“We have a whole social science literature on persuasion,” Mr. Borum said. “It’s mostly on how to get a person to buy a certain brand of toothpaste. But it certainly could be useful in improving interrogation.”

Um... okay.

I see no problem incorporating new techniques into our interrogation procedures; but we do not have the luxury of waiting years, while we locate agents with "graduate degrees in law and philosophy" and who speak Arabic, Turkish, Pashtun, and Farsi "flawlessly," particularly for field interrogations conducted by soldiers. It would certainly be wonderful to have an "elite corps of interrogators" with degrees and decades of practice interrogating jihadis; but what are we to do in the meantime? We need actionable intelligence now, not just next decade.

(But I agree with one point: Let us continue to develop interrogation techniques and that cadre... because we will still need them in the next decade.)

The main thrust of the New York Times' story -- if not of the gaggle of experts -- is made clear in the article (and made clear a second time, just in case you missed the point the first time round):

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual....

Because the training was developed during the cold war, the techniques later adopted by the C.I.A. and Special Operations officers in Iraq were based, at least in part, on how the Soviet Union and its allies were believed to treat prisoners. Such techniques included prolonged use of stress positions, exposure to heat and cold, sleep deprivation and even waterboarding.

(I wonder: When the president promulgates the executive order -- which will surely be top secret -- and if some disloyal CIA agent leaks it to the Times... would the Times actually publish it, thus alerting jihadists to all the possible interrogation techniques that may be used on them? I guess I don't actually "wonder;" the answer is fairly clear.)

For some unfathomable reason, Leftists are completely unmanned by the very thought of waterboarding, more than by any other interrogation technique. I have had arguments with people who insist that waterboarding, because it is entirely psychological and doesn't actually cause any physical damage, is therefore much more horrific than the physical tortures that Saddam Hussein and sons inflicted upon their enemies. Several opined they would rather have their legs broken than be waterboarded... because at least a person could recover from having his legs broken.

Amusingly enough, however, the Times could not find a single quotable sentence where any of the experts actually condemned waterboarding, either on moral grounds or as ineffective. Nor is the word "waterboarding" or "waterboard" even found in the complete Educing Information report. I wonder how intensely the reporters pushed, trying to get at least one expert to just say the magic words?

In any event, I see very little newsworthy in the Times piece. Or, therefore, in this Big Lizards post. But since the former has gotten a big splash today and may be referred to many times in the future, it's worthwhile letting readers know what is and is not to be found therein.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 30, 2007, at the time of 6:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Say, Joe, What Do You Know?

Hatched by Dafydd

Real Clear Politics links to a YouTube offering by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%). Slow Joe looks directly into the camera and demands that we all answer the following question:

What is it you're willing to do to free us from the Axis of Oil and these outrageous oil companies who are sucking us dry?

Well, Joe, I'm willing to drill for oil and natural gas in ANWR, the Gulf of Mexico, and off the Santa Barbara coastline. I'm willing to build many more modern Pebble Bed Modular Technology and Integral Fast nuclear power plants across the country. I'm willing to fund research into solar-power satellites, high-temperature ceramic automobile engines and flywheel technology.

How about you -- Joe? Are you willing to do anything other than ban SUVs... except for members of Congress, of course?

(Jeeze, talk about your low-hanging fruit!)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 30, 2007, at the time of 2:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Times Goes Through Withdrawal

Hatched by Dafydd

A few days ago, the New York Times and other elite news sources reported that the administration was developing "concepts" for reducing combat troops in Iraq in 2008, shifting our mission more towards training, support, and fighting al-Qaeda.

The media sees this as an admission of failure by President Bush; but those who have followed the administration's long-term strategy and goals see it as evidence we're finally on the right track:

The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.

It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course. ["Runs its course" is news-speak for "succeeds in driving the insurgency out of Baghdad."]

The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.

The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad [Because we will have driven the insurgency out of Baghdad!].

The NYT portrays the president as desperate to create a positive legacy, thus caving to the incessant, compulsive attempts by the Democrats to put a time limit on the war. Even though they lost and Bush won, the elites imagine it's inevitable that, in the end, Bush must yield to the "pressure."

In this sense, they confuse him with their own past and former president, Bill Clinton -- who did indeed obsess over how much the people loved him.

But this president has never seemed overly interested in either popularity or legacy; if he were, he would have withdrawn from Iraq right after Saddam Hussein's government fell, or perhaps right after Saddam himself was captured, when voters still supported the war by heavy margins. Instead, Bush has stuck it out for years; the only viable explanation is that -- brace yourselves -- he actually believes what he says and says what he believes: Defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq is vital to the security of the United States; and American national security is more important to George W. Bush than any transient support in poll or history text.

The Times seems not to realize that their own reporting belies the "story" they want to tell; for in the next breath, after telling us that the Bush administration is looking for an exit strategy, they're forced to report the complete opposite:

Still, there is no indication that Mr. Bush is preparing to call an early end to the current troop increase, and one reason officials are talking about their long-range strategy may be to blunt pressure from members of Congress, including some Republicans, who are pushing for a more rapid troop reduction.

Absurdities multiply; the paper portrays the withdrawal strategy -- which they have just denied comes from the president -- as a turf war beteen the Pentagon and the commanders in the field, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates (and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) joining the E-ring generals in calling for a troop drawdown; while the commanders in the field -- Gen. David Petraeus and his Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Commanding General of the multinational corps in Baghdad -- are "enthusiastic supporters" of the counterinsurgency strategy.

The simpler explanation is that the two groups are looking at different time periods: The Pentagon is considering long-term, after this phase has achieved its objectives; while of necessity, the commanders on the ground are looking at a much shorter period of time.

Underlying this entire Democratic-Party discussion, however (and driving it off the cliff), is a fundamental misunderstanding of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This core confusion permeates the Left like head lice, leaving reporters and Democratic officials scratching their noggins over "contradictions" that should be readily explicable -- if they but had the correct narrative in mind.

Let's start with the most obvious point... but one that eludes the brain trust in the elite media: The occupation of Iraq was never intended to be permanent.

But in late 2002-early 2003, the Left constructed a fantasy narrative, where our intention was to invade Iraq and steal its oil ("blood for oil"); this would of course require making it a permanent colony of Imperial America, like the English raj in India. That mindset explains much of the Democrats' confusion; here are the "facts," as the Left sees them:

  • Since we haven't reduced Iraq to a shell and aren't loading supertankers with sweet Baghdad crude, that proves how incompetent Bush is: He can't even pull off simple highway robbery!
  • Since any government we allow to exist in Iraq must necessarily be an American puppet, then whenever the Iraqis don't do what we demand, it's another Bush failure.
  • And of course, if we're permanent occupiers, then any withdrawal of U.S. forces is -- you're way ahead of me -- a catastrophic retreat, admission of Bush's collapse, and a sign that the entire "adventure" was a dismal failure... like when Gandhi forced the British Empire to abandon India in disgrace and dishonor.

Under this "story of Iraq," the counterinsurgency strategy is really just a small "surge" of a few more troops into Baghdad. If we weren't able to subjugate five million Iraqis with 120,000 troops, why would 140,000 do the trick? Clearly, the Bush push is a spent reed, and we should stop throwing good money after bad. We've learned a hard lesson; we should accept it and go home, tails between our legs, resolving never to play "empire" again.

Yet neither Bush nor his administration acts like one would expect a disgraced and dishonored "failure" to act. So the Democrats are infuriated at his "arrogance" and "denial," like a chess player who refuses to acknowledge checkmate and congratulate the victor.

The disconnect is that one party is playing chess, while the other is playing poker: "What do you mean you picked up the pot? I just put your king of hearts in check!"

The administration is likewise befuddled. From their perspective, we were successful in the original invasion; we captured Hussein and dismantled the Baathist hegemony; and we did a lot of rebuilding.

Then there was a long dark period, during which we were fighting the wrong strategy -- a war of attrition -- and just spinning our wheels. But about six months ago, the Commander in Chief realized the error, got rid of the old generals and the old Secretary of Defense, brought in new leadership, and now we're heading in the right direction again.

Why on earth would we pull out now, when we've finally righted our course? It's completely bonkers!

Look, suppose Bush actually means what he says. Then here are the facts as the president sees them:

  • Since we haven't stolen Iraq's oil, that proves America is not the thief of Baghdad;
  • The rejection by the Iraqi government of many American requests proves that the government is actually independent, hence we kept our word;
  • And of course, since our entire strategy is to stand up the Iraqi security forces precisely so that we can stand down our own, withrawal of some American forces indicates that we believe our long-term strategy -- to establish a sustainable democracy in the heart of the Arab Middle East -- is working.

No wonder Bush doesn't act like a loser!

Alas, the administration's notorious inability to get its own propaganda out to the American people practically guarantees that the Democrats succeed in persuading to their point of view a very large chunk of the civitas. Americans might be willing to accept an American Empire -- a quasi-empire, as during the Cold War -- but they won't accept a failed empire that can't even hold onto its colonies!

If I'm right, then the most effective path to restore faith in the Iraq war, the presidency, and the party is to persuade the American people that the Democrats' narrative, their "story of Iraq," was wrong from the very beginning.

If one simply takes the administration at its word about our intentions and long-term goals in this war, then in fact, we're doing quite well in Iraq. It only looks bad because the Left swore we were going to veer hard-right, but we went straight instead. The passengers thought we'd lost control of the vehicle, when in fact that was the intended route all along.

But this won't be easy... and clearly, it cannot be done by Bush himself, both due to his natural inability to communicate (he's the Great Obfuscator) and also because he's already lost the confidence of the American people. Their confidence can only be restored if another person does it for the president... one or more of the 2008 candidates, for example.

We need to get the American people to abandon the false "story of Iraq" they were fed by the Democrats and instead embrace the correct one. Then and only then can we ask for their patience... as they will finally see that we're actually on track once again, after a long detour into the incorrect strategy.

The president's party is going to need help spreading the word -- which means they must find sympathetic or at least open-minded journalists in the elite media who will actually tell the correct story (perhaps in exchange for a level of access unprecedented in this secretive administration), rather than the fictional narrative of the Democrats. And to get the word out, we must rely more on "new media" than the administration ever has in the past.

It's much more important to give long interviews, tough questions and all, to Brit Hume, Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Sean Hannity -- and especially to skeptics who are at least willing to listen, like Tammy Bruce and Bill Handel -- than to give another useless presser to the White House press corps or an exclusive interview to Mike Wallace.

I think Bush should also ask cabinet members to write guest posts for major center-right blogs like InstaPundit, Power Line, Captain's Quarters, Hugh Hewitt, and several mil-blogs. (We'll never reach anyone on Pandagon or Firedoglake, so it's a waste of time and effort better spent elsewhere.) The only way to turn the fallacious story around is to tell the correct story, honestly, warts and all, over and over -- and then over again.

That's what we try to do at Big Lizards: Make up for the president's communications disability as well as we can.

But we center-right bloggers have our own responsibility: We must always remember who we're dealing with whenever we read an anti-Bush, anti-GOP narrative in the MSM... and never take them at face value.

If we ever want to regain power, that is. If we're starting to like living in the permanent minority, then let's just keep on keeping on; we're doing great.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 30, 2007, at the time of 6:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 29, 2007

Strange Betrayal

Hatched by Dafydd

Nowadays, it seems that whenever President Bush says or does anything, conservatives hunt like crazy for the most disreputable, disloyal, and cowardly possible interpretation -- then cling to it like a sick kitten to a warm brick, even when perfectly reasonable (and much more likely) interpretations are available.

Each excursion into spurious accusation becomes more "evidence" to buttress the next, until they build a gigantic "indictment mountain" of tapioca, which they treat like Mount Rushmore. Every absurd attack makes the next, equally absurd attack easier to hurl: Today, even a single word in a notoriously left-leaning newspaper is enough evidence to prove another Bush betrayal. Hey, where there's smoke...

This must be a relative of the normal Bush Derangement Syndrome, or BDS, suffered by lefties; Bush Betrayal Syndrome (BBS), perhaps. It is rapidly becoming an epidemic among American conservatives...

Rich in Iran-y

Case in point: Scott Johnson, writing on my favorite blog Power Line, sees the complete collapse and betrayal of the Bush administration position on one member of the Axis of Evil, Iran:

The Bush administration appears to me to have thrown [away] its stated policy for dealing with Iran in favor of beseeching the mullahs for "a decent interval" in which to withdraw American troops.... [To avoid confusion, let me note that Scott's term "decent interval" quotes Henry Kissinger, not President Bush or US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.]

Perhaps yesteday's meeting is to be followed by one in which we ask the mullahs politely to give up their beloved nuclear program....

I would love to know what the Bush administration has in mind for the mullahs' nuclear program. My guess is runs more along the lines of a whimper than a bang.

Scott bases this entire impeachment of the president's policy upon a single source -- in fact, a single line -- or rather, a single word in a single line of a single source... and that source is the Boston Globe. Here is the evidence of betrayal:

In the highest-level public talks between the United States and Iran in nearly 30 years, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker yesterday reached out to his Iranian counterpart for help in improving Iraqi security and asked that Iran stop supplying arms to Iraqi militia groups.

Note that this is not a quotation; it's is a characterization offered by the Globe reporter, Farah Stockman; based upon other articles of hers I skimmed, she seems to have the political viewpoint typically associated with that far-left newspaper. Yet this one word is the only one that could possibly give rise to Scott's own characterization of the exchange as "beseeching." Scott continues:

Is a story like the Boston Globe's account of yesterday's meeting between Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart to be taken at face value? The Globe reports that Crocker asked that Iran stop supplying arms to Iraqi militia groups. I trust that Crocker remembered to say "please."

Alas, Scott never answered his own question... and of course, the answer is No, a political characterization by the Boston Globe which just happens to fit perfectly with the Democratic agenda of making Bush look feckless and cowardly is not to be "taken at face value;" just as I wouldn't take at face value the declaration by an ardent Evangelical Christian that Mormonism is a cult.

But this accusation of pending betrayal against Bush is even more puzzling; further down on the very same page, the very same exchange is characterized very differently:

On the American side, Crocker reiterated the US demand that the Qods Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, stop funneling weapons to Sunni insurgent groups and extremist Shi'ite militias, particularly factions of Madhi Army, which is loosely controlled by radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

US officials previously had been reluctant to make the claim that Iran supports Sunni as well as Shi'ite insurgents. But yesterday Crocker said he made the case forcefully.

Isn't demanding that Iran stop fueling the terrorists (on both sides) and stop killing Americans exactly what we want our ambassador to do? This seems a far cry from merely "asking" them to give us a Kissingerian "decent interval" in which to surrender. Why is Scott so angry?

But BBS appears to be a much larger problem than just this possible instance would imply:

A mighty hot wind

Conservatives now regularly refer to the "complete collapse" of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.

This has been a Democratic talking point since before the hurricane even struck. It was fueled by monstrously misleading media messaging during the crisis -- crazy talk of dead bodies stacked like cordwood in the Superdome's freezer, of cannibalism, of roving rape gangs, of rescue workers being shot at, and of as many as 10,000 people drowned because of "Brownie's incompetence," referring to former Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response Michael D. Brown.

We thoroughly debunked this Democratic fairy tale in 13 Ghosts. But that hasn't stopped a number of conservatives I've read recently from slapping it onto the gooey mountain of "Bush betrayal."

Miers-ed in betrayal

When President Bush nominated Harriett Miers to the Supreme Court, to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, conservatives went from "we don't know enough about her" to "she's a stealth liberal activist that Bush is sneaking onto the Court to undo the Reagan revolution" in about 2.4 seconds.

It was a perfectly legitimate point to say that Miers didn't have enough of a track record for us to be sure she would practice judicial restraint. Even Hugh Hewitt, who, alone among conservatives, defended her nomination, admitted that he was troubled by her lack of a paper trail.

But that is a far cry from the increasingly bizarre and unsourced accusations that she was a closet fan of expanding affirmative action, that she would "absolutely" vote to expand abortion, and that her main function was to overturn the Patriot Act. When I pointed out that Bush said he knew her well and she was a conservative, rather than partially exonerate Miers -- the response was to push Bush into the same quagmire... it proved he was the Great Betrayer!

The nomination was revealed to be part of Bush's secret plan to betray conservatism.

Bush is selling our ports to al-Qaeda!

The administration approved a deal for Dubai Ports World, an international port-management company headquartered in the United Arab Emirate nation of Dubai, to purchase the company that was managing cargo operations at most large American ports. Initially, the sale didn't even rise to the level of direct presidential decision-making.

The hue and cry from the Right was immediate and almost hysterical. At first, and for some time before it was finally debunked, conservative commentators and bloggers charged that Bush was "handing over port security" to the A-rabs. Once it was finally made clear this affected only cargo handling, not cargo inspections or any other aspect of port security -- and it only changed the managers, not the actual workers (who would remain American dockwallopers) -- then the same voices beavered away finding some obscure reason why this really was a terrible betrayal of American national security anyway. (The conclusion remained the same; they just jacked it up and ran a whole new structure of fact beneath it.)

Honestly, it seemed to me that proving another "Bush betrayal" had become more important to the disputants than than the truth: Evidence that the deal would not affect security at all was rejected out of hand, while even the faintest rumor that Dubai Ports World was infiltrated by al-Qaeda was cited with the same confidence that one might say the Taliban was infiltrated by al-Qaeda.

The rallying cry became 'American ports must be controlled by Americans, not by foreigners.' Lost in the cacophany was the fact that no American port-management company was big enough to take on the job... and also that the company that had been running port ops earlier, the company bought out by Dubai Ports World, was the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O)... chartered in Great Britain, not the United States.

Bush had to be guilty of yet another ludicrously "betrayal" (the most urgent task): this time, that he wanted to turn American ports over to jihadists.

The United States Attorney betrayal

Conservatives have searched high and low for occult signs of "Bush betrayal" in the case of the "fired" U.S. Attorneys (none was fired; the administration chose not to renew their contracts when they ran out).

At the beginning, the dextrosphere rightly noted that there was nothing illegal about the firing; and that the miscommunication by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his staff, while irritating, was also not a deliberate attempt to mislead Congress.

But the longer Sen. Pat Leahy's (D-VT, 95%) Judiciary Committee hearings pounded on Gonzales and on Pat McNulty, Monica Goodling, et al, and the more the elite media gleefully covered the fishing expedition (which has caught so few fish, they're already digging into the Spamwiches they brought along) -- the more conservatives, smelling blood in the water, turned on Gonzales and Bush.

Now we have the odd spectacle of conservatives using liberal code words to indict Gonzales and the president without actually having to produce evidence of wrongdoing: They say the "timing" of this or that non-renewal of contract was "suspicious," then cast a significant look, as if to say 'if you know what I mean, and I think you do.'

Thus again, conservatives, acting on a strange agenda of their own, lend gravitas and support to the wildest liberal charges against the Republican president. (How long until conservatives begin decrying the "stolen election" of 2000?)

Immigration immolation

The obsession with finding some way to declare that Bush is the Great Betrayer has hit its apocalyptic apogee -- so far! -- in the response by the Right to the immigration bill. There are certainly elements of the compromise that could be changed for the better; but good heavens, conservatives have accused Bush of everything from wanting "completely open borders" to plotting to merge the United States, Canada, and Mexico into some fantasy nightmare called "the North American Union" (whose currency, tied to the peso, of course, would be the "amero").

The most common wild exaggeration is to say that the bill contains "no border security provisions whatsoever;" this utterly discounts the triggers, including the fence, the doubling of the Border Patrol, the tamper-resistant SSN card, and the increase (by orders of magnitude) of employer penalties for hiring illegals... none of which evidently counts. Some of those who oppose any comprehensive bill whatsoever argue that these programs would be good; but it is a "fact" that they will never be implemented. Bush plots not to enforce them, allowing "a hundred million" illegals to swarm in for "amnesty."

The word "amnesty" itself is conveniently redefined to include a plea bargain with a legal penalty -- while still retaining the frisson of the original meaning of forgiveness without any penalty. Argument by redefinition is a tactic pioneered by leftists, who routinely say, for example, that we have "murdered" 30,000 civilians in Iraq... redefining "murdering civilians" to mean "undertaking an invasion to which terrorists respond by killing civilians."

Just a few moments ago, Carol Platt Liebau, sitting in for Hugh Hewitt, accused Bush of saying that anyone who opposed the bill doesn't "want to do what's right for America." Translation: Bush has become as great a betrayer as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, %), to whom she explicitly compared the president.

Perhaps she didn't read very far into the AP story before her blood began to boil and her vision clouded up; what the president actually said was this:

"Those determined to find fault with this bill will always be able to look at a narrow slice of it and find something they don't like," the president said. "If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it.

"You can use it to frighten people," Bush said. "Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all."

One may agree or disagree with the compromise bill; but there is no question that the subject of the paragraph is "those determined to find fault with this bill," not everyone who doesn't accept it or is skeptical that it can succeed. Plenty of people oppose this particular bill but are willing to consider other realistic solutions, rather than making demands they know are impossible. They are not included among those who "don't want to do what's right for America," according to President Bush.

He attacks those for whom no bill is acceptable -- other than pure enforcement and deportation, which they know very well will never pass Congress. He castigates people who want to see any regularization plan crash and burn, even if it takes the entire Republican Party with it, leaving the Democrats with total power. "At least then," such bitter-enders say, "we'll know who to blame when the country is destroyed!"

Feeding the energy creature

This is not simply a distasteful and vulgar repudiation of a man who has done, on the whole, a very good job making very tough decisions in response to a terrible national threat. It is also a tragic example of political self-euthanasia.

Conservatives appear determined, if unknowingly so, to put the GOP out of the Democrats' misery: They act as if they can surgically destroy George W. Bush and the "neocons" (however they define them), while leaving the rest of the Republican Party intact. In fact, they seem to believe that once they thrash the president to death, the country will rally behind a "true conservative."

I'm not sure who they have in mind, and I don't think they know, either. The only option offered is to exhume Ronald Reagan.

"Politics is the art of the possible" -- a saying often attributed to Otto von Bismark, though I doubt he ever actually said it. If one rejects that, one is left saying that politics should include elements that are impossible... which, by definition, is impossible. For whatever reason (and I think it likely that BBS played a great role), we lost the 2006 elections; Democrats captured both the House and Senate, albeit narrowly.

But however narrow their majority, they still control both the committees and the agenda; and they can stop cold any of the GOP's remaining agenda items... unless Republicans stick together and peel off a few Democrats. Republicans alone, without a single Democratic defection, can prevent Congress from enacting a Democratic agenda: But they must rely upon a presidential veto (from the man they are determined to call the Great Betrayer); and again, they must stand firm and united, retaining even the votes of moderate Republicans, who are easily disgusted by the disloyalty of their fellow party members.

We court catastrophe when we join the Democratic dogpile atop the president; and we make fools of ourselves when we imagine we can isolate the damage just to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, without having it slop over onto the 2008 Republican nominee for president and Republicans running for election or reelection to the Congress. You don't win a fight by clubbing your own head.

It is time for conservatives to focus on the areas where they agree with the fellow Republican in the White House, and on areas where a change can make a compromise bill better, yet not act as a poison pill to kill it altogether. I beseech you, in the bowels of Oliver Cromwell, to leave the Bush bashing to the professionals in the other party.

Unless, that is, conservatives actually crave the freedom from responsibility of the New Deal era!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 29, 2007, at the time of 5:28 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

...And Subject to the Jurisdiction...

Hatched by Dafydd

I am not -- as I have repeatedly reminded readers -- a lawyer; I am admitted before no bar, have no law degree, have never attended a single class at any law school in the world. Yet here I go, offering my utterly uninformed and worthless opinion on the law... on a constitutional issue, no less!

This, friends, is a perfect example of chutzpah.

I've read a lot of commentary in the last few weeks, some by attorneys, that argued that children born in America of illegal immigrants need not automatically be considered American citizens themselves. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ, 92%) just brought up the argument on the Michael Medved radio show, saying it might fly in the Supreme Court (if so, then to quote the Bumble, "the law is a ass"). Proponents of this resolution hang their entire argument on one particular clause of the Fourteenth Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

Proponents cite the example that children born on American soil whose parents are foreign ambassadors here are not American citizens by birth. All right, bearing in mind I haven't a clue what I'm talking about, nevertheless, I see a huge, whopping distinction that nullifies the entire argument (in my ignorant opinion).

An accredited diplomat stationed or visiting here is literally not "subject to the jurisdiction" of our laws; they have what we all know as "diplomatic immunity": If a diplomat breaks the law here, except in the most extraordinary circumstances, we cannot arrest him, indict him, try him, or punish him. An ambassador to the U.N. could rob a liquor store, drive drunk, and crash into a day-care center, and the cops could not even bust him; the most we can do is expel him from the country.

And I think this immunity applies to the diplomat's immediate family, as well: If the official has immunity, so do the spouse and children, I believe.

In fact, I would be astonished if this were not precisely what the framers of the amendment had in mind by that limiting clause: They did not want our Constitution declaring the children of ambassadors and other diplomats to be American citizens.

But there is no such thing as "illegal immigrant immunity." If an illegal is caught committing a crime here, he can be arrested, tried, convicted, and incarcerated, or even executed, if the crime warrants. In fact, there are at least two hundred thousand illegal aliens in prison this very moment for crimes other than simply being here illegally.

In other words, resident aliens -- even illegally resident aliens -- are absolutely subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. They must obey our laws; and if they don't, they are subject to trial and punishment.

Perhaps some lawyer can set me straight about this, explaining why an illegal Guatemalan criminal gang member has the same sort of immunity as the ambassadors of Poland, Pakistan, and Monaco.

Because from the admittedly valueless viewpoint of a well-read layman, it doesn't look the same to me at all.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 29, 2007, at the time of 1:29 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 28, 2007

Winners, Winners, Who's Got the Winners?

Hatched by Dafydd

We have the winners; unfortunately, the winners haven't we!

Council crackers

This was my first choice, and I think it's a super post. It's succinct, simple, and straightforward... all the qualities I like in a blogpost -- all the qualities I lack in my own Miskatonic experiments in chaotic conjugations and eldrich editing.

Joshuapundit lays out the current situation in Israel, then maps out a strategy they can follow to victory. No weeping or gnashing of teeth, no Dr. Smith-esque "we're doomed, doomed!" Problem; analysis; solution -- or at least a good strategy. Great stuff.

My second choice was Hello, Hillarycare!, by Cheat Seeking Missiles; again, a straight-ahead confrontation with socialized medicine and its victims.

Beyond the pale

TigerHawk notes that in all wars prior to Vietnam, we "dehumanized" our enemies... and thereby overcame our natural empathy and were able to fight with joyous abandon. But 35 years ago, we lost the ability to dismiss the humanity of our enemies; we treat them as fellow people, and that means we can no longer kill with impunity. Like the aptly named "Zed" at the end of Zardoz, we can no longer kill because we see the enemy as one of us.

I got skunked among the non-council nominees: My second choice came in third, and my first choice (and nominee)... well, judging from the scores, I reckon I was the only one to vote for it!

I voted this way:

  1. Strange New Respect, Judicial Branch, by John Hinderaker at Power Line.
  2. In the Shadow of the Wolfowitz Wars -- the Melkert & Malloch Brown Dollars-for-Despots Program, by Claudia Rosett.

In the first, John discusses the abrupt, new respect liberals have for "stare decisis," the Court's reluctance to re-evaluate issues that are already decided... now that Roe v. Wade teeters on the brink of oblivion:

Given her own history, Sandra O'Connor's pontificating on the virtue of stare decisis is an act of judicial chutzpah. She herself has shown no respect for the doctrine when it served her purposes. The best example is Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 decision in which the Supreme Court held Texas's law prohibiting homosexual sodomy unconstitutional, on a 5-4 vote. What's remarkable about Lawrence is that only 17 years earlier, in 1986, the Court had held in Bowers v. Hardwick that a ban on homosexual sodomy did not violate the Constitution. Showing no respect for stare decisis, the court in Lawrence simply overruled Bowers.

Here is what is even more remarkable: the difference in the outcomes of the two cases resulted from the fact that Justice O'Connor changed her mind! She voted with the 5-4 majority in Bowers that a ban on homosexual sodomy was constitutional. By 2003, she had reversed position, and her vote flipped the majority the other way. Homosexual sodomy became a constitutional right, for the first time in American history.

When liberals talk about stare decisis, they mean that Roe v. Wade is sacrosanct. But not Bowers, and not Stanford v. Kentucky, a 1989 decision in which the Court held that juveniles could constitutionally be subjected to the death penalry -- a decision that the Court reversed in 2005 in Roper v. Simmons.

In the second blogpost, Ms. Rosett discloses that the two chief antagonists of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank may have something rather, er, monetary in nature to hide, if you know what I mean (and I think that you do).

As always, ad infinitum, and by the 'tarnal, the full list of vote getters (or goat vetters) is here.

Oh, one last point, ladies and gentiles: Due to Eternity Road terminating -- or at least terminating its association with the omnipotent, omniscient Council -- a slot has actually opened up on the supreme Council of Watchers of Weevils. This is a rare occasion; the last slot was more than several weeks ago.

This is your opportunity to shine. Or to be laughed out of the office. Just read everything at this webpage, and then contact the Watcher Himself to submit your website for his perusal.

You'll either be glad you did, or you'll make a complete ass of yourself. And who could ask for better odds than those?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 28, 2007, at the time of 4:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 27, 2007

Let Their Victims Come

Hatched by Dafydd

Hugh Hewitt appears to keep wavering between wanting only intense scrutiny of immigrants from countries with extensive jihadist networks -- and wanting to ban such immigrants entirely, without concern whether they're jihadists or refugees; but maybe I'm just misreading him. Often, his sentences are so ambiguous it's impossible to tell:

Bensman's focus today is on the plight of Iraq's Christians, 600,000 of whom have fled the Islamists of their home country, many into America. The article again details just how porous our borders are, and though Bensman's writing elicits great sympathy for the refugees, it also underscores just how easy it has been for Middle Eastern people to enter the country through the past few years. Even if the ration [sic, he must mean "ratio"] is 1,000 refugees to 1 jihadist, the number of terrorists or terrorist sympathizers in the country illegally is not small, and the idea of giving them legal status strikes me as insane.

Is the referent of "them" in the last sentence (highlighted blue) "refugees" or "terrorists or terrorist sympathizers"? Obviously it would strike any sane person as insane to give the latter legal status; the question is whether we throw out the bathwater with Rosemary's baby.

I'm disturbed that Hugh keeps quoting from counterterrorism experts whose attitude appears to be "ban them all, let God sort them out." They argue not that we should scrutinize immigrants from such countries -- which is a reasonable proposition I favor -- but that we should simply prohibit immigration into the United States from them; or at least, from countries that do not have a national database of terrorist suspects -- which is likely nearly all of Moslem and strong-minority-Moslem nations.

Here's a section from the latest "expert"; this is actually all one paragraph smushed together; I have reparagraphed it for easier reading:

You want solid reform, here's how you do it.

First, if you're going to let these &^%$# in, you give them a background check they won't forget. You crawl up their &&%$ so much they'll want to leave. Each day, every day you monitor them. This way even if you get a phony name, you got a better chance of nailing them.

It's either that or you end all emigration from those nations I listed above. And believe me, that list is by no means complete. Secondly, you create a computer system that will connect to ALL national computer databases to track these guys, and if the nation in question says "no," then emigration [sic] from that country ends immediately. If they claim they don't have a database, emigration ends until they do.

Those that do come here are still subject to scrutiny that would make any American citizen squeamish. That's OK though because they're not citizens. They don't like it? Screw them. Move to Britain then.

Lastly, if they come from one of those suicide-loving countries, you follow them like the plague until such a time that they become a citizen and are subject to the laws and protections of the nation. And personally ______, that won't happen. These %$#@& never want that. They just want to hurt us worse than the last guy.

His list of countries whose immigrants here are subject to such tactics is: "China, North Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the UAE, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Niger, Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Angola, Liberia, and the Congo." (No word which Congo: the the Republic of, a.k.a. the French Congo, or the Democratic Republic of, a.k.a. the Belgian Congo. Perhaps both.)

First, it's quite clear that this unnamed "expert" in counterterrorism doesn't believe for one moment that people immigrating here from, say, Iraq or Iraq could possibly be "1,000 refugees to 1 jihadist," as Hugh put it; it's clear this fellow thinks it's the reverse... or perhaps that such immigration is 100% jihadist.

Second, the expert describes earlier how jihadists coming from those countries could evade detection via checking the records by changing their names: "'Abdul ____' will become 'Mohammed ____' or some such," he writes.

But if it's that easy, or if the passport is forged in any event, what is to prevent "Abdul ____" from becoming "Gerhard _____", and the nationality going from Jordanian to German? Or for that matter, there are more and more jihadis who actually are Europeans or Americans of non-Arabic descent: Richard "Failed Shoe Bomber" Reid (English) and José Padilla (Puerto Rican American), for two examples. Both attempted to commit their crimes in 2002, even before Operation Iraqi Freedom began... so evidently, for some time now, al-Qaeda has been planning to shift from using operatives from nations in the ummah to those from Christian countries.

We still end up with all the terrorists, who will enter under passports from "clean" countries (not on the list) -- but we won't get the honest to God refugees.

All right; I know many people will say so what? So a bunch of Christians and Jews fleeing majority-Moslem countries must stay and be persecuted, or even deported back there to be tortured and beheaded. Big deal; as the expert points out, they're not American citizens. "Screw them," to quote both the expert and an earlier, identical sentiment expressed by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga about earlier victims of the same persecutors.

And after all, we have done such things before: In Operation Keelhaul, crafted at the Yalta conference after World War II between Josef Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill, Allied soldiers (mostly British, but we connived) forcibly "repatriated" tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Communist Europe back to Stalin's tender mercies. Most were summarily executed; most of the survivors were sent into the Gulag. And both Churchill and Roosevelt knew that this was to be their fate; but hey... "screw them."

All right, fine. Some don't care. But consider this: Those refugees are our best source of human intel about those countries.

Also, assuming that we have any intention of sending CIA agents into any of China, North Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the UAE, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Niger, Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Angola, Liberia, or either Congo... recent refugees from those countries are the absolute best instructors to train our spies how to speak and act like natives, and what contemporary residents there would know and -- just as important -- not know.

By arbitrarily cutting off all immigration from a laundry list of countries, we also cut ourselves off from all human intelligence and training sources from precisely the areas that most threaten America. It would be as foolhardy as refusing all immigration from Warsaw Pact nations during the Cold War, because among the thousands of anti-Communist refugees, there might be some Soviet agents.

So yes, let's scrutinize them; let's segregate them and insist they be personally interviewed and thoroughly checked. But we must not arbitraily cut off that supply of refugees fleeing from our worst enemies, because those very people can be our best and most helpful allies.

And we must not get so fixated on the "cheap grace" of nationality fixation to avoid the hard work of actually evaluating everyone we can for possible terrorist sympathies. Otherwise, we're going to be blindsided by the next 9/11-style attack by terrorists who understand just how shallow and facile Western thinking can be.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 27, 2007, at the time of 3:14 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Famous Last Words

Hatched by Dafydd

Sometimes, I read a line in a story that is just so delicious, I simply must share. This one is the last line of this AP article.

Here is the last paragraph; see if you can deduce, without looking, what the heck the article is about:

Puzder said the comparison was not valid because the Carl's Jr. ads did not suggest that Jack In the Box shakes were made from milk that came from an unsavory part of the cow.

Kudos for the most creative misinterpretation!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 27, 2007, at the time of 3:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 25, 2007

Earmarks? No No... Phonemarks!

Hatched by Dafydd

In a stunning piece -- stunning that it appeared in the Washington Post, I mean, not stunning in what it reports -- John Solomon and Jeff Birnbaum ("the Mustache" from Brit Hume's Special Report roundtable) confirm what we've been seeing for some time now: The Democrats have not only jettisoned any idea of "cleaning up" Washington and running the most ethical Congress in history... they have become positively ingenious in finding new ways to hide their culture of corruption from public view:

When the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives passed one of its first spending bills, funding the Energy Department for the rest of 2007, it proudly boasted that the legislation contained no money earmarked for lawmakers' pet projects and stressed that any prior congressional requests for such spending "shall have no legal effect."

Within days, however, lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) began directly contacting the Energy Department. They sought to secure money for their favorite causes outside of the congressional appropriations process -- a practice that lobbyists and appropriations insiders call "phonemarking."

(Hat tip to cybercolumnist Rich Galen of Mullings fame -- read and subscribe; he's a national treasure!)

That is, individual members of Congress would call appropriators at the Department of Energy and say, in their best Vito Corleone voice, "We know there's nothing in the bill requiring it, but we think it would be better for everyone, not to mention safer, if you hired this particular New Jersey contractor to develop a new nuclear reactor, rather than any of the other competitors."

Right after the election, incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) famous pledged, in a November 14th op-ed published in the Christian Science Monitor, to clean up what she was pleased to call "the Republican culture of corruption;" and in particular, she threatened to eliminate all earmarks. (Or was that earwigs? I get them confused.)

We pledge to make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history.

But most non-readers of Big Lizards misunderstood her vow, not realizing that she actually meant to eliminate earmarks by changing them into "phonemarks" and driving them underground.

Readers of this blog were alerted to the many ways in which Democrats were trying to get around their promise to clean up congressional corruption -- now that they were in line to start receiving the lion's share of it. We published several posts on the subject:

Here is another example of the Democrats' peculiar talents: The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee wants to institutionalize the nasty bit of business whereby earmarks are banned in the original bills -- but inserted instead into the bill when it goes to the joint House-Senate conference committee:

Upon taking control of Congress after November's midterm elections, Democrats vowed to try to halve the number of earmarks, and to require lawmakers to disclose their requests and to certify that the money they are requesting will not benefit them.

But the new majority is already skirting its own reforms.

Perhaps the biggest retreat from that pledge came this week, when House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) told fellow lawmakers that he intends to keep requests for earmarks out of pending spending bills, at least for now. Obey said the committee will deal with them at the end of the appropriations process in the closed-door meetings between House and Senate negotiators known as conference committees.

Some of you may be getting bugeyed at all this "inside-outball," so here's a little explanation you will probably all remember from your Civics classes in public school, Capitol Conjugations 101. How a bill becomes a law:

  1. The bill is first introduced in one of the two chambers of Congress, the House or the Senate; let's say the former, in this instance.
  2. The House bill is debated, amended, and fails miserably.
  3. After a hundred iterations of 1 and 2, a completely different version of the bill passes the House.
  4. The bill is finally sent to the Senate (with some bills, debate and voting occurs simultaneously in both chambers).
  5. The Senate version of the bill is debated, amended, filibustered; and finally, the umpteenth time, it passes.
  6. At this point we have two versions of the same bill: the House version and the Senate version. Needless to say, since they evolved independently, they differ dramatically. But the Constitution says the same bill must pass both bodies before it can be sent to the president for his signature.

    What to do, what to do?

  7. The House and Senate form what is called a conference committee. Both chambers pick conferees to attend this committee, whose hearings are completely closed-door to other members. In conference, they mash the two bills together to make a single version, which each set of conferees introduces into the respective chamber.
  8. Here is the critical point: Conference committee reports are cannot be amended. They must either be passed as is -- or else rejected entirely. (They cannot be amended because then the two bills would once again differ, and the whole process would have to start all over again!)

Thus, what Rep. David Obey (D-WI, 90%) wants to do is hold off on all earmarks until the conference committee; then insert them, knowing that they cannot be amended out of the final bill. If the bill is critical, such as the emergency troop funding billl just passed, then nobody is going to reject the entire bill just beause of a paltry few billion in earmarks.

In other words, we'll have the same number of earmarks, but they'll be slipped in during the conference committee so that none of the other members of Congress can either debate them or strip them out... or even find out who inserted them in the first place. (Or more likely, more earmarks... 2006 saw 13,000 earmarks; there currently are 30,000 pending earmark requests.)

The Republicans used to do that too, though not to the same extent. Way, way back in the 109th Congress (last year), Democrats railed against earmarks in the conference committee as another example of the Republican culture of corruption:

Democrats had complained bitterly in recent years that Republicans routinely slipped multimillion-dollar pet projects into spending bills at the end of the legislative process, preventing any chance for serious public scrutiny. Now Democrats are poised to do the same.

"I don't give a damn if people criticize me or not," Obey said.

Of course not: Democrats are now the majority!

So between garden-variety earmarks slithering into the legislative process during the secret confrence committees and "phonemarks" -- telephone calls to Defense, Energy, and other administration appropriators "suggesting" that certain companies and contractors be used -- I'd say the Democrats are, indeed, all ears. And many of these earmarks personally benefit the bottom line of individual members... such as Nancy Pelosi herself:

Another key Democratic reform requires House members seeking earmarks to certify that neither they nor their spouses have any financial interest in the project.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did just that when she requested $25 million for a project to improve the waterfront in her home district of San Francisco. Her request did not note that her family owns interests in four buildings near the proposed Pier 35 project.

Well, the rich get richer, even if -- especially if -- the rich are Democrats. But at least now we know what "the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history" looks like!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 25, 2007, at the time of 8:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

NYT Backs Up Big Lizards!

Hatched by Dafydd
"I gotcher back, pally," said Pinch Sulzberger...

In a bizarre twist of fate, a New York Times/CBS poll was just published... and it shows that Americans heavily support every element -- and I mean every element -- of the immigration bill... so long as you don't mention the immigration bill.

Complete poll results here.

This firmly supports our analysis yesterday of the Rasmussen poll which found widespread rejection of the immigration bill -- but also a huge majority, two-thirds of all respondents, supporting a comprehensive immigration bill that contained -- well, all the elements that are in the current bill. I believed then that respondents were unaware of what was in the current bill, and that if they knew, they would support it; and the NYT/CBS poll buttresses that belief.

The problem, as I said before, is that this particular bill has been egregiously and deliberately misrepresented by a large number of opponents on both Left and Right. It has been distorted so badly that a huge number of pro-immigrant people think the bill is anti-immigrant; a mass of pro-enforcement people think it's anti-enforcement. Evidently, the pot and pan bangers on either side have gotten half the population furious at the other half, and vice versa.

The great majority of the country, however, is actually in agreement on most issues; and every element of the bill gets majority support. Look:

61. If you had to choose, what do you think should happen to most illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years: They should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status, OR They should be deported back to their native country?

Chance to apply for legal status: 62%; Deported: 33%

63. Would you favor or oppose allowing illegal immigrants who came into the country before January to apply for a four-year visa that could be renewed, as long as they pay a $5,000 fine, a fee, show a clean work record and pass a criminal background check?

Favor: 67%; Oppose: 27%

64. ASKED OF THOSE WHO FAVOR: Should they be allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship just like legal applicants, or should they have to wait until legal applicants have been considered first?

Should be like legal applicants: 16%; Should have to wait: 69%

On the question of increasing penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegals, 75% favor increased enforcement including higher fines, 15% favor increased enforcement without higher fines, and 8% oppose increased enforcement. On "guest workers," 66% favor and 30% oppose.

And here's the biggie:

73. When the US government is deciding which immigrants to admit to this country, should priority be given to people who have family members already living in the U.S., or should priority be given to people based on education, job skills, and work experience?

Family: 34%; Workers: 51%, Depends: 5%.

So there you have it.: When Americans are asked about the specific elements of the bill currently wending its weary way through the whitewashed walls of Washington, they are strongly in favor of each and every part: enforcement, regularization, guest workers, and reforming legal immigration policy.

But wait; this is a poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS! How do we know it's at all representative of Americans as a whole? Amazingly enough -- this really is unusual, you may not know how unusual -- they give us exactly the sort of indexing information that will tell us. Here, to me, is the most telling question: When asked who respondents voted for in the 2004 presidential contest, they answered 35% for John Kerry, 36% for George W. Bush, 2% for Ralph Nader, and 5% say they voted but refused to say for whom.

Adjusting to remove the 22% who didn't vote, and we get this: 48% for Kerry, 49% for Bush, and 3% for Nader.

The actual figures in 2004 were 48.3% for Kerry, 50.7% for Bush, 0.4% for Nader, and 0.6% for everybody else.

For a poll of "adults," not registered voters or likely voters, that is astonishingly close to the actual vote. That tell us that this is a fairly good cross-section of the American voter: The Kerry vote is dead-on; the slight drop for Bush matches well with the drop in the president's approval rating since the November election from low 40s and high 30s back then to low 30s now; and the rise in support for Ralph Nader matches with the increasing disenchantment with both parties (the Democratic Congress's job approval is also mired in the mid 30s).

There are various other index questions; they're all at the back of the survey, if you're interested. They all point to a very respresentative pool of respondents.

So this looks to be a very solid poll; it has some bad news for the GOP on a number of fronts, but nothing particularly worse than other polls. And where we can match the respondents here to an actual vote, they fit extremely well.

So I think it fair to say that the hardliners are simply wrong, wrong, wrong to imagine that they represent the majority; and I mean the hardliners of both Left and Right. Americans want every part of this deal.

The task now is to convince them of the truth, that the bill contains exactly the provisions Americans want, instead of the convenient lies spread by those more interested in posturing than probing.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 25, 2007, at the time of 6:06 AM | Comments (50) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 24, 2007

All We Are Saying Is Give "Islamists" a Chance!

Hatched by Dafydd

Keep your knees crossed, but evidently, there is actually a deal in the works to broadcast that Frank Gaffney production, Islam vs. Islamists, on PBS:

A documentary billed as "the film PBS doesn't want you to see" will at long last get a national audience.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) announced a joint agreement yesterday to make "Islam vs. Islamists" available to the 354 Public Broadcasting Service member stations across the nation as a "stand-alone" TV program, with a little extra embellishment.

"We plan to distribute the film to any public broadcasting station that wants it. We'll package it and also produce some sort of discussion to accompany the film, and give it some context," OPB President Steve Bass told The Washington Times yesterday.

I've been looking forward to seeing this for some time now, ever since it was booted from its original slot in PBS's America at the Crossroads because it was insufficiently sensitive to the wounded feelings of Islamists and terrorists. As you might guess, Gaffney turned down many kind editing suggestions from PBS to make it more palatable to CAIR, the Nation of Islam, and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Damascus).

The often-disquieting 52-minute film explores the struggles of moderate American Muslims at the hands of their radical brethren and gives details about a "parallel" Islamist society that is slowly but surely developing within the U.S. borders. The film was produced by conservative columnist Frank Gaffney Jr., founder of the Center for Security Policy, filmmaker Martyn Burke and Middle East scholar Alex Alexiev.

No air time has been floated yet, so keep your eye skinned. Don't miss it!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 24, 2007, at the time of 6:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bowing to the Inevitable

Hatched by Dafydd

Big Lizards -- and a whole lot of other folks -- has said repeatedly that, in the end, the Democrats would have to give President Bush the money he needs to keep fighting the war against global jihad... and give it to him without timetables for surrender, without absurd and bogus "readiness rules" that would prevent fresh units from replacing combat-weary veterans, and without 535 "little generals" issuing tactical commands to the troops in the field.

(We tried that last during the Civil War, but it was fewer than 535 back then. Still didn't work.)

The Democrats, for their part, swore that they would never, ever pass such funding without a timeline for withdrawal -- a date certain for American defeat.


Bowing to President Bush, the Democratic-controlled Congress lined up reluctantly Thursday to provide fresh billions for the Iraq war without the troop withdrawal timeline that drew his earlier veto....

Five months in power on Capitol Hill, Democrats in both houses coupled their concession to the president with pledges to challenge his war policies anew. "Those of us who oppose this war will be back again and again and again and again until this war has ended," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

"I hate this agreement," added Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who played a key role in talks with the White House that yielded the measure....

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, alone among the Senate's Democratic White House hopefuls, pledged in advance to oppose the bill. Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware said he supported it.

That left Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois publicly uncommitted in the hours leading to the vote, two leading White House rivals tugged in one direction by the needs of 165,000 U.S. troops - and in another by party activists demanding rejection of the legislation.

After the previous bruising veto battle, Democratic leaders said they hoped to clear the bill for Bush's signature by this Memorial Day weekend.

I know I already talked about this; but it's one of the most important inflection points in prosecuting the overall war, as well as the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan within it: For the first time since last November, we now know for certain that today's Congress hasn't the will to cram defeat down our throats, the way yesterday's did in 1974.

That is a monumental revelation. As much as I have always believed it to be true, it's a tremendous relief to see it verified by actions under the dome.

This also points up the huge distinction between domestic policies, like immigration -- where Congress is typically willing to compromise -- and foreign policy, especially war, where one side must win and the other must lose. As a political (not military) battle, war is a zero sum game: Either you support it, or you don't; you cannot "split the difference" and half-support it.

The congressional kabuki dance also demonstrates the immense superiority of our system of government, a constitutional republic with a strong chief executive, over that of any parliamentary democracy... a more primitive and generally failed form of government that is basically institutionalized tribalism.

To the extent parlimentarianism works at all, it only does when one party seizes so much power that the prime minister more or less apes an American president... as with Tony Blair recently or Winston Churchill during World War II.

But a president has inherent power and the "energy" (as the Federalist Papers put it) to act decisively, while Congress dithers. Even when President Bush's own party wavered, frightened and sweating, Bush stood firm; and by his own force of personality (or mulishness, as you prefer), the plenary powers of the presidency, and the "bully pulpit," he forced Congress to bow to his will.

If this were a parliamentary democracy, he would have been removed as head of the party or his government would have suffered a vote of no-confidence. Bush would have been replaced by an isolationist from the House, who would have pulled out of the war in disgrace and defeat; and if the Democrats won the subsequent election, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) would now be that "First Speaker."

(Say, maybe that's why lefties so very much prefer parliamentary democracies to our federal republic: Mob rule is much easier in the former.)

Fortunately, we had Founding Fathers who were geniuses, and we shall continue fighting this existential war:

Bush ordered the deployment of an additional five brigades to Iraq in January to try and quell sectarian violence, and he said summer would be critical to the fate of the new strategy.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, has pledged to report to the administration and Congress in September on the progress made in the war, and Bush conceded that al-Qaida terrorists and illegal militias will make sure there is heavy fighting in the interim to try and sap the will of the United States.

"And so, yes, it could be a bloody - it could be a very difficult August," he said.

He said he wants to see American troops "in a different configuration at some point in time in Iraq." He said that meant moving from mostly combat to training, border security and special forces anti-terror operations.

"However," Bush said, "it's going to require taking control" of Baghdad.

I wonder how many Democrats (or even Republicans) will remember in August that back in May, Bush warned it would be bloody, violent, and would probably kill a lot of American heroes. Not many, I would guess; they'll claim that Bush said it would be a "cakewalk" (which he never said, nor did anyone in command authority in the administration), and they'll call it another "Bush lie."

But take Baghdad we must, by any means necessary. That's the game on a nutshell; and now that the Democrats caved, we have a real chance of achieving exactly that.

I wonder how the nutroots are taking the collapse of "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party?" Even less certain, I wonder how the nutroots will react if we actually manage to secure victory in Iraq? Will they demand we return the "stolen property" -- the Iraqi population -- to the Baathists?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 24, 2007, at the time of 4:06 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 23, 2007

Rasmussen Discovers: Many Americans Are Ignoramuses!

Hatched by Dafydd

A flurry of anti-immigration-bill conservative pundits are about to start quoting (selectively) from the new Rasmussen poll on immigration. Most will only tell you about two of the questions:

  • "From what you know about the agreement, do you favor or oppose the immigration reform proposal agreed to last Week?" Favor: 26%; Oppose: 48%; Not sure: 26%.
  • "How Important is it to improve border enforcement and reduce illegal immigration?" Very important: 72%; Somewhat important: 16%; Not very important: 8%; Not at all important: 2%.

And from this, the opinion-makers will conclude that the very idea of a comprehensive immigration bill should be dropped, and we should move to the enforcement-only approach, which "everybody wants."

This leaves aside the political dilemma: Since we live in a country that has a political government, not a military dictatorship, how can we simply ignore the majority in Congress -- which overwhelmingly wants regularization? Is the president supposed to issue an executive order dissolving the legislative branch?

But the conclusion that Americans oppose any regularization also pretends not to notice a much more proximate point: Those were not the only two questions asked; and among the other questions is one that utterly upends the first question, transforming it instead into a pop quiz on current events:

Still, 65% of voters would be willing to support a compromise including a “very long path to citizenship” provided that “the proposal required the aliens to pay fines and learn English” and that the compromise “would truly reduce the number of illegal aliens entering the country.” The proposal, specifically described as a compromise, was said to include “strict employer penalties for hiring illegal aliens, building a barrier along the Mexican border and other steps to significantly reduce the number of illegal aliens entering the United States.”

That would be 2/3rds of Americans willing to support such a compromise; but only 26% willing to support this particular compromise.

Putting these two answers together, we find that a minimum of 39% of Americans (but probably much more) do not read Big Lizards... because, in fact, every single one of those provisions is in the current compromise legislation.

Now there are two possibilities here:

  • Those Americans who support the idea of a compromise along the lines above but oppose this particular bill have all studied the bill closely, read commentary about it from both sides, carefully weighed its pros and cons, and have come to a cautious, reasoned decision that this particular bill doesn't quite live up to the high standards demanded by the American people.
  • A huge chunk of the American electorate are complete ignoramuses who haven't the foggiest idea what enforcement elements are found in the bill; they hear "amnesty, amnesty!" -- and they freak. If asked, they would probably say, "Yeah, on Day-1, they'll make all the illegal aliens into citizens, and on Day-2, they'll all vote to kill the fence!"

Gosh, wouldn't you love to see polling on what Americans think is in the bill, and what they think is not... along with an actual legislative analysis of what's actually there, for comparison?

Not very surprisingly, many Americans think that's what's in the bill because that's what the unions have told them: They play to latent racist fears about "foreigners" coming to seize what few jobs remain after NAFTA and GATT. What with the 38% unemployment that already sweeps America, the unions argue -- much worse than during the Great Depression! -- this bill will mean all white people will soon have to go on welfare.

Alas, another bunch of Americans probably believe the bill is simple amnesty with no security provisions because that's what a bunch of "conservative" demagogues are saying about it, too. They are equally happy to leave their listeners in ignorance -- worse, lead them there -- because they intend to defeat this bill or any subsequent compromise "by any means necessary."

In the end, they prefer to keep the issue around forever unsolved as a political bludgeon; they don't want to fix the problem... they just want to use the fear of illegal immigration to recruit, raise funds, and perhaps get themselves reelected to their "75-25" congressional or legislative seats (I mean districts where the primary election is the real election; the general is an afterthought).

There are three important take-aways from this poll:

  1. A very, very large chunk of the electorate has no idea what is in the current bill;
  2. An overwhelming majority of Americans are willing to accept compromise legislation, so long as they are assured that the security aspects will be enforced (hence the importance of "triggers");
  3. Neither the Bush administration nor the Democrats nor the Republicans in Congress have the slightest idea how to communicate with the American voter.

Any attempt to shoehorn this poll into an attack on comprehensive immigration reform is sloppy thinking and evidence of too much eagerness and haste. And you know what that makes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 23, 2007, at the time of 6:44 PM | Comments (53) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 22, 2007

Fleshing Out the Outline, take 2

Hatched by Dafydd

Another couple of things that I've heard. As always, the changed stuff is in blue type color...

The new material comes from Michael Medved; take it as you will:

Immigration reform compromise package

  1. Reform of legal immigration. The compromise sets up a "point system" (as in Australia) for future immigration; immigrants would be accepted or rejected on the basis of the number of points they accrue [WSJ2 -- today's WSJ article.];
  2. Points would be allocated for English-language facility, education, advanced job skills that the country needs (I'm guessing high tech), and for family connections to other citizens more tenuous than spouse or children under the age of 21. Family relations will be deprivileged, while skills leading to faster, better assimilation will be privileged (I don't know if "country quotas" will be retained) [WSJ2];
  3. The only family connections that would allow automatic issuance of a green card would be spouses and children under the age of 21; older children and any other family relation would simply accrue some points but would otherwise have to satisfy the point-quota requirement in (2) [WSJ2];
  4. Border security. The following provisions must be "implemented" before either regularization of illegal aliens or enactment of the temporary-worker program can occur:

    1. 370 miles of additional border fence; this is actual, real double fencing, not virtual fencing.

      Note that "the law from last year remains in effect," according to presidential spokesman Tony Snow, referring to the law mandating 800+ miles of actual fence: The 370-mile figure is just what must be built before regularization or the guest-worker program can begin [Tony Snow interview on Hugh Hewitt radio show, May 18th, 2007];

    2. 200 additional miles of vehicle barriers: concrete barriers, berms, chicanes, caltrops, and so forth [Tony Snow interview];

    3. An unknown number of additional miles of virtual fencing [Tony Snow interview];

    4. 18,000 additional Border Patrol agents;

    5. "Effective, electronic employee-verification system for the workplace;"

    6. Crackdown on employers who hire illegals;

    "Implemented" means completed [all from WaPo -- the Washington Post article except as noted above];

  5. After the bill is enacted, any person who subsequently crosses illegally into the United States and is caught will be permanently barred from ever receiving any kind of a visa or becoming a citizen; this evidently extends beyond green card and work visa (or Z- or Y-visa) to include even a tourist visa [Medved -- Michael Medved on the Michael Medved radio show, May 22nd, 2007];
  6. Regularization of currently illegal aliens. Current illegal aliens can come forward, give full information about themselves, pay a $1,000 fine, demonstrate continuous employment since arriving, undergo a records check, and only then obtain a "probationary" Z-visa card that would allow them to stay legally and continue to work but would not allow them to apply for citizenship [WSJ2, Tony Snow interview on Hugh Hewitt radio show, May 18th, 2007];
  7. Regular and probationary Z-visa holders are barred from receiving any welfare or welfare-like government handouts; they must maintain continuous employment while here (presumably they are allowed some brief transit time between leaving one job and starting another) [Medved];
  8. In order to get a regular Z-visa, allowing the alien to begin the path to citizenship, he must meet several requirements:

    1. The head of the household must return to his country of origin and apply from there [WSJ2];
    2. The family must undergo a criminal background check [WaPo];
    3. They must pay a $4,000 fine in addition to the $1,000 fine paid to get the provisional Z-visa, for a total of $5,000 [WSJ2, Tony Snow interview on Hugh Hewitt radio show, May 18th, 2007];
    4. They must pay back taxes -- I don't know if this made it into the final compromise, but it was in the talking points memo [TPM] that Hugh posted earlier;
    5. They must pay processing fees [WSJ2];
    6. They must go to the back of the line of legal immigrants -- see (9) below [TPM];
  9. Before Z-visas will be granted, the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has eight years to work through the backlog of already pending legal residency applications from those who are trying to immigrate here legally.

    Only after those are granted will USCIS turn to illegal aliens who have applied for residency per the process delineated in (8) above; this will take up to five additional years.

    After a green card is granted, citizenship requires an additional five years. Thus, from illegal status to citizenship requires a minimum of 13 years, possibly as long as 18 years. [WSJ1 -- the earlier WSJ article];

  10. Separate "guest-worker" program. A separate guest-worker "Y-visa" will be created which does not lead to citizenship; a guest worker cannot apply for citizenship unless he returns to his country of origin and applies in the normal fashion anyone else would (no line-cut privileges); up to 400,000 such Y-visas may be granted each year [WSJ2];
  11. Guest workers can apply for a two-year stint working in this country. After that time expires, they must return to their country of origin for at least a one-year "rest" period. They could then reapply, again for two years here followed by a year back in their country of origin. They could apply one more time for two years here... after which they must return permanently to their country of origin [WSJ2].

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 22, 2007, at the time of 5:20 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Dems Agree to Allow Possibility of Victory In Iraq

Hatched by Dafydd

Staving off the feverish Democratic attempt to force defeat on America, President George W. Bush held firm, threatened vetos, and backed up the threats by actually vetoing a troop-funding bill that included a timetable for surrender.

And today, the Democrats finally blinked, as we knew they eventually must:

Flinching in the face of a veto threat, Democratic congressional leaders neared agreement with the Bush administration Tuesday on legislation to pay for the Iraq war without setting a timeline for troop withdrawal.

Several officials said the emerging compromise bill would cost about $120 billion, including as much as $8 billion for Democratic domestic priorities - originally resisted by the White House - such as disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims and farmers hurt by drought.

I cannot see how this can be spun, without inducing laughter, as anything but victory for Bush and the mainstream of the GOP and defeat for the defeatists in Congress. But that doesn't stop Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) from trying:

Despite the concession, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that the legislation would be the first war-funding bill sent to Bush since the U.S. invasion of Iraq "where he won't get a blank check."

Reid and other Democrats pointed to a provision that would set standards for the Iraqi government in developing a more democratic society. U.S. reconstruction aid would be conditioned on progress toward meeting the goals, but Bush would have authority to order the money to be spent regardless of how the government in Baghdad performed.

If Democrats want to claim "victory" for forcing the president to decide whether to condition reconstruction funds on political progress -- which he already has authority to do -- let them, so long as they cease trying to force a U.S. surrender in Iraq. But look at it this way: Sen. Reid has now agreed to continue funding, and sending men and women to die in, a war that Reid said we have already "lost."

This should tell us just how much Reid actually believed what he said when he said it.

And for what have the Democrats sold out the nutroots, thrown in the towel, and agreed to allow the war to continue? Why, for a great and noble purpose that certainly transcends the trivial matters of war and peace:

Several officials said the emerging compromise bill would cost about $120 billion, including as much as $8 billion for Democratic domestic priorities - originally resisted by the White House - such as disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims and farmers hurt by drought....

[So] Republicans paid a price, too, in terms of billions of dollars in domestic spending that Democrats wrung from them and the administration....

The bill would also include the first increase in the federal minimum wage in more than a decade.

Well! I can see how such a momentous victory as increasing the minimum wage and adding $8 billion to the previous many billions of dollars for the whiny Hurricane Katrina victims would certainly justify the dreadful step of allowing American victory in Iraq -- as horrible a prospect as that might be.

However, in the House (but not the Senate), Democrats even have a solution for that angst-ridden requirement, for those Democrat representatives whose souls would be pained by having to break faith with their constituents... to whom the Democrats promised a horrific American defeat. Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) appears to have decided to split the authorizing legislation in the House (not Senate) into two pieces: one funding bill for all the urgent domestic spending and the minimum-wage increase, the other for the troops.

The House (not Senate) Democrats would enthusiastically vote for the first. But for the second bill, all but the most conservative Blue-Dog Democrats (in the H., not S.) would vote against funding the troops... which would still allow it to pass, albeit by a narrow margin, with the expected, near-unanimous Republican support. Thus in the House of Representatives at least -- if not in the Senate -- "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," as the late Sen. Paul Wellstone used to say, needn't taint its dainty fingers by being on the same side as America.

Then both bills would be merged when they arrive at the Senate, leaving Harry Reid without succor for his bruised conscience; but by great good fortune, his scruples have harder calluses than hers.

The really interesting question is whether the Republicans who have been pushing defeat for so many months will vote for this bill... or whether they will turn out to be more liberal (and un-American) than even the Democratic Party leadership. Only time...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 22, 2007, at the time of 4:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Free Advice for Mitt Romney

Hatched by Dafydd

I wonder if Romney reads blogs?

I have some campaign advice for him, a way to turn the biggest hit against him into a Reaganesque, "there you go again" moment...

When Gov. Romney finds himself in a debate with the Democratic nominee, and the Democrat accuses the governor of having "flip-flopped" on abortion, on taxes, on this or that; then Romney should look him or her in the eye and say, "Senator... I didn't flip-flop. I wised up."

It'll bring the house down, and it will be the moment everyone remembers from the GOP landslide of 2008.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 22, 2007, at the time of 5:32 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Flogging Blogs

Hatched by Dafydd

Speaking of tsunamis, I want to draw everyone's attention to a cool, new feature on RealClearPolitics: RealClearBlogs.

(And I'm not just touting it because they linked us over the weekend. Well... not just because.)

Every day, they link to blogposts in three categories:

  • Debates & Discussions
  • Featured Blog Posts
  • State & Local Blog Coverage

The first is the most interesting offering, for Jeff Pyatt... he runs RealClearBlogs, I think; either that or the Krispy Kreme in beautiful downtown Burbank; Jeff Pyatt pairs off bloggers who are fighting with -- pounding on -- snarling at -- brawling between -- kicking the -- engaging in civilized and refined debate about serious topics of the day, utilizing logical arguments that typically depend upon lead pipes, saps, poleaxes, stilettos, bowling balls, Samuel Colt's revolving pistol, brass knucks, brass bands, brass monkeys, nuclear hand grenades (50-foot throwing range, 5-mile blast radius), broadswords, hand and a half swords, rapiers, smallswords, running sores, ruining Soros, rotten eggs, rotten tomatoes, written puns, pans, pots and kettles -- especially those, both in basic black -- and once in a blue moon (does anybody besides me know what that actually means, without looking it up?) once in a blue moon, an actual rhetorical point.

It's a lot of fun; and hey -- nothin' beats fun! (Well, what does?) And yesterday, they even linked an anti-atheist column by none other than Chuck Norris... yes, that Chuck Norris, the guy I took karate from in 1960-mumble something. Parts II and III of III (I didn't see part I).

Here are some important fun facts about Chuck Norris.

So put on your manly gown, gird your loins, and pull up your socks... it's time to rock off to RealClearBlogs!

(Oh... and a "blue moon" is when two full moons appear in a single month, or else four in a quarter -- and it's the third moon of four that's the "blue" one. I knew there was a reason to read Moon and Stars and Stuff, the long-running astrology column by the incomparable science-fiction author and fantasist Fritz Leiber.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 22, 2007, at the time of 5:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 21, 2007

Mending and Amending

Hatched by Dafydd

I've been increasingly ebullient today, in response to what I've heard on Hugh Hewitt's show: Out with the truculent vows never to vote for "amnesty;" in with the determination to use this compromise as a starting point, then offer a series of amendments to make it better, more effective, and more palatable to conservatives!

I think the bill is fairly good; I don't think it's perfect or anywhere near, and it's in desperate need of both mending and amending. Here are eight amendments I support -- plus one that I think is a poison pill.

1 The Patterico Amendment - kick out the slams!

This amendment is based upon a long-standing demand from Patterico: He notes that there are a lot of inmates serving time in prison who are also illegal aliens; and he wants to know why, once they finish serving their prison terms, they're not immediately deported:

So if deporting millions won’t happen, what can we do? I am for firmer enforcement in two areas: border security and aggressive deportation of illegal aliens who commit crimes other than illegal entry. I have spoken about the latter idea until I am blue in the face. Why would we employ a single ICE agent to arrest illegals who are working and producing for society, when there are tens of thousands of unidentified illegals in our jails in prisons -- 34,000 in Los Angeles jails every year -- who will serve their sentences and hit the streets again to commit more crime? [Yes, I know two of those links are identical; I'm just quoting Patterico!]

No question about it, this is a great idea. The only thing I would add, and I hope Patterico would agree, would be some sort of review process during the deportation hearing that would examine exactly what the crime was and see if there are any special circumstances... for example, some elderly illegal immigrant who is mugged, and he defends himself with a concealed handgun -- for which he doesn't have a CCW permit, and for which some Mike Nifong clone prosecutes him.

But for the normal cases that a prosecutor like Patterico must see every day... serve time in the slam (or even get probation), and adios.

2 The sanctuary, shmanctuary amendment

In a typically psychotic overreaction to our "draconian" immigration laws -- that is, to the demand (just like the Nazis used to demand!) that immigrants should come here legally instead of illegally -- a number of very leftist city councils have declared their burgs to be "sanctuary cities," meaning the city cops are ordered not to enforce any federal or state immigration laws, or cooperate in any way with USCIS, or even to inquire into the immigration status of those they arrest.

(No word what the residents of those usually crime-ridden cities think about this; in true Democratic fashion, the people as such are discouraged from confusing matters by participating in the discussion.)

I think federal law is a little confusing about the status of these "sanctuary" cities: I would love to see an amendment that clarified that any mayor, governor, or other city or state executive who enforced a city ordinance or state law that violates, impedes, or interferes with federal immigration law is guilty of a felony and prosecutable in federal court; and perhaps he should also be sued for damages in federal civil court, though I'm not sure how such damages would be calculated.

Even more devastating, any city which enacts such an ordinance should see all federal funding suspended until such time as they are again in comliance with federal law. For big cities like San Francisco, this could amount to an abrupt budget hole tens of millions of dollars wide... about which, I'm sure the voters of that city would have strong feelings.

It's hard to imagine a law that is more obviously federal in scope than protecting the borders and determining who should or should not enter (or leave) the country. This is not a city-level decision!

And I think this is passable: Even though some really left-leaning Democrats will vote against it, the expansion of federal power will lure many Democrats to vote for it, as well.

3 Dreier's exit-strategy amendment

No, nothing to do with Iraq; Rep. David Dreier (R-CA, 72%) noted on Hugh Hewitt's radio show today (I think it was he) that, while any non-citizen, non-permanent-resident entering this country is required to show a passport and visa, and a record is made of the entry... there is no corresponding entry made when he leaves. This means we have no way to tell whether he has overstayed his visa.

Drier amendment number one would require persons here on temporary visas -- tourist, student, and of course the "guest" worker Y-visa -- would be required to show the visa when leaving the United States. At that time, the record would be checked to see whether he was within his legal visitation period; if he overstayed, he should be put on a blacklist, where entry would be forbidden for some period of time. (Again, we assume review is available.)

The computer system should also send out an alert when a temporary visa expires, but the person has not exited the country: Let's at least get a handle on who is overstaying his visa and by how long.

4 Derier's one-stop shopping amendment

The second amendment proposed by Congressman Dreier would be to get back to the idea that we would have only one, tamper-proof Social-Security or Immigration card for each person. The card number would link to a database that showed the immigration status of the cardholder; just stick it in the USCIS card reader, and it would show the immigration status of the cardholder, whether he was allowed to work, whether he was legally resident (and until when), and should also show on the screen a digital picture, front and side, of the actual cardholder.

At the moment, we still have numerous different cards -- Dreier said it was more than thirty types (!) -- which creates huge confusion in the minds of employers. I wholeheartedly endorse anything that simplifies the employer's duty to determine whether the person standing before him is legally allowed to work in this country.

5 Hewitt's retired servicemen's full-employment bill of 2007

Hugh Hewitt also proposed a couple of amendments in today's show. First, he noted that conducting the interviews and background checks for however many illegals come forward is going to be a monster task: It's potentially 12 million applicants, though in reality, I think it will be far fewer than that.

Still a very large number, though; in fact, it's essentially the same problem as mass deportation, with one very significant difference: Deportation requires a hearing by law, and nobody is going to passively accept it without getting his day in immigration court. By contrast, anybody would be perfectly happy if his application for a provisional Z-visa were granted without a face-to-face interview.

So Hugh suggests a "pre-sort" to reduce the stack of those that actually require some thought and an actual interview, the tough cases. I think the idea is to use existing records to sort all applicants into one of three buckets:

  1. No-brainer acceptance: people here a long time, no criminal record, continuously employed, owners of real property, etc.
  2. No-brainer rejection: people with a criminal background, people who are wanted by the police, have a history of alcoholism or drug use, have been rarely employed, have more than one name, move around a lot (not just following the harvest, I mean from city to city), and so forth.
  3. The toughies: everybody who doesn't fit either category.

Hugh also suggests hiring retired policemen, servicemen, firefighters, and so forth to perform this initial screening... men and women with many years spent making life and death decisions and being held accountable for them. It's mostly a paperwork job, though I suppose they might have to make some phone calls, too; so it would be ideal for older people and the disabled.

Those in bucket 1 get their provisional Z-visa right away. Those in bucket 2 not only don't get one, they're brought to the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And those in bucket 3... well, they're the only ones who need to be interviewed.

This pre-sort should reduce the total number of face to face interviews down to a much more manageable number.

6 Hewitt's "stink-eye" amendment

Originally, Hugh appeared to be saying that people from countries that have extensive jihadist networks should not be allowed to get a provisional Z-visa at all... at least until after an extensive background check.

But this is self-defeating: Once a person from, say, Iran applied for a provisional Z-visa, he would immediately thereby come to the attention of ICE. But since he is disallowed from getting the immediate provisional Z-visa that applicants from Mexico or South Africa or Japan get, he would have no protection from swift and automatic deportation.

The mere act of applying for a provisional Z-visa would get him kicked out of the country!

Therefore, nobody from one of those "funny" countries could ever get a Z-visa, even if he were in the United States precisely because he was a political dissident who feared for his life. Hence the very people we most want to keep track of would remain forever in the shadows.

But today, Hugh clarified and extended his previous remarks (as the politicos say); he now suggests that if an applicant for a Z-visa is male, between the ages of 18 and 33, and from a country with extensive terrorist activity, he should go into a separate bucket -- one that receives much more scrutiny and perhaps even surveillance. He would still be protected from arbitrary deportation while his application was pending; but he would also be watched, and his application would be examined in greater detail.

The reason for this should be obvious.

7 The lax tax amendment

Captain Ed noticed an article in the Boston Globe that supposedly, the Bush Administration requested that the requirement that Z-visa applicants pay back taxes be removed from the immigration bill. I'm a little skeptical; the Globe is a notoriously unreliable (and very liberal) newspaper... but if true, I think this should be restored via amendment.

The Bush administration has a good argument that it would be virtually impossible to calculate precise back taxes plus penalties for years of working sub-rosa, cash in hand. But several others have suggested a workable solution: Require the applicant to pay an "estimate" of back taxes based upon various factors, such as how long the illegal immigrant worked here and what sorts of jobs.

This only works if the figure is not so absurdly high that nobody would ever apply for a Z-visa. Suppose, for example, you could only get the Z-visa if you meet the requirements -- clean background, continuous employment, etc. -- pay $5,000 in fines... and then fork over $298,440 in back taxes and penalties; then nobody would ever do it.

This is clearly a "poison pill" that would kill the entire deal. The Democrats, many congressional Republicans, and the White House will never go along with it (so stop dreaming about using this to stop the bill!)

But if the estimate were reasonable, with a workable installment plan for repayment, then I think it might fly. Careful, however!

8 The tick-tock amendment

This is one of mine that I just thought up. I don't like the idea of people applying for a provisional Z-visa... and then saying, "I won't get deported, so that is good enough for me."

I want people to assimilate, move on to a full Z-visa, then to a green card, and then to citizenship. I don't want anyone permanently living here who has no intention of ever becoming a citizen of this country... it's just the sort of thing that causes rioting by "northwest African youths" currently living in France or Sweden. Or Spain. Or Germany, Italy, Great Britain, or Australia.

So how about this: The provisional Z-visa comes with an expiration date. The timeclock starts when it's issued; but every time the Z-visa holder takes another step forward towards citizenry, the clock is restarted. For example, taking (and passing) citizenship classes, applying for a full Z-visa, applying for a green card, and so forth. The idea is to prevent the potential citizen from entering immigration stasis.

When your clock is about to run out, you get notices that you had better get off your butt and do something... at least contact USCIS and they will make suggestions. If you ignore the letter, then when your time runs out -- the ICE shows up on your doorstep and starts deportation hearings.

Again, a review board is necessary... especially if the holder claims that he has been trying to get the next step, but the USCIS is sitting on his application. (Long-time readers of Big Lizards know that Mr. and Mrs. Lizard speak from personal experience here!) But let's gradually turn up the heat on the stovetop, so that nobody turns it into an easy chair.

Finally, the amendment that tempts me, but is probably a deal-breaker for the Democrats... hence the one I reject:

XXX Hewitt's full-fencing saber cut XXX

Hugh made one more suggestion, but I really don't like this one: He wants an amendment to the effect that not one, single, solitary provisional Z-visa be granted until the first half of the fence is completed. That is, rather than start the process of granting provisional Z-visas now, and make the holders wait until half the fence is completed to apply for the full Z-visa -- Hugh wants to make all the applicants wait for completion of half the fence even to apply for the provisional Z-visa.

This is a perfect example of yet another "poison pill": It will take years to build 370 miles of double fencing. And when the time comes for granting provisional Z-visas, if the GOP is back in control of Congress, how does the Democratic Party know that Republicans won't pass a bill undoing the whole provisional Z-visa system? "Hah, hah, fooled you all!"

It's exactly the same problem of trust as Republicans face: We refuse to accept any bill that says, "I will gladly let you have border security Wednesday for regularization today." That's why the GOP senators negotiated border-security "triggers" for regularization.

So why on earth would the Democrats accept what Hugh Hewitt proposes -- which amounts to, "I will gladly let you have regularization Wednesday for border security today?"

I like the current system: Both the granting of provisional Z-visas and the border-security provisions of the bill begin now; and when border security is half done, then we can start granting full Z-visas.

So that's my run down on the possible amendments (and a very run-down lot we all are, now). Have you guys and gals any other suggestions?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 21, 2007, at the time of 9:50 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 20, 2007

Regularization: the Immigration Sideshow

Hatched by Dafydd

It's a tragicomic commentatry on the immigration-reform "debate" that 90% of the discussion (and angst) is wasted on the least important issue -- whether or how to "regularize" those illegals already here -- while virtually none is spent on the most important issue: reforming our legal immigration procedure to make it fair, predictable, and rational.

The "12 Million" were here last year; they are here today; they will still be here a year or two or five from now. Whether they're regularized or not won't make much difference to the United States... so let's leave that question aside for the moment.

What matters is what kind of immigration we get in the future: legal or illegal, skilled or unskilled, assimilated or unassimilated, working or on welfare:

  • The fence and all other aspects of criminal and immigration law enforcement are important, because they help determine whether we'll get legal or illegal immigration, and in what mix;
  • Reforming the legal immigration system is important, because that determines whether our future immigrants will be skilled, educated, English-speaking people who will easily assimilate... or unskilled hewers of water and carriers of wood, pulling down sub-minimum wage. A rational, predictable, and fair immigration policy will allow into the country both the former and the latter, but will encourage the latter to become the former;
  • And the question of a "guest worker" program is important, because that determines whether our actual immigrants, those who want to become Americans, will have jobs available to them while they develop the education, skills, and English proficiency to become citizens... or whether all those jobs will be taken by "guests" who have no interest in America -- disaffected workers and their children, alienated from society and ripe for the "messages" of street gangs, La Raza, and even al-Qaeda.

But what do we spend nearly every second of debate time arguing about? The 12 Million. Naturally!

To read blogposts and comments from both left and right, you'd think that was the only element in the bill, or at least the only important one -- rather than the element that will have the least real-world effect on anybody or anything, hence the least important of all issues to chew on. To the extent other elements of the bill bubble up in conversation, it's nearly always in the context of how it affects the 12 Million. This Power Line post, for example, starts off talking about enforcement; but then, as expected, the subject degenerates into the 12 Million:

For these two reasons, my skepticism is not an argument for not passing "get tough" only legislation at the next opportunity. It is, however, an argument for making no adjustments to the status of illegal aliens, and no promises of additional adjustments, until we see how attempts at enhanced enforcement play out....

Between them then, Paul and John produce a most wondrous circularity. Paul kicks it off:

As it stands now, amnesty (or path to citizenship) cannot gain acceptance on its merits, but instead can only be enacted by holding enhanced enforcement legislation as a hostage.

John then echos his own addendum, which includes this point... the irony of which appears to completely escape my two friends:

Like Paul, I have little faith in the reliability of the "triggers." But it strikes me as more important that the illegals now in the country will be, in effect, legalized immediately. While not all of them will go to the trouble of paying $1,000 and getting a card, this matters little, since any appetite for enforcement will disappear once this mechanism is in place.

Or in other, more familiar words: As it stands now, border enforcement (or a fence) cannot gain acceptance on its merits, but instead can only be enacted by holding regularization of the 12 Million as a hostage.

Both statements are true... but that is a truism, because the underlying point is that neither side in this debate is prepared to render up something for nothing: The Left won't allow border security without regularization; the Right won't allow regularization without border security. Which is what I have been saying here since All Hallow's Eve Day, 2005.

Here is another non-argument against the bill: The paralogical idea that the adolescent explictave hurled by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) at Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX, 96%) -- the john calling the john unscrubbed -- "proves" that the bill cannot be justified.

This is patent nonsense; it only proves that John McCain cannot be justified. The bill stands or falls on the merits of the argument, not on the ability of one notoriously thin-skinned talking head to rein in his hair-trigger temper [a smooth smoke from a blend of four fine metaphors]. The argument is easy and near impossible to refute, which is why so few even bother trying:

  1. We desperately need more border security, especially including the fence, but also including more Border Patrol agents, deportations of illegal aliens who commit crimes, and significant employer sanctions.
  2. The Democrats will never allow that without regularization of the 12 Million. No, no, it's completely irrelevant why the Democrats won't allow it; I'm sure everything you're thinking about them is correct. But the fact remains that they will not.
  3. The Democrats will allow (1) if regularization comes with it... probably. (If not, then the deal doesn't happen, and both sides whine.)
  4. The Democrats control the Congress.
  5. Ergo, we desperately need to cut a deal with the Democrats that more or less resembles the current bill.

But now we go back to our starting point: It makes no difference to the country whether the 12 Million are legal or illegal. They're never going to be deported; the economies of several states would be wrecked if we tried. And it's not physically possible... at a rate of one immigration hearing every five minutes, 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, without even a break for lunch or a Christmas holiday, it would take forty years -- to deport the first one million of the 12 Million.

And we'd only have another 11 million to go!

So because the question is trivial, and because it makes no difference to the country whether the 12 Million stay here as illegals or pay a fine and stay here as legals, and because we so desperately need the border security... then for God's sake, leave the Demmies to their obsession and cut the deal.

Just structure the "triggers" in such a way that they can't cheat (which is the Democrats' other obsession). It shouldn't be that tough... is there a lawyer in the House?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 20, 2007, at the time of 11:47 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 19, 2007

Winners Are Free, and Whiners Are We

Hatched by Dafydd

I know you've all been waiting with baited bread, wondering when I was going to get around to announcing the winners of the Watcher's Council. Well, now.

From the fact that we didn't post this even before the Watcher of Weasels did, you probably inferred that Big Lizards didn't win.

You're right. Sen. Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) stuffed the ballot boxes.

Among the hoity-toity "Council" members, ooOOooh...

I'm sorry to say I was somewhat irked by the fatalism in this piece. It's very well written, as usual; but I've always preferred hope and optimism. I can see why others voted for it; it's definitely worthy of a win. But, you know...

My two votes were for:

  1. Positive Thinking Vs. the Greenies, by Cheat Seeking Missiles;
  2. Talk Isn't Cheap, by Soccer Dad.

The first (which tied for second) discusses a new innovation in the old, reliable infernal combustion engine which I found fascinating. Now, if only we could add this innovation to my old hobby horse, the high-temperature ceramic engine...

The second is about mixed messages: We send Iran a message of reasonableness, but the Iranians receive a message of weakness.

Among those peons who don't count

This was my first choice, and this is the kind of stuff I like to read! Mohammed at ITM lives in one of the most hellish places on earth right now -- Baghdad -- but he never loses hope, never despairs. It's so obvious that he loves his country and will never give up on Iraq... and with all of the danger surrounding him, he has the chutzpah to rally us, the U.S., to stick to the good fight and not leave until we can leave as winners, and the Iraqis can stay as winners.

A big, huge round of applause for Mohammed -- who, with his brother Omar, are two of several hundred thousand reasons why I refuse to believe that Islam itself is the problem (and Robert Spencer be hanged): The problem is the jihadist perversion of Islam, alas that it is so very powerful right now. But Mohammed and Omar, a pair of "Moslem Methodists" if ever I saw one (I hope they don't take offense at the term), give us hope for the future not only of Islam but of the world.

My second choice was the Power Line piece I nominated:

It's about how the Democrats "support" our troops... in the same sense that they "support" welfare mothers and seniors on Social Security, by trying to turn them into wards of the State.

I'm the only one who voted for it. Everybody thinks I'm weird.

You can see links to these posts and a bunch of others (including my own miserable failure) right here.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 19, 2007, at the time of 2:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 18, 2007

Fleshing Out the Outline, take 1

Hatched by Dafydd

I've learned some more detailed information about the bill, mostly from the interview Hugh Hewitt just conducted with Tony Snow. Here is the updated outline; the changed sections are in blue:

Immigration reform compromise package

  1. Reform of legal immigration. The compromise sets up a "point system" (as in Australia) for future immigration; immigrants would be accepted or rejected on the basis of the number of points they accrue [WSJ2 -- today's WSJ article.];
  2. Points would be allocated for English-language facility, education, advanced job skills that the country needs (I'm guessing high tech), and for family connections to other citizens more tenuous than spouse or children under the age of 21. Family relations will be deprivileged, while skills leading to faster, better assimilation will be privileged (I don't know if "country quotas" will be retained) [WSJ2];
  3. The only family connections that would allow automatic issuance of a green card would be spouses and children under the age of 21; older children and any other family relation would simply accrue some points but would otherwise have to satisfy the point-quota requirement in (2) [WSJ2];
  4. Border security. The following provisions must be "implemented" before either regularization of illegal aliens or enactment of the temporary-worker program can occur:

    1. 370 miles of additional border fence; this is actual, real double fencing, not virtual fencing.

      Note that "the law from last year remains in effect," according to presidential spokesman Tony Snow, referring to the law mandating 800+ miles of actual fence: The 370-mile figure is just what must be built before regularization or the guest-worker program can begin [Tony Snow interview on Hugh Hewitt radio show, May 18th, 2007];

    2. 200 additional miles of vehicle barriers: concrete barriers, berms, chicanes, caltrops, and so forth [Tony Snow interview];

    3. An unknown number of additional miles of virtual fencing [Tony Snow interview];

    4. 18,000 additional Border Patrol agents;

    5. "Effective, electronic employee-verification system for the workplace;"

    6. Crackdown on employers who hire illegals;

    I don't know if "implemented" means completed, begun, funded, or what; presumably, this will be hashed out during the actual Senate debate [all from WaPo -- the Washington Post article except as noted above];

  5. Regularization of currently illegal aliens. Current illegal aliens can come forward, give full information about themselves, pay a $1,000 fine, demonstrate continuous employment since arriving, undergo a records check, and only then obtain a "probationary" Z-visa card that would allow them to stay legally and continue to work but would not allow them to apply for citizenship [WSJ2, Tony Snow interview on Hugh Hewitt radio show, May 18th, 2007];
  6. In order to get a regular Z-visa, allowing the alien to begin the path to citizenship, he must meet several requirements:

    1. The head of the household must return to his country of origin and apply from there [WSJ2];
    2. The family must undergo a criminal background check [WaPo];
    3. They must pay a $4,000 fine in addition to the $1,000 fine paid to get the provisional Z-visa, for a total of $5,000 [WSJ2, Tony Snow interview on Hugh Hewitt radio show, May 18th, 2007];
    4. They must pay back taxes -- I don't know if this made it into the final compromise, but it was in the talking points memo [TPM] that Hugh posted earlier;
    5. They must pay processing fees [WSJ2];
    6. They must go to the back of the line of legal immigrants -- see (7) below [TPM];
  7. Before Z-visas will be granted, the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has eight years to work through the backlog of already pending legal residency applications from those who are trying to immigrate here legally.

    Only after those are granted will USCIS turn to illegal aliens who have applied for residency per the process delineated in (6) above; this will take up to five additional years.

    After a green card is granted, citizenship requires an additional five years. Thus, from illegal status to citizenship requires a minimum of 13 years, possibly as long as 18 years. [WSJ1 -- the earlier WSJ article];

  8. Separate "guest-worker" program. A separate guest-worker "Y-visa" will be created which does not lead to citizenship; a guest worker cannot apply for citizenship unless he returns to his country of origin and applies in the normal fashion anyone else would (no line-cut privileges); up to 400,000 such Y-visas may be granted each year [WSJ2];
  9. Guest workers can apply for a two-year stint working in this country. After that time expires, they must return to their country of origin for at least a one-year "rest" period. They could then reapply, again for two years here followed by a year back in their country of origin. They could apply one more time for two years here... after which they must return permanently to their country of origin [WSJ2].

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 18, 2007, at the time of 4:13 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Captain Ed On the Deal

Hatched by Dafydd

Captain Ed linked our post on the comprehensive immigration-reform compromise; but that's not why I'm linking him here. This post of his does an excellent job of refuting some of the most common arguments against the bill:

  1. Congress will never enforce the border-security provisions/triggers
  2. The bill will prompt a flood of illegals
  3. It rewards illegal behavior; the penalty for illegal entry should be deportation
  4. Once we start cracking down on the border and on employers, the illegals will self-deport

This is not to say that there aren't good arguments against the bill; but first we must clear away the poorly thought-out dross, so we can focus on the logical worries -- for example, that there aren't enough "triggers" or safeguards built into the current version, and we should have more.

Here are two other irrational non-reasons against the bill:

This bill is so bad, even doing nothing would be better

"Doing nothing" means no fence, no increased Border Patrol, no prosecution of employers for knowingly hiring illegals, and no federal law requiring automatic deportation of illegal aliens arrested or charged with committing crimes.

Hey, wait! That last one isn't in the current bill, either. Well, yeah... and wouldn't that be a much better negotiation point than "let's do nothing instead?"

During our long phase of "doing nothing," the number of illegals permanently residing here has grown by millions and millions. Hidden among those millions -- as we have just seen with the Fort Dix Six -- are jihadis preparing horrific attacks on us. But we can't find them, because there are so many illegal immigrants who aren't plotting any attacks inadvertently functioning as human shields.

Yeah. Let's do nothing. That will be much better.

If we defeat this bill, the next one will be just enforcement only

Hint for those who aren't good on current events: The Democrats control both houses of Congress. They control the agenda. They control committee chairmanships and how many of each party gets to sit on the committees.

The committees generally write the bills.

The committee membership picked by the majority Democrats does not include many Blue Dogs (conservative Democrats); rather, it's far more left-liberal than the Democratic Party itself, and even more liberal than the Democratic conference in Congress. Liberal Democrats oppose border security; they are ideological true-believers in totally open borders... and they also believe that immigrants (both legal and illegal) who vote (both legally and illegally) tend to vote Democratic.

And you know what? They're right. Hispanics in general tend to vote, oh, 55-45 for Democrats; but among recent citizens, the ratio is much worse for Republicans.

Finally, the nutroots, which drives elections for Democrats much more than the rightroots does for Republicans, is 100% against securing our borders, for a variety of reasons. Thus, the very people who write the bills have an ideological reason, a practical reason, and a political reason not to enact border security.

So why did they support it this time? Because there is a ton of border-security pressure coming from Main Street, and the Democratic leadership was afraid to buck it. But lo! If they were to offer this bill with lots of border security, and if the Republicans defeat it by filibuster -- then the Democrats are off the hook: They can blame the lack of border security entirely on the GOP, and we'll get hammered even harder in 2008 than we did in 2006.

But that's all right, because the GOP leadership all have safe seats... so they're not worried. Most of them spent many, many years in the minority before and may actually be more comfortable there; in the minority, you get to fulminate and make grand gestures, but you needn't do the hard work of actually governing.

Believe me, the immigration dynamic is exactly the same as that of the troop-funding bill: Whichever side is seen by the voters as making impossible demands, thus killing the bill, is the side that gets hammered. Killing a bill because it dares to address a problem -- the illegals already here -- that most people do want to see resolved (however they want to resolve it) is an invitation to catastrophe.

And the next immigration bill won't be anywhere near as good for the GOP as this one.

Jihadi screening

Finally, let me address an intelligent argument that Hugh Hewitt is making this very minute in his discussion with Tony Snow on the former's radio show: Hugh wants to know why illegals from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will receive the same treatment as illegals from Mexico and Nicaragua. He wants the bill modified, it appears, to include a list of "suspect" countries whose immigrants, when they apply for provisional Z-visas, will be held up while the FBI performs full field background investigations.

Hugh worries that if some undercover jihadi comes up and gets a provisional Z-visa, this will lend "legitimacy" to his cover story. Tony Snow responded that in order to do so, he would have to make himself (and his location) known to federal authorities... and the array of terrorism-intelligence programs will thus make it more likely that he will be identified and captured.

You mileage may vary, but I honestly believe that our jihadi would have to be an idiot to bring himself to our attention: He knows that biometric characteristics will be recorded and compared to our database -- but he does not know whether we've already picked up intel that incriminates him.

Hugh argues that he can operate better if he's above ground, but I say that's silly: The more visible he is, the more chance someone will notice, e.g., his attempts to obtain bomb materials.

Finally, if we make it clear that people from Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries will receive special immigration screening... then al-Qaeda will throw Jose Padillas at us by the bucketful. The jihadis are not utter fools.

Thus, I would much rather expand the NSA-al-Qaeda intercept program, the SWIFT surveillance program, Total Information Awareness, and other terrorism surveillance and intelligence programs... and then hook the terrorism-intelligence database up to the USCIS along with the National Crime Information Center. Then, as part of the records check -- not full field background investigation, which takes months, as I know from personal experience -- every illegal seeking a provisional Z-visa will be checked against every possible datum that might identify a terrorist.

Even if he comes from, oh, I don't know... England.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 18, 2007, at the time of 3:48 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 17, 2007

Grand Outline of Provisions of "the Compromise"

Hatched by Dafydd

The main purpose of this post is to pull together everything we currently know about the immigration-reform deal announced today. I had to go through six different sources to find it all; but here it is, all in one place.

For future reference, as this stuff works its way through Congress, I will repost the outline below and make changes, additions, and emendations as required. So consider Big Lizards your one-stop shopping center for the grand plan that will occupy as much of Congress's time as can be spared... after the urgent requirement to investigate every Republican, living or dead, who ever worked for George W. Bush (or said anything nice about him).

Sources: I have now read several thousand words on the Senate immigration-reform deal announced today by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%), Ted Kennedy (D-MA, 100%), John Kyl (R-AZ, 92%), and others:

- I read the AP, Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal (subscription required) stories on the deal.

- I read yesterday's WSJ's story (subscription required). I read the responses by Hugh Hewitt, Dean Barnett (buried in his American Idol post), John Hinderaker, and Paul Mirengoff (addendum on John's earlier post).

- I read the angry commentary by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC, 100%) -- John quotes it. I read Hugh's earlier "talking points" post, in which he revealed what the GOP wanted from the bill -- and Hugh's own guess as to what will make it into the final compromise (nearly everything he said the GOP wouldn't get -- they got).

- I haven't read anything on the subject by Michelle Malkin, the Center for Security Policy, nor Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO, 92%), and for a very good reason: their prior hysterical opposition to any immigration reform that even hints at anything other than a wall, imprisonment of employers, and mass deportations of 11 million illegals. They have collectively become "the boys who cried 'amnesty!'" -- at everything, without exception, that goes beyond enforcement. They have marginalized themselves (like the black vote) by being 100% predictable. They have made themselves nought but cosmic background radiation on this issue.

Sadly, Hugh and Dean now join those ranks. By contrast, John and Paul make reasonable arguments and explain their positions, rather than simply screaming "amnesty" at me. I disagree with them, but I will continue reading and mulling what they write.

Before getting into my own thoughts, let me summarize what is known about the deal; unlike anybody else here, I will include references for each datum. What a concept!

Immigration reform compromise package - original

  1. Reform of legal immigration. The compromise sets up a "point system" (as in Australia) for future immigration; immigrants would be accepted or rejected on the basis of the number of points they accrue [WSJ2 -- today's WSJ article.];
  2. Points would be allocated for English-language facility, education, advanced job skills that the country needs (I'm guessing high tech), and for family connections to other citizens more tenuous than spouse or children under the age of 21. Family relations will be deprivileged, while skills leading to faster, better assimilation will be privileged (I don't know if "country quotas" will be retained) [WSJ2];
  3. The only family connections that would allow automatic issuance of a green card would be spouses and children under the age of 21; older children and any other family relation would simply accrue some points but would otherwise have to satisfy the point-quota requirement in (2) [WSJ2];
  4. Border security. The following provisions must be "implemented" before either regularization of illegal aliens or enactment of the temporary-worker program can occur:

    1. 370 miles of additional border fence (unknown whether that means actual wall the whole way, wall plus fence, or wall plus fence plus virtual fence);
    2. 18,000 additional Border Patrol agents;
    3. "Effective, electronic employee-verification system for the workplace;"
    4. Crackdown on employers who hire illegals;

    I don't know if "implemented" means completed, begun, funded, or what; presumably, this will be hashed out during the actual Senate debate [all from WaPo -- the Washington Post article];

  5. Regularization of currently illegal aliens. Current illegal aliens can come forward, give full information about themselves, and obtain a "probationary" Z-visa card that would allow them to stay legally and continue to work but would not allow them to apply for citizenship [WSJ2];
  6. In order to get a regular Z-visa, allowing the alien to begin the path to citizenship, he must meet several requirements:

    1. The head of the household must return to his country of origin and apply from there [WSJ2];
    2. The family must undergo a criminal background check [WaPo];
    3. They must pay a $5,000 fine [WSJ2];
    4. They must pay back taxes -- I don't know if this made it into the final compromise, but it was in the talking points memo [TPM] that Hugh posted earlier;
    5. They must pay processing fees [WSJ2];
    6. They must go to the back of the line of legal immigrants -- see (7) below [TPM];
  7. Before Z-visas will be granted, the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has eight years to work through the backlog of already pending legal residency applications from those who are trying to immigrate here legally.

    Only after those are granted will USCIS turn to illegal aliens who have applied for residency per the process delineated in (6) above; this will take up to five additional years.

    After a green card is granted, citizenship requires an additional five years. Thus, from illegal status to citizenship requires a minimum of 13 years, possibly as long as 18 years. [WSJ1 -- the earlier WSJ article];

  8. Separate "guest-worker" program. A separate guest-worker program will be created which does not lead to citizenship; a guest worker cannot apply for citizenship unless he returns to his country of origin and applies in the normal fashion anyone else would (no line-cut privileges) [WSJ2];
  9. Guest workers can apply for a two-year stint working in this country. After that time expires, they must return to their country of origin for at least a one-year "rest" period. They could then reapply, again for two years here followed by a year back in their country of origin. They could apply one more time for two years here... after which they must return permanently to their country of origin [WSJ2].

Immigration reform compromise package - Mishnah

You won't be surprised -- you who actually read Big Lizards attentively -- that my least favorite part of this compromise is the guest-worker program. In fact, I hate the very idea of a guest-worker program.

I go along with Mark Steyn on this one... I think such programs in European countries have been prescriptions for disaster, bringing the great Moslem influx to Europe. Even here, I don't like the idea of a huge chunk of people coming here to work, even in two-year bursts, when they have no desire to become Americans and no sense of "Americanness."

But frankly, the rest of it doesn't sound all that bad, depending on how it actually works in practice. There's the rub, as John and Paul noted: They're both skeptical that the federal government can actually enforce the border-security provisions and actually make the guest workers go home after two years... but they have no doubt of the government's ability to regularize current illegals.

I concur in part and dissent in part: I agree it's more difficult to get the feds to fulfill the enforcement part of the deal; that's because Democrats are less trustworthy than Republicans, as a rule... the former are apt to decide that the Vision must be achieved by any means necessary. But "more difficult" is not equivalent to "impossible," and Democrats don't always get their way.

We must move forward; so long as we stand here, foot in hand, we continue to have wide-open borders. Even a scant 370 extra miles of fence is better than what we have now (duh). Remember, "not making a decision" is in fact making a decision, the decision to do nothing.

I think border enforcement and guest-worker control are both doable... provided we have a commitment to do them. But of course, if we don't have such a commitment, we certainly wouldn't be able to enact a Tancredoesque "enforcement always and only" reform. Dig?

The most important take-away from the compromise is this: It really, truly is a compromise. Many of the provisions above -- i.e., the "trigger" that prevents implementation of regularization until border security is implemented, the point system that privileges assimilability over extended family connections, and the limitations on how long guest workers can stay -- were opposed by the Democrats and only accepted to ward off a Republican threat of filibuster.

The Democrats were actually anxious enough for the deal that they gave as much as did we. This was the best we could get; but amazingly, it's actually better than the version floating around the Republican-controlled Senate in the 109th Congress -- which passed the Senate on May 17th, 2006... but couldn't become law, because the Republican-controlled House opposed it.

I am very, very pleased that the bill actually addresses my main concern: That we reform our legal immigration system to make it predictable.

Immigrants should know what they can do to make acceptance more likely, what standards they must reach, and that acceptance or rejection will be based upon individual merit, rather than arbitrary, capricious, collectivist, and corrupt. The immigrant is told what skills and education generate how many points, so he can work towards becoming an American citizen. This alone makes illegal immigration far less attractive.

This point is far more critical to our long-term interests and national security than anything we do about the 11-12 million illegals currently here; they constitute only a temporary problem, because they won't live forever. The other point critical to national security is securing the border with some combination of wall, fence, and virtual fence, in order to keep out the next 12 million potential illegal aliens. Compared to these two points, every other immigration suggestion is mere dicta.

But please, folks, take a deep breath and read, read, read about the compromise. This Big Lizards post is a good starting point, since I worked like the Dickens to organize everything into a grand outline. Then you can follow the debate as it flows across the Senate and eventually the House.

A knee-jerk rejection of anything other than enforcement as "amnesty" does absolutely nothing to secure the border... and a knee-jerk vow never to vote for any Republican ever again does nothing but fill the congressional carriage team with Democratic squirrels... and then give Hillary Clinton the driver's whip.

Even if you hate the very idea of regularization, remember this:

  • The lesser of two evils is still evil...
  • But by definition, the lesser of two evils is also still less evil than the other one.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 17, 2007, at the time of 6:46 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Idolatry Thoughts II

Hatched by Dafydd

Once again, the lizards deliberately and with malice aforethought pump buckets of water all over Dean Barnett's parade...

Today, following last night's American Idol results show, Dean wrote the following:

WARNING! If you haven't yet watched your TiVo or tape and don't know who was eliminated (and assuming you care), stop reading this blog and get back to work. Your boss is this very minute peering over your cubical wall!

Dean wrote the following:

As you probably guessed, we’re mourning in Soxblog Manor over the departure of Melinda Doolittle last night. Mrs. Soxblog has even vowed to boycott the season finale.

I really think Mr. and Mrs. Soxblog have misunderstood the point of the show. Yes, Melinda was the best technical singer in the top ten of American Idol; but the purpose of the show is not to find the best singer; it is, per the title, to find an "idol." And idoldom takes much more than simple singing ability... it requires uniqueness, personality, confidence, and above all, the Potter-Stewart-like "star quality". (I don't mean Justice Stewart had it; I mean his famous quotation about knowing something when he sees it.)

Melinda entered the show as a backup singer, and I have thought all along that that is what she is. All right, maybe she's the Nicky Hopkins of backup singers; but she's never going to be the front man. She has no other quality than singing ability.

Either Blake Lewis or Jordin Sparks could be, though the lizards prefer Jordin: We were both quite moved by her rendition of the old "I (Who Have Nothing);" enough so that after the show, I went to YouTube and watched several other singers performing that song, including one of my all time favorites, Shirley Bassey.

This is an old song. The English version is credited to Jerry Leiber (lyrics) and Mike Stoller (music); but there was a previous Italian song -- I haven't heard it, but it's supposed to be suspiciously similar -- with lyrics by Giulio Rapetti and music by Labati Carlo Donida. Many singers have covered it, from Tom Jones to Ben E. King.

But honestly, the Jordin Sparks version was as good as, or even better than, the Shirley Bassey version -- even though Sparks is nowhere near as good a singer as Bassey. Sparks, who is only 17, pulled much more of the determination to fight out of the song and into her performance, while Bassey remained stuck in the hopelessness aspect. That is, Sparks made the song her own, taking a different tack than most other singers. (Blake did something similar with the Bon Jovi song "You Give Love a Bad Name," and I said at the time how much I liked it when singers do that.)

That is star quality. And to go all political (as Dean does, but in a different direction), that is why Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and yes, even John McCain are all front runners for the Republican nomination... while Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, and Sam Brownback, who have much the same positions on issues, are also-rans.

Jordin Sparks has star quality. Blake Lewis at least distinguishes himself enough to be unique. But Melinda Dolittle was never anything but an extremely talented but utterly commonplace singer... and that is why she ultimately failed to make the finale.

In both of the nationwide talent-search shows on right now -- American Idol and Dancing With the Stars -- the finale will, in fact, comprise the best choices: Jordin and Blake for AI; and Apolo Anton Ohono, Joey Fatone, and Leila Ali for Dancing. Any of those five deserves to win for his respective show

I'm very happy with the call-in voters this season -- they got it absolutely right.

(I do absolutely agree with Dean about the idiocy of the "Idol gives back" show a couple of weeks ago: It was pandering of the worst sort... and it didn't even have good performances! The spectacle of doddering, ancient Annie Lennox screeching her way through "Bridge Over Troubled Water" -- a song immensely difficult even for brilliant singers in their prime -- was simply painful and made me want to melt all my Eurythmics albums on the car radiator.

(By contrast, the performance this week by Maroon 5 -- which I'd never heard of before -- was excellent... enough so that I want to buy some of their CDs.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 17, 2007, at the time of 3:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 16, 2007

Pressure Mounts for Clinton, Obama, Feingold, Biden, Reid to Resign From Senate

Hatched by Dafydd

Today's humiliating vote on the bill by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) to set a hard date for American withdrawal from Iraq -- the bill needed 60 votes to break the Republican filibuster; it got 29 votes, a scant 31 votes short -- puts more pressure on the 28 Democrats who voted for it, including all Democratic presidential candidates still in the Senate, to resign from that august body in disgrace.

The proposal lost 29-67 on a procedural vote, falling 31 votes short of the necessary votes to advance. Of the 67 senators who opposed Feingold's proposal, there were 19 Democrats, 47 Republicans and Connecticut Independent Joseph Lieberman. Of the 29 supporting, 28 were Democrats and Vermont Independent Bernard Sanders.

(Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, 100%, is undisgraceable, so is excused from the calls for mass resignation.)

Everyone knew that the bill wouldn't be able to clear the 60-vote hurdle; but Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) was stunned by how little support he actually had within his own Democratic conference: The bill passed among Democrats by only 60% - 40%. In contrast, Republicans were solidly united against it; not even Sens. John Warner (R-VA, 64%), Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%), Susan Collins (R-ME, 48%), Charles Grassley (R-, 88%), or Chuck Hagel (R-, 75%) voted in favor. Sources within the Senate who do not wish to be identified say this signals an impossible task for the pro-surrender wing of Congress.

In a clear sign of a dangerous divorce from reality, Majority Leader Reid announced that a 60-40 split is an example of party unity:

"We stand united.... in our belief that troops are enmeshed in an intractable civil war," said Reid, D-Nev.

A number of independent observers have long raised concerns about Sen. Reid's mental stablity. This worry adds to many others in a rising tide of anti-Reid sentiment that threatens to force his resignation from the Senate, from politics, and perhaps from the world, were he to retire to a life of religious study and monkdom.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), who once harbored dreams of being elected president (or at least nominated), joined a number of other rats swimming towards the sinking ship:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential front-runner, previously opposed setting a deadline on the war. But she said she agreed to back the measure "because we, as a united party, must work together with clarity of purpose and mission to begin bringing our troops home and end this war."

As it became clear that Democrats are only united in their disunity, she found herself twisting slowly, slowly in the wind -- which, to be fair, is generally her preferred residence; she's not called "the weathercock of the Senate" for nothing. As pressure mounts for her to end her presidential run and leave public life, she may eventually find such a course more palatable than the increasingly untenable alternative.

Presidential formerly hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) cast his lonely vote for the bill in order to send a message:

Sen. Barack Obama, another leading 2008 prospect, said he would prefer a plan that offers more flexibility but wanted "to send a strong statement to the Iraqi government, the president and my Republican colleagues that it's long past time to change course."

Instead of a message, he should have sent a sausage: It would have been more easily consumed. But he is right; it is time for Obama and his fellow Democratic candidates and the Democratic majority in Congress to "change course" -- perhaps to supporting American victory, rather than agitating for American defeat.

Even perennial defeatist Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%), a veteran of such campaigns against victory, appears to have scented the shift in the prevailing winds; he voted against the Feingold bill, ironically remarking:

'We don't want to send the message to the troops' that Congress does not support them, said Levin, D-Mich. 'We're going to support those troops.'

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE, 100%), proudly and enthusiastically supported the failed effort on the Senate floor; however, this blog was unable to find a single source, even anonymous, who cared. Many believe that Biden intends his current presidential campaign to be a "swan song" to his overly long political career.

As the ripples spread from the crushing Democratic defeat, Sen. Warner's own surrender bill -- setting benchmarks with troop-withdrawals attached -- also failed. Sen. Levin, seeing the handwriting on the wall and reluctant to join the Democratic exodus out the door, withdrew his demand for defeat without allowing it to come to a vote.

Seeing nothing but "miserable failure" on all his anti-victory bills, Majority Leader Reid has evidently given up; he is now likely to admit the Democrats cannot pass any of the troop-abandonment bills that relentlessly burble up from the chamber on the other side of the Capitol Dome:

The Senate must take the next step by passing its own measure. Given the political forces at work, that legislation will be a placeholder, its only purpose to trigger three-way negotiations involving the House, Senate and Bush administration on a final compromise.

As a result, officials said Tuesday that Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had discussed jointly advancing a bill so barebones that it would contain no funds and do little more than express congressional support for the troops.

This non-bill bill, intended to be written entirely in the joint conference, has led to the suggestion from a number of voices that the majority leader should change his nickname (for however long he can withstand calls for him to step down) from Harry "Pinky" Reid to Harry "Fill In the Blank" Reid.

Even the majority leader himself appears to recognize the drubbing his party just took:

Negotiations on the final compromise are expected to take days.

Wednesday's votes on Feingold and other proposals "will provide strong guidance to our conferees and help shape the conference negotiations we have ahead of us," said Reid.

Let us hope so.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 16, 2007, at the time of 2:00 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

"Surge" - Yet to Begin - Produces Mere 15% Drop So Far

Hatched by Dafydd

A fascinating glimpse into the defeatism mindset: The so-called "surge" (that is, the counterinsurgency strategy), which has not actually started yet (they're still prepping the ground and waiting for the final brigade to take its place), has already produced a 15% drop in attacks... and AP dismisses that as "little effect":

A U.S. government report released Tuesday showed that the recent U.S. troop increase and security crackdown has had little effect on the high number of attacks in the country.

The average number of attacks rose from 71 a day in January 2006 to a high of 176 per day in October, according to the report from the Government Accountability Office. In February, when the troop increase began to take effect, daily attacks dropped slightly to 164. Daily attacks averaged 157 in March and 149 in April, the report said.

Pulling out my rusty calculator, Iraq attacks have dropped by 27 per day... which is more than 15% of what they were. In other words, before the counterinsurgency operation has even begun, attacks -- we're talking attacks from al-Qaeda here -- have already dropped by 15%. And we likewise know that sectarian violence has plummeted.

So you'd expect that civilian deaths would have dropped as well, right? Well, AP wasn't sure; the one report they looked at didn't tell them; so they decided not to bother trying to find out:

The report, which cited the U.S.-led forces in Iraq for the figures, did not measure the numbers killed and wounded in the attacks.

Military officials have said that since the security crackdown in the Baghdad region began more than 12 weeks ago, Sunni insurgents have hit back with powerful, and extremely deadly, car bombs that often cause more casualties than the types of attacks used previously.

Often? But are more or fewer people being killed now than back in 2006? To this question, the author, Thomas Wagner -- or perhaps the author, Hamid Ahmed, and the white guy who takes credit, Thomas Wagner (we'll never know!) -- shrugs his shoulders in journalistic helplessness. What can he do?

He could trundle all the way over to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count to see what could be seen... as Big Lizards did. They're not the best source; but they do thoroughly count every slain Iraqi civilian reported by the elite media (along with many other statistics); so let's give it a shot:

  • In the last half of 2006, an average of 1,978 "civilian deaths" per month were reported;
  • In January 2007, before the counterinsurgency buildup began, there were 1,711;
  • In February, just as the operation was announced, there were 2,864 (more than in any month in 2006 except September);
  • In March, this dropped to 2,762;
  • In April, it was 1,521;
  • In May through the 15th, it's 729, for a projected 1,507 civilian deaths.

Or to put it into percentages, from the local peak in February, civilian deaths have dropped by 1,357 per month, or 47%.

But perhaps that's not really fair; we shouldn't count from a "surge" of al-Qaeda attacks right before we began inserting the brigades into Baghdad and Anbar provinces. All right, let's count instead from the average of the latter half of 2006.

In that case, civilian deaths have dropped by only 471 per month... which is a drop in civilian killings of a "scant" 24%. What was it AP said again?

Sunni insurgents have hit back with powerful, and extremely deadly, car bombs that often cause more casualties than the types of attacks used previously.

Evidently not that often.

So let's tote up the statistics: The counterinsurgency has so far produced a drop in the monthly number of attacks in Iraq of about 15%, and a drop in the monthly toll of civilian killings of about 24%... and the actual operation hasn't even begun yet.

If that is what AP calls "little effect," I wonder what the heck they'll say when the full counterinsurgency actually gets rolling, and the drops are even steeper than that. Perhaps, after some sleepless nights pondering their diction, they'll upgrade the rhetoric... and declare that the reduction in dead Iraqis has gone from "little" to "modest effect."

I modestly submit that, were we talking about homicide-rate reductions in any American city with a Democratic mayor, the elites would be cheering and cutting capers in the streets.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 16, 2007, at the time of 6:02 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 15, 2007

Wow, What a Difference!

Hatched by Dafydd

In the last debate at the Reagan Library in Seedy Valley, California -- the one sponsored by MSNBC and run by Chris Matthews -- I was so bored, I practically had to go the Fred Flintstone route, resorting to toothpicks to prop my eyelids open.

But during this debate tonight in South Carolina, sponsored by Fox News Channel and moderated by Brit Hume, Chris Matthews, and Wendell Goler, I was absolutely riveted. I especially loved the "unfolding scenario" at the end; it fascinated me that John McCain railed against what he calls "torture" -- but then said he would go ahead and use it in the situation they described! Talk about having your omlet and eating a few eggs too...

I liked the straightforward way that both Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney made it clear that they would use any means necessary to extract the information about where the other bombs were set to go off; and I cringed with embarassment when fellow Californian Duncan Hunter -- I think it was he -- misunderstood the scenario to involve the use of nuclear bombs.

Best line of the night, even better than Giuliani's smackdown of that malignant troll Ron Paul, was one of the third-tier candidates, I forget which one, saying that Congress was spending more money than John Edwards at a beauty salon. He should have gone whole hog and called the erstwhile vice-presidential nominee the "Pink Sapphire." ("Silky Pony" would have done as well; but I think we're way, way past the "Breck Girl" phase.)

And now for the prizes...

  • Romney gets the G. Gordon Liddy Award for most directly answering all questions put to him; if Wallace asked him, "do you know what time it is?" Romney would look at his watch and say, "Yes."
  • Giuliani gets the George W. Bush Award for speaking with the most mangled syntax and sentence structure, while still somehow managing to be understandable.
  • McCain's John Kerry Trophy is for the largest number of brazen contradictions between the head and the butt of the same sentence.
  • Fred Thompson gets the C. Aubrey Smith Illustrious Gold Medallion for acting the most presidential, even though he wasn't there. Or maybe because he wasn't there.
  • Sam Brownback gets the Claude Rains Clear Ribbon for... for -- wait, was he there?
  • Wallace and Goler get a joint Charleton Heston Accolade for conspiring to make Chris Matthews sound about as serious (and bright) as a call-in to Howard Stern.
  • Fox News Channel gets the Absent Minded Professor Prize for forgetting to change the broadcast schedule they send to cable companies to include this debate... which has been planned for months; this makes it tough for those of us who TiVo or otherwise digitally record shows, but I guess the geezers who run that cable network think that's a miniscule audience which can be ignored.
  • Finally, Ron Paul gets the Shoe-Scraping Globule for least desirable person in the debate. His almost belligerent refusal even to recognize that the 9/11 attacks might have realigned our national priorities, coupled with his nigh-Dickensian obsession (think "poor King Charles' head") with a splendid isolationism that probably played very well -- in Benjamin Harrison's administration -- makes me long to see the back of him.

    If he absolutely must participate in the next debate, let him do so remotely from his home... under some bridge in southeastern Texas.

I'm eagerly looking forward to the next debate... I mean the one between Dean Barnett, Glenn Reynolds, and Paul Mirengoff over which nth-tier candidates will drop off first, and which ones will cling on like Kang the Merciless.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 15, 2007, at the time of 8:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Christmas In George Washington Hospital

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Cue the dramatic music; turn down the thermostat -- we want it chilly, chilly.

Lights out!

A small floor-spot illuminates James B. Comey, former deputy Attorney General, from below (played by Mel Gibson), as he begins to speak, calmly and slowly...

“I was very upset,” said James B. Comey, who was deputy Attorney General at the time, in his testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me.”

The hospital visit by Mr. Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., who was then White House chief of staff, has been disclosed before, but never in such dramatic, personal detail. Mr. Comey’s account offered a rare and titillating glimpse of a Washington power struggle, complete with a late-night showdown in the White House after a dramatic encounter in a darkened hospital room -- in short, elements of a potboiler paperback novel.

"Boil that dust mote, boil that dust mote!"

Actually, what this article in the New York Times (I'm not putting the name in italics because I depleted my supply in an earlier paragraph) reminded me of most was a naughty-nurse novel; all the elements are there: the stolen hours, the steamy emotionalism, the torn unmentionables...

And the heavy:

On the night of March 10, 2004, a high-ranking Justice Department official rushed to a Washington hospital to prevent two White House aides from taking advantage of the critically ill Attorney General, John Ashcroft, the official testified today.

One of those aides was Alberto R. Gonzales, who was then White House counsel and eventually succeeded Mr. Ashcroft as Attorney General.

When the New York Times interviewed Attorney General Gonzales to get his side of this controversy, here is how he explained his actions:






The other "bad guy" is not a person but a program: the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program to develop intelligence on al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States... a program that Mr. Comey, the man who would be AG, hates with every fiber of his being.

That was the subject of the clandestine tryst and epoch struggle between Gonzales and the "critically ill" Attorney General Ashcroft -- he had a gallstone which migrated to his pancreas, causing some pain and discomfort: Gonzales was desperate to continue the National Security Agency's monitoring of international phone calls where one terminus was a known al-Qaeda agent; while Ashcroft, well known for his deep concern for the civil liberties of terrorist suspects, was very concerned about the constitutionality and legality of the program.

Although Mr. Comey declined to say specifically what the business was that sent Mr. Gonzales to the bedside of Mr. Ashcroft in George Washington Hospital, where he lay critically ill with pancreatitis, it was clear that the subject was the National Security Agency’s secret domestic surveillance program. The signature of Mr. Ashcroft or his surrogate was needed by the next day, March 11, in order to renew the program, which was still secret at that time....

Around the time of the hospital incident, the White House suspended parts of the program for several months and imposed tougher requirements on the National Security Agency on how the program was to be used.Mr. Comey told the committee today that when Mr. Ashcroft was ill and he was in charge at the Justice Department, he told the White House he would not certify the program again “as to its legality.”

Considering that Ashcroft would be out of the hospital and back to his normal duties fairly shortly, I would hope that the "acting" Attorney General wouldn't take it upon himself to make such a momentous decision -- especially knowing that his boss was deep in negotiations with la Casa Blanca on minor oversight changes Ashcroft wanted to see. (Who knew italics were a renewable resource?)

Comey testified that the forces of goodness discovered the Evil One's plans when it was almost too late... almost! Comey received a frantic phone call from Janet Ashcroft, the Attorney General's wife, who had herself received a veiled warning from a contact known only as "Deep Oval." Some folks think it was Mark Felt, feeling a bit lonely. Others say it was Bigfoot. Some folks think it was President Bush himself, so ashamed and guilt-ridden that he had to try to stop the terrible power grab by Gonzales:

On the night of March 10, as he was being driven home by his security detail, he got a telephone call from Mr. Ashcroft’s chief of staff, who had just been contacted by Mr. Ashcroft’s wife, Janet.

Although Mrs. Ashcroft had banned visitors and telephone calls to her husband’s hospital room, she had just gotten a call from the White House telling her that Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales were on their way to see her husband, Mr. Comey testified. “I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself, but I don’t know that for sure,” Mr. Comey said.

He said his security detail then sped him to the hospital with sirens blaring and emergency lights flashing, while he telephoned the director of the F.B.I., Robert S. Mueller 3d, from the car. Mr. Mueller shared his sense of urgency: “He said, ‘I’ll meet you at the hospital right now,’ ” Mr. Comey testified.

When contacted by writer David Stout, Mrs. Ashcroft added these details:




Robert Mueller, in an exclusive interview for the Times, took a hard line on such shenanigans. He could barely contain his outrage in this exchange with Stout:






Through the unearned grace of the Almighty, the legion of decency managed to arrive at George Washington Hospital first (I cannot tell a lie). They waited in silent vigil, girding their loins and putting on their manly gowns for the final battle before the gates of Mordor:

Mr. Comey recalled arriving at the darkened hospital room, where Mr. Ashcroft seemed hardly aware of his surroundings. For a time, only Mr. Comey and the Ashcrofts were in the room. Meanwhile, Mr. Mueller, who had not yet arrived, told Mr. Comey’s security detail by phone “not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances,” Mr. Comey testified.

Minutes later, he said, Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card entered the room, with Mr. Gonzales carrying an envelope. “And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there, to seek his approval for a matter,” Mr. Comey related.

Confronted with this damning testimony, Andrew Card was almost at a loss for words:




But the grand climax was yet to come. Like a bolt from Gandalf's staff, Ashbed suddenly jerked upright, rising from his near-deathbed to thunder like an Old Testament prophet...

“And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me,” Mr. Comey went on: He raised his head from the pillow, reiterated his objections to the program, then lay back down, pointing to Mr. Comey as the attorney general during his illness.

Spent, his power drained, John Ashcroft resigned after the elections that year. But he managed to survive his dreadful ordeal, and has since been nursed (by elves) back to some semblance of good health. When the Times contacted him -- as the principal involved in this exchange -- he offered these words of hope and healing:






He then offered his blessing and papal dispensation for the numerous traffic violations that Comey was forced to commit by the urgency of the emergency.

But our tale is not yet full told; a savage denouement erupted later, at the very House of Blackness...

Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card departed, but after a while, Mr. Card telephoned Mr. Comey and “demanded that I come to the White House immediately,” Mr. Comey said.

“After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness, and I intend that witness to be the solicitor general of the United States,” Mr. Comey said he told Mr. Card.

Whereupon, Mr. Comey said, he contacted the solicitor general, Theodore B. Olson, who was at a dinner party, and arranged to go with him to the White House. At first, Mr. Card would not let Mr. Olson enter his office, Mr. Comey said; he then had a considerably calmer private chat with Mr. Card for a quarter-hour, after which Mr. Olson entered the room and took part in the conversation.

Fortunately for Comey, Ted Olson is readily available for comment. I can only imagine Comey's sigh of relief when Olson, contacted for independent verification by the Times, was able to buttress Comey's words with this much-needed corroboration:




Separately, the Associated Press is also hot on this story. They contacted White House spokesman Tony Snow, as the obvious person to comment on a secret hospital struggle in 2004, and received this stunning confirmation:

Asked about Comey's testimony, White House press secretary Tony Snow said he didn't know anything about the conversation at Ashcroft's bedside.

But it's the New York Times that is driving this new Bush/Gonazles scandal, and it is the Times that draws the obvious conclusion: After such an obvious attempt at a coup d'état, the only honorable thing for the Attorney General to do is resign immediately, shave his head, take a vow of silence, and become a Trappist monk:

Even before Mr. Comey’s testimony, ["Chairman of today's committee session" Sen. Charles "Chuck"] Schumer [D-NY, 100%] and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania [43%], the panel’s ranking Republican, reiterated their low opinion of Mr. Gonzales as attorney general.

“He’s presided over a Justice Department where being a, quote, loyal Bushie seems to be more important than being a seasoned professional, where what the White House wants is more important than what the law requires or what prudence dictates,” Schumer said.

“It is the decision of Mr. Gonzales as to whether he stays or goes, but it is hard to see how the Department of Justice can function and perform its important duties with Mr. Gonzales remaining where he is,” Specter said. “And beyond Mr. Gonzales’ decision, it’s a matter for the president as to whether the president will retain the attorney general or not.”

Thank God we have Chuck Schumer and Arlen Specter to defend us on our hospital beds from visitations by various unwanted Gonzaleses and Cards.

And an especial cheek-kissing accolade to Mr. David Stout of the New York Times for his sense of fairness and integrity, and his journalistic determination to present all sides of such a melodramatic story. Where would we be without such dogged digging?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 15, 2007, at the time of 4:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 14, 2007

Does Our Own Military Understand We're at War?

Hatched by Sachi

Speaking of loose lips sinking ships...

In recent months, several disturbing security breaches occured involving the United States Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (MSDF -- the Japanese "navy"); these cases appear to be deliberate acts of espionage on the part of Red China, rather than the foolish mistakes by blabbermouthed Pentagon staffers I talked about in my last post. In both cases, sensitive information was believed headed for China and may or may not have been intercepted before getting there.

  • Last Thursday, a naturalized, Chinese-born electrical engineer, Chi Mak, was convicted of spying for China.

This one hits close to home, because I once had a naturalized, Chinese-born co-worker who had a position of access to classified material and who acted very peculiarly. He disappeared from the job one day, and we never found out why; management seemed very tight-lipped. But we all wondered...

A Chinese American engineer was found guilty Thursday of conspiring to send information about U.S. Navy technology to China that would make it easier to detect U.S. submarines.

Chi Mak, a naturalized citizen, was convicted of conspiracy to violate export control laws, attempting to violate export control laws, acting as an unregistered agent of the People's Republic of China, and lying to the FBI.

Mak was a very long-term, deep cover agent who began his espionage career in the 1960s, moving to Hong Kong -- then still controlled by the British -- to make it appear he was not connected to Red China.

The next two cases both involve Japanese sailors with Chinese wives or girlfriends who have a peculiar interest in highly classified American military hardware:

  • According to Japan Times, on March 29th 2007, several floppy disks which contain secret sensor data were found in the house of a Japanese petty officer second class (PO2) who has a Chinese wife.

This is even creepier, because I have, in the past, been responsible for handling disks and tapes used to record classified data:

Kanagawa Prefectural Police found floppy disks containing data on the Aegis destroyer's radar system and transmission frequencies in the home of a Maritime Self-Defense Force sailor during a probe of his Chinese wife on suspicion of violating the immigration law, investigative sources said Friday.

When I read this, my first thought was, who gave him access to the disks? Here, at least, non-commissioned officers are not allowed to handle such data media; only the technician (usually civilian) doing the recording and the engineers who analyze the data are supposed to touch the disks or tapes.

Clearly, in this Japanese navy case, one of two things happened: Either the person in charge of the disks was an accomplice, or else he was incredibly careless handling highly classified material.

The unnamed MSDF petty officer is also suspected of having taken home data on other destroyer radar systems that may have been provided by someone higher in the MSDF....

As the petty officer second class is not in a position that gives him access to Aegis data, police suspect another MSDF member gave him the information, the sources said. [Yes, but deliberately or stupidly?]

Since I work in a similar environment with sensitive data, I know how such material can be stolen if those charged with handling such disks or tapes are careless... or worse, if they're part of the gang.

And didn't anybody notice the disks were missing? Or did he make copies? The latter would be much more serious, because it would show a clear intent to deceive. Unfortunately, we're not given answers to many questions that arise.

Finally, from the same Japan Times story is this throwaway line:

  • "In August, police found another MSDF sailor had copied data on foreign submarines from an MSDF base onto a compact disc and brought it home. He also made trips to Shanghai to visit a Chinese woman who worked in a karaoke bar he frequented."

I don't at all blame the People's Republic of China for stealing American technology (from us or from our allies): Although we're not exactly enemies, as we were with the Soviet Union, they are still a Communist country. And they are, at the least, strategic competitors. Since I'm happy that we spy on China and North Korea (and I think we should do more spying), I can't complain about them spying on us.

What is disturbing is how many American and allied military personnel are willing to cooperate with Chinese spies -- usually for trivial rewards: for sex or for small amounts of money; most traitors make only a few tens of thousands of dollars for betraying their country.

But the most astonishing point is that simple, off-the-shelf technology -- in use in the private sector for as long as I can remember -- can prevent much of these kinds of theft from happening; but few military bases or ships bother to use it!

When a disk or tape is finished recording, whether on a ship on at a military base, it is supposed to be logged by the person in charge of the physical recording; if at that point, it were immediately slipped into a "drop safe" -- a safe with a one-way slot for inserting materials -- then theft or copying could only occur with the connivance either of the recording operator, who is responsible for dropping the media into the safe, or of a single designated person who is the only one with the combination to the safe.

Whenever an analyst needs to work with the materials, he would have to get that designated person to open the safe and log the fact that so-and-so checked out the data; but when the analyst finishes, he himself can put it back using the drop slot.

Drop safes can easily be purchased from any safe manufacturer; restaurants and retail stores have used them for decades to secure excess cash. Anybody who has worked retail probably knows about them. While a drop safe is not a "magic bullet" against espionage, but it's a simple solution that can make it much, much harder for unauthorized personnel to get hold of such sensitive data.

The fact that such a cheap and obvious security measure has never occurred to the Navy points to a problem that is much more serious than a few Chinese agents running around loose: the complete lack of security consciousness found in so many American and allied military bases. I get the impression that many base commanders in our own services -- and even more so base commanders in allied countries -- don't truly understand that we're at war.

I see this lack of security consciousness all the time: security guards not checking employee ID cards, airport security "screeners" too busy chatting to notice suspicous item on the screen, and unlogged classified data tapes and disks carelessly tossed in a box with no real clue how many there are (making it nearly impossible to tell if one is missing).

Unknown people knock on doors of secure buildings and are let in by "helpful" employees who don't know them from Adam. Passwords that are never changed from the day they were issued -- or worse, passwords changed to something "easy to remember," like the user's name, birthdate, and so forth. Each of these lapses can be prevented by civilian management or military commanders who themselves take security seriously... you know, like were at war or something.

We must be vigilant in guarding our secrets; if they are stolen, the fault is not with the enemy agent... he is only acting as a patriot for his own country. And while the moral guilt may reside with the PO2 who took the classified data home to his Red Chinese wife -- what about that "someone higher" in the military food chain who either intentionally handed over classified military data... or at the very least, left it lying around where it could be grabbed?

Security consciousness applies not only here but in any other country which purchases American technology or cooperates with us in security operations. It can be especially difficult for a country like Japan, which has not seen a real war for over 60 years, to understand the concept. But what is the U.S. Navy's excuse?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 14, 2007, at the time of 4:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 13, 2007

The War: Plus Ça Change, Plus Ce N'est Pas la Même Chose

Hatched by Dafydd

Much ado is made of a point -- a cliche, in fact -- that I thought should be fairly obvious: The longer we fight, the more -- and the faster -- the enemy adapts to our methods; but so too, the more and faster we adapt to the enemy's adaptations.

Some Democrats appear to find great cause for rejoicing in the first part of this truism; they hope it signals imminent defeat, allowing them to get on with the urgent task of capturing more seats in Congress and electing a Democratic president. However, by ignoring the second part of the truism, they set themselves up for the catastrophic possibility of America winning.

Let's take a single example: When the enemy realized that we mostly moved soldiers around the battlefield on Humvees, they began attacking them with great effectiveness; IEDs account for most of the 3,300 deaths of our servicemen in Iraq. We responded by switching to the Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) Stryker at the end of 2003 (and by "up-armoring" the Humvee, but that was never particularly satisfactory). The Strykers proved extraordinarily resistant to rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and even to the small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that had killed so many Humvees during the months following the rise of the insurgency in late 2003.

There is no question that the Stryker offered far more protection than the Humvee and troop-transport trucks; and since it was never intended to replace M1 main battle tanks or M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, it's counterproductive to compare them. Alas, by late 2006/early 2007, the insurgents in Iraq -- with much help from Iran -- started effectively killing Strykers (and sometimes the men inside) in a number of ambushes. They had learned to buried heavy explosives, shaped charges, and explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), which the Strykers were never designed to repel:

A string of heavy losses from powerful roadside bombs has raised new questions about the vulnerability of the Stryker, the Army's troop-carrying vehicle hailed by supporters as the key to a leaner, more mobile force.

Since the Strykers went into action in violent Diyala province north of Baghdad two months ago, losses of the vehicles have been rising steadily, U.S. officials said.

A single infantry company in Diyala lost five Strykers this month in less than a week, according to soldiers familiar with the losses, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release the information. The overall number of Strykers lost recently is classified.

Clearly, the enemy has "gotten the Strykers' number," at least if he has a chance to prepare a big enough bomb in advance and plant it deep enough not to be spotted: The Stryker's undercarriage is not heavily armored, and its flat surface makes it an ideal target for EFPs.

The insurgents also apparently are becoming better at hiding the devices - the IED that killed the six soldiers and the journalist was believed hidden in a sewer line. To add potency, insurgents surrounded the device with cement to channel the blast force up into the tank, according to soldiers familiar with the investigation.

Supporters of the Strykers say all that proves that it's the lethality of bombs in Iraq - not the Strykers themselves - that are the problem: The bombs are now so powerful that even Abrams main battle tanks are vulnerable to some of them.

The natural tendency for proponents of tracked vehicles is to point to the Stryker's wheels and say, "Well there's yer problem right there, lady!" Unfortunately, the Abrams MBT and the Bradley have also been killed at somewhat disturbing rates lately; we're fighting a completely different kind of warfare than the Gulf War, during which those two tracked vehicles received their baptism of fire. I honestly think the wheels vs. tracks controversy is a false herring.

The real problem is simply that the most common method of attacking any vehicle in Iraq today -- and in Afghanistan tomorrow, I'm sure -- is from below; and until very recently, no American combat vehicle was specifically designed to counter such attacks... which are not very common in "force on force" warfare. (This is another instance where counterinsurgency strategy differs from the strategy when opposing an enemy army.)

There simply is no way to put enough armor on the undercarriage of a Stryker (or Humvee, Abrams, or Bradley) to prevent a big enough EFP punching through it; the culprit is the flat surface of the undercarriage itself... it's like smashing a wall with a battering ram: Hit hard enough, and you're going to punch right through, because there's nowhere else for the force to go. (It helps that the EFP is also white hot, melting the steel enough to reduce material strength.)

But don't forget the second half of the truism above; the enemy had his inning, and now it's ours...

Enter the MRAP: the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected class of vehicles. The Marines and the Army have more or less settled on the Couger H-series of MRAP and the Buffalo H-series of Mine Protected Route Clearance (MPCV) vehicles, both manufactured by Force Protection Inc... the latter being a somewhat larger version of the Cougar, equipped with a fork-toothed arm for explosive ordnance disposal (the Buffalo's nickname is "the Claw"):

Couger H-series MRAP    Buffalo H-series MPCV

Couger H-series MRAP (L) and Buffalo H-series MPCV (R)

The great innovation of the MRAP is to redesign the undercarriage itself... and to correct the flaw that made our earlier combat vehicles so vulnerable: their underbelly flatness. MRAPs have a V-shaped hull that channels blast effect to the sides of the vehicle, graphically demonstrated here. Even EFPs have trouble penetrating the undercarriage of an MRAP:

MRAP taking blast

MRAP taking blast; explosive force is redirected to sides of vehicle

The design of the MRAP actually dates back more than three decades to counterinsurgency operations in South Africa. The basic idea of a V-shaped hull to channel radiant energy is even older, being the same principle used in "radar-deflecting" airplane hulls, which have been in development at Lockheed's "Skunk Works" since the early 1970s (they won the actual contract for development of the F117A stealth attack aircraft in 1978); and in a sense, the very idea of the prow of a boat being "pointy" is the same principle in action on the surface of the water.

The Army and Marines have currently ordered 7,774 Cougers, and the program has the very enthusiastic support of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:

Well, I think the first thing that caught my attention, as is often the case, was a newspaper article that indicated that, out of something like 300 incidents involving IEDs, where these MRAP vehicles were involved, no Marines had been killed. And that certainly got my attention.

But the actual buy will likely be much higher, as Multi-National Corps-Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, has ordered the entire fleet of Humvees in Iraq to be replaced by MRAPs over the next two years, according to the Army Times:

Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren confirmed today that the Army is set to substantially increase the number of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles it had planned to buy, replacing within two years the 17,700 Humvees now in Iraq....

The Marine Corps already has more than 100 MRAPs on the ground in Iraq, and the Army will field the first of its 2,500 MRAPs in Iraq beginning in August, 700 of which are already in hand, Geren said.

The MRAP program has moved quickly and is a joint procurement effort between the Army and Marine Corps.

What has held back fielding of more MRAPs is not a "hidebound" military culture or the unwillingness to adapt to changing circumstances. Like upgrading personal body armor for soldiers, the real roadblock is that there aren't enough assembly lines to turn out MRAPs at the speed we need them. That will be the biggest hurdle we'll have to overcome to completely replace the fleet of Humvees (and possibly even Strykers) in the timeframe demanded:

As of July 2006, more than 200 Buffalo and Cougar vehicles were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan without a fatality, despite more than 1,000 mine detonations and IED attacks (see DefenseTech for an especially hilarious example). With more orders in the pipeline from American, Iraqi, and now British customers, meeting production demand has become a challenge for a firm that had just 12 employees at the beginning of 2004.

Force Protection, Inc. hired its 500th employee in July 2006, and a July 17, 2006 release noted that they are engaged in efforts to triple their internal manufacturing capacity. A second and third Cougar production line is being put in place following $41 million of equity financing, and production of its Buffalo variant is also slated to double.

Despite a bit of a slow start, the point carries, I believe. The second half of our cliche above continues to hold true: The enemy adapted to our Humvees and started killing them; we responded by up-armoring them and introducing Strykers. Then the insurgents figured out how to attack our vehicles from below with heavy explosive force... and again we responded, this time with a whole new (for us) class of vehicles, the MRAPs.

In the innovation race, we have the choice to place our money on the United States military and the militaries of our allies -- or on a bunch of Iranian fanatics and their flying monkeys in the Mahdi Militia.

I know where my bet is going.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 13, 2007, at the time of 11:50 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 11, 2007

Security Violator of the Year Award

Hatched by Sachi

We have recently read about new military policies promulgated by the Pentagon relating to milblogs; due to security concerns, they now want all milbloggers to receive counseling about operational security (OPSEC) and how to protect it. This got me wondering... just exactly how often do milbloggers unknowingly leak sensitive information?

The answer, according to retired Navy Intelligence Specialist DJ Elliott at the Fourth Rail is -- not often. Elliott has been keeping track of principal OPSEC violators; Elliott is publishing a series of Order of Battle (OOB) reports on Bill Roggio's site.

The type of secret information released to the public often seems harmless at the first glance. Look at the caption published by attached to a photograph published by the Multi National Force Division North:

U.S. Army Soldiers move to the UH-60 Black Hawk after searching the area for items of interest during an aerial response force mission, Iraq, March 31. Soldiers are assigned to the 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway.

What's wrong with this picture? It tells you which unit is operating down to the platoon level, their mission, and the exact date. Our enemies find these pieces of information very useful. I know for a fact that even during training exercises conducted inside the United States, this type of information is closely guarded. Why is it so casully released from the war zone? According to Elliott, this is typical:

Multinational Division-Central: Before they even stood up I knew which Brigades were officially in their command and what area they were getting. Since then the Commanding General has told the press that 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade are also joining them, I have their full OOB and the units are not even all there yet. The elements of 6th Iraqi Army Division in their area get ID'd all the time, however the security on unit IDs of 8th Iraqi Army Division is maintained.

In Elliott's post, he lists some of the worst offenders, ranking them from 10 to 1 (where 10 is the worst). So we're all waiting with bated breath; who is the most egregious offender? The answer may not surprise you, depending on your knowledge of the military:

The worst OPSEC violator in the senior staffs is the Pentagon. I get more advance notice from a Pentagon Press Brief of US movements from Kuwait into Iraq than I get from all other sources combined. The Pentagon acts as if it is not at war, and the leaks emanating from Arlington are enormous.

The Pentagon? Not the milbloggers? Say it ain't so, DJ!

In fact, Pentagon staffers are so bad, Elliott doesn't even bother including them in the list. So here are the lesser sources; all comments, unless [bracketed] off, are Elliott quotations:

  • 10. Multinational Division-North: Shoot your Air Force photographers as enemy spies.

    [Elliott retracted this statement after an e-mail exchange with an Air Force master sergeant combat photographer who, quite understandably, took extreme exception. But the basic point is important enough that we included the retracted comment -- which in fact remains in the blogpost.]

  • 9. Multinational Division-Central
  • 8. Multinational Division-Baghdad: The OPSEC was poor in the past, but it has improved over last three months.

Ranking in the middle are the Marines in Anbar and the training teams. They are good at not revealing specific IDs of Iraqi Security Forces, but they tend to get careless about themselves. Sometimes their commanders "expound a bit too much," as Elliott puts it.

The Brits and the Poles are much better, but even they slip up now and again:

  • 7. Multinational Force-West: The Marines in Anbar.
  • 6. Training Teams.
  • 5. Multinational Division-South East: The Brits have years of experience in talking around a subject and it shows.
  • 4. Multinational Division-Central South: The Polish lead force occasionally provides unit IDs and locations but, normally well after the fact of the operation...

Now the best three. Surprisingly, milbloggers come in third best:

  • 3. Military Bloggers: Despite the worries by the hierarchy, I have seen only five valid OPSEC violations in two years from Military Bloggers concerning ISF/Coalition forces (only 1 in the last year). MilBloggers tend to lose unit IDs and details in their writings in a way that PAOs [Public Affairs Officers] should study and learn from.
  • 2. Special Operations Forces: We have SOF? All joking aside their security is good and the Iraqi Security Forces is following their lead, except they do acknowledge that I SOF conducts operations now.
  • 1. Multinational Division-North East/Zaytun Division (Republic of Korea Army): The best in-theater OPSEC. Period. The only thing I see from their AOR [area of responsibilty] is what new project or jobs training is ongoing. Unit identification of coalition/Iraqi Security Forces below Division does not get released by the Koreans. I get my data on Iraqi Security Forces in that area from US PAO releases and briefs.

If you think about it, it is hardly surprising that boots on the ground (and their families) are very close-mouthed about the units' activities: They are the soldiers most directly affected by violations of OPSEC. The worst offenders are the commanders and senior staffers far from the battlefield, men and women who do not have to face bullets and IEDs themselves. They have a bad tendency to brag about their "achievements."

The good news is that, since the Fourth Rail started publishing these OOB reports, violations of OPSEC have plummeted:

Also since we started publishing these OOBs, the reported unit IDs have dropped by more than half. Some of the previous OPSEC violators have either rethought what they were doing or been "counseled". Good. The harder it is for the OOB to be updated the better I feel.

I congraturate Mr. Elliott and for his fine job and the Fourth Rail for giving him a forum. I hope the military will take this warning to heart and keep up the good work. Remember, "Loose Lips Sink Ships!"

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 11, 2007, at the time of 6:41 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The "Surge" - Which Hasn't Actually Started Yet - Is Petering Out!

Hatched by Dafydd

The rush to despair really gets my goat... forcing me, once again, to criticize my all-time favorite blog.

Paul Mirengoff on Power Line wrote a post today fretting that "the surge" (as he insists upon calling it) may be "too little too late." Here is the excerpt in which he defends this military analysis:

It is true that the surge is not complete. But it sounds like the additional forces will concentrate on the outskirts of Baghdad. Though it's possible that progress there will bring benefits to Baghdad, it seems at least as likely that what we're seeing now in Baghdad is roughly what we will get during the remainder of the year.

Where to begin? Oh, I know where...

The urge to "surge"

First, the term "surge" is both misleading and unfortunate. I think it comes from the Iraq Study Group's final report, where they wrote (page 50):

Because of the importance of Iraq to our regional security goals and to our ongoing fight against al Qaeda, we considered proposals to make a substantial increase (100,000 to 200,000) in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. We rejected this course because we do not believe that the needed levels are available for a sustained deployment. Further, adding more American troops could conceivably worsen those aspects of the security problem that are fed by the view that the U.S. presence is intended to be a long-term “occupation.” We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective.

I don't know where they got it; some chowderhead in the Pentagon, most likely. But applying this term to Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy is like calling the Battle of the Philippines in World War II a kafuffle: It's non-descriptive, pejorative, and dismissive.

I really wish both those in the news media and secondary sources like bloggers would stop describing our complete change of strategy as a "surge." A surge would mean just squirting a few more troops into the existing strategy.

Instead, we have fundamentally changed everything about our approach to Iraq. It's time to move on from any initial misconceptions we had in 2006 to what we now understand (if we've kept up with our Big Lizards reading) was the complete replacement of a failed "attrition" strategy to a new strategy of counterinsurgency -- which has been effective in similar situations in the past (e.g., Algeria and Vietnam) -- coupled with replacing the entire top leadership of the war, from the commander of MNF-I (Gen. George Casey) to the commander of CENTCOM (Gen. John Abizaid) to the Secretary of Defense himself (Don Rumsfeld).

Those positions are now held by Gen. David Petraeus (commander MNF-I), Adm. William Fallon (commander CENTCOM), and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. I'm not sure whether Fallon was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, but both Petraeus and Gates were.

It may or may not work, but it stands a tremendously greater chance than would a mere "surge;" and it was a monumental about-face by the Bush administration. (Thus proving that the president does indeed listen to criticism and take it seriously.)

Once upon a time...

My next point of demur is this sentence from Paul's post: "It is true that the surge is not complete."

Yes, that is correct. But it's roughly like saying "it is true that the 2008 campaign is not complete"... it has barely even begun!

We discussed this point back in April, more than two weeks ago; according to Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, former professor of military history at the the United States Military Academy of West Point and one of the actual creators of the strategy, the "heavy lifting" of the counterinsurgency has not even begun yet. It's scheduled for "late May or June." All we have done so far is prepare the battlefield for counterinsurgency:

Most of the military operations of recent months have been laying the groundwork for clear-and-hold operations that will be the centerpiece of the new plan. Coalition and Iraqi forces have targeted al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent cells in Baghdad, in their bases around the capital, and in Anbar, Salahaddin, and Diyala provinces. They have established positions throughout Baghdad and swept a number of neighborhoods in a preliminary fashion. They have begun placing concrete barriers around problematic neighborhoods to restrict access and change traffic flow to support future operations. Targeted raids have removed a number of key leaders from the Shiite militias as well, reducing the effectiveness of Sadr's organization, which was already harmed by his hasty departure for Iran early this year....

Major clear-and-hold operations are scheduled to begin in late May or June, and will take weeks to complete, area by area. After that, it may be many more weeks before their success at establishing security can be judged.

In fact, we just conducted a successful series of raids in Baghdad and north of the capital against al-Qaeda car-bomb "factories." Naturally, the headline of the news story is that two car bombs exploded at checkpoints on bridges in Baghdad today... the underlying message from AP being, see? All for nought... nothing has changed!

I think this is the message Paul is channeling. But at least in this story, it's absurd: the car bombs detonated today were obviously not assembled today; they were, in fact, products from some days ago of exactly the sort of "factories" that we smashed in the raids today.

Clearly a raid cannot unmake a VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) that was already assembled and distributed to suicide bombers; the object is to make future VBIEDs harder and harder to manufacture. But again, this is all preliminary to the actual counterinsurgency strategy.

Preassessing the assessment

For that reason, it is quite frankly absurd to make the prediction Paul made: "It seems at least as likely that what we're seeing now in Baghdad is roughly what we will get during the remainder of the year."

Since we have not actually started the counterinsurgency yet, upon what does Paul base that prediction? He has no data whatsoever of the effect of a strategy which is still in its preliminary, "laying the groundwork" phase.

I almost get the feeling that Paul can't understand why we keep monkeying around with all these preliminary, preparatory operations; why haven't we started the counterinsurgency yet? Why didn't the first new combat brigade to arrive just jump right into it?

Imagine a massive fire at a chemical factory. The initial fire station's trucks arrive. What is the first thing they do?

My many years of research on fire-suppression techniques -- religiously watching every episode of Emergency! when I was a kid -- tell me that upon arrival, Capt. Stanley is certainly not going to immediately order, "All right, everybody, run into the burning building! Don't stop, don't look around, don't make any preparations... just run into the friggin' building!"

This is silly. Before sending anybody into a conflagration, the fire department must carry out a lot of preparations:

  • They must find a hydrant, since the tanks in the engine itself won't be enough;
  • Locate where the fire actually is (there may be more than one flamepoint);
  • Locate critical areas (like petrochemical storage tanks) that they must, at all costs, keep the fire away from;
  • Determine what chemicals are burning and whether an evacuation of nearby residences is needed;
  • Determine whether anybody is trapped inside and needs immediate rescue;
  • Communicate their assessment to the other engine companies arriving and with the fire chief, if he's on his way;
  • Start wetting areas to keep the fire from spreading;
  • Start wetting down possible entrances, so the firemen don't have to literally run through a hundred yards of burning chemicals;
  • And of course, don oxygen tanks and other protective gear.

I'm sure I've missed a number of other steps; but the point stands: You don't simply dart, pell-mell, into a structure fire... there are a number of critical prepatatory tasks to perform first.

To use another analogy that a lawyer would certainly understand, you don't go directly from signing up a client to trying the case in court; you must plan a legal defense or prosecution like a military campaign... and there are a great many preliminary steps to take, from interrogatories to locating witnesses to subpoenaing documents to prepping witnesses to deposing witnesses, and so forth, right up to voir dire -- all before you give your opening statement.

And in each example, during that preparation time, someone not intimately familiar with the process might complain that nothing is getting accomlished:

Look, the fire still rages, and not a single fireman has even entered the building yet!

Judging from what's happened so far, it seems at least as likely that what we're seeing now in the burning chemical factory is roughly what we will get during the remainder of the day. It's too little too late!

So when should we assess the success?

Let's take Gen. Petraeus at his word when he says that we won't have a clear idea how well the counterinsurgency is working until September, when next the Bush administration returns to Congress for future funding. At that point, the general has promised to return to Congress himself to testify about the strategy: how well it's doing and what we can do to make it succeed even better -- or, if the news is bad, what we can do to extract ourselves with as little damage as possible.

Making offhand predictions today based upon a strategy that has not yet begun is silly; but worse, it's self-destructive and may even become (if the most radical Democrats have their way) a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I can understand why Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) would do such a thing: It's good for their political prospects in 2008 -- or so they imagine (though I think they're horribly mistaken about that).

But it's difficult to explain why patriotic, America-loving, conservative bloggers follow the lead of the Washington Post's "analysis of the situation on the ground," which appears to be Paul's primary source. For heaven's sake, we know the Post has made itself the enemy of the Bush administration, and in particular, of the war in Iraq; should we listen to "helpful" analysis and advice from those who desperately want to see us fail?

Would Paul Mirengoff accept campaign advice for Republicans -- from Paul Begala and James Carville?

I have the terrible feeling that what we're seeing is a "surge" of traditional -- and unseemly -- Republican despair. The danger is that the Republican anchor of despair has enormous weight, and it can sink a ship of state as thoroughly as the Democratic anchor of defeatism.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 11, 2007, at the time of 5:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Weasely Winners

Hatched by Dafydd

The Council hath hisseth, and here ith the hith...

For the emirs of the Council of the Watcher of Weasel

If you're bothering to read these words, then you likely already know what the post linked above was about!

Barred from voting for myself (as are we all), I cast my ballot for the ticket of:

  1. "The Greatest Scientific Scandal of Out Time", by Cheat Seeking Missiles;
  2. I Know What You're Against, But What Are You For?, by Bookworm Room.

The first (which came in second -- I Don't Know's on third) describes a fascinating paper by an eminent scientist rejecting the fundamental premise of politically driven anthropogenic global-warming theory... or "globaloney," as we call it here.

The second amply demolishes the atheist argument that there is nothing more destructive than religion... Bookworm suggests the anti-religious state as one counterexample.

For effendi not privileged to sit in judgment of their fellows

I liked this piece (about the Olmert government of Israel's wretched mishandling of the recent war against Hezbollah in Lebanon); but I voted for a different pair of nominees:

  1. The Gatekeepers' Gambit, by Protein Wisdom;
  2. It Takes Two Sides to End a War, by Winds of Change.

"The Gatekeepers' Gambit" takes off from "a Rasmussen poll 'finding that 61% of self-identifying Democrats either believe George Bush knew of the 9/11 attacks in advance or are not sure if he did or not'" and lands squarely on the conclusion that the elite media did not heap scorn and ridicule upon this poll result because they don't see anything particularly odd about the claim that the president of the United States was complicit in the greatest attack on American soil in our history.

"It Takes Two Sides to End a War" is short and punchy, drawing this final conclusion:

The Democrats' plan to "end the war" is really a plan to prolong it, increase its violence and bloodshed and raise the probability that the war will be brought to our shores in ways and lethality we cannot yet foresee.

Whither the full list of nominees?

Why, here, of all places!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 11, 2007, at the time of 5:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 10, 2007

Shock and Awe: a NYT Iraq Article That Gets It Right!

Hatched by Dafydd

We have reached an epoch of media madness in America; it is the age of insanity when the mere fact that a news analysis story in the New York Times, the Great Gray Lady, is neither irrational nor unpatriotic sends shock waves through the Lizard's nest.

The article simply lays out, in a straightforward manner, the situation between the president and Congress on Iraq:

  • Congress demands some set of benchmarks (both military and political), so they can follow whether we're winning or losing in Iraq, which seems eminently reasonable to me;
  • President Bush is willing, so long as failure of the Iraqis to meet them is not tied to withdrawal of troops, training, or reconstruction money. The incentives should be positive, not negative, the president argues (this isn't mentioned in the NYT article, but Bush has said it before);
  • Separately, "moderate Republicans" have bluntly told Bush that "conditions needed to improve markedly by the fall or more Republicans would desert him on the war."
  • The Democrats are pushing a "piecemeal" funding of the war... funding through July and forcing Bush to return, hat in hand, for the last two months of funding at that time;
  • Bush will veto that bill (if it even passes), and Congress will again sustain his veto.

The best paragraph in the entire article is this one, which finally puts a rational "spin" on the angst of the American voter, and how it affected the 2006 election:

“The American people are war-fatigued,” one participant in the meeting, Representative Ray LaHood of Illinois [R, 80%], told CNN today. “The American people want to know that there’s a way out. The American people want to know that we’re having success.”

That's it; that's it exactly: Americans hate to lose, but they love a winner. What disturbs them is not that we invaded. They're not upset that we toppled Saddam Hussein -- Bush's approval rating shot upward when that happened, as it did later when we captured the tyrant. Nor are they sad that the Iraqis held three honest votes and now govern themselves; all of that is good, not bad.

But Americans are angry that since the end of 2004, the "nation-building" part of our operation has lagged terribly; our "war of attrition" worked no better in Iraq under Gens. George Casey and John Abizaid than it did in Vietnam under Gen. William Westmoreland.

Americans are starting to think not only that our strategy (then) was a failure, but that the Iraqi leaders betrayed us, using American troops to overturn the Baathist tyranny, only to institute a majority Shiite tyranny instead.

Bush sold them on a war to create a stable, democratic state, one that can defend itself, in the heart of the Arab Middle East; and they bloody well want to see that, not just replacing King Log with another log, or worse, with King Stork (if Iraq becomes an Iranian puppet state).

Back to the funding bill. A separate AP story adds that, while the "installment plan" funding bill will likely pass in the House, it's very unlikely to pass in the Senate; so Bush won't even get the chance to veto it:

Defiant House Democrats advanced legislation Thursday to pay for military operations in Iraq on the installment plan, ignoring President Bush's veto threat in a complex test of wills over the unpopular war....

But in an increasingly complex political environment, even that measure was deemed to be dead on arrival in the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow advantage and the rules give Republicans leverage to block legislation.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. has met privately in recent days with White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the beginning of talks aimed at producing a compromise funding bill that the president would sign.

And I believe that at last, we're seeing the shape of things to come. This is what I predict to happen anent funding our troops in battle:

  1. The House will pass the installment-plan funding bill, sending it to the Senate.
  2. While the Senate debates it, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) will continue to discuss benchmarks, eventually crafting a short list of events without timetables attached. The White House will be intimately involved in the agreement and will sign off on the compromise.
  3. The party leaders will then jointly introduce a separate funding agreement that includes the list of benchmarks and attaches positive-reinforcement measures to them... big, fat carrots whenever the Iraqis meet one of the goals.

    The compromise will fund the troops through September 30th, the end of the fiscal year, the next time funding could be sought -- and not coincidentally, the time Gen. David Petraeus said he would be able to make a thorough preliminary assessment of how well the counterinsurgency plan is working.

    If "conditions" are going to "improve markedly," that's when we'll know it. If things are no better, if the counterinsurgency isn't working at all, then it's time to reevaluate our remaining options... and to hunker down for a bitter, defensive war against global jihadism.

  4. When the president announces that he will sign it (assuming no poison pills), the full-funding, benchmark-containing bill will be co-sponsored by more than 70 senators, strongly bipartisan.
  5. The overwhelmingly Senate will vote to replace the installment-plan funding bill with the benchmark bill, while still keeping same name and bill number; this is a trick to get around the constitutional requirement that funding bills originate in the House... technically, it will have. The Senate will simply jack up the title and run an entirely new bill underneath.
  6. The House, after much melodramatic hysteria, will pass the same bill... albeit much more reluctantly and with much more of a "Republican" vote; there will probably be just enough Democrats to ensure passage, and none of them from "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."

    Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) will ensure that no liberal will have to vote for it, but that it will pass nonetheless; she is desperate both to assuage MoveOn ("Those traitorous conservative Democrats betrayed us!") -- but not weak for the reelection of House members in red and purple districts ("See? We funded the troops!").

  7. The president will sign the bill, and Congress can get back to the crusade that the American people elected them to fight: endless investigations of every, single individual in the Bush admininstration, from Attorney General Gonzales and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice down to the White House janitors and PFC. Schlimazel in advanced mess school in the Army.

I will continue my unbridled optimism and hope; try and stop me! I believe that by the end of September, Gen. Petraeus will be able to report -- honestly and candidly -- that we have seen a stunning improvement in Iraq, and that we can begin withdrawing significant numbers of troops.

I may be wrong; I was wrong about the 2006 election (but not about 2004, even back in 2003, when everyone and his monkey's paw was predicting President Dean). But if I'm right, just see what happens to (a) Bush's approval rating, (b) the percent of Americans who say the Iraq war was "worth it," and (c) the "head to head" matchups between Republican and Democratic candidates. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: let's see how victory in Iraq affects the war on global jihadism, too.

I refuse to believe that the Western world will commit cultural suicide; not while I have breath and hope. Emily Dickinson wrote that "hope is the thing with feathers." We need hope to fight; hopelessness breeds only despair and surrender.

The surrender wing of Congress is "the thing that should be tarred and feathered."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 10, 2007, at the time of 4:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 9, 2007

We Found the "Moslem Methodists!"

Hatched by Dafydd

The day after the debut of Big Lizards, we published a post titled "Where Are All the Moslem Methodists?"; we weren't actually seeking some bizarre Christian-Moslem hybrid -- we sought an Islamist alternative to militancy... something like the Quietism school of Shiism, historically associated with the scholars of Najaf, in Iraq. Quietist ayatollahs, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, stand in stark contrast to the radical Shia who follow Khomeiniism (which is more associated with the holy city of Qom in Iran).

I described what I would call a "moderate" Moslem: This is a person who does not believe force should be used to enforce sharia law and who does not support violent jihad against others, merely because they are "infidels." The acid test of a "moderate" Moslem would be this: Even if he hates the Jews, he cannot support terrorism against them. That is not the only criterion, but it's clearly the hardest!

The problem, I argued, is that, while most Moslems are "moderate" as I defined the term in that earlier post, nearly all Moslem organizations in the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas are radicalized, strident, and militant; this is true of secular as well as religious organizations:

I don't have data on this; but my gut feeling is that the majority of Moslems are moderate as I have described it... but nearly all national or international Moslem organizations, whether overtly religious (like a mosque) or more secular in purpose (like CAIR), are strongly inclined towards militant Islamism and therefore dangerously tolerant of Islamic terrorism. If all that a moderate Moslem sees around him as the public face of Islam are groups that call for jihad, either overtly or slyly, he may well feel that there must be something wrong with him not to feel that same rage and hate. He'll probably fall silent, afraid to object, both because of physical threat, and more important, fear of social shunning....

Maybe if moderate Moslems would concentrate on creating Islamic organizations that give a sense of solidarity to "Moslem Methodists," showing them they're not alone, the natural tendency toward laziness would take over: hating is hot, hard work.

I think I was onto something.

It turns out, however, that this has already been done; there are a number of moderate Islamic organizations... including one Indonesian whopper of a group called Nahdatul Ulama (NU), which claims a membership of around 40 million, but is more likely closer to 30 million... which still makes it the largest Moslem organization in the world.

What amazes me about NU -- mostly because we hear so little about it here in the United States and evidently Europe as well -- is that this very conservative Sunni Moslem organization is pro-Israel, pro-West, and totally opposed to Islamic terrorism against anybody. In fact, the more I read about it, the more convinced I become that NU holds the key to actually winning the war against global jihadism: demonstrating how to be a strong, conservative, religious Sunni without having to slaughter women and children... or even Jews. From the Wall Street Journal opionion piece by Bret Stephens linked above:

Suppose for a moment that the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world openly says "I am for Israel." Suppose he believes not only in democracy but in the liberalism of America's founding fathers. Suppose that, unlike so many self-described moderate Muslims who say one thing in English and another in their native language, his message never alters. Suppose this, and you might feel as if you've descended into Neocon Neverland.

In fact, you have arrived in Jakarta and are sitting in the small office of an almost totally blind man of 66 named Abdurrahman Wahid. A former president of Indonesia, he is the spiritual leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Islamic organization of some 40 million members. Indonesians know him universally as Gus Dur, a title of affection and respect for this descendant of Javanese kings. In the U.S. and Europe he is barely spoken of at all -- which is both odd and unfortunate, seeing as he is easily the most important ally the West has in the ideological struggle against Islamic radicalism.

I think everybody reading these words would agree that we're never going to win the war against global jihadism unless we engage Islamism, not only with military muscle, not only with diplomacy and economics... but in the realm of ideology: We must convince militant Moslems (red) to become more moderate (pink) and convince "moderate" Moslems to join the fight on our side (white). If we fail to convert red to pink and pink to white, the war will go on and on ad infinitum; Americans will not be safe in the Middle East, in Europe, or even here in America (remember the soldiers at Fort Dix).

I deliberately invoke the counterinsurgency strategy of Col. Galula and Gen. Petraeus, because it's the same core idea: You win by converting enemies to neutrals and neutrals to friends. But how do we go about doing that? You can't beat something with nothing, and we can't beat militant Islamism with a pocketful of secular humanism.

I have seen many people argue that Islam is inherently violent, intolerant, bigoted, and completely incompatible with democratic ideals. But Robert Spencer notwithstanding, the mere existence of the powerful voices of Quietism among the Shia, the colossal NU within conservative Sunnism, and the democracy-ready Kurdish versions of Shafi-Sunnism, Shiism, and Sufism prove that there is nothing inherent in Islam -- or even Islamism -- that demands militancy.

We desperately need a great communicator who can speak to America about the need for moderation among Moslems. And we need a great Islamic communicator, one who can reach those Moslems who do not support jihad and sharia (except as personal goals within their own souls)... but who feel alone and threatened by the militant groups they see all around them.

None of this can possibly come from the Bush administration, I am convinced; but one advantage of the accelerated campaign schedule is that President George W. Bush will very shortly cease to be the loudest voice of the Republican Party. He will be supplanted by Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and possibly others who will jump in... and possibly shoot past these three.

This is very good, because each of the big three (and several second-tier GOP candidates) is a far better communicator than the current president. I just hope that they all realize -- and soon -- that our national conversation about Islam and democracy is long overdue. Our counterinsurgency strategy depends upon it, as does much of our diplomacy and even our military posture in the war against global jihad.

We have the arguments; we even have powerful allies. All we have lacked for is the voice. Speak up, Republicans... let yourselves be heard! If the (small-d) democratic majority stays silent long enough, it will cease to be a majority.

And that, as we're now starting to see, would be all the more tragic because it is so avoidable.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 9, 2007, at the time of 6:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dems Threaten to Sue Bush - for Signing a Bill

Hatched by Dafydd

Has Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) been inhaling a bit too much of her district's principal export?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is threatening to take President Bush to court if he issues a signing statement as a way of sidestepping a carefully crafted compromise Iraq war spending bill [where "compromise" means between different factions of the majority party].

Pelosi recently told a group of liberal bloggers, “We can take the president to court” if he issues a signing statement, according to Kid Oakland, a blogger who covered Pelosi’s remarks for the liberal website

All right, show of hands everyone who knows what a "signing statement" is...

When the president signs a bill duly enacted by Congress, it becomes law; but the president -- the Executive -- is the person tasked with the enforcement and execution of such laws. He is also assigned the duty to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." It's right there in the oath he takes on January 20th of the year following his election.

Sometimes the two duties conflict; in that case, the Constitution must win. But suppose the vast majority of a bill is fine, but one small segment of it appears, from the president's perspective, to be unconstitutional. He could veto the entire legislation; but the other provisions may be urgently needed (such as funding our troops in the field during wartime).

Thus, he may sign the bill -- but issue a signing statement laying out his reasoning why the one provision is unconstitutional.

The signing statement simply announces what (and what not) the president understands the new law to entail... and in particular, makes note of elements that the Executive -- a coequal branch with the Legislative -- believes violate the Constitution he is sworn to protect and defend. He puts Congress and the Court on notice that the Executive will not enforce those provisions it deems unconstitutional (indeed, it cannot), until and unless the Court specifically holds that they are constitutional.

(A similar situation could arise if an outgoing president signs an unconstitutional bill; the incoming president would have to refuse to enforce it, or else he would be in violation of his oath of office.)

There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about appending a signing statement to a bill when signing it. If the Court agrees with the president about some unconstitutional aspect of the bill, the signing statement has no effect; but on the other hand, if the Court decides instead in favor of Congress's interpretation... why, in that case, the signing statement has no effect!

A court could take the reasoning in the signing statement into effect during judicial proceedings, but it's not obliged to; it could just ignore the signing statement and proceed as it pleases.

Yet evidently, the Democrats who run Congress (for the moment) believe that the president is an adjunct position, like a legislative analyst, whose duty is simply to rubberstamp whatever the People's House enacts... and that President Bush had better oughta keep his nose out of the People's business. I mean, who the heck elected him?

But this is utter madness; the courts have never gone along with Congress's repeated attempts to leash the president:

In the 1970s, congressional Democrats tried to get the courts to force President Nixon to stop bombing in Cambodia. The courts ruled that dissident lawmakers could not sue solely to obtain outcomes they could not secure in Congress.

In order to hear an argument, a federal court would have to grant what is known as “standing,” meaning that lawmakers would have to show that Bush is willfully ignoring a bill Congress passed and that he signed into law....

Lawmakers have tried to sue presidents in the past for taking what they consider to be illegal military action, but courts have rejected such suits.

Starting in 2000, when losing presidential candidate and sitting Vice President Al Gore tried to sue his way into the White House, the Democrats have been seduced by the nigh-erotic fantasy of using the courts to cripple the Executive branch of federal government, both as Chief Executive and as Commander in Chief. Now they appear willing to drop the last shoe... a lawsuit to declare once and for all that the presidency is the only branch of government that has no plenary power whatsoever to decide constitutionality; that he must accept, perforce, any interpretation Congress hands him.

What next? Will Nancy Pelosi threaten to sue Bush tomorrow for vetoing the next surrender bill?

If this is the level of congressional overreaching just four months after the Democrats take over, I cannot even begin to imagine how far they'll have jumped the shark by November 2008.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 9, 2007, at the time of 5:50 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 8, 2007

Should We Deal With the (Lesser) Devil?

Hatched by Dafydd

AP raises a fascinating question: Should we allow members of the Mahdi Militia to guard a very important Shiite mosque from al-Qaeda attack? (They overtly phrase it as a "dilemma," turning a question into a covert attack on the counterinsurgency strategy, in my opinion.)

In Kazimiyah, a densely packed [northern Baghdad] neighborhood of wooden shops and cheap hotels for Shiite pilgrims, the Americans and their Iraqi partners have opted for militia help to protect the shimmering, blue-domed shrine [of "the mosque of Imam Kadhim"].

With tacit American approval, plainclothes militiamen loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr set up impromptu checkpoints and patrol alleys day and night near the mosque.

The Americans believe that tolerating a discreet role for the Mahdi Army, which U.S. officers refer to by its Arabic acronym JAM [for Jaish al Mahdi, army of the rightly-guided one, or of the 12th Imam -- probably the latter], is better than either picking a fight with the militia or taking the blame if Sunni extremists manage a repeat of the February 2006 bombing of another Shiite shrine in Samarra.

Note that in areas like Kazimiyah and Sadr City, it's virtually impossible to wield any community influence without joining either the Mahdi Militia or the Badr Organization... just as in Germany in the 1930s, there were many civilians who joined the Nazi Party because it was the only way to get ahead (think Oskar Schindler).

Thus we must carefully distinguish between militia members who are actually bloody assassins -- and those who are just "go along to get along" businessmen with no overarching violent agenda.

That caveat accepted, I say it's a very close call... but in these particuar circumstances, with the horrific response that the destruction of that mosque would generate, I must side with the commanders on the ground and say Yes.

Let me convince you...

First, we already have an example of just this sort of "conspiracy of shared interest" -- in Anbar province. There, the American and Iraqi forces have allied with Sunni tribal leaders who, until quite recently, avidly supported al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). In fact, several of the tribes that originally backed and supported Musab Zarqawi now fight against AQI as part of the "Anbar Salvation Council." They fight AQI viciously, relentlessly, and effectively; and they're even starting to venture outside al-Anbar into neighboring provinces, such as al-Salahadin:

What is clear is that a battle between forces of the Anbar Salvation Council and al Qaeda in Iraq occurred in the town of al-Nibayi, near Taji in Salahadin province, al Qaeda took casualties and U.S. and Iraq security forces, along with the tribal fighters of the Anbar Salvation Council are securing the scene of the fight in an attempt to find al Masri's body.

While is seems increasingly unlikely that the Council managed to kill Ayyub al Masri, the current head of AQI, the take-away point is this: Al-Qaeda has a strong competitor for the hearts and minds of Iraqi Sunni in Anbar and Salahadin: the Anbar Salvation Council.

The New York Times also noted the strange-bedfellows alliance today:

Ramadi, in Anbar Province, has been at the center of a fight between Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and its supporters and Sunni Arab tribes opposed to the extremist organization....

Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, once the dominant force in Anbar, began to lose support after it started attacking civilians and other insurgent groups there. Although many of the Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar had opposed the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, they decided to form the Salvation Council and send tribesmen to join the army and police force to take back control of the province from Al Qaeda.

American troops have tried for four years to stem the insurgency in Anbar, and several times have instituted new strategies to remove insurgents from Ramadi, the provincial capital. None have [sic] shown appreciable results until this most recent effort with the Salvation Council.

They are our most important allies in the region, which used to be AQI's home base. And they're taking casualties; the recent AQI bombing in Ramadi, the capital city of al-Anbar, was aimed squarely at the tribal members of those "rebellious" tribes in the Council, as were many, many other bombings. The shift in Anbar is so pronounced, even Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) has taken judicial notice:

We are making some progress it turns out, in what is called Al Anbar province against al Qaeda, and the reason we are is that our military leaders have learned a lot in the last several years there and they have made common cause with some of the tribal leaders, who don't like Al Qaeda any more than we do because Al Qaeda is also going after them.

In the cases of both Hillary Clinton and the Times, they've reversed time's arrow, of course: AQI didn't begin bombing Ramadi and other Sunni tribal areas until the tribes tired of Taliban-style totalitarian theocracy and broke from al-Qaeda. Trust Democrats to reverse causality.

But... how does this apply to the Shia? The Shia protecting the mosque of Imam Kadhim are not anti-Sadr; in fact, they're at least peripheral members of the Mahdi Miliia! It's not analogous to the situation in Anbar at all... is it?

It is; but like most analogies, it's not a perfect model. It matches in one particular way, however.

Take a step back in the Anbar situation and look at a wider view: The Anbar Salvation Council is not merely fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq; on a more general basis, they're fighting against chaos and in support of the nation of Iraq.

That's why it's so important to note, as the Times does above, that the tribes comprising the Council "opposed the Shiite-dominated government," but fight alongside it anyway: They rightly understand that the Iraq war is not a "civil war" among Iraqis or a "sectarian war" within Islam; it's an epic, existential struggle between the flying monkeys of jihadism and the defenders of civilization itself. And in that fight, as the president said just nine days after the 9/11 attacks, "God is not neutral":

The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.

The Shia in Kazimiyah are fighting the same shadow war as their brothers in the Anbar Salvation Council. They, too, fight against the terrorists -- the very same terrorists, in fact, al-Qaeda in Iraq -- who thrive amid collapse, revel in destruction, and celebrate bloody chaos.

Were AQI to succeed in destroying the Imam Kadhim mosque (they've tried unsuccessfully several times), the reaction could be as explosive as when they destroyed the Golden Dome mosque of Samarra: a massive, nation-wide wave of truly horrific sectarian slaughter, with Sunni being slain in every Iraqi city merely for the crime of being Sunni... hence suspected (often rightly suspected) of secretly supporting al-Qaeda.

Such a reaction by the Shia would undo much of what we have accomplished so far in Iraq and immensely complicate our future counterinsurgency... and don't think that AQI is unaware of that fact. It's worth risking a great deal to prevent such a calamity.

Thus, we're in the same fight and on the same side as these local Kadimiyah militiamen -- in this particular case. And even while still fighting against the more violent, activist wing of JAM in other neighborhoods of Baghdad and the cities in next-door Diyala province.

Yet we still must be vigilant, because it's all too easy for Shia with connections to the Mahdi Militia to slide from fighting for Iraq to fighting over Iraq, from confederation to conquest. That is certainly the path chosen by their now exiled leader, Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr.

This is why I say it's a close call: On the whole, we need Iraqis defending their own neighborhoods -- but also their own country, including the far-flung parts in other provinces. It's all one nation, and Sunnis are right to demand assurance that it will not (and cannot) be split into three separate, ethnically and religiously cleansed pieces, as some Democrats advocate -- now joined by GOP presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS, 87%). That is a prescription for absolute disaster... which I'm sure somebody has already told Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%). (Whether he won't listen or whether he prefers absolute disaster in Iraq is anybody's guess.)

From the Times article:

The explosion came as tension over a proposed walkout by Iraq’s leading Sunni bloc in Parliament and the Cabinet seemed to ebb after a meeting Monday night between the Shiite Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and Tariq Al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice president.

Both Mr. Maliki and Mr. Hashimi issued statements declaring that their meeting had helped move the political process forward. Mr. Hashimi had threatened to lead the boycott unless there was a clear move to change the Constitution so that the country could not be partitioned into separate Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish states.

Bottom line: So long as these militiamen remember that they're Iraqis first and Shia second; so long as, like the Minutemen on the American border, they remember that their job is purely defensive, not offensive; they are a security asset. In fact, they're part of the counterinsurgency strategy, the core of which is bringing more and more Iraqis into the defense of Iraq. If we're willing to bring formerly terrorist Sunni into the fight against al-Qaeda, why not formerly insurgent Shia?

We're absolutely right not only to "tolerate" a role for moderate members of the Mahdi Militia but to encourage even more such cooperation, especially with Sadr's passing over the eastern hills to Teheran. But as Ronald Reagan's mother always told him when he was a young child, in their frequent discussions about international arms-control treaties, "trust... but verify."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 8, 2007, at the time of 4:06 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Put Money In the Lizards' Pockets - for Free!

Hatched by Dafydd

Henry Copeland of BlogAds is running some sort of reader survey. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but there's some free money in it for Big Lizards; and by God and my left knee, we're going to find it.

First, he says we should toss in the following link to the survey: Put tens of thousands of dollars into our pockets without you spending a dime! (Confession: That wasn't Hank's suggested wording. I had one of my very infrequent attacks of whimsy.)

Note: This is not a pyramid scheme. Or if it is, it's very cleverly disguised.

Next, we're supposed to "encourage" readers to click on the thing and take the survey. Bruno Tolioni will visit you shortly and dance at you until you relent.

I haven't see the survey yet; I'm sure the questions are nosy and intrusive, like how many times you sneeze during the day (requires an accurate record) and the volume of pizza sauce in milliliters you consume each fortnight... or maybe not; what do I know?

Here's an example of the BlogAdders' wild sense of humor:

Extra cheering helps get more results. But please warn readers that the survey is long, BUT they can bail anytime after the first page [too many buts in this sentence]. (Once they hit drinks questions, they're almost home and deserve a drink.)

Make of it what you will; everybody must believe in something. I believe I'll have another grog.

They do warn this survey is longish; but I won't know exactly how long until I take it myself. And then, I'm sure my own experience won't help you much, since I regularly answer all survey questions with random mouse twitches. (I think it's a nervous condition; it's a wonder it doesn't stop me from typing.)

So let me put this up, take the survey, and then I'll add an update giving my lap time down to the microsecond.

Update: The survey took me exactly 22:00.000002 by my stopwatch. Your mileage may vary, but probably not by more than 1.8 seconds.

Tally ho. Yoinks.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 8, 2007, at the time of 4:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 7, 2007

Does America Elect Defeatists?

Hatched by Dafydd

I just received a very pessimistic e-mail from a close friend of mine (not Friend Lee) who is utterly convinced that the Democrats will win the presidency in 2008, even if the Iraq war is going much better. My correspondent is a libertarian-conservative who is obsessed with the "neo-cons," whom he hates with a passion and blames for "hijacking" the Reagan legacy and the Bush presidency (he even wrote a book about it, Post-Nationalism).

But why is he so despondent, utterly convinced that Hillary Clinton will be our next president? First, because he's not naturally an optimistic person; but more important, because my friend truly believes that the American people despise "neo-cons" as much as he does.

This is actually quite a common belief, that the entire country shares one's own burning, heart-felt principles (or obsessions). But I assured him, it's a delusion: The vast majority of Americans have no idea who or what the neo-cons are, and honestly couldn't care less. However, my friend, a politcal junky (as am I), cannot seem to understand the depths of ennui that most Americans have for the "inside baseball" of politics. As I wrote him:

I completely disagree that Americans "despise" the neocons: Believe it or not, I doubt the typical American voter even has a clue who the neocons are or why the Democrats hate them so much. They've heard the term; they don't know what it means, nor do they care.

Americans love a winner. If, a year and a half from now, it really looks as if we have pretty much won the Iraq war -- especially after expectations have been so lowered by the media's and Democrats' incessant defeat-mongering -- the Republican will cruise to victory.

Even if it's more of a mixed bag, but clearly better than now, then the Republican is likely to win... because he will have said all along that we need to win this war, whereas the Democrat, whatever he says in 2008, will be on record as having said we should throw in the towel; and for that, people have a long memory.

The only way the Democrats have a chance of winning is if, by November 2008, the situation in Iraq is worse than it is now (or appears worse).

American voters reject most intricate, overarching ideologies; they prefer the "principled reductionist" approach: Carter was the "malaise" president (yes, I know he never said that word), while Reagan believed in "we win, they lose;" George H.W. Bush lied when he said "read my lips, no new taxes," while Bill Clinton was "the man with the plan."

And the Democratic nominee in 2008, whoever he or she will be, is the candidate for "withdrawal," while the Republican, no matter who, will be the candidate for "victory."

The upcoming presidential election is unique in American history, I believe: I don't recall any other circumstance where we've held the election during a war, without the incumbent running, and with one of the two major parties demanding that we pull out of the war without victory.

We've had two previous elections held during a war where the challenger ran on a platform of ending it: In 1972, Sen. George McGovern explicitly campaigned against the Vietnam war... it's not unfair to say he was primarily the "anti-war" candidate. And in 1864, Gen. George McClellan, the former commander of all Union forces, ran against Abraham Lincoln; although McClellan personally supported continuing the fight, the Democratic Party platform was decidedly Copperhead: They demanded we end the war and let the South secede.

In both cases, the defeatist was soundly drubbed, both in the electoral and popular votes: McClellan lost by 55% - 45%, while McGovern fared even worse, losing by 62% - 38%. But in both cases, an unpopular incumbent was running for reelection, so it's not exactly parallel.

Similarly, we've had plenty of elections where a two-term incumbent was followed by a president of the opposite party: Democrat Woodrow Wilson's two terms were followed by Warren G. Harding (R) in 1920; Harry Truman (D) was followed by Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) in 1952, and Eisenhower himself was followed by John F. Kennedy (D) in 1960; Richard Nixon (R) was followed (in the election, I mean) by Jimmy Carter (D) in 1976; and of course, most recently, Democrat Bill Clinton's two terms were followed by the current Republican president in 2000.

But only one of these elections (1952) occurred during a war. In the other four cases, the most recent war previous to the election was long since over... the Great War and the Vietnam war each had ended more than two years before the respective elections.

But what about Eisenhower's election during the Korean war? Eisenhower gave a full-throated attack on Communism; he got the nomination by defeating conservative isolationist Robert Taft... and Eisenhower beat the very liberal Adlai Stevenson in the general election. The former Supreme Allied Commander was the least unwarlike of all three candidates. The political climate for 208 is exactly the reverse of 1952; today, it's the challenging party that seeks surrender in the war, while the incumbent party seeks victory.

So honestly, we have no direct precedent for the 2008 election; but the closest precedents we have show that the American people do not elect those promising defeat during a war.

For this reason among others, and "conventional wisdom" aside, the Republicans have an excellent shot at retaining the presidency next year; I'm bullish on the GOP... precisely because they're the party of victory, while the Democrats have astonishingly set themselves up -- yet again! -- as the party of surrender and defeat.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 7, 2007, at the time of 3:23 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

A Devil's Deal I Would Eagerly Accept

Hatched by Dafydd

The Democrats have crafted an Intelligence Authorization Bill that diverts scarce intelligence resources into yet another insane attempt to "prove" anthropogenic global warming, a.k.a. "Globaloney."

And I very much support the bill. Have I gone mad?

Bah, ye of little lizardian faith! Yes, it wastes time, resources, and money on an absurdity (global warming has no significant national-security implications whatsoever). But it also dramatically increases funding for human intelligence (HumInt) operations... actual spies to infiltrate countries like Iran, Syria, and North Korea, instead of relying entirely on spy satellites and such... signals intelligence, or SigInt, in IntelSpeak.

The bill also increases funding for counterintelligence, which I would hope includes hunting down al-Qaeda sleeper cells and such inside the United States:

Mr. Reyes lauded his panel's work on the bill, noting that it will lead to "stronger, better intelligence," especially by adding money for human intelligence training and for sending analysts abroad.

For the first time, the bill will fund a "baseline" for intelligence activities related to terrorism and Iraq, he said.

He also said it will strengthen counterintelligence, enhance oversight and eliminate wasteful spending.

Quite frankly, I'm perfectly willing to make that trade-off, if that's what it takes to get the Democrats aboard.

If the Republicans can strip the Globaloney nonsense out of the bill and still get the Democrats to sign up, that would be wonderful. I'd love to have that. Of course, I'd also love to have a trail horse and a house on five acres of land here in Southern Cal; I think the odds of that are marginally better than the odds of getting Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 80%) to accept HumInt without GoreInt.

Theoretically, we could have gotten a lot of this in the 109th Congress (2005-2006); the Republicans were in charge, and the president is always eager to improve our intelligence-gathering capability. So... why didn't we?

Oh yeah, I forgot:

Last year, the Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass its Intelligence Authorization bill.

Along with failing to make permanent the tax cuts and failing to enact the federal budget.

Say... I wonder why we lost Congress?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 7, 2007, at the time of 9:09 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Americans With Discivility Act

Hatched by Dafydd

Huh. I found this partially written post in the "vault," circa a couple of days before Bush vetoed the troop-funding bill shackled to a time-release surrender. Waste not, want not: I changed the most obviously dated sentences, and here it is!


From now on, I reckon we'll have to start calling Sen. "Slow" Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) Macho Joe Biden instead:

Biden is asked what he'll do when Bush, as is expected, vetoes the Iraq funding bill.

First, he talks about his son, and the equipment soldiers need -- "The idea that we're not building new Humvees with the V-shaped things is just crap. Kids are dying that don't have to die."

And: "Second thing is, we're going to shove it down his throat."

And where Macho Joe goeth, can the Pink Sapphire, alias the Silky Pony, be far behind?

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Monday [just before vetoing the Democratic surrender bill -- the Mgt.] he believes President Bush will capitulate if Congress continues to confront him with bills to pull troops out of Iraq. [Yeah, that'd be my guess, too... remember all those times he backed down on the Iraq war? -- the Mgt.]

"The president is just ignoring what the Congress is saying and ignoring what the American people want," Edwards said in an interview in Las Vegas. "He just doesn't care. He's just going to do whatever he wants, and he has to be stopped."

The fiend... the very Devil himself! So the president wants to play rough, eh? So he won't take Congress' whip for an answer?

Although Bush said Monday he would work with Congress on an alternative, Edwards said legislators must not compromise.

Instead, Edwards said Congress should continue to pass similar bills. "They need to submit another bill to him with a timetable, and they need to continue doing it until he finally signs one," he said. Asked whether he believed Bush would back down in such a showdown, he said, "Eventually."

Whew! Tough talk from a guy who was originally known as the Breck Girl before he picked up his other two monikers.

This is real "taunt the caged lion" stuff: Two guys whose only previous demonstration of courage is moving faster than the speed of light to kow-tow to Kos and on everything from Iraq withdrawal to rejecting the tax cuts to refusing to debate other Democrats in a forum sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus... because it's also sponsored by (cue the melodramatic music) the Fox News Channel.

Great Scott, they might have to field a question from Britt Hume! Maybe he'll take his cue from Chris Matthews: "What is the thing that you like best about America?" That'll stump the Democrats.

Mockery aside, what irritates me most is that Democrats only seem to show feistiness when there is nothing on the line: The president is not going to physically attack them, as al-Qaeda would; he won't even force them to make a decision and accept accountability for it; but if Democratic candidates for president are insufficiently uncivil and insolent, they incur the wrath of the nutroots... and that sets their knees a-knock.

So instead of showing some spine by joining Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%) and actually supporting the war against a quasi-Fascist fundamentalist theocracy -- which you and I and Chris Hitchens think should be the essence of liberal democracy -- they emit belicose, schoolyard threats to someone they know will simply ignore them.

There is little I despise more than cowardice. I wonder how many independents -- and even center-left Democrats -- have sufficient manliness to be as creeped out by this poltroonery as I?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 7, 2007, at the time of 3:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 6, 2007

The Wins - It's Late, But Not Too Late

Hatched by Dafydd

Amazingly enough, the Watcher's Council again avoided imploding, falling asleep for forty years à la Rip Van Winkle, or emigrating en masse to Zimbabwe to take on Bobbie Mugabe. Instead, we lolled about and voted... and here is how the whole thing fell out:

The high and mighty Watcher's Council winner

  • Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, by Bookworm Room -- a paean to working moms who decide to give up the "glamor" of a high-pressure job to make motherhood their careers.

My two nominees in this category were:

  1. Voter Fraud? Not a big deal!, by Colossus of Rhodey; and
  2. Giuliani on Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Terrorism, by Joshuapundit.

The first is just a nice, timely reminder of the danger of one-sided investigations into voter fraud, which become, in essence, voter intimidation themselves; the second is an apologia of Rudy Giuliani (not my pick for the Republican presidential nominee) and his counterterrorism policies.

Naturally, my choices were snubbed.

The low and puny rest of you lot

  • COIN: The Gravity Well, by Black Five -- insurgency and its counter visualized as fiddling with a gravity well.

This was my second choice; my top choice was the blogpost I nominated, Mitt and Osama, by Dean Barnett at This piece (by avowed Mitt Romney supporter Dean Barnett) analyzed Romney's comment to the effect that it was more important to fight against jihadist groups than to focus all our energy and military on capturing one man, Osama bin Laden (which I argue would be particularly foolish, as he would almost certainly evade capture -- thus making Uncle Sam into a monkey).

And you can read all the supported nominees, until we must pry your hands from the keyboard with a spatula, at this link.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 6, 2007, at the time of 5:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 4, 2007

López Obrador Redux in France

Hatched by Dafydd

In a very disturbing rerun of the antics of the losing Socialist candidate for president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador -- the Zarathustra of Zocalo Plaza -- the trailing Socialist candidate for president of France, Ségolène Royal, threatens a violent uprising if conservative Nicolas Sarkozy wins the French presidency on Sunday.

She is not yet promising to lead the violence herself, as her counterpart in Mexico did; but she is unquestionably egging on the radical Moslems in the Parisian suburbs to launch another French Intifada in protest if Royal, who opposes any aggressive police action against the rioters, loses to Sarkozy -- a hard-liner who promises to restore law and order to the streets of Paris:

France risks violence and brutality if right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy wins Sunday's presidential election, his Socialist opponent Segolene Royal said on Friday.

On the last day of official campaigning, opinion polls showed Sarkozy enjoyed a commanding lead over Royal, who accused the former interior minister of lying and polarizing France.

"Choosing Nicolas Sarkozy would be a dangerous choice," Royal told RTL radio.

"It is my responsibility today to alert people to the risk of (his) candidature with regards to the violence and brutality that would be unleashed in the country (if he won)," she said.

Pressed on whether there would actually be violence, Royal said: "I think so, I think so," referring specifically to France's volatile suburbs hit by widespread rioting in 2005.

Well, we'll almost certainly get to find out whether the French jihadist "youths" will heed her call... because by all the polls I've seen, Royal actually lost ground following yesterday's debate with Sarkozy (and her hysterical diatribe in the middle of it). He heads into the Sunday election with a strong, if not commanding, 9-point lead over Royal in two separate polls.

I may be easily amused, but I always enjoy it when Leftists demonstrate their contempt for democracy and actual voting, where the voices of those they supposedly represent, the poor and downtrodden, actually have as much of a say as the rich and the middle-class (France, like most of Europe, still has an actual class system, unlike the United States). The Left is all in favor of the people... but only when the people keep their mouths shut and do as their "betters" tell them.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 4, 2007, at the time of 7:18 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Great Satan In a Red Dress - CORRECTION, see below

Hatched by Dafydd

Top American diplomat Condoleezza Rice managed to terminally offend Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, at a state dinner in Egypt, by wearing Western clothing: to wit, one red dress. He fled the room, shrieking that she was "dressed too revealingly," as AP puts it.

Correction: I misunderstood the article; the chick in the red chic was not Condoleeza Rice but some violinist instead. That makes this next comment a little more understandable...

"I don't know which woman he was afraid of, the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday.

Rice and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met earlier at a lunch Thursday but exchanged only pleasantries. Neither appeared ready to make the first move for a real meeting.

"You can ask him why he didn't make an effort," Rice told reporters Friday. "I'm not given to chasing anyone."

...And it renders this wisecrack of ours completely meaningless:

If Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) were present, would she have offered to let Condi borrow her chador? Nah... the diminutive robes of the squeaker couldn't possibly fit the statuesque secretary of state.

...But still fun; at least, we think so! (Commenter Nomennovum also noticed this and deserves a hat tip here.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 4, 2007, at the time of 2:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 3, 2007

Counterinsurgency Funding: the Good, the Bad, and the Weird

Hatched by Dafydd

The Washington Post has a window into the negotiations ongoing between the Bush administration and the Congress anent funding our troops in the field (hat tip to Patterico, of all people).

Good news...

According to the Post, the Democrats have already caved on the surrender timetables. No, really:

President Bush and congressional leaders began negotiating a second war funding bill yesterday, with Democrats offering the first major concession: an agreement to drop their demand for a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq.

Democrats backed off after the House failed, on a vote of 222 to 203, to override the president's veto of a $124 billion measure that would have required U.S. forces to begin withdrawing as early as July.

Yes, we're all blinking in shock. We knew they would eventually have to either drop the poison-pill... or else go whole hog and brazenly declare that the Democratic Congress intends to abandon our troops in the middle of a war.

But I don't think anyone expected such a quick exit (stage right) for the shibboleth that separates what Paul Wellstone used to call "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" -- now exemplified by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) -- from the corrupt and unprincipled party machine: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), and especially House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 65%). Evidently, nearly all the Democrats fall into the latter category... quelle surprise!

Bad news...

Alas it's time, as Larry Elderberry so often says, for the big butt: Congressional Democrats have not given up their insistance that they have some sort of operational control over military strategy and the president's foreign policy:

But party leaders made it clear that the next bill will have to include language that influences war policy. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) outlined a second measure that would step up Iraqi accountability, "transition" the U.S. military role and show "a reasonable way to end this war."

Even more unfortunate, a handful of Republicans have been seduced by the siren song of "congressional power," and they're siding with the Democrats... not to the extent of demanding troop withdrawals, but on the touchy subject of how to "enforce" all the myriad "benchmarks" for the fledgling Iraqi government to achieve:

But a new dynamic also is at work, with some Republicans now saying that funding further military operations in Iraq with no strings attached does not make practical or political sense. Rep. Bob Inglis (S.C.), a conservative who opposed the first funding bill, said, "The hallway talk is very different from the podium talk...."

Just four Republicans supported the first version of the spending bill: Sen. Gordon Smith (Ore.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (Md.) and Rep. Walter B. Jones (N.C.). But a growing number of GOP lawmakers want language that would hold the administration and the Iraqi government more accountable.

"The general sense is that the benchmarks are critical," said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), a moderate who opposed the original bill but supports some constraints.

White House officials are also looking to benchmarks as an area of compromise, but they want them to be tied to rewards for achievement, not penalties for failure.

This actually is a pretty good idea: If you want to incentivize the Iraqi government, carrots make much more sense than sticks. Did I actually just use the Dick Gephardt word "incentivize?" I don't think I did; if you thought you heard it, your audio track needs maintenance.

Well, all I can say is that it's a good thing for our congressmen such benchmarks are not applied to the American Congress... else there might be some severe punishment for, e.g., the complete failure of the last Republican Congress to enact critical bills such as immigration reform, Social Security reform, making the Bush tax cuts permanent -- oh, and the 2007 budget; and even more severe punishment for the complete failure of the new Democratic Congress to enact... well, anything.

The idea of "rewards for achievement" of various benchmarks, instead of "penalties for failure," is a pretty good idea: If you want to provide an incentive for the Iraqi government, carrots make much more sense than sticks. The best carrot is handing over more Iraqi territory to the Iraqi government; but other incentives for achievement would include:

  • More money for infrastructure -- hospitals, schools, dams, pipelines, power generating plants, libraries, and especially communications and internet connectivity programs.
  • Pressing for Iraqi membership in international trade organizations.
  • Allowing Iraq to buy near top of the line military helicopters, fighters, anti-IED MRAP armored vehicles, and Predator drone aircraft -- which are useful not only for fighting terrorists and insurgents but also to defend Iraq against its next-door enemies, Iran and Syria.
  • Pushing Arab neighbors and our allies around the world to recognize Iraq and negotiate treaties, accords, and oil and other trade agreements with them.

Each of these motivators would be dual-use, to expropriate a term that used to have a much more sinister meaning in that country: It would certainly give Iraq a strong incentive to step up movement towards full responsibility; and it would simultaneously ensconce Iraq deeper into the Functional Core, as Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the group of highly connected (economically, politically, and via communications), civilized nations of the world in his book the Pentagon's New Map.

The more thoroughly connected Iraq or any other country is to the community of civilized nations, Barnett convincingy argues, the less likely it will behave aggressively towards its neighbors, harbor terrorists, or finance jihadist groups around the world. Contrariwise, the deeper a country is in the Non-Integrating Gap -- isolated, hermetically sealed, radicalized -- the more likely it is to serve as a base of operations for strikes against the Great Satan and our allies. (Think of Afghanistan under the Taliban, Sudan, the Palestinian Authority, North Korea, and Venezuela.)

News of the weird...

So the Democrats' idea of benchmarks isn't too ghastly; benchmarks (or milestones) are useful to see how you're progressing, and you can use positive incentives to encourage the country to pick up the pace.

But what is truly bizarre is the the Democrats don't want to use positive reinforcement: they're absolutely dying to enact a bill where failure to achieve these benchmarks would be "punished" by cutting off civilian funding:

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) indicated that the next bill will include benchmarks for Iraq -- such as passing a law to share oil revenue, quelling religious violence and disarming sectarian militias -- to keep its government on course. Failure to meet benchmarks could cost Baghdad billions of dollars in nonmilitary aid.

The absurdity is that every benchmark requires a huge outlay of money: Building up the Iraqi army and national police takes gold; quelling violence and disarming militias require a strong army and police; passing the oil-revenue-sharing bill demands a strong government, which can only be achieved by quelling violence and disarming militias.

Thus, punishing failure by cutting off civilian funding simply ensures that all of the achievement gaps will simply get worse and worse. Here is a good analogy:

A huge corporation buys a small company in Kalamazoo; they want to turn it into a subsidiary (the company, not Kalamazoo itself). They hire a new CEO and order him to retain the product designers and hire a lot more staff; for this purpose, they allocate a significant budget for the new subsidiary.

But after a while, the Board of the big corporation decides that the CEO isn't moving fast enough: Too many of the senior designers are talking about leaving, and it's hard to get more low-level employees for the money the subsidiary is offering.

The corporation decides to "send a message" to the CEO... so they slice the subsidiary's budget by one third. They threaten that if the CEO is still unable to retain top people and hire new personnel, they'll slash the budget even further!

Yeah. That'll work out. With even less money available, surely employee retention and recruiting will skyrocket...

Bottoms up!

All in all, considering that the ink of Bush's veto has barely dried, I think we've come a long way back towards wartime sanity. But it's an equally long road ahead; and like a skittish donkey, it doesn't take much -- a funny colored rock, a squirrel darting across the path -- to cause the Democrats to freak out entirely, dig in their hooves, and refuse to budge another inch.

Keep your garters crossed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 3, 2007, at the time of 5:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 2, 2007

We Win, They Lose Inc.

Hatched by Dafydd

Patrick Ruffini has a cool new site called We Win, They Lose. (The line is taken from Ronald Reagan's well-known description of his basic strategy for dealing with the Soviets.)

He has a petition up that I just signed, and I think you all should, too. So there.

Ruffini graciously allows us bloggers to embed the petition in our own blogs. Everyone who signs through Big Lizards earns us "credit," though I'm not sure towards what; I'm hoping there's a free lunch at Souplantation in here somewhere, but it might just be towards getting a little silver star on my permanent record.

In any event, here you go:

So sign away, and be sure to include your blog URL, if you have a blog. If you don't, then use this one, which I randomly pulled out of a hat:

(I'm not exactly sure when I took to carrying around the Big Lizards URL in my hat, but now I'm glad I did.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 2, 2007, at the time of 6:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Natter On the Nutroots

Hatched by Dafydd

Another day, another interesting Dean Barnett post... this one on the carnival relations between John Edwards, Barack Obama, the creator of the Obama MySpace page -- and the nutroots, led by head nut Markos "Daily Kos" Moulitsas. Read this and ask yourself of whom the rooties remind you:

What gets the Nutroots up in the morning is the chance that some politician will demonstrate his fealty and devotion in the most obsequious manner imaginable. Not only did Obama fail to do that, he treated a blogger like something he stepped [in]. He declined to cower before their imposing might as John Edwards did when he didn’t fire those kooky bloggers that he never should have hired in the first place. In deferring to the Nutroots’ wishes on that matter, Edwards showed an appropriate respect for the titanic force that liberal bloggers wield.

Barack Obama, the man who is probably by consensus the guy most likely to be our next president, has for the moment refused to kneel. And now he shall feel the Netroots’ wrath. Markos has already rattled his saber. As Drudge would say, DEVELOPING.

That's the quotation; now let's extract the core elements it exposes:

  • A pathetic need for "respect" (that is, attention) from their betters;
  • Flying into a rage when they don't get it;
  • A colossal ego the size of a large planet -- not a rockball like Earth, I mean a gas giant like Jupiter, or at least Neptune;
  • The demand (due to the ego described above) that the nutterbutter acolytes regularly contact more serious people and somehow insinuate the names of prominent nutrooters into the conversation;
  • Infantile behavior better suited to a particularly ill-mannered third grader (the kind that public schools regularly dose with Ritalin, to avoid having to deal with them);
  • And an ability that borders on the supernatural to sense exactly the wrong political move -- and to make it as fast and hard as they possibly can.

Yes, I think that Dean has really put his finger on it. Rem acu tetigisti: The nutroots are the political pressure-group equivalents of Howard Stern!

I predict they will soon be inviting buxom blondes with big, bouncy badonkadonks to their conferences to play "Butt Bongo."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 2, 2007, at the time of 5:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Letting the Beans Out of the Cat

Hatched by Dafydd

I have charged the Democrats for months with mandating surrender in Iraq, not because they're afraid we'll lose, but because they are afraid we might accidentally win.

I believe my thesis has just gained a little traction. Here is a seemingly minor snippet from a longer AP article on the House of Representatives, which (as expected) failed to override the president's veto of the withdrawal timetable masquerading as a troop-spending bill:

Numerous possible compromises are being floated on Capitol Hill, all involving some combination of benchmarks. Some would require Bush to certify monthly that the Iraqi government is fully cooperating with U.S. efforts in several areas, such as giving troops the authority to pursue extremists.

The key impasse in Congress is whether to require redeployments of U.S. troops if the benchmarks are not met.

Under one proposal being floated, unmet benchmarks would cause some U.S. troops to be removed from especially violent regions such as Baghdad. They would redeploy to places in Iraq where they presumably could fight terrorists but avoid the worst centers of Sunni-Shia conflict.

I believe the strands of the web are just beginning to fit into place: As a "compromise," the Democrats now propose that if they can't get all the combat troops to come home... they should at least be allowed to disrupt Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy!

The counterinsurgency is 80% focused on getting control of Baghdad, on an obvious Iraqi-based principle: Who controls Baghdad controls Iraq, and who controls Haifa Street and Sadr City controls Baghdad.

By insisting that failure to live up to unrealistic "benchmarks" must, at the very least, lead to canceling the counterinsurgency -- thus returning to the failed Rumsfeldian strategy of a "war of attrition," which never works against an outside-financed insurgency -- the Democrats show their tails: Their core goal is to ensure that we cannot win, hence are defeated.

You can tell a lot about a man's priorities, in the midst of negotiation, by the compromises he offers when he cannot get everything he wants; you learn not only his priorities but, more important, his estimation of your intelligence. This Democratic counter-offer speaks volumes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 2, 2007, at the time of 5:15 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Idolatry Thoughts

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm deliberately stomping all over Dean Barnett here, because he never got around to posting one of his "Idol Thoughts" posts -- the lazy, slovenly lout. (Say what you will about Barnett, his personal hygiene doesn't quite live up to the Al Sharpton standard.)

I've been watching American Idol from the top-ten point this season (and last season, and the season before that). Yesterday's show was "Bon Jovi" night... and I must confess right off the mark that I know very little about the band. But I was surprised that I recognized all but a couple of the songs.

In fact, now I'm motivated to get a BJ CD or two... can anyone recommend a good one for someone who has heard the music but isn't really familiar with it? Thanks, I knew you could.

I absolutely thought the best performer was LaKisha, who performed -- warning, I don't know the official names, so I have to guess from the lyrics -- "This Ain't a Love Song." In the past, I've considered Melinda the best singer; and technically, she was last night, too. But I just liked LaKisha's gospel-like rendition of this song, which is one of the two I've never heard before.

Melinda was good with "Have a Nice Day," the other one I've never heard; but honestly, I really, really liked Blake's bizarre performance of "You Give Love a Bad Name" much better (again, that may not be the title, but you must be able to figure out what song I mean). I've heard that song sooooo-oooooo-oooo many times on the radio that I was heartily sick of the thing; but Blake's version was very fresh and original.

In fact, even Jon Bon Jovi himself -- who tutored the Idolators, along with the keyboardist from the band, didn't catch the name -- was very skeptical about Blake's interpretation. He was politely trying to dance around saying "you're a weirdo, and you're wrecking our song!" But dang, did Blake nail it! I really enjoyed it; I liked it better than the original, but that could be due to familiarity breeding ennui.

Melinda was third best, to my ear; she sang the heck out of her song, and it was a tough song; but I didn't get into it as much as I did Blake's and especially LaKisha's.

Below that, it gets a little dicey: Chris did a fairly good job with "Wanted: Dead or Alive," workmanlike but unspectacular. Phil did about the same with "Blaze of Glory," which I've heard once or twice before. Non-memorable, at least his performance.

But the lowest spot -- I was very unpleasantly surprised -- was 17 year old Jordin Sparks, who struggled her way through "Living On a Prayer." While I've loved some of her singing in the past -- especially "You'll Never Walk Alone" last week, which left audiences screaming for less -- last night, I agreed with Simon (as I generally do, except when he's too generous): It was a miserable performance. She couldn't even remember the melody.

Because nobody was bounced last week (it was charity day, so they extended a week's worth of welfare to the contestants), two will be eliminated tomorrow. I'm almost dead certain that Jordin will be one of them; she was inexplicably the bottom vote-getter last week and would have been eliminated but for unearned grace. Her performance last night clinched it; consumatum est. Tomorrow, Jordin sleeps with the fishes.

But I don't know who goes with her. I think (I hope!) it will be either Phil or Chris; the other three were all first drawer. If I had to pick solely on the basis of the singing ability, I think Phil did a marginally better job than Chris, so the latter should go.

But it has nothing to do with singing, really; it actually is a popularity contest... and I don't know which of the two is beloveder.

So those are my predictions, and I'm standing by them. Dean Barnet can go jump in the River Jordin (yes, that's a pun, not a typo) for missing his beloved Idol Thoughts post; maybe when he sees this, he'll belatedly toss something up... but no matter what he says, you'll all know it was because he was prodded by a grotty lizard!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 2, 2007, at the time of 5:32 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► May 1, 2007

Honda's Chinese Accord

Hatched by Sachi

The recent visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington D.C. has raised, yet again, the tired issue of the Korean and Chinese (and yes, Japanese) "comfort women"... another meaningless cause celebre for Democratic outrage, like the Armenian genocide and reparations for distant descendents of African slaves:

Abe’s first U.S. trip as prime minister comes as Congress considers a nonbinding resolution that urges Japan to apologize for its role coercing women to work as “comfort women” for the Japanese military. Abe sought to explain to U.S. lawmakers Thursday a comment he made last month that seemed to minimize Japan’s role in forcing thousands of Asian women into sexual slavery during World War II....

People across Asia and the United States, including conservative supporters of Japan in Congress, were infuriated at Abe’s suggestion in March that no proof existed that the military had coerced women into brothels.

Abe should have taken Big Lizards' advice. As we said back in March, the proper answer is not to deny that such sex slavery existed; of course it did. The correct response is to point out that the government that carried out that grotesque policy has not existed for 60 years!

The Japanese military dictatorship was obliterated more than three generations ago; nobody who was in any position of authority, from Tojo on down, is still alive... and in fact, we hanged many of them ourselves, including Prime Minister Hideki Tojo himself in 1948.

If only Abe had listened to us! Here is what we suggested, in our previous post, that he say:

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.

Japan has repeatedly and unnecessarily apologized for past wrongs committed by the military dictatorship. They have paid tens of billions of dollars in reparations to several Asian countries, and are still paying them, mostly to Red China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Korea. China alone has received $30 billion over these many years. Despite this -- or more accurately, because of this -- the issue is brought up over and again by China and both Koreas.

Now the United States Congress, which has no other business to discuss other than the forty or sixty investigations of the Bush administration they're currently running, is weighing in on the issue. A House resolution demanding Japan's formal apology currently squats in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution is sponsored by (Japanese American) Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA, 95%) and is co-sponsored by a bipartisan corruption of more than 100 congressmen and congresswomen.

Recently, I found an illuminating interview on PBS that touches on this issue -- and upon another possible motivation for Rep. Honda. On Foreign Exchange, Fareed Zakaria interviewed Yoshihisa Komori, Washington D.C.-based Editor-at-Large for Japan's Sankei Shimbum (Sankei Newspaper).

Sankei Shimbum is definitely right of the center, and Komori himself is quite right wing. Thus it was hardly surprising that he tiresomely insists that the Imperial military had no official policy to forcibly bring in women for sex slaves. In this, Komori treads the same needlessly disreputable path trodden by Abe himself, as we reported in our earlier post:

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!

But in the course of Komori's interview, he levels some very serious charges -- almost Clintonian charges -- against the resolution's main sponsor, Rep. Honda:

Note that we have no independent verification of what Komori is saying; we simply rely upon his appearance on PBS. It's possible Komori is completely wrong. But on the other hand, he is an editor on a major Japanese newspaper; he is based in Washington; and he may very well have solid sourcing on his accusation.

Besides, it's hardly out of character for Honda's party to be remarkably chummy with the People's Republic of China.

So take what he says with a dollop of soy sauce... but I say it still demands an answer.

What follows is transcribed by Sachi from the PBS video; the transcript for the April 28th show is not yet available, but when it is, you should be able to find it here. In the meanwhile, here is Sachi's transcription; this section begins about 7:00 into the segment (when the countdown timer hits 5:40 remaining) and continues to the end (Sachi omits unessential parts):

Look at what's going on [in the] House of Representatives in the U.S....

So we... criticism now coming is from the United States. New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, are bashing Japan and Japanese leadership as if there is something wrong in the Japanese DNA. None of us was around when these things happened....

"So our question is, why do they have to bring up this issue now...?

[E]ven behind this current move against Japan, there is a Chinese move. Congressman Mike Honda of California has been receiving a huge amount of political donation from the Chinese, Chinese activists who associated with the Chinese organization [Komori likely means "Chinese authority"] And so interestingly, there's very little supportive actors from Korea.

So, I see this as a diplomatic maneuver on the part of certain countries [China and the Koreas] to keep Japan in a emasuculated way or inferior way, just portraying Japan as if something. the country or the people who are sort of genetically wrong or something inferior. That's how strongly I feel.

Komori is not just talking about the "comfort women" issue. The Chinese and Koreans (both North and South) have been escalating their complaints to Japan and the world community about a great many issues:

  • A few years ago, it was Japanese history text books (which did actually minimize Japan's role in atrocities).
  • Then the countries complained about former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the war shrine of Yasukuni Jinja.
  • Then just a year ago, the South Korean navy forcibly seized the island of Takeshima from Japan, despite the fact that there is no international dispute that Japan owns it... only in the mind of South Korea's anti-Japanese (and anti-American) President Roh Moo-hyun.

Everything Japan does, the PRC, the DPRK, and the RoK denounce; they were particularly steamed when Japan sought a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. They accuse Japan of insensitivity, racism, human rights violations, and of not abasing themselves sufficiently -- kow-towing to the Chinese, you might say. Japan has never done enough; and inevitably, the plaintiffs demand more money from Japan.

But this time, I don't think it's about money alone: Communists -- and the rabid President Ro of South Korea -- hate the fact that Japan and the United States have a good relationship. They want to drive a wedge between us.

And of course, the anti-American American left hates pro-America Japan; which is why Rep. Honda has introduced his resolution. What Honda has against Prime Minister Abe is simply that he is pro-America, and even pro-Bush. That, obviously, is quite enough for the Democratic leadership!

But the last thing the Bush administration wants to do is accuse Japan of a "new" war crime. So far, Bush had acknowledged Abe's most recent apology and moved on.

Sadly however, I see many Japanese conservatives -- who should be siding with Bush and the GOP -- becoming more and more anti-American, in response to what seems to them as a growing anti-Japanese fervor in the government. (It's almost impossible to tell Japanese conservative bloggers that congressional Democrats are actually enemies of the Republicans and especially the president, because modern Japan has always had one-party rule: They literally don't understand the idea that one party controls one part of the government, while the other party controls another part.)

The Japanese right would be foolhardy to wreck the relationship between the United States over this silly, meaningless resolution: That is exactly the response the Communists in Red China and North Korea desperately want... just as the terrorists in Iraq desperately want us to enunciate a timeline for surrender.

Isn't it amazing how often the Democratic Party finds itself on the same side as America's national enemies?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 1, 2007, at the time of 6:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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