Date ►►► June 29, 2007

Operation Arrowhead Ripper Far Ahead of Schedule

Hatched by Dafydd

According to Stars and Stripes, Operation Arrowhead Ripper -- the battle for Baqouba, capital of Diyala province, and the self-declared "capital city" of the Islamic State of Iraq (the umbrella group that subsumed al-Qaeda in Iraq) -- is going amazingly well; in fact, commanders on the ground believe they have passed the major-combat phase and now enter the phase where they must purge the population of al-Qaeda support and sympathy, and induce the rest of the citizenry to start outing them:

That sort of information could prove vital as U.S. and Iraqi forces move into the next phase of operations in Baqouba. With almost no hostile fire reported in days, combat operations are winding down. The focus of the effort now is to consolidate control and persuade local residents to begin cooperating with U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces.

The overall intent of this phase of the Baqouba operation, said Capt. Issac Torres, commander of Company C, is to “lock down the local population and keep pressure on them” until they begin turning in al-Qaida and other insurgents who remain in the city.

Col. Steve Townsend, the commander of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, says that "about half of the estimated 300 to 500 fighters" fled Baqouba; of the remaining 200 or so, we killed 60 and captured 74 (see the sidebar to the article), for a total of 134. We assume the remaining 65 are still hiding in the city somewhere... which is exactly why the new phase of the operation needs to win, if not the hearts and minds, then at least the self-serving cooperation of citizens sick of losing fingers for smoking or being beaten for allowing vegetables potentially to fornicate. (From Michael Yon, hat tip to Power Line.)

The second phase of the operation is the critical component of counterinsurgency (COIN) that was missing at the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq back in May of 2003:

Two years ago, the Islamic State of Iraq declared the city, about 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, to be its capital. Fighting in the city and surrounding areas has worsened since last January when insurgents flocked into Diyala province after President Bush announced a plan to send additional U.S. forces to secure Baghdad.

Although fighting to retake Baqouba proved much easier than expected, the next 60 days will prove crucial as U.S. and Iraqi government forces try to win over the local population and restart the economy and government services. [Amazing that everywhere Wahhabi or Twelver terrorists rule, all government functions come to a grinding halt. What bad luck to have so many decades of bad luck!]

The difference this time from 2003? Both the commander of MNF-I (Gen. David Petreaus) and of CENTCOM (Adm. William Fallon) thoroughly understand that we're fighting a COIN strategy -- not a "war of attrition;" in Vietnam terms, we're emulating winner Creighton Abrams, not loser William Westmoreland.

We enter now the most delicate and difficult phase: We must convince the Baqouba Sunnis that al-Qaeda, instead of being mujahadeen and martyrs fighting holy war, are actually terrorist apostates engaging in unholy war -- "irhabiyoun murtaddi" committing "hirabah," to use the "new lexicon" for the war against global jihad (or rather, global hirabah) suggested by Jim Guirard at Small Wars Journal... and assuming I'm getting the endings correct.

(I think I'll change our category "War on Global Jihadism" to "War on Global Hirabah," just to inaugurate the anti-terrorist newspeak. That will take place a few hours from now, after I rebuild the database.)

If once a big enough minority of Iraqi citizens admit that the butchers among them (Shia and Sunni) are not fighting a holy but an unholy war, and that they're terrorists and apostates, not martyrs and faithful, the job will finish itself. So fingers crossed (how Crusader like!) that the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team is as successful in Phase II as they have been in Phase I.

If so, then even Majority Leader Harry "we've already lost" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy "the surge has already failed" Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) will be hard-pressed to enunciate a convincing reason for immediate panic and withdrawal.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 29, 2007, at the time of 5:19 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Will Anthony Kennedy Rule for al-Qaeda?

Hatched by Dafydd

The abrupt and unexpected reversal by the Supreme Court today, deciding to rehear arguments about (essentially) whether to grant habeas corpus rights to unlawful enemy combatants detained abroad, hinged on the vote-switch by Justice Anthony "Weathercock" Kennedy. (Incredibly liberal Justice John Paul Stevens also switched, but his vote against was an aberration from the git-go; he was always going to switch if his would be the necessary fifth vote.)

But the impact may be profound -- and dreadful. As five justices had to vote to rehear, this may mean five justices (a majority) now buy the Democrats' central point: that enemy combatants must be treated the same as carjackers and check kiters: granted the full panoply of rights, lawyers, civilian evidentiary hearings, and of course, the ability to subpoena heavily classified documents and to yank top military commanders from the front line, during a war, to sit for weeks in a courtroom being cross-examined by an al-Qaeda attorney on future and ongoing American military plans and operations.

Or, if the subpoenas are rejected, to force the release of terrorist masterminds back into the outside world, where they will instantly start plotting more terrorist attacks (laughing at imprudent Western "jurisprudence" all the way).

From the New York Times:

The issue in the case the court agreed to hear today is whether the Congress can strip the federal courts of the power to hear habeas corpus cases filed by Guantanamo detainees. In legislation passed after last June’s Supreme Court ruling, Congress included a provision barring such suits by the detainees....

The Justice Department has argued that the nation’s defense would be imperiled if habeas corpus cases can be used by federal judges to second guess military officials’ decisions to detain enemies during wartime.

Under the theory of the most liberal members of the Court (and the entire leadership of the Democratic Party), we wouldn't be able to hold any prisoners at all... even on the battlefield. If habeas is granted to prisoners held in Cuba -- not American soil -- then it's granted to all prisoners held anywhere, in any country, so long as Americans have any control or access.

This should be fairly clear: Via "judge shopping," lawyers for detainees -- wherever held -- can always find a judge who is sympathetic to the plight of terrorists unable to ply their demonic trade against Americans... or at least completely unsympathetic to any coercive means the military might use to stop them, which amounts to the same thing.

Such a judge can order the production, in federal court, of every document demanded by the defense, including classified material detailing ongoing intelligence operations (which resulted in the defendant's capture but might have been "erroneous"). And the judge can order that "critical witnesses," such as Gen. David Petraeus (Commander Multinational Force - Iraq) and Adm. William Fallon (Commander CENTCOM), be produced in that same stateside court to fully explain details of ongoing military operations... operations that resulted in the capture of the defendant (relevance!) and perhaps future planned military operations that might be affected by intelligence we gather from the defendant (even more relevance!)

Additionally, under the Fifth Amendment, any detainee could refuse to answer questions or "be a witness against himself," and there woudn't be a thing we could do to force him. After all, if you can't force an American citizen charged with pickpocketing or dealing crack to answer questions, what possible justification can there be to force a Yemeni terrorist captured in Qatar by the CIA and held in Kuwait to answer questions? Certainly not without an al-Qaeda minder -- sorry, I meant "attorney" -- being present!

Simply put, unelected, lifetime-appointed civilian judges would take control of all prisoners captured by the military, the CIA, or even foreign intelligence agencies, if they're unwise enough to allow us access. Welcome to the wonderful world of Democrats.

I'm nervous about this hearing for two reasons:

  • In general, I'm skeptical that the Court will ever finally rule that it doesn't have jurisdiction in such a momentous issue; power seeks more power.
  • I'm especially skeptical when a majority of justices votes to rehear an issue; why would Kennedy vote to rehear this case -- and then vote to decide it the way it was originally decided back on April 2nd? I have the terrible feeling that Kennedy switched his vote on rehearing because he was persuaded, in backroom discussions with the Court liberals, to switch his vote -- on the underlying question, I mean.

What is really at stake here is whether the Constitution really means what a plain reading of its text indicates it means. The Constitution says (article III, section 2):

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

Per above, Congress spoke: It made an exception to the Court's jurisdiction, just as the Constitution allows.

But the Court seems to interpret this constitutional provision as actually meaning that the Supreme Court has whatever jurisdiction it chooses to have, and to hell with the Congress. Evidently we have three coequal branches of government, but one is more coequal than the others.

What next? Will the sheep be trained to chant "five robes good, four robes bad?"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 29, 2007, at the time of 3:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 28, 2007

Spin City, Here We Come

Hatched by Dafydd

So, hardly surprising, the immigration reform bill is now dead. But before conservatives begin doing their best impersonation of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) -- pumping their fists in the air and screaming "we killed the Patriot Act immigration reform!" -- we might want to think this through a bit more intelligently.

As you know, I have supported this bill all along; but given the reality that it's dead and buried and not going to rise again until (at the earliest) 2009 (under a new Congress and a new president), I now shift gears to try to mitigate any harm the bill's failure may have on future Republican election chances.

I know that some conservatives insist that killing the bill will have only positive effects; the whole country, weeping tears of gratitude, will rally around the Republican nominees in 2008 and elect a GOP president, Senate, and House. Please pardon me if I'm a bit skeptical that such a big chunk of the electorate is now cheering for the Republican congressmen who heroically skewered immigration reform... I suppose anything's possible, but I doubt it; and that's certainly not how the media are spinning the defeat.

I believe there is a potential for a serious downside effect among Hispanic voters, who have become an increasingly important and volatile share of voters: Ronald Reagan got about 50% of the Hispanic vote in 1984, and I believe Bush got over 40% twenty years later... but those days are behind us, and we'd be darned lucky to get 30% in 2008.

But since I believe people mostly make their own luck, we need to position the defeat of this bill in such a way that we make it much more likely we'll get 30% -- which could still make it possible to win -- than, say, 15%, which would mean a stunning Democratic sweep of both houses of Congress and the presidency. (In which case, kiss goodbye to the war against global jihadism and start pining for the Bush tax rate, the 109th Congress's spending restraint, and even the border security fence.)

The elite media have already started their own spin cycle. AP's version of "the story":

President Bush's immigration plan to legalize as many as 12 million unlawful immigrants while fortifying the border collapsed in the Senate on Thursday, crushing both parties' hopes of addressing the volatile issue before the 2008 elections.

The Senate vote that drove a stake through the delicate compromise was a stinging setback for Bush, who had made reshaping immigration laws a central element of his domestic agenda. It could carry heavy political consequences for Republicans and Democrats, many of whom were eager to show they could act on a complex issue of great interest to the public.

The Washington Post version:

The vote was a major defeat for President Bush, dealt largely by members of his own party. The president made a last-ditch round of phone calls this morning to senators in an attempt to rescue the bill, but with his poll numbers at record lows, his appeals proved fruitless. Bush has now lost what is likely to be the last, best chance at a major domestic accomplishment for his second term.

Chicago Tribune (from "the Swamp," whatever that is):

For President Bush, who invested much of what little political capital he had remaining in the effort to get the bill through the Senate, it was perhaps his last chance of his presidency for a significant domestic legislative accomplishment, further accentuating his lame duck status.

Well, you get the idea; it's divide and conquer: The Democrats and their willing accomplices in the media desperately want Republicans to start attacking Bush on every occasion, setting elements of the party at each other's throat. The New York Times wasn't too bad; but many other media sources have already spun this as a terrible defeat of the impotent, lame-duck president and a victory by hard-core, right-wing conservatives. And sadly, some of the relentless attacks on the president from conservatives have been harsher than anything published in the MSM.

To be fair, harsh attacks have come in the other direction as well, particularly from Sens. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%), Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 83%), and Trent Lott (R-MS, 88%). They need to knock off the bitterness, link arms, and hotly defend all those areas where they agree with other conservatives (which in McCain's case may well be just the war!) But for both sides of the GOP, the "first rule of holes" applies. And we cannot hope to win in 2008 by attacking our own president.

Honestly, people, this is not how you win an election. Too many conservatives are pointing to the election in France of Nicholas Sarkozy, proclaiming that the way for Republicans to win in 2008 is to campaign against President Bush, to be even more stridently anti-Bush than the Democrats will be. As a campaign strategy, this is absolute nutter stuff.

The Sarkozy analogy doesn't work at all; Sarkozy didn't win because he decided to attack Jacques Chirac; he decided he had to attack Chirac because Chirac, along with hand-picked successor and prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, had embraced policies much closer to the Socialists than the conservatives (the dominant party at this time, the UMP -- Union for a Popular Movement -- contains elements of both Left and Right); and Chirac's policies, especially economic, were in tatters. But Bush has never, as a general policy, embraced "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," as Sen. Paul Wellstone used to put it.

In the last presidential election in France:

  • Sarkozy won because he was running against a proud Socialist, Ségolène Royal, who edged close to Communism in some of her insane proposals.
  • Sarkozy won because the French, especially Parisians, felt themselves under seige by Moslem "youths" in their own country, with daily riots and 20,000 cars torched every year.
  • Sarkozy won because the French economy is in a shambles due to the Socialist policies of (among others) Chirac in his second term (he was more conservative the first time around).
  • And Sarkozy had to run against Chirac, because the latter had completely tied himself to the Socialist Left... probably because he so feared Sarkozy himself.

Jacques Chirac led the opposition to anything America did to combat radical Islamism, while Sarkozy rightly understood that the West had to unite against al-Qaeda. Chirac (former member of the Communist Party), in his second term, embraced the Socialists' economic plans, including the 35-hour week and virtual ban on firing anyone, even for incompetence. Finally, Chirac is well known to be utterly corrupt; were it not for the immunity granted to French presidents, he would have been indicted years ago.

But President Bush has done none of the above. On a couple of issues (notably immigration reform and affirmative action), he has tried to bridge the gap between Left and Right. But on most issues, especially the most important -- federal judges (which is paying major dividends right now), taxes, the war against global jihadism, reforming entitlement programs, abortion, stem cell research, faith-based initiatives, and at least recently, congressional spending -- he is firmly on the side of conservatives.

Sarkozy considered most of the government initiatives of the last five years a complete failure; since they were all intimiately tied with President Jacques Chirac, of necessity, Sarkozy had to run against him.

But conservative Republicans, no matter how angry they are at Bush today, in fact agree with nearly all of his major initiatives:

  • Aggressively fighting the war, expanding and rebuilding the military, and trying to transform it into a 21st-century fighting force;
  • Lowering taxes and making the cuts permanent;
  • Security measures such as the Patriot Act, the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, the SWIFT surveillance program, National Security Letters, and so forth;
  • Allowing faith-based organizations to fully participate in charitable governmental functions;
  • Reform of Social Security, MediCare, and other entitlement programs to introduce at least some element of privatization;
  • The various border-security and employer-enforcement provisions of the recently killed immigration bill, all of which Bush supports (and none of which the Democrats support);
  • Appointing federal judges who believe in judicial restraint;
  • Firm opposition to abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, particularly federal funding;
  • Unwavering support for traditional marriage and opposition to same-sex "marriage".

The areas of disagreement, while often intense, are dwarfed by the areas of complete agreement; and in one of the areas of disagreement, federal spending, Republicans are just as complicit as the president and hardly in a position to throw stones.

We now invoke the Big Lizards self-evident article of common electoral sense: You cannot run in favor of the president's policies -- and simultaneously run against the president as an incompetent booby. If he's a booby, then his policies would be boobish... which makes you a booby for supporting them!

This poses no problem for Democrats: They call Bush an idiot, they call his policies idiotic, and they vehemently oppose both. But Republicans intend to run on most of the ideas above; they intend to point to the truly great economy as an example of Republican principles in operation; they intend to vigorously pursue the "Bush Doctrine" of holding sovereign nations accountable for what they allow terrorist groups to do on their soil, and suchlike.

How do you manage all that while "running against the president?"

The long and the tooth of it is that Republicans can only win by embracing President Bush... even while disagreeing on a few subjects important to them. In fact, even in areas where they disagree -- such as immigration -- it's political suicide to attack Bush's motives, his integrity, or to tie him too closely to Democrats... which I've seen a lot of in the past couple of months.

Folks may differ about what path to take; but John Cornyn (R-TX, 96%), Jon Kyle (R-AZ, 92%), and certainly President Bush have the same goal in mind: To drastically reduce illegal border crossings and overstaying of visas, allow in sufficient people willing to work at jobs that most Americans shun, and fundamentally reform the legal immigration policy to entice immigrants who are more assimilable and less likely to pose security threats.

Conservatives killed the bill because they believed it would not move us towards those goals; but the president pushed it because he thought it would -- not because he wants to flood the country with illegals and create an "open border" society. Republicans must not be seduced by a wish-fulfillment theory of the French election, lest we slay any chance of retaining the White House and recapturing one or both houses of Congress.

We might survive conservatives killing comprehensive immigration reform; but we would not survive conservatives polishing off the entire legacy of Pesident George W. Bush.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 28, 2007, at the time of 5:34 PM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 27, 2007

Coulter Didn't Say It. Again. UPDATED

Hatched by Dafydd

Today's drive-by smear against Ann Coulter -- and I can think of several Coulter-haters in the dextrosphere who will eagerly seize upon it to demand that Coulter be muzzled -- is that she supposedly expressed a desire for John Edwards to be "killed in a terrorist attack."

If you see that anywhere, understand that you're being punked: She never said it; the supposed quote from Good Morning America is deliberately taken out of context to bear false witness against her. But that's not what you're going to hear from the screaming meemies.

So what did she actually say? You can judge for yourself in this clip... but here is my transcript of the relevant portion. She was asked by the interviewer, Chris Cuomo, about the earlier controversy over remarks she made about Edwards; she had said something to the effect that she couldn't say what she really thought about him, because you have to go into rehab for using the word "faggot."

We pick it up where she notes another aggressive attack that a different person used against a target on the right -- but which none of the anti-Coulterites seemed to care much about:

COULTER: But about the same time, Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack. So I’ve learned my lesson: If I’m going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he’d been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.

First, let's look at the literal words: The offending phrase is the second part of a subjunctive statement, an "if - then." She is literally saying that if she is going to say anything about Edwards, then she will express that wish.

But she is not, of course, actually saying even that much... because anybody with a pair of neurons to rub together understands that what Coulter is really saying is that the Democrats don't seem to mind people using hate speech on-air... at least when the "people" in question is ultra-liberal Bill Maher, and the target is the despised and feared Dick Cheney; why should Republicans appease haters who accuse us of hate speech?

Her statement is not an expression of actual desire to see John Edwards killed. Ann Coulter is noting the irony of people attacking her for implying that Edwards is fey -- while not batting an eyelid at a snide, embittered leftist defending the hate-driven regret of a Huffington Post commenter that the vice president wasn't killed by a bomb attack when he was in Iraq.

Now, I want to be fair to Maher: Coulter was not exactly correct that Maher "said" he wished Cheney had been killed. But he came much closer than Coulter did to saying something similar about Edwards.

According to the partial transcript in this NewsBusters blogpost by Noel Sheppard, here is what Maher actually said on his HBO show (I believe they have a video link, but I confess I didn't follow it to see whether it was still live). He, Joe Scarborough, John Ridley, and Rep. Barney Frank were discussing the Huffington Post commenters who flatly said they wished the bomb attack on Cheney had succeeded:

Maher: What about the people who got onto the Huffington Post -- and these weren’t even the bloggers, these were just the comments section -- who said they, they expressed regret that the attack on Dick Cheney failed....

Scarborough: Okay. Did you say…

Maher: No, no. I quoted that.

Frank: You don’t believe that?

Maher: I’m just saying if he did die, other people, more people would live. That’s a fact.

In the transcript, Maher does not condemn the comment; in fact, he goes out of his way to defend it. And that is more than Coulter did: She was clearly attacking Maher and those who turned a blind eye to his clear implication.

I hope that before some of the more notorious Coulter haters in the right-wing blogosphere write a post condemning her, they will stop, take a deep breath, and actually listen to what she said in context. It's very different from the way that DemocraticUnderground and DailyKos are spinning it today -- and therefore how the MSM will be spinning it tomorrow.

SWIFT UPDATE a few minutes later:

Here is the official New York Times blog of Michael Falcone, in which he originally repeated the slur intact from the nutroot blogs. He is praising Elizabeth Edwards for her courage in speaking truth to power:

Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, keeps making headlines.

She took on Ann Coulter yesterday, calling in to MSNBC’s “Hardball” to criticize the conservative commentator for “debasing” the political dialogue in the country and to demand that she stop making personal attacks on her husband and other candidates.

Their exchange followed Ms. Coulter’s remarks on Monday that she wished Mr. Edwards would have been killed in a terrorist assassination plot, in response to a question about having labeled Mr. Edwards with an anti-gay slur earlier this year.

Immediately thereafter, Falcone inserts a correction that completely undermines the claim above, in which he finally quotes the actual language... which clearly is not saying Coulter wishes Edwards would be killed. And he ends his correction with a flippant "Now back to the Edwards-Coulter exchange on MSNBC"... returning to what, in Falcone's mind, is the real story of the first segment of his post: poor, put-upon victim Elizabeth Edwards speaking truth to Ann Coulter's power.

The transference from nutroots to elite media has already begun.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 27, 2007, at the time of 1:33 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Avoid Labor-Day Rush; Panic Today

Hatched by Dafydd

A number of Republican senators and representatives seem to be in a powerful hurry to declare the "surge" a failure -- nearly three months before the military assessment of its success. It truly makes one wonder what they fear most: defeat or victory?

The newest to join the parade of victory deniers (who predict doom and defeat but refuse to vote for timetables for withdrawal) are Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN, 64%) and George Voinovich (R-OH, 56%). Previous timorous lawmakers include Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%), Susan Collins (R-ME, 48%), Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 75%), Gordon Smith (R-OR, 72%), Norm Coleman (R-MN, 68%), and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner (R-VA, 64%).

Hm... odd: Something seems to stand out about that group of Republicans, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Something about those little numbers after their party and state identification -- the number that measures Republican partisanship.

Oh, wait, maybe this is it: The mean average "Republicanness" of the group of knee-knockers appears to be 60%; the mean average of the rest of the Republican conference is 87%.

Think maybe that could explain it?

Oh, and here's another amusing example of the "multiple layers of editing" that is the hallmark of the elite media. According to the New York Times:

For months, Mr. Lugar has kept his skepticism about the president’s Iraq policy largely to himself, seldom offering anything beyond a hopeful wait-and-see statement. A soft-spoken cardinal of foreign policy, Mr. Lugar is known to his colleagues as anything but a bitter partisan, which made his remarks all the more stinging. [Defeatism is "more stinging" because Lugar is a wishy-washy RINO?]

And according to AP:

Earlier this year, Voinovich and Lugar said they doubted the troop buildup in Iraq would work. But they declined to back a resolution expressing opposition to the troop increase because they said it would have no practical effect. The two senators also refused Democratic proposals to set a timetable for troop withdrawals.

I suppose the only way to reconcile the two is to assume that when Lugar expressed his doubts, he must have been talking to himself. I picture an argument between the two halves of Dick Lugar -- somewhat like the one between Smeagol and Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movie... alas, Gollum appears to have won.

Lugar and Voinovich insist they will still vote against timetables, withdrawals, and defeat; but they simply cannot resist kicking the American military at the least opportunity.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 27, 2007, at the time of 5:32 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 26, 2007

Wacking the Moles, Sealing the Holes

Hatched by Dafydd

Warning, this post contains no great analysis, no brilliant insights, and no genius-level discovery of hitherto unrealized connections. In other words, it's a great departure from typical Big Lizards fare.

Instead, I assume the smart-man's burden of straight reporting (more or less) of what you might not have seen, depending on how deeply you bore down into the boring world of mainstream journalism.

First, a bit from AP about Operation Marne Torch in Diyala province:

Newly arrived U.S. troops southeast of Baghdad are destroying boats on the Tigris River and targeting networks believed to be bringing powerful roadside bombs from Iran as the military cracks down on extremists from all directions, military officials said.

But a top U.S. commander warned on Monday that three or four times more Iraqi security forces are needed to sustain the progress in clearing the area and stanching the flow of arms and makeshift bombs into the capital....

The brigade commander, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., said 21 boats had been destroyed on the river and in the reeds on the banks since the operation began in force on June 15, most with secondary blasts indicating many were filled with explosive material.

He also said the military had gained intelligence from a local sheik about networks bringing armor-penetrating explosively formed projectiles, known as EFPs, on a major road that travels from the border with Iran through Shiite areas to Baghdad. The U.S. has accused Iran of supplying mainly Shiite militias with EFPs, but Tehran has denied the allegations. [EFPs are also sometimes called explosively formed penetrators; even the Pentagon can't seem to make up its mind which phrase to use!]

Lynch said the area had two battalions from the 8th Iraqi army division but added "there needs to be three or four times more Iraqi security forces than are currently present to provide for sustained security. That's the critical piece in all of this."

From June 15th to the 26th is 11 days; that's two boats per day average, though I'm sure it varies day by day. Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail gives a for-instance:

In Northern Babil province, Operations Marne Torch and Commando Eagle continue. On June 23, Coalition forces detained four suspects, destroyed two trucks and two barges used to transport insurgents and equipment, and found two weapons caches during operations south of Salman Pak. Coalition forces also detained 19 members of an IED cell near Mahmudiyah. The cell is believed to have brought down a bridge in northern Babil....

Maybe I just haven't heard about it before, but I think this riverine campaign is new: attacking boats that insurgents have been using to transport explosives. Obviously, a barge can hold tremendously more cargo than a truck; thus every barge destroyed is the equivalent of at least a "weapons cache," perhaps two -- judging from the size of most such caches that we see on TV. Killing these barges is a very big deal: As Col. Grigsby said, each of those "secondary explosions" was the sound of insurgent munitions dumps going up in smoke.

As for the "networks bringing armor-penetrating... EFPs... from the border with Iran through Shiite areas to Baghdad," mentioned without much comment or analysis by AP, Roggio again has deeper information:

Coalition forces maintain pressure on the Iranian backed "secret cells" of the Qazali Network. A raid in Sadr City resulted in the death of "four Secret Cell terrorists."

In earlier posts, Roggio has extensively discussed Qazali:

Over 20 members of the network were killed, 6 wounded and 1 captured in the raid against “the secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training” in Amarah and Majjar al-Kabir....

The raids in Amara and Majjar al-Kabir are the latest in a series of Coalition and Iraqi operations designed to dismantle the Qazali and the Sheibani networks, which are Iraqi manned and led networks operated by Iran’s Qods Force. Coalition and Iraqi forces killed at least 47 members of this network and captured 88 since major operations began in April 27, 2007.

These networks also have deep ties with Muqtada al Sadr’s Iranian backed Mahdi Army. “The dead are believed to be Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who is a dominant force in Maysan province,” Fadhel Mushatat reported from Amara.

Multinational Forces Iraq has essentially taken off the gloves with identifying Iran’s involvement in backing the Qazali and the Sheibani networks. “Intelligence reports indicate that both Amarah and Majjar al-Kabir are known safe havens and smuggling routes for Secret Cell terrorists who facilitate Iranian lethal aid,” noted the Multinational Forces Iraq press release. Qods force is directly identified. “Reports further indicate that Iranian surrogates, or Iraqis that are liaisons for Iranian intelligence operatives into Iraq, use both Amarah and Majjar al-Kabir as safe haven locations.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times explicates a brutal tactic -- houses rigged with bombs -- to which al-Qaeda in Iraq has increasingly turned, as they fail and fail, and fall and fall to American and Iraqi forces.

This story is very well written, almost novelic -- which is not surprising, as the author, Michael R. Gordon, has written at least two narrative histories: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf, and Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. Here is one platoon's adventures on a single day, in a single neighborhood of one city, Baqouba, capital of Diyala province:

The enemy was a phantom who never showed his face but transformed a neighborhood into a network of houses rigged to explode....

Tracer rounds zipped through the air as the soldiers fired antitank weapons, mortar shells and machine guns at the abandoned houses they planned to inspect across the street.

They calculated that the firepower would blow up any bombs the insurgents might have planted in the houses, while providing cover so the first squads could move south across the thoroughfare.

The use of house bombs is not a new trick, but as the soldiers were to learn, the scale was daunting. The entire neighborhood seemed to be a trap.

For those who remember our post about Cougers and Buffalos and other "MRAPs," here is a blast from the past:

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

You'll be tickled to see that our new toys are already being used in combat in Iraq -- saving American lives and helping to win the Iraq war. From the Times article:

But there were a few early indications that the bomb threat in the area might be more challenging than the Americans had expected. The street the soldiers had raced across was strewn with slender copper wires, which the insurgents used to set off buried bombs powerful enough to upend armored vehicles.

As the platoon watched from its new foothold south of the road, a Buffalo vehicle, a heavily armored truck with a V-shaped body to dissipate bomb blasts and a giant mechanical claw, began to scour the nearby roads for bombs. It found three, which were exploded by American combat engineers.

“Controlled dets,” a soldier called out, referring to a deliberate detonation of a discovered bomb. The good news was that the buried bombs had been found and neutralized. But some had been deeply buried on the road the platoon had just crossed.

One interesting point about Americans is that we take our sense of humor with us wherever we go. Even when clearing houses and streets that have been turned into a weird, live-action videogame of explosives, springtraps, and other deadly snares:

To blast a path through the next bomb-ridden stretch of road, combat engineers brought in a mine-clearing device. A bright fireball appeared over the street and a cloud of gritty dust engulfed the platoon’s house as the soldiers huddled in the back and plugged their ears.

Afterward, as Sgt. Philip Ness-Hunkin, 24, walked to the house next door, he saw copper wires leading to the home. The gate was unlocked and the front door was invitingly open.

“Right in the front door there was a pressure plate under a piece of wood,” he said, referring to a mine that is set to blow when it is stepped on. “Over in that neighborhood there were wires going all over the place.”

“H-BIED,” a soldier called out, using the military’s acronym for a house-borne improvised explosive device.

"House-borne" improvised explosive devices! Only from Americans.

In the end, the platoon commander, 1LT Charles Morton, asked for the entire block of houses to be destroyed by artillery, since it was virtually impossible to move the platoon forward through the maze of munitions and copper-wired mines:

The next morning, an M1 tank arrived. The neighborhood reverberated with enormous booms as soldiers blasted the homes suspected of containing bombs with antitank missiles, artillery and tank fire. The platoon’s advance had been stymied for a day, but there were no American casualties and more bombs had been cleared out.

I have great faith in American military ingenuity; I predict that in just a few weeks, we'll have a much faster and more effective way to stymie such HBIEDs without having to blow up entire city blocks. But in the meanwhile, we are allowing nothing to stop our counterinsurgency operations: Phantom Thunder, Arrowhead Ripper, Marne Torch, and all the ancillary battles they spawn.

All we need now are more -- and more trustworthy -- Iraqi National Police to supplement the Iraqi Army. I am confident we'll get them; we're finally making incredible progress, and the Shiite Maliki government has no interest in handing Iraq back to Sunni insurgents.

They had a bellyful of that for forty years.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 26, 2007, at the time of 4:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 25, 2007

Free Speech for Me AND for Thee

Hatched by Dafydd

The realignment continues on the ship of state (that sounds weird somehow, but I'm too lazy to fix it). Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS -- which also sounds weird and vaguely salacious) cast out the most offensive provision of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002... the signing of which, and continued defense of, is the worst decision ever made by President Bush, a president I otherwise mostly admire.

The BCRA set contribution limits on individuals as well as corporations and -- in its most controversial section -- banned "issue ads" within 60 days of an election if they even so much as mentioned a candidate's name:

The case involved advertisements that Wisconsin Right to Life was prevented from broadcasting. The ads asked voters to contact the state's two senators, Democrats Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, and urge them not to filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees.

Feingold, a co-author of the campaign finance law, was up for re-election in 2004.

The provision in question was aimed at preventing the airing of issue ads that cast candidates in positive or negative lights while stopping short of explicitly calling for their election or defeat. Sponsors of such ads have contended they are exempt from certain limits on contributions in federal elections.

The Court ruled today that preventing the airing of ads violated the First Amendment's freedom of speech provision:

The decision upheld an appeals court ruling that an anti-abortion group should have been allowed to air ads during the final two months before the 2004 elections. The law unreasonably limits speech and violates the group's First Amendment rights, the court said.

"Discussion of issues cannot be suppressed simply because the issues may also be pertinent in an election," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. "Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor."

Politically, the ruling is a horrendous body blow to the already faltering campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%), one of the two eponymous senators who introduced the bill in the Senate (the other is Russell Feingold, D-WI, 100%), widely considered the most liberal fellow in the Senate. McCain seems to be enraged at the Court, perhaps seeing it as a personal insult to him that may require the Chief Justice to defend it with his body upon the field of honor:

The decision is a setback for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who helped write the 2002 campaign finance legislation with Feingold that contained the advertising provision. McCain, now a presidential candidate, has come under criticism from conservatives for attempting to restrict political money and political advertising.

"It is regrettable that a split Supreme Court has carved out a narrow exception by which some corporate and labor expenditures can be used to target a federal candidate in the days and weeks before an election," McCain said in a statement. [That "narrow exception" appears to refer to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, with which Sen. McCain takes issue.]

The court's decision, however, has no effect on the more far-reaching component of the campaign finance law - it's ban on the ability of political parties to raise unlimited and unrestricted amounts of money from unions, corporations and wealthy donors.

"Fortunately," McCain said, "that central reform still stands as the law."

Happily, Mitt Romney appears to have been the first Republican presidential candidate to applaud the demise of the odious "issue-ad" prohibition of McCain-Feingold.

I call this excellent ruling a realignment because the Court's reversal of a central provision of its December, 2003 ruling upholding the BCRA, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, 540 U.S. 93 (2003), can be traced to one key event: President Bush nominated Samuel Alito to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

On the core findings in McConnell v. FEC, Justices O'Connor, Stephen Breyer, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and David Souter upheld all the most important elements of the law; the dissenters were Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

In today's ruling, every justice still on the Court voted the same as he or she did last time; Chief Justice John Roberts voted against the BCRA and in favor of freedom of speech, just as Rehnquist did. The only difference was that Justice Alito reversed Justice O'Connor's vote from pro-BCRA to anti.

I believe this signals a realignment of the Court, with a new 5-4 majority favoring more freedom for the individual at the expense of government control, except where the government can show a dire national emergency -- as with cases involving elements of the war against global jihadism -- or when the government stands "in loco parentis" of schoolchildren. And I think this ruling bodes very ill for those compulsive authoritarians, such as Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA, 90), who want to revive the "Fairness Doctrine": Surely the same five justices will agree that forcing a TV or radio show to broadcast political opinions contrary to those they hold, just to maintain a federally directed "balance of opinion," is also a violation of the fundamental (and constitutional) freedom of speech.

Asked if she would revive the fairness doctrine, which used to require broadcasters to present competing sides of controversial issues, Feinstein said she was "looking at it."

"I remember when there was a fairness doctrine," she said, "and I think there was much more serious correct reporting to people."

Yes. As "Uncle" Walter Cronkite's reporting of the Tet Offensive demonstrates.

In a shocking turn of events, the New York Times -- which, as a print newspaper, was exempt from the provisions of the BCRA on grounds of freedom of speech, and which thus was the major player in the news medium that held a monopoly on issue advertising during the last 60 days of an election -- bemoans the Court's decision today allowing broadcast media that same right:

By 5 to 4, the court ruled that an anti-abortion group in Wisconsin should have been allowed to broadcast ads before the 2004 race for the United States Senate in that state. In its ruling today, the high court opened a significant loophole in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, familiarly known as the McCain-Feingold law, to curb donations to campaigns.

The "loophole" in question would appear to be that pesky First Amendment again... "free speech for me but not for thee." The Times continues, giving the gavel over to dissenting Justice David Souter:

In the case decided today, Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, No. 06-969, Justice David H. Souter wrote a dissent that Justices John Paul Stevens Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer joined.

“After today,” the dissenters said, “the ban on contributions by corporations and unions and the limitation on their corrosive spending when they enter the political arena are open to easy circumvention, and the possibilities for regulating corporate and union campaign money are unclear.”

The dissenters expressed dismay over today’s ruling and said it could portend a new wave of public cynicism about the role of big money in politics.When the case decided today was argued on April 25, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, arguing on behald of the election commission, said that to find that the Wisconsin ads should have been allowed to run would leave the McCain-Feingold law “wide open.” Justice Breyer predicted then that a ruling like today’s could mean, in effect, “Goodbye, McCain-Feingold.”

Ooooh, if only! But two of the majority justices -- the two new guys -- decided to act like judicial conservatives who believe in judicial restraint, and they limited their decision to upholding the actual judgment of a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circus Court that heard the case. Rather than declare the entire provision unconstitutional, as Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas did in a separate opinion, Roberts and Alito held only that the panel was right to rule that the "issue ads" of Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. did not constitute "express advocacy," as banned by the BCRA.

(I think this is what lawyers call an "as applied" challenge, meaning that the court does not decide whether the law itself is unconstitutional but rather whether it was wrongly applied in the particular case.)

The refusal of Roberts and Alito to go as far as Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas does not necessarily mean they disagree with the latter's position: Roberts' and Alito's understanding of judicial restraint may mean that they simply refuse to go beyond the particulars of the case to make sweeping judgments where none is required. In a clean challenge to that provision of the BCRA, they might very well vote to strike it down.

Sadly, the Bush administration doubled down in this case, filing an amicus curiae brief urging the Court to uphold the FEC's authority to ban the ads. Thus, the Bush psychodrama continues... although it's worth noting the administration's consistency: They support McCain-Feingold even against their own conservative Republican supporters... Bush is an equal-opportunity free-speech denier.

Nevertheless, I now expect to see a flurry of conservative, 5-4 decisions emanate from the penumbra of this Court, as the judicial realignment proceeds apace. Keep watching the skies!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 25, 2007, at the time of 2:33 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Winning Is Better Than Losing

Hatched by Dafydd

...And who should know better than such a loser as Big Lizards?

Pardon the weeping and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth; I have been through the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, wept tears in rain, and been cast adrift like Bligh in the lifeboat. That is, we had another lousy week at the old Watcher's Council vote.

Here are the winners, the golden boys of endless summer:

Council winner

A sad confession to make: I generally like JoshuaPundit's entries, but this one left me cold: yet another post on the supposed incompetence and treason of the evil Bush administration. I think his disappointment at not getting the president that he wasn't promised sometimes overwhelms his fairness:

After millions of dollars and months of arming and training the Bush Administration's preferred terrorists in Fatah under Mahmoud Abbas and spending millions of dollars on them to prepare them to push Hamas out of the picture, the US has ended up with what stockbrokers genteelly call a `non-performing investment'.

Normally when that happens, an investor cuts his losses and pulls out. But since that would upset the Bush Administrations Arab pals, it looks like we're going to do nothing of the kind.

Instead, the Bush Administration is planning on giving even more arms and money to our preferred terrorists, Abbas and Fatah.

The horse manure pushed all along by the Bush Administration was that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict was an eventual two-state solution with Israel living next to a `Palestine' that somehow marvelously turned from the genocidal terrorist enclave Arafat created into Switzerland by signing some papers and maybe transferring some real estate. And that fantasy was based on the idea that Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah were somehow different than Hamas when it came to their long term goals of conquering and destroying Israel or siding with the West.

Etc., etc., and so forth... a seemingly endless threnody directed at the core of evil in the world today: George W. Bush, the great betrayer.

I happen to agree with JoshuaPundit that it's a waste of time dealing with Fatah; but it's not an insane position to take that Fatah may be easier to control or even defeat than Hamas. And if one takes that tack, as Bush evidently does, then it makes sense to support them in their war against Hamas. Too, Bush may hope that the two will fight each other to the exclusion of launching any substantive attack on Israel.

I weary of extremism in defense of the impossible: JoshuaPundit wants Israel to annex Gaza and remove "the majority of the local population" elsewhere, and he wants us somehow to force Jordan to "resettle" all the West-Bank Palestinians into Jordan or other Arab states.

Yes, that would be lovely. I'm sure the Arabs will rush to comply.

Since Bush won't waste time trying to do that which cannot be done, JP accuses him of being a Saudi puppet. Did I mention that JP also believes that we went to war in Iraq on orders from the House of Saud, which runs American foreign policy? And that Bush is deliberately seeking defeat in Iraq to appease the Iranians?

But worse than this peculiar way of looking at world events is the fact that JoshuaPundit's win was substantial: Evidently, lots of members of the Watcher's Council thought he was on a roll, and perhaps they agree with him that Bush has committed high treason to our country. (Can you tell I'm not happy with the Council this week?)

  1. My own number-one choice, Muslim And Christian? In One Body?, by Cheat Seeking Missiles -- about the Seattle Episcopal priest who says she is also a Moslem -- did fairly well, placing with four or five votes.
  2. My second choice, Overstating a Problem, by Rhymes With Right, got one other second-place vote besides mine. Which is better than my own entry -- Yon On Baqouba -- got! (Though the source of my commentary post did considerably better; see below.)

Nouncil winner

This is the discussion of the Arrowhead Ripper campaign in Iraq's Diyala Province that I comment upon in my own post; it's possible folks thought that it redundant to vote for both Torah and Mishnah (how's that analogy for chutzpah!)

My two choices for non-Council ("Nouncil," in my own twisted language, a la "Funes the Memorious" by Borges) were:

  1. Beware: Misleading Income Statistics Are Coming Your Way, by Back Talk;
  2. What Is Your Purpose Here, Senator Reid?, by BitsBlog.

The titles are self explanatory.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 25, 2007, at the time of 4:09 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 23, 2007

The Borjas Objection: Immigrants Just Steal American Jobs and Depress Wages

Hatched by Dafydd

The George Borjas blogpost that John Hinderaker linked in his post on the economics of illegal immigration argues that immigration in general (not just illegal immigration) costs American workers much more in wages than it benefits America (all the benefits go to rich industrialists, he seems to believe). He claims to demonstrate this by comparing two formulas, both of which he crafted -- one for cost, the other for benefit -- and finding that the former is many times more than the latter.

The problem with Borjas's argument is threefold:

  1. The ratio of wage losses to gains to the economy is artifactual... it derives entirely from the way he constructs his formulas.

It turns out that no matter how many foreign-born workers there are, what the GDP is, what percent of earnings are paid to workers, or what level he attaches to "wage elasticity" (which is the ability of a business to respond to higher wages by firing workers and vice versa), his formulas will always yield a ratio of wage loss to economic gain equal to exactly twice the ratio between the percent of native-born workers and the percent of foreign-born workers.

(See the "slither on" for the actual formulas. If you're really interested.)

Thus, if 85% of the population is native born, while 15% is foreign born, the ratio between the two is 85 divided by 15, or 5.67; and Borjas's formulas will always claim that immigrants create wage losses 11.33 times as large as whatever economic gains they produce for the country (which, along with the wage losses, drop as profits into the pockets of CEOs).

This sets up a perfect reductio ad absurdum: Suppose a bunch of Indian programmers immigrate here from Bangalore and create a number of new businesses; the new businesses hire lots and lots of progammers, testers, marketing people, salesmen, managers, and administrative personnel (both native-born Americans and immigrant Americans).

By the Borjas Theorem, these new companies and all the new hires will massively depress wages for everyone.

Yeah. That makes sense.

  1. Borjas's base assumptions are purely static: he assumes that immigrants will in no way increase the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States, alter the percent of GDP that goes to paying wages, or in any way affect the ability of a business to hire or fire workers in response to wage changes.

This too flies in the face of our experience: The GDP grows; as it expands, and as new products, services, and entire industries come on line, the percent that goes to paying wages fluctuates up and down; and some industries can have a high wage elasticity, whereas others (such as service industries) cannot afford to let employees go and must instead pass along wage increases in the form of price hikes to consumers. None of these variables is invariant (which is why I call them "variables").

In particular, Borjas treats the GDP as if it were an invariant measurement that neither grows nor shrinks. That is, he assumes from the start that immigrants will never help "make a bigger pie," and every gain by an immigrant must produce a corresponding loss by a native.

Naturally, with such assumptions, Borjas can easily prove that immigration in general -- not just illegal immigration -- is a terrible thing for America. (Amusingly enough, Borjas is himself an immigrant from Cuba.)

The oddest thing about Borjas' estimates is not that he (invariably) estimates that immigration is a huge net loser for American workers, but the reason why... which he displays, perhaps inadvertently, in this passage. Here he attacks another economist's more positive calculation of gain and loss:

This is all based on a particular economic model--and obviously the answers are sensitive to the underlying assumptions. The CEA, in fact, reports an alternative set of estimates (in the $30 to $80 billion range) based on calculations of the wage impact made by economists Gianmarco Ottaviano and Giovanni Peri (here). But that model also faces various difficulties:

1. The higher benefits result entirely from accounting for the possibility that immigrants increase the productivity of natives who have the same education and work experience (although the importance of this point is often glossed over). In other words, the immigration of high school dropouts who are 30 years old makes natives who are high school dropouts and 30 years old more productive! Put bluntly, young low-skill immigrants made young low-skill African-American construction workers more productive. Maybe--but just think about it for a second. Wouldn't most people be skeptical about this?

But this "difficulty" is, in fact, the fundamental thesis of Capitalism: that competition increases productivity. And no, I do not believe most Americans are "skeptical" about the efficacy of Capitalism; it has a pretty good track record here. (None of this applies to Buchananites, of course.)

Borjas appears to believe that all the benefits of both immigration and also the huge "wage loss" went to fat-cat corporate owners, while the workers suffered massive losses every year; I of course have no idea what his political affiliation may be, but he is arguing classical Marxism -- that because workers are alienated from their produce, they will not respond to competition by stepping up their game. Is this really the expert upon whom John Hinderaker wants to rely?

Certainly, empirical data indicates that the Ottaviano-Peri model of the economics of immigration is a better fit than Borjas's model: Over the past hundred years, we have experienced a staggering increase in immigration; by the Borjas model, native-born workers should have suffered a correspondingly staggering loss of wages.

But instead, they have benefited from a huge rise in average wages per capita, even adjusted for inflation: Every category of worker makes more today than corresponding workers did in 1907, in constant dollars. And in fact, there are a lot more wage-earners today than ever before... so total wages are vastly greater than a century ago. How does that comport with the theorems?

Clearly, there is something terribly wrong with the Borjas model; it's even less predictive than the "general circulation models" of the global-warming alarmists! At what point must a theorist be required to come out of his cave and see how his ideas mesh with the real world?

But there is a third bizarre assumption that Borjas must have made:

  1. Borjas assumes that immigrants are basically unskilled, wage-earning workers when they arrive -- and remain unskilled wage-earners until they retire. Thus, the arrival of new unskilled workers hurts all existing immigrants.

What else can one conclude by reading his next blogpost on the issue and stumbling across this passage?

But they completely ignored the fact that the same complementarities that supposedly help natives also hurt immigrants, and by quite a bit. In other words, the CEA uses a strange definition of who “we” are: including only native-born workers and ignoring the millions of immigrants already here who are affected by yet more immigrants. This choice is not one that is typically made in the academic studies the CEA borrows from. In recent studies, the simulation usually examines the impact of a particular immigrant influx (say, the 1990-2000 arrivals) on the wage of workers present in the United States in 1990, regardless of where those workers were born.

Had the CEA taken the immigrant losses into account, the Bush administration would have had to report that the net gains from immigration for the pre-existing population are equal to.......ZERO!

But in reality, over time, immigrants do not simply remain at whatever job level they were when they arrived; a huge precent of them improve their job skills and move up to more demanding jobs for higher wages. They are not threatened by new unskilled laborers arriving every year.

And even worse for his theorem, many immigrants open their own businesses and become capitalists! These businesses can be as small as a "gypsy" cab driver or a Mom & Pop carniceria -- or as big as a giant software company or an aerospace military contractor. They hire many, many people (my last job was as a technical writer for a software company owned by Indian immigrants), which increases the total amount of wages paid. How is the immigrant owner of a hotel damaged by the arrival of new immigrants eager to become hotel maids and busboys?

Borjas does not just play games with statistics; he tortures them until they confess whatever he wants to believe. The idea that immigration, wages, and the GDP are all zero-sum -- that any gain must generate a corresponding loss, that an immigrant who gets a job picking strawberries therefore displaces a previous person picking strawberries (immigrant or native) and depresses the strawberry-picking wage to boot, is simply absurd... and is belied by the continuing rampage of GDP growth that we have enjoyed for the past many decades.

We need more and more immigrants because jobs are being generated by our economy faster than Americans are breeding. If there are million new jobs created in a year (an underestimate, by the way), but only 600,000 new American-born workers to fill them (an overestimate -- we're breeding at exactly replacement rate, no more)... then why would importing 400,000 more immigrant workers depress wages?

The jobs are there to be filled; that's why we have such low unemployment. There is no labor surplus; if anything, there is a growing labor shortage, which is why wages are rising.

Borjas sums up his anti-immigration, anti-capitalist thesis:

Imagine the headlines had the CEA reported that immigration during the 1990s led to a $3,333 drop in the average earnings of pre-existing immigrants! This is not the spin the White House was looking for, but it is a direct implication of the spin they did put out. What an inconvenient truth!

I wonder if the compassionate conservatives will shed a tear about the huge wage losses suffered by pre-existing immigrants.

Where are all the wage losses that Borjas predicts as a result of immigration? We have more immigration than any other country on Planet Earth; but our wages have steadily risen, in real dollars, over the years. Even for "pre-existing immigrants." What on earth is Borjas talking about?

Is he using some bizarre economics jargon, where "huge wage losses" actually means "significant wage increases?" If so, then I certainly understand why economics is called the "dismal science."

Addendum: The Borjas Theorems

Here are his two formulas. We define the variables thus:

L = labor's share of income; E = wage elasticity; F = % of foreign born workers; N = % of native-born workers.

Economic gain from immigration = 0.5 x L x E x F²

Economic loss from immigration = L x E x F x N

The ratio of loss/gain must therefore = 2N/F, and both other terms (L and E) cancel out. Since Borjas estimates N = 0.85 and F = 0.15, this always produces a loss over gain ratio of 11.3, regardless of any values of L, E, or (static) GDP. The formula is deliberately crafted to always show a wage loss from immigration that completely swamps any economic gain.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 23, 2007, at the time of 3:22 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 22, 2007

Bride of Picking a Blog Feud - Power Line

Hatched by Dafydd

Constituting my second attempt to get myself drummed out of the blogle corps and to have my epaulets painfully ripped off...

My favorite blogger (John Hinderaker) at my favorite blogsite (Power Line) just "penned" (all right, keyed, phosphored, whatever) a post taking the Bush administration to task for releasing a study by the Council of Economic Advisors of the economic effect of immigrants on the United States, which they found to be strongly positive; John's complaint is that it didn't specifically break out the effect of illegal immigrants from those of legal immigrants.

His underlying (unstated) thesis appears to be that, since illegal immigrants are probably a net negative, we shouldn't pass the immigration bill:

My biggest concern about allowing millions of illegal immigrants to remain in this country, while permitting many more to enter via a guest worker program--or further illegality, which, having been forgiven once again, will no doubt be encouraged--is its impact on the wages of relatively unskilled American labor.

Please pardon my puzzlement, but isn't this a raging non-sequitur? Nothing facially in the immigration bill would increase illegal immigration, or even increase it relative to legal immigration. John makes an attempt to find a logical connection; but he relies upon a logical fallacy called "begging the question," or assuming that which was to be proved: "further illegality, which, having been forgiven once again, will no doubt be encouraged."

No doubt? I find a great deal of doubt.

I have never once seen any study that showed that the 1986 amnesty (which really was an amnesty, unlike this bill) actually caused illegal immigration to increase. Yes, we estimate many more illegal immigrants here today than in 1986; but "post hoc ergo propter hoc" is another logical fallacy. There are many explanations that have not yet been addressed or filtered out:

  • Attempted legal immigration has risen dramatically, perhaps due to increased instability following the collapse of the Soviet empire; that alone may explain a good portion of the increase in illegal immigration, as more people rejected may decide to come anyway.
  • The strength of the American economy relative to the rest of the world -- the "world income gap" -- soared during the the last 20 years, due mostly to the dawn of the computer age, which benefited us far more than Europe or the Third World. A greater economic gap between, say, Latin America and the United States, coupled with an overall immigration quota that did not keep up with demand, would of course lead to more illegal immigration.
  • Immigration laws (de jure or de facto) may have become more arbitrary and less predictable, leading to more immigrants choosing to jump the border.
  • We may well have massively underestimated the number of illegals here in 1986; the census did not specifically try to count illegals until 2000. Where did the 3-4 million estimate then come from? Where does the 12 million estimate now come from?

No research has ever been done, so far as I know, to determine whether post-1986 illegals have ever even heard of the 1986 amnesty. If they don't know about it, how could it have impacted their decision to sneak into the country?

Another point that John fails to address: The most important (in my opinion) element of the current immigration bill changes our legal immigration policy to favor the well-trained, highly educated, and more assimilable immigrants at the expense of the lower-tier immigrants and their extended families. For the very first time ever, the United States would pick and choose immigrants based upon the likelihood that they will contribute to America.

John quotes the study he attacks to show a huge difference between the economic impact of such high-value immigrants (HVIs) and the unskilled laborers (ULs) who are favored under the current system:

Conflating these two groups is completely pointless. No one has ever doubted that Ph.D.s in math, biology and physics contribute to our economy. The report acknowledges this obvious fact. For example, with respect to the impact of immigration on government finance:

From this long-run point of view, the NRC [National Research Council] study estimated that immigrants (including their descendants) would have a positive fiscal impact--a present discounted value of $80,000 per immigrant on average in their baseline model (in 1996 dollars). The surplus is larger for high-skilled immigrants ($198,000) and slightly negative for those with less than a high school degree (-$13,000).

This creates a strong prima facie case that the benefit to our economy from legally bringing in a greater percentage of HVIs than ULs would far outweigh the disadvantage of an increased population of illegals, who most likely would be primarily ULs. The argument depends critically upon the exact number of "extra" HVIs and ULs, which nobody claims to know at this time.

But the system set in place by the immigration bill is also much more flexible than the current system: Because the new system would award points for various characteristics of potential immigrants, it would be easy enough to adjust the points to favor HVIs more, thus encouraging more of them to immigrate here.

Much of John's negative assessment seems to center on the "guest worker" program, which would bring about 200,000 mostly ULs into the United States each year on a three-year rolling basis -- thus 600,000 total, with complete turnover every 3 years:

My biggest concern about allowing millions of illegal immigrants to remain in this country, while permitting many more to enter via a guest worker program--or further illegality, which, having been forgiven once again, will no doubt be encouraged--is its impact on the wages of relatively unskilled American labor. The CAE report acknowledges the legitimacy of this issue:

Fully 90% of US native-born workers are estimated to have gained from immigration. ***

[B]ased on Chart one [the chart reproduced above], one might expect the remaining least-skilled natives to face labor market competition from immigrants. Evidence on this issue is mixed. Studies often find small negative effects of immigration on the wages of low-skilled natives, and even the comparatively large estimate reported in Borjas (2003) is under 10% for immigration over a 20 year period.

This sounds disturbingly as if John argues that we should not allow immigrants to work at low-paid jobs in order to protect the native-born ULs who currently work in those jobs. This sounds an awful lot like labor protectionism, à la Pat Buchanan... which in other contexts John vehemently opposes. I don't think he has carefully thought through this argument.

In any event, the final sentence of the paragraph that John quotes above is relevant and extremely important, and John should not have omitted it:

The difficulties faced by high school dropouts are a serious policy concern, but it is safe to conclude that immigration is not a central cause of those difficulties, nor is reducing immigration a well-targeted way to help these low-wage natives.

There are many legitimate reasons why someone could oppose this immigration bill, including:

  • A strong desire not to reward people who broke the law;
  • The belief that the punishment is too slight;
  • Suspicion that the immigration security enhancements won't be fully implemented or won't work as well as anticipated.

But unless this study is completely wrong -- which one economist argues; I'll deal with the suspect Borjas objection in the next post -- the argument from economics is a lousy reason to oppose this bill; national economics actually supports some form of comprehensive immigration reform.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 22, 2007, at the time of 3:47 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

China's Growing Pains

Hatched by Sachi

Recently, we have started to hear one disturbing story after another coming out of China:

All of a sudden, we started to notice that one of our largest trading partners was not living up to the standard we demand. But in fact, China’s sloppy business practice has been noticed by many businessmen all over the world who have dealt with them over the years. Only recently, however -- when their products started to kill us (and especially our pets!) -- have we started to pay attention.

Decades ago my father, a patent attorney in Japan, was engaged as a business consultant to a Japanese company dealing with a Chinese manufacturer. As you probably know, patents and copyrights are foreign concepts for the Chinese. After a few months of frustrating and fruitless negotiation, the Japanese company, disgusted by the “unprofessional, and childish behavior,” terminated the contract. In my father’s opinion, the Chinese were not ready for real world business.

For years, I have heard bits and pieces of news about the terrible pollution and lethal food in China. I heard that the soil of southern China was so contaminated that northern Chinese would not eat any vegetables coming from the South; they called them “poison vegetables." I even heard that some Chinese started bringing their own cooking oil to restaurants after they discovered the chefs using industrial oil to cook food.

However, not until I started reading Japanese language Chinese blogs few months ago did I realize just how serious the situation has become.



A contaminated lake bed

Contaminated lake bed in China

I honestly do not think that China is unusually unethical or uncaring a country. After all, the western world went through the exact same phase of industrial innovation vastly outstripping resource management and pollution control. The very reason we have a Food and Drug Administration today is the careless or ignorant misuse of chemicals in food, particularly diethylene glycol; DEG was used extensively in the late 19th century as a cheap substitute for non-toxic, pharmaceutical-grade glycerin.

It was used in our tooth paste, just as China does now; and many children's toys were painted with colors containing lead... just as many Chinese toys are today. We made such practices illegal precisely because the toxic materials killed and harmed thousands of Americans in the past:

[diethylene glycol] has been responsible for a number of mass poisonings:

The most infamous incident was the 1937 Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster in the USA, in which 107 people died after taking sulfanilamide dissolved in diethylene glycol. This episode was the impetus for the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.

The reason today’s air is cleaner than yesterday is that most individuals realized, somewhere along the road, that it's not a good idea to pollute the environment we live in. We figured out that killing consumers with unsafe food is, shall I say, fatal to marketing.

The distinction is that we did not know the bad effects at first, and nobody else did either. The industrial revolution was new then; we had to learn from our mistakes by trial and terrible error.

But China does not. China need not make the same mistakes we made, because they have the West as an example. They study our experience and do the right thing from the beginning. Even though it may cost more money initially, when you take the long view and consider lost business, law suites, and so on, clean and safe manufacturing of products will save billions of dollars.

Eventually, China will learn... because it must. Their survival depends upon it.

But meanwhile, how many people are going to be poisoned or killed by their products? We cannot wait forever for China to grow up.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 22, 2007, at the time of 3:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 21, 2007

Picking a Blog Feud - Real Clear Politics

Hatched by Dafydd

John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics published a post today analyzing the fallout from the potential presidential campaign by former RINO, now IINO Michael Bloomberg, multibillionaire Mayor of New York City. His basic question was who would be hurt worse by such a run: Democrats or Republicans.

I agree with his broad conclusion -- that it hurts the former more in nearly all cases -- and disagree with his thought that under the circumstance of a Mitt Romney - John Edwards tussle, Bloomberg would hurt Romney more; but I'm mainly interested in one nugget that John tossed rather nonchalantly upon the table:

What makes this more intriguing is that the likelihood of Bloomberg getting in is inversely related to the strength of the eventual major-party nominees. A Romney-Edwards general election would be Bloomberg's best hope and in the unlikely event they are both the nominees I think a Bloomberg run becomes a near certainty, with a Bloomberg presidency a possibility.

If John means a Bloomberg win is a "possibility" in the narrowest logical sense -- for example, Bloomberg would win if uncontrovertible evidence emerged one week before the election that both Mr. Romney and Mr. Edwards were on Osama bin Laden's payroll as sleeper agents -- then I have no problem with this paragraph. But if, as I believe likely, John meant that there were reasonably plausible circumstances in which Bloomberg would win the race, then I think John is dreaming (a nightmare, I will assume).

There are only two ways to win the presidency (since Bloomberg won't be running as anyone's running mate):

  1. By amassing a majority of electoral votes;
  2. Or in the event that nobody does, by gaining an absolute majority (26) of state delegations in the House of Representatives.

(2) is politically impossible; no state delegation except perhaps New York would vote for the independent, as they are all controlled by either Democrats or Republicans (mostly Republicans), and Bloomberg does not have any national following anyway.

So let's concentrate on states that Bloomberg could plausibly win in the general election. First of all, he must win Republican states to win the presidency: Since the Republican won the last two presidential elections, Bloomberg cannot win with only Democratic states, not even if he gets all of them.

Second, Bloomberg will not get all of the Democratic states, because many of them (big states) are very liberal and will certainly vote for a liberal Democrat over a moderate whatchamacallit: California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts alone account for 119 electoral votes, or 47% (!) of John Kerry's 252 votes; and they all went for the Democrat by more than ten points.

So the question reduces to this: How many Republican states can Bloomberg plausibly win? It must be quite a few, to make up for the liberal Democratic states he will assuredly lose. And here is the big problem: There were very few "purple" states in either 2000 or 2004. Defining a purple state as one where the spread between Bush and Kerry was 5% or less, Kerry took six purple states for 69 electoral votes, and Bush took another six for 73 electoral votes. Even if Bloomberg took them all -- itself very unlikely -- that's only 142 electoral votes, just slightly over half of what he would need.

In other words, to have any possibility of winning, Moderate Mike would have to take a number of conservative states away from the conservative Republican nominee and/or a number of liberal states away from the liberal Democratic nominee. How is that supposed to happen? Does Texas decide that Mitt Romney is too conservative, so they vote instead for that guy from New York City?

In the general election, I doubt that even New York state would vote for Bloomberg; though if he were very popular, he might split the Democratic vote there between himself and the actual nominee, handing the state to the Republicans (30% of the Democratic vote going to Bloomberg would do it, if the Republicans held their own). I doubt it would happen, however; New York liberals are not utter fools.

So respectfully, I think John's final, almost parenthetical comment -- that "a Bloomberg presidency [is] a possibility" -- is a load of peanut butter waffles.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 21, 2007, at the time of 4:14 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 20, 2007

Brave Old Newt World

Hatched by Dafydd

Newt Gingrich has started a new organization called American Solutions for Winning the Future. It has a website. It promises "transformational change and long-term solutions in Washington," for which new polls show "widespread support":

Through a series of workshops on 9/27 (and again 9/29), we will make these solutions available to activists, volunteers and every candidate from both parties in every elected office in the country. If you would like to help host a workshop in your neighborhood or simply attend, please Click Here.

Alas, they don't make them available today, 6/20, so it's a bit hard to judge; but in what I've seen, both at the site and in Gingrich's 21st Century Contract With America, Newt's "solutions" do not include anything about the seminal threat of our age, the war against global jihadism. In fact, his new contract barely even mentions defense at all, restricting itself to a mere platitude so bland and non-committal that anyone -- even Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) -- could enthusiastically applaud it:

Defend America and our allies from those who would destroy us. To achieve security, we will develop the intelligence, diplomatic, information, defense, and homeland security systems and resources for success.

There are many other platitude planks in the new contract; I define a platitude as a statement that sounds great, tells you nothing at all, and leaves you shaking your head and asking, "how?":

Math and science learning equal to any in the world and educating enough young Americans to both discover the science of the future and to compete successfully in national security and the economy with other well-educated societies....

Investing in the scientific revolutions that are going to transform our world—particularly in energy, space, and the environment.

Transforming health care into a 21st Century Intelligent Health System that improves our health while lowering costs dramatically. In the process, American health care will become our highest value export and foreign exchange earning sector....

Use the new technologies and new scientific knowledge to turn disabilities into capabilities and change government regulations and programs to help every American achieve the fullest possible ability to pursue happiness....

Change the mindset of big government in Washington by replacing bureaucratic public administration with Entrepreneurial Public Management so government can operate with the speed, effectiveness, and efficiency of the information age....

Ensure an election process that is honest, accountable, accurate, and free from the threat of illegal votes or subsequent litigation.

It appears that Newt Gingrich -- who I have always liked, and whose original Contract With America drew my enthusiastic cheerleading -- lives in a weird, pre-9/11 bubble, where our top national problems are the economy, health insurance, and reforming Social Security. While I agree with what few specific solutions he has discussed, I wonder...

  • Where he stands on the war (and its two main battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan);
  • How he thinks we can -- and whether he thinks we should -- raise up the Non-Integrating Gap discussed by Thomas P.M. Barnett's the Pentagon's New Map, which may be driving the surge of militant islamism sweeping the ummah, to the level of the Functioning Core;
  • Exactly what he means by "investing in... energy, space, and the environment." What energy investments, for example? Is he talking about modern Integral Fast or Pebble Bed Modular Technology nuclear plants? Hydrogen-powered cars? High-temperature ceramic engines? Broadcast power? Better battery technology?

    In space policy, does he support the manned Mars expedition, or any manned space exploration at all? Is he a fan of runway-to-orbit routine access to space for passengers and cargo? How about Shuttle II, orbital transfer vehicles (to transition from low to high earth orbit, for example), space-based weaponry, solar power satellites, SDI, permanent space colonies (or even O'Neill colonies)?

    And where does he stand on global warming, cooling, and staying-the-saming? What woudl he do, what would he block, and about what is he uncertain? (Considering that we're talking about Newt Gingrich, the answer to the last question is probably "nothing at all!")

Reading all this, I sincerely believe that Newt Gingrich has no plans to run for president anytime soon: If he were serious about running, he would be addressing real issues, not spouting meaningless truisms and tautologies that would draw the support of everybody from Alvin and Heidi Toffler and Ayn Rand to Hugo Chavez and Josef Stalin. Where is the specificity? Newt is not a Democrat, for heaven's sake!

I don't know whether this is just promotion for his new books, Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America and a Contract With the Earth. or just a bizarre exercise in egotism and narcissism. But whatever causes it, such maunderings diminsh the stature of a politician who, in the past, demonstrated both great flaws and gigantic achievements.

Either give it up, Newt -- or else actually apply the same level of mental energy and sideways thinking to your new contract that you poured into your old... especially to the question of how we are actually to get such programs enacted in today's Congress, which is the most urgent question of all; and without which, all the rest is mere dicta.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 20, 2007, at the time of 4:01 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Dividing and Conquering, or Dancing With the Devil?

Hatched by Dafydd

Two posts over on my favorite blog, Power Line -- one by Scott Johnson, the other by Paul Mirengoff -- appear to be at war with each other.

In the first, Brothers Grim at Foggy Bottom, Scott links to an article by Eli Lake at the New York Sun. Lake reports that the Bush administration is at least mulling the prospect of opening more direct relations with the Muslim Brotherhood -- "the party that founded modern political Islam," as Lake puts it, and the umbrella organization to many Islamist organizations.

The hope is that, if (a big if) the Muslim Brotherhood -- or a significant element thereof -- can be convinced that violence, murder, terrorism, and the mass slaughter of fellow Moslems is counterproductive (if not morally wrong, which may be a stretch for them), then they could serve as a counterideology, which we desperately need, to al-Qaeda, Hamas, EIJ, and other terrorist groups that more or less spun off from the Brotherhood. (Even a Shiite terror ogranization, such as Hezbollah, could be hurt by such a turn, as a "quietist" version of the Muslim Brotherhood would surely increase the appeal of Najaf Quietism itself in Iraq and even Iran, as a counterweight to Khomeini-ism.)

Scott does not offer a direct attack on the idea, but he seems to weigh in against such a move, quoting from a skeptic but not from anyone actually defending the idea. The very title of Scott's post, while a nice pun, also clearly implies that he thinks such a strategy is a fairy tale.

But just four posts later on the same page, Paul offers his own thoughts in Some Sunni Tribes Turn Against al-Qaeda in Baghdad:

Even the MSM has reported, however grudgingly, our military's success resulting from having enlisted Sunni tribes in the fight against al Qaeda in Anbar province. Attacks there have decreased by 60 percent and al Qaeda is on the run.

Now we are having some success in persuading Sunni tribes to help us against al Qaeda in Baghdad. USA Today reports that more than ten such tribes have signed on. Some of them have members who previously have fought alongside al Qaeda. As Lt. Col. Rick Welch explains, this means "they know where they live... who they are... [and] how they operate."

This tactic is working extremely well in Iraq, as Big Lizards has reported a number of times. A strong case can be made that a similar approach can work internationally... and that clearly is what President Bush has in mind for serious consideration; he has not yet made a final decision.

We've often said in other contexts that "you can't beat something with nothing." This is particularly true when fighting an ideology-based threat such as global jihadism: Its power comes from strong, principled, religious belief; those who sign aboard are looking to live their faith more fully than possible in the typical Arab or Moslem cult-of-personality dictatorship.

In Iraq, for example, many are moved by the thought of self-rule and modernity; but for those who are not, for those who crave a deeper spiritual life, it's useless to say "don't follow radical, militant Islam -- follow democracy instead!" It is far more effective to give these people an intense and all-encompassing religious option that emphatically rejects murder, violence, and coercion... such as the Quietism of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Shia or the Indonesian Sunni Islamist anti-terrorist group Nahdatul Ulama (NU), which has a membership in the tens of millions.

Can the Muslim Brotherhood become such a force? That is, one presumes, just what the administration is exploring, inviting two Islamic scholars on opposite sides of the question to the White House for discussion and debate -- which, by the way, is a technique Ronald Reagan often used to try to understand a contentious issue.

Certainly, there is no question that members of the Brotherhood have engaged in terrorism in the past, and the Brotherhood has spun off several horrific terrorist groups (including Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman Zawahiri of later al-Qaeda fame, and Hamas). One can argue that the Brotherhood radicalizes some people who then split away and form Islamist groups more radical than the Brotherhood.

But it's also true that the organization has denounced many terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda. The Brotherhood supports the idea of sharia law and a world-wide caliphate; but if we could appeal to elements within the organization that reject violent coercion as the path to that caliphate, we might have a serious line of attack in the propaganda war for the ummah... a vital front we have by and large neglected, ignored, even actively shunned so far.

I don't know if the Muslim Brotherhood will turn out to be the proper vehicle for such a front; they may, in the end, prove too radical, too devoted to Islamic rule to balk at the mass killing of innocents. But without exploring the idea in depth, we won't know whether such an alliance would divide and conquer our jihadist enemies -- or fool us into dancing with the Devil, giving aid and comfort (and some cheap laughs) to those very same enemies.

Still, I enthusiastically applaud such "sideways thinking" outside the normal channels of the D.C. political ideological complex, which currently offers only three paths forward, none of them very promising:

  • The "Realism" of Kissinger and Scowcroft, which cuddles up to Arab strongmen to maintain order and security;
  • Incessant military intervention in every potentially troublous Moslem country;
  • Or cowardly and foolhardy retreat to "Fortress America" to contemplate domestic policy and our navels.

I won't say there's "no harm" in investigating this front, because we could be sucked into doing the wrong thing. But I do argue there is a powerful upside that we can no longer afford to overlook. So as Ronald Reagan's mother (he assured us) used to tell him while pushing him around in his pram, "trust but verify."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 20, 2007, at the time of 2:35 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 19, 2007

Why I Won't Call the Iraq Violence a "Civil War"

Hatched by Dafydd

I noted in the previous post that Michael Yon used the phrase "civil war" to describe what is happening in Iraq; a commenter to that post, BigLeeH, suggests that the definition used (when Democrats hurl the term) is very simplistic:

When the American left applies the term "civil war" to a modern conflict the operative definition is "any war that is none of our d**n business and we should just butt out."

BigLeeH went on to suggest that when conservatives argue that it is too our business, they in essence foment "a needless conflict with the plain meaning of the words."

I have repeatedly objected to that definition of civil war. It's not "the plain meaning of the words;" it's one side's definition of the term, a definition I reject:

  • Neither al-Qaeda nor the Shiite insurgents have fielded an army;
  • Neither of them controls any significant territory;
  • Neither has formed a national front;
  • And neither has set up a shadow government.

These four elements are critical to any civil war, by my definition. I offer for my examples England in the 1640s, America in the early 1860s, and Spain in the late 1930s.

Nothing like that is happening in Iraq, which is why I dispute Michael Yon's conclusion that there is a civil war there:

  • Rather than fight to install a different government, al-Qaeda is fighting to destroy all government in Iraq, leaving it a wasteland of chaos -- in which environment al-Qaeda thrives.
  • And the Mahdi Militia is fighting, not to install a different goverment, but instead to crush Iraq so that Iran can take over.

What is happening in Iraq is no more a civil war than Chicago in the 1920s or Colombia in the 1980s -- or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the Red Army Faction in Japan. Those conflicts, in fact, suggest the correct term (rather, pair of terms): Iraq is suffering a simultaneous gangland war and insurgency.

It's a gangland war, sez I -- like the Medellin and Cali Cartels' violence against the Colombian government -- coupled with a classical insurgency, as in Algeria, the Philippines, or Kashmir.

This is not to minimize the violence in Iraq; but fighting a civil war requires a completely different strategy than fighting a gangland war -- which is an expanded law-enforcement operation -- or an insurgency, which requires a counterinsurgency strategy.

Labels should clarify rather than obscure. The "civil war" label is used far more often to obscure critical differences than to consolodate different elements of a single class.

Thus, Democrats say, "it's a civil war, so obviously the Iraqis don't want us there. Let's leave!" But in fact, if it's a gangland war and an insurgency, they very likely do want us there to help. The Democrats deliberately cover up the distinction so that they can trick us into withdrawal.

As for Michael Yon, he's just being sloppy; I don't think he has any ulterior motive.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 19, 2007, at the time of 6:51 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Yon On Baqouba

Hatched by Dafydd

Michael Yon has a new dispatch up about the fighting in Diyala province (northeast of Baghdad) and in the southern outskirts of Baghdad. (Hat tip to Scott Johnson and Power Line.)

As always, there are parts I disagree with: Yon continues to beat the "civil war" drum in Iraq; and he states, several times, echoing a long-time Democratic meme, that "al Qaeda and associates had little or no presence in Iraq before the current war."

I have no idea whether he is a Republican, a Democrat, or something else (or nothing!)... but while arguing that al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion, it's pretty hard to get around Musab Zarqawi's Ansar al-Islam compound/training camp -- which operated in Kurdish Iraq years before the invasion. Zarqawi, of course, soon changed the name of his group to al-Qaeda in Iraq and had many juicy exchanges with al-Qaeda number two, Ayman Zawahiri.

But the meat of Yon's dispatch is that, while we made terrible mistakes at the beginning that allowed events in Iraq to deteriorate, we have since rectified and refined our operations there... particularly by appointing Gen. David Petraeus to command of all forces in Iraq:

Throughout 2006, my belief grew that Petraeus should be running this war. And though I had reached my own conclusions, others thought the same....

These words flow on the eve of a great battle, but are on hold until the attack is well underway. Nothing is certain. I am here and have been all year. We are in trouble, but we have a great General. The only one, I have long believed, who can lead the way out of this morass. Iraq is not hopeless. Iraq can stand again but first it must cast off these demons. And some of the demons must be killed.

Where Yon's writing truly lifts off is when he describes battles and campaigns, either post-hoc or anticipatory. Here he talks about the struggle that is to come in Diyala province and its capital Baqouba, and what it will entail. (This is the only long quote from Yon's long article; you should read it all. Yes, I know everybody who quotes from a source says "you should read it all"... but in this case, you really should. All the other times I said it, I was deliberately and perversely misleading you, just to waste your time. But this time, I promise I'm telling the truth!)

Northeast of Baghdad, innocent civilians are being asked to leave Baquba. More than 1,000 AQI fighters are there, with perhaps another thousand adjuncts. Baquba alone might be as intense as Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in late 2004. They are ready for us. Giant bombs are buried in the roads. Snipers -- real snipers -- have chiseled holes in walls so that they can shoot not from roofs or windows, but from deep inside buildings, where we cannot see the flash or hear the shots. They will shoot for our faces and necks. Car bombs are already assembled. Suicide vests are prepared.

The enemy will try to herd us into their traps, and likely many of us will be killed before it ends. Already, they have been blowing up bridges, apparently to restrict our movements. Entire buildings are rigged with explosives. They have rockets, mortars, and bombs hidden in places they know we are likely to cross, or places we might seek cover. They will use human shields and force people to drive bombs at us. They will use cameras and make it look like we are ravaging the city and that they are defeating us. By the time you read this, we will be inside Baquba, and we will be killing them. No secrets are spilling here.

Our jets will drop bombs and we will use rockets. Helicopters will cover us, and medevac our wounded and killed. By the time you read this, our artillery will be firing, and our tanks moving in. And Humvees. And Strykers. And other vehicles. Our people will capture key terrain and cutoff escape routes. The idea this time is not to chase al Qaeda out, but to trap and kill them head-on, or in ambushes, or while they sleep. When they are wounded, they will be unable to go to hospitals without being captured, and so their wounds will fester and they will die painfully sometimes. It will be horrible for al Qaeda. Horror and terrorism is what they sow, and tonight they will reap their harvest. They will get no rest. They can only fight and die, or run and try to get away. Nobody is asking for surrender, but if they surrender, they will be taken.

The writing is riveting, but more important is what Yon tells us: That despite earlier mistakes -- mistakes about which I am less condemnatory than Michael Yon, since we were in terra incognita, while hindsight is... you know -- today, we are doing things far more right than wrong. We are winning and turning the tide of battle, even according to the previously gloomy Michael Yon.

But he warns of a brutal campaign to come: Steel yourselves, he says, for mass-media reports of mass "civilian" deaths (because terrorists and insurgents are technically civilians... get it?) and horrific, ungentlemanly conduct from our troops. Imagine, surrounding a city, cutting off all escape routes, and then systematically exterminating thousands of al-Qaeda operatives without even giving them a chance to save face by relocating to the province next door. Outrageous!

We often hear of some "neocon" (which the drive-by media now appears to define as any Republican who supports the Iraq war) who used to be a cheerleader for Operation Iraqi Freedom but now repents, confesses that it is not only unwinnable but the greatest war crime in human history, and has joined up with Mother Sheehan to call for all Republicans to be purged from office. Rarely do we hear of the opposite, a person more optimistic today than he was yesterday. The systemic bias of the elite media does not recognize that such people exist, even when confronted by them.

They will not recognize Michael Yon, both because of his message of hope, when they preach only despair; but just as important, because Yon is that most wretched of creatures: a true "citizen journalist." He didn't go to Columbia or any other J-school; he simply writes, in common-sense but compelling prose, what he sees (and as often photographs it as well, which ticks off yet another batch of newspaper folks). Worse, he is a former Special Forces soldier himself... so how could he possibly (argue the elites) cover Iraq objectively?

(For that kind of objectivity, you need someone who graduated from an accredited journalism school and is an active anti-Iraq war protester.)

It's not that Yon flies below the media's radar; rather, they have deliberately tuned their radar so that it cannot pick up people like Yon... like wearing special glasses that filter out the color red. Thus their narrative -- being uninformed by trenchant observers and brilliant wordsmiths like Yon -- floats disconnected and incomplete above the battlefield, struggling to see through the haze of gunsmoke...

The anointed journalist peers through the shifting smoke, and he manufactures fantastic visages of gods and demons (or often a duckie and a horsie). He writes, not about what he has seen (which isn't much beyond the insides of Green Zone bars and mess halls), but what he confabulated in place of real data. His narrative becomes a convenient fairy-tale that just happens, by sheer coincidence, to reinforce everything he always believed about the war before leaving the New York office.

I love Yon for the same reason that the J-school media hates him: He brings to his stories a new organizational principle that generates a unique story line. I disagree with much of what he says; but he says it with zest and sincerity, and he tries hard to back it up.

And that's why you should read it all. It's time better spent than watching reruns of the Sopranos or 24.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 19, 2007, at the time of 2:10 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 18, 2007

The Omnipotence Illusion

Hatched by Dafydd

Not a lot happening today in the news -- at least nothing that begs for elucidation; so I've returned to a musing of mine from several weeks ago: Why have Americans turned against the Iraq war? Why do they see America heading in the "wrong direction" by such a wide margin? Why did they throw out the GOP? Why do they now seem to be rejecting the Democrats?

What are they looking for that they evidently cannot find in any mortal leader? Specifically about the war, though, since that is the most important foreign-policy right now.

Senate Majority Larder Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) would of course say, "Because we've lost! It's hopeless. We're doomed, doomed... we've learned a difficult lesson, we must simply accept it and humble ourselves." But as you have probably guessed, I consider that to be a cowardly and unAmerican cop-out that doesn't really "explain" anything. Why does Reid think we've lost?

For I note that he never actually tells us what he considers the "victory conditions" to be. Does he even have any, or does he proclaim defeat for no reason at all? Are his conditions realistic? If they include both a requirement of perfection and a short timeline -- for example, "Osama bin Laden himself must come and prostrate himself before us; and this must happen before the American voters get bored" -- then under those requirements, any war worth fighting is unwinnable.

However, under a more realistic set of victory conditions, we're actually doing pretty well:

  • We overthrew Saddam Hussein and the Baathists;
  • We killed his demented offspring;
  • We drove Iraqis to vote for a constitution;
  • We got them to elect a parliament -- twice!
  • We built up the most powerful Arab army in the region and have worked with the Iraqis to professionalize the army and the national police;
  • We rebuilt a huge amount of the infrastructure in Iraq, replacing the crumbling antiquities left behind by a couple years of war and decades of rule by Hussein;
  • We helped turn the Sunni tribesmen away from al-Qaeda, and now they are actually at war with the jihadis;
  • We have pretty effectively stifled the Mahdi Militia and the Badr Organization (the two main Shiite extremist paramilitary groups), such that neither actually runs the government (as many expected they would);
  • We have pretty much pacified 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces, and we are now bringing a counterinsurgency campaign to bear on the last three: Anbar, Diyala, and Baghdad;
  • And we did this all for a cost of about 3,500 American soldiers over four years. While every loss of a soldier or Marine is a personal tragedy, it's still an extraordinarily low number by warfare standards -- especially considering what we have accomplished.

So how could the American people look at that record and think we're losing?

I believe we're running smack into what I call the Omnipotence Illusion: The delusional idea that America is so powerful that we are literally omnipotent... thus, any result less than perfection, over a timeframe longer than the length of a typical plot arc on CSI or the Sopranos, is rejected as lame and unworthy... and we must find who is to blame for America failing to be as effective as God.

The purest version of the Omnipotence Illusion occurred during and after Hurricane Katrina: The total loss of life in New Orleans was about 1,000 souls -- out of a city whose population then was about 1.5 million in the metropolitan area, a death rate of a scant 0.07%! The federal government responded forcefully and rapidly (in fact, before the hurricane even made landfall); and even the mistakes were understandable in the confusion.

Consider the magnitude of a fairly powerful hurricane, followed by a burst levee and massive flooding: With all that, the government response must have been extraordinarily good to save 99.93% of the population.

Yet instead, the Katrina response is seen by most Americans as a complete failure... because, measured against a television standard of absolute perfection (no deaths, no destroyed homes, nobody displaced) -- 1,000 deaths, many destroyed homes, and tens of thousands of displaced people seems like "no response at all."

And the same appears to be happening in Iraq. Reid can get away with saying "we've already lost" and that Gens. Peter Pace and David Petraeus are "incompetent" because he and his fellow Democrats have successfully convinced the American people that only swift perfection in Iraq can be counted as success: If Iraqi democracy is at all messy; if there is any violence at all in Iraq (or indeed, anywhere else in the Middle East), or if it all takes longer than Harry Reid's attention span, then that must be counted a complete and miserable failure.

I don't know whether our country can break itself out of the Omnipotence Illusion death spiral; the terrorists and their enablers in the Democratic Party rely on the supposition that we cannot; therefore, if they can only make future fights ugly, bloody, and make them last longer than a few months, then America will inevitably retreat and surrender. Democrats believe that if only the voters can be made to feel ashamed to be American, they will come live in the surrender house with the Democrats.

But those who support the WAGJ rely instead upon the idea that the Omnipotence Illusion is a temporary aberration of the American people; that the Americans who beat the Nazis and then beat the Soviets can also hang tough long enough to beat the jihadis.

This is the house of traditional Americans, from Bunker Hill to the Cold war; we believe that our soldiers -- who are hanging tough and are not in despair -- are more representative of the American people than are Harry Reid and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%).

I do not know which house will prove more prophetic in the end; but I do know that those who live in the first house have already surrendered their courage, their will, and their honor, living in a perpetual twilight of unseized opportunity. And that is a horrible enough way to live that I would far rather stake all on the second house prevailing.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 18, 2007, at the time of 6:51 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 17, 2007

Even MSM Agrees: Barely Started Counterinsurgency On a Roll!

Hatched by Dafydd

The elite media doesn't realize it yet, but they have given the new counterinsurgency strategy the best review they possibly could -- by admitting that, though it has barely begun, we already now "have full control" of 40% of Baghdad (our target), plus an additional 30% somewhat under control but not fully, leaving only 30% fully in insurgent hands.

In other words, Baghdad is now 40% white, 30% pink, and 30% red. Not bad for a "surge" that just began operations this week:

Odierno said there was a long way to go in retaking the city from Shiite Muslim militias, Sunni Arab insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists. He said only about "40 percent is really very safe on a routine basis" - with about 30 percent lacking control and a further 30 percent suffering "a high level of violence...."

"There's about 30 percent of the city that needs work, like here in Dora and the surrounding areas," Odierno said. "Those are the areas that we consider to be the hot spots, which usually have a Sunni-Shiite fault line, and also areas where al-Qaida has decided to make a stand."

Naturally, this being the Associated Press, they chose to see the Persian slipper as half-empty of tobacco, headlining their piece "US: 60 Pct. of Baghdad Not Controlled." But you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to be able to do the math.

Most of the article dwelt upon the kidnapping and possible deaths of a few American soldiers a few weeks ago (airborne troops found the victims' ID cards; no word yet whether they're alive or dead) and upon the rise in American casualties that, oddly enough, seems to accompany our increased willingness to engage the enemy. As you can see, these issues fit perfectly with the theme of the article: the percent of Baghdad we control.

And frankly, the verified fact that we control or exert strong influence over 70% of the Iraqi capital, after merely preparing for a campaign, followed by one week of actual combat, is pretty darned good news presaging eventual victory.

Even if the drive-by media can't quite see beyond their front bumpers to realize it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 17, 2007, at the time of 4:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 15, 2007

This Week's Swimmers

Hatched by Dafydd

This week, one of my number-one picks actually won; in the other category, I was literally the only person to vote for either of my two picks!

Here are the winners:

Among the Council:

Bookworm contrasts the people who love George W. Bush -- many of whom have experience, up close and personal, with the Evil Empire, and love America for what we did to help liberate them -- with the snide, superior, condescending Democrats who wanted to leave Eastern Europe in Soviet hands forever.

This is the one I voted for in first place; my second-place vote for the Council nominees was Something Wicked This Way Comes -- A Democrat Congress Tryin' To Fix the Alternative Minimum Tax, by 'Okie' On the Lam. It came in third on the list with one full point; my number-two vote gave it 1/3 of a point, so either one other person voted it in first place, or else two others voted it second.

The Okie post is just what it says: ruminations on the ruination that will follow a Democratic "fix" of the AMT.

Among the Nouncil:

I didn't vote for this one. It was good; but it just seemed like any other Michael Yon embedded piece... nothing really jumped out at me.

Instead, I voted for these here two, for which (as I intimated) nobody else bothered to vote. Or even read, I reckon. Everybody else besides the Lizard hates these two authors, and I suspect a couple of the more exuberent Council members left stink bombs on the authors' doorsteps. I'd watch my back walking near any of the other Council members besides me, if I were they! You never know what those weasels that the Watcher watches might do:

  1. U.S. Finds Karbala PJCC Mockup Inside Iran, The Fourth Rail;

This is the piece I nominated: Using satellite photography, we found solid evidence of a mock-up in Iran itself of the target of a Qods Force raid that killed several Americans in Karbala, Iraq, south of Baghdad in (here's a surprise) Karbala province; a model in Iran of the Qods target in Iraq:

"U.S. reconnaissance spacecraft have spotted a training center in Iran that duplicates the layout of the governor's compound in Karbala, Iraq, that was attacked in January by a specialized unit that killed American and Iraqi soldiers," Michael Mecham reported in the In Orbit section of the [June 4 edition of Aviation Week and Space Technology].

A bit hard to square Iranian denials of attacking us with the existence of a mock-up of the Iraqi target right there in the land of the mad mullahs.

This is pretty clear evidence that Iran has declared covert war on the United States; in a followup piece on Big Lizards, you will recall, Sachi discussed this at greater length: She got the goods on Qods.

Originally, I tried to nominate Sachi's piece for our Council post... forgetting that, by the Council rules, only the posts of a single member of a group blog can be nominated -- and that one is I, not Sachi. I could have nominated her in the non-Council slot; but my plan was to nominate Sachi's piece for the Council slot and Bill Roggio's piece (our source) in the non-Council spot, so... well, the whole thing turned into a dog's breakfast, let me tell you, which culminated in the Watcher calling Homeland Security on me.

  1. Frist Pushing Dem Agenda, AlphaPatriot.

Former Majority Leader Bill Frist wants to solve all of Africa's problems by throwing money at them... our money. AlphaPatriot has the skinny.

Watch... the Watcher

...Who you can find here, with his pronunciamento about the vote this week.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 15, 2007, at the time of 11:59 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Adios, Señor Nifong

Hatched by Dafydd

Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong is resigning his office. Do you think it could have anything to do with a desperate attempt to avoid disbarment?

Oh, but listen to Moses explain why he must resign:

Facing the loss of his law license, a tearful Mike Nifong said Friday he will resign as district attorney, more than a year after he obtained rape indictments against three Duke University lacrosse players who were later declared innocent by state prosecutors.

"My community has suffered enough," Nifong said from the witness stand at his ethics trial on allegations that he violated rules of professional conduct in his handling of the case.

Let my people go! (Of course, if Nifong is disbarred, he would pretty much have to resign as DA anyway. You think?)

UPDATE: Hey, how about that? We scooped Power Line, Real Clear Politics, Patterico, Hugh Hewitt -- and even InstaPundit with this breaking news. Heh.

(Forgive my crowing, but it's not often that Big Lizards has a scoop. We're more into tedious, didactic, and colossally boring news analysis than news reporting.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 15, 2007, at the time of 1:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Mobile-Phone Opera Guy From Special Report

Hatched by Dafydd

A clip from the British show Britain's Got Talent (as seen yesterday on Brit Hume).

The show is, as you have probably surmised, a nationwide talent search in the UK; not limited to singing (like Pop Idol, or its U.S. sister show, American Idol) or dancing (like So You Think You Can Dance), contestants can come out and juggle, or play an instrument, or, it appears, do any barmy thing they want... so long as they're willing to brave catcalls from the live studio audience and buzzers from the judges (like the gong in the old Gong Show).

This chap is a mobile-phone salesman who sings opera in his off hours, and here is his audition. I noticed a glitch when he sings the highest note; but it's very brief, and he recovers well. Considering that he has (supposedly) never been trained, a brilliant performance.

I hope that as he progresses through the show, no matter how far he gets, he at least gains enough attention that a serious opera singing maestro will take him under wing and give him the training he truly deserves.

Oh, here it is; the clip is completely work-safe, unless your boss doesn't like operatic singing:

 

Britain's Got Talent - a Star Is Born

 

Bon appétit!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 15, 2007, at the time of 5:42 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 14, 2007

Brokeback Legislature

Hatched by Dafydd

The Massachusetts constitutional convention has successfully prevented a bill enshrining traditional marriage in the state constitution from even reaching the voters... and the legislators are just busting with pride:

Massachusetts lawmakers on Thursday blocked a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage from reaching voters, a stunning victory for gay marriage advocates and a devastating blow to efforts to reverse a historic 2003 court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

The 45-151 vote means Massachusetts remains the only state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to marry. The question needed the approval of 50 of 200 lawmakers in consecutive sessions to advance to the 2008 ballot. It got the first approval at the end of last session in January with 62 votes....

As the tally was announced, the halls of the Statehouse erupted in cheers and applause from supporters of gay marriage gathered outside the House chambers.

So upon sober reflection, the Massachusetts pols decided not to allow voters to confuse matters by participating in the discussion. Am I alone in concluding that the massive lobbying effort that "changed the minds" of 17 members indicates that internal polling showed that the bill would have passed, had they allowed a vote?

I reason that if polling showed the bill going down to defeat -- why try to desperately to prevent a vote? Why not allow Massachusetts to become the only state in the United States whose citizenry had voted for same-sex marriage?

The governor is leaping and capering about, clapping his elfin, little hands in glee:

The vote is also a victory for the state's Democratic leadership, including Gov. Deval Patrick, a vocal supporter of gay marriage, who pressed lawmakers up until the final moments to block the measure.

House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, D-Boston and Murray, D-Plymouth, also support gay marriage and worked to change votes - arguing the rights of a minority group should not be put to a popular vote.

Arguing that the citizens of Massachusetts should not be allowed to determine what constitutes "marriage" in their state. That job properly belongs to four of the seven never-elected justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.



Deval Patrick

"We killed the traditional-marriage act!"

If you live in the Bay State, now you know how highly your legislature values your input. Sleep tight.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 14, 2007, at the time of 10:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Counterinsurgency Strategy Working So Far - Even Though It's Just Beginning

Hatched by Dafydd

This is very good news that the Washington Post is trying to spin as bad news (yes, I know you're too stunned to speak).

Let's start with a brief primer of what the counterinsurgency strategy actually entails (blue text represents preparation of the field of battle):

  1. Five new American brigades into Baghdad;
  2. Three additional Iraqi army brigades into Baghdad;
  3. Several new American battalions into Anbar;
  4. The objective is first to restore security to Baghdad and Anbar by driving insurgents out of the capital and out of al-Qaeda in Iraq's home province;
  5. After security is restored to those two provinces, the second objective is to expand that security to adjacent provinces (turning "red" to "pink" and "pink" to "white") by again driving insurgents outward (and killing or capturing them whenever possible);
  6. Continuing in this fashion, "expanding security outward," means that eventually, the insurgents have nowhere else to go in Iraq, and the country will be as pacified as any Arab Moslem country can be.

The fifth and final U.S. Army brigade is now in Baghdad and being readied, along with the Iraqi battalions; while the battalions have moved into Anbar. Thus we have completed prepping the battlefield and are just about to commence the actual security operation.

The Pentagon has just issued a report titled Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq, June 2007; the report covers the three-month period from February to mid-May. It reports... but no, let us allow the Washington Post to characterize the report first, in an article they aggressively title "No Drop in Iraq Violence Seen Since Troop Buildup" (hat tip to Paul Mirengoff at Power Line):

Three months into the new U.S. military strategy that has sent tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq, overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased, as attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday.

In other words, without even realizing it, the WaPo reports that the Pentagon reports that the insurgents are being driven out of Baghdad and Anbar -- before the main combat of the counterinsurgency has even begun.

...Which happens to be exactly the victory we want to see in bullet-point 4 above.

This is to be a "clear and hold indefinitely" operation (or as I have dubbed it, "whack a mole and seal a hole"): As we and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) clear the insurgents out of Baghdad, neighborhood by neighborhood, we move forward -- and the Iraqis stay, holding the liberated regions of the capital against reinfiltration by insurgents and terrorists. That is precisely the plan, as developed and implemented by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander MNF-I.

Clearly, it is working: The Pentagon reports significant drops in attacks in Baghdad and Anbar provinces already.

The good:

Insurgents and extremists are unable to operate as freely in Baghdad because of FAQ [Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, the Arabic name of the current Baghdad security operation] and in Anbar Province because of growing tribal opposition to AQI. Accordingly, many insurgents and extremists have moved operations to Diyala, Ninewa, and the outlying areas of Baghdad Province....

Since January 2007, Coalition reported murders in Baghdad proper have decreased by 51% as militia activity was disrupted by security operations....

In Anbar province, anti-AQI sentiment is widespread, with growing tribal influence as the primary driver of decreasing violence levels. The total number of attacks in Anbar has dropped 34% since December 2006, with Ramadi -- where attacks are at a two-year low -- accounting for the largest decline in violence levels. Attacks in Anbar have dropped from 35 per day in the previous reporting period to just under 26, dipping below average daily attacks in Salah ad Din Province.

The phrase "growing tribal opposition to AQI" in Anbar province refers to this phenomenon, about which we have written a number of times: Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders have gotten fed up with the mindless thirst for blood among al-Qaeda members, and they have declared war on al-Qaeda... and are slowly but inexorably driving them out of the Sunni belt -- Anbar, Diyala, Salahadin, and Baghdad.

The bad:

The overall level of violence in Iraq this quarter remained similar to the previous reporting period but shifted location. Insurgents and extremists are unable to operate as freely in Baghdad because of FAQ and in Anbar Province because of growing tribal opposition to AQI. Accordingly, many insurgents and extremists have moved operations to Diyala, Ninewa, and the outlying areas of Baghdad Province. Outside Baghdad and Anbar, reductions in Coalition force presence and reliance upon local Iraqi security forces have resulted in a tenuous security situation. Sectarian violence and insurgent attacks still involve a very small portion of the population, but public perceptions of violence have adversely affected reconciliation and contribute to population migration.

In other words, the report shows insurgents being driven out of Baghdad (due to Operation FAQ) and Anbar (due to Sunni tribes rising against al-Qaeda, with our help and encouragement; we're fighting side by side with Sunni Iraqis against al-Qaeda!)... exactly the direction we hoped to achieve with the counterinsurgency strategy.

This is what victory in Iraq looks like -- and will continue to look like: It is messy, it's violent, but we can discern actual movement towards the final elimination of al-Qaeda in Iraq as a viable terrorist force and of Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM, Muqtada Sadr's "Mahdi Militia") as a rallying point for Shiite insurgency.

The WaPo's bean-counting take is that, since there is no overall reduction in violence yet (before we begin our offensive) -- merely a shift from our areas of operation to outlying provinces -- therefore the "troop surge" is a failure. But contrarywise, what the Pentagon report demonstrates, and the Post unwittingly reports, is the beginning of victory in exactly the way Gen. Petraeus expected.

As always, I wonder whether the Post writer (Ann Scott Tyson) is simply ignorant of the strategy, what it entails, and what it expects to do... or whether she knows very well that it's working, and she just wants to help Majority Leader Harry "we've already lost" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) in his urgent task of thwarting the counterinsurgency before it has a chance to succeed... and ruin everything!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 14, 2007, at the time of 6:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Steyn Shine

Hatched by Dafydd

I always try to listen to Mark Steyn's weekly segment on Hugh Hewitt (Thursdays, first hour, first segment); we disagree on much, but he's such a joy to listen to because of the wit and the accent, which always make American me feel shabby and undereducated). Today I succeeded.

But during his brief chat, Steyn made a claim that flummoxed me: He said that a little-known provision in the immigration bill (currently on hiatus) was that, as soon as the bill was signed (if resurrected), all legal immigrants, no matter where they are in the system, who arrived here after May 2005 -- millions of them -- would be forced to return to their home countries and start the application process over again from scratch.

Steyn did not cite the provision that requires this.

I searched through the provisions of the proposed bill but failed to find any such passage. (I did, however, find Title V, Section 511: POWERLINE WORKERS:

Section 214(e) (8 U.S.C. 1184(e)) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

'(7) A citizen of Canada who is a powerline worker, who has received significant training, and who seeks admission to the United States to perform powerline repair and maintenance services shall be admitted in the same manner and under the same authority as a citizen of Canada described in paragraph (2).'.

So John, Scott, and Paul may safely hire Canadians for upkeep of their blogsite.)

I would at least have expected Hugh to question this assertion and ask for some more facts; but he has chosen to absent him self to Walla Walla or Okefenokee or Chicago or some other God-forsaken wilderness. His anointed successor, Dean Barnett, is such a fanatic immigration-bill hater that he simply gasped and squealed in horror and sought no further clarification.

Now, I have been following this debate since the beginning. I have neither seen nor heard of this provision before. It has not been reported in any news story I've seen. No opponent of the bill has trotted this out before, to my (admittedly not omniscient) knowledge. I haven't even seen any "immigrants' rights" organization make this claim.

Does anybody here know what the heck Mark Steyn is talking about -- to the extent of actually giving me title and section, so I can look it up? If this is true, then of course it's a horrible, horrible section that should be eliminated by amendment -- and if not eliminated, would probably cause me to reconsider my support of the bill.

But honestly, I have never even heard of this; and I have the unnerving sense that we have passed into the modus operandi argumentum where opponents simply invent any crazy provision and claim it resides somewhere in the bill, secure in the supposition that, as Barnett demonstrated, nobody will call their bluffs.

Help me out here, please.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 14, 2007, at the time of 4:07 PM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 13, 2007

It's Like Déjà-Vu All Over Again...

Hatched by Dafydd

...Why do I have the feeling I used that line before?

I'm actually starting to lose track of how many times we've lost the Iraq war; at least, according to Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%). But he's at it again. I don't think I've ever before seen a feller so anxious to see his own side lose:

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged the president over Iraq by sending him a letter, ahead of a White House meeting later on Wednesday.

"As many had forseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results," the two leaders wrote. [The troops are just now in place, and the new counterinsurgency strategy is just about to begin.]

"The increase in US forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation. [Even before the new strategy begins, violence in Baghdad is down significantly; some has moved outside the capital, but that was the plan: Secure Baghdad, then expand the security outward.]

"It has not enhanced Americas national security. The unsettling reality is that instances of violence against Iraqis remain high and attacks on US forces have increased. [By "attacks on US forces," you of course mean "casualties suffered as US forces take the fight to the terrorists and insurgents, increase the tempo of engagement, and obliterate al-Qaeda in Anbar, Salahadin, Diyala, and Baghdad.]

"In fact, the last two months of the war were the deadliest to date for US troops." [So let's make all those deaths meaningless by retreating just as we're about to launch the full-scale attack!]

Of course, t'other way of looking at it is -- the side he's anxious to see lose isn't his own side at all. Has anybody seen any photos of Harry Reid sitting astride an al-Qaeda anti-aircraft gun? And does anybody know if a Special Forces guy ever gave Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) a "magic hat?"

Is this really the image the Democrats want to project? When the going gets tough, the Democrats have another panic attack. How many more of these spasmodic breakdowns will we have to suffer through before the 2008 elections?

They have become the George Constanza party:

  • They lurch from one crisis to the next;
  • They're crude;
  • They're cowardly;
  • Their normal emotinal state is hysterical overreaction;
  • And they're "unusually good liars."

I grow weary of pointing out every time Reid or Pelosi or some other dysfunctional Defeatocrat (not to mention any names, such as John Murtha, D-PA, 65%) informs us that we've lost, there's no point in continuing, we've learned a difficult lesson, and it's time to crawl away, lick our wounds, and negotiate surrender with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Grand Kleagle of al-Qaeda in Iraq Ayyub al-Masri, and Iranian Puppet Muqtada Sadr.

You know who "Pinky" Reid has always reminded me of? In Aliens (a.k.a., Alien II) -- anybody remember that great movie? -- one of the Colonial Marines, Hudson, spends the entire movie whining, "That's it man, game over man, game over! What the [expletive deleted] are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do? We're toast, man, we're history!"

But that's really unfair, and I'm sorry I made the comparison. After all, in the end, Hudson actually did his duty and mowed down a bunch of alien monsters.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 13, 2007, at the time of 11:01 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The Insidious Nature of Subtle Media Bias

Hatched by Dafydd

Sometimes, the leftward bias of the elite media is so blatant, it's positively brazen. But this is actually not very dangerous to society, simply because it is so obvious: If someone nakedly calls President Bush a "fascist imperialist murderer," it's easy to dismiss anything else he says.

Far more destructive is the subtle bias that slides past unnoticed, but can influence our thinking even more than obvious bias... it slips under our defensive shields, and we don't even realize how we're being brainwashed.

Here is a simple example. What is wrong with this picture?

Two former White House officials were subpoenaed today as Congressional Democrats intensified pressure on the Bush administration over the dismissals of eight United States attorneys.

Seems pretty innocuous, right? Just straight news reporting? Look again: The "straight news" is that Congress issued subpoenas. But the New York Times tells us something else; they inform us that these subpoenas "intensified pressure on the Bush administration."

Here is where it gets a bit subtle. Why would subpoenaing Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor increase the pressure on President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales?

Democrats have been investigating the attorney general's decision not to renew contracts for a handful of United States Attorneys; the Democrats hope to prove there was something illegal about those "dismissals," some way to use it to force the resignation of Gonzales, which would indeed strike a blow at George W. Bush. But so far, even the Times would agree that the Democrats have been unsuccessful: They cannot find any evidence of illegality whatsoever, despite many weeks of investigation.

So let's make a wild leap here and assume, just for sake of argument, that the attorney general in fact committed no crime, that there was a completely legitimate reason not to renew the contracts. If so -- then why would coerced testimony under oath by Miers and Taylor intensify the pressure on Gonzales or Bush? The gals would simply say the same thing the administration says, which would actually benefit Bush.

Thus, by flatly stating that the subpoenas "intensified pressure," the Times subtlely but surely conveys the point that Bush and Gonazles have something to hide -- something that Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor know and are desperately trying to conceal, but which now might come out if they are interrogated under oath by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT, 95%).

Whew, that's quite a lot to convey in just two words! But if you read news stories with a critical eye, you will see the same pattern over and over. Patterico and I have both been pounding this beat for some time. In his post Liberal Bias in the Wording of a News Article, Patterico quotes a perfect example of subtle bias by word choice from the Washington Post:

Today the Washington Post prints one of those articles that drive conservatives like me crazy. The article, a front-page news analysis titled Kerry Put On Defensive About Iraq, just drips with sympathy for Kerry. But I don’t find any clear misstatements of fact in the piece. The bias is in the way it’s worded, starting with the very first paragraph:

Over the past week, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have thrown Sen. John F. Kerry on the defensive with a daily assault designed to tarnish his credentials as a possible commander in chief. But the orchestrated attacks also revealed the president’s vulnerabilities on the issue that continues to shape the presidential campaign as much as any other.

I chuckled when I read the part about the “orchestrated attacks.” It reminded me of the survey that one web site did of all the times Dan Rather had used the phrase “carefully orchestrated leak.” You will not be surprised to learn that Rather always used the phrase to refer to alleged leaks by Republicans. Republicans are apparently the masters of “orchestration,” whether you’re talking leaks or attacks.

You see, whenever one candidate criticizes another, there are two ways to characterize what’s happening. If you think the criticism may be valid, you will refer to the criticism passively, and discuss the “mounting criticism” of the candidate being criticized. But if you don’t like the criticism, then you will refer to the criticism as an “attack.” You will consistently phrase the description of the criticism in the active voice, as in: “Cheney attacked Kerry over the issue of...” Rather than saying that the parties voicing the criticism have “pointed out” their opponent’s misstatements, you will say they “seized on” those misstatements.

Again, the very subtlety itself is what allows it to insinuate itself unnoticed into our brains. For example, the next time Republicans are at loggerheads with each other (which seems to occur with great regularity), notice how both sides of the internicine GOP dispute begin unconsciously to mimic Democratic anti-Republican arguments and even smears. In the last example, immigration-bill opponents routinely called Bush and Republican supporters "grave threats to America" and "dictators," while immigration-bill supporters just as often called opponents "racists" and "nativists."

After years and years of hearing those vicious attacks from Democrats, often couched in very subtle terms that flew below our radar, disputants could not help forming their "arguments" around those very same attacks. Thus are we manipulated into selling Democrats the rope that they will use to hang us all (heh, how's that for a subtle but extremely nasty smear?)

Another media technique is to use quotations from biased parties to level charges that are unsustainable by any actual evidence the media possess... while allowing only the sketchiest and most unconvincing response from the accused. To wit:

So far, the White House has said it will not make any current or former officials available to testify under oath before the panels but would not object to private interviews, with no sworn testimony and no transcripts kept. The lawmakers have disdained that arrangement as unacceptable.

“By refusing to cooperate with Congressional committees, the White House continues its pattern of confrontation over cooperation, and those who suffer most in this case are the public and the hard-working people at the Department of Justice,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Senate committee, said in a statement today.

Representative John D. Conyers of Michigan, the chairman of the House committee, said the subpoenas were “a demand on behalf of the American people.”

“The breadcrumbs in this investigation have always led to 1600 Pennsylvania,” Mr. Conyers said, referring to the White House by its street address. “This investigation will not end until the White House complies with the demands of this subpoena in a timely and reasonable manner, so that we may get to the bottom of this.”

The White House reacted quickly today to the subpoenas, arguing that the committees could easily obtain all the facts they need through interviews and relevant documents, but that the Democratic chairmen “are more interested in drama than facts,” as Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, put it in an exchange with reporters.

All right, quick quiz: Based entirely on this passage (or any other in the story), why is the president fighting against subpoenas of his top aides? What is the legal principle involved, if any? I'm not asking whether you agree with it... I just what to know what it is, according to "America's newspaper of record" which prints "all the news that's fit to print."

Yes, it's a trick question.

By omitting any quotion of the administration's argument, we are subtlely left with the impression that Bush has no legitimate reason... thus, the only explanantion for reluctance to testify under oath is having something to hide from Congress, reinforcing the implication of the earlier phrase "intensified pressure." Pat Leahy and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI, 100%) make a charge which the administration never answers. Their "silence" speaks volumes!

Of course, their "silence" is an artifact of the New York Times' writers and editors, who choose not to print the administration's argument: The Executive is a coequal branch of the government with the Legislature; and just as the president cannot order the Justice Department to haul members of Congress in and force them to testify, under penalty of perjury, about their innermost discussions of politics, strategy, or policy, Congress should not be allowed to haul in the president's closest advisors for the same purpose. The president -- argues this president -- has the right under the Constitution to receive confidential advice; and absent an actual criminal proceeding, neither of the other two branches has the authority to force those advisors to reveal what they have told him.

In this case, without any evidence of criminality, Democrats in Congress want to force Miers, Taylor, Karl Rove, and others to testify under oath before a congressional committee -- where Democrats can demand private information they will use to try to defeat the Republicans in 2008. (We don't know whether the attorneys were let go for "political" reasons, but we for darn sure know that's why Miers and Taylor were subpoenaed!)

On its face, Bush's side of the dispute appears to have at least some merit. But you would never know it, due to the "sin of omission" commited by the grim Grey Lady.

I know I've pounded on this before; but I will continue doing so for as long as I still have readers. It's one of the most important battles to fight, and it must be fought every day, with each one of us as foot soldiers in the propaganda war. Whenever you read any article or watch any video in the mainstream news -- and that includes the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Fox News -- keep asking yourself, "If I were on the other side of the writer on this issue, how would I have phrased this differently?"

When you begin to substitute your own biased wording for that of the original, the original bias will leap out at you like a startled rattlesnake. Thus commences enlightenment.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 13, 2007, at the time of 2:37 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 12, 2007

Palestinian Civil War in Gaza; UN Declares It's Bush's Fault

Hatched by Dafydd

I never was able to get the software working to allow readers to vote on Dhimmi of the Month, but I thought this might be a propitious time to dust off the concept (if not execution) for this incredible story.

Here is the sequence of steps:

  1. Israel decides to evacuate from Gaza.
  2. Israel sends troops into Gaza, not to attack Palestinians, but to herd several thousand Jewish settlers into buses and trucks and ship them back into Israel. No Jews left in Gaza (no live ones, anyway).
  3. Palestinian voters decide to thank Israel by electing Hamas.
  4. The European Union, the United States, and many other countries decide to boycott the Palestinian Authority, now officially run by a mob of thugs on everybody's list of terrorist groups.
  5. Fatah gets angry at losing power.
  6. Hamas and Fatah begin to fight.
  7. Fighting escalates.
  8. Fighting escalates.
  9. Fighting escalates; recall this war is between rival Palestinian terrorist groups fighting each other over the "spoils" of the Gaza Strip (which seems to me like fighting a duel over a hooker, but you know).
  10. Fighting escalates.
  11. United Nations Middle East Envoy Alvaro de Soto writes a secret report to U.N. Secretary General Nanki-Poo; declares that George W. Bush is to blame!

I rib you not; here is the Guardian story.

You just can't make this stuff up. Evidently, it's America's fault for urging civilized nations to boycott Hamas, which every national and international body agrees is a gang of terrorists. If only we had embraced Hamas, worked with them to exterminate the Jews, and not riled them up, then surely all this wouldn't be happening now. Oh, a few Juden might be killed here and there, Israel might be obliterated... but we wouldn't have the dreadful spectacle of Arabs killing Arabs.

So... it's Bush's fault. Remember that for next time.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 12, 2007, at the time of 11:40 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Tomorrow's Democratic Panic Attack

Hatched by Dafydd

Continuing our public service of bringing you tomorrow's news today, here is what we expect will be the next Democratic hysteria point: The NID is revising the EO:

The national intelligence director [Mike McConnell] has won White House approval to begin revising an executive order that lays out each spy agency's responsibilities and the government's protections against spying on Americans.

The Reagan-era 1981 presidential order is woven into the culture at the 16 spy agencies and spells out their powers. It also provides fundamental guidance to protect against spying on Americans, prohibitions against human experimentation and the long-standing ban on assassination.

From the Democratic perspective, this is mischief in the making! They already believe that the intelligence services want, more than anything else, to spy on ordinary American liberals going about their urgent, everyday goals: destroying the Bush administration, America's ability to fight the war against global jihad, and America itself.

This is actually a historical oddity; in a irony of cognitive dissonance, liberal hatred of intelligence services and operatives has not caught up with the reality that most of the latter support the same "urgent goals" above... as proven by the fact that nearly every leak that has blown a heavily classified operation to gather intelligence on jihadists has come from within the various intelligence services themselves -- from the CIA, the FBI counterterrorism division, the NSA.

It was crypto-Realist elements within the clandestine services who blew the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, the SWIFT surveillance, the Total Information Awareness database, and many others. It's not libel to say that the CIA especially, that creature of the State Department, has been at war with the war since the Clinton administration.

Thus, anti-defense liberals find themselves arrayed against their own "special ops" forces -- due entirely to the lag between reality and the liberal Democratic perception of reality. Thus:

Some officials familiar with Intelligence Director Mike McConnell's plans, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the deliberations remain internal, said his intent is solely to update the policy to reflect changes in the intelligence community since Sept. 11, 2001, including the creation of his own office.

But other officials, who also spoke on condition they not be identified, said opening the order to changes could lead well beyond that. They said the exercise could threaten civil liberties protections approved by President Reagan following intelligence abuses in the 1970s, and that intelligence agencies will be tempted to expand their powers....

[C]ivil liberties advocates say the executive order isn't strong enough now because it didn't prevent the Bush administration from running controversial operations including the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program [the obligatory labeling of the NSA program to intercept international phone calls from or to al-Qaeda as "domestic eavesdropping;" I believe journalists who ignore this rule stand in danger of being disbarred or defrocked or having their J-school epaulets painfully snipped off. -- the Mgt.]

Lisa Graves, deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the administration has pointed to the executive order as evidence that Americans are protected from government spying. But the order "doesn't provide adequate protection now for civil liberties. Any watering down would be problematic," she said.

There is little that the Democrat Congress can do to stop McConnell from rewriting the executive order, nor to stop Bush from signing it. But the president also wants Congress to alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to bring it up to date... and in particular, though you won't get this from this AP article, to make it easier and quicker for intelligence agencies to launch surveillance of fast-moving terrorist targets without having to lurch through the cumbersome process of seeking a warrant, as laid out in the current FISA legislation.

(It was that need that drove the NSA, immediately after 9/11, to start tracking phone calls between known al-Qaeda terrorists abroad and suspected sleeper agents here in the United States -- thereby causing Democratic heads to explode.)

I suspect that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV, 60%) and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 80%) -- chairmen of the Senate and House Select Committees on Intelligence, respectively -- will be heavily lobbied by the Democrat leadership and committee chairs to hijack this agenda and hold it hostage; the ransom demanded would be direct Democratic involvement in rewriting the EO, so they can muck things up even further, perhaps even reinserting Gorelick's Wall.

But if Bush holds firm, refusing to compromise, and if Tony Snow and GOP friendlies in Congress fire continuous salvos against the Democrats for holding up vital intelligence legislation (during a war!), violating the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, and putting all Americans in danger -- just because they want to pick a fight with the president instead of with our nation's enemies -- then I suspect that the Democrats will cave, just as they did with supplementary troop funding.

So let's see how this plays out -- and whether Big Lizards is prescient or paranoid!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 12, 2007, at the time of 4:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 11, 2007

Be Sure You're Sitting Down for This...

Hatched by Dafydd

Today, a three-judge panel of the 4th circus court of appeals ruled that the commander in chief (that would be George Bush) can no longer hold an enemy combatant for the duration of hostilities... which would come as quite a shock to previous wartime presidents (if Franklin Roosevelt were alive today, he would be spinning in his grave).

Instead, two of the three judges -- Diana Motz and Roger Gregory -- agreed with each other that in future, enemy combatants captured or held in the United States should be tried in the normal criminal court system, just like shoplifters and carjackers, so that al-Qaeda sleeper-cell operatives:

  • Can have jihadist lawyers of their choice;
  • Can prevent any and all interrogation or intelligence gathering by anyone, because that would, of course, queer the criminal case against him and likely trigger an immediate release under habeas corpus;
  • Can subpoena all relevant or irrelevant national-security documents as part of their “defense;”
  • And can summons the entire command corps of Multinational Force - Iraq, all overt and covert CIA agents working in counterterrorism, and the President of the United States as "witnesses."

If the government fails to produce any of these demands, the al-Qaeda suspect must, one presumes, be acquitted and set free. Sounds fair to me.

But here is the shocker: The lone dissenting judge, Henry E. Hudson, was appointed by George W. Bush.

Of the two judges who joined the majority opinion, Motz was appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton and confirmed by the Senate in 1994, when the Democrats still controlled that body.

The other, Gregory, was given a recess appointment by Bill Clinton in the year 2000, after the Republican Senate refused to confirm him (in the waning days of the Clinton presidency; after the election; after the long count; after Vice President Gore conceded; as Clinton was trying to stack the courts).

Then in 2001, when the Senate was 50-50, and Bush was having trouble with the Democrats refusing to allow any conservative judges through, the president was forced to cut a deal with them (in May of 2001 -- remember that?) As Byron York at the National Review explains things:

After weeks of threats from Senate Democrats, this afternoon George W. Bush will send to the Senate the names of eleven nominees to the federal circuit courts of appeal. The president's choices -- he picked two Democrats, both Bill Clinton nominees, as well as several solid conservatives -- reflect the White House's understanding of how difficult it will be to confirm judges who are opposed by key Democrats in the 50-50 Senate.

First the Democrats. Bush will renominate Roger Gregory to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Gregory was originally nominated by Bill Clinton, who used a recess appointment to place him on the court after the Senate refused to act on the nomination. Democrats have made Gregory a cause celebre in recent months, alleging that Republican opposition to Gregory, who is black, was racially motivated [Bush having such a well-documented hatred of blacks]. They have aggressively pushed Bush to name Gregory, a move that was also approved by home-state senators John Warner and George Allen, both Republicans, and by Virginia governor James Gilmore, head of the Republican National Committee.

So the lone Republican judge sees the president as less of a threat to the nation than al-Qaeda, while the two Democrat judges are utterly unserious about fighting the war against global jihad: They want it "fought" as a purely criminal matter, so that it will not be fought at all.

I know you are stunned by this turn of events. I mean, who would have thunk it?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 11, 2007, at the time of 10:56 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Shades of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Hatched by Sachi

In January this year, terrorists pretending to be American troops got through Iraqi security in the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center (Karbala JCC), managing to kill one US soldier and kidnap four. All four soldiers' bodies were eventually recovered; there was no sign of torture or post-mortem mutilation, which ruled out al-Qaeda.

The sophisticated nature of the operation clearly implied that perpatrators were Iranian Qods Force; but it seemed odd that they would kidnap soldiers from the center and then kill them, instead of either keeping them for interrogation and to try to trade for the al-Qods members we're holding -- or else just killing them outright at the Karbala JCC without attempting a difficult kidnapping.

But when Iranian forces directly kidnapped British sailors, all became clear: The first attempt was indeed intended to take American prisoners... but the Americans fought back; and the Iranians -- unable to transport them -- finally had to kill them. The Brits were a second-best choice; but they were more willing to give Iran the propaganda coup it so desperately wanted. And most important, the British sailors could be counted upon not to fight for their freedom, as Americans always do.

To paraphrase the Lord of the Rings, open war was upon us, whether we risk it or no.

Now, according to Bill Rogio, satellite imagery has discovered a mockup of the Karbala JCC inside Iran... conclusively proving that the murderous assault upon American soldiers was planned and carefully executed by the Revolutionary Guards and Qods Force and with full knowledge and approval of the ruling mullahs (reparagraphed for easier reading):

The January 20 attack the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center by the Iranian backed Qazali Network, which resulted in the kidnapping and murder of five U.S. soldiers, has long been known to be a Iranian planned and sponsored strike.

While Iran has insulated itself with its cutouts in the Qazali Network, Multinational Forces Iraq has captured members of the network as well as found documentation which proved Iran's complicity in the attack.

And now it has satellite imagery as well. Aviation Week and Space Technology reported in the June 4 edition that Iran build a mockup of the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center inside its borders, which was used to train the attackers. The "training center" was discovered by a U.S. spy satellite surveying Iran.

The Qazali Network exists -- existed -- within Iraq; a part of a larger, Iranian-controlled Iraqi network, Qazali was set up to receive money, arms, and training from Qods Force. But we have broken it since the Karbala JCC attack:

On May 19, Coalition forces killed Azhar al-Dulaimi during a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City. Dullaimi was described as the "mastermind" and "tactical commander" of the Karbala attack. In March, U.S. forces captured Qais Qazali, the network's leader, his brother Laith Qazali, and several other members.

Multinational Forces Iraq has been heavily targeting the Qazali Network's "secret terror cells" as well as those of the Sheibani Network. Coalition and Iraqi forces killed 26 members of this network and captured 71 since April 27, 2007. Three more members of the "secret cell" were captured and another killed today.

The Sheibani Network the overarching organization that receives support, weapons, advice and targeting from Iran's Qods Force. Senior members of the Qazali and Sheibani Networks are members of Iran's Qods Force.

We don't know for sure, of course; but it seems likely that these satellite pictures were part of the evidence that persuaded Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D) to call for the Pentagon to draft plans to attack Iran:

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," the Connecticut independent said during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."

There is no question but that Lieberman is right about one thing: We are currently in a hot war with Iran -- and we are fighting back hard against Iranian proxy forces in Iraq. The only question is whether we should expand the fight into Iran itself, giving the mullahs a taste of the whip themselves in their home turf.

Other Democrats still don't get it; they live in a perpetual September 10th world. But Lieberman has the right idea, and I wish we had him on our side:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said sanctions are the most effective tool against the Iranian regime.

"I would talk to them, but I would build an international coalition that would promote and push economic sanctions on them," he said during an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition." "Sanctions would work on Iran. They are susceptible to disinvestment policy. They are susceptible to cuts, economic sanctions in commodities."

Mr. Lieberman said he would leave any such strategy to military generals, but that it could be accomplished through an air campaign. He said failure to stand up to Iranian aggression would further weaken the U.S. position in Iraq and raise the likelihood of acts of domestic terrorism.

"We cannot let them get away with it," he said. "If we do, they'll take that as a sign of weakness on our part, and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region and ultimately right here at home."

There is nothing wrong with economic sanctions and "disinvestment policy"... as an economic attack concommitent to a physical (air) attack.

Regardless of the risk -- such escalation would enrage the Iranians and might even serve to drive the Persian people closer to their mullah masters; Hezbollah could strike inside the United States; Iran could launch a massive attack against Israel -- we cannot sit idly by and allow a sovereign nation to attack the United States without directly retaliating.

So we support the rest of Lieberman's call as well... once again, we're forced to say, go, Joe!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 11, 2007, at the time of 7:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Why Do We Kill People Who Kill People to Show That Killing People Is Wrong?

Hatched by Dafydd

Yes, another entry in the infamous list of "Questions that answer themselves." (It made a cool velvet black-light poster back in the 1960s, however.)

Even easier if we reinsert the adjectives that were stripped out to fabricate a pseudoargument: Why do we kill evil people who kill innocent people to show that killing innocent people is wrong? Duh...

I suppose most of you will be startled right out of your falsies to learn that criminologists and economists, who are best able to evaluate the difficult statistics in such studies, have by and large agreed that the evidence is conclusive: Executing murderers really does save lives:

Anti-death penalty forces have gained momentum in the past few years, with a moratorium in Illinois, court disputes over lethal injection in more than a half-dozen states and progress toward outright abolishment in New Jersey.

The steady drumbeat of DNA exonerations - pointing out flaws in the justice system - has weighed against capital punishment. The moral opposition is loud, too, echoed in Europe and the rest of the industrialized world, where all but a few countries banned executions years ago.

What gets little notice, however, is a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument - whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

I have always believed (since I was 11 or 12) that the moral argument in favor of capital punishment was by far most convincing to me: If you take an innocent life, or at least a life that you had no just cause to take, then your own life is forfeit; regardless of the deterrance value, it is the only coin valuable enough to pay for your evil deed. That always seemed self-evident to me.

But it is nice to know there is a practical advantage, as well. I always suspected it, but now we're starting to see clear and convincing proof.

In days of yore, the unlawful taking of a human life could oft be expiated by paying money, "weregeld" (literally, man-gold) to the victim's kin or tribe, mostly to prevent a bloody clan feud that could last for generations.

But in those days, the individual life was worth less than it is today. A person had value mostly as an ordinal number, not a cardinal number -- for the slot he filled in society rather than any intrinsic value he held as a person. Thus, it was possible to calculate how much gold was required to replace him.

But today, especially in our individualist society, we value people for their uniqueness and irreplaceability, and no amount of money fully makes up for the loss. Thus, the only punishment that is not an offensively gross underestimation of the crime is the execution of the murderer.

(When the intent is less than murder, so too is the crime; I don't support the death penalty for negligent homicide or even manslaughter.)

Naturally, there are other factors in saving lives by executing murderers: Sureness and swiftness of punishment can dramatically improve deterrance:

Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.

Thus, if murderers spent only 3 years on death row before being fried instead of 20 years, each execution might save 25 lives, rather than a scant 18 lives. But don't expect any actual, you know, science to make a dent in the liberal braincase; they love to cite scientists in the global-warming debate -- assuming the scientists are reliably supportive of the wild guesses of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; but woe betide you if you dare cite actual scientists on such a moral issue as capital punishment:

The reports have horrified death penalty opponents and several scientists, who vigorously question the data and its implications.

So far, the studies have had little impact on public policy. New Jersey's commission on the death penalty this year dismissed the body of knowledge on deterrence as "inconclusive." [Where "inconclusive" is here defined as "tending towards a conclusion we really, really hate.]

Still, at least a few liberal (in a sense) legal scholars are having, if not a dark night of the soul, at least some nights tossing and moaning with "restless brain syndrome." Cass Sunstein, for example:

The studies' conclusions drew a philosophical response from a well-known liberal law professor, University of Chicago's Cass Sunstein. A critic of the death penalty, in 2005 he co-authored a paper titled "Is capital punishment morally required?"

"If it's the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple," he told The Associated Press. "Abolitionists or others, like me, who are skeptical about the death penalty haven't given adequate consideration to the possibility that innocent life is saved by the death penalty."

Sunstein said that moral questions aside, the data needs more study.

So take heart; if other criminological battles (over carrying a concealed weapon, e.g.) define the norm, then in only a few decades, legislatures will finally start admitting that there really can occasionally be a scientific answer to a scientific question, even if it touches upon some critical aspect of the vision of the anointed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 11, 2007, at the time of 1:23 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Nguyatcher Nguyenners

Hatched by Dafydd

Once again, I flail, I flounder behind the times...

This week's winners were --

Among the Clowncil

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War.

Among the Playity

In which Mr. S. outs himself as a non-liberal, at least one one seminal subject...

My own disregarded picks...

I was truly shut out this time: Not only did none of my picks do well, but my own nomination -- Salvation à la Mode -- got only one vote... and that one was for runner up! That's the lowest possible score that isn't a complete doughnut. Yeesh!

My post was about the stunning rejection of al-Qaeda by the Iraqi Sunnis, now spreading to three provinces. Nothing to see here, folks, just move along...

For the Council, I voted as follows:

  1. Smelt Stink, by Cheat Seeking Missiles: The insanity of environmental extremism;
  2. Tweedle, by Done With Mirrors: Along the same theme, extremism in defense of anything is extreme.

And for the non-Council blogs, thus:

  1. RCTV Protests Spread To Atlanta, San Francisco, Mexico City, by Publius Pundit: A brilliant piece of photo-journalism on the widespread and widespreading protests against Oogo Chavez in Venezuela;
  2. The End of the Bushes?, by Captain's Quarters: The post-Bush Republican Party.

Where to find the complete list compiled by the ever-vigilant and perspicacious Watcher of Weasels

Ici.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 11, 2007, at the time of 12:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 10, 2007

Patterico, This One's For You...

Hatched by Dafydd

A news alert for Patterico -- someone send him e-mail!

From today's 1/2-Hour News Hour...

This just in: A six hundred trillion ton meteor has just been detected hurtling towards the Earth. The good news: Paris Hilton is back in jail.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 10, 2007, at the time of 10:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hugh's Second Amendment

Hatched by Dafydd

Hugh Hewitt is trying to codify his two basic amendments that would make the immigration bill (currently on ice, pun noted) more acceptable to him.

The first is his "let's do all the enforcement first, and only after everybody including all the conservative Republican majority in Congress agree that all the enforcement is finished can we even consider letting the minority Democrats have the scraps they want" proposal. I still find it surreal that he thinks Democrats -- who don't currently imagine themselves to be the powerless minority party -- will go for it.

But leave that aside; I find more interesting his second amendment: the "no parole cards for anyone but illegal English, Canadian, Australian, or Latin American immigrants" proposal. Here it is in its (brief) entirety:

(i)Treatment of Applicants whose primary language is not English or Spanish --

(1)IN GENERAL -- At such time as the president certifies and the Congress by joint resolution agrees that the "Effective Date Triggers" of Section 1 of this act have been implemented, an alien may apply for Z nonimmigrant status. An alien whose primary language is neither English or Spanish who files an application for Z nonimmigrant status shall not be eligible for probationary benefits provided in Section 601(h). These aliens may apply for the Z nonimmigrant status, and will be granted such status upon a showing that

(1) the alien is loyal to the United States and does not support any organization identified as supporting terror by the Department of State or the Department of Justice.

(2) during the pendency of the background investigation into the loyalty of aliens covered by this section, such aliens may not be employed and may not leave the country or the state from which they have applied for Z nonimmigrant status except in such cases where an employer has requested a work authorization and has undertaken to file monthly reports on the status of the Z nonimmigrant applicant.

All right, riddle me this: I understand how one can tell that an alien doesn't "support any organization identified as supporting terror," though of course the alien himself cannot show that -- it must be investigated by the authorities: If the alien's name and fingerprints don't show up anywhere linked to al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or suchlike, then we assume he is as clean as Barack Obama. (Though I wonder with what alacrity the immigration authorities will move to investigate; will they trouble to do so at all? It would be awfully convenient to spare scarce resources by just letting all such non-English, non-Spanish applications sit in limbo forever.)

But how on earth is anyone to show that "the alien is loyal to the United States?" Bear in mind that by definition, the alien has been living underground, hiding from the authorities -- who could deport him if they knew of his existence.

Will opponents argue that the mere act of being here illegally demonstrates "disloyalty" to America? If so, then among those whose primary language is other than English or Spanish, the only illegal aliens eligible for a Z visa are those who are not illegal aliens.

What other evidence could be adduced to prove "loyalty?" Illegals cannot serve in the military, they cannot vote, they cannot run for office. What would Hugh demand -- a lengthy written history of defending Israel and Jews and attacking jihad in their home countries before they left and came here?

Also, why, exactly, does Hugh Hewitt have such animus for illegal immigrants who came here from Japan, from Norway, and even, alone among all Latin American countries, from Brazil? Somehow, Hugh has expanded his list of exclusions from parole cards from "illegal immigrants originating from countries with well-established jihadist movements" to "illegal immigrants whose primary language is neither English nor Spanish." I find it particularly risible that illegals from Brazil cannot get parole cards -- but illegals from Hugo Chavez's Venezuela and Castro's Cuba can!

Not to mention that illegals from one specific country on the European continent do get access, while the others do not. Yet this one country, Spain, has perhaps the most active jihadist movement of any Western European country.

For that matter, many Israelis' primary language is Hebrew, not English. It's a puzzling anti-jihad measure indeed that extends, with little scrutiny, the privileges of legal residency and a work permit to Communist Cuban illegals -- but not to Jewish Israeli illegals.

I understand Hugh's motive: He wants to apply "special scrutiny" to potential jihadis. But the way he has crafted his amendment displays a frankly disturbing equation of language to privilege: Mexicans, Pervians, Venezuelans, and Cubans get special treatment; Europeans (except those from Spain, including Basque separatists and Moorish-descended Moslems still pining for "al-Andaluz"), Japanese, Taiwanese, South Koreans, and even Brazilians do not. And I don't see how it will help in the war effort at all, as the jihadis will simply accelerate their already extant program to recruit more Jose Padillas and Richard Reids (not to mention expand ever more aggressively into Chavezistan).

I would propose instead that we take a leaf from the way Israelis have successfully protected their airports and El Al from terrorist attack for decades. They reject the absurdity of race-based, culture-based, or language-based profiling, which both denies individualism and has a weak spot a jihadist could find groping in the dark.

Instead, we should hire and train a large number (several thousand) of USCIS employees whose job it is to scrutinize parole-card and Z visa applicants for behavioral clues that they might be jihadis... and then empower them to single such people out, put a hold on their applications, and order weeks or months of extra scrutiny before granting them.

As the applicants are neither American citizens nor even legal residents -- they are in fact illegals -- I think a very good case can be made in court that anti-discrimination laws don't apply to them. Hugh must hold that same belief, as his own amendment requires it, too. Thus, there is no legal barrier to granting behavioral profilers the authority to freeze granting of parole cards to anyone they believe is acting suspiciously.

The profilers would also -- as in Israel -- commit to memory the photographs of all those individuals we have already identified as jihadis, so they can spot them in a crowd and call security. They should also memorize known criminals... including Spanish- and English-speaking drug smugglers and other known undesirables. (The Israelis have done this for many, many years, and it has been 100% effective -- in the face of the most concerted terrorist campaign against airports and an airline in the history of the world, there have been no successful terrorist attacks there since the 1970s.) Scores of cameras feeding images to facial-recognition software can also help immeasurably in this task.

And of course, any whose fingerprints are already on file and in our possession (from previous arrests, here or abroad) should be caught by the pattern-spotting software in the ICE system.

That would be a far more effective method of guarding against jihadis or other gangsters or terrorsts getting residency and a work permit here (and, incidentally, far fairer -- though the former is much more important). Better still, it would not allow jihadis to easily skate past the additional scrutiny simply by learning really good Spanish.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 10, 2007, at the time of 1:13 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 9, 2007

Immigration as a GOP Talking Point in 2008

Hatched by Dafydd

With the deep freeze of the immigration bill, spin season begins now. We cannot afford to wait until the Democrats establish the storyline that the immigration bill died because "Bush didn't push the radical right hard enough;" that would be politically catastrophic for Republicans candidates in the next election, branded as both extremist and feckless.

The best position to take -- and the one that, coincidentally, is closest to the truth -- is that it was Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), a Democrat, who pulled the plug on the immigration bill... not because there wasn't enough enforcement, but because it was becoming clear that conservative Republicans were making headway in getting more enforcement into the bill.

Democrats were upset at Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D-MA, 100%) deal to expand the list of criminal offenses that would bar illegals from getting a Z visa, which was the only reason that the similar but harsher amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX, 96%) was defeated. And there were upcoming amendments, e.g., to force the deportation of illegal aliens convicted of crimes within the United States after they served their sentences and a good shot at revisiting the issue of "sanctuary cities" -- either in this bill or (more likely) via other federal legislation. (I can picture the campaign Democrats would have to run against such a measure.)

Republican supporters of the immigration bill were far more amenable to increased enforcement measures than were Democratic supporters; Republicans such as Sen. Jon Kyle (R-AZ, 92%) were the ones who insisted upon the strong enforcement measures in the bill in the first place, including the triggers. And judging from the mood of the country, Republicans might well have been able to increase the "trigger level" for the fence, for example, to construction of the entire thing, rather than just half, before any regularization could occur.

The other element that most bothered conservatives was that the "Parole Cards" (as Kyl called the provisional Z visas) were open-ended: Once an illegal signed up and got one, there was no inherent pressure to upgrade to a full Z visa; the only pressure was that it was a necessary step for citizenship, so only those immigrants who ultimately wanted to become citizens were motivated to move any farther than a Parole Card.

But with the pressure from not only Republicans but even Democrats and independent voters for much stronger border-security measures, I think it entirely possible -- especially as the bill worked its way through the House of Representatives -- that the Parole Card would have been given an expiry date, forcing illegals who received one to take steps towards actually undergoing the deeper background check, paying the larger fine, and having the head of the household leave the country in order to apply for the full Z visa (the alternative is to be deported when the Parole Card expires -- a strong incentive).

Thus, any reasonable analysis of the bill is that, in order to pass through both the Senate and the House, it would have to become tougher on border security and enforcement in a number of ways.

And the longer the process continued, the closer it got to passage, the more the onus would be on the majority party, the Democrats, to make whatever compromises and sacrifices were necessary to drag it over the finish line: With enough modifications, even former opponents like Sen. Cornyn and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH, 88%) could defend to their constituents. With the proper amendments, the bill would become very, very hard for Democrats to kill. (No, I don't mean an amendment to strip out everything but enforcement; that would be easy for the majority to kill without suffering any pain at the polls.)

So I believe the Democrats were becoming increasingly worried about the monster they had created by allowing Kennedy to bulldoze them into agreeing to the enforcement measures, especially "triggers," in the first place. I suspect the Majority Leader was starting to think the Democrats had made a big mistake by starting this snowball rolling... and if they didn't find some opportunity to kill it, it would roll right over them in 2008.

So Reid forced a pair of premature cloture votes, knowing that even Republican bill supporters would vote against them, since they had given their word to bill opponents to give them an opportunity to amend it. And when the second cloture vote failed -- even though it did much better than the first -- Reid seized the opportunity to pull the bill from consideration... and blame President Bush and the Republicans.

I believe we must move quickly to prevent the Democrats from spinning this as some "failure" of the GOP. Let us make clear that the GOP was willing to embrace any level of security to make the bill palatable to voters... but it was the Democrats who panicked and yanked the bill in order to prevent future border-security amendments from passing.

That leaves only one culprit for the failure of immigration reform... and he hails from Searchlight, Nevada.

If the president is incapable of communicating this to the American people (likely), then it's up to the Republican candidates for president to stop attacking Bush and stop attacking those Republicans who supported this bill -- and instead fix the blame where it rightly belongs: On the Democrats who demanded a "grand deal" as their price for border security, then broke their word when it looked as though they might get more border security than they meant.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 9, 2007, at the time of 7:24 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 7, 2007

Republican Party Gets an Unexpected Mulligan - at Reid's Expense

Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, we reported that there was a strong possibility that the immigration bill would go down... not because it was rejected by the Senate in an up-or-down vote, but because of the impatience of Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%).

Tonight it became official: The bill failed a second cloture vote -- with all but a handful of Republicans opposing the end of debate -- for the simple reason that bill opponents had been promised the right to offer amendments they thought would better the bill, and even GOP bill supporters intended to keep their word.

The Democrats, however, demanded premature cloture... so even the main Republican defenders of the bill -- Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY, 84%), and Sens. John Kyl (AZ, 92%) and Trent Lott (MS, 88%) -- all voted to sustain the filibuster:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a last-ditch offer to try to persuade GOP conservatives to whittle down their expansive list of amendments if Reid put off the procedure vote, but Reid declined. McConnell, Lott, and even Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the bill's chief GOP architect, voted to sustain the filibuster -- a measure of Republican frustration with what they saw as heavy-handed Democratic efforts to deprive Republicans of a chance for votes on the floor.

Regardless, when the vast majority of Republicans (38 out of 45 voting) and a handful of Democrats insisted that the Senate continue considering amendments for a while longer, before silencing bill opponents (and proponents) with a cloture vote... Harry Reid shut down the process, pulling the bill from the agenda, most likely for the rest of the year.

The bill had successfully fended off a bunch of poison pills, but one slipped through: an amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND, 95%) to sunset the entire guest worker program after 5 years. The amendment initially failed two weeks ago; but just after midnight Wednesday night, four Republican senators, including Jim DeMint (SC, %) and Jim Bunning (KY, %), changed their votes, leading to the amendment passing by a single vote, 49 to 48; DeMint and Bunning both admitted they changed their votes deliberately to kill the entire bill -- a "poison pill" indeed.

The net effect, however, is to give the Senate a "mulligan," a do-over... which in practice will help the GOP far more than the Democrats. And it benefits Republican opponents and supporters alike of comprehensive immigration reform:

  • For those who oppose the bill, the benefit is obvious: The bill does not pass. It has been laid upon the table, and Harry "Pinky" Reid seems determined not to pick it up again for a long, long time... probably not until sometime in 2008, when the bill can be turned into a Democratic amnesty wish-fulfillment bill instead for campaign purposes.
  • But we supporters also benefit. The bill had generated such a toxic environment, with Republicans drawn into a circle to stab each other in the back viciously and repeatedly, that it threatened to split the party. Some seemed almost giddy at the thought of "bringing down" the GOP.

    Reid's impatience and arrogance gives us all a many-month-long "time out," during which more fence will be built and other subjects will come to the fore... subjects that bring Republicans together, such as support for our troops and extending the Bush tax cuts.

So let us take great advantage of the breathing space that the (even more tone deaf than George Bush and Hugh Hewitt) majority leader gave us. Let's all just take a deep breath, calm down, forget about the immigration bill for a while... and can't we all just get along?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 7, 2007, at the time of 8:22 PM | Comments (80) | TrackBack

Hillary's Cloture of Corruption

Hatched by Dafydd

In an audacious move brazen even by Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-Carpetbag, 95%) standards, she has appointed Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL, 95%) one of her two national presidential campaign co-chairs for Florida.

Alcee Hastings was one of only six federal judges ever to be impeached and removed from office; he was impeached in the House of Representatives and convicted in the United States Senate on charges of corruption and perjury: soliciting a $150,000 bribe to give a lenient sentence -- and return the assets -- to convicted gangsters Frank and Tony Romano, who were found guilty by a jury of looting a Teamsters pension fund.

At Hastings' actual criminal trial, the attorney who received the money and was to have conveyed it to the judge (and who himself was already convicted of bribery) refused to testify, killing the prosecution's case. Hastings was acquitted in federal court.

But that was not the end of it. He was subsequently impeached in the House for bribery and perjury in 1988 on an almost unanimous vote of 413 to 3. Hastings was tried in the Senate the next year, and he was convicted by a vote of 69 to 26 and removed from office.

Among those voting to impeach or convict Hastings are now-Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), now-Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 90%), now-Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers (D-MI, 100%), now-Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel (D-NY, 95%), and now-Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and former co-Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, until he was forced to resign after being caught leaking intelligence information to a reporter -- Pat Leahy (D-VT, 95%).

And today, Hillary Clinton decided that the courtroom-acquitted but congressionally convicted bribe-accepting perjurer Alcee Hastings was the perfect person to co-run her presidential campaign in Florida.

Congratulations, Alcee; I imagine you have found the perfect home. (No word yet on whether any of the individuals listed above, or anybody else who voted to impeach or remove Hastings for corruption and perjury, has any thoughts on the matter.)

The other Florida national co-chair of Hillary's campaign is Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL, 95%), who previously distinguished herself by saying that Republicans who support Israel do so not because they like Jews, but only because they are Hal Lindsey-esque millenarian nutjobs who believe Israel figures prominently in the pending biblical apocalypse:

“I would stack up the Democratic caucus’s position on the support for Israel against the Republican caucus’s any day of the week and be much more confident — and the Jewish community should be much more confident — in the Democrats’ stewardship of Israel than the Republicans’,” she said, “especially if you compare the underlying reasons for both groups’ support for Israel. The very far right group of Republicans’ interest in Israel is not because they are so supportive of there being a Jewish state and making sure that Jews have a place that we can call home. It has references to Armageddon and biblical references that are more their interest. So I would encourage members of the Jewish community to put their faith in Democrats, because our support for Israel is generally for the right reasons.”

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, I believe you too will find it very congenial in Hillaryland.

Distinguished carpetbagging Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton: Serving up shrill, hysterical partisanship backed by corruption and betrayal of the American people since 1976!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 7, 2007, at the time of 4:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 6, 2007

Hugh, We Thought We Knew You!

Hatched by Dafydd

I hate having to struggle so hard not to use the D-word, or even the L-word about a man I respect as much as I respect Hugh Hewitt; and it's equally hard to defend Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%). But I am too honest to let this slide, so here goes -- and let the chips fall off the old block...

All day, Hugh has been running a deliberately truncated clip from McCain, in which we hear the senator say the following: "We’re not going to erect barriers and fences."

Hugh also said that McCain "let his guard down" when he said this; Hugh's clear implication is that McCain is "admitting" that he -- and by extension, everybody who supports the immigration bill -- secretly longs to kill the fence entirely, throw open the borders, and loudly invite all the terrorists here. Hugh added that this has effectively killed McCain's campaign.

But construing McCain's sentence-fragment that way -- to put it as delicately (and Swiftian) as I can -- is saying "the thing that is not."

First of all, what McCain really said was this: "-- we’re not going to erect barriers and fences." That is, what we heard was not the complete sentence.

When I heard the sound bite on Hewitt's radio show, I immediately became suspicious by the cut-job that was done by... well, by somebody, I know not who. The audio starts about a millisecond before those words and ends about a millisecond after... it's really tight.

That generally makes me believe that the audio editor was trying to remove all trace of preceding or succeeding words that might change the meaning. And in fact, when I finally found it on the penultimate page of the debate transcript, I discovered that I was quite correct.

The carefully clipped-out word at the beginning was "and": "And we’re not going to erect barriers and fences." Why such a fuss over one conjunction? Because it tells us that there is much more to this answer than than a simple sentence; there is a context that we're missing. It's as if someone claimed the Second Amendment read, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state." The odd grammatical construct warns you that you're missing something important.

But even the full answer fails to give us the full context; I still got the impression I was missing what McCain was talking about:

MR. BLITZER: I’m going to go back to Jennifer in a second. (Applause.) But I want Senator McCain to respond as well. When you hear what Congressman Tancredo says, what goes through your mind?

SEN. MCCAIN: It’s beyond my realm of thinking. Look, America is the land of opportunity. The question was just asked, “What is it to be an American?” It’s to share a common goal that all of us -- a principle -- are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

That means we go as far as our ambition will take us. That means we have a better life for ourselves and our children. And the lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door is still the ideal and the dream. Of course it has to be legal. Of course it has to be regulated. And 18 months, by the way, will go by while we fix the border before we do anything else on this issue.

But America is still the land of opportunity and it is a beacon of hope and liberty, and as Ronald Reagan said, a shining city on a hill. And we’re not going to erect barriers and fences.

What "Congressman Tancredo says?" What did Tom Tancredo say this time? I had to flip back to the previous page in the transcript to find out what the heck this exchange was all about; and at last I understood what McCain meant...

Here is the complete exchange, going all the way back to Tancredo, starting on page 26 of the transcript, about two-thirds of the way down. It's longish, but it's worth reading to understand the anatomy of a smear (arrgh! I let slip the S-word!):

MS. VAUGHN: Erin Gardner’s here with us tonight. Erin, you live in the Gate City, Nashua, New Hampshire.

Q Yes, I do.

MS. VAUGHN: What is your question tonight?

Q With regards to illegal and legal immigration, in your opinion, what does it mean to be an American? What are the tangible and intangible attributes of an American?

MS. VAUGHN: Congressman Tancredo.

REP. TANCREDO: It means, number one, cut from the past. If you come here as an immigrant, great. Welcome. If you come here legally, welcome. It means you cut your ties with the past, familial — especially political ties with the country from which you came.

But let’s be serious about this, you guys. We talk about all the immigration reform we want, and what it’s got to get down to is this: Are we ready for a timeout? Are we actually ready to say, “Enough is enough”? We have to stop all legal immigration except for the -- for people coming into this country as family members, immediate family members, and/or refugees. Are we willing to actually say that and say enough -- is it -- we have got to actually begin the process of assimilating people who have come in this great wave of immigration. The process of assimilation is not going on.

And how long? How long will it take us for that -- for us to catch up with the millions of people who have come here, both legally and illegally, and assimilate them? I’ll tell you this. It’ll take this long: until we no longer have to press 1 for English and 2 for any other language. (Applause.)

MR. BLITZER: I promised, Governor Huckabee, you’d have a chance to weigh in on this immigration issue. Do you agree with Congressman Tancredo that the U.S. should effectively end most legal immigration into the country?

MR. HUCKABEE: No, I disagree with that. I think that there are a number of people that we should welcome into this country. And it’s -- certainly engineers and doctors and scientists that we may need legally coming here....

MR. BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, are you comfortable with what Congressman Tancredo says about immigration to this country?

MR. GIULIANI: No, I’m very uncomfortable with it. I mean, the reality is, it’s one thing to be debating illegal immigration. It’s a very complex subject. I think we’ve had a very good debate about it. And I think the bill needs to be fixed in the way that I’ve indicated. But we shouldn’t be having a debate about legal immigration.

Abraham Lincoln defined what an American is better than I’m going to be able to do it or Congressman Tancredo or anyone on the stage. Abraham Lincoln, who fought the know-nothing movement, said being an American is not whether you came over on the Mayflower or you came here yesterday. How much do you believe in freedom? How much do you believe in freedom of religion? How much do you believe in freedom for women? How much do you believe in the right to vote? How much do you believe in the rule of law?

The person who believes in that the most is the best American, and the person who doesn’t isn’t an American.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

MR. GIULIANI: That’s Abraham Lincoln’s words. We should always be open to legal immigration. It reforms us. It makes us better. It brings us people who want to make a better life for themselves --

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

MR. GIULIANI: -- and their families. If we lose that, we lose the genius that has made America what it is.

MR. BLITZER: I’m going to go back to Jennifer in a second. (Applause.) But I want Senator McCain to respond as well. When you hear what Congressman Tancredo says, what goes through your mind?

SEN. MCCAIN: It’s beyond my realm of thinking. Look, America is the land of opportunity. The question was just asked, “What is it to be an American?” It’s to share a common goal that all of us -- a principle -- are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

That means we go as far as our ambition will take us. That means we have a better life for ourselves and our children. And the lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door is still the ideal and the dream. Of course it has to be legal. Of course it has to be regulated. And 18 months, by the way, will go by while we fix the border before we do anything else on this issue.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

SEN. MCCAIN: But America is still the land of opportunity and it is a beacon of hope and liberty, and as Ronald Reagan said, a shining city on a hill. And we’re not going to erect barriers and fences.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

At last, light dawns on marblehead: John McCain is not talking about the security fence to stop illegals; he is opposing "barriers and fences" against legal immigration! And so did both Gov. Mike Huckabee and Mayor Rudy Giuliani when they were asked the same question... two candidates who oppose the immigration bill.

I'm truly and deeply disturbed by what Hugh Hewitt has done here. Whether you're for or against the immigration bill; whether you think we should have an enforcement-only bill first and only later other elements, or take a comprehensive approach; whether or not you support Tom Tancredo's call for an end to legal immigration to the United States (except for refugees and immediate-family reunification); and even if you despise John McCain -- how can anyone possibly support deliberately misleading the listeners about what McCain said, just in order to make him sound like an apparachik from La Raza?

Will we, the party of Abraham Lincoln, conduct this debate honestly? Or must we sink to the fifth bolgia of the eighth circle of Hell with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), Pat Leahy (D-VT, 95%), Dick Durbin (D-IL, 100%), Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%), and other such politicians corrupted by contributions, power, or ideology?

I really, really dislike John McCain; I think he has been a disaster for the Republican Party; and I think he would make a disasterous president because of his temper, his vendettas, his moral preening, and his tendency towards being an iconoclast.

But the man simply did not say that we wouldn't have a security fence against illegal immigration, and it's just morally wrong to manipulate an audio clip to make it appear that he did. This issue is tough enough without having to wade through a quagmire of "the things that are not" -- from fellow Republicans.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 6, 2007, at the time of 6:49 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

Immigration Bill Fends Off Poison Pills Left and Right

Hatched by Dafydd

We've now entered the phase of immigration legislation where opponents offer "poison pill" amendments whose primary purpose is not to tweak the bill to make it better -- but to change it enough that it can no longer get majority support.

Every controversial bill goes through this phase; it's traditional. And it's usually clear when a bill does, in fact, have majority support... those amendment votes fail.

That is just what's happening now to the immigration-compromise bill; the coalition in the Senate is holding the line. In the last 24 hours, the Senate has rejected:

  • An amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX, 96%) that would have prevented legalization for illegal immigrants who had ever defied a deportation order or had committed any act of document fraud of identity theft... which of course would mean virtually all of them! This amendment was, essentially, to eliminate the Z visa for all but a small fraction of the 12 million; it was rejected 51 to 46.
  • An amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC, 100%) that would have required illegals to get health insurance (high-deductable) before allowing them to get Z visas; it was defeated 55 to 43. This wasn't exactly a poison pill, and arguably it has merit; but it would definitely have hit the poorest illegals very hard: Since they cannot get reasonably good jobs until after they get a Z visa, but they must buy health insurance before they get the visa and the job, it's rather a Catch-22. But perhaps an amendment requiring them to get health insurance within one year of getting the Z visa, on pain of having it revoked, might do better.
  • On the other side, an amendment by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM, 100%) that would have removed the requirement that guest workers return to their home countries for a year in between each two-year stint of working here; that one went down by 57 to 41. This would have turned the guest workers into a permanent camp of foreign nationals parked here, defeating the purpose of requiring them to come, work, and leave again.

Poison pills still in the batting cage:

  • A Democratic amendment to reinstate "family reunification" as the primary reason to allow immigrants to legally enter the country, rather than the point system (one amendment from, I think, Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, 95%, would actually sunset the point system after five years; but I don't know if that has already been voted on);
  • Another flurry of Republican amendments to deny legalization to those who have been officially deported but haven't left.

One amendment that passed was by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA, 100%); it adds several crimes to the list of those that would permanently bar legalization. Z visas were already made unavailable to illegal immigrants who had committed serious felonies, including violent felonies; the Kennedy amendment, designed to give political cover to Republicans to vote against the Cornyn poison pill, would add domestic violence (presumably even if it was only a misdemeanor), non-felon sex offenders (felonious sex offenders were already barred), and gang members, even those not convicted of any crime -- at least, that is how it reads in the Times article (I haven't read the text of the amendment). This amendment passed by 66 to 32, so it clearly had bipartisan support.

I am quite convinced that unless Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) pulls the plug on the whole shebang -- which he has threatened to do -- it will pass the Senate. The House is much dicier, of course; we won't have a good idea there until after the first blizzard of amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Reid has threatened to lay the entire bill on the table (that is, kill it) if it doesn't pass a cloture vote immediately -- which it likely would not; the bill's supporters (on both sides) have promised opponents more time to offer amendments... presumably in exchange for subsequent support, whether their pet amendments pass or are rejected (that's usually the way it works):

Mr. Reid’s assessment that the Senate was making progress was important, because he said on Tuesday that the chamber would vote Thursday on whether to limit debate on the bill, a process called cloture that requires 60 votes to succeed. If the cloture vote fails, the bill could be blocked indefinitely by a filibuster. Mr. Reid said he would pull the bill from consideration if he fails to get the necessary votes.

The majority leader said he wanted to complete work on the legislation this week, and he suggested that Republicans were trying to stall the bill with amendments.

“When is enough enough?” he asked, asserting that Republicans were looking for excuses to kill the bill. His announcement provoked an outcry both from Republican supporters and Republican opponents of the compromise bill, who said the Senate needed more time.

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chief Republican architect of the bill, said “it would be a big mistake” to try to invoke cloture this week.

“A motion to cut off debate would be an extreme act of bad faith,” Mr. Kyl said, and he asserted on Tuesday afternoon that “we are not anywhere near finishing this bill.”

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said, “The overwhelming majority of our conference would insist on having additional days to make sure that all of our important amendments have been given an opportunity to be considered.”

Even Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, a strong supporter of the bill, said, “I would not support cloture at this point because I don’t think that enough of our members have had an opportunity to have their amendments heard.”

If, in fact, Reid pulls the bill while proponents and opponents on both sides of the aisle are clamoring for debate to continue, amendments to be voted on, and the ultimate bill to get a final up or down vote... then the onus of failure will be on the Democrats, not on the Republicans. GOP senators, whether they support or oppose the bill, can campaign against the Democrats for having pulled the bill just when it looked like things were coming to a head.

In fact, Republicans might even make headway with Hispanics, who very much want this bill, by saying the GOP was unified in wanting the measure to go all the way to a floor vote, win or lose. I believe that would be a position nearly all Hispanics would accept -- and respect. Their anger at the failure to pass will rightly shift from Republican opponents to the impatient Democratic majority leader. But that is only if Republicans, even bill opponents, uniformly and loudly object to Reid pulling the bill.

The Democrats, for their part, would have no effective counter argument: "We had to table the bill, even though it was making progress, because we were afraid that Republicans would delay it." The voters, who are always more perceptive than Democrats give them credit for, would realize the obvious: Tabling a bill delays it forever!

I hope the bill passes; but for those who oppose it, you should be hoping that it's Harry "Pull My Pinky" who pulls it... because then Republicans would escape all the negative fallout from failure.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 6, 2007, at the time of 2:56 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 5, 2007

Gimmie That Ol' Time Religion...

Hatched by Sachi

This post was from an idea by Sachi, who did the initial research; it was written by Dafydd.

My best counterargument to the gloom and demographic doom of Mark Steyn's thesis in America Alone -- that the West is non-breeding itself out of existence -- is that Steyn has a bad habit of engaging in a brazen form of static analysis: he assumes that a myriad current trendlines will remain unchanged... the quintessential "if this goes on" conjecture.

The following is pure speculation. I suspect it's provable; and I suspect that it will seem true at the gut level to most readers of Big Lizards. But I'm not willing to do the research necessary to prove it conclusively. (Nor will I apologize for my laziness; take me as I am!)

Birth of a correlation

In particular, any argument of death by demography must assume the fertility rate remains the same, where total fertility rate (TFR) is the number of children per woman per lifetime.

For those of us who do not actually want to see a depopulated Europe taken over by its Moslem immigrants and turned into a sharia continent, the fertility rate is our escape clause: If we can noticibly improve the native-born European Christian TFR, we can forestall the dire consequences that Mark Steyn predicts. (I'll explain why "Christian" matters towards a bit later, but what I really mean is "non-Moslem.")

So what might raise a fertility rate? Well, what lowers one? In Europe, it seems to me that the plummeting fertility rate is directly linked to the lack of belief in the future: If a person sees a bright future, he tends to invest. Children are one of the most satisfying investments in the future; when tomorrow looks better than yesterday, it makes sense for parents to scrimp and save, delaying gratification today so that the kids will have a better life than their parents.

That is the norm. However, if the future looks grim and uncertain, if tomorrow seems like it will be worse than yesterday, then I believe potential parents tend to put off childbearing. Why bother? Why bring a kid into such a rotten world when it's getting rottener by the day?

Instead, I believe a lot of potential parents decide not to have children... instead, they party like it's (still) 1999. The corollary to monetary investment holds: If a market looks like it's headed downward with no hope of recovery anytime soon, a very, very large number of potential investors rationally decide not to invest in that market.

All right, we've reduced the Steyn Dilemma from "inevitable demography" to "raising the fertility rate" to creating a future bright enough to induce people ambivalent about having children to do so. So... how do we go about creating that bright future?

(I really am going somewhere with this; it's not just "turtles, turtles, turtles, all the way down.")

The proposition that "tomorrow will be significantly better than yesterday" is, quite obviously, unprovable. (For one possibility, the Sun could go nova, killing everyone and destroying the planet.)

So if people are to believe in the future, they must do so as an article of faith. Faith, then, is an irreducible component of belief in a better future... and if the rest of my speculations are correct, faith is therefore a necessary component for a society to have a strong fertility rate. But -- faith in what, exactly?

Looking around the real world, societies (or subsocieties) that are strongly Jewish, Christian, or Moslem tend to have a high fertility rate; but so does India, which is mostly (82%) Hindu. According to this paper (page 21), the TFR for India as a whole declined from 3.4 in 1992-1993 to 2.9 children per woman per lifetime in 1998-1999. The fertility rates of both Hindus and Moslems declined over that same period: Hindus dropped from 3.3 to 2.8, and Indian Moslems dropped from 4.4 to 3.6.

Moslems are still growing faster than Hindus, but their rate of growth dropped more sharply: Moslems shed 0.8 over the same period that the Hindus shed only 0.5; put in percentages, the fertility rate of Indian Moslems declined by 18%, while that of Hindus declined by only 15%. "If this goes on," to be Steynian about it, eventually Indian Moslems and Hindus will have the same fertility rate.

What about other religions or quasi-religions (belief systems)? There is no indication that Buddhism or Shinto encourage large families, nor (obviously) does Communism. But considering the demographic trends, it seems the worst culprit is Euro-leftism, which is a faith-based belief in social-welfarism, self indulgence, and nihilism: Some European countries, such as Spain, have fertility rates of 1.1 ro 1.2, about half the bare replacement rate for a society. The United States has a fertility rate of 2.11, just about replacement; because of immigration, our population is growing.

(The highest TFRs tend to be in African countries with large animist populations; but they also have huge infant mortality rates, which somewhat cancels out the fertility rate. The case is atypical and can be ignored for our purposes.)

Looking at the relationship, however subjective, between culture and fertility, and between religion and fertility, I would argue that the best thing for Europe's population decline is a religious revival.

But of course, they're already getting one: Immigration into Europe is primarily Moslem. This particular religion, however, is expansionist, intolerant of dissent, theocratic, ambivalent about terrorism, and narcissistic to the point of believing the only proper function of infidels is as slaves to the faithful. Not every Moslem supports each of these elements; but especially among Moslem émigrés from the Middle East, Algeria, Somalia, and Indonesia, toleration of each of these elements (especially for sharia law) is disturbingly high. Thus, even though such immigration marginally improves the overall fertility rate of European countries, it's a very dangerous deal to make.

Fortunately -- some may say amazingly -- there is a revival of traditional religious worship underway in a number of European countries at this moment...

France

According to the French embassy in Australia, the last fifteen years saw a significant drop in religious practice:

  • Christenings fell from 95% to 58%;
  • Religious weddings dropped from 85% to 50%;
  • Belief in God fell from 66% to 61%;
  • Disbelief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus rose from 37% to 43%;
  • In 1960, there were 45,000 French Catholic priests; today there are 22,000.

But in the last few years, this trend has begun to reverse itself; more Frenchmen, particularly French youths, are turning (or sometimes returning) to the religious tradition of France:

But despite these symptoms of decline, there are also hints of renewal. For several years now, the number of prayer groups with a mixed membership of lay people and people devoted to the religious life has been rising, and there are now said to be 3,000 of them. Organised pilgrimages to places like Chartres attract bigger and bigger crowds (of 20,000-30,000 people), as do Church rallies for young people. Millions of people visit the most sacred Catholic sites such as Lourdes or Lisieux; and thousands visit abbeys or stay in monasteries. There has also been a rise, in recent years, in the number of adult baptisms (12,000 in 1997, compared with 8,000 in 1993 and 890 in 1976). Similarly, the number of lay Church representatives in secondary schools, hospitals and prisons has shown a steady rise. Finally, we should remind ourselves of the outstanding success of the JMJ (Journées mondiales de la jeunesse or World Youth Days) in August 1997, during which as many as a million young people gathered in Paris to meet Pope John Paul II.

But has this increase in Catholic religiosity affected the fertility rate of Catholics in France? According to French-language sources cited by Wikipedia, total fertility rate (TFR) in France dropped steadily in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, hitting a nadir of 1.66 in 1993 (remember, 2.1 is replacement rate in civilized countries). From that point, it began inching upwards again at a rate of increase of 1.3% per year for six years.

But then in the year 2000, TFR jumped up 8% to 1.87; it held steady until 2003; finally, from 2003 to 2006, TFR increased at an annual rate of 3.7% per year and is currently at 1.98.

The total rise in recent years -- I arbitrarily define that as when the bigger rise began in 2000 -- has been nearly 0.2, which is about 10.6%. But wait... could the higher fertility rate be due solely to the Moslems population of France?

Moslems compose 7% of the French population; what would the Moslem fertility rate have to be to fully account for the increase from 1999? For 7% of the population to fully account for a rise in TFR of 0.2, the fertility rate of French Moslems would have had to rise by nearly 2.9 children per adult woman.

But this is absurd: Taking the Indian Moslem rate as more or less a baseline, that would mean the Moslem fertility rate would have had to nearly double in the last seven years. Even assuming a slight rise in the percent of Moslems in the population, such an increase would still demand that Moslem fertility in France skyrocket -- while it was shrinking elsewhere.

So mathematically, it would be difficult not to conclude that there was a significant rise in total fertility rate among Catholic French families since 1999... which coincides very neatly with the rise in religiosity. This is not a proof, of course; but it is a strong indicator that our initial supposition was correct: A rise in traditional, religious beliefs, at the expense of atheism, Communism, or secular social-welfarism, tends to correlate to an increase in fertility rates.

This finding fits with studies here in the United States that show that religious families tend to have significantly more kids than irreligious families.

I don't have fertility figures for Germany or Italy, but there is evidence of a religious revival there, too...

Germany

The Christian Science Monitor, hardly a right-wing publication, has been keeping track of the rise in regligion in both Germany and Italy:

  • Head of state Angela Merkel - the daughter of a Protestant minister - this month renewed calls to include a specific reference in the EU constitution to Europe's Christian heritage.
  • There are more theologians in the German parliament than in any other Western parliament, including the US Congress. And when the last government cabinet was sworn in, nearly every member -- instead of the usual 50 percent -- opted for the religious version of the inaugural oath, according to Karsten Voigt, coordinator of German-American relations at the foreign ministry.
  • In a recent survey gauging the perceived credibility of different professions, pastors were ranked in the Top 5.
  • German students must take either ethics or religion classes, though Berlin recently made ethics compulsory, and religion optional. Mr. Voigt reports that "more and more" high schoolers in the state of Brandenburg are opting for religion too.
  • Church attendance is no longer declining, and in one state the number of young churchgoers is going up, says Voigt.

The process is not as pronounced in Germany as in France; but Germany has the legacy of the Soviet Union and its satellite, East Germany, to overcome.

Italy

Another article in the CSM discusses religious revival in Italy, home to Roman Catholicism:

Sister Cristina is one of 550 young Italian women who joined the country's 7,500 cloistered nuns in 2005 - a dramatic increase from the 350 who became nuns in 2003. Vatican officials say the sudden rise in Italian monasticism mirrors a resurgence in Catholicism among young Italians during recent years....

Vatican officials say young people's thirst for moral direction is driving a resurging interest in Catholicism. "There's a reawakening after a time of secularization," says Sister Giuseppina Fragasso, vice president of the Vatican's association for cloistered monks and nuns.

The number of Catholic clergy has dwindled worldwide since peaking in the late 1960s. In particular, it's getting harder to attract new blood to the priesthood. According to the Vatican's statistics office, monasteries have been closing too fast for their researchers to keep track. While other Christian sects attract priests by allowing them to marry and by inviting women to ordination, the Catholic church still prohibits such activities.

But the tide is turning in Italy. Nearly half of adult Catholics attend mass at least weekly, up from 35 percent who did so in 1980.

Clergy credit much of young people's interest in Catholicism to the late Pope John Paul II, stressing the impact of the World Youth Days he started in 1984. Catholic fervor reached a crescendo with his death in April 2005. "This pope really brought the faith closer to young people; there was a strong bond between him and us," affirms Giovanna, a young biologist praying by John Paul II's tomb in Rome.

Endgame

For some reason I have never been able to fathom, it is always tempting to hunt for a negative trend, extend it beyond all reason, and then use it as an excuse to despair. But this is a misuse of the science of demography: You cannot just extrapolate wildly, willy nilly, based upon a few data points. Mark Twain summed it up well in chapter 17 of Life On the Mississippi (1850):

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period,' just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

I won't say we've turned a corner in Europe; but we're definitely peeping around it and starting to make our turn. Traditional Christian religion appears to be on the rise on that continent; and in one country where we have data, this rise correlates to a rise in fertility rate as well.

I can even see a mechanism at play: As more Moslems pour into Europe and begin demanding separate regions under sharia law, arrogantly demanding that Christian "infidels" accomodate Moslem beliefs, and threatening non-Moslems with violence and lawlessness, angry and frightened Christians may well turn to the religion of their youth (or perhaps of their fathers and mothers). Thus, Christian religiosity in Europe may be rising directly in response to the Moslem onslaught.

So take heart; Steyn notwithstanding, there is no reason to believe that current bad demographic trends will continue as they are indefinitely. Western culture is the most malleable, adaptable culture on the planet, and we can respond to crisis better than any other civilization. I still have full confidence that if the radical Moslems push jihad too far, we'll go Mediaeval on them.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 5, 2007, at the time of 8:16 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 4, 2007

A Life - and a Senate Seat - Hang In the Balance - UPDATED

Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE: See below.

Real Clear Politics reports that Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY, 96%), who had seemed in remission from his leukemia, has suddenly taken a turn for the worse:

The Hill reports Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY), who has battled leukemia in recent months, is in serious condition at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., according to a statement released by his family. Craig is "undergoing a second round of chemotherapy, but his blood cancer has resisted treatment, and he is suffering from infection."

What RCP is too polite to mention -- but which I think is important enough to warrant bringing up -- is that Wyoming currently has a Democratic governor, David Duane "Dave" Freudenthal (narrowly elected in 2002, reelected in 2006 by a 70-30 landslide). It may be crassly political to think such thoughts, but some personal matters have national political implications: In this case, were Sen. Thomas forced to resign for health reasons, Gov. Freudenthal would appoint a Democratic senator to replace him.

Now, Freudenthal seems pretty conservative, as would be any likely Democrat he appoints. However, even a conservative Democrat would vote for Sen. Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) over Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) in the organizing vote for Majority Leader. No matter how conservative a Democrat Gov. Freudenthal appoints, he will be another vote for Harry Reid -- hence another vote for withdrawal, defeat, surrender in Iraq.

It's sad that such considerations intrude upon the personal tragedy suffered by Craig Thomas and his family; but that's the way of the world. Whoever Freudenthal appointed (if that became necessary) would presumably stay until the November 2008 election; it's hard to believe that a small state like Wyoming would schedule a special election just to fill a Senate seat for the last year or so. That means the Democrat would head into the elections as the incumbent... a huge advantage. Thus, Republicans will have to capture at least three net seats (or two and the presidency) to control the Senate after 2008, not two (or one plus P).

I hope that Thomas can remain healthy enough to stay in the Senate through the election, but of course, his health takes precedence: If he feels poorly enough that he decides to resign to devote his full energies to fighting the cancer, the party shouldn't pressure him to stay. But we can still keep our fingers crossed!

UPDATE 23:45: Alas, Sen. Thomas did not make it; he passed away today at the age of 74.

According to AP:

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, will appoint a successor from one of three finalists chosen by the state Republican party.

I don't know if there is any limitation on who the Republican Party can choose as finalist. Can they choose three conservative Republicans? Or must there be at least one Democrat? I hate seeming like an overeager gravedigger, but I think even Sen. Thomas would have been very concerned that his death not strengthen the hand of the Democratic National Committee at such a time.

It didn't work last time, but let's keep our fingers crossed that Gov. Freudenthal's choices are limited to Republicans who actually support what Sen. Craig Thomas supported.

But even then, it's another Republican Senate seat that now needs to be defended, which shouldn't even have been up for reelection in 2008; Thomas was just overwhelmingly reelected last year.

(Democrats are of course just as much on pins and needles over the continued good health of Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsberg as they were before the death, at too young an age -- only 74! -- of Craig Thomas.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 4, 2007, at the time of 3:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Winners

Hatched by Dafydd

I was out of town (or out of my mind) this weekend, so consider this the late late edition (and quite abbreviated, alas) of the winners of the Watcher's Council trials. Note that this is just a short announcement missing all the detailed analysis and discussion we usually provide, and stop cheering over there in the corner.

The winning entries were:

For the Council

This was my first pick, and my nearly-late vote actually put this over the top: Had I voted for any other post, this excellent piece by Joshuapundit would not have won. (Of course, that is also true for every other person who voted for Joshua pundit and reflects only that it was a close race!)

My second pick in this category was Bush Defies Warming Autocrats At G8, by Cheat Seeking Missiles; and I was the only one to vote for this. So once again, everybody's lost but me.

For the laity

My two [losing] picks were:

  1. On Memorial Day, by Dean Barnett writing on Hugh Hewitt's blog;
  2. From the Mouths of Babes: Climate Analysis That Actually Works, by Kobayashi Maru.

You can find these links plus their compatriots at this post by the Watcher of Wheezels.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 4, 2007, at the time of 2:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's In a Label? Everything, It Would Seem

Hatched by Dafydd

In what AP calls "a stunning reversal for the Bush administration's attempts to try Guantanamo detainees in military court" -- but which rational observers would call "a shockingly thin example of dismissal by technicality" -- a military judge has dismissed murder charges against a detainee at Guantánamo Bay... because the military's combat status review tribunal only classified him as an "enemy combatant," rather than as an "unlawful enemy combatant":

A military judge on Monday dismissed terrorism-related charges against a prisoner charged with killing an American soldier in Afghanistan, in a stunning reversal for the Bush administration's attempts to try Guantanamo detainees in military court.

The chief of military defense attorneys at Guantanamo Bay, Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, said the ruling in the case of Canadian detainee Omar Khadr could spell the end of the war-crimes trial system set up last year by Congress and President Bush after the Supreme Court threw out the previous system. The ruling immediately raised questions about whether the U.S. will have to further revise procedures for prosecuting prisoners, leading to major delays. [The original law was thrown out by the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision, but not because of any irregularities in the definition of "enemy combatant" or the operation of the status-review tribunals -- the Mgt.]

But Omar Khadr, who was 15 when he was captured after a deadly firefight in Afghanistan and who is now 20, will remain at the remote U.S. military base along with some 380 other men suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

And why didn't they label Khadr an "unlawful enemy combatant?" Because the term wasn't available as a separate category under the original law.

However, the status-review tribunals used the same criteria for the designation of "enemy combatant" as they would now use for the designation "unlawful enemy combatant." The term has changed, but the definition is the same:

The judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, said he had no choice but to throw the Khadr case out because he had been classified as an "enemy combatant" by a military panel years earlier -- and not as an "alien unlawful enemy combatant."

The Military Commissions Act, signed by Bush last year, specifiies that only those classified as "unlawful" enemy combatants can face war trials here, Brownback noted during the arraignment in a hilltop courtroom on this U.S. military base.

All 80 of the detainees who are slated for military tribunals have that same label; thus, military judges will almost certainly dismiss all the other cases as well on the same grounds. They won't even bother to hear any evidence -- as they did not in the Khadr case: They will simply declare they have no jurisdiction and dismiss the charges.

The chief defense attorney, Col. Sullivan, goes far beyond his duty to defend his clients; he says that this decision proves the entire system of military tribunals is "a system of justice that does not comport with American values" and that we should scrap the entire thing. If by "American values," he means really recent ones where decisions turned on "what the meaning of 'is' is," maybe he's right; if so, then the military too has lost its moral compass (as we already knew about the State Department and its ugly offspring, the CIA).

Here is the situation, from what I can determine:

  1. Under the recently enacted law, prisoners can only be tried at military tribunals if they are declared by a status-review tribunal to be "unlawful enemy combatants;"
  2. The status of "unlawful enemy combatant" requires a number of criteria: A, B, C, D;
  3. The earlier status-review tribunal determined that 80 of the 380 prisoners at Gitmo statisfied criteria A, B, C, and D; the other 300 or so did not;
  4. But they used the term "enemy combatant" for those 80 prisoners, per the law they operated under, rather than "unlawful enemy combatant." The current law had not yet been written, and the status-review tribunals had no crystal ball: They did not realize they would have to have used a different term, after the original law was thrown out and rewritten by Congress;
  5. ...Therefore, all the cases must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction!

This is a perfect example of mistaking the map for the territory; it's like sitting down in a fancy restaurant -- and devouring the menu! The label itself is irrelevant; you can call them "sunshine needlepoint combatants," so long as you require the same criteria as for "unlawful enemy combatants."

The law says that only those persons who are qualified to be designated as unlawful enemy combatants can be tried; the clear intent and substance of the law is not affected by whether the earlier tribunal used the same words as the later-enacted law, but by whether they used the same standards... and Judge Brownback should jolly well understand that.

All he needed to do was check that the criteria used by the earlier tribunals to declare someone an "enemy combatant" are the same as those that used today to declare someone an "unlawful enemy combatant." Maybe this is the non-lawyer in me; but it was utterly clear to everyone, including the detainees, that the entire purpose of the status-review tribunal was to determine whether they were bad enough to warrant trial by a military tribunal.

The detainees knew exactly what that meant: They knew that if they were found to be "enemy combatants," they would be tried by a military court. Now the defense argues -- and the judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, seems to have independently argued himself into believing -- that the trivial difference in words violates the rights of the detainees, because they didn't know they were in jeopardy of trial if found to be enemy combatants... which was the very term used at the time to designate those detainees eligible for trial!

The idea is that, if someone doesn't know a hearing can result in him having to stand trial, he might not put up a vigorous defense; thus, he might be tricked into allowing himself to be (more or less) "indicted" without a fight. But for God's sake, everybody knew that was the purpose of the status-review hearings. Everybody. Both the detainees and their military lawyers knew. The tribunal itself knew. Even the media knew. Nobody was caught by surprise here.

Here's the analogy:

Suppose Congress passed a law saying that everyone who committed murder on federal property would be indicted as a "federal murder defendant;" those so designated could be tried in federal court; and those so designated, during their actual trials, could only use attorneys from a specific list generated by the Department of Justice.

While the Supreme Court hears the inevitable challenge to this, 80 people are indicted by the Justice Department as "federal murder defendants."

But the Supreme Court strikes down the original law, saying defendants must be allowed counsel of their choice at their actual trials after being indicted. Congress rewrites the law, saying everyone who committed murder on federal property would be indicted as a "federal homicide defendant;" and those so designated, during their actual trials, could use any dadburned attorneys they want.

But then, when the first trial comes up, the judge dismisses the charges because the defendant was designated a "federal murder defendant," while the law only allows trial for "federal homicide defendants." That's totally different! Charges dismissed.

This is a perfect example of why normal people hate and despise trial lawyers as a class.

I have a thought. I realize this may be somewhat radical, even crazy, but...

The status-review tribunals almost certainly used, as their standard, the very criteria now required for "unlawful enemy combatants" -- that was, after all, the entire purpose of the status-review tribunals; and the fact that they only applied the "enemy combatant" label to 20% of the prisoners makes clear it was a pretty strict standard.

So why doesn't -- now don't come after me with pitchforks and torches! -- why doesn't President Bush, as Commander in Chief, simply direct the tribunals to look at the casefiles of each of the 80 prisoners determined to be "enemy combatants," check to see that the standards required for that designation match those required for the new designation of "unlawful enemy combatant," and then just change the stupid label?

Problem solved? Oh, no, of course not; it would have to go back to the Supreme Court, wouldn't it? After all, the burning question we face anent these men is what label was used -- not what criteria were used for that label.

I'm starting to agree with Chief Defense Attorney Sullivan (a colonel in the United States Marine Corps, sadly): "[this ruling is] the latest demonstration that this newest system just does not work." Evidently, not even the military itself can put terrorists on trial without getting tangled in absurdist definitions and technicalities that have no relevance to the actual charges... or to fighting terrorism and defending the United States.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 4, 2007, at the time of 2:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 3, 2007

Salvation à la Mode

Hatched by Dafydd

Power Line continues the saga of the incredible shrinking terrorist front in Iraq; we ourselves previously blogged about this in several previous posts, beginning in March:

The Anbar Salvation Council of Sunni tribes in Iraq's Anbar province has not only launched a full-scale war against al-Qaeda in what used to be the terrorists' own home town, they have opened franchises in three other Iraqi provinces as well: Baghdad, Salahadin, and Diyala, all of which used to be under al-Qaeda management. More and more, Iraqi nationalism is beating back sectarian identity, and a desire for peace and good governance is rising up against the tolerance for terrorism and theocracy that accompanies any deal with the "Great Satan" of al-Qaeda.

The most recent Power Line post on the subject (linked above) quotes from the New Straits Times of Indonesia; alas, the link appears to be dead. But the incomparable Bill Roggio -- an American national resource -- had an article up yesterday on the WeeklyStandard.com that covers much of what we know:

The battle between al Qaeda in Iraq on one side, and the residents of the Baghdad district of Amariyah, the Islamic Army of Iraq, and the 1920 Revolution Brigades on the other, dominated the headlines late yesterday and this morning. The Washington Post reported that the battle began Wednesday "over accusations that al-Qaeda in Iraq had executed Sunnis without reason," and portrayed the conflict as one pitting the residents of Amariyah against al Qaeda....

The Anbar Salvation Council has formed a "clandestine SWAT unit" that is capable of operating outside of the western province, an American military intelligence official close to the operations of the group told us. These are the "secret police" described by of [head of the Anbar Salvation Council] Sheikh al-Hais.

Roggio notes that the Anbar Salvation Council has engaged in previous "expeditionary" operations in Salahadin and Diyala, as well as the current fighting in Baghdad. And the American military is cautiously encouraging the movement:

The fighting in Amariyah comes just as Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, discussed the prospects of reconciliation with insurgent groups, with the exclusion of al Qaeda. "I believe there are elements [of the insurgency] that are irreconcilable, but I believe the large majority are [reconcilable]," said LTG Odierno in yesterday’s press briefing. "The figures I use, I believe, about 80 percent are reconcilable, both Jaish al-Mahdi as well as Sunni insurgents. I believe little, very few of al Qaeda are reconcilable, but there might be a small portion."

To conduct reconciliation talks, each insurgent group will first need to establish a political wing. This is where the Anbar Salvation Council, and its political arm, the Anbar Awakening, came into play in the province. "The Awakening is the face of reconciliation for all practical purposes in Anbar," the American intelligence official familiar with the group informed us.

According to the counterinsurgency strategy developed by Gen. David Petraeus, we must eventually do exactly this; so it appears we are, if anything, ahead of schedule. This bodes well for the report on the counterinsurgency due to Congress in September.

I have heard several people recently, one of them the Senate majority leader, misquoting Petraeus (deliberately or foolishly) about the role of the military in the Iraq counterinsurgency. For example, here is a video clip of Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) proclaiming that "General Petraeus has said the war cannot be won militarily." He clearly implies that Petraeus meant that "the war is lost" (as Reid had already announced), or at least that it cannot be won.

But what Petraeus really said was that the war cannot be won by military force alone; the most important element is political. Reid professed not to understand the distinction, but it should be clear to all except those who swim in currents of ignorance so strong, their brains turn to oatmeal (to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill).

The "politics" that Petraeus means is precisely the sort of community retail politics we're now seeing in the Anbar Awakening (the political arm of the Salvation Council): one city, one province at a time. Such "townhall" politics must necessarily precede the macro-politics of the Iraqi parliament; the parliament cannot lead the way.

Our own federal government has a federal bias: Members of Congress tend to assume all political progress in Iraq must come from the national-level on down. But Gen. Petraeus and other military leaders must, of necessity, deal with Iraq at the level of neighborhood, district, and city; convincing neighbors to turn against al-Qaeda (or against Shiite death squads) is what determines whether we get good intel or not. Our soldiers understand, even if Sen. Reid does not, that the strength of Iraq -- and America and every other country -- resides in the people and the communities they form, not in the parliament; the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a lagging indicator of how the war against global jihad is going.

In short, what the Anbar (or Diyala, or Baghdad, or Salahadin) Salvation Council does is a lot more important than what the Sunni members of parliament do; and what these Sunni tribal leaders are doing more and more nowadays is and killing al-Qaeda's leaders and fighters.

This is what victory in Iraq looks like; this is how counterinsurgency strategy wins. The revulsion by Iraqi Sunnis against the bloodthirst and power madness of al-Qaeda, and their willingness actually to go to war against terrorism, leads them to ally even with Americans to defeat the monsters. The forces of nationalism thus triumph over chaos and human sacrifice.

Clearly, not all Moslems (not even all religiously zealous Sunni Moslems) are violent jihadis. The Salvation Councils and Anbar Awakening may not be "Moslem Methodists," like Indonesia's Nahdatul Ulama (NU); but 'twill serve.

And for everybody except Democrats who were counting on picking up "five extra seats" in the Senate "when we lose the war," it's very, very good news.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 3, 2007, at the time of 1:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 1, 2007

Don't Mess With Nessie!

Hatched by Dafydd

So a badly photographed, information-free videotape is released that purports to be the Loch Ness monster... and instantly, Michael Medved touts it as "stunning evidence" that proves "Nessie" exists. Considering his infatuation with Bigfoot, and his belief that, except for a few bitter-enders, scientists all agree that Mr. Sasquatch exists, color me unsurprised.

But I'm a little perturbed that others are taking this so seriously. Honestly, this video is even worse "evidence" than those grainy films that purport to show ghosts or chupacabras or UFOs buzzing us darn near every week. Alas, I cannot find anyplace where I can get embedded code for the video; so you'll have to go to Power Line to watch it (I'll send you there instead of to Yahoo).

I'll wait...

(If somebody will give me a link to embedded code -- you can't put the code itself in the comment, because the filter will just strip it out -- I'll put the video itself here.)

I find it odd and rather disappointing that John Hinderaker would write, "I suppose I could be fooled as easily as the next guy, but the video seems fairly compelling."

Compelling? Would he accept it as evidence if introduced by the other side in a court trial? Let me start with the most obvious problem:

  1. There is no indication that the supposed "monster video" was actually shot at Loch Ness.

It consists of closeups on water, and one piece of water looks pretty much like another. Aside from the stock footage of Loch Ness intercut into the video, none of the actual "monster" clips pans back far enough to give us any indication what lake we're actually at; we have only the word of the people who took the video (and are currently exploiting it) that it was even recorded in Scotland, let alone that particular loch. And since I don't know any of them from Jamie, I'm unwilling to trust their word.

Sorry to be the bird poop in the punchbowl.

But let's give them that point; let's assume for sake of argument that this footage was actually shot at Loch Ness. What does it really show?

  1. Brushing aside the filler footage, the actual supposed "monster video" shows nothing but a dark oblong in or on rippling water.

A faint triangle on the right edge in one second or so of one of the shots could be interpreted as a wake, indicating that the object is moving; but it could also indicate the object is standing still, while the surface water moves across it. But it needn't even be a wake; it could also just be a dark streak under the water or a shadow.

In fact, the dark oblong could itself be a shadow; it's impossible to tell, and I've viewed the video perhaps seven times. It's like looking at a cloud and seeing a duckie, a horsie, or that charlatan, Anton Bruckner, in profile.

  1. We cannot even tell how big the oblong is, because there is no other object to give us a frame of reference. It could be fifty feet -- or a five-foot underwater log. Nor can we tell how far away it is.
  2. And if it were a snake-like creature moving through the water... then why isn't it undulating? Snakes, eels, and even Nessie's neck or tentacles would wriggle, not stay perfectly still, like a propeller-driven cigar.

But there is a large issue here, and it applies to much more serious issues than cryptozoology: This little boomlet of excitement is a perfect example of "the will to believe."

Medved so desperately wants to believe in the existence of "fierce creatures" previously unknown, that he will accept any claim, no matter how outrageous, so long as it feeds his need. But to some extent, and on other issues, we all must fight against that tendency.

The will to believe can blind us to obvious dangers, fallacies, and flaws in our own positions. For example, I truly want to believe that we can "stand up" a reasonably functional democracy in the Arab Middle East, in particular in Iraq; for this very reason, I must tread carefully when evaluating reports of progress.

It would be too easy to dismiss all setbacks or problems as trivial and trumpet every advance as highly significant. Thus, I must always try to put myself in the stockings of my opposite number: Suppose I were trying to prove there was no progress at all in Iraq. How would I attack the positive reports? I try as hard as I can to rip them apart, just as I rip apart arguments I oppose; then I evaluate my efforts.

If I can make a disturbingly good case against, then I'm skeptical of that report. But if my debunking attempt sounds like James Carville on crack, then I'm confident enough to run with the original story.

The test demands a tough, honest effort; however, it's a major reason why my positions are typically so hard for leftists to refute: I myself have already found all the obvious holes and filled them; to disprove me, you have to find the non-obvious argument.

Sometimes I am successful at putting myself in the other guy's moccasins; other times, I stubbornly cling to my will to believe. Worse yet, sometimes I successfully debunk some deeply held belief of mine!

For example, I knew that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) had always been a war supporter; but I was convinced for a long time that he was one of those "we need a half million troops so we can colonize Iraq" types. I'm sure I must have said that very thing more than once. So when I read his claim that he was an early proponent of the very same counterinsurgency strategy that Gen. David Petraeus is now using in Iraq, I scoffed.

I began a post mocking him for revisionist history; but then I put myself in the position of a McCain supporter (tough, because I truly dislike him) and tried to knock down my own argument.

And I succeeded. Some basic research coughed up not one but a couple of speeches he gave long, long ago -- at least back to 2005 -- that unquestionably embraced a counterinsurgency strategy, which he distinguished from what we were doing at the time. So I had no choice: I deleted everything I had started writing and instead wrote a piece about McCain's prescience... and admitted my own wrong impression of him.

How many elite journalists ever do that? How many who write about our "collapse" in Iraq or the futility of persevering ever even try to make the opposite case -- honestly try?

If they do it at all, they deliberately make the argument against their position as stupid and illogical as possible. If you point this out, they usually say, "But that's how war supporters argue, because they're all stupid!" (Thus defeating the entire purpose of the exercise, you understand.)

Do supporters of the current immigration bill ever try to imagine how they would argue against it, if they drew that side in a debate? I do; I can do it easily -- and better than Hugh Hewitt can -- even though I support the bill. Just as important, do opponents honestly try to make the case for the current bill, just to see if they can? I haven't seen much evidence of it on either side.

Remember, as the Principia Discordia teaches, "convictions make convicts": If you are absolutely convinced of some proposition, you are imprisoned by it; you cannot even see counter evidence, and you are almost compelled to consider everybody who disagrees with you a fool. Since you don't pay attention to fools, how can you ever be convinced?

Oliver Cromwell had more or less the same idea when he wrote, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."

So if you really believe in Nessie, try looking at that video through the eyes of someone like Martin Gardner or James "the Amazing" Randi; ask yourself, how would a skeptic debunk this video? Then seriously examine the arguments you come up with and realize how much more compelling they are than that silly, cloud-fantasy video.

And now that we have journeyed from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again, it's time to stop writing.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 1, 2007, at the time of 5:24 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

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