Date ►►► October 31, 2007
Courts v. Terrorism = Wile E. Coyote v. Road Runner
Another terrorism trial in civilian court has just gone awry; it is now a world-wide phenomenon:
Spain's National Court convicted the three main suspects in the Madrid commuter train bombings of mass murder Wednesday and sentenced them to tens of thousands of years in prison for Europe's worst Islamic terror attack.
But the verdict was a mixed bag for prosecutors, who saw four other key defendants convicted of lesser offenses and an accused ringleader acquitted altogether.
With much of the case resting on circumstantial evidence, the three judges may have been wary after a number of high-profile Spanish terror cases were overturned on appeal.
Spain's prime minister said the verdict still upheld justice. But victims of the attack, which killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800 when bombs exploded on four trains on March 11, 2004, expressed shock and sadness over the court's decision.
In short, the court convicted the low-level button-men who actually carried out the Madrid bombings, but it acquitted the top terrorist bosses who planned and ordered it in the first place... including Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, the ringleader -- who has already been convicted and jailed in Italy for the bombings in Spain, but who was found not guilty in Spain because Spanish judges found "nuances" in Osman's surveillance-taped confession.
The problem with trying to prosecute terrorists in civilian courts is that the latter were never set up to handle global conspiracies that play out over multiple cell phones, the internet, and coded conversations in several different countries. Just a simple, factual recounting of a typical conspiracy the size of the one in the Madrid bombings is apt to sound like paranoid ravings to a jury not versed in the scope and mindless ferocity of such attacks.
Thus, they tend to discount the testimony of insiders and subordinates... particularly when couched in the bizarre religious beliefs that characterize those willing to commit what amounts to human sacrifice on a scale not seen since the Aztecs. But jurors also reject the dry, factual recitations by experts on terrorism from, e.g., Israel -- as we saw in the Holy Land Foundation trial, for which see more below.
And that's assuming one even has low-level perpetrators still sucking air and available for prosecution, turning to state's evidence, and convicting their terrorist overbosses: Often, as in 9/11, the actual "soldiers" plan on joining the mass human sacrifice they precipitate.
Worse, as Judge Richard Posner pointed out, it's ludicrous to require a warrant based upon probable cause before we can start surveillance -- which is inevitably the situation we're in whenever we rely upon the civilian court system -- because the whole purpose of surveillance is to determine "who is a terrorist" in the first place! (Hat tip to Power Line.) You obviously cannot produce probable cause for surveilling "John Does 1 through 57 to be named later."
Terrorism is not even like organized crime. At the end of the day, the Mafia (and versions from other countries, such as the "Mexican Mafia" or the "Vietnamese Mafia") have a simple and understandable purpose: to make money for those at the top. Thus, you can generally prove who is il capo di tutti capi by simply following the money trail.
But the purpose of terrorism is simultaneously more elusive, like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall, and more irrational: Thus, to the extent that jurors are rational men and women, they naturally resist believing that people could rationally plot an irrational, insane, and meaningless act of mass murder.
Look at the sustained effort on the part of thousands of intelligent and rational pundits to figure out what "caused" Mohammed Atta and his 18 merry men to "martyr" themselves in order to destroy multiple buildings and kill nearly 3,000 souls... after all, it couldn't possibly be for the risible reason that American troops profaned the holy country of Saudi Arabia -- which Osama bin Laden hated and despised above all others! That wouldn't be... rational.
And the prosecution of terrorist cases is also hampered by the defense tactic of demanding hundreds of heavily classified documents in discovery and trying to call top antiterrorism officials to testify under oath; when the government refuses, for obvious reasons, to produce those documents and witnesses, many soft-hearted, soft-headed, and very angry liberal judges retaliate against the government by dismissing the charges... on grounds that Mr. Terrorist is not getting a fair trial. Thus, such judges force the government into a Sophie's Choice moment: Either they can convict this one terrorist -- or else they can continue to fight against the global Salafist, terrorist conspiracy... but not both.
Finally, many countries routinely refuse to extradite wanted prisoners to the United States if the prisoners could possibly be subject to the death penalty.
For all of these reasons, a typical civilian-court trial has about as much chance of convicting and properly sentencing a terrorist mastermind as our hapless coyote has of catching the road runner. Most of our judicial efforts come boxed from the same Acme Co. that supplies Wile E. Coyote with the rockets that malfunction, carrying him over the cliff to disappear in a tiny dust cloud at the bottom.
Another perfect example is the just "concluded" -- by which I mean "ended in a mistrial without a conclusion on nearly all the charges" -- Holy Land Foundation trial. Despite a massive volume of intelligence information introduced to the jury, much of it from "an array of internal Muslim Brotherhood documents from the 1980s and early 1990s," the jury could not agree on a single conviction for a single charge for any of the seven defendants.
There have been some partial successes: The Italian conviction of Osman cited above, for example. But even in that case, the man actually convicted (in Italian court) for planning and ordering the Madrid bombings -- thus organizing a mass murder, as far as Italian law is concerned -- received a sentence of just ten years... which an Italian court of appeals promptly reduced to eight years. That works out to just slightly over 15 days per murder, in case you're counting.
In another infamous case, the Bush administration eventually saw the graffiti on the wall and transferred the Jose Padilla prosecution from military to civilian court. At that point, the government had to drop all of the allegations that Padilla was plotting a "dirty bomb" attack (an attack using conventional explosives wrapped in a dangerously radioactive casing) and other attacks on American soil... likely because they could not use in civilian court any of the intelligence data from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:
Padilla's attorneys would have argued that since Mohammed was "tortured" (waterboarded), everything he said was inadmissible; worse, even the successful capture of Padilla and any evidence taken at the time came, ultimately, from Mohammed's intelligence... hence was "fruit of the poisoned tree" and likewise inadmissible.
The prosecution was reduced to presenting evidence to a grand jury that got Padilla indicted on three counts -- one of which, conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim, was immediately chucked out by the trial judge. It was restored by the appellate court, but it's another illustration of the "soft-hearted judge" dilemma above.
There is a reason the Bush administration has resisted, to the maximum extent possible, shifting primary responsibility for dealing with terrorists to the civilian court system... and it's not that Bush wants to shred the Constitution and imprison thousands of liberal activists in Gitmo: it's that terrorists are well-trained in using the rights and liberties of our own judicial system as a weapon against us.
They are well-versed in tying our courts into knots, playing the victim, and shifting blame to American foreign policy. And because the refutation of such lies would require revealing classified information that is vital to national security, the government is typically helpless to defend itself and its prosecution.
Alas, there is also a reason why the Democrats, to a man (and I include Hillary in that), will fight until the cows come home to roost to return the war on global hirabah to the courtrooms, as it was under President Bill Clinton: Because it's so much easier simply to charge terrorists in civilian court, then throw up one's hands at the mistrials and not-guilty verdicts and say "what can we do?" than to take on the duty oneself and actually achieve results.
Declaring that the proper way to fight terrorism is not with special forces and intelligence but subpoenas and indictments relieves a future Democratic administration from all responsibility. It takes the whole "terrorism thing" off the president's plate... allowing him or her to focus on more pleasant tasks, such as raising taxes on poor smokers in order to finance government-run health care for all middle-class children and their parents.
Hajj is the pilgrimage all good Moslems must undertake during the lunar month of Dhu’l Hijja, sometime during their lives. The journey to Mecca is the fifth of the five pillars of Islam, after professing that there is no God but God, and Mohammed is His prophet; praying five times every day; giving charity to the poor; and fasting during Ramadan.
Every year, millions of the faithful travel to Mecca, walk seven times around the Kabah and sacrifice an animal to God, in honor of the patriarch Ibrahim.
And every year, it seems that brainless Hollywood weirdos must perform their own Hajj to the America-hating dictator du jour.
The most recent pilgrim is 37 year old "supermodel" and violent harridan Naomi Campbell; and the hip, young guru who is the object of Miss Naomi's spirit journey is our old friend Hugo Chavez of the soon to be hellhole Venezuela. Miss Naomi follows in the footsteps of other seekers and disciples, including Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Harry Bellafonte, and Danny Glover... names to conjure with, to be sure.
As a camp follower of Hugo Chavez, Miss Naomi is a natural, as you can see here. They go together like ham and fist, and rumor has it Miss Naomi will audition for the role of Che in the Caracas production of Evita.
According to a confidential Democratic memo that was accidentally left behind at the Midnight Special bookstore in Los Angeles, Mr. Chavez will give the keynote speech at the 2008 Democratic National Mirror-Convention in La Paz, Bolivia; Chavez will be introduced by his fiancé, Evo Morales, president of Bolivia.
La Paz, at 11,811 feet, has been declared the sister city of Denver, Colorado, where the normal Democratic convention will be held. Denver itself has petitioned the state of Colorado to permanently change its name to Demver in honor of the occasion.
Miss Naomi will take a holiday from the rigorous production schedule in Caracas of eight performances per day (every other Monday to be dark) in order to be present when Chavez and Morales read the wedding banns in La Paz, and she has agreed to be Chavez's best man; Morales has chosen Heather Mills as his.
The author solemnly warrants that there is no joke or subtle meaning in the publisher's imprint.
Date ►►► October 30, 2007
Dem Prez Candidates Find Unanimity - Opposing Presidential Authority!
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), and ex-Sen. John Edwards have three things in common:
- Each is a current (or former) member of the Senate;
- Each is running for president... a.k.a. "chief executive";
- Each claims he wants presidential power curtailed, making the president little more than a congressional catspaw.
The Attorney General is the chief defender of the rule of law in our country. After Alberto Gonzales's troubled tenure, we cannot send a signal that the next Attorney General in any way condones torture or believes that the President is unconstrained by law.
What exactly does this mean? The Democrats made the meaning explicit a few days ago, as we faithfully reported in Mucking About With Mukasey: When Democratic senators write "condones torture," you should read "refuses to declare the use of waterboarding anathema, forbidden under any or all circumstances, no exceptions."
Attorney General Designate Michael Mukasey, in his Senate confirmation hearings, has so far refused to declare waterboarding to be torture or to agree to forbid the president to order it (though how Mukasey -- who works for the president, not the other way around -- could enforce such a ban is left hanging). Thus, Clinton and Obama have both declared they will not vote to confirm him. Can't have an Attorney General who thinks the president is "unconstrained by law!"
But wait -- how is waterboarding related to the "rule of law," of which the Attorney General should be "the chief defender?" No bill declaring waterboarding to be an act of torture has ever been enacted into law in the United States. In fact, Congress has never sent such a bill to the president to be vetoed. While "torture" is banned, it is left up to the president to determine how to execute that law -- specifically, to determine what does and does not constitute torture, using broad guidelines contained in various acts and treaties.
But these Democratic candidates want to remove that task from the president's plate. Rather, they want the president's understanding of the laws banning torture -- Title 18, part I, chapter 113C, § 2340 of the United States Code, for example -- to shift with every shift of the majority wind blowing from Congress, without the tedious necessity of Congress passing bills that the president is willing to sign... or (in a pinch) overriding the president's veto.
What these candidates demand is that President Bush declare waterboarding torture for no other reason than that a majority of Congress considers it torture -- as if the president himself should have no say in the matter. The so-called Commander in Chief and Chief Executive becomes a congressional spokesman, fit only to echo the understanding of the law as enunciated by congressional leaders.
The president thus becomes Chief Executive Secretary to the majority leader of the Senate and the squeaker of the House.
On a related point, recall that Democratic senators routinely ask judicial nominees, during their confirmation hearings, how they will rule on various cases. In particular, they invariably ask nominees to federal district courts, circuit courts, and the Supreme Court whether they will uphold a woman's "right" to get an abortion, with the clear understanding that if they will not, or if they refuse to answer, that senator will oppose their confirmation. This is just as improper as demanding that an incoming Attorney General agree to congressional policy decisions that will bind the president as a condition of his confirmation; and it indicates a very disturbing pattern:
Democrats evidently believe that, while we have three coequal branches of government, one is more coequal than the others.
But it's not just my inference here; we can take the direct word of John Edwards. While Edwards has become almost a fringe candidate, he speaks for a great many other Democrats in the Senate and House. In his own statement rejecting Mukasey (though he has no say in that question), he included this paragraph:
Mukasey has also said that the president doesn't necessarily have to abide by acts of Congress. We need an Attorney General who will put the rule of law above the administration's short-term political interests, and Mukasey has already shown that he's unwilling to do that.
Sadly, Edwards actually appears to believe that a president must "abide by acts of Congress"... all of them. (The statement makes no sense unless we assume that Edwards meant to allow no exceptions; if exceptions are allowed, then anything can be an exception!) But what if a runaway Congress enacts a patently unconstitutional law? Must the president abide by it anyway?
Here is the scenario: Suppose John Edwards becomes president; and because of the Silky Pony's feckless policies, we are hit with another terrorist attack -- but this one is a widespread, distributed attack on America's malls. In 12 Gallerias across the country, a series of coordinated bombings kill 23,000 last-minute shoppers during Christmas week.
Al-Qaeda swiftly claims credit for the attacks, and within a couple of days, the attacker are identified; all are Arab Americans. In a spasm of rage, Congress passes a law ordering the immediate arrest and detention of all Americans of Arabic descent. President Edwards valiantly tries to stop the madness, but Congress overrides his veto.
He is now faced with a constitutional crisis: The act is clearly unconstitutional and should be overturned when the courts get around to hearing it. But they're in no hurry, just as they were not in 1942. So should President Edwards go ahead and implement this obviously unconstitutional act of Congress? Or should he exercise his authority -- and duty -- as a coequal branch of the government to ignore the act, on his own authority?
The point of the exercise is that "the law" is not solely determined by statutory law enacted by Congress: It also includes the Constitution, the bedrock law of our government, along with caselaw.
Likewise, Congress is not the sole arbiter of what the Constitution and the law require, either. The Supreme Court obviously plays a role; but so too does the president, in his capacity as the executor of the laws of the land -- including the most basic law, the Constitution of the United States of America.
But while Congress seems willing to include the Court into the club of those who get to determine what is constitutional, it is equally pleased to include the president out of that fraternal order. And since many senators also believe they should only confirm judges who agree in advance to decide certain cases in favor of the senator's position, these members of Congress quite clearly believe that Congress should be preeminent in determining what "rule of law" means. This tendency crosses party lines, by the way; cf. Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 83%), and everyone on the Gang of Fourteen.
This is almost an attempt at a slow-moving, bloodless coup d'état... well, "bloodless" in the sense that they do not openly espouse killing the president; but they do push policies that are likely to get a lot of Americans killed, in the guise of protecting their "civil liberties." From Hillary again:
We need to restore the nation’s confidence in the Department of Justice. The Department must once again defend our Constitution and the rule of law without regard to ideology and partisanship. And we need to protect the country from terrorism while also respecting Americans’ civil liberties.
It's not quite clear to me how waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- a Kuwaiti on the lam, who was captured by Pakistani troops in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, with or without CIA participation, and was transferred to CIA custody -- impacts "Americans’ civil liberties." Perhaps Hillary Clinton will elaborate when she's asked that tough question during tonight's Democratic candidates' debate. [Note for the irony impaired...]
In fact, I do not believe there is any evidence that any American citizen or legal resident has ever been waterboarded in order to obtain information. However, we have waterboarded many American soldiers and CIA interrogators as part of their training for either resisting that interrogation technique (in the case of soldiers) or using it on captured terrorists (in the case of CIA interrogators).
Also, at least one reporter, Fox News Channel's Steve Harrigan, voluntarily underwent three of the reputed five stages of waterboarding for a video report. Harrigan pronounced it "torture," but he also noted that just a few minutes after each session, he felt perfectly fine -- which makes his pronouncement a bit dicey, as all definitions of psychological torture I've seen, including the legal one above, require "prolonged mental harm" resulting from the session.
Others who have undergone it, including many military and CIA personnel, say it's not torture. The point is not to prove one way or another (though I believe it is not torture, and I would happily undergo it just out of curiosity) but to prove a much easier point: That waterboarding is a controversial issue with people of good faith and strong experience landing on both sides.
In other words, it's a perfect candidate for a case by case determination whether it's legitimate to use waterboarding to obtain intelligence information, based upon the criticality of the information sought, the particular person it's sought from, and any prevailing exigent circumstances. Implementation like this is precisely the purview of the Executive branch, not the Legislative -- which creates one size fits all rules for everyone -- or the Judiciary -- which decides ex-post facto whether information gathered can be used at trial; nobody has ever attempted to use a "confession" obtained by waterboarding in court as evidence at the confessor's criminal trial.
Whether or not to use waterboarding to obtain critical intelligence is a job for Super President, not Glacially Ponderous Judge or Mealy-Mouthed Congressman. But to the top three Democratic candidates for Chief Executive Secretary of the United States Congress, branches one and two need only ask Congress what they think, and then rubber-stamp the congressional leadership's decision... the president as puppet.
I wonder: How much of this do they truly believe and would actually follow through on if elected... and how much is just electoral hype in the never-ending Democrat hit single, "The Bushies Have Bushwhacked America"?
Date ►►► October 29, 2007
Does Kagan Read Big Lizards, or Does Big Lizards Anticipate Kagan?
Actually neither; Frederick W. Kagan has been making this same point for weeks now -- that we've already won the first Iraq battle against al-Qaeda, giving us encouragement as we tackle the second against the Iran-controlled Shiite militias. But he makes the argument very forcefully in an opinion piece in the current Weekly Standard.
Kagan, recall, was a co-author along with Gen. Jack Keane and Maj. Daniel Dwyer of Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, which most argue was the impetus behind President George W. Bush deciding to scrap the previous strategy we were using in Iraq and choose a counterinsurgency strategy (and a new general) instead. The link above is actually to a Power Point presentation on the strategy (masquerading as a PDF file) that I particularly like: Just set the zoom to "Fit page" and keep pressing the Page Down key to progress through the "slides."
From the Weekly Standard piece, here is Kagan putting it on a nutshell:
America has won an important battle in the war on terror. We turned an imminent victory for Al Qaeda In Iraq into a humiliating defeat for them and thereby created an opportunity for further progress not only in Iraq, but also in the global struggle. In the past five months, terrorist operations in and around Baghdad have dropped by 59 percent. Car bomb deaths are down by 81 percent. Casualties from enemy attacks dropped 77 percent. And violence during the just-completed season of Ramadan--traditionally a peak of terrorist attacks--was the lowest in three years....
Before the surge began, American forces in Iraq had attempted to fight al Qaeda primarily with the sort of intelligence-driven, targeted raids that many advocates of immediate withdrawal claim they want to continue. Those efforts failed.... Success came with a new strategy....
The so-called "water balloon effect," in which terrorists were simply squeezed from one area of the country to another, did not occur in 2007 because our commanders finally had the resources to go after the terrorists wherever they fled.... The addition of more forces, the change in strategy to focus on protecting the population, both Sunni and Shia, and the planning and execution of multiple simultaneous, and sequential operations across the entire theater combined with a shift in attitudes among the Sunni population to revolutionize the situation.
Everyone should read this (fairly short) opinion piece. Coming as it does from the military historian most qualified to opine on the counterinsurgency, and being so succinct and clearly thought out, it shines as one of the preeminent, must-read publications on the endgame in Iraq. I believe it stacks up well beside the Arthur Herman piece we first linked on January 4th, 2007, in Iran Strategies 6: Preparing For the "Herman Option?", and the recent Max Boot book War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today... three publications that are essential to understanding the post-modern, distributed, asymmetrical warfare of insurgencies and terrorist groups today.
(Dare we call that "POMODA" war?)
If you read all three, I guarantee you'll know more about the subject than all but a child's handful of senators, congressmen, and civilian administration officials. Which is scary and discouraging, when you stop to think about it.
Date ►►► October 28, 2007
Watch Out! the Watchman!
I have a template I use for these posts; I'm tempted to just leave it as is. That will fix your wagon:
Blather (how great an honor just to be nominated...)
But I think the joke would grow stale after a while. Or maybe not... what do I know? Let's find out!
I should at least note that we didn't win this week (another body blow)... but at least the winner was our number-one pick -- since we're not (ahem) allowed to vote for the post we'd all really prefer voting for (ahem). The envelope please...
- The MSM's Rush Limbaugh Horror Story, by Bookworm Room.
The piece should be self-explanatory, if you've been following the news. Milady Rosebud Hilaria Mahogany de Winter (that's "Bookworm's" real identity, I'm reliably informed, though she prefers to remain anonymous for reasons that should be obvious) lays out the sequence of the Democrats' bootless attempts to smear Limbaugh (aided and abetted by their willing accomplices in the media) with the risible accusation that he hates the troops; and Milady does it brilliantly.
I should say more, in my modest way --
Blather (whining about not winning)
-- But after all, I can't win every week, can I? I mean, how would it look? (We did tie for second, but only because Cheat Seeking Missiles was hiking in the Himalayas this week and couldn't vote.)
I suppose I ought to mention that in addition to the Bookworm post above, our second-choice was the same, ever-lively Cheat Seeking Missiles (we can still vote for him, even when he is tobogganing down K2):
- DC Coughs Up a War On Terror Win, by Cheat Seeking Missiles.
Blather (what they're about)
Or "it," in this case, since there's only one other vote. This is a snarky, little piece about our hapless Squeaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), and her frutile attempts to snake past Congress and the president a FISA bill that would make it quite impossible to surveille any terrorist, anywhere. If I may quote from a completely different post on Power Line noting the central absurdity of the original FISA law itself:
[The law] requires that surveillance be conducted pursuant to warrants based on probable cause to believe that the target of surveillance is a terrorist, when the desperate need is to find out who is a terrorist.
In other words, FISA says you can only surveille someone if you already have probable cause to believe he is a terrorist... but what we need is the type of surveillance that will detect terrorists we don't even know about yet!
Anyway, the Cheat post is a worthy entry in the "tell us why Pelosi is a putz" competition.
The (yawn) winner is (Yon). Again:
- Resistance Is Futile, by Michael Yon.
This is another endless Michael Yon post. If Sachi were here, she would have forced me to vote for it (she's a guest of the feds in Hawaii -- no, not in a penitentiary; a different other department)... she dotes on the Yon. I think he runs on, even by my standards. This piece, for example, is twenty-three screens long... though of course, as always, it has pictures.
Yon contrasts what the elite media tells us is going on in Iraq with what's really going on in Iraq (which he knows better than any other reporter in country, possibly better even than Gen. Petraeus. No, not better than Petraeus; the latter knows the big picture, Yon knows everything from the point of view of the sharp-end of the stick).
Blather (whining about our nominees not making the grade)
I can't understand why our nominees so rarely make the grade. This week, even I didn't vote for my own nomination! Instead, our (royal plural) top vote went to K.; our second vote went to K. at National Review:
- The Inevitability of Neoconservatism, by By Benjamin Kerstein;
- Raid Revelation, by National Review Online.
The first is a fascinating piece displayed in black type on a hideous institutional-green background. Mr. Kerstein argues (as Sachi has repeatedly argued -- say, has K. installed a burst transmitter somewhere in Lizard Central?) that there really were no other good solutions to the growing Iraq crisis other than the one usually attributed to the hated "neocons." The neocon solution was inevitable.
The Stanley K. piece we nominated and then snubbed puts all the pieces together about the Israeli raid on Syria: the known knowns and the known unknowns, and thoroughly explicates all the unknown unknowns that we know of.
Generic watcher link
Date ►►► October 26, 2007
Cheap-Jack Way to Get Another Post Up
I really love this advert -- taken from the best line of the most recent Republican candidates' debate:
You can see it in all its glory (and embed it, whatever) here.
Say, look at that -- a three-minute post! (Hat tip to Paul at Power Line, who also used it as a cheap-jack way to get another post up. But we are all honorable men...)
Mucking About With Mukasey
In our last whack at the contentious issue of the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his replacement (maybe) with "someone better," I warned that this might not be as easy or successful as 158% of all conservatives swore it would be. "Why, anybody we get would better than Gonzales!" was the usual refrain, as I recall; also, "We just fire Gonzales, then go out and get someone much, much better!"
I played Cassandra then, pointing out that, while I shared many of the conservative objections to Gonzales, replacement proponents were skipping over a critically important step: They had no plan for how to get this "someone better" confirmed by a Democratic Senate... or even supported by a Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Pat "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, 95%), with ranking Republican Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%).
Why would Democrats support an attorney general who is "better" than Gonzales -- from a conservative perspective? The Democrats are enemies of conservativism... they want to hurt or destroy it, not promote it.
In that previous post linked above, "Is AG Designate Mukasey Already Kowtowing to Pat Leahy?", I worried that Mukasey was already, on the first day of his hearing, giving a number of answers and reassurances to Democrats that I found disturbing (the reassurances, I mean... though I must admit I actually do find some of the Democrats themselves "disturbing" as well):
- He reassured Democrats that he believes that the president "doesn't have the authority to use torture techniques against terrorism suspects;"
- That he would bar United States Attorneys and other lower-ranking Justice-Department officials from making or receiving calls to "political figures to talk about cases;" thus, local elected officials would not be allowed even to talk to the USA for their district to answer their constituent's questions about cases of local interest. (This also appears to imply that local Republicans were tainting or biasing cases somehow -- an allegation which the Democrats could never support, but to which Mukasey now lends credibility by his ham-fisted answer.)
- That his primary role as attorney general will be to say "No" to the president; "that's what I'm there for," he assured Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%). [And here I thought the primary purpose of the AG was to execute the laws of the United States of America... not to stop the president from doing anything that offends Chuck Schumer];
That, in the Department of Justice, “Hiring is going to be based solely on competence and ability and dedication and not based on whether somebody’s got an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to their name.”
Which sounds good, until one recalls that Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 95%), James Carville, Sandy Berger, and Noam Chomsky all have "competence and ability and dedication;" but are they really good rôle models for top picks in the Mukasey Justice Department? I noted that Mukasey had left off the quality of "willingness... to follow the president's legal priorities and agendas, rather than ride off on their own quests."
Mukasey as a "political peace offering" to Democrats, as AP called him on October 17th, was worrisome enough; but his refusal to take a stand on some very important controversies over the next few days was worse. Repeatedly, for example, the Democrats drilled down on what, exactly, constituted forbidden "torture" -- in particular, did that prohibition apply to waterboarding, the most successful method of interrogating terrorists we have ever developed?
To which questions, Mukasey answered a resounding and calming "I don't know." He claimed not to know what waterboarding was, thus couldn't make a decision.
Well... the "peace offering to Democrats" appears to be in peril due to that very waffling, for today we have this:
The nomination of Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general encountered resistance today, with some Democratic senators suggesting for the first time that they might oppose Mr. Mukasey if he does not make clear that he opposes waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques that have been used against terror suspects.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, joined in the expressions of concern about Mr. Mukasey. The senator said in an interview today the nomination could hinge on Mr. Mukasey’s written response to a series of questions posed to him this week about the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies, including its use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding, which simulates drowning.
But what does the Times mean by saying "some Democratic senators?" As it turns out, what they're obliquely trying to say is that all Democrats on the J-Com -- a majority, of course, since the Democrats run the Senate -- plus Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) demand that he specifically ban waterboarding, or they won't vote for his confirmation:
On Tuesday, all 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Mr. Mukasey asking him to make a clear-cut statement of opposition to waterboarding and to describe it as illegal.
On Thursday, the Senator Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, was asked by a reporter if Mr. Mukasey should be confirmed in light of his failure to make a statement of opposition to waterboarding.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Senator Reid said, adding that he had been “troubled” by Mr. Mukasey’s testimony last week. “I think if he doesn’t change his direction in that regard, he could have at least one concern. And that’s me.”
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, said that his vote on the nomination might depend on Mr. Mukasey’s written response to questions about waterboarding. “It’s fair to say that my vote would depend on him answering the question,” he told reporters. [I suspect that Leahy would not be satisfied by Mukasey "answering the question" by rejecting a ban on waterboarding. But I'm probably doing the senator an injustice; I'm sure he is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men.]
Alex Swartsel, spokeswoman for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, another Democrat on the committee, said Friday that Mr. Mukasey’s views on waterboarding were “the issue could cause the senator to vote against Mukasey.” She said Mr. Whitehouse “wants to see the judge’s answer before he makes that determination.”
So there you have it. The Democrats are making it blindingly clear: The cost for confirming Michael Mukasey is that he promise to make waterboarding illegal in all cases.
Will the president accept this ultimatum? Will he throw away the only means we have of extracting intelligence vital to our nation's security from the hardest terrorist prisoners... just to make a "political peace offering" to the Democrats? And if he refuses -- if Mukasey sticks to his ambivalent, waffling, Kerryesque, "on the one hand/on the other hand" guns -- will the Democrats on the J-Com, joined by Arlen Specter, shoot down Mukasey's nomination, setting us right back to square one again?
Is this what the collapse of GOP support for Gonzales has bought us?
We closed our piece last time with a plea for conservatives to explain to us, in comments here or blogposts or articles elsewhere, why it was, in the end, a good thing that we forced Gonzales from office. So far as I know, none has taken up the angry man's burden; having accomplished the purpose of getting rid of the hated Gonzales -- who stood in the way of mass deportations of all illegals, either directly or by "attrition" (which means starving them out) -- conservatives seemed to do naught but congratulate themselves on a job well done... and then just, like the moving finger, move on.
I'll close this one the same way: Will some conservative who called for the ouster of Alberto Gonzales please step up to the plate and make a reasoned argument why we're better off now -- even if Mukasey agrees to make waterboarding illegal in all circumstances and for any reason -- than we were with the admittedly flawed Gonzales?
I'm tired of hearing crickets. Time's a flying.
Date ►►► October 25, 2007
Jindal Bells Ring In a New Era
In a stunning victory that few expected so early in the Louisiana election process, Rep. Bobby Jindal won election as governor last Saturday (October 21st, 2007) by garnering more than 50% of the vote in a crowded field. Jindal will be the youngest governor in the United States at 36 years old.
(And contrary to apparently widespread belief, Jindal is eligible to run for president, as he is a native-born American, not an immigrant._
Our previous Jindal Bells post is here.
What may also be unexpected is the way that Louisianans have faced up to the catastrophe that is the current governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco; they now embrace the view that the Katrina disaster was largely a failure of state, not federal response:
Mr. Jindal’s victory over a state Democratic party weakened by perceptions of post-hurricane incompetence and corruption was expected, as he has had an overwhelming lead in polls for months. The incumbent, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, hurt by stumbles after Hurricane Katrina, did not seek re-election....
Mr. Jindal campaigned as a cautious reformer, promising a more ethical government, for example, with greater transparency from lobbyists and legislators. His extensive résumé helped him project an image of competence, as did his detailed if conventional policy prescriptions — both evidently appealing to voters here weary of missteps in government since Hurricane Katrina.
While it may be easy for those "on the spot" -- in Hollywood, Chicago, and DC -- to spout the traditional Democratic "Katrina Truther" storyline of a heroic Gov. Blanco begging for help from a cold and callous Bush administration determined to permanently evacuate all the blacks out of New Orleans (failing that, to drown them by blowing up the levees)... those ordinary people actually living in Louisiana cannot help contrast the cleanup, reconstruction, and building efforts in the Pelican State with that of neighboring Mississippi (the Magnolia State, in case you're interested).
While Mississippi has done a fairly good job of rebuilding -- enough so that the elite media seems uninterested in reporting on the progress -- Louisiana has lagged, and its citizens have noticed. But the lag is not universal; it's much worse on projects controlled by state and local authorities than on projects paid for and run by private individuals or companies -- and don't think the residents haven't noticed that, too:
Two years after the devastating floods that followed Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans, and much of the Gulf Coast, has largely taken two paths: communities that have rebuilt themselves using private funds, insurance money and sheer will -- and publicly funded efforts that have moved much more slowly.
Federal, state and local governments have struggled to speed up the release of funds and restore infrastructure. None of the 115 "critical priority projects" identified by city officials has been completed: For example, New Orleans' police superintendent still works out of a trailer, as do most of the city's firefighters. And analysts at the city's crime lab don't have a laboratory to match DNA samples.
The delays have affected the poor the most — those dependent on government assistance to rebuild their lives. While middle- and upper-class neighborhoods have rebuilt using private insurance and contacts, residents of low-income areas such as the Lower 9th Ward and Holy Cross — roughly 20,000 of them — for the most part remain scattered throughout the region, their return uncertain.
However, it's not lack of federal funds, as the USA Today article suggests; by July of 2007, Congress had already allocated $128 billion worth of tax credits, loan guarantees, but mostly direct block grants to the states affected by Hurricane Katrina. The problem, as the libertarian Reason Magazine points out, is that nobody really knows how to spend that money:
So it's not a lack of funding that's the problem. It's spending the money. Under existing laws, FEMA can't simply write checks to Katrina victims. Some recipients would undoubtedly squander their funds, and there would be widespread fraud. This isn't idle speculation. According to the Government Accountability Office, immediately after Katrina hit, about a billion dollars of emergency aid—16 percent of the total—was lost to fraudulent claims. Even legitimately obtained pre-paid debit cards given to aid Katrina's victims were used to buy champagne, guns, tattoos, and porn.
Unfortunately, the other option -- the one currently in place -- isn't any better: government micromanagement of payouts. This is where you get the [Louisiana] Road Home program's Byzantine policies, which includes dozens of dizzying, intermediate steps between filing a claim and the receipt of funds and, consequently, the plodding pace of recovery we've seen over the last two years. Because of legitimate fears that money will be squandered, mismanaged, or lost to fraud, the money sits unused.
But while Mississipians seem by and large satisfied with the actions by Gov. Haley Barbour, Lousianans did not the feel the same about Gov. Blanco. In fact, opposition to her was so intense that last March, Blanco dropped out of her own reelection campaign. Thus ends the short, hapless career of Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.
In 2003, she beat Jindal 52-48 in an election marred by very questionable eleventh-hour ads Blanco ran accusing Jindal of throwing tens of thousands of poor patients off of Medicaid when he was Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals from 1996 to 1998. Considering the bitterness of that race, it must truly gall Blanco that she will be succeeded by the very man she worked so hard to destroy.
Jindal was also the top vote-getter in 2003's first round of voting; but this year, he did 20 points better, actually finishing above the 50% mark; thus the first round of voting is the only round... almost unheard of for a candidate who is not the incumbent and has never been governor before.
But the main change in Louisiana politics is likely to be on the ethics front. In most people's minds, Louisiana edges out Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey to win the prize as the most corrupt state in the union. The image is propelled by the state's history, from Huey P. "the Kingfish" Long to Rep. William "Cold Cash" (a.k.a. "Freezerburn") Jefferson (D-LA, 60%). Long was the governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 (and nominally U.S. senator from Louisiana from 1931 -- yes, he was both governor and senator simultaneously -- until his assassination in 1935); William Jefferson is the Louisiana representative in whose freezer the FBI found $90,000 in cash.
Jindal insists that his first action will be to clean up Baton Rouge, the state capital, and then the rest of the state government apparatus. It's an open question whether the Louisiana State Legislature, heavily dominated by Democrats in both chambers, will permit an end to the corruption they have come to accept as a mandatory perk of public office. But I have no doubt that Jindal himself is sincere and will fight hard to legitimize his state.
And then, will this young, energetic, conservative, charismatic, born-again Roman Catholic Indian American run for the presidency? If so, he will make a formidable opponent to whichever old, entrenched, left-liberal, peacenik the Democratic Party nominates that cycle.
Date ►►► October 24, 2007
Code Red on Code Pink - UPDATE: Link to Hot Air Video
I first heard about a Code Pink member "confronting" (that is, unsuccessfully trying to intimidate) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as the latter entered a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Israel-Palestinian Authority "road map." Something seemed wrong about the confrontation, where the aptly named Pinko waved her red-painted hands in Rice's face while Rice entered the hearing room.
After poking around, I found this image in an AP story about the hearing:
Code Pink protester with 'bloody' hands
(The photo seems an eerie echo of the famous Norman Rockwell painting, The Problem We All Live With, of brave, six year old Ruby Bridges being escorted by federal marshals into the whites-only William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana in 1960. Anyone who knows Rice's background might find this particularly poignant.)
Rice, of course, simply walked right on past without cringing or even reacting. (Had the Pinko actually tried to grab Condi, I think even Condi-haters suspect the protester would have gotten a Secretarial fist in the face.) But the picture crystalized what disturbed me when I first heard about this: This clearly is not out on the street, it's inside the Capitol building.
Nobody is standing in between the protester and Secretary Rice... despite the fact that the woman is wearing a Code Pink t-shirt and has her hands painted bloody red. What, nobody suspected a thing? There were numerous other Code Pinks in the area, all wearing trademarked Code Pink type clothing; in the audio, they join in the assault on Rice almost at the same moment, screaming "war criminal" as they lunge at her... and it's some time before the police can be heard trying to haul them away.
Look in the lower-left corner of the image: A Capitol policewoman stands watching the confrontation but making no move to intervene. Even if we assume she's just slow on the uptake -- why wasn't she already keeping an eye on a group of people known throughout the town for their disruptive, confrontational, and at times violent protests against Bush administration officials?
And where is security from the House Sergeant at Arms? This is what Wikipedia says about the duties of that officer, currently Bill Livingood:
As the chief law enforcement officer of the House, the Sergeant at Arms is responsible for security in the House wing of the United States Capitol, the House office buildings, and on adjacent grounds. Under the direction of the Speaker of the House or other presiding officer, the Sergeant at Arms plays an integral role in maintaining order and decorum in the House chamber.
The Sergeant at Arms is also responsible for ensuring the safety and security of Members of Congress, congressional staff, visiting national and foreign dignitaries, and tourists. Toward this mission, the Sergeant at Arms works in concert with the Senate Sergeant at Arms, and the Architect of the Capitol. These three officials, along with the Chief of the Capitol Police in an ex officio status, comprise the Capitol Police Board.
From the AP article above, here is the description of the confrontation:
Rice's testimony was punctuated by Iraq war protesters. As Rice entered the hearing room, one woman rushed toward her and waved her hands - painted blood red - in front of the secretary's face. The protester shouted that Rice was a "war criminal" and should be taken to The Hague, home of an international war crimes tribunal.
Rice was stoic and continued with her business as the protester was removed. Others were likewise escorted away at the behest of Rep. Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
If you'll recall, a similar event occurred a couple of weeks ago, when a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing (I believe), chaired by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV, 80%), was disrupted by Code Pink; the disruption was allowed to continue for some time before Byrd attempted to restore order. In that case, the protesters actually unfurled a huge banner; it's hard to imagine how such an item could have been concealed... was it hidden in a protester's purse?
And it keeps happening over and over again, with MoveOn, Code Pink, NARAL, anti-"globalists," ELFs and ALFs, International ANSWER, and the entire panoply of whacko environmentalists, peaceniks, Stalinists, and the rest of the army of the perpetually aggrieved. They yell and chant, weep and wail, threaten and frighten, pitch tantrums, and often assault their opponents with various food items, like a bad Monty Python impersonation.
Are we supposed to believe that each and every time, the Capitol policing authorities are caught totally wrong footed? That they never see it coming? It never occurs to them that obvious members of an organization known for violent, disruptive protest -- might perhaps be present in force to hold a violent, disruptive protest?
Perhaps I'm imagining conspiracies everywhere, but it honestly seems to me as if the Democrats are deliberately allowing obvious Code Pink protesters into the gallery -- and now even into the areas through which administration officials must pass in order to testify -- and encouraging Code Pink's thuggish harassment of Republicans and even moderate Democrats. Democrats evidently think they can win debates by using pet goons to frighten their opponents.
I believe they have instructed the House Sergeant at Arms to allow such protesters into the galleries and hallways, and to let them go on a while before making an attempt to shut them up. I believe the Capitol Police have been told in no uncertain terms not to interfere.
I don't want to make the obvious historical comparison.
To me, this is an unambiguous attempt at politics by physical intimidation, a tactic Democrats may well have learned at the knees (or kneecaps) of their mentors in the labor movement; in that realm, such intimidation, brutal violence, and even assassination are well-worn tactics, due to mob influence and the criminal mentality of many union leaders. It doesn't appear to work on administration officials, but it may explain some defections by Republican legislators, some of whom (let's face it) are creampuffs.
But even if this could be proven, would the reaction by left-liberal Democratic voters be revulsion and condemnation -- or cheers and applause?
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people right on!
Date ►►► October 23, 2007
The Logic of Thug-Huggers
I've said many times that I agree with those who say "all human life has value."
No, really I do; all human life does have value: But sometimes, that "value" is a negative number. Take John B. Taylor, for instance... please:
Mr. Taylor was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death at his trial in Queens in 2000. He and an accomplice, Craig Godineaux, were found to have forced seven people into a walk-in freezer at the Wendy’s in Flushing, bound and gagged them, then placed them on their knees before shooting each in the head.
Two of the victims survived, and testified at Mr. Taylor’s trial. (Mr. Godineaux, who is mildly retarded, pleaded guilty to murder in the case and is serving a life sentence without parole.)
I have a hard time understanding why anybody would have a hard time understanding this verdict. There is no real dispute that Taylor did it; no new, exonerating evidence has emerged... and he isn't even a Mexican national, allowing his pending execution to be overturned on grounds that he had not been allowed to chat with President Felipe Calderón before being tried. And yet...
Closing a chapter on one of the bloodiest crimes in recent New York City history, the state’s highest court today tossed out the death sentence imposed on a man for his role in the murders of five workers at a Wendy’s restaurant in Queens seven years ago.
The man, John B. Taylor, was the last remaining inmate on New York State’s death row.
The divided decision by the Court of Appeals [4-3] not only ordered the trial court to resentence Mr. Taylor -- almost certainly to life in prison without parole -- but it also reaffirmed a landmark decision in 2004 that effectively invalidated the state’s death penalty law.
Now why, you may ask, was Taylor's death sentence overturned? What was the great legal, moral, or substantive principle that required the Court of Appeals -- which, oddly enough, is the highest court in the state, while the lower trial court is called "the Supreme Court of the State of New York" -- to invalidate Taylor's death sentence?
It turns out to be so clear that even a death-penalty advocate such as myself would be likely... nay, driven to acknowledge the essential injustice the court sought to prevent. (Note for the irony impaired; this is an ironical sentence: I say one thing but actually mean the opposite.) It has to do with an "anticipatory" instruction given the jury in capital cases:
Under current state law, if a jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict on the question of death, the trial judge is required to tell the panelists that a sentence, to include parole, will be automatically imposed. The Court of Appeals ruled in a split decision in 2004 that such jury instructions were unconstitutional, because they could coerce deadlocked jurors to vote for death out of a fear that a violent defendant might one day walk free.
It was out of deference to that case, People v. LaValle, that the court tossed out Mr. Taylor’s death sentence today, basing its decision largely on the principle of “stare decisis,” a Latin term meaning “let the decision stand.”
So let's get this straight:
- The Court of Appeals originally decided in 2004, by another 4-3 decision, that New York's death penalty was unconstitutional because jurors were informed -- truthfully -- that in the event of a deadlock, the judge would have to impose a sentence that still included the possiblity of parole... which was not one of the two possibilities available to the jury (they could only consider either death or life without parole, "LWOP").
Thus, the court reasoned:
What, then, is the consequence of telling the jury that it may not impose a sentence of life with parole eligibility after 20 to 25 years, but that the court will impose that sentence if the jury cannot agree? The deadlock instruction interjects the fear that if jurors do not reach unanimity, the defendant may be paroled in 20 years and pose a threat to society in the future. Yet, in New York a defendant's future dangerousness is not a statutory aggravator the jury may consider.
Clearly the intent of this instruction was to inhibit endless bickering on the part of the jury; the court argued that a juror might be pressured to "impose the death penalty on a defendant whom they believed did not deserve it simply because they fear that the defendant would not serve a life sentence." But wouldn't they be equally entitled to impose a sentence of LWOP?
There is no reason to presume such pressure would push one way any stronger or weaker than the other, as either decision would avoid the possibility of parole. The only pressure is for the jury to come to some decision -- not any particular decision.
This is why, I suspect, half the court dissented. Nevertheless, one of those dissenters, Judge Robert S. Smith, joined the majority today in tossing out the sentence of John Taylor. But why? Simple, and it brings us to the second prong of New York's right pranging:
- Then today, the principle of "stare decisis" rose up and so overwhelmed Judge Smith that he affirmed the asinine decision he, himself dissented from three years ago and applied it to the decision today.
Thus is great nonsense perpetuated, and imprudent jurisprudence drives out the good. Is it really rational to toss out a state's death penalty because jurors are threatened with the defendant getting a lesser sentence -- if they can't agree on which of the two available harsher sentences to impose?
Stare decisis is the principle that previous judicial understandings of the law should not be lightly put aside, because there is virtue in having a predictable, stable rule of law. But it has never been an absolute prohibition -- else we would still be operating under Plessy v. Ferguson, which required “equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races.”
Rather, stare decisis is just one factor a justice (in New York, "justices" on the Court of Appeals are called "judges") must weigh in deciding whether to overturn a precedent: But if the error is great enough, it must overcome the judicial inertia imposed by stare decisis. And in this case, I think the original LaValle decision was so stupid and contrary to the will of the state legislature that, at the very least, those who dissented in LaValle itself should also have dissented here.
I'm quite sure that the four judges who imposed the LaValle decision on the state -- and then extended it to strike down the entire death penalty -- were legislating from the bench. All but one of the majority judges in LaValle were appointed by Gov. Cuomo, while all of the dissenters were appointed by Gov. Pataki; and restoration of the death penalty was a major issue in the 1994 campaign of Pataki against Cuomo, probably a major reason Pataki was elected.
(The lone exception was Judge Albert Rosenblatt, who concurred with the majority; he was appointed in 1998 by Pataki. Rosenblatt was viewed as a "moderate" even by the New York Times, which praised his selection in an editorial -- contrasting Rosenblatt with the "blindly pro-prosecution judges" Pataki appointed in his first term... not a very good sign, in my opinion.)
Since 2004, Judge Rosenblatt retired and was replaced by another Pataki appointee: Eugene F. Pigott. Since today's ruling was also 4-3, despite the defection of Judge Smith, that must mean that Judge Pigott dissented, holding that Taylor's death sentence was valid.
Thus, because of one judge's fetishistic love of stare decisis -- believing it even applies to rulings he considers incorrect -- New York blew a perfect opportunity to revisit the mistake of LaValle itself. As Judge Smith admits in his concurring opinion in the Taylor case:
I thought, and still think, that LaValle was wrong in holding the redesign to be required, but the harm done by the error does not justify casting stare decisis aside.
Color me disrespectful of the past and of bad precedent, but I strongly dissent from Judge Smith's opinion -- joining three of the seven judges, who also dissent.
The will of the people of the state of New York was cast down and stamped upon by the Court of Appeals in People v. LaValle... and the pieces were just spat upon today in People v. John Taylor. Feh.
BeWatched, Bottled, and BeWhiskered
Sadly, we were unable to vote in last week's Watcher's Council thingie. It really wasn't our fault; the car broke down, and I lost my galoshes. Sachi misplaced her coat hanger, and even the dog tracked mud into the governor's mansion.
It rained in a nearby county; it's hard to explain how this concatenation of catastrophes conspired to quell our cooperation in the Council... but could anybody say with certainty that he would actually vote, after discovering that he had not one but two identical mismatched pairs of socks? I mean, surely you can see the peril?
Even without our help (because of that pesky windowshade I mentioned above), the Council managed to select a winner:
- Carrolling, by Done With Mirrors
This is an overlong piece by Callimachus, otherwise known as the fastest cactus in the salad, debating the wisdom of allowing journalists to wallow in the present, thinking it the culmination of centuries of human civilization. In fact, it was those very centuries that led to the tragic breakdown in our ability to vote -- as we explain in the paragraph immediately below.
But if we had voted, assuming the freeway onramps had been opened, we would have voted thus:
- Gore Derangement Syndrome?, by Cheat Seeking Missiles;
- Retired General Sanchez Blasts Press -- No One Reports It, Natch!, by ‘Okie’ on the Lam.
The first is a straightforward explication of the startling, new diagnosis by Paul Krugman -- jealous that Charles "the Sauerkraut" Krauthammer should have all the fun. Krugman believes he has identified "Gore derangement syndrome," whereby the perfectly ordinary creater of the internet and real-life model for Segal's Love Story and Dostoevski's the Idiot is reviled and contumelied -- if there is such a word (and if not, there certainly should be) -- by Republicans anxious to expiate their guilt at having allowed their hairy, hidden hands to work the machinations behind the scenes to steal the 2000 election.
The second post reports that the elite media seem to have missed the fact that half of Gen. Ricardo Sanchez's speech the other day was spent attacking the media themselves... not President Bush.
Unfortunately, the kayak tipped over, and you know what that means!
But as we said, other voters managed to overcome the annual thaw of the crocuses and get their votes in on time; we really have no excuses -- in spite of the malediction of faeries and the faulty spinner-tuner on the Cauchy box. Toting up their votes, the winner in the Nouncil category was:
- The Problems and Course of Rebuilding in Iraq, by Dumb Looks Still Free
I know you won't believe this, but Problems and Course of Rebuilding in Iraq is about the problems and course of rebuilding in Iraq. That's even more obvious than the king-high flush staring me in the face that summer evening. You know we always aim high here at Big Lizards... but we never expected six inches of rain in Neodesha, Kansas!
If we could have overlooked the underwear caper, we would have [woulda, coulda, shoulda!] voted as follows:
- Classical Liberalism Is for Kooks!, by Classical Values;
- A Thought Experiment for Civil Libertarians, by Atlas Blogged.
In the first, Eric -- who sports the biggest, thickest, longest, and most throbbing blogroll I have ever seen in my life -- wonders whether "classical liberalism" (a.k.a. free-market libertarianism or capitalist-conservatism) is still to be found among conservatives.
The second is a wonderful analogy to the current re-FISA debate.
Oh, if only the fish hadn't died, so we could have voted! Cheat Seeking Missiles would have been tied for second in the Council category, while the Nouncil category would have remained more or less the same. But I had to go and send my condolences book rate. I mean, how dumb can you get?
But if you ever find the Rhesus monkey, who all by himself was responsible at least three of the four non-votes above, you'll be able to see the list of all posts that got a vote here.
And next time, I swear by all that I hold dear that I won't let the bluing out of my sight until the sled dogs have been fed. You have my solemn word.
I feel better now. Everything is back to norbal.
Date ►►► October 22, 2007
Why Do So Many People Hate Intellectuals? Let Me Count the Ways...
The major reason people tend to hate self-styled intellectuals is that so often, their thinking is divorced from ordinary human thought. They say or write things so truculent, while simultaneously so risible, that you wonder whether they need a sedative -- or a keeper.
Take this year's Nobel winner in literature, Doris Lessing:
Nobel laureate Doris Lessing said the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States were "not that terrible" when compared to attacks by the IRA in Britain.
"September 11 was terrible, but if one goes back over the history of the IRA, what happened to the Americans wasn't that terrible," the Nobel Literature Prize winner told the leading Spanish daily El Pais.
"Some Americans will think I'm crazy. Many people died, two prominent buildings fell [two? well, ten, actually -- and three other buildings were heavily damaged, including the Pentagon in a separate attack as part of the same operation], but it was neither as terrible nor as extraordinary as they think. They're a very naive people, or they pretend to be," she said in an interview published Sunday. [Oh! Those colonists think they're the centre of the world. But we civilized people have suffered too... how we've suffered!]
"Do you know what people forget? That the IRA attacked with bombs against our government; it killed several people while a Conservative congress was being held and in which the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was (attending). People forget," she said.
(Lessing is British, of course.)
Here is the next paragraph of the Reuters story, which demonstrates the essential absurdity (and narcissism) of her statement:
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. About 3,700 died and tens of thousands of people were maimed in more than 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland. The Irish Republican Army guerrilla group, which caused most of the deaths, disarmed in 2005.
Ergo, when you subtract those killings carried out by terrorist Protestant groups, we probably have a rough parity between killings by al-Qaeda on September 11th, 2001, and killings by the terrorist IRA -- spread over a thirty year period, averaging 100 homicides per year.
I believe that people who consciously think of themselves as intellectuals -- living the life of the mind (in their own minds) -- feel pressure to stand out from the pack of lesser mortals. This leads them to say outrageous things for sake of outrage itself... as if saying the mirror-opposite of what a normal person would say betokens superiority. But it's a faux superiority and glibness that often masks thoughts no more interesting than the quotidian ruminations of the masses; their verbal ability fools nearly everyone, starting with themselves. But except in a very few cases, at core, it's charlatanism.
The intellecual typically slings around polysyllables with pyrotechnic abandon -- prismatic diction like "quotidian" instead of more ordinary words like "ordinary" -- in an effort to appear brighter than he actually is. Original thinkers are rare; contrary to popular belief (especially among intellectuals), they're no more common among intellectuals than among ad-men, landscapers, or battlefield commanders.
Intellectualism is almost entirely disconnected from intelligence: The Bell curve of brightness for soi-disant "intellectuals," if superimposed over that of humanity as a whole, would match nearly exactly (allowing a bit of blueshift for the fact that intellectuals do have to be literate). Viz:
"I always hated Tony Blair, from the beginning," El Pais quoted Lessing as saying. "Many of us hated Tony Blair, I think he has been a disaster for Britain and we have suffered him for many years. I said it when he was elected: This man is a little showman who is going to cause us problems and he did."
"As for Bush, he's a world calamity," added Lessing. "Everyone is tired of this man. Either he is stupid or he is very clever, although you have to remember he is a member of a social class which has profited from wars."
What matchless, incisive analysis! While Tony Blair is "a diaster," Bush is "a world calamity." And the worst part about the American is that, "Either he is stupid or he is very clever;" and who could argue with that?
I'm not sure what "social class" Bush is a member of, since America does not have classes the way Britain does; and Doris Lessing doesn't know either. But she knows, by God, that whatever class Bush belongs to, it has "profited from wars!" This doesn't mean that he, personally, profited; but some other people who went to similar schools did. You see? Even intellectuals of the first water are just as prone to stereotyping and collectivism as real people.
Lessing's thinking doesn't even deviate from the mundane widely enough to be considered disordered. It's Nancy Pelosi level; Lessing could be Squeaker of the House, would she but come here and run for Congress.
Being intellectual doesn't mean you're stupid; but it doesn't mean you're smart, either. It means you live a life of verbal acuity, but you think you live a life of the mind. Some intellectuals (such as Thomas Sowell) are right; they do live for deep thinking. Others are only ponderous; and all, without exception, are pompous.
To shift back to science fiction (Lessing decided she could conquer SF with her Canopus in Argos series), intellectuals think of themselves as slans -- a term derived from the first-rate 1946 novel Slan, by A.E. Van Vogt; slans are mentally and physically superior to humans, and some are even telepathic. For a while in the 1950s through 1970s, science-fiction fans would say, only half in jest, that "fans are slans." I suspect most intellectuals would say the same, could they but force themselves to read a science-fiction novel.
In Slan, the slans are hunted by mundane humans; that is another parallel, playing into the delusion of persecution shared by intellectuals and sci-fi fans.
In fact, there are many similarities between the intellectual community and fandom; I suspect the latter aped the former, but I wouldn't be surprised at some cross-pollination: Both communities tend towards smugness, superiority, fantasies (or even delusions) of grandeur, insularity, unexamined liberalism, poor physical condition, and both like to read a lot -- mostly as escapism.
The shared trait of liberalism is the least surprising of the intersection between intellectualism and science-fiction fandom: Liberalism is not a political philosophy -- it's a lifestyle, one that promises childish libertinism (what Freud would call an oral fixation), freedom from hard choices, and the intellectual life of a teenaged joyrider. Liberalism is Peter Pan syndrome tarted up with intellectual pretension... envision Ward Churchill, standing athwart the intesection of liberalism, intellectualism, and American-Indian fantasy fannishness.
Most ordinary people despise intellectuals for the same reason they despise the snotty, adolescent know-it-all, constantly lecturing everyone else on moral failings, while his own emotional and spiritual development never rose beyond smoking weed, groping drunk girls at a party, and listening to "Free Bird" and "Crazy Train" with the knob set to 11.
Note that I'm not saying intellectuals are stupider than ordinary people; I'm saying they're not demonstrably more intelligent. When an intellectual is both intelligent and morally sound, he can serve as a true spirit guide to humanity. When he's intelligent and evil, he can create or at least empower the most horrific movements for misery the human race has ever seen, from Communism to radical Islamism.
And when an intellectual is not particularly bright and has no moral compass whatsoever, he becomes a star columnist for the elite media.
So if you've ever felt the urge to sneer at self-anointed intellectuals, with their pipes and elbow patches and Volvos, please go right ahead; most of them deserve it. Note those intellectuals who seem best able to connect with the outside world and get along well at barbecues and the Winternationals... they're the smart ones.
But if you ever run into one who uses any of the following words or phrases --
- Living Constitution
- Substantive due process
- Original intent
- Overreaction to 9/11
- Question my patriotism
- Antidisestablishmentarianism (if correctly used in a sentence)
- Womyn (or wimmin)
- North American union
- Voter suppression
- Mexican superhighway
- Flyover country
- NASCAR innoculations
- Religious fanatic
- Thank you for telling me that
- Operating thetan
- Liberation theology
- Freedom from want
- Information wants to be free
- Free Tibet
- Cowboy diplomacy
- New Left
- or That's not funny
-- Then run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.
Date ►►► October 21, 2007
More Questions I'd Like Lawyers to Analyze: Diversity 101
Here is another one of my fantasy hypthotheical questions designed to educate readers -- including this writer -- about the intricacies of the law; and again, I honestly don't have a sodding clue what the answer should be (I'm not a lawyer, but I sometimes play sea-lawyer on this blog). Please, I would appreciate it if those regular readers of ours who stand accused of being lawyers (Beldar, the Power Liners, Clarence Thomas, Patterico, etc), particularly those versed in constitutional law, would essay an answer...
You are sitting on the Supreme Court, and a case comes before you where Professor Rigoberto Uhuru is suing a university because she was rejected for a position on a campus faculty in favor of another candidate, Professor Guy "Whizzer" White. Uhuru is a self-proclaimed liberal, White is a self-proclaimed conservative (I warned you it was a fantasy hypothetical!) Professor Uhuru is unquestionably better qualified than Professor White by all objective, measurable criteria; and the University of Upper Iquana admits in discovery that Uhuru did better in the interview than White.
UUI also admits that the reason the less-qualified White was selected was that the faculty is, the administration says, "95% liberal;" and the Faculty Senate complained that there was insufficient ideological diversity. There is no evidence of any previous administration specifically favoring liberals over conservatives; it just happened to work out that way.
The administration secretly decided to consider only conservatives, specifically in order to remedy that perceived imbalance; they also interviewed liberals such as Uhuru to make it less obvious what they were doing, but never had any intention of offering her the job, once they read her blog a week before her interview.
Finally, to really bollox things up, despite the claim that the faculty is "95% liberal," in fact, 40% of the faculty are registered Republicans.
(Assume Uhuru had a great lawyer, and she sued on every imaginable criterion of discrimination, breach of contract, or mopery with intent to gawk; so if she would have an actionable case under any claim, you can rule in her favor if you want and order any appropriate relief or compensation.)
So here are the questions:
- Does current caselaw allow discrimination against a candidate for employment on grounds of diversity of ideology if UUI is a public university? How about if UUI is a private university?
- Should the Court overturn current caselaw, whichever way it currently stands?
- If such discrimination is unconstitutional or illegal, what remedy should the Court order?
No books, notes, or calculators will be allowed in the classroom during this exam; the proctor will disappear immediately after the exam begins to get a pedicure, so you're all on your honor.
Date ►►► October 19, 2007
An Inconvenient Demographic Truth
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) is on a tear. He demands the arrest and execution -- all right, he demands the firing of the head of the Justice Department's civil-rights division, John Tanner, for allegedly racial comments Tanner delivered at the National Latino Congress. According to Obama, the comments were "patently erroneous, offensive and dangerous, and they are especially troubling coming from the federal official charged with protecting voting rights in this country."
(John Tanner of the DoJ is not to be confused with Rep. John S. Tanner, D-TN, 55%.)
So what, exactly, did the hapless Tanner say that got Sen. Obama so het up? This is according to AP, which got it from YouTube:
John Tanner's remarks came during an Oct. 5 panel discussion on minority voters before the National Latino Congreso in Los Angeles. Tanner addressed state laws that require photo identification for voting, saying that elderly voters disproportionately don't have the proper IDs.
"That's a shame, you know, creating problems for elderly persons just is not good under any circumstance," Tanner said, according to video posted on YouTube. "Of course, that also ties into the racial aspect because our society is such that minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first.
"There are inequities in health care. There are a variety of inequities in this country, and so anything that disproportionately impacts the elderly has the opposite impact on minorities. Just the math is such as that," Tanner said.
So was Tanner's remark evidence of a deep-seated bias against minorities? Is Tanner, as Obama so clearly suggests (though he's too slick to openly accuse), a racist? Judge for yourself:
When I watch that video, and when I read the transcript, I actually get the opposite impression: I think Tanner is too closely aligned with the Democrats on the race issue. First of all, he laments that blacks and Hispanics don't have as long a lifespan as whites -- and then he immediately attributes this to "inequities in health care."
This is a liberal slogan -- "slogan," from the Gaelic sluagh-ghairm, "battle cry" -- similar to "tax cuts for the rich" or "speak truth to power." Nearly everybody who utters the phrase "inequities in health care" is either a liberal or is quoting one.
What inequities are those? Is he saying that doctors look at a black patient and say, "oh, he's black -- let's not treat him?" Is he saying that surgeons operate less attentively on "minorities" than on whites, making more mistakes?
He does not even consider the possibility that the shorter lifespans could have a non-discriminatory cause: Eating and exercise habits, rate of smoking and drinking alcohol, differing cultural norms of how often to visit a doctor for routine checkups, and so forth.
Much of the lifespan gap can be attributed to poverty, particularly for blacks: As of 2006, the non-Hispanic white poverty rate is 8.2%, the Asian poverty rate is 10.3%, Hispanic is 20.6%.. and black is 24.3%, nearly three times the white rate. It should hardly shock anyone that poor people often have inadequate health care... and not for lack of federal programs to offer health care to the poor; rather, because government-run health-care facilities and government-supplied health insurance is not as good as privately run facilities and private health insurance.
So are more blacks and Hispanics poor because of racism? I suspect a tiny portion of the gap may be explained by that; but most is explained by behavior and mindset. Poverty is not "the lack of money;" people can be broke but not poor. In a capitalist country like the United States, poverty is primarily caused by a poverty mindset -- thinking and acting in identifiable ways that lead to repeated economic failure:
- Bad work habits
- Substance abuse
- Lack of education (which means lack of interest in an education, as education is widely available)
- Not being married (married couples have a significantly higher income level than singles)
- Refusal to accept personal responsibility for one's own condition
Sadly, the black culture in America today tends to encourage, to a much greater extent than the white culture, exactly these negative traits: Poor blacks aren't poor because of their skin pigmentation but because of the lousy black cultural elements they have internalized.
The proof is that blacks who don't evince such a mindset tend to do very well in society and have no obvious "ceiling" -- as testified by Sen. Barack Obama himself, as well as Justice Clarence Thomas, Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell, Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson, talk-show hosts Tavis Smiley and Larry Elder, tens of thousands of black executives, hundreds of thousands of black entrepeneurs, and the 2.5 million black families earning more than $75,000 per year... all of whom are just as black (racially) as those blacks in poverty. The difference is cultural mindset. (And notice that I didn't even bother listing any entertainers or sports figures.)
Among Hispanics, I would guess that a large portion of the poverty gap is explained by immigration status and by lack of English language skills; again, that is not racism, and it is remediable.
So let's get back to poor John Tanner (remember him? this post is all about him!) We've established that Tanner believes that the life-expectancy gap is due to "inequities in health care." This is not only wrong, it's a liberal shibboleth: If you don't loudly and frequently proclaim that racism is responsible for all the ills (in this case, literally) of minorities in the United States, I think they yank your ACLU card.
I convict John Tanner of harboring and expressing liberal ideas. If he is a racist, it's only in the liberal mode of assuming that the fate of minorities lies not in their own hands but those of their oppressors.
Was Tanner wrong?
But let's get to the meat of Obama's complaint. He lambastes Tanner's remark -- which, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, was that "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first" -- as "patently erroneous, offensive and dangerous."
I cannot speak to whether it was offensive; if Obama says he was offended, I'll take his word for it. But being offensive is not a firable, uh, offense; otherwise, the president, the Court, and the entire congressional leadership (both sides) would be in the unemployment line.
Was it dangerous? Perhaps -- but I suspect Obama and I would disagree about which was the dangerous part: the bit about minorities not living as long as whites, or the explanation that this was due to "inequities."
So let's stick to the only Obama claim that is actually testable: Was Tanner's off the cuff remark "patently erroneous?"
AP takes a stab at answering this question:
It is well documented that black Americans - particularly black males - have shorter life expectancies than whites. But blacks do live to become senior citizens.
A black person born in 2004 had an average life expectancy of 73.1 years, about five years less than for whites, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Alas, this is risible. They look at the lifespan of blacks and whites born in 2004, who will not hit the "Social Security retirement age" of 67, typically thought to be the beginning of "senior citizen" status, until 2071, long after the period of enforcement of voter ID laws we're talking about today. But hold on, partner -- will the Social Security full-benefit retirement age still be 67 in 2071?
Hardly likely: As lifespans increase, causing a huge increase in the percent of living adults who are older than 67 (by then, they will probably outnumber working adults who are younger than 67), we will have to make radical changes in Social Security; it will collapse otherwise, for the obvious reason that one worker cannot walk around carrying two retired people on his back. Clearly, we will be forced to privatize the system; but we will also be forced to raise the "retirement age" significantly -- which makes sense in a world of people routinely living to 120 (or older).
So if it were really true that the expected lifespan of blacks born in 2004 were 73 years, that would almost certainly be less than the "retirement age" (for Social Security purposes) then. Fortunately, it's poppycock to assert that human lifespans will be so short seventy years from now. That expectation assumes that a life-expectancy curve that has been rising exponentially abruptly turned linear three years ago, and that there will be no stunning medical breakthroughs in the next seven decades. I believe it's far more likely that human lifespans will be measured in centuries by 2071.
In any event, AP completely misses the target: The question is not how long blacks will live by 2071. Tanner made his remarks this year, speaking in the present tense; and he didn't say "senior citizens" -- he said "elderly," which is quite different. He was not predicting whether minorities would tend to reach Social-Security retirement age 67 years from now; he was talking about how many lived to become "elderly" today.
Well... how many do? Again, we turn to the United States Census, the best arbiter of such questions. And let's take a stab at what "elderly" means.
I argue that 67 should not be considered "elderly" in the sense that Tanner uses the term. He isn't saying that people over 67 tend not to have drivers licenses; that's absurd. But at older ages, people do start having problems passing a drivers license vision examination; they start having difficulty driving and may lose their licenses because of too many infractions or collisions; they start being required to take driving tests each time they renew their licenses, and they can fail those tests.
If an oldster loses his drivers license, he loses his photo ID. He must make a special effort to get a new, different form of ID -- a state-issued ID card, a passport, something. The idea is that some portion will simply not care enough to get the ID, thus disenfranchising themselves.
(But of course, if the penalty for not getting new ID was the loss of the right to vote, then elderly voters -- who vote much more assiduously than youths -- would have more incentive to get the ID.)
In any event, the loss of driving ability is more associated with those over 80 than those aged 67. But let's be generous and give Sen. Obama the benefit of the doubt; let's say 70 and older is "elderly." To be 70 or older today, one must have been born in 1937 or earlier. So what was the lifespan of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians born then?
Alas, the numbers are sketchy that early; Table 27 (linked above) shows the figures for those born in 1900 and in 1950, but nothing in between. However, we can interpolate: The life expectancy for blacks born in 1900 was 33.0 years; for blacks born in 1950, it was 60.8. If we assume a linear increase, that would mean 0.6 extra years of lifespan per year of birth. Thus, blacks born in 1937 would have an interpolated life expectancy of just about 53 years.
Using the same rough interpolation model, whites born in 1937 would have a life expectancy of about 63.5 years. It should be obvious to all that the percent of blacks who are currently 70 and older will be much less than the percent of whites that old.
I don't have a similar table for Hispanics, but I would not be surprised if they fell somewhere in between white and black life-expectancy rates. Asians may well have longer expected lifespans; but they're a much smaller percent of the "minority" population of the United States.
The point of which is simply that Tanner's offhand remark -- was, in fact, factually correct: Blacks and Hispanics, as a group, do not "become elderly the way white people do;" they do, in fact, tend to die instead -- at a much larger rate than whites. It is a simple (and sad) fact of demography.
Clearly, even if a voter-ID bill had a significant impact on the enfranchisement of older voters, it would have a less-significant effect on blacks and Hispanics -- because fewer of them live to be elderly. And no scientific study I've heard of shows that whites and "minorities" of the same age have different rates of photo-ID possession.
But somehow, I doubt that matters; nor does the strong likelihood that John Tanner, "head of the Justice Department's voting rights division," is in fact fairly liberal. I believe what really upsets Obama is not that small thing Tanner said in service to making a point about alleged and unnamed "inequities" in health care.
Rather, it is this:
Obama also criticized Tanner for clearing [approving] a Georgia law that requires voters to show government-issued photo IDs at the polls. It was upheld by a federal judge last month.
Opponents say photo ID laws will disenfranchise minorities, the poor and the elderly who don't have driver's licenses or other valid government-issued photo IDs. Supporters of such laws say they are needed to prevent voter fraud.
The Left profoundly believes, as an article of faith, that not only do voter-ID laws discriminate against minority voters... but that such discrimination is the core intent of conservatives who promote such laws.
Democrats and liberals believe that voter-ID laws will hurt them at the polls; which is true enough, since without the votes of aliens, felons, repeat-voters, and the dead, many fewer Democrats would hold office. But this doesn't require Republicans to be racists, as none of these types of people is a legitimate voter anyway.
But what the Left actually believes is that, for some odd and never explained reason, blacks, Hispanics, and single women don't carry drivers licenses. So any voter-ID law would turn away many valid voters who tend to vote Democratic.
I have no idea why liberals think that; perhaps it's the soft bigotry of low expectations rearing its ugly head again. But if true, and if that really were the intent of conservatives, then it would be reasonable to call conservatives racists and sexists.
The conservatives I know, however -- and even those liberals who support voter-ID, such as (I believe) John Tanner -- do not believe that such laws stop blacks, Hispanics, or single women from voting; rather, they believe it stops fraudulent voters from voting. There is no evidence at all that John Tanner is a racist... even though he supports voter-ID laws and even approved the one in Georgia.
But reality doesn't really matter, does it? Under the Democratic definition of racism, a person is a racist if his "victims" feel as if they have been racially abused, no matter what the "victimizer" did or did not do. As Alexander Meiklejohn said (or at least, it has been attributed to him), "Some crimes are so heinous that not even innocence is a defense."
So brace yourselves for another hellstorm of hysteria from the Left, led in this case by Sen. Barack Hussein Obama, the man who would be America's second black president.
Date ►►► October 17, 2007
Is AG Designate Mukasey Already Kowtowing to Pat Leahy?
Ever since the drumbeat to "fire Gonzales" shifted from Democrats and RINOs (about whose opinion on the subject, who cares?) to conservative Republicans upset that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales opposed the mass deportation of illegal aliens, I have warned that if Gonzales went, it would be virtually impossible to find someone that most Republicans would consider "better."
It would be trivially easy to find someone we would consider worse... and I'm starting to worry that that's exactly what President Bush, abandoned on the issue by Republicans as well as Democrats, has done: replaced King Log with King Stork:
Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey said Wednesday the president doesn't have the authority to use torture techniques against terrorism suspects, a stance not taken by predecessor Alberto Gonzales and considered key to the nominee's confirmation.... [But how is "torture" defined -- the Bush/Gonzales way, or the Leahy/Schumer way?]
Within minutes of convening the hearings, Leahy elicited specific assurances from the nominee that had been sought by liberal interest groups and senators who had endured months of Gonzales' faulty memory during congressional hearings and highly parsed statements.
Under questioning by Leahy, Mukasey promised to bar all but the top Justice employees from taking calls or making calls "to political figures to talk about cases," a problem under Gonzales. [A "problem" to Democrats and RINOs like Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%); I don't recall conservatives complaining.]
"Partisan politics plays no part in either the bringing of charges or the timing of charges," Mukasey said....
Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from Mukasey's home state of New York, said he already had heard the answer he wanted in a private meeting with Mukasey a day earlier. Schumer said he asked the nominee, "Will you have the courage to look squarely into the eyes of the president of the United States and tell him 'no,' if that is your best legal and ethical judgment?"
Mukasey, Schumer said, replied: "Absolutely. That is what I am there for." [The Attorney General is "there" to tell the president he can't implement policy that Democrats don't like -- not to prosecute the laws of the United States?]
The White House has seldom, if ever, placated prickly Democrats into the kind of support they are exhibiting for Mukasey. But in the troubled twilight of Bush's second term, Mukasey's nomination is a political peace offering. [Was that what conservatives were hoping for when they demanded Gonzales' ouster... that his replacement would be a "peace offering" to Democrats?]
Did Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, 95%) also elicit a definition of prohibited torture from Mukasey that includes waterboarding, stress positions, a raised voice, the attention grab, or that crime against humanity, the belly slap?
Did they gain a promise from Mukasey to resign only if his personal ethical standards were offended by the president -- or also if Leahy's ethical standards were offended?
And does another promise Mukasey made to the Democrats mean that local congressmen and senators cannot even call U.S. attorneys to inquire whether there is an investigation about some local issue, and whether it's progressing or stymied? That hardly seems like undue interference by politicians in legal issues. And while we're on it, did Mukasey also pledge not to dismiss any USAs -- unless Democrats on the Senate J-Com approve the firings in advance?
We don't know the answers to any of these vital questions. But the New York Times adds one more "interesting" policy that Mukasey definitely pledged to Democrats and RINOs on the J-Com that he would implement:
Moreover, the nominee said, “Hiring is going to be based solely on competence and ability and dedication and not based on whether somebody’s got an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to their name.”
I notice he excluded basing hiring on the willingness of candidates to follow the president's legal priorities and agendas, rather than ride off on their own quests. Does this mean Mukasey has pledged to hire as a US Attorney or Assistant Attorney General the next competent, legally astute, and dedicated Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer who comes along?
But besides mere competence, ability, and dedication, ideology and the willingness to be the president's voice, not a wild card with a wild hair, must play a role in selecting top officials at the Justice Department, as well as United States Attorneys.
What if a candidate has all the proper attributes on paper, but he makes it clear that he thinks the most urgent issue to pursue, to the exclusion of virtually everything else, is the unsupported accusation of massive suppression of minority voting by the wicked Republicans -- rather than well-founded allegations of voter fraud by Democrats? What if he announces, in the interview, that he plans to launch an immediate investigation of the "vital unanswered question" of what the president knew about 9/11, and how long before the attack did he know it? Or if a nominee for USA of some border-state declares that the most important task of his office will be to assist state and local law enforcement authorities track down and prosecute policemen who cooperate with federal immigration agents, in defiance of local "non-compliance" and "sanctuary" laws?
On its face, this pledge would seem to directly contradict the very idea of the unitary executive -- supported by conservatives and originalists, but hated and despised by the Left (at least when a Republican is in the White House): the theory that the elements of the Executive branch of government are extensions of the president... not completely independent agents whose real job is to confront and thwart the president at every turn.
For example, the Secretary of State does not set her own foreign policy; she implements the foreign policy of the president. But does the incoming Attorney General believe he and his hirees set legal policy, and to hell with the president?
Maybe I'm just paranoid; but when both the Times and AP simultaneously write entire stories gushing over how many concessions the Attorney-General designate has already made to Democratic senators on the opening day of his confirmation hearing, I don't feel easy or comfortable that we've made a good swap.
On the other hand, maybe Mukasey is just saying whatever it takes to get confirmed, and he doesn't really mean it... in which case, he's a liar. As Sancho Panza says in Man of La Mancha, "Whether the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it's going to be bad for the pitcher."
So I would appreciate it if conservatives could please tell me why it was such a wonderful, productive idea to force Alberto Gonzales out -- if his replacement sees his primary role as saying "No" to the president whenever Pat Leahy frowns.
Nancy "Deer in Headlights" Pelosi
"Zoom. What was that? That was your speakership, mate. Oh! Do I get another one? No, afraid not."
(Not John Cleese's exact words, but close enough.)
Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) has got to be wondering, Where are the show-trials of yesteryear? It was supposed to be such a bodacious debut:
- The war would be aborted, the troops withdrawn;
- Bush aides and cabinet members would be investigated, disgraced, and indicted, one by one;
- The failed "surge," health care, and tax cuts for the ultra rich would have the entire country cursing the very name of the President.
But somehow -- as in a spirit act -- the tables turned without a human touch. The war not only battles on, but now, good God, we're clearly winning! President Bush vetoed SCHIP... and rather than being overridden and humiliated, the head count looks so bad, the Democrats may not even hold the override vote. They're already spinning like mad about what they'll do when -- oops, I mean if -- they lose.
And today, the final indignity: The House once again finds itself probably unable to enact even a simple, non-binding, "sense of the Congress" resolution that condemns the killings of Armenians by the Turks and labels the massacre "genocide." Republican and Democratic erstwhile supporters are backpedaling from the resolution so fast, they're creating a backwash that's squwamping the Squeaker hersquelf:
Worried about antagonizing Turkish leaders, House members from both parties have begun to withdraw their support from a resolution supported by the Democratic leadership that would condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago.
Almost a dozen lawmakers had shifted against the measure over the last 24 hours, accelerating a sudden exodus that has cast deep doubt over the measure’s prospects. Some representatives made clear that they were heeding warnings from the White House, which has called the measure dangerously provocative, and from the Turkish government, which has said House passage would prompt Turkey to reconsider its ties to the United States, including logistical support for the Iraq war.
Until today, the resolution appeared to be on a path to House passage, with strong support from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California. It was approved last week by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But this evening, a group of group of senior House Democrats had made it known they were planning to ask the leadership to drop plans for a vote on the measure.
Those Democrats pulling away from the resolution include uber-liberal Jane Harman (D-CA, 90%) and (drumroll, please) Mad Jack Murtha (D-PA, 65%).
Look, I'm delighted that so many representatives are suddenly heeding the call of President Bush to act like adults, not petulant teenagers: Turkey is very, very touchy about the genocide charge, which can carry a heavy burden, including reparations and worse -- repatriation of bitter, vengeful descendants. They have overtly threatened to forbid United States forces from staging in Turkey preparatory to deploying to Iraq, and covertly threatened to invade Kurdistan Iraq to get at the separatist Kurds there. Both are awful possibilities that would gravely threaten our progress in the war.
But still, I'm driven up the wall and across the ceiling by the same, dumb mistake made by all four sides in this issue: The mostly Democratic supporters of this resolution; the mostly Republican opponents; the Turks; and the Armenians. Simply put, the Turkey that butchered a million Armenians from 1915 to 1918 is not the same Turkey that exists today.
That Turkey was the Ottoman Empire, which began about A.D. 1300, hit its zenith in the 17th century -- when, similar to the Roman Empire, the Mediterranean became a Turkish lake -- and was abruptly crushed in 1918 when the Ottomans joined the Axis in World War I. The British and Arabs annihilated the Ottoman Empire as the war ended.
Ottoman Empire at its peak
Turkey limped along for a couple of years, then was partitioned into various Allied mandates (Britain, France, Italy, Greece, Armenia). Finally, in 1922, Mustafa Kemal Pasha -- whom you might better recognize as Atatürk -- rallied nationalist forces and drove out the occupying powers, scattered the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, and established a brand, spanking new country: the Republic of Turkey.
The current Republic of Turkey is no more the same country that massacred Armenians in World War I than is today's Japan the same Imperial Japan that massacred Chinese and Koreans before and during World War II, or than today's German Republic the same country as Nazi Germany; Angela Merkel is not responsible for the Holocaust; Yasuo Fukuda bears no responsibility for the rape of Nanking; and Abdullah Gül had nothing whatsoever to do with the bloody slaughter of Armenians 90 years ago.
The proper arguments to make are thus...
- Turkey: "We feel absolutely terrible that Turkish-speaking people committed such atrocities several generations ago. Thank Allah that we overthrew that awful, evil government and instituted a modern republic in its place; for now such a thing cannot occur."
- Armenia: "So long as the whole world remembers this first genocide of the twentieth century, we shall always remember the danger posed by cruel and heartless empires. Three cheers for the spread of Democracy!"
- Democrats in Congress: "We have rewritten our nonbinding, bipartisan, 'sense of the House' resolution to attack, not the modern-day Republic of Turkey, but the old Ottoman Empire, the symbol of the terrors of religious tyranny and theocracy... the looming 'socialism' of the twenty-first century."
- Republicans in Congress: "Can we please knock it off with these idiotic, non-binding, feel-good resolutions and actually pass a few appropriations bills? The Senate, the president, and the American people are waiting with bated breath."
If we could spy into the Speaker's private office, would we find her cowering under her desk, waiting for the next giant, Monty-Python sized shoe to drop?
I wonder how long until her Democratic troops realize what a dreadful mistake they made electing the Distinguished Lady from Deadhead-land as Speaker of the House. Surely one must imagine that at some point, the Democratic conference will summarily oust Ms. Pelosi and install a grownup, someone who actually has a sense of the priorities of the American people -- somebody like House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 90%).
Until then, buy some peanuts and enjoy the carnival of the jackasses.
Date ►►► October 16, 2007
Midnight by the Morphy Watcher
Yeah, yeah, I know. Award hog.
Our winning post was about brave federal Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, who ordered Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 65%) to show up in court and suffer cross-examination in the slander lawsuit brought by one of the Marines accused in the so-called (and increasingly dubious) Haditha "massacre":
We're always glad to win; but in this case, I think it more a tribute to the judge -- whose ruling may or may not ever be enforced -- than to anything we wrote!
Obviously, since none of us is allowed to vote for himself, neither of our votes prevailed; but our number-one vote came in second, and our number two tied for third -- which makes it a clean sweep in the Council category!
- The Enormous Damage Done To Our Space Program By "The Space Race", by Right Wing Nut House;
- Fulfill the Old Commitments First, by Soccer Dad.
The first really struck a chord in me, because for years I have dithered back and forth whether, in the long run, John Kennedy's call for us to land a man on the moon before 1970 was good or bad for the space program. Rick Moran argues the con side; but I don't know whether he has considered that, absent the "space race" against the Russkies, rather than go into space in a more logical and developmental style... we might not have gone into space at all.
The second is a doctrinally sound, common sense observation by SoccerDad that, before the Palestinians be allowed to place new demands upon Israel, the Palestinians themselves should be required to live up to their own previous agreements... which, so far, they have not even attempted.
We did quite well in the Nouncil category, as well... but our nomination didn't win. The winner was a depreciation of Che Guevara, everyone's favorite thug assassin:
- Battleground Che, by Publius Pundit.
While we like anything that spits on the grave of that scumbucket (and were annoyed all to heck by the lighthearted musical Evita), we found a couple of other pieces that we liked just a smidge better. Our own nomination (and our number-one vote) tied for second place, while our second-place vote tied for third -- along with six other nominees!
- 'Journalists' Tell Howard Kurtz Why Good News from Iraq Shouldn't Get Reported (updated w/video), by NewsBusters;
- An Astonishing and Sickening Breach of Trust, by Hugh Hewitt... Hugh's honor hangs by a single comma!
The first is a fairly stunning post on NewsBusters about an episode of CNN's Reliable Sources, where Kurtz's guests -- Robin Wright of the Washington Post and Barbara Starr of CNN -- explained to him exactly why good news from Iraq is no news, while bad news is big news. Ya fallah?
In the second, Hugh discloses yet another example of the elite media (the Washington Post, in this case) leaking yet more deeply classified secrets... this time, blowing the fact that we had penetrated a major al-Qaeda computer network. What is it that makes tattling on anything the government does to protect America -- even when utterly legal (as this was) -- so bloody attractive to the inaptly named "mainstream" media?
Extree, extree, read all about it
...And you can read all about it here.
Date ►►► October 15, 2007
Psst! Dems Hint They Haven't the Votes to Override SCHIP Veto
The Squeaker squirms
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) has as much as admitted yet another Democratic failure: They don't have the votes to override President Bush's veto of the bloated and metastisized Democratic version of renewal of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.
But let's not start backways-round; before we jump into the current Democratic travails, let us dress the stage...
We commence with the first oddity: In the current bill, the massive Democratic expansion of SCHIP into a middle-class entitlement program would be funded by an increase in the federal tax on cigarettes and cigars -- which, funnily enough, would be a very regressive tax that primarily hits the poor. Thus, under the new Democratic plan, the poor are taxed to subsidize the middle class.
Worse, if smokers respond to the tax hike by cutting back on smoking, the feds lose the revenue stream that is supposed to pay for the expansion; this would turn the federal government into a cheerleader for increased smoking.
This element fits a growing Democratic-Party pattern: The use of taxes to force social change. Now, this is not the exclusive property of Democrats; consider the home mortgage interest tax deduction, the purpose of which is to get more people to buy homes instead of rent. Its origin in shrouded in mystery, but no Congress or president since, Democrat or Republican, has actually pushed for its abolition (several have talked the talk).
However, rather than use tax incentives to encourage good behavior, Democrats have made a fetish of using punitive taxation to punish behavior they don't like, such as smoking. But not just cigarettes:
- Many Democrats (Mort Kondracke, for one) have argued in favor of huge taxes on gasoline to "force" people to drive less; similar ideas include a "gas-guzzler" tax or specifically an SUV tax.
- The proposed "carbon tax" is suppose to punish people for using energy.
- Democrats have also proposed taxes on fatty foods and transfats;
- Guns and ammunition;
- Luxuries (including the infamous yacht tax that led to a collapse of the yacht-building industry, resulting in mass layoffs of middle-income workers -- and the swift repeal of the yacht tax);
- A proposed tax on houses larger than 3,000 square feet;
- And taxes on alcohol.
In each case, Democrats have proposed the tax primarily for the purpose of controlling behavior, not raising revenue. (And except for the proposed taxes on fat or transfat, these nanny-state taxes are aimed squarely at Republicans.)
Punitive, behavior-modifying taxes distort the market, thereby damaging the economy. But that's not the worst market distortion caused by the Democrats' proposed expansion of SCHIP.
The program was originally intended to cover the gap between children below the poverty line, who can get health-care through Medicaid, and children whose families earn up to 200% of poverty (twice $21,000 per year, or $42,000) but still have a tough time paying for health insurance. But when it came up for renewal, Democrats forced through a massive expansion of the program to cover children whose families earn far above the previous ceiling -- in some cases, up to four times the poverty line, or $84,000 per year -- as well as covering these "children" well into their twenties. Thus, they took a program aimed at helping the working poor and transmogrified it into a new middle class entitlement program.
[Corrected Medicare to Medicaid above; thanks, commenter Cdquarles!]
Worse, analyses by many economists showed that with such an expansion, the most likely outcome would be that many upper-middle income families who already have private health insurance would simply drop it and take the much cheaper, smoker-subsidized SCHIP insurance instead; that is, the net effect would be to shift millions of families away from private health-care insurance and onto government-run health care -- basically, Medicaid for all.
Republicans argue that this was precisely the reason the Democrats want to expand SCHIP in the first place: To shift health insurance from the private to the public sector, thus vastly expanding the reach of government... and creating thousands more government workers, who will join the Service Employees International Union and raise more millions for Democrats.
SCHIP was originally crafted in 1997 by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA, 100%) and then First Lady, now Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%); but the Politico recently reported about a White House memo from four years earlier, 1993, in the swirling aftermath of the failure of Hillary's first attempt to nationalize health care.
The memo was from Hillary's staff, arguing that the best way to push socialized medicine onto the American people was first to expand government health-care programs for poor children into the middle class, then use that as the camel's nose, pulling the rest of the beast into the tent:
In a section of the memo titled “Kids First,” Clinton’s staff laid out backup plans in the event the universal coverage idea failed.
And one of the key options was creating a state-run health plan for children who didn’t qualify for Medicaid but were uninsured....
“Under this approach, health care reform is phased in by population, beginning with children,” the memo says. “Kids First is really a precursor to the new system. It is intended to be freestanding and administratively simple, with states given broad flexibility in its design so that it can be easily folded into existing/future program structures.”
It's hard to read this memo, note the SCHIP program enacted three years later, and then study the expansion pushed by Democrats today, and not see a pattern unfolding, just as in the memo promises.
President Bush repeatedly warned Democrats during the current debate -- from which negotiations the administration was shut out -- that such an expansion and change from the original intent of SCHIP (covering poor kids) would force him to veto the bill. He kept his promise. This gave the Democrats what they appeared to want... a big confrontation with President Bush over health care.
The idea was that Republicans, frightened and gunshy of being attacked for wanting children to die through lack of health care, would vote to override, and Bush would be crushed. Certainly all the inside-the-beltway pundits, including those on the Right (such as the Republican side of the "Beltway Boys," Fred "the Grump" Barnes, and syndicated columnist Charles "the Sauerkraut" Krauthammer) opined that Republicans would be mauled so badly they would have to relent. The Democrats decided to delay the override vote by two weeks, to give the natural paranoia of Republican senators and representatives time to flood their nerve endings, reducing them to lime Jell-O.
But now it appears the opposite has happened: The two-week breathing space gave the GOP time to calm themselves, marshall their arguments, and find a spine... and the Democrats have as much as admitted they will lose the fight. From the AP article linked above:
House Democratic leaders said Sunday they were working to gather votes to override a veto on a popular children's health program, but pledged to find a way to cover millions without insurance should their effort fail....
In talk show interviews, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer did not dispute claims by Republican leaders that the GOP will have enough votes to sustain Bush's veto when the House holds its override vote on Thursday.
But the confrontation gets even more churlish -- and even more surreal. Consider this:
At the same time, the White House sought to chide the Democratic-controlled Congress as the obstructionists in reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program. It said Democrats were the ones who had shown unwillingness to compromise.
Deputy press secretary Tony Fratto quoted President Bush as saying he is "willing to work with members of both parties from both houses" on the issue....
Pelosi and Hoyer promised to pass another bipartisan bill if needed....
"We'll take one step at a time. And, again, we'll maintain our bipartisanship and our fiscal soundness," she said. "And we'll talk to the president at the right time, when he makes an overture to do so, but not an overture that says, 'This is the only thing I'm going to sign.'"
Fratto said it was untrue that Bush had never sought compromise in the vetoed legislation, contending that Democrats had shut out administration officials in the original negotiations. House Democrats have countered that they had already compromised enough because they wanted $50 billion [extra] for the program but dropped it down to $35 billion to appease Senate Republicans.
In other words, Democrats admit that they did not trouble to consult with the president while crafting the bill; they decided instead to treat him like a beggar at the window, presenting him with a take-it-or-leave-it fait accompli. Presumably, they thought this would be more likely to force a confrontation, which (at the time) they were confident of winning.
But now that they have failed, they still won't admit there was anything wrong with the first approach. Rather, they're trying to make lemonade out of a sow's ear by passing a completely new bill... on which they will presumably make the very compromises they refused to make on the first bill!
The tenure of Nancy Pelosi in the House and Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) has been disastrous for the Democrats. Rather than become a strong and effective voice opposing the White House and serving as a springboard for Democrat-written bipartisan legislation, the Not Ready for Prime Time Congress has become a laughingstock:
- Failing to pass critical legislation (such as any of the appropriations bills required to run the government);
- Frittering their time away with endless partisan "investigations" of the president's policies, attempting to criminalize political differences;
- And lunging for more Legislative power at the expense of the Executive -- trying either to end or at least micromanage the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, creating huge new middle-class entitlement programs, and trying to conduct their own shadow foreign policy in opposition to the president's.
In 1994, when the Republicans led by Newt Gingrich took over Congress following Hillary's failed socialized-medicine coup d'état, they immediately set about passing actual bipartisan legislation... and they worked closely with President Bill Clinton on such critically needed reforms as tax cuts, protecting traditional marriage, reducing the welfare rolls, health-insurance portability from job to job, lobbying disclosure, and the first major telecommunications act in more than six decades. Each of these acts was passed by a Republican Congress with Democratic support and signed by a Democratic president.
But when the Democrats took over Congress last January, they appear to believe that meant the president and congressional Republicans were now irrelevant. Like the Jacobites of the French Revolution, the Democrats' battle cry seems to be "We are the masters now!"
And not unexpectedly, their results have been nonexistent and their impact nil. Democrats may still coast to a few more pickups in November 2008, though it's far to early to rule out Republicans recapturing one or both houses. But it's clear that Democrats are unable to do the heavy lifting and make the compromises necessary to turn their perfect-storm victory last year into a lasting majority: Their tenure will be brief and unremembered, like the two-year Senate interregnum caused by Jumpin' Jim Jeffords' defection.
The only legacy that will be left from the Pelosi-Reid Congress -- will be the Boehner-McConnell Congress.
Date ►►► October 14, 2007
Sing Along With Sanchez - Minor Update
Former Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez gave a very, uh, interesting speech to the annual convention of the Military Reporters and Editors. It's being played as an indictment of President Bush; but in fact, it's -- oh how I hate to say this about a general who served honorably for three decades -- it's a long and bizarre rant against virtually everybody, left and right, Democrat and Republican who had anything to do with Iraq.
The basic thrust seems to be contained in a single paragraph towards the end: That we should have come in using the Powell Doctrine with 500,000 - 750,000 troops, utterly crushed Iraq, taken command of the Republican Guard, installed an Imperial American proconsul -- preferably, given Sanchez's hatred of L. Paul Bremer, a military man, if you catch my drift -- and then used the Baathist Republican Guard to enforce the diktats of the American leader on the Iraqi people.
He seems most vexed that we haven't somehow brought to bear in Iraq all of our political apparatus -- Sanchez believes that "America" must somehow force the two parties to act in concert -- along with all of our economic might (unexplained), to rein in "the Interagency," whatever that is (sorry about the caps, but I'm not going to waste time rewriting it):
AMERICA HAS SENT OUR SOLDIERS OFF TO WAR AND THEY MUST BE SUPPORTED AT ALL COSTS UNTIL WE ACHIEVE VICTORY OR UNTIL OUR POLITICAL LEADERS DECIDE TO BRING THEM HOME. OUR POLITICAL AND MILITARY LEADERS OWE THE SOLDIER ON THE BATTLEFIELD THE STRATEGY, THE POLICIES AND THE RESOURCES TO WIN ONCE COMMITTED TO WAR. AMERICA HAS NOT BEEN FULLY COMMITTED TO WIN THIS WAR. AS THE MILITARY COMMANDERS ON THE GROUND HAVE STATED SINCE THE SUMMER OF 2003, THE U.S. MILITARY ALONE CANNOT WIN THIS WAR. AMERICA MUST MOBILIZE THE INTERAGENCY AND THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ELEMENTS OF POWER, WHICH HAVE BEEN ABJECT FAILURES TO DATE, IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE VICTORY. OUR NATION HAS NOT FOCUSED ON THE GREATEST CHALLENGE OF OUR LIFETIME. THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ELEMENTS OF POWER MUST GET BEYOND THE POLITICS TO ENSURE THE SURVIVAL OF AMERICA. PARTISAN POLITICS HAVE HINDERED THIS WAR EFFORT AND AMERICA SHOULD NOT ACCEPT THIS. AMERICA MUST DEMAND A UNIFIED NATIONAL STRATEGY THAT GOES WELL BEYOND PARTISAN POLITICS AND PLACES THE COMMON GOOD ABOVE ALL ELSE. TOO OFTEN OUR POLITICIANS HAVE CHOSEN LOYALTY TO THEIR POLITICAL PARTY ABOVE LOYALTY TO THE CONSTITUTION BECAUSE OF THEIR LUST FOR POWER. OUR POLITICIANS MUST REMEMBER THEIR OATH OF OFFICE AND RECOMMIT THEMSELVES TO SERVING OUR NATION AND NOT THEIR OWN SELF-INTERESTS OR POLITICAL PARTY. THE SECURITY OF AMERICA IS AT STAKE AND WE CAN ACCEPT NOTHING LESS. ANYTHING SHORT OF THIS IS UNQUESTIONABLY DERELICTION OF DUTY.
(You'll get no sympathy from me; I had to read the entire speech that way!)
UPDATE: Here is a fully corrected version of the transcript from Michael Yon. Hat tip to commenter SlimGuy.
And here is the paragraph quoted above, in Yon's easlier to read, capitalization-corrected, and reparagraphed version:
America has sent our soldiers off to war and they must be supported at all costs until we achieve victory or until our political leaders decide to bring them home. Our political and military leaders owe the soldier on the battlefield the strategy, the policies and the resources to win once committed to war. America has not been fully committed to win this war. As the military commanders on the ground have stated since the summer of 2003, the U.S. military alone cannot win this war. America must mobilize the interagency and the political and economic elements of power, which have been abject failures to date, in order to achieve victory.
Our nation has not focused on the greatest challenge of our lifetime. The political and economic elements of power must get beyond the politics to ensure the survival of America. Partisan politics have hindered this war effort and America should not accept this. America must demand a unified national strategy that goes well beyond partisan politics and places the common good above all else. Too often our politicians have chosen loyalty to their political party above loyalty to the constitution because of their lust for power.
Our politicians must remember their oath of office and recommit themselves to serving our nation and not their own self-interests or political party. The security of America is at stake and we can accept nothing less. Anything short of this is unquestionably dereliction of duty.
We now continue with the original post...
But here is how the Associated Press portrays it:
The U.S. mission in Iraq is a "nightmare with no end in sight" because of political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today, a former chief of U.S.-led forces said Friday.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded coalition troops for a year beginning June 2003, cast a wide net of blame for both political and military shortcomings in Iraq that helped open the way for the insurgency - such as disbanding the Saddam-era military and failing to cement ties with tribal leaders and quickly establish civilian government after Saddam was toppled.
He called current strategies - including the deployment of 30,000 additional forces earlier this year - a "desperate attempt" to make up for years of misguided policies in Iraq.
A quick aside about journalists' ability to read and parse grammatically correct English-language passages. The paragraph from which AP pulled the "nightmare" quoteation above -- in which AP claims that the nightmare is caused by "political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today", actually reads thus:
There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight. Since 2003, the Politics of War have been characterized by partisanship as the Republican and Democratic parties struggled for power in Washington. National efforts, to date, have been corrupted by partisan politics that have prevented us from devising effective, executable, supportable solutions.
(This nice, non-cap version is from a new source I just stumbled across; alas, he includes irritating stage directions and annotations... so nothing's perfect.)
So first of all, a disturbingly large percentage of journalists are retarded or illiterate.
Second, John Hinderaker at Power Line -- who is both intellectually capable and literate -- points out the delicious irony of the AP reporting: The entire first half of Lt.Gen. Sanchez's speech lambasted reporters for reporting "propaganda" instead of truthful news, for the purpose of getting stories onto the front page... but somehow, AP didn't consider that half of the speech newsworthy!
But let's just focus on the part of the speech where Gen. Sanchez attacks all the government people and policies, the only part that AP or any other drive-by news source I've read bothered to report.
Third: Good heavens... what is this obsession that some people seem to have for the idea that we shouldn't have "disbanded" the Iraqi army?
Contrariwise, every general I've heard speak on the subject has said that we didn't disband them: They disbanded themselves, fading back into the civilian population. One presumes this was because the former military personnel thought that -- like Arab conquerers -- we would put them all to the sword.
And are we not talking about the very same army and the same Republican Guard which brutalized, tortured, oppressed, and tormented the Iraqi Shia and Kurds (and even many Sunni) for literally decades? What makes either Gen. Sanchez or AP think that putting those same thugs in charge of enforcing the commands of foreign princes would be a good way to stand Iraq up on its own two feet?
Do journalists, Democrats, and certain old generals suggest we should have squashed Iraq flat, like a steamroller over a banana slug? That we should have utterly annihilated the cities, killed millions of Iraqis, firebombed the rubble, then dispersed the population to die of starvation and disease... and therefore leave them so helpless and shellshocked that they would meekly follow our orders -- as we did to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?
Forward to the past, men! Let's relive the most horrific war in all of human history. It's a disturbing position for a modern-day general to take -- and an incomprehensible one for liberals and the elite media.
But if we were not going to fight a "total war" against Iraq, that meant we would have to show, after conquest, that we were not crusaders or conquerers. And that means we could not assume ownership of Saddam Hussein's engines of oppression... no matter how convenient they might be. If our goal was to create a strong and independent Iraq without us killing five million innocent civilians, then we necessarily had to disperse the Iraqi military (though they saved us the trouble by dispersing themselves).
Finally, I have another problem with the speech itself, apart from the reporting about it: Sanchez is simply not a credible, unbiased witness:
- He only served a single year in Iraq and has been out of the loop since;
- It was at the very beginning of the war;
- He had a bitter and angry relationship with Paul Bremer, the top civilian administrator at the time;
- His career was later torpedoed over the abuses at Abu Ghraib; Sanchez himself says that it was responsible for destroying his career;
- He appears to have been a follower of Colin Powell, who is hardly a model of fair-mindedness about the Iraq war;
And he seems to have a strangely unrealistic conception of how civilian government works... viz:"America's political leadership must come together and develop a bipartisan Grand Strategy to achieve victory in this conflict. The simultaneous application of our political, economic, information, and military elements of power is the only coarse of action that will provide a chance of success."
Which sounds disturbingly like "Why can't Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the entire banking community, the intelligence agencies, and the blogosphere all just get along?"
Reading the speech is like listening to Bo Gritz ramble on, which Friend Lee and I did for four days one evening. At least Gritz did make one joke in the course of his lecture; unlike Sanchez, who sounds as sincere and earnest as a Ron Paul acolyte in the airport.
To try to extract any single piece from this speech's universal critique, while ignoring the rest, is to do both speaker and reader an injustice. (The elite media is unjust. So what else is new?)
I have yet to find a single MilBlogger who defends this speech or the man who made it. Honestly, there is nothing new in this speech, nor does anybody, right or left, emerge unstoned. The Democrats and their "willing accomplices in the media" are once again grasping at the camel's back.
Date ►►► October 12, 2007
The Shia Awaken
We've talked about this in previous posts -- for example, in The "Don't Make Waves!" Theory of Iraqi Politics -- but it occurred to me as soon as I began hearing about the "Anbar awakening" that the same dynamic would apply to the Shiite areas of Iraq: In short order, the Shiite militias were sure to go overboard in their thuggish, homicidal zeal, and begin brutalizing the Shia... just as al-Qaeda in Iraq did against the Sunni. At that moment, time would be ripe for a "Shia awakening," where Iraqi shia would turn on the militias that presume to speak for them.
Surprise, it's starting to happen... and even the New York Times has sat up and taken note:
In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.
The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.
The Times does a remarkable job (for the elite media) of fairly and in unbiased fashion describing the mechanism of Shiite discontent (apologies for the long quotation):
In interviews, 10 Shiites from four neighborhoods in eastern and western Baghdad described a pattern in which militia members, looking for new sources of income, turned on Shiites....
The street militia of today bears little resemblance to the Mahdi Army of 2004, when Shiites following a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, battled American soldiers in a burst of Shiite self-assertion. Then, fighters doubled as neighborhood helpers, bringing cooking gas and other necessities to needy families.
Now, three years later, many members have left violence behind, taking jobs in local and national government, while others have plunged into crime, dealing in cars and houses taken from dead or displaced victims of both sects.
Even the demographics have changed. Now, street fighters tend to be young teenagers from errant families, in part the result of American military success. Last fall, the military began an aggressive campaign of arresting senior commanders, leaving behind a power vacuum and directionless junior members.
“Now it’s young guys — no religion, no red lines,” said Abbas, 40, a Shiite car parts dealer in Ameen, a southern Baghdad neighborhood. Abbas’s 22-year-old cousin, Ratib, was shot in the mouth this spring after insulting Mahdi militia members.
“People hate them,” Abbas said. “They want them to disappear from their lives.”
A mouthpiece for Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr carefully explained that all of the Mahdi Militia members committing criminal violence against Iraqis are actually -- by that very act -- not members of the Mahdi Militia... a useful and fluid redefinition that allows the militia to slough off all accountability for the violence that continues, albeit at a much slower rate.
And as Sachi has argued many times in this blog, when Sadr does return from Iran (like the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Muqtada Sadr was withdrawn to his host country Iran for "further consultations"), he will not only find that the remnants of the Mahdi Militia don't want him or any of his "loyal lieutenants" back, but that there's no more militia to return to anyway.
I may as well go public with a bold prediction I have privately made to several friends: Big Lizards predicts that the Iraq insurgency is going to collapse much faster than anyone has publicly dared suggest. First AQI dangles at the end of its rope (there's a nice visual); now the Shia turn on the Mahdi and Badr militias. So who's minding the insurgency?
The collapse of the insurgency would have happened much earlier, in my opinion, were it not for the intervention of foreign forces. No, I don't mean the United States and the Coalition... I mean Iran's aggressive warmongering and the foreign hirabis from central al-Qaeda. Both Iran and al-Qaeda -- the latter may be funded by the former -- saw a national or ideological interest in fomenting a civil war in Iraq.
However, because of the essentially tribal -- not sectarian -- nature of Iraq, coupled with a cohesive Iraqi identity binding the tribes together, both Iran and al-Qaeda were unsuccessful; there never was a real civil war in Iraq... not even in 2006, after AQI blew up the golden-domed al-Askiri Mosque in Samarra on February 22nd. Both sects carried out a long wave of gangland massacres; but neither fielded armies or set up shadow governments.
As it becomes clear that there never will be a civil war, and that the Iraqis have turned against the joint insurgencies (Sunni against al-Qaeda and Shia against Iran), rather than being driven by fear into the arms of their Islamist "saviors," I strongly believe the principals will pull back. In the long run, neither has the resources to remain engaged in a losing war.
This will happen months before the November elections; and the victory in Iraq will play a major role. Simply put, the Democrats have some small nits against the GOP, but they're old chestnuts such as abortion and tax cuts; the only major new argument was over Iraq. In the 2006 elections, the Iraq war appeared to be a loser -- and so too were the Republicans. But they didn't lose as much as the Democrats had predicted; many voters took a "wait and see" attitude.
And good thing they did. If the war goes as I predict, and the very significant drop in violence we've seen continues, accompanied by a significant drop in the level of U.S. forces in Iraq (possibly to as low as 75,000) and a concommitent drop in American casualties, Iraq will increasingly and correctly be seen as a historic American victory.
Bear in mind, this is no guarantee that the voters will reward the Republicans: A Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson, and a Democratic Congress entered into World War I in 1917, won it handily in 1918... and in that same year, the GOP captured both houses of Congress. Two years later, Republicans solidified their congressional gains and added the presidency, all in a landslide. Even so, it's surely better for the sane party if Iraq is considered a victory, not a defeat.
Let's invite the Times to pen the Mahdi Militia's epitaph:
Ali, the Ur businessman, said he expected the Mahdi Army to be much smaller in the future. People simply do not believe its leaders anymore. “There is no ideology among them anymore,” he said.
Le Duc Tho, Jimmy Carter, Yassir Arafat - and Al Gore?
As you've all no doubt seen, the whispers turned out to be correct, for a change: Algore, in conjunction with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, has won the Nobel "Peace" prize.
Now perhaps someone can explain to me what on earth global warming has to do with "world peace"...
Oh, wait; here we go:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said global warming, "may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states."
Well! Who can argue with that?
Drudge has already linked to speculation that this will propel Algore into the presidential race, a possibility that Friend Lee and I were kicking around recently:
All of Gore's body language and every answer he has given to questions about running have been to discourage the idea that he would become a candidate. But for whatever reason, he has declined to make a definitive statement taking himself out of the running.
Only he knows the reason for that. Is it just to play with the press and the political community and then revel in the absurdity of all the speculation or is it because he actually believes there might be a set of events that would make is possible for him to run and win?
I assume that if Gore does decide to run, his entire campaign will more or less revolve around implementing some draconian, Luddite shutdown of industry in order to appease the Globaloney gods. Will that, combined with his status as the angriest dog in the world, be enough to knock Hillary off her pedestal of clay?
"Rantin'" Al vs. "Hell-to-Pay" Hill -- the main event!
I have long believed that Hillary Clinton's only political asset is the "aura of inevitability" that surrounds her like a foggy, opalescent soap bubble; a serious campaign kafuffle could puncture it. Within the soap bubble, an old and familiar dust-devil still swirls around Sen. Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), like the cloud constantly following around Pig Pen in Peanuts: a curious Clintonian cacophany of coincidence, inside of which weird things just... happen.
- A thousand dollars of aimless investment miraculously turns into $100,000 worth of cattle futures;
- Billing records vanish, then just as mysteriously reappear after the statute of limitations has run;
- The Attorney General of the United States abruptly cannot bear to appoint an independent counsel to investigate even the most well-founded allegations of gunpowder, treason, and plot;
- Documents disappear from the National Archives and are destroyed, and the miscreant -- former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger -- not only gets off with a slap on the well-padded wrist, he ends up advising Hillary on national-security issues. Son of a gun! Wonder how that just happened to... happen?
None of these incidents has any real cause, and certainly nobody is to blame; they're just -- amazing coincidences. Nobody in the elite media would dream of questioning the First Lady or the senator (now) from the great state of New York; and like Mary Poppins, she never explains anything.
But this is possible only because of the magic bubbles that others have always lent her, hiding the cacophany of coincidence: First, President Bill prevented those prying eyes, for his own reasons, by coarse and vulgar threats. Then she was shielded by being the senior junior senator from New York, with all the political power that carries.
And now, the aura of her inevitable presidency -- created by the press, the Democratic primary voters, and even the other Democratic candidates -- shields her from questions she shies from answering and arguments she shrinks from debating, even during a so-called "candidates' debate."
But now, if Mr. Inconvenient Truth decides to ride his Oscar, Emmy, and Nobel steed into the Democratic primary (campaign slogan: "Re-elect Al Gore!"), how long before his rusty sword lances that boil of inevitability? There is real bad blood between the Clintons (especially Hillary) and the Gores (especially Tipper -- mee-ow!); I think the latter believe that all the money, political muscle, and attention lavished upon the former played a major role in the latter winding up unemployed and overweight in 2001. All the king's Carvilles and all the king's Begalas were so busy getting Hillary the Roman toga she was promised, in exchange for not divorcing Bill, that they were unavailable to help push Vice President Gore over the top.
I believe there is at least a 50% chance that the Democratic race for the nomination is about to go from Clintonian coronation to globaloney Gore-gasm in sixty seconds. If Rantin' Al Gore decides to throw his head into the ring, then all bets are off.
And who knows? I might even pull an incredible victory out of a prediction I had long since written off as failed. And that would make it all worthwhile.
Date ►►► October 11, 2007
Joe needs a new car. He heads down to the dealer, picks one out, and signs the financing agreement with the salesman, Marty. Alas, that particular car is out of stock, he's told; he'll have to wait a month, and then it will be delivered.
Joe goes home. A week later, the first statement for his car payments arrives; he pays it. When the next statement arrives a month later, and he still hasn't received the car, Joe starts to fret a bit. But when six months pass -- six payments made -- and he still has no car, he gets angry.
"Where's my car?" he demands. Marty angrily shouts at him, "do you expect a car for nothing? We must negotiate."
"We already negotiated," says Joe, "and we came to an agreement: I bought the car for $20,000, and I've been making payments for six months."
"That was the old price," says Marty; "two months ago, we raised the price to $30,000. Where's the other $10,000 you cheated us out of, you car thief?"
Joe complains to his neighbors, but they all yell at him for trying to cheat Marty out of the $10,000 that is rightfully his. Incidentally, it dawns on Joe that his neighbors all attend the same tailgate parties with Marty and have been close friends with Marty for decades.
Since the car is so important to Joe's life, he agrees to the $10,000 increase in price. The next day, he receives a new statement, billing him not only at the increased rate, but including an overdue notice (with substantial interest and penalties) on the previous six payments, which have all been retroactively increased to the new amount. Joe dips into his savings and pays it.
But still, no car. Joe returns to Marty and demands that his car be delivered immediately. That night, unknown vandals tear up all his shrubbery; Marty calls Joe at five in the morning to inform him that his shrubbery is strewn around his front lawn. "Gee, what a shame," says Marty; "now what was that you were saying about some car you want us to give you?" He says that if Joe wants the car, he'd better come over and plant some "new shrubbery" Marty just got.
A friend of Joe's from across town, a real big guy named Sam, suggests that this can all be settled with a summit meeting between Joe, Sam, Marty, and some of the neighbors. "Why the neighbors?" asks Joe, puzzled; "what do they have to do with it?"
"You live in a community, Joe," says Sam; "no man is an island. Don't your neighbors have a vested interest in seeing that the rule of law is respected in your neighborhood?"
So Joe agrees to the meeting; Marty calls Sam and says he'll only attend if Joe guarantees that the outcome will be that Joe agrees to the new price of $40,000 for the car, stops telling people that Marty failed to deliver the car, and agrees to defer delivery of the car for another two years.
Joe calls the demand outrageous. Sam leans on Marty, and Marty and the neighbors attend the meeting without the preconditions. But at the meeting, Marty makes the same demand -- this time adding that Joe must take Marty's six kids out for a day of fun in the sun at Disneyland, at Joe's expense.
Joe is tired of all the troubles. He just wants his car. He makes his own offer: He will get a loan from a bank, and pay Marty the entire $30,000 in cash. He won't even deduct the amount he has already paid. In exchange, Marty must, no excuses, deliver the car.
In rage and fury, Marty denounces Joe and Sam. "How dare you imply that I'm a crook?" Marty storms out, joined by all the neighbors, who shout "you've stolen your last dollar!" at Joe as they leave. That night, a mob of hooded people (who nevertheless look awfully familiar to Joe) surround his house and hurl rocks and bottles, chanting "death to Joe, death to Joe!"
The next morning, as Sam sadly helps Joe clean up the broken glass, Sam tells him, "Joe, here's the problem: You can't just ignore Marty and the neighbors. You're just going to have to agree to negotiate. I'm convinced that if you're willing to bend a little -- say, by waiting until you've finished paying off the car before making demands -- then surely Marty will solemnly promise to deliver the car... in the very near future."
Does anybody have any idea what the heck I'm talking about? Or does this post completely mystify?
But what I really mean to ask is -- does anybody at the State Department have any clue what this analogy is all about?
Date ►►► October 10, 2007
Don't Throw Illegals in That Breyer Patch
A San Francisco-based federal judge, who grew up in San Francisco, a graduate of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall Law School, former Watergate prosecutor, who worked as a counsel at the Legal Aid Society in San Francisco for his first job as an actual lawyer, has put the kibosh on a crazy scheme to send letters to businesses warning them about employees whose Social Security numbers don't match their names.
See if you can guess which recent president appointed Judge Charles Breyer, younger brother of you-know-who, to the bench.
Breyer said the new work-site rule would likely impose hardships on businesses and their workers. Employers would incur new costs to comply with the regulation that the government hasn't evaluated, and innocent workers unable to correct mistakes in their records in the given time would lose their jobs, the judge wrote.
"The plaintiffs have demonstrated they will be irreparably harmed if DHS is permitted to enforce the new rule," Breyer wrote.
The so-called "no match" letters, including a Department of Homeland Security warning, were supposed to start going out in September but were held after labor groups and immigrant activists filed a federal lawsuit.
Can someone please explain to me again why it will be good for the nation if social conservatives cast a "protest vote" for a third-party candidate in 2008, making it more likely that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-Carpetbag, 95%) will become President Hillary, thus getting to appoint the next three Supreme Court justices plus hundreds of other federal judges? Will her nominees be more like Justices Roberts and Alito -- or more closely resemble Judge Charles Breyer and his big brother Stephen?
[P]laintiffs, which include the AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saw the decision as a significant victory against a program they believe would foster discrimination on the work site, lead to job losses by lawful employees and expose businesses to additional expenses and the fear of prosecution.
Remember, we're only talking about DHS sending letters to businsses whose employee names don't match the Social Security number the businesses provided and warning those businesses that there are grim consequences for defying immigation law. I wonder how Judge Breyer would rule on a southern-border security fence?
So the next time "anti-amnesty" conservatives demand to know why we're not enforcing the immigration regulations that are already on the books... rather than blaming Bush first, they should instead try asking Judge Breyer and the scores of other federal judges just like him, who see it as a terrible and unconstitutional burden that businesses be forced to make an effort to determine if their employees are legally allowed to work; that county precincts take at least a quick peek at some picture I.D. before allowing someone to vote; and that the Border Patrol attempt to, you know, guard the border.
While beholdest conservatives the mote in Republicans' own eye, and beholdest not the Rock of Gibralter in the eye of the Democrats?
Are We Going to HillaryFare?
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) was roundly mocked for her "Hillsbury Doughboy" proposal, which she made before a forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, to dig down deep into other people's pockets to send $5,000 to every newborn in America. So she dumped it as casually as she threw Billy Dale under the bus. What are black voters going to do -- vote Republican?
Now she has a new scheme to lurch America further along towards Socialism: She wants the federal government to pay $1,000 in "matching funds" every year to every (low-income) American who puts $1,000 in a fake, government-run "401K". What a wonderful, new way to create yet another government piggy bank -- in addition to Social Security -- that the liberals can loot whenever they run short!
(Nota bene: That's $1,000 matching funds to lower-income investors only -- under 60 Gs; higher-income investors, 60 to 100 grand, only get $500 per year in matching funds. $100 thou a year, and you're SOL.)
The tens of billions of dollars to fund this scheme would come from heavily taxing "large" estates. So let's think this through: We kill the rich and feed them to the poor, forcing middle-income people to liquidate family farms and family businesses, so that we can redistribute that (clearly unearned) wealth to the poor. Sounds familiar, somehow...
Let's call Hillary's new welfare program "HillaryFare" for short.
Of course, it likely wouldn't pass Congress; but that's not the point, is it? It serves to burnish Hillary's credentials with the all-important MoveOn.org, George Soros, "two Americas" crowd, thus further crippling the anemic campaign of the Silky Pony, John Edwards, and causing Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) to become even more tongue-tied in debates:
While many Democrats would embrace an estate tax freeze, many Republicans and antitax stalwarts would oppose it, and Democrats would probably have a hard time passing such legislation in the United States Senate, where the party’s majority is currently razor-thin.
But suppose enough Democrats are elected that President Hillary is able to get this thing passed as she proposes it. Has anybody bothered to run the numbers, here?
Hillary boldly estimates that the whole pyramid scheme would only cost "$20 billion to $25 billion a year." Let's assume that half the "investors" in this government numbers racket fall in the under sixty thousand category, while the rest are between sixty and a hundred. Then the average per capita payment by the federal government is $750 per year; the total cost, allowing for about 40% in overhead costs (which is typical of government programs), would be $1,250 per person, per year.
The $20 billion to $25 billion that Hillary proposes for this, er, idea would cover only 16 to 20 million people (the way the Times writes it, it appears to be open to every person, not every family).
So what if instead, after a year or two, we have 40 million families taking advantage of the government's largess? It shouldn't be that tough to get 13% of the population to go for it; heck, even higher-income earners wouldn't sneeze at a guaranteed 50% return on investment. I would take it!
All right; with 40 million fake investors, now the cost is up to $30 billion of actual matching funds, which works out to $50 billion per year in total costs to the government. That's a lot of samoyans. But in fact, Hillary is far more grandiose -- though she keeps this part of the mathematics pretty close to her vest. Viz:
“We’ve got a lot of workers -- more than half in America right now -- without any employer-based retirement system,” she added, noting that the number included about 770,000 workers in Iowa.
Half of all workers in America: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics household data, "total employment" in the United States is currently 146.3 million (page 2, table A). So if half of those don't have an "employer-based retirement system," and those are the targets of HillaryFare -- then is she really planning on sending those $500 and $1,000 matching-fund checks to 73.15 million people every year?
That's $55 billion dollars a year just in matching funds; add in the overhead, and you get an annual price tag of over $90 billion each and every year.
But wait -- just like the Ginsu knives, there's more! Of course, the investment ceiling of the program would have to have its own growth curve; in ten years, $1,000 won't be worth what it is today. If Social Security and welfare programs are any indicator, that growth curve will be significantly steeper than the inflation index. So how long before HillaryCare is costing us $100 billion, $130 billion, even $180 billion per year in a new middle-class entitlement program?
So in addition to HillaryCare II -- where 25 year old children whose families make up to $80 thousand a year get government-run health-care plans -- the good senator more or less from New York also promises to put half the whole country on the government welfare rolls.
But all is not lost. Having learnt her lesson from the 1994 HillaryCare I debacle, Sen. Clinton now supports individual choice:
As with her biggest policy plan for universal health insurance, Mrs. Clinton cast her savings proposal in terms of choice: If Americans like their 401(k) plans and other retirement accounts, they can keep those, while those who lack any savings plan will have a chance to start one with government help and save $5,000 a year on a tax-deferred basis.
In other words, those who like HillaryFare better than their own retirement accoutns will be lured from private to public funding... just the way the new Democratic S-CHP proposal lures millions of families from private medical insurance for their kids to government-run health care. So it's not just the 73.15 million people above; we may well be paying matching funds to a bunch of people who currently do have an employer-based retirement system!
Can we go back to the $5,000 baby bounty instead?
You know, the way Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham is going, I fully expect that by this time next year... she'll be offering to buy our children at birth and raise them in liberal incubators.
Sen. Clinton has a simple philosophy about our golden years:
“Saving in the accounts will be easy -- it should not require a Ph.D. to save for retirement,” Mrs. Clinton said.
She's right, it doesn't take a Ph.D. It takes a village idiot.
Date ►►► October 9, 2007
Yawn. So Big Gizzards racks up another win on the Watcher's Council.
Big deal; I'm sure we'll win nearly every vote from here on out. The competition fades away, and there is left only us, standing unbowed and invincible. You know, like President William Jennings Bryan... you shall not crucify Mankind upon a cross of scales!
Y'all read this already... I hope:
- Gratefully Not Dead: Iraq Civilian and US Military Deaths Plummet, by Big Lizards.
This was one of our few ventures into more or less straight reporting, as opposed to our usual crooked analyses. Not much to say about it here; its title contains the entire post... so if you read the title, you needn't read any further!
Oddly enough, we voted for two different Council nominees -- but only because the Watcher put a gun* to our heads and warned us not to be utter narcissists:
- Can American Culture Survive the Constant MSM Onslaught?, by ‘Okie’ on the Lam;
- Reporter-God Sy Hersh's Dixie Chick Moment, by Cheat Seeking Missiles.
The Okie post is just exactly what its title promises (seems to be an epidemic of truth in advertising on the Council). Didn't do well in the vote. Don't know why.
The post about Seymour Butts -- oh, sorry, Hersh -- is number 6,919 in a series of despicable, anti-American quotations [collect the entire set!] from the dolt who (a) broke the Abu Ghraib story, and (b) tried to pretend it was an Army cover-up that he somehow penetrated -- when in fact, he was simply quoting (selectively and mendaciously) from the criminal investigative report by Army Maj.Gen. Antonio Mario Taguba.
The Hersh post would have been second in the voting, except Laer foolishly forgot to vote; so the vengeance-seeking Watcher punished him with a 2/3-vote reduction. He landed in third.
We continued the fine, lizardly tradition of voting for nominees that are brilliantly obscure. We failed to vote for the winner:
- That's Propa-tainment!, by Pajamas Media.
Jules Crittenden complains -- rightly -- about the lack of recent Hollywood movies about the war on global hirabah... or at least, movies that aren't cheerleaders for terrorism, like Syriana.
But we hurried to vote for posts where only a single other voter in each case followed our lead... and with only 1/3 of a vote each time! Big Lizards rushes in where the cooler Council members fear to tread...
- Hillary 1993: Nationalize Health Care Through the Kids, by Captain's Quarters;
- The Last of Zimbawe's White Farmers Are Forced Off Their Land Today, by Say Anything.
In the first, Captain Ed exposes a long-hidden memo from Hillary Clinton's health-care task force that recommends she use health insurance for children as a Trojan horse to sneak socialized medicine past the American people. Sound familiar? Well, we all know Hillary's first impulse when the s-chips are down.
The last post is a sad commemoration of the ugly conclusion of an insane policy in Zimbabwe [lurid adjective trifecta!], which used to be called Rhodesia -- and used to be called "the breadbasket of Africa."
Today, it's the breadbasket-case of Africa, in trouble even by African standards. Why? Because of madman Robert Mugabe's successful campaign to ethnically cleanse Zimbabwe of all white farmers. Oddly, when city-bred slum-dwellers took over the huge, sophisticated, modern white-owned farms, they couldn't make a go of it -- even though they were black!
Here there be posts, matey. Arrr!
Date ►►► October 8, 2007
What's All This I Hear...
...About a brutal military junta in Miramar? What are all those flyboys doing down there in San Diego?
Are their flightsuit jockstraps too tight? Has that good Navy chow gone to their heads? These jet-jocks have every advantage: a college degree, hundreds of dollars of training, and those lovely scarves and goggles they wear while flying their aeroplanes.
But do they appreciate all that? No... instead, they have to set up a junta -- and they can't even pronounce it right! That's a J, not an H; how could college-educated men not be able to read?
But the "junta" isn't bad enough: They have to run out and oppress a bunch of monkeys! What have those sweet, innocent monks done that our fighter pilots at NAS Miramar have to arrest and beat them? That's animal cruelty... and where are the ASCAP and PTA and all those other so-called "animal warfare" groups? Those poor, shivering monks always look so cute in their little caps and uniforms, tipping their hats when people toss a few pennies to the organ grinders. It's a crime that grown Navy pilots feel like they have to start a war against them!
And for what? Just for demanding civil libraries! I mean, who wants libraries that are uncivil, with people saying coarse things about each other and making faces?
I'm with the monkeys. I want my libraries to be civil places, where people can go in peace without having to worry about...
What's that? A military junta where -- in Myanmar? Fighting against Buddhist monks?
Oh! That's very different.
[With some apologies to -- and lots of snickering at -- the poor sap of a newsreader at Fox News Channel Friday, who reported a new crackdown by the "military junta in Miramar;" and in fond memory of the late, great Gilda Radner, the funniest woman who ever lived.]
Date ►►► October 6, 2007
Why I No Longer Have Many Liberal Friends
I realized a little bit ago that I used to have a lot of liberal friends -- we disagreed on politics, but we still kicked around and hung out. But now I have virtually none: They all departed, either by drifting away or more explosively.
I found out the same thing happened to several other Republican friends of mine; perhaps some of you have noticed this effect too. For years, I wondered why; but back when I was guest-blogging at Patterico's Pontifications, I had an epiphany (which I didn't write about at the time, I don't think). Let me illustrate with a more recent personal reminiscence...
A few months ago, I realized I hadn't talked to my two former housemates from UC Santa Cruz, J. and A., for several years. Since I like to keep in touch, I tried contacting them.
I tracked down J. first, via e-mail; I discovered that, notwithstanding his major in PoliSci, he had become a computer programmer! So I sent him a friendly e-mail saying that was pretty strange, as he'd had no interest whatsoever in computers back at UCSC. I was hoping to open a conversation in which he would tell the story of how he changed from a politics guy to a computer guy.
Instead, I received a one-word reply: "Indeed." J. made it blunt that the conversation was over before it even began.
Blinking, I called or e-mailed A. (I honestly cannot remember which I did). A. and I had always been somewhat closer. He condescended to respond... but only on grounds that this would not become an ongoing conversation. A. tersely updated me on J. and several other mutual friends... then told me never to contact him again.
I'm still a bit stunned by this. It's not like we had a fight; we literally hadn't spoken since the 1990s. Nor had we had any unpleasantness back then; I went up and visited Santa Cruz, met J. and A. and some other mutual acquaintences (A. had relocated to Berkeley, where he lives now with wife and child), and we kicked around for a while, chatting about the G.O.Ds of the early 1980s. We parted amiably.
Since then, we've had no contact by phone, e-mail, or in person. We're not on any bulletin boards together; I haven't published any articles or suchlike that could have ticked them off; and there was nothing remotely contentious about my contact e-mail and/or call.
I can think of only one event that intervened that could have changed them so thoroughly: The election of George W. Bush in 2000.
I lost three other liberal friends when that happened, one of them reasonably close; that last (from SFWA, not UCSC) was railing against Bush and denouncing him throughout the campaign. Then after the long count, when Bush was declared the victor, he demanded that I "admit" that Bush had "stolen the election" -- or he would never speak to me again.
I refused, of course; I don't react well to extortion. True to his word, we have never spoken since.
The other two became moodier and more sullen after the election (though they did not put it quite so starkly). Within a year or so, both drifted out of my orbit, and we don't speak anymore.
But all three first became noticibly hostile towards me immediately following the 2000 election... although my politics were identical before and after; the break occurred because of Bush's election, not 9/11, the Afghan war, or the Iraq war.
In 2005, I finally had my "epiphany": Back in 2000, after eight years of Bill Clinton skunking the Republicans and weaseling his way out of being removed from office, the Left -- broadly defined, from liberal to socialist to Green to Naderite to Communist -- decided that the presidency was theirs by right. And more specifically, sometime back in August or September of 2000, they literally came to believe they had already won the election -- and the actual vote was a mere formality, rubber-stamping what "the people" had already decided.
This was not based on polls, which all showed Bush leading narrowly; Democrats disdained polls that summer, dismissing them as nonsense. Rather, the election of Algore was an integral part of what Thomas Sowell calls "the Vision of the Anointed."
When the confirming vote was held, and it appeared as though Bush had somehow won (and by a handful of votes in Florida), Democrats, liberals, and the rest of the Left reacted the way Cain did when Abel "stole" his birthright.
[This is, as commenter Jauhara Al-Kafirah notes, a complete mishmash: Cain did kill Abel (so they say), but it had nothing to do with a birthright; that was Esau and Jacob, and nobody killed anybody in that story. I can only plead early-onset dementia... but you get the general idea: Cain and Abel meets Esau and Jacob and Ted and Alice, and I'll be in Scotland afore ye. -- the Mgt.]
This, in my earnest opinion, is why Gore tried to sue his way into the White House: He, too, believed that he had already won, and Rethuglicans had criminally deprived him of what was rightfully his. Thus, he forced the long count to recover his stolen property.
Nationally, the Democrats took their lead from Rantin' Al: The only way that George W. Bush could be sitting in la Casa Blanca in January was that he had stolen the presidency from them. Like Cain, they did their best to slay President-Select Abel... not literally but by character assassination.
And then, the reckoning with the minions began. Democrats turned on their Republican friends with the ferocity that you would turn on your best mate, if you found out he had aided and abetted a burglar to break into your house and ransack the joint. Democrats felt doubly betrayed: first by the American electoral system, and then by their Republican friends, who inconceivably defended that betrayal -- thus outing themselves as unindicted co-conspirators.
And that explains, in my nasty, brutish, and short-sighted opinion, why J. and A. -- both "men of the Left" -- had no further interest in speaking to me. It's a sad state of affairs, similar in structure (though not violent effect) to the Civil War, when friend broke with friend and brother fought brother. But unlike that national crisis, this one originates entirely in the delusions of the Democratic Party.
They've yet to recover or even heal. I'm afraid that even the election of Hillary Clinton (God forbid) wouldn't mollify them; they would see it instead as vindication, their final triumph over the wretched betrayers.
Date ►►► October 5, 2007
The "Hush Rush" Crusade
I've stayed away from this story for days now, on the grounds that everybody else is already covering it. I didn't think there was much to analyze. It's completely clear what Rush Limbaugh meant by the phrase "phony soldiers," which he muttered on September 26th: He was referring to the hit parade of actual, literal phony soldiers -- as in fake, fraudulent, ersatz -- using phony atrocities to denounce the Iraq (or Vietnam, or Korean) war.
But at least I can post a compilation of everything I've read about this flap, so it will be here in one place for easy reference... tell your friends! Link and trackback! Drive up our Sitemeter stats!
Democrats and their willing accomplices in the elite media have been belching forth such slanders of our military for, quite literally, decades now. Here are just a few of the lowlights in the Liberal Hall of Shame:
- Jesse Macbeth, who billed himself as a "Special Forces Ranger" (don't ask!) and claimed that he and his SFR pals had butchered "thousands" of innocent Moslems, mostly while they prayed peacefully in mosques. In reality, he served for 44 days, then was discharged without finishing basic training. Needless to say, he not only had not witnessed any war crimes in Iraq, he hadn't even been there.
- Jeff Engelhardt, who claimed to have been an eye- and earwitness to American forces deliberately massacring thousands of civilians in Fallujah, under orders from Command, by burning them to death with white phosphorus. But his own contemporaneous account of his brief time at Fallujah never mentions any atrocity, and it makes clear he was never close enough to be able to observe the "burned bodies" of "children" and "women" that he claimed, in an Italian TV documentary, to have examined.
- Josh Lansdale. Alas, we never reported on Lansdale; but Michelle Malkin did. Lansdale, a medic in the Army Reserve who was in Iraq for a year, claimed to have spent much time in Baghdad, where he said he pulled people out of burning buildings and was wounded in heavy combat. Back home, he cut ads with retired Gen. Wesley Clark, claiming that he (Lansdale) was treated horribly by the VA, whose negligence turned his ankle wound into a permanent disability.
Alas for Lansdale, subsequent investigation showed that he had never sought treatment through the VA; that he was not wounded; that his unit was never in Baghdad; that they rarely came under any sort of fire; that they were never in combat; and that neither Joshua Lansdale nor anybody else in the unit had ever even seen a burning building in Iraq, let alone pulled anyone out of such a fire.
- Scott Thomas Beauchamp, the New Republic's dastardly diarist, about whom the less said, the better. (Say -- whatever happened to that in-depth investigation TNR was conducting on Beauchamp's now thoroughly discredited claims?)
- Edward Daily -- who claimed to have been a machine-gunner who witnessed an alleged American massacre of Korean civilians in July 1950 at the Bridge of No Gun Ri. Daily was the cornerstone of a 1999 AP series of articles "documenting" this "war crime." But subsequent investigation showed that he was not a machine-gunner but a mechanic; he was never at No Gun Ri and witnessed no massacres, war crimes, or atrocities; and in fact, he was not even deployed to Korea until 1951, long after the supposed incident.
- John Kerry, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the "Winter Soldier" project; again, the basics of this story should be well known to all of our readers.
I've noticed there is a taxonomy of phony soldiers:
- Some are literally lifelong civilians who have never been in the service (as some in the "Winter Soldier" project), but pretend to have been -- either to tell fake war-hero stories about themselves... or else fake atrocity stories to attack the service.
- Another group were technically in the military, but they exaggerate their careers to make themselves appear far more important and credible than they actually were. Examples include Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA, 100%; for years, he claimed to have been a combat pilot in Vietnam... until he was forced to admit he was a ferry pilot who never saw a day of combat), Jeff Engelhardt, Josh Lansdale, and Jesse MacBeth.
- A third group comprises real servicemen who really held the ranks they claimed, were members of the units they claimed, and performed the duties they claimed... but who nevertheless tell fabricated tales of nonexistent war crimes: John Kerry and others of his VVAW co-conspirators are good examples.
I would call each of these groups "phony" because each tries to use a real or fabricated military background to lend an air of credibility to fake accounts of heroism or war crimes. They are all charlatans, bearing false witness against their "band of brothers."
Finally, I want to post the timeline of events in what Hugh Hewitt calls the "the Left's Great Snarl" at Rush Limbaugh. The actual sequence is important to understand the context in which Limbaugh made his remark. I take this timeline from Byron York's account in National Review Online:
Friday, September 21st: Limbaugh and his staff pore through news stories about the now-convicted and imprisoned Jesse MacBeth and other phony soldiers (see above).
Monday afternoon, September 24th: Limbaugh records a lengthy piece on phony soldiers, spending most of the time on the most recent outbreak, MacBeth.
Monday evening: ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson broadcasts a long piece on phony soldiers and fake heroes, including MacBeth.
Tuesday, September 25th: Limbaugh's "morning update" piece on MacBeth and other phony soldiers airs. Throughout the day, listeners call in and discuss MacBeth, et al, with Rush Limbaugh.
Wednesday, September 26th: During an on-air conversation with "Mike in Olympia, Washington," the caller complains about how news agencies "[N]ever talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue..."
At which point, Limbaugh interjects: "phony soldiers." (Byron York says Limbaugh said "the phony soldiers;" but listening to the clip, I didn't hear any article.)
Then, after a couple of minutes, Limbaugh re-reads the piece from the previous day about phony soldiers, especially Jesse MacBeth.
Why "after a couple of minutes?" Because Limbaugh had to "vamp" a bit while one of his staff printed out the transcript that Limbaugh would then read from. Yeesh, what an amazing load of conspiratorial claptrap burbles forth from such a trivial lapse of time.
Thursday, September 27th to today: Media Matters for America (a Hillary Clinton front group), ThinkProgress (a "progresssive" -- that is radical Left -- organization), 40 Democratic senators, many Democratic congressmen, and an uncountable number of lefty bloggers engage in a collective howl about how Limbaugh supposedly said that any soldier who disagreed in any way with President Bush's strategy was "a phony soldier."
Whew! Having finally finished the odious chore of playing journalist -- "just the facts, ma'am," like the elite journalists from Columbia and other J-schools invariably give us -- I will now turn to what I find much more comfortable (and less reputable): a sentence or two of actual analysis.
There simply is no legitimate doubt that Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment referred to -- wait for it -- the phony soldiers he had just been talking about during the previous day's show, and who were the subject of an ABC news segment Monday night.
How tough can this be for people to understand? He does a Tuesday show on "phony soldiers;" and then the next day, he makes the comment "phony soldiers". Reasonable minds would conclude the two are related.
But not Democrats. No, nearly the entirety of the Democratic conference in Congress insist that the Limbaugh comment be considered utterly tabula rasa, as if it arose instantaneously and unbidden from the vasty deep and can be assigned any surreal value that will (in Democratic minds) hurt the evil Rush Limbaugh.
This is such an unwinnable argument for Democrats that I'm astonished their saner political heads -- Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL, 90%), James Carville, and Bill Clinton -- are allowing them to rush in where angels fear to tread:
First, Rush Limbaugh is a professional debater; he is not some Junior Assistant Undersecretary twice-removed, who can be bullied into silence.
Second, Limbaugh has a daily radio show that is heard by millions of people; he has a core audience predisposed to believe him, especially in preference to Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-Carpetbag, 95%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), or Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 65%).
Limbaugh has as much time to speak as he chooses to take, and the audience will stay with him the whole way. Contrariwise, Democrats in the House and Senate have only a minute or two to speak... and only their own colleagues will ever hear their complete remarks. The rest of America will hear only a snippet or two, perhaps a single line -- and then only if they trouble to tune into the national news each night.
And there's something else I was thinking of; what was that? Oh yes, here it is in my notes. In addition to these other advantages, Limbaugh has one more up his sleeve: He is actually factually correct about what he said and what he meant. The Democratic interpretation is so preposterous and risible that nobody but the mentally challenged could possibly believe it.
Since none of the above Democrats are mentally challenged -- I deliberately didn't mention Sen Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 95%) -- I can only conclude that they know very well that they're lying and falsely smearing a private American citizen; but that they have concluded (wrongly, in my political opinion) that this assault on Limbaugh will destroy his credibility in the future, or even out and out silence him. Hence, my title for this piece.
For all the reasons above, I think this is a catastrophic error in judgment by the Democrats. The American people are never as stupid as liberals and Democrats imagine them to be... and they're about to find that out the hard way.
In the meanwhile, I will sit back and enjoy this national Democratic embarassment until it finally peters out. I don't intend to comment further unless there is some sort of "bombshell," which I sincerely doubt.
Date ►►► October 4, 2007
When news surfaced that Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID, 88%) had pled guilty to disorderly conduct -- in order to avoid prosecution for solicitation of sex in a men's room and for being a Peeping Tom -- he stated in no uncertain terms that he would resign on September 30th, 2007.
As that date approached, he belatedly decided to challenge his guilty plea, despite the low probability of success. Accordingly, he announced that he would not resign until he'd been heard and the issue was resolved. Well, it was resolved today: Hennepin County (Minnesota) Judge Charles Porter denied the request.
Mr. Craig's response?
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig defiantly vowed to serve out his term in office on Thursday despite losing a court attempt to rescind his guilty plea in a men's room sex sting.
"I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively," Craig said in a written statement certain to disappoint fellow Republicans who have long urged him to step down.
This is perhaps the most narcissistic decision by a senator I have ever seen. At least Mark Foley had the decency, grace, and sense of duty to resign from the House.
Craig evidently is so angry at his fellow Republicans not defending him (after he was nabbed trying to solicit sex in a men's room and peep into the adjacent stall), that he has decided to take the entire GOP down with him when he goes. This is so bitter, self-destructive, and vengeful, that I begin to suspect he is in the closet after all: I believe Larry Craig is a closet Democrat.
I hope that the Republicans, for their own sake and the sake of the nation, plan to take decisive action to remove the source of the problem. There is some indication they may be doing so:
In his statement, Craig said he will not run for a new term next year. [Uh-huh.]
But in the meantime, he said: "I will continue my effort to clear my name in the Senate Ethics Committee -- something that is not possible if I am not serving in the Senate."
The ethics committee has already signaled it is reviewing the facts of Craig's case, taking the step after the Senate Republican leadership requested it.
Craig's decision to stay and fight raises the strong possibility of public hearings - virtually certain to be televised live - centered on the issue of gay sex.
This needn't necessarily hurt the GOP in 2008 -- if they play it straight (sorry, couldn't resist). If they vigorously fight to expel him from the Senate, calling as witnesses the cop who arrested him and those who were involved in the interrogation, playing the audiotape of the interrogation, and so forth, then I don't think they will be Foleyed a year from November.
If the Republicans succeed in expelling Craig, then the Democrats will have a hard time arguing that the GOP is a seething hotbed (sorry) of sexual deviancy. And if the GOP fails because the Democrats vote en masse to keep Crait... well then the shoe is on the other hand, isn't it?
By the way, I love this sentence: "In his statement, Craig said he will not run for a new term next year."
Of course, he also said he would resign on September 30th; and he also strongly and deliberately implied that, if he lost his bid to withdraw his guilty plea, he would resign then. That constitutes two public lies to the American people in less than one month -- another reason to believe he is a closet Democrat!
I guess he believes "third time's the charm..."
The Empire Strikes Back
Iran has evidently been emboldened by our lack of significant response to its peddling explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) to Iraqi insurgents; so now, per the Telegraph (and a great, big, sloppy-wet hat tip to John at Power Line), Iran has begun doing the same for the Taliban:
Iran is supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan with the same bomb-making equipment it provides to insurgents in Iraq, according to British military intelligence officers.
US Army General Dan McNeill, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, said that the discovery of more than 50 roadside bombs and timers in lorries crossing the border from Iran last month proves that Iran's Quds Revolutionary Guards are actively supporting the Taliban.
The allegation will add to fears that the escalating war of words between Iran and the West could end in armed conflict between the two.
I don't mean to be persnickety, but if Iran is FedExing munitions to its catspaws and stalking horses left and right -- by which I mean in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively -- then aren't we already in armed conflict?
It's time for President Bush to fish or get off the pot. I have a suggestion...
Let him call an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell then give a joint presentation to the Big 5, meticulously going over every piece of evidence proving that Iran has repeatedly conspired to attack United States soldiers and Marines, our Coalition allies, and the Army, police, and civilians in the Iraq (as that Miss Teen Whatever calls it).
They really take their time, making sure no stone is left unthrown. Then they start in on the evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb, or trying, at least. They use the evidence compiled by the IAEA and its Director-General Mohamed ElBaredei, along with intelligence from France, Israel, Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. Again, don't rush through it: The two secretaries should do a thorough job.
Finally, the last third of the presentation would be a legal case against Iran for violation of the prohibition, under "international law" (for those who believe in such chimeras), against incitement to genocide. When that is done, they take deep breaths and make the case that Iran is an admitted sponsor of groups already adjudged terrorist organizations... including Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban.
At the end, when the presentation is finished, Secretary Gates should conclude with these words:
Thank you, gentlemen, for your time and consideration of these grave events. We have only one more important point to make.
As this meeting began, a large but unspecified number of Coalition attack jets took off from bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. These forces were not just American but included British and French airplanes.
As we sat here, chatting so amiably, those planes have already carried out airstrikes destroying all known Iranian nuclear research sites -- and we know a lot more than we have ever let on -- as well as all Qods Force units we have identified, all known or suspected stockpiles of or factories for producing EFPs, major Hezbollah training camps and barracks, and all other units known or suspected to be involved in the criminal supply of munitions to terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan for use against Coalition troops.
In addition, I am reliably informed -- though of course, we have no operational control over this event -- that the Israelis have by now launched similar raids against Hezbollah strongholds in Syria and Lebanon... in Damascus, along the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, and so forth. They have also destroyed targets in the Syrian military associated with the transhipment of rockets and missiles from Iran to terrorist organizations.
In fact, I believe that the Israelis, just to make sure, have also attacked any military unit emplaced in Syria within fifty miles of the Israeli border or the Lebanese border.
Or so they tell me; we have nothing to do with it -- except, perhaps, allowing them to use our satellites and AWACs for look-down fire-control radar, air-traffic control, friend-or-foe identification of nearby aircraft, EA-6B electronic countermeasure aircraft, in-flight refueling, and 3-D targeting information. Other than that, we are not involved.
We do not ask permission of this August body; we never surrendered our authority to retaliate to military attack... and neither did the rest of you. And in any event, the die is cast, the deed is done. This purpose of this presentation was not to gain your approval; it was to explain why we have done what we have done, and what Iran and Syria must refrain from doing in the future to avoid another, more severe lesson in poking sleeping giants.
We thank you for a very pleasant evening. Cocktails and caviar will be served in the lounge, along with a special screening of the Right Stuff. Good evening.
Ah, me. A fantasy, I know... but must it remain so?
Date ►►► October 3, 2007
New Hsus for Old
So Hillary swamped the field by raising $27 million in the third quarter for her presidential coronation.
But I'm driven to wonder: How much of that money comes from actual contributers carefully weighing the alternatives and deciding on the Divine Mrs. C.... and how much comprises Norman Hsu-like bundled donations from reimbursed contributers, extorted contributers, and fake people?
Inquiring minds want to know -- and so should the Federal Elections Commission!
All Along the Watcher Tower
We didn't win last week's Council vote; which isn't surprising, as we plum forgot to send in any nominations. But in a cosmic irony, the Big Lizards post that the Watcher of Weasels nominated on our behalf, The Human Touch, was exactly the post that we would have picked ourselves (to clarify, you do realize, one hopes, that whenever we use the first person plural, we mean it in the royal, not "multiple-person" sense).
In a second cosmic irony, the Watcher's nomination from the Big Lizards pantheon of posts actually came in second.
And in the final cosmic irony, the actual winner was Bookworm's post -- titled "Cosmic Ironies." That's not just an irony... it's a synchronicity!
The winning entry is actually a quite charming story Bookworm's mother told her of the family history -- and more than a little lurid, what with her paternal grandfather marrying her maternal grandmother, and all. I very much enjoyed the historical soap opera:
- Cosmic Ironies, by Bookworm Room.
(By the way... will somebody explain to us why, when we click on any Bookworm Room post, it spawns not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six (pause to breathe), not seven, but eight copies of itself in succession? Thus, after reading, if we click the "back" button, we're redirected right back to the page we started from. Heck, the actual previous page almost scrolls off the "go" button list of recent pageviews. "I, a stranger and afraid, trapped in a world I never made!" Exclamation point added.)
Alas, it begins with the following sentence: "Note: I originally posted this bit of family history in August 2006." And one of our stuffy rules is that we won't vote for a republished piece, no matter how great it is. Therefore, we voted for a couple of other, equally good pieces:
- Gates' Iraq Agenda Short On Democracy, by Cheat Seeking Missiles;
- Krugman Spews Race-Baiting Bile, by Rhymes With Right.
In the first (which came in third in the voting), Laer focuses on a recent list from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates of his priorities in Iraq -- which appear to conflict with the president's priority of transforming the region by planting a democracy in the heart of the Middle East.
The second post -- which, in a stunner, we were the only one to vote for -- is a good, old-fashioned Fisking of the eminently Fiskable Paul Krugman.
Naturally, we have no idea what Nouncil post the Watchthing nominated on our behalf... so let's just skip that part. It's a failure we're trying to forget. The winner, however, just happened to be the post that we voted in the top spot ourselves. (Another cosmic irony!)
- Rafael Medoff: Columbia "Invites Hitler to Campus" -- As it Did in 1933, by History News Network
We leave as an exercise to the alert reader the subject of this post...
Once again, our second-place vote flew solo:
- There's Slanting a Story, Then There's This Doozy, by The Sundries Shack.
The Council's neglect is inexplicable. The post illuminates yet another risible attack on President Bush: He stands (falsely) accused of being so stupid, he thinks Saddam Hussein had killed Nelson Mandela. In fact, what Bush actually said was perfectly clear:
Part of the reason why there is not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein's brutal rule. I thought an interesting comment was made when somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, where's Mandela? Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas. He was a brutal tyrant that divided people up and split families, and people are recovering from this. So there's a psychological recovery that is taking place. And it's hard work for them. And I understand it's hard work for them. Having said that, I'm not going the give them a pass when it comes to the central government's reconciliation efforts.
Anyone with a pair of neurons to rub together should be able to figure out that "Mandela" does not mean the literal Nelson Mandela (who is still alive), but rather a metaphorical Mandela who could, one supposes, have led Iraq towards democracy; Bush says that all such possible leaders were killed by Hussein, hence they're not available to do all that Moses-like leading to the promised land.
Of course, the literal Mandela actually tried to lead South Africa towards Communism, not democracy -- which is my own beef with the Bush quote; I only defend him from the surreal charge that he thinks Nelson Mandeal is (a) an Iraqi and (b) dead.
Bog only knows why more folks didn't like the post.
If you want to read more, then look here.
Date ►►► October 2, 2007
Murtha: Underhanded and Overlawyered
Via the center-left Politico, federal Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (appointed by George W. Bush in 2002) has ordered Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 65%) to appear in court and be cross examined, in response to a subpoena by Marine Sgt. Frank Wuterich; Wuterich has sued Mad Jack for defamation for Murtha's accusation that the Marines in Haditha, al Anbar province, Iraq, committed "cold-blooded murder and war crimes."
The Politico writer, John Bresnahan, carps about the judge's order and predicts it will be quashed. He argues that Murtha will be allowed to hide behind the "Speech or Debate" clause of the Constitution, forcing a dismissal of the lawsuit when the appellate court hears the case. Legally, he is probably right; but if this happens, the political fallout could be far worse than if Murtha just testified, apologized, and -- as if were -- moved on.
Here is Bresnahan:
Frankly, I don't understand this ruling [forcing Murtha to take the stand and be cross-examined] at all, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is appealed by the Justice Dept. and/or House general counsel's office on behalf of Murtha. Murtha, who can say some inappropriate things once in a while, was clearly acting in his capacity as a lawmaker when he made the comments and is thus protected by the Speech or Debate Clause from any type of prosecution for official acts.
Therefore, this case should have been dismissed, and I hope it will be. It's not that I agree with what Murtha said. I don't know enough about the incident to have an opinion whether Wuterich or the other Marines did anything improper or illegal. But Murtha has a right to say what he did under the Speech or Debate Clause, even if he was wrong about what happened. When we start restricting what members and senators can say in the performance of their jobs, then we are really in trouble as a country.
I would argue that Murtha was not engaged in speech or debate related to passage of a law so much as he was poisoning Americans against our own military in order to further the political (not legislative) fortunes of the Democratic Party. Article I, section 6 of the Constitution includes the following privileges of members of Congress:
Of course, Murtha was not speaking in "either House;" he made his accusations during a press conference and a subsequent TV interview. Bresnahan argues that this still qualifies:
But what Murtha did was comment on an incident involving Wuterich and other Marines at a press conference and in a follow-up TV interview. These interviews were related to his opposition to the Iraq war. The courts have found that such press-related activities are a normal part of the duties of a member of Congress, and are therefore covered by the Speech or Debate Clause. Murtha did not have to be on the floor of the House making a speech in order to enjoy the protection of the Speech or Debate Clause.
Yet he, himself admits that not every statement during a press conference or on TV would be covered; it depends on what was said and what was the purpose... which is why we have judges. Were I the judge, I would least consider the argument that Murtha's purpose in falsely accusing the Marines anent Haditha was not to debate a bill in Congress, but rather to smear a bunch of people he just doesn't like.
Suppose Murtha went on 60 Minutes and falsely claimed that the chief legislative aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH, 88%) -- who, along with Boehner himself, opposes Murtha's position on earmarks -- was about to be indicted by the FBI for hundreds of acts of bribery... would Murtha be privileged from any legal action brought by Boehner's aide? After all, Murtha could legitimately claim that assassinating the character of Boehner's chief legislative aide would make it easier for Murtha to get his own earmarks passed, since Boehner and his aide would be too busy responding to the false charges to vigorously fight the earmarks.
But let's suppose Bresnahan is right, and the law allows Rep. Murtha to smear the United States military and then hide behind the constitutional clause to avoid paying damages to those he so casually yet severely damaged. How do you think that will play on the hustings?
What will the Republican presidential candidates make of that vile Democratic opportunism? Remember, Murtha is the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee chairman, and he would have been House Majority Leader, if Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) had gotten her way. He's not some scurrilous back-bencher; he's "hidalgo," high up the Democratic leadership.
We have a terrible national problem today: One of the two major parties hates President Bush so rabidly, its members are willing to say or do anything to hurt him... even if it means harming individual soldiers and Marines guilty of nothing but performing the very dangerous duty they're assigned, harming the American military, or harming the United States itself.
Democrats have been credibly accused of relying upon votes by aliens, felons, and the dead to win reelection, as with the Sanchez sisters, Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA, 100%) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA, 100%); they have consistently taken this route for many decades... even before the 1960 presidential election.
Likewise, Democrats and their trial-lawyer allies will cheerfully destroy the Boy Sprouts of America, shut off funding to missions and charities because they won't denounce their religious beliefs, and try to subvert and even smash the Catholic Church, if that's what it takes to maintain the Democratic majority in Congress.
The Democratic Party maintains a set of useful idiots and willing accomplices in the elite media (as Rush Limbaugh -- now embattled over yet more false accusations from Democrats -- is wont to say); these dupes and accomplices stoop to astonishing lows:
- They deliberately expose highly classified anti-terrorist surveillance programs, even those they agree are completely legal, such as the SWIFT surveillance program;
- They routinely engage in libel and slander of decent, law-abiding Republicans, from Limbaugh to the president and vice president, to Gen. David Petraeus;
- They poison the reservoir of American polity with vile and false accusations of racism, sexism, and "homophobia" hurled against anyone who disputes any part of "the Vision of the Anointed;"
- They report fake news -- even news they know is fake, because their own experts told them so: Hundreds of examples of "fauxtography," the deliberate fraud of "Police Captain Jamil Hussein," and Rathergate are just three examples;
- "Independent, unbiased" news anchors, editors, and writers attend fundraisers for the Democratic Party and its candidates -- then glide into government as Democratic apparachiks (Sidney "Sid Vicious" Blumenthal, George Snuffleupagus, Chris Matthews, Bill Moyers, and on and on), then drift back to being "independent, unbiased" journalists again;
- The elite media pull shenanigans like falsely reporting that Sen. Al Gore had won Florida, hence the presidency, in the 2000 election -- while the polls in Florida and elsewhere were still open. (That they "made up for it" by later falsely reporting that Bush had won -- after all polls had closed -- is not a defense... it's a secondary indictment. The only correct projection was that the race there was too close to call; there is no excuse for making any projection, nor do they get to shift all responsibility onto Voter News Service.)
The pattern is consistent: Democrats simply don't care what American institutions are ruined and shattered, so long as the Democrat gets reelected -- the loss of American confidence in our own electoral system, once the envy of the world; the loss of the faith-based charitable and service institutions we have relied upon for many, many decades to fill the gap between the public and private sectors; and the subversion of our fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech... this is all considered acceptable "collateral damage" by the modern Democratic Party.
Given the above, what Democrats need more than anything else is to stop digging the hole deeper, stop attacking the mainstream of this country, and return to the roll of loyal opposition to the president.
So what does their spokesman Mad Jack Murtha do? (Hah, thought I'd forgotten about him, didn't you?) He launches a bizarre, needless, heedless, vicious smear of the very branch of the service he loves to tout for his own credentials... a smear that was always questionable and is now shown to be largely fabricated.
And when one of the victims of the smear sues him, and a judge orders Murtha to testify in the trial -- Murtha's unofficial lawyer over at the Politico advises him to stand on his congressional privilege and laugh in the face of the man he slandered. "Can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!"
Oh Lordy, do I hope that Murtha takes Bresnahan's advice. I can think of nothing that would more enrage military families, traditional Americans, and even a great many moderates. And depending on the reaction of his Democratic colleagues, enrage them not only at Murtha but the entire party, too. Imagine, for example, if other Democrats lock arms around him, defending his right to slander, libel, and smear the United States Marine Corps and then "lawyer" his way out of the consequences that would befall us mere humans who did the same.
So as a member and supporter of the Republican Party, I would like to urge Rep. Mad Jack Murtha to just keep on stonewalling, refuse to testify, and continue smearing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, the state National Guards, and the reserves of all of the above.
Alas, as an American, I cannot. I must instead urge him, for the sake of the nation, to just "man-up" and apologize for bearing false witness against Marines fighting in Iraq. It would help bring us all together and present a united front to our enemies. This tack would be best for the United States of America -- the country Murtha supposedly serves in the United States Congress.
Sadly, I have the peculiar feeling that my secret wish will be fulfilled instead.
Date ►►► October 1, 2007
Gratefully Not Dead: Iraq Civilian and US Military Deaths Plummet
Fair warning: I am not a military strategist, nor do I play one on the internet. But I am an interested layman, and I've read as much as I can understand about counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy without returning to university.
From what I gather, one of the predictions of classical COIN is that, as the country fighting the insurgents shifts to a more effective COIN strategy, the indicator of success will be a significant drop in both civilian and military casualties, including deaths. (From now on, I will only discuss deaths, because it's hard to get data on non-fatal casualties.)
Insurgents practice asymmetrical warfare: They do not target the armed forces of the country the way an army would, force on force (milspeak for army vs. army in the open battlefield); and they don't precisely seize territory... thus eliminating two methods of evaluating military success in other types of wars.
In fact, the Islamist insurgents don't even seem to set up shadow governments (other than vague "caliphates," which are simply dictatorships by the biggest thug), nor do they attempt to win the "hearts and minds" of the civilians, as e.g. Communist insurgents tried in Vietnam, Korea, the Maylay states, and so forth. Rather, Islamist insurgents rampage through a town, killing civilians in essentially random ways, until they're driven out by COIN forces (as in Fallujah I and II in the pre-COIN period of the Iraq war).
Insurgents mostly target civilians; and even when they do attack the COIN army, they prefer to do so by ambushing patrollers, rather than trying to duke it out with an attacking force (the Taliban's catastrophic record against NATO shows why). In order to survive, an insurgency needs a constant stream of "victories," however small, to convince both the civilians who provide the sea of support for them and even for the insurgency's own members that the insurgency is the "strong horse," and everyone better get aboard. Each mass killing is considered a victory.
If instead they suffer a string of obvious defeats, then they start looking like losers: They lose support not only directly (members killed and captured) but also indirectly through a loss of prestige or "face." Fewer dead civilians and "infidel" soldiers (including IDF) directly translates into a loss of power and hegemony ("perceived fitness to rule," as I define it based on Gramsci). Therefore, the proper measure of COIN success is significantly fewer civilian and Coalition deaths.
When the country fighting the insurgency becomes more effective and begins denying the insurgency a sufficient stream of victories -- substituting instead a steady drip, drip, drip of insurgent defeats in the form of killings and captures and interdiction of attacks -- then two things happen:
- Some civilian supporters of the insurgency rethink their loyalty, start withdrawing support, and begin instead cooperating with the defending country;
- The insurgents themselves drift away from their former organizations (from fear and boredom), fading back into the general population... or if that is impossible, crossing the border into some adjoining country (as, e.g., Muqtada Sadr has returned to Iran).
So -- you're way ahead of me -- it's no surprise that a drop in civilian and military casualties is precisely what we've seen in Iraq since the COIN strategy was actually implemented in June: An initial spike of military casualties during the pre-implementation phase of preparing the battlefield, followed by the civilian and military death rate plummeting:
- According to Iraq Coalition Casualties (iCasualties), civilian deaths in September were 746, the lowest since February 2006, when it was 688; civilian deaths have dropped by nearly 75% from the local high in February.
- AP reports that civilian deaths in Iraq dropped by 50% in September alone;
- According to Breitbart, September saw only 70 U.S. military fatalities in Iraq (iCasualties reports only 66, plus 3 non-US Coalition deaths)... the lowest total since July 2006.
Here is a table compiled from the iCasualties 2007 figures; ISF means Iraqi Security Forces, including the Iraqi Army, National Police, and local police:
|2007 Month||Civilian deaths||ISF deaths||Coalition deaths||Total deaths|
* COIN implementation actually begins after battlefield prep;
** Figure includes anomalous, one-time bombing of Yazidis that killed 520; parenthetical figures exclude Yazidi bombing.
Here are the data for civilian and total killings in line-chart form. Note that for the chart, we have removed the anomalous Yazidi bombing of August 14th. The reason we chose to do this can be found in a previous post, Civilian Deaths in Iraq Are Up, But They're Really Down:
The trendline is clear, even brutally clear: The COIN strategy is working exactly as planned. Barring any significant changes, the Iraq war is, for all military intents and beyond all argument, over; and it has ended in victory for the United States and for a free and democratic Iraq.
What remains is mopping up... which will surely be deadly and surely result in the killings of many innocent civilians and of many American, Coalition, and Iraqi security forces. But the mop-up will not change the final result; the insurgency has been broken.
As al-Qaeda is driven out of Iraq, the ruling Shia see less and less reason to support or tolerate the "death squads," which also kill Shia who don't conform to the militias' crabbed vision of Islam. More Shia will join "Mosul awakening" or "Basra awakening" type organizations and begin informing on militias and their murderous activities.
The major Shiite parties, DAWA and SCIRI, will find it much easier to cut the militias off at the knees than continue funding them and then apologizing for their activities; to the extent the militias will continue to exist at all, they will likely transition to launching occasional attacks on rival Shiite parties in advance of elections, as is the Arabic way of democracy: The days of a hundred throat-slittings a day of randomly selected Sunni Iraqis are gone, and they're not likely ever to return... they were situational, caused by Shiite overreaction to al-Qaeda depredations.
The question now changes to the larger geopolitical conundrum: How to use Iraq as a model for transforming the Middle East and the larger Non-Integrating Gap. In the future, no matter who is president, we shall require Gap countries to become more or less democratic states that are basically secure and basically free; and we shall require them to enter the global grid of communications, capitalism, and political moderation.
As Iraq cools down, its very existence should make it much easier to deal with problems like Iran, Syria, and even countries in other regions, such as North Korea and Venezuela. Too, the final success of the Bush policy will induce other Western nations -- those bold, independent trendsetters -- to jump on the bandwagon. ("Oceania has always supported pre-emptive strikes, covert action, and counterinsurgency!")
All I can say is thank you, Mr. President, for quite literally sticking to your guns. You will be remembered... but not the way Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) fantasizes!
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