Date ►►► November 30, 2007
Ouch, What a Nickname!
Because of her propensity for dodging reporters, ducking questions, and avoiding any substantive answers even when she's cornered, Washington Post staffer Howard Kurtz has now given Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) a new nickname: She's officially the "Catch me if you can" candidate:
ABC correspondent Kate Snow was ready to push through the crowd and ask Hillary Clinton a question until an aide blocked the path of Snow's sound man as he aimed his boom mike in the senator's direction.
"Sorry, we've gotta go," the woman said, though it was clear that Clinton would be shaking hands for some time....
Such is life spent trailing the Clinton juggernaut, where reporters can generally get close enough to watch but no further, as if separated from the candidate by an invisible sheet of glass.
Hillary Clinton and especially her handlers seem to do everything they can to prevent any sort of meaningful exchange between "Milady de Winter" and the fourth estate, even physically throwing a block, as in this case. Except for carefully controlled, coordinated, and (I suspect) carefully scripted events -- such as an interview with CBS's Katie Couric earlier this month -- Team Hillary allows only canned communications from the candidate: speeches, e-mails, and blog posts that can be vetted by the staff.
They provide no bus or van for the press, who are forced to chase the senator around the campaign trail like paparazzi pursuing Princess Di. Even reporters for major national media resources are "frustrated by a lack of access to Clinton."
Unlike her husband -- who loved to talk to the press and routinely made a beeline for the nearest media gaggle -- Hillary is aloof and solitary, and she shies away from questions far more than a typical politician. All candidates (except Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, 65%) are wary; but Clinton's press paranoia seems virtually Nixonesque:
Newsweek's Andrew Romano says the press didn't even get to take the tour when Clinton visited a Las Vegas sheet-metal factory. "The way we were herded into a small area to watch her walk into a room and meet with union officials just seemed slightly absurd," he says. When a colleague asked the staff for a chance to question Clinton, "they just kind of laughed it off."
Clearly, Hillary does not think much of freedom of the press or the accountability of public officials. Worse, she is actually starting to sound spooked by the upcoming primaries; while talking with Katie Couric -- her only press contact scheduled that day -- Clinton did not sound like a confident candidate at all, according to Kurtz:
After the Concord event, Clinton retreated to a previously scheduled taping with Katie Couric, her only sustained encounter that day with the national media. The CBS anchor asked how disappointed she would be if she isn't the nominee. "Well, it will be me," Clinton said. When Couric pressed, Clinton insisted -- not terribly convincingly -- that she hadn't even considered the possibility she could lose.
Perhaps she sees mere voters, not just the press, as peons to be avoided, except insofar as they can help her -- and are screened in advance to make sure they'll ask the "correct" questions. (If they're not sure what they're allowed to ask, I'm sure a Hillary staffer will be quick with a stack of hand-out questions for audience members to memorize.)
The reason she is so insulated seems obvious to me: Her people know that whenever she opens her mouth, she offends another group of potential voters. She's condescending, her voice grates, and she can barely conceal her radical hatred of much of traditional American culture, as when she sneered at the First Lady of Country Tammy Wynette and denigrated housewives who stayed home and "baked cookies."
Even in this short piece about her unavailability to the press, Kurtz manages to quote something she said that will infuriate a whole segment of the voting public:
For more than an hour, 30 journalists watched from the small, darkened living room as Clinton chatted, awkwardly at first, with the five preselected guests. Her rhetoric against health insurance companies was harsher than might have been expected. They give patients the "runaround," deny care, "slow-walk" the payment of bills, she declared. "This is all part of their business model. This is how they make money. . . . The small-business health-care market is really rigged."
I wonder if she realizes that doctors themselves are also part of "the small-business health-care market?" Is Hillary Clinton saying that your family doctor is part of a get-rich-quick scheme to systematically deny you health care?
I don't think she can sustain this campaign model; it may have worked in New York in 2000 and 2006, but New York is not all of America. Sooner or later, she will either have to come out from her bubble and face the consequences of her radicalism and her Leona Helmsley-like condescention towards the "little people"... or else face equivalent wrath from voters for refusing to engage, for acting like the office is hers by right.
That will be "el momento de la verdad," the greatest test she has ever faced. And given what we know about her response to flunking the Washington D.C. bar exam -- she married Bill and fled to Arkansas -- I eagerly anticipate that moment of truth in the campaign.
Catch me if you can!
Bored Now; Turn the Page
The gasps of shock and screams of outrage must have been audible from the pot parlors of Berkeley, to the brahmin bashes on Beacon Hill, to the tea and cucumber sandwich fundraisers in Chappaqua: John Murtha has "gone native!"
And indeed, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%) -- the poster boy for "immediately" ending the war and redeploying all of our troops to next-door Okinawa, whence they could respond to any sudden terror threat in a scant four or five weeks -- went to Iraq, came back, and made some remarks yesterday about the counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy that can only be described as a laudatory about-face:
The Pennsylvania Democrat gave qualified but likely his most glowing remarks Thursday about the Iraq war.
"I think the surge is working, but that's only one element," said Murtha, who chairs the defense appropriations subcommittee. "And the surge is working for a couple of different reasons. And one reason is the increase in troops."
Murtha hastened to assure everyone yesterday he was still for yanking the troops out instanter, and he quickly moved today to claim that the drop in violence in Iraq was another black eye for the Bush administration; still, however, he now finds himself in the growing club of anti-war Democrats who have been forced by circumstance -- or would that be "mugged by reality?" -- into admitting the surge of success by the COIN strategy led by Gen. David Petraeus (Commander Multinational Force - Iraq) and presided over by President George W. Bush.
This singular admission by more and more Democrats may well be responsible for the second leg of our political journey: Now that we are clearly winning, Democrats are simply losing interest in Iraq. They've abruptly grown bored with the Iraq war as an election issue. Now they want to talk about socialist economics, the evils of Bush, and -- ominously enough, from the Democratic perspective -- they want to talk a lot more about illegal immigration:
Congressional Democrats are reporting a striking change in districts across the country: Voters are shifting their attention away from the Iraq war.
Rep. Jim Cooper, a moderate Democrat from Tennessee, said not a single constituent has asked about the war during his nearly two-week long Thanksgiving recess. Rep. Michael E. Capuano, an anti-war Democrat from Massachusetts, said only three of 64 callers on a town hall teleconference asked about Iraq, a reflection that the war may be losing power as a hot-button issue in his strongly Democratic district.
First-term Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) -- echoing a view shared by many of her colleagues -- said illegal immigration and economic unease have trumped the Iraq war as the top-ranking concerns of her constituents.
In an interview with Politico, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) attributed the change to a recent reduction of violence and media coverage of the conflict, saying there is scant evidence that more fundamental problems with the Bush administration’s policy are improving. Even so, he agreed voters are certainly talking less about the war. “People are not as engaged daily with the reality of Iraq,” Hoyer said.
The change in mood perceived by Democratic lawmakers comes as one of Congress’ most vocal war critics, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), returned from a trip to Iraq and told reporters Thursday that “the surge is working” to improve security, even though the central government in Baghdad remains “dysfunctional.”
So we're back to Murtha. But he didn't just stop after saying "the surge" was working; he went on to find so many different ways to contradict himself, it beggars the imagination. From the Fox News story:
Murtha, speaking to reporters Thursday in his hometown of Johnstown, Pa., mixed in renewed criticism of the Bush administration's management of the Iraq war, saying it was waged with too few troops, and that it is too costly.
"We can no longer afford to spend $14 billion a month on this war and let our readiness slip," Murtha said.
But, "If you put more forces in, things will work out," he said. [Wouldn't that cost more?]
"But the thing is, the Iraqis have to do this themselves," he added. "We can't win it for them in Afghanistan or Iraq, and provinces they've (Iraqi forces) taken over, we've done better. We can't win."
Has the honorable congressman ever considered medication?
So what is actually causing the sudden deflation of Iraq as an election issue, particularly among Democrats? I think it's pretty clear: Not just Democratic office holders but Americans in general are beginning to accept the reality that we're now winning the Iraq war:
For the first time in a long time, nearly half of Americans express positive opinions about the situation in Iraq. A growing number says the U.S. war effort is going well, while greater percentages also believe the United States is making progress in reducing the number of Iraqi casualties, defeating the insurgents and preventing a civil war in Iraq.
Roughly half of the public (48%) believes the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going very or fairly well. Judgments about the overall situation in Iraq have been improving steadily since the summer. As recently as June, only about a third of Americans (34%) said things were going well in Iraq.
To be specific, currently:
- 74% of Republicans think we're doing well, up from a low of 51% in February.
- Democrats who think we're doing well have more than doubled since then, up from 16% to 33% today.
- Indies have gone from 26% in February to 41% now.
- Finally, back in January, 42% of respondents said that Iraq was the worst problem facing America today, making it number one; it's still number one... but now, only 32% say it's the worst problem.
And there's your genesis for the loss of interest in the war as a political issue in the upcoming election.
Democrats are still frantically trying to spin away the rising tide of belief that we're winning; they note that the same Pew poll that shows a rise in those who think we're winning has not yet shown any drop in the number of Americans who want the troops to come home. But there is no reason to expect different aspects of public opinion to move in lockstep; even within public-opinion polling, itself a lagging indicator, we have less-lagging and more-lagging elements.
Logically, public opinion on how we're doing must change first; then opinion on what we should do next will change in response somewhat later. Finally, I believe the last thing to change, the "most lagging" of the lagging indicators, would be the public decision on whether the war was worth it.
But I cannot think of a single instance in which a public perception of American victory was not followed by increased willingness to stay and fight -- and also by a retroactive decision that yes, the fight was indeed worth it all: Time mutes all pain.
(Vietnam is not a counterexample, because despite our resounding victory there under Gen. Creighton Abrams, the American public was tricked by leftists such as Walter Cronkite into believing we were losing, when in fact we were winning. There never was a public perception of American victory and still is not today -- though that is finally starting to change, with the advent of talk radio, which drives publishers to publish serious conservative tomes; and by the arrival of "new media," which allows Americans to discuss the new information coming out about Vietnam.)
If the election becomes focused on economics, that is a much easier argument for Republicans to win; they can contrast their own budgetary proposals to the wild taxing and spending that Democrats have already promised. If it becomes focused on illegal immigration, then I don't know if anybody has an advantage -- if anything, slight advantage to Democrats; but that's a far cry from the huge advantage on the Iraq war that Democrats enjoyed in the 2006 election. And of course, there will be a lot less focus on the "Republican culture of corruption," with the Democrats' predictable failure to do anything substantive about the very abuses they screamed about last year... notably earmarks. (And no Mark Foley problem!)
So we're moving in the right direction. I fully expect that by the time the election rolls around, the number of Americans demanding we pull out will have fallen drastically (it's about 50% right now)... and those saying the Iraq invasion was worth it will be well over the 50% line.
At that moment, the Democrats may bitterly regret their long and frantic campaign to cram defeat in Iraq down America's throat. Running against America has rarely been a winning electoral strategy; I believe the Democrats are about to re-experience that painful lesson.
Date ►►► November 29, 2007
JoshuaPundit Sounds the Horn...
Wall fails to tumble; film at 11:00.
I can understand JoshuaPundit devoting an entire, long blogpost to arguing with a recent Big Lizards post; the only wonder is that more bloggers don't do it! After all, if our actual impact on the 'sphere matched our colossal ego, why, the whole wide web would be bristling with pro- and con-lizardly bloguations.
What's a bit puzzling is that he would choose to nominate that particular post for the Watcher's Council award. I think it a bit odd, considering how many of his points against us are not simply wrong but so easily proven wrong by past posting. Seems like such a waste.
After all, regardless of my irritation whenever he goes on a tear after George W. Bush and American foreign policy for being insufficiently pro-Israel and anti-Arab, in fact, I am perfectly capable of voting for JoshuaPundit's posts in first place... even when I'm the only one to do so.
Back to the blog-bate. Let's start with JP's basic, flawed premise... that I think Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is morally wrong, and that's why they should give them up. Says he:
If the Arabs made the choice to attack and lost some territory as a result, it's hardly an injustice or an `occupation'.
But I've never said there was anything wrong with Israel occuping those territories. It's perfectly fine with me. "Occupation" is descriptive, not disparaging.
True, Israeli Jews have no "claim on history" for those territories... but neither do Arab Moslems. I don't support the very idea of historical land claims; I believe land ownership is decided by possession, defense, and development.
Israel possesses those territories now; it has successfully defended them from all comers; and it developed them far beyond what the Arabs ever did (which was, as JP points out, virtually nothing). Ergo, those territories belong, morally and politically, to Israel, to do with as they please.
I suggest they let them go -- not because the world, the Arabs, the Arab-Palestinians, or U.N. Secretary General Nanki-Poo have any say in the matter, but because it's in Israel's best interest to rid themselves of such pestiferous hellholes.
In the same piece in which I recommended pulling out of Gaza and the West Bank (this is more than two years ago, back when I was a guest blogger on Captain's Quarters), I also recommended treating any further aggression from either place -- under Arab rule -- as one would treat similar military attack from Syria, Egypt, Iran, or any other country: With overwhelming retaliation.
In fact, I predicted that's what Israel would do after Hamas took over and launched an attack. I was right on 2/3rds of that prediction: Hamas took over; they, in concert with Hezbollah, launched an attack; but Israel fought a lousy, half-hearted war and -- while they didn't lose, exactly, they certainly didn't win, exactly, either. (In my defense, I had no idea Ariel Sharon would go and have a stroke, leaving a buffoon like Ehud Olmert in charge.)
I can only quote Larry Niven again: "Not responsible for advice not taken."
Somehow, this doesn't seem to jibe with JoshuaPundit's analysis of my psyche:
The main premise of people like Big Lizards is that appeasement of the Arabs and enfranchising the Palestinians will lead to peace in the region. The sad reality is that the Arabs are mainly concerned with weakening Israel so as to speed its demise...and what's more, they've never made a secret of it.
I blink and wonder if we have a deranged, blogospheric identity-thief slithering around using the name Bum Gizzards or somesuch.
But no; the most likely explanation is that, like many who take an extreme position, JoshuaPundit simply cannot imagine a person disagreeing with him -- unless that person is a mendacious villain or the dupe of mendacious villains. It never occurs to him that I may have a unique position on the Israeli-"Palestinian" situation, one that doesn't fit into the standard range somewhere between that of Mier Kahane and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Had Israel chosen to formally annex Gaza and the West Bank, then ethnically cleanse all the Arabs out and encourage Israeli Jews to flood the lands... I would have had no problem with that. That, at least, would have been a workable solution. But given the fecklessness of what they have done (or rather, failed to do), it's completely unworkable to maintain an occupation of a hostile population with access to outside agencies who can arm them... as the Brits discovered to their chagrin in India and elsewhere. Since there is now no option of annexation and repopulation, best let them go -- but defend the bloody borders a hell of lot better than we've seen so far.
Another major faux pas was committed by "Freedom Fighter" (aside from his studied refusal to use my name, Dafydd ab Hugh, despite the fact that it's easily discoverable from (a) reading the top and bottom byline on every post, and (b) clicking the "Who are these 'Big Lizards' guys anyway?" link found in the right sidebar of every page on Big Lizards). Steadily, and throughout, FF mistakenly assumes that I also want Israel to give up East Jerusalem:
This blogger [he means us] goes on and makes the point that Israel never annexed Judea, Samaria or East Jerusalem and therefore has no claim. He's incorrect when it comes to East Jerusalem....
Well, that blogger is incorrect when he claims I said Israel has no claim on East Jerusalem. The full annexation of East Jerusalem would not only be the most easily justifiable annexation Israel could make, I actually think it would be a good idea. It would make it clear to the world that Jerusalem would never be divided, nor would ever become the capital of a second Palestinian state.
But he keeps throwing East Jerusalem into the mix, perhaps to make us look like Israel-haters or even worse... Mearsheimerites; e.g.:
He then further states that Jews were never a majority of the population in Judea, Samaria or East Jerusalem and that these areas always had a majority Arab population....
As we never said a word about East Jerusalem (or West, South, or North Jerusalem; read our post), this seems a bit thick. I have no idea where he got such a notion; I certainly never said any such a thing; nor do I believe it. And not only do I think Israel should annex East Jerusalem, I also totally opposed the withdrawal from the Lebanon security zone north of the border... and I still think it was a bad idea. And Israel should hang onto the Golan Heights until the cows come home to roost.
(That grinding noise you hear is the sound of Freedom Fighter's head spinning around like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist, as he tries to squeeze the Lizardly white paper on Israel into the narrow confines of his imaginative suitcase.)
Of course, none of JoshuaPundit's claims about my ignorance of Israel's history are accurate; but that's just my assertion... I can't prove it. Though I'm sure I've made references here and there through the years that would demonstrate at least a grasp of the main points -- for example, that Jews had purchased a lot of land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem prior to the establishment of the modern nation of Israel... which Freedom Fighter seems to believe is news to me.
Then there are some claims of his that are simply tedious in their attempt to divert the debate from what we actually wrote to a cockamamie caricature of what we wrote. For one example (among many), we published the following:
As you may have guessed by now, "Freedom Fighter" at JP is one of those Israel boosters (I don't know where he posts from, here or there) who is so wrought up in the battle that he considers George W. Bush -- the most pro-Israeli president America has ever had -- to be Israel's enemy.
JP seizes upon one line there and twists it to make us sound like Borat-style "throw the Jew down the well" antisemites:
Big Lizards starts out by referring to me as `one of those Israel boosters' and wonders whether I'm posting `from here ( meaning the US) or there'(meaning Israel). I hate to disillusion anyone, but this site does not originate from Mossad headquarters, and there's no `dual loyalty' or question of my patriotism involved here.
Freedom Fighter... just as a frolic, perhaps you could try -- taking me literally? Dude, there is nothing on your blog indicating your nationality or where you post from. Perhaps if I read every post assiduously, I would spot something... but for all I know, you could be the heir to the principality of Monaco and posting from your winter castle in the island of Fernando Póo (now called Bioko Equatorial Guinea). You have a Blogger blog; you don't seem to list your real name anywhere (or perhaps I just haven't found it); I don't recall you mentioning identifying information in any of the posts of yours I've read.
The only clue I see is that your main banner includes an American bald eagle nibbling on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ear... but that might just be political commentary -- a Swiftian "modest proposal" for simultaneously ridding the world of its number-one terrorist and also providing a meal for an endangered species.
Regardless of one's position on the disposition of the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip -- or as Freedom Fighter would say, Judea, Samaria, and, ah, the Gaza Strip, I guess -- the central analogy of the JoshuaPundit post, that Gaza and the West Bank are to Israel as California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are to the United States, is inappropriate and silly. The distinctions far overwhelm any superficial similarities.
The most basic one is easy to spot: The United States does not rule over any hostile populace. No seething, terrorist populations that hate us with a passion. No territories held by force, when the majority living there would rather die to kill an American than live with the thought that we live as well.
In reality, the Palestinian-flavored Arabs hate Jews and love death more than they love life, even the lives of their children. And that's not my prejudice talking... they proudly announce it themselves.
Americans are sensitive plants. The moment there is any hint of disharmony among even 30% of the population of some territory we frequent, we immediately saddle the campfire, pee on the horses, and up stakes for warmer climes. We know when we're not wanted! The only exceptions I can think of are Afghanistan, Iraq, and of course, the Civil War... though the first two are short-term fights that we'll soon win, ending with far less than the magic 30% figure; and in the last, there was a moral principle involved: abolishing slavery.
One cannot find 30% of the population in the four American border states demanding to be returned to Mexico. One cannot fine 3%. One cannot even find 0.03%. In fact, not even 0.03% of the Hispanic population of those states. The entire membership of MeCHA that really wants those states to be swallowed up by Mexico as the state of "Aztlan" would probably fit into the Whiskey A-Go-Go nightclub.
While in the Israeli-occupied territories, the percent of the population that wants to be free of Israel and judenrein is, oh, about 100%. That's a pretty significant distinction between the analogy and the analogized!
That was the point of our earlier post; I have no idea what was the point of Freedom Fighter's post, other than a cri de cœur arising from generalized angst. But what the heck; read what we wrote, then read the JoshuaPundit post, and form your own opinion which of us is more convincing.
I'm all eyes...
Date ►►► November 28, 2007
Meet the New Ross...
Same as the old Ross.
As some of you may have noticed, we have a new permanent guest-blogger on Big Lizards: David Ross. You can read his first post here.
We found his name on the back of a bird-seed catalog, scribbled in crayon; and we thus decided he was perfect for the blog. After much poking (with a red-hot poker), Mr. Ross disgorged a brief bio. We cannot vouch for any of it; and frankly, some of it looks to be made up out of whole milk. But this is what he said:
For 23 years David Ross has been the editor of the Valley Roadrunner newspaper, a weekly community newspaper, in San Diego County, California.
Ross does many of the news stories for the weekly paper and writes the editorials. He has won about a dozen first place newspaper awards for editorials and one or two for humor.
He is also the author of two science fiction novels, the Eighth Rank and the Argus Gambit, both published by St. Martin’s Press.
In the last few years he has become something of a specialist in Indian gaming because he can't turn around in the shower without his stomach brushing against a casino. Although that could also be a faucet. He writes for two casino magazines and a gaming newsletter.
He lives on top of Palomar Mountain, home of the famous observatory.
Mind, all this self-serving diddly-boo was supplied by Ross himself; take it for what you will. Until we get around to tarting up his resume with the patented Lizardly touch (as seen here), this will just have to do.
So eyes front: Whenever you see a post with the keywords "Hatched by Dave Ross" below the title, you'll know you have another Ross gloss in your hands. So don't blame me or Sachi; direct all bouquets and brickbats at Mr. David Ross, esquire.
Ask Not For Whom the Billfolds
Ho hum, another day, another humiliation. Lizards were born to suffer as the sparks fly upward (from the barbecue over which we're being turned into "lizard on a stick" fair food). At least this time we got one vote in first place (or two in second place); it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp suit... but still I long for the glory days of mid-November, when Big Lizards was winning the Watcher votes left and right.
Special note: Council members are dropping like moths around the bug zapper. Now it's Okie From Muskogee (and something about a little lamb) who has shaken the dust from his boots and taken the big sleep (well, as far as the Council of Weasel Watchers is concerned).
The Wotcher needs another victim... so anybody who thinks his blog is ready to hit the big time, tune to this spot and make your case with the Watchman.
This time, funnily enough, our Number Two won, and our Number One didn't attract any votes other than our own!
The winner is a winner of a Cheat Seeking Missiles post:
- Charting a New Course In Iraq Messaging, by Cheat Seeking Missiles.
Laer charts the repeated twistings and turnings of Democrat defeatists desperate to destroy our victory in Iraq... always good for a few laughs!
And just to show that I can go off the deep end as well as anyone, our first choice was actually a post by JoshuaPundit. Yes, you read that correctly:
- Lebanon's Presidential Election Postponed -- Again, by Joshuapundit.
When JP isn't manning the barricades against the evil George W. Bush, he can be quite insightful. (When he gets on a tear, he's merely inciteful.) In this case, he recounts the sorry history of Syria's slo-mo takeover of Lebanon.
In this category, our first was first and our second was a strong third. The winner:
- The Irrationality of Europe, by The Van Der Galiën Gazette.
In this entry, the Van der Galiën Gazette -- run, oddly enough, by Michael van der Galiën -- notes the perversity of European politics: They fawn over their enemies and kick their friends in the yin-yangs.
Our second-place vote went to a Pajamas Media account of the almost farcical gyrations performed by France 2, the television station that broadcast the first stories about the "killing" of Mohammed al-Dura, a young boy:
- Al Dura Affair: France 2 Cooks the Raw Footage, by Pajamas Media.
The more evidence we gather, the more it appears that the entire "death scene" of young al-Dura was just another example of "Pallywood," the bizarre choreography staged and faked for Western news media by the Palestinian militiants.
More than likely, Mohammed al-Dura is still alive and well somewhere; regardless, he surely wasn't killed by Israeli troops.
But when a French judge ordered France 2 to produce all of the raw footage and convey it to the courthouse... it appears that France 2 actually spliced the most important footage out of the videotape, then told the judge that was the complete record. Bad journalist! Bad, bad!
Lest we forget...
You can see the full results by clicking here. If you really want to bother, after our excellent summation.
Date ►►► November 27, 2007
Moslems, Mormons, and Mitt
Everybody seems to be jabbering about this supposed faux pas of Mitt Romney in response to a question by Mansoor Ijaz; but no such judgment can be made without knowing not only the exact question Ijaz asked... but also the preceding conversation, which set the context of the question.
Power Line was the first place I read it; now it's been discussed on Captain's Quarters (and here, too), Real Clear Politics, National Review, and goodness knows where else, mostly but not exclusively to Romney's discredit.
Here's the buzz. According to an opinion piece by Mansoor Ijaz in the Christian Science Monitor, the following exchange took place at a Mitt Romney fundraiser in Las Vegas earlier this month:
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."
Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they're too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America's Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats....
He, and other candidates for the presidency from both political parties, should actively begin searching for American Muslims and Arab Americans who can serve in primary decisionmaking cabinet level posts. To do otherwise is to risk promulgating policies that once again put the US straight in the sights of the terrorists who seek to bring America down.
Who is Mansoor Ijaz? He's a fiscally (free-market) conservative, anti-terrorist, pro-war against global hirabah, native-born American of Pakistani descent. He is a Moslem, but not a radical one. Yet several things about this accusation of "aggravating hypocrisy" aggravate me:
- To Ijaz's core point, he accuses Romney of "excluding Muslims because of their religion." But the only thing Ijaz actually shows is that Romney rejected Ijaz's call to "actively begin searching" for people to appoint to the cabinet because they are Moslem. Isn't Ijaz's call for hiring people specifically because of their religion just as religiously biased as excluding people based on their religion would be -- even if Romney were saying he would do that?
- Don't you wonder, as do I, about the elipsis that begins Ijaz's alleged quotation of Romney's answer? What did Romney say before he said "based on the numbers of American Muslims in our population?"
- I'm also curious what Romney said after the quoted passage; did he clarify his position at all? We have no idea, because Ijaz -- the only witness -- doesn't see fit to tell us.
- Likewise, I am always skeptical when a person is attacked for an answer to a question -- yet we're not given the exact question. Ijaz purports to have memorized or written down the exact words that Romney used to answer the question; but evidently, Ijaz either doesn't remember what he, himself asked... or else he doesn't want us to know.
Suppose, for example, his question were actually, "Gov. Romney, we have special cabinet officers to deal with energy, commerce, the environment, education, and defense. Would you consider putting a qualified Muslim into your cabinet in order to handle domestic Muslim issues?"
And perhaps that missing section, hinted at by the elipsis, was "You mean a sort of Muslim czar? No... based on the numbers of American Muslims in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified."
If that were more or less the exchange, then what they were really talking about would have been a Moslem czar, a cabinet-level position like "Secretary of Islam." In that case, the easiest way to answer the question would be to gently point out to Ijaz that the entire panoply of domestic Moslem issues does not rise to the level of a cabinet-level appointment. I mean, we don't have a Secretary of Christianity, and most of the country would call itself Christian of one kind or another.
These are fanciful, made-up quotations, of course (hence the blue highlighting); I have no evidence either party said these. I'm simply showing how easy it would be for a natural flow of conversation to create a context in which Romney's answer was neither an example of religious bigotry nor even "aggravating hypocrisy."
(I call question (4) above the "primary polling fallacy," by the way; PPF occurs whenever a newspaper reports on polling results without telling readers the actual wording of the questions... which is critical to understanding those poll results.)
I'm not simply scrambling for some way to rescue Romney from a (supposedly) religiously bigotted remark; I'm neither a Romney supporter nor detractor... I like much of what he says, but I can say the same about Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and John McCain; but I also dislike some things about him -- which I can also say of Giuliani, Huckabee, and McCain.
Here is the problem: Ijaz is a "good Moslem," meaning that as regards public policy (not personal devotional habits), he is an American first and a Moslem second. But he is, nevertheless, a Moslem activist.
Unlike the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Mansoor Ijaz certainly does not have an agenda of overthrowing the United States government and instituting a theocratic caliphate. But like CAIR, Ijaz does focus fairly obsessively on Moslem issues (since 9/11), and he does tend to cast anyone who doesn't agree with his expansive views on affirmative action for Moslems as a religious bigot.
To me, Ijaz seems perfectly capable of twisting Romney's response to make it appear clearer that the governor is a bigot -- as Ijaz believes of everyone who disagrees with him about Moslem issues... and Ijaz might not even realize that's what he's doing.
The same memory phenomenon occurred when Vice President Al Gore's said, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet" -- which is bad enough, since it was "created" long before Gore was first elected to Congress in 1976 (at least as far back as the first working ARPANET connection in 1969); and indeed, Gore did not really get involved in internet-related committee work until the 1980s.
But many conservatives went farther, actually misremembering it much worse than Algore said. They transformed the statement, in their own minds, into Gore saying "I invented the internet."
I think there is actually a psychological term for this phenomenon -- intensification, or somesuch: When a person has a very strong reaction to something he heard someone say, he will tend to remember what he heard in an altered form... changed in order to intensify whatever feeling he had. Thus, if he really, really likes what someone said, he will tend to remember it phrased much better, pithier, wittier than it really was. Likewise, if he really hated what the speaker said, he will tend to remember it as worse, more vicious, or more egregious than it really was... many Democrats actually, literally "remember" George W. Bush saying that Iraq was an "imminent threat," whereas the transcript shows he said just the opposite.
These are just local variants on the generalized phenomenon that we all tend to remember important events, not as they actually happened, but as they should have happened.
This applies to the circumstances of the situation, too; many Republicans literally "remember" that when Bill Clinton said "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton was sitting right there in the Oval Office. In fact, he was standing in a press room, either at the White House or elsewhere, I don't recall which. The meme of "sullying the office of the presidency" is intensified by falsely remembering that it occurred in the sanctum santorum of the American government itself.
Anent the Romney "Moslem in the cabinet" claim, there are simply too many problems with it to take it seriously:
- It happened without video cameras rolling, so we cannot watch it ourselves;
- It happened far from any microphones (if there were even any present), so we cannot hear it;
- No other witness has stepped forward to corroborate it;
- Not even Mansoor Ijaz says that he literally took the answer down in shorthand while Romney spoke; he may be operating entirely on his memory of what each said;
- Ijaz doesn't give us the question he asked;
- He doesn't give us Romney's complete answer;
- He doesn't give us the specific context they were speaking about;
- And he admits engaging in the same religious targeting -- on behalf of Moslems -- that he accuses Romney of engaging in against Moslems.
Ijaz is a Moslem-rights activist... and like all activists, it's hard to know when he's promoting his issue and when he's just accurately reporting in an unbiased fashion. As Captain Ed put it, Ijaz is "playing identity politics" himself.
Given these known unknowns, all of them critical to understanding the conversation, it is simply impossible to form any rational conclusion about what Mitt Romney said. Any "conclusion" drawn is in reality merely projection, based upon the concluder's own feelings in the matter.
So let's all stop trying to read the Romney tea leaves; there is no "there" there.
Lizardly Instant Update Feature: Real Clear Politics (linked above) links to an MSNBC blog called First Read, which reports a presser with Mitt Romney at which he clarified what he remembers of that conversation:
At an availability with reporters here, Romney answered questions about today's report suggesting that he would not appoint Muslims to his Cabinet. "No, that's not what I said. His question was, Did I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet in order to confront radical jihad, or would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet?' And I said no, I don't think you need a Muslim in the Cabinet to take on radical jihad any more than we needed a Japanese American to understand the threat that was coming from Japan or something of that nature."
Romney continued, "It's something I rejected, number one. And number two, point out that haven't given a lot of thought to the people I would have in my Cabinet. I don't have boxes I check off in terms of ethnicity, and it's not that I need a certain number of people representing ethnic groups. Instead, I would choose people based on their merits... I'm open to having people of any faith, ethnic group. But they would be selected based on their capacity and capabilities and what they could bring to the Administration, but I don't choose people based on checking off a box...."
A search of FEC records, finds that a Mansoor Ijaz has given $23,000 to Democratic candidates and committees from 1997 to 2000, including $2,000 to Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate run and $15,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
I think it reasonable to take that last paragraph into account when evaluating Mansoor Ijaz's CSM column.
Date ►►► November 26, 2007
Ignore This Poll!
Don't pay any attention to this poll showing Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carbetbag, 95%) running behind all of her major Republican opponents in the presidential race; as enjoyable as all the hype may be, the source -- Zogby Interactive -- is completely unreliable.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but John Zogby's "interactive" -- that is, online -- polling is execrable. It's untrustworthy when it goes against Republicans; and it's equally untrustworthy when it cuts in our favor.
Here is the key graf from the Breitbart story, and the only thing you need know about the poll:
The Zogby poll was conducted online among 9,150 likely voters across the United States between November 21 and 26, and carried a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.
So yeah... among Americans who spend significant time online and are willing to answer polling questions at a web site -- Hillary now runs behind. But besides looking at an incredibly volatile group, it's also very small and highly unrepresentative of the voting population as a whole.
The Zogby online poll is very much like the infamous 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune poll during President Harry Truman's reelection campaign; the Trib conducted the poll by telephone, and it ended with Truman, newly reelected, holding up the election-day plus one edition of the Tribune with the banner headline "Dewey Defeats Truman."
And as Isaac Asimov pointed out, the poll was perfectly accurate: If the election were limited to only those people who owned telephones in 1948, then ultra-liberal Republican Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York would have won.
In the Zogby case, we do actually allow those who don't camp online -- in fact, even those who don't have computers at all! -- to vote for president; the poll is wildly unrepresentative... no matter who an individual instance of it supports.
Look, I do believe that current polling has an inherent partisan Democrat bias: They poll over the weekend, which favors Democrats; they overpoll big cities, which favors Democrats; and just in general, Democrats tend to be more willing to sit still for a call from a political pollster... Republicans are much more likely to hang up. Pollsters could fix this bias by simply asking party affiliation, comparing the percentages to the percentages in the districts in which they poll, and then weighting the responses accordingly.
But they refuse. Pollsters claim that respondents answer the party registration question not according to how they are actually registered, but according to how they feel about their party's candidates that day instead. In other words, suppose the Gallup poll calls a person who is registered as a Republican; if he likes the Democratic candidate better that day, he'll sail under false colors and claim that he's a registered Democrat. Ergo, when they get a big imbalance in favor of Democrats, that just means lots of Republicans like the Democrats better, and they're lying about their own registration to jump on the Democratic bandwagon.
I find this argument risible. For one thing, the imbalance exists even when the Republican wins the race. Do pollsters really want us to believe that Republican respondents are so down on the GOP that they falsely claim to be registered Democrats -- and then go ahead and vote Republican?
The more plausible explanation is that the heuristic that pollsters use to select samples of respondents tends to skew Democratic; therefore, they should weight their samples to match the partisan breakdown of the actual population of voters, according to previous votes. Picture this silly example: If Gallup polled exclusively at singles events, would that be a reasonable sample base from which to project an electoral winner? Of course not: Singles are much more Democratic than married couples. Alternatively, if they polled only at churches, that would be equally skewed towards the right.
It's not an exaggeration to say that the sample "makes" the poll. When the sample differs significantly from the population -- such as when it consists exclusively of people who own computers, spend much time online, and are willing to take the time to answer an online poll -- it loses all predictive value.
I do believe that Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and John McCain would actually be running ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham if the poll samples were more accurate. Alas, nothing by John Zogby can be counted as evidence of such.
But keep watching the polls; I suspect they'll start to change as the primary process kicks off. And in particular, when the two nominees are known, that's when we'll really start seeing some movement.
The Most Important Thing of 2008
The central tenet of my life and the universe -- at least this week -- is that the most important thing in the world is to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming president.
Although from the standpoint of my personal profit and reputation it would be a good thing if Hillary become president, since I am working on a 1984ish dystopian horror fiction knockoff about the beginning of her fourth term in office entitled (tentatively) "Nanny," I consider it hardly an exaggeration that a second Clinton presidency would be the beginning of the end for freedom and civil liberties as we know it... and probably also the American way of life.
Yes, it's that bad.
It's so bad that I would vote for virtually anyone else, Hugo Chavez and Alec Baldwin possibly excluded, to ensure her defeat. Oh yes, there is one other person that I wouldn't be able to vote for, and that's John McCain. If, by some twate of fist they are both the nominees next year, I would have to sit out the first presidential election of my adult life, or else vote for the libertarian.
I include Mr. McCain because both he and Hillary are grave enemies of the Bill of Rights -- specifically the First Amendment. Hillary, because anything that stands in her way, including pesky things like civil liberties and the constitution, is just a piece of paper; and the most convenient place for inconvenient pieces of paper is underfoot. McCain because he is probably the most authoritarian Republican of our generation. He really thinks that defeating "corruption in government" is more important than freedom of speech and press. I'm not bending his words in any way.
In April, while on the Don Imus radio show (ironically as it turned out), shortly before Imus committed ritual seppuku using a rusty blade of political correctness, McCain answered the charge, that his McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation attacks the First Amendment, by in essence saying, "So what?"
I work in Washington and I know that money corrupts. And I and a lot of other people were trying to stop that corruption. Obviously, from what we've been seeing lately, we didn't complete the job. But I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government.
Columnist George Will wondered how McCain would be able to hold that opinion and also carry out his oath to uphold the constitution if he is elected president.
Hillary Clinton's point of view about freedom of expression is, if anything, even more chilling than McCain's. Most defenders of the sanctity of the Internet recall this quote from her when the Drudge Report first reported Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky:
"We are all going to have to rethink how we deal with this, because there are all these competing values.... Without any kind of editing function or gatekeeping function, what does it mean to have the right to defend your reputation?"
But the average voter has no idea that Mrs. Clinton favors prior restraint, something that the U.S. Supreme Court has never authorized, even in the name of national security. Of course, the average voter doesn't support the Bill of Rights either, when the individual rights are put to him in the form of questions such as "Do you think people ought to be allowed to say anything they want, even if it makes the job of the president harder?" or "Don't you think the police ought to be able to enter the house of a suspect without a warrant if they have a good reason?" So, as the people of Venezuela seem prepared to exercise their rights to "one man, one vote, one time" and legitimize a dictatorship, the American people might under certain circumstances allow Hillary to create a "gatekeeper" to guard against abuses of the freedom of the Internet (or talk radio, for that matter).
I am becoming just a little bit optimistic about the inevitability of the Hillary coronation because cracks are starting to appear in what has up until now been an impenetrable wall: the absurd claim that Hillary is the "most qualified candidate."
A column by Maureen Dowd -- who will, once the nomination is secured for Hillary return to her slavish devotion to the Democratic party and attack whomever the GOP nominee is -- demonstrated that when she is at the top of her game, she has the sharpest claws in the pundit business: She applauded Barack Obama's witty observation that he couldn't recall that Mrs. Clinton had served as her husband's treasury secretary, after Mrs.Clinton turned her regal gaze on the upstart and tried to turn him to stone by ridiculing his inexperience.
That crack is the sort of thing that could become a canyon if enough the of the media reflect on the absurdity of the claim that Hillary makes, that she acquired all of her husband's abilities and experiences in sort of a political contact high. It's an "emperor has no clothes" moment. It brings up all sorts of interesting questions. If, as she implies, Mrs. Clinton was "co-president," then why doesn't the 22nd Amendment apply to her? Or, if it doesn't, can we at least ask that she or Bill produce some memos or documents that have her fingerprints on them, to demonstrate what policy decisions she was responsible for -- and to what degree?
As they have ever since they entered public life, the Clintons are trying to have it both ways. Mrs. Clinton wants to take credit for all of Bill's positives when he was president, but claim deniability when the party wingnuts squawk about NAFTA. Like Janus, Mrs. Clinton wants to look both ways at once. Oops! Did I just call Hillary "two-faced?" Oh dear, how sexist of me!
Date ►►► November 25, 2007
Not a movie review; I haven't seen the movie.
But of course, neither has anybody else. That's the point. According to Box Office Mojo, Brian De Palma's new anti-war, anti-American, anti-soldier tour de farce Redacted, winner of the Best Director award at the Venice Film Festival -- which tells the stirring and subtle story of how American soldiers raped, murdered, and burned a fourteen year old Iraqi girl, and then raped, murdered, and burned her entire family to silence them, and then raped, murdered, and burned the military investigators, then the news reporters who tried to report on it, then families of random American soldiers, then Mr. Whipple, then all the animals at the petting zoo -- has enjoyed a resounding lifetime box office gross of $25,628 dollars.
But wait, that's not entirely fair; that's just the domestic gross. We really should include the international take, too... that would be $71,968 (all from Spain, where the movie opened), for a whopping grand total of $97,596.
Over three days (November 16th, 17th, and 18th), at 15 theaters in its widest release (I believe distributer Mark Cuban has reduced the number of venues since that high point). That works out to a domestic take of 1,700 clams per theater. Assuming a measley two showings per day per theater, and assuming tickets average $8.50 each (factoring in the bargain matinees!), that indicates that about 33 people per showing managed to straggle into the theater, some of whom probably thought they were buying tickets to that animated movie about the mouse who wants to be a cook.
It only seems to be playing at one theater in the LA area now; check your local listings!
Director Brian De Palma is doing everything he can to persuade American audiences to go see the movie:
[De Palma] said the film provided a realistic portrait of U.S. troops and how "the presentation of our troops has been whitewashed" by mainstream media.
De Palma, who looked at the atrocities of conflict in the 1989 film "Casualties of War," which also centers on the rape of a young girl by U.S. soldiers, believes news coverage of wars had changed since the Vietnam War.
"We saw fallen soldiers, we saw suffering Vietnamese. We don't see any of that now," he said. "We see bombs go off, but where do they come down? Who do they hit?"
The U.S. invasion of Iraq was "clearly a mistake," he said, that was perpetuated by "defense contractors, big corporations of America" profiting from the war.
"How many billions of dollars are those companies making? And who gets more famous than ever? The media. There is nothing like a war to fill the airwaves 24 hours a day," he said.
But for some unfathomable reason, moviegoers just aren't responding, no matter how conciliatory De Palma gets. I believe the point of his movie is that the biased, conservative American news media simply refuses to report on the rape and murders in Mahmudiyah, which were ordered by Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon; just as they refused to report on the Rumsfeld-ordered Haditha massacre, the Rumsfeld-ordered sex-torture at Abu Ghraib, the Rumsfeld-ordered butchery of an innocent wedding party, and the well-established fact that nearly all the bombings and sectarian violence in Iraq since 2003 were committed by American soldiers disguised as Sunni al-Qaeda groups and Shiite death squads, and operating under the direct orders of Donald Rumsfeld.
So what do you want to bet... the lesson Hollywood will take from Redacted -- and Lions from Lambs (Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Michael Pena -- $13.8 million domestic), In the Valley of Elah (Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron -- $6.7 million), and all the other anti-American, spit-on-the-soldiers movies about innocent Moslem terrorists being mugged, raped, and brutalized by vicious, bloodthirsty, criminal American soldiers -- the lesson Hollywood takes will be... "Gee, I guess Americans just don't like war movies anymore; war has become unpopular at the movies!"
You know, like We Were Soldiers ($78 million domestic), Master and Commander ($94 million), Troy ($133 million), 300 ($211 million), and Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers ($342 million).
The lengths the industry will journey in order to avoid drawing the obvious conclusion -- that Americans don't like being told that we're nothing but a bunch of depraved, murderous, racist thugs, the world hates us, and we're responsible for all the ills that befall innocent people everywhere -- is little short of astonishing. I predict the result of the debacle of this spate of films exploring the war against global hirabah will not be a batch of pro-America movies; instead, they will simply stop making war movies altogether.
I reckon the alternative, that Americans like movies where we're the good guys, is simply too horrible to contemplate.
Date ►►► November 24, 2007
More On the Clintonian Culture of Corruption
An innocuous AP story -- "InfoUSA discloses SEC investigation of company spending" -- hides deep within its bowels another serious indictment of corruption and incuriosity by Bill and Hillary Clinton about the likely criminal source of their donors' money. It's hard to believe the Clintons don't know about it -- assuming they read their own "home state" newspaper.
And even the New York Times itself goes to some effort to hide the real story from our eyes. Evidently, they're worried we might not have enough of a nuanced, sophisticated view to understand that there's really nothing to see here. But before blasting back to the dim mists of this spring, let's return to the Associated Press:
The Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into spending by database marketer InfoUSA Inc.
The Omaha-based company said in a filing Tuesday that it would cooperate with the SEC's request for documents related to expense reimbursement, transactions with related parties, some corporate expenditures and certain trades of company stock.
The company did not specify what spending the SEC is looking for, but a lawsuit two hedge funds filed earlier this year may offer some clues.
Ho-hum; MEGO; who cares... another company being investigated by the SEC, right? I never would have noticed this article had it not been reposted by Newsmax; and I never would have read it had they not given it a more revealing title: "SEC Investigates Co. with Clinton Links."
(As always with Newsmax, I distrust their objectivity; so when they post a story on their site, I always hunt for a more authoritative source. Since this International Herald Tribune version is word-for-word identical to what Newsmax reposted, I believe this is what AP actually moved on the wire.)
Reading further into the article, we see that AP unquestionably buried the lede; recall, the SEC is investigating InfoUSA because of allegations that surfaced in a lawsuit filed by a couple of hedge funds:
The lawsuit also questions why [InfoUSA founder Vin] Gupta used private jets to fly Bill and Hillary Clinton on business, personal and campaign trips, and why Gupta gave Bill Clinton a $3.3 million (€2.2 million) consulting contract.
According to the lawsuit, InfoUSA has spent nearly $900,000 (€607,533) since 2001 flying the Clintons to domestic and international locations and political events.
Has this previously been disclosed by the Clinton campaign? On its face, it would seem to violate campaign finance rules banning corporate (and union) political "in-kind" contributions to members of Congress. And that three-million dollar "consulting" contract to Bill Clinton could easily be seen as an end-run around the ban on direct corporate contributions to federal campaigns -- hey, it's not for Hillary, it's for Bill!
The Clintons insist that they did disclose and "reimburse" InfoUSA, and its Clintonista founder Vinton "Vin" Gupta, for some of its contributions, according to the New York Times version of the AP story; though so far, this is based entirely on the Clintons' word:
Mr. Gupta has been a major donor to Democrats and gave at least $1 million to Mr. Clinton’s presidential library in Arkansas. Mr. Gupta also took part in a June fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton in Manhattan.
A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton said in May that all the flights connected to InfoUSA were reimbursed and disclosed in accordance with Federal Election Commission and Senate ethics rules.
Note that Hillary Clinton's campaign only claims that they reimbursed the air transportation; they say nothing about reimbursing or returning the multi-million dollar contract... to Bill Clinton. But Gupta has a long history of financial support of the Clintons, both as fundraiser and individual contributor, which bought him a night in the Lincoln bedroom and not one, not two, but three offers of appointment by President Clinton, only the last of which -- to the board of directors of the "prestigious" John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts -- did Gupta accept.
But the truly damning part of the AP story linked at the top is what else InfoUSA has been doing. Take a gander:
The company has come under scrutiny for its policies concerning the sale of personal information.
The New York Times reported in May that InfoUSA, which compiles consumer information and sells it to direct marketing companies and others, sold the names of senior citizens, including millions with Alzheimer's disease and others whom it identified as gamblers, with labels that said things such as, "These people are gullible."
The company has denied those allegations and said it does everything it can to ensure it does not do business with scam artists.
Curiously, this nugget did not find its way into the Times' version of the AP story. But perhaps they weren't aware of it?
That defense is a tad unlikely, when one reads this other NYT article, published way, way back -- in May of this year. The Times published what must be the definitive, multi-page article on the despicable, criminal behavior of InfoUSA (one of a series on corrupt corporations)... and gives us a much clearer view of the sort of folks who become top donors to Hillary Clinton's presidential and senatorial campaigns, and of course to Bill's campaigns and his presidential library (though the earlier NYT article leaves that part of the story unmentioned):
Bilking the Elderly, With a Corporate Assist
The thieves operated from small offices in Toronto and hangar-size rooms in India. Every night, working from lists of names and phone numbers, they called World War II veterans, retired schoolteachers and thousands of other elderly Americans and posed as government and insurance workers updating their files.
Then, the criminals emptied their victims’ bank accounts.
A 92 year old veteran of the Army during World War II, Richard Guthrie lost his entire life savings to thieves from India. And where do you suppose they got Guthrie's name and the idea that he would be a prime target for their scams? I'm sure you never saw this one coming...
Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say.
InfoUSA advertised lists of “Elderly Opportunity Seekers,” 3.3 million older people “looking for ways to make money,” and “Suffering Seniors,” 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. “Oldies but Goodies” contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: “These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change.”
Would the Clinton campaign consider "reimbursing" Mr. Guthrie, and all of his fellow "gullible" elderly, sick veterans and other victims?
The thieves would call and pose as government workers or pharmacy employees. They would contend that the Social Security Administration’s computers had crashed, or prescription records were incomplete. Payments and pills would be delayed, they warned, unless the older Americans provided their banking information.
Many people hung up. But Mr. Guthrie and hundreds of others gave the callers whatever they asked.
“I was afraid if I didn’t give her my bank information, I wouldn’t have money for my heart medicine,” Mr. Guthrie said.
Most of these listsellers, certainly including Mr. Gupta's InfoUSA, are well aware that they're selling to thieves and con artists; but they continue to do so, even after law-enforcement authorities warn them -- repeatedly -- who their "clients" really are. It's crystal clear to enforcement agencies that companies like InfoUSA know exactly what they're doing, and also know that the odds of them being convicted in court are quite low.
Perhaps especially if they have influential politicians in their back pockets.
Although some companies, including Wachovia, have made refunds to victims who have complained, neither that bank nor infoUSA stopped working with criminals even after executives were warned that they were aiding continuing crimes, according to government investigators. Instead, those companies collected millions of dollars in fees from scam artists. (Neither company has been formally accused of wrongdoing by the authorities.)
“Only one kind of customer wants to buy lists of seniors interested in lotteries and sweepstakes: criminals,” said Sgt. Yves Leblanc of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “If someone advertises a list by saying it contains gullible or elderly people, it’s like putting out a sign saying ‘Thieves welcome here.’ ”
Naturally, this being the world of the elite media, there is no mention of the Clinton connection in the Times article about the horrific scams committed by thieves working hand in glove with InfoUSA. They never even mention that InfoUSA is run by long-time Clintonista Vin Gupta, or the efforts Bill Clinton made to get him on the government payroll.
But even creepier, the Times' version of the Associated Press article on the SEC investigation of InfoUSA -- which discloses the fact that founder Gupta is one of the Clinton's most prolific and reliable donors and fundraisers -- completely omits the following paragraph from the AP story and other papers' versions (e.g., the IHT version linked above):
The New York Times reported in May that InfoUSA, which compiles consumer information and sells it to direct marketing companies and others, sold the names of senior citizens, including millions with Alzheimer's disease and others whom it identified as gamblers, with labels that said things such as, "These people are gullible."
So the New York Times printed two articles about InfoUSA:
- The first discussed how InfoUSA criminally preyed upon "gullible" elderly victims, including veterans and Alzheimers patients -- but didn't mention the Clinton connection;
- The second, published six months later (when the first article would have dropped into the memory hole), discloses the deep Clinton connection to InfoUSA through founder Vinton Gupta... but never mentions the earlier investigative report on InfoUSA's aiding and abetting of criminals who prey upon senior citizens.
One would think that a top Clinton donor making millions of dollars by knowingly selling victim-lists of "gullible" elderly and/or sick vets to heartless con artists, who then bilk the victims out of their life savings, would qualify as part of "all the news that's fit to print;" but evidently, when it comes to the Clintons, the motto mutates to "all the news we see fit to print."
If blogs came with soundtracks, I think I would insert the infamous clip of Hillary cackling madly, as heard on Hugh Hewitt's show and your local "internets."
But of course, this is just another eddy of the cylone of coincidence that forever swirls around the Clintons, which always fascinates but never illuminates: from astonishing luck in cattle futures to mysteriously vanishing Rose Law Firm billing records (which reappear, equally mysteriously, in the residence wing of the White House), to the amazing number of pardoned felons -- like multi-millionaire Marc Rich -- who just happened, by merest chance, to have donated huge sums to the Clinton Presidential Library.
Nothing to see here, folks; it's time to move on...
Date ►►► November 21, 2007
"Apt Natural - I Have a Gub"
Inveterate (or invertibrate) movie-goers will of course recognize the title immediately, coming from one of the first crime "mockumentaries" ever made.
So what can we expect as the Supremes warm up to the great gun-rights debate next year?
The decision itself will hinge on one fundamental question that has been controversial since the early 20th century, but was fairly commonly held, I believe, prior to 1900: Does the Second Amendment protect the gun rights of each individual legal resident -- or does it only protect the "rights" of states to have National Guard units?
(States do not have "rights," of course; only powers, privileges, and immunities. But gun prohibitionists are forced to use the word "rights," because that's what the Second Amendment uses, and they must match.)
All the blather about constitutional amendments being outmoded won't make a dent on the court -- either side; everything will hinge on what the words actually meant when they were written and what they mean today. The complete text of the amendment reads:
Yes, I know; it's overpunctuated by today's standards. But it was written in 1789, and different rules for punctuation applied.
Clearly, when the Founders ratified this amendment two years later, they envisioned a national militia in place of a standing army (they were down on permanent armies making permanent war).
The idea was that if we were attacked, word would go out to every hamlet and town (or "every omlet in town," as I used to think), and all the Minutemen would drop their scythes -- or their printing presses, though they'd better step nimbly out of the way if they didn't want to lose a toe or two -- grab their "Kentucky" long rifles (made in Pennsylvania), and band together into an unbreakable wall of national defense.
Obviously, we don't do things like that anymore... so how should we interpret the amendment now?
Those of us who believe in gun rights argue that with the rise in urban residency and the increased firepower of criminals, individuals still need private arms in order to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, [and] promote the general welfare." We argue that crime statistics, particularly those by Professor John Lott, demonstrate that an armed populace has less crime, not more, without any measurable increase in accidental gun deaths or injuries.
Those who support gun prohibition hang their hats on the first four words, arguing that the original purpose -- the citizen's militia that took the place of a standing army -- no longer exists, and the only corresponding extant entity (since the Dick Act, a.k.a. the Militia Act of 1903) is the National Guard (divided into state commands).
Therefore, the prohibitionists will argue, the rights "granted" by the amendment devolve upon the various states, which control the National Guards when not activated by the federal government.
I find this argument untenable for that very reason: Passing lightly over the idea of states having "rights," how can states possess the constitutional right to "keep and bear arms," if in the same breath we agree that D.C. can simply federalize those arms (and the folks keeping and bearing them), thus removing them from state control? It's utterly contradictory.
Ergo, either the amendment means nothing -- or else it means that the rights
granted protected adhere only in "the people," as the words themselves make clear. In all other uses in the Constitution, "the people" translates to each individual person.
(Fundamental rights are not "granted" by the government, of course, but by "Nature and Nature's God." Governments can only protect them -- or violate them.)
Note that the Founders had no difficulty writing "the states" when they meant the states, as for example in the Tenth Amendment, which explicitly distinguishes between the states and the people:
I believe any fair-minded reading of the Second will lead a judge to agree that "the right of the people" in that amendment means the same as the exact, same phrase in the Fourth Amendment: an individual right held by each individual person. Thus, I believe that we can count on the four fair-minded judges, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, to vote to uphold the circus-court ruling finding the D.C. gun ban "unreasonable and unconstitutional."
I likewise believe, based upon their well-enunciated constitutional gestalt, that we can rely upon Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter to vote to restore the gun ban.
As usual, Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the National Enigma. But (be sure you're sitting down), I consider Justice John Paul Stevens to be a wild card... he might actually side with gun owners, basing his decision upon the second-amendment analysis of some liberal con-law professors, of which the most important are Lawrence Tribe and Alan Dershowitz, both of Harvard.
If I had to guess, I would expect that the Court would vote to confirm the decision of the D.C. Circus (overturning the Washington D.C. gun ban) by 6-3; I have a hard time believing that Justice Kennedy would vote against a position on such a controversial issue to which both Roberts and Stevens agreed.
On the political front, I'm not sure how much this will affect the presidential election. I disagree with Glenn Reynolds, who wrote:
This is probably bad for Democrats, given that most Americans believe they have some sort of right to arms under the Constitution.
It's also probably bad for Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, who have generally been less supportive of gun rights than the other GOP contenders.
First, regardless of positions in the past, both Giuliani and Romney have rushed to get out in front of this case -- on the side of the angels. Rudy Giuliani:
Rudy Giuliani made the following statement today regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to review the Court of Appeals ruling in Parker v. District of Columbia:
"I strongly believe that Judge Silberman’s decision deserves to be upheld by the Supreme Court. The Parker decision is an excellent example of a judge looking to find the meaning of the words in the Constitution, not what he would like them to mean."
Today, Governor Mitt Romney issued the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to review District of Columbia v. Heller:
"It is my hope that the Supreme Court will reaffirm the individual right to keep and bear arms as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and protect law abiding gun owners everywhere. To further guard this fundamental liberty, as President, I will take care to appoint judges who will not legislate from the bench but will instead strictly interpret the Constitution."
Second, the great Democratic gun-control debate was in the 1990s... ancient history, as far as most voters are concerned. Except for some diehards in ultra-liberal districts or states (e.g., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, 100%), the Democrats have pretty much dropped gun control from their electoral lexicon...
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), who was a loud gun prohibitionist as recently as 1999-2000, nowadays barely mentions the topic. The closest I found was this April 2007 snippet:
"You have to balance the Second Amendment rights against keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and people who are unstable -- and that has always been what everyone I know has been seeking to accomplish," Senator Clinton said. "Maybe this tragic incident will get us to think about how to get back to that balance."
This hardly sounds like a response that would satisfy Rosie O'Donnell.
I like this piece, by the bye: The candidates were each interviewed a week after the Virginia Tech shootings; if ever there were a time to smoke out gun prohibitionists, that would have been it. Here is what Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) said:
While Obama suggested there may be a need for restrictions on so-called semiautomatic guns, he contends Democrats must steer clear of alienating "lawful" gun owners. "I'm a strong believer in the rights of hunters and sportsmen to have firearms. I'm a believer in homeowners having a firearm to protect their home and their family," Obama said. "It's hard for me to find a rationale for having a 17-clip semiautomatic."
(I must confess puzzlement about Obama's 17-clip semiautomatic; I don't think I would buy one -- those "clips" must stick out like quills on a porcupine -- but I'd sure love to hold one in my hands... assuming I could find the grip hidden among the antenna-farm of clips.)
Finally, we have John Edwards; he mentions hunting but not self-defense... but he doesn't rule it out, either; he simply ignores that reason for owning a gun:
"I believe in the Second Amendment and I think it's important for hunters rights to be protected. It's part of my culture because of the way I grew up," Edwards said during a news conference Friday night in Des Moines. "But I don't think you need an AK-47 to hunt...There's some weapons that are not necessary for sportsmen and hunters."
(I'm sure that Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, 100%, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, 95%, and Gov. Bill Richardson all favor heavy-handed gun control; but really, who cares? They're about as likely to be elected president as "Mother" Sheehan.)
Regardless of the actual beliefs of the Democratic front runners, and regardless of what they would really do if they got into office, none denies an individual Second-Amendment right to keep and bear arms; and Obama openly affirms it.
Thus, I just don't see this issue cutting significantly against the Democrats: Anybody who believes that they're secretly in favor of gun prohibition (as I believe) is almost certainly already in the GOP camp for 2008. So don't look for gun rights to tip the scales of the presidential race.
Nevertheless, if the case is adjudicated as I expect, it will be a stunning and wonderful day for civil liberties in America; and if it goes the opposite way, it will be a black mark we shall never live down. And even if there is no direct affect on the presidential race, the case should at least reopen the national conversation on individual rights vs. State power -- which should definitely benefit Republicans downticket.
Date ►►► November 20, 2007
One Cheer for Hillary
Brace yourselves... Big Lizards is about to applaud a position rejected by all the main Republican candidates for president -- but embraced by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. From the New York Times blog the Caucus:
She drew another ovation, too, with her response to an Air Force major, a 20-year veteran of the service who had served three tours in Afghanistan, when he asked how she would protect the privacy of service members if she went ahead with her plan to let gays serve openly in the military.
Mrs. Clinton hewed closely to conduct regulations in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, saying that, under her, the armed forces would punish or discharge any straight or gay service member whose conduct was inappropriate.
Most gay people, she said, were not dismissed because of conduct, but because they had been seen attending a gay rights parade or socializing with openly gay people. She drew a comparison with female service members, noting that some of them had been harassed and mistreated, but said the proper response to such tensions was not to bar women from serving.
“I feel strongly that if someone wants to serve their country, if they’re a patriot, if they comply with the code of military justice and they have the appropriate behavior, they shouldn’t be disqualified from serving simply because they’re gay,” Mrs. Clinton said to applause.
The only part of this I object to is the use of the plural pronoun "they" to stand in for the singular noun "someone." But only one cheer, because of her other positions on using -- or rather, never using -- the military for the purpose for which it is intended.
The major didn't think much of her answer, which evidently missed the point of his question; so I'll respond on behalf of those of us who support full rights to serve our country for gays and for women...
The Air Force major, Gary Mathis of Cedar Rapids, said afterward that he appreciated Mrs. Clinton’s points about conduct, but that she had side-stepped his question about privacy – specifically, what she would do to ensure the privacy of male soldiers who shower, sleep and work out in the gym alongside other male soldiers.
“I don’t think her answer fully recognized the day-to-day realities of military life,” Major Mathis said. “You could extend her argument and say that you don’t need any separate facilities for men and women because as long as their conduct is appropriate with one another, there is no privacy concern.”
My answer is... who the hell cares? If a soldier or Marine is so freaked out by the thought that he's taking a shower next to another man who happens to be gay, then he's too psychologically fragile to be a soldier or Marine.
Were the law to be changed, I frankly doubt that droves of military personnel would actually exit the service in a homophobic panic. I suspect this objection is yet another ploy in the hysterical fight against allowing "homos" into the military -- where, in fact, they have served with distinction since the founding of the country, albeit under cover, though often well known to their fellows in the unit.
There literally is no difference between this sentiment and the sentiment of racists in the pre-integrated Army saying that they would sooner desert than serve alongside -- or horrors, under -- a "nigger." Frankly, anyone who is actually that irrationally racist is more of a danger to us than to the enemy, and we should be glad to see the back of him. But the reality was nowhere near the catastrophe predicted by the racists... and neither would be the reaction to allowing gays to serve openly, instead of semi-secretly.
Nor is allowing gays to shower with straights -- where about 3% of the parties would be with those they might find sexually attractive -- at all the same thing as having men and women generally shower together... where the vast majority of both parties (97% of the males and 98% of the females) would be showering with those they might find sexually attractive. (Especially as gays would know that making any advances in the shower would likely result in a violent response.) This is just more sophistry in support of an indefensible position.
As far as women serving in combat in a combat capacity -- well, we already allow women to serve in a combat zone in a non-combat capacity (nurses, for example, as far back as WWII and maybe earlier)... and we already allow women to serve in a combat capacity in a non-combat zone (as MPs, or female fighter pilots relegated to ferrying Hornets and Warthogs from place to place, and many other examples).
It looks disturbingly like we don't mind our women getting shot at, so long as they're not allowed to shoot back.
American women have often unexpectedly ended up engaging in combat... and have served admirably: Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, for example, won a Silver Star for acts of valor in combat. And female Russian snipers during World War II racked up staggering kill rates, several in triple digits; are American women less competent at killing than Russian women?
And of course, we already employ tens of thousands of women as police officers and bodyguards, where many of them have had to engage in life and death struggles, on a number of occasions killing the bad guys. Are our soldiers wimpier than our civilian cops?
(Note that women have served in units in combat zones for decades... yet we somehow managed to find ways to allow them to shower separately from men without compromising unit integrity. Women can shower at separate times than men; big deal.)
I say anybody who proves himself or herself capable of engaging in combat ops should be allowed to engage in combat ops, regardless of gender. Is anybody here actually prepared to argue that Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp makes a better combat soldier than Sgt. Hester?
I make this argument not because I'm concerned about women's lack of promotion in the military, but because it's good for our country and our defense in two ways:
- National security: The greater the pool of potential recruits for combat duty we have, the better will be our eventual military combat personnel; one Sgt. Hester is worth a dozen Pvt. Beauchamps or more.
- Americanism: American women have all the same rights as men; it follows they should have the same duties. Since we don't have a draft and aren't likely to anytime in the forseeable future (conscript armies wouldn't be able to fight the way we fight now), this means that by virtue of being Americans, women should have the same right to die defending their country as do men. Unlike our enemies' women, our women are not dhimmi.
I will give Maj. Mathis the last word (from the Causus blog), and even my agreement:
“I wanted to come out and see what [Clinton] was like,” he said. “But I tend to vote Republican, and I’ll probably go with McCain or Huckabee. I respect her, but I can’t see voting for her.”
While I would prefer Romney, Giuliani, or Thompson over either McCain or Huckabee, I would certainly vote for the latter two in preference to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-Carpetbag, 95%).
A Watcher Just Under the Wire
Huh, I would say "It's a great honor just to be nominated;" except that we each nominate ourselves, of course. And saying "It's a great honor to nominate myself" is a bit much, even for my preening narcissism.
So instead I contemplate the absurdity of life, as I carom back and forth between winning the Watcher of Weasels' contest -- and getting literally no votes whatsoever. It's an outrage, I tell you. Heads will roll. Let Madame LaFarge practice her knitting once more.
Or... nevermind. Forget I said anything.
This week's winner was an amusing piece by JoshuaPundit; I didn't vote for it, however, because I think it makes a fundamentally flawed argument by analogy:
- 'Land For Peace', American Style, by JoshuaPundit.
As you may have guessed by now, "Freedom Fighter" at JP is one of those Israel boosters (I don't know where he posts from, here or there) who is so wrought up in the battle that he considers George W. Bush -- the most pro-Israeli president America has ever had -- to be Israel's enemy. Why? Because Bush suggests that Israel and the PA should find a way to coexist, and because (I think) he won't ram an act through Congress declaring that God did so personally give the West Bank ("Judea and Samaria") and the Gaza Strip ("Gaza Strip") to Israel several thousand years ago.
In this post, he makes use of a clever -- but I think failed -- rhetorical trick: the extended analogy: He analogizes calls for Israel to withdraw from
Judea and Samaria the West Bank, recognize a second Palestinian state, and live side by side in peace (or at least a permanent truce) to calls by, I think, six L.A. Chicanos and an angry migrant grape-picker in Escondido for America to withdraw from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and recognize them as a new Mexican state of Aztlán (which Freedom Fighter spells "Atzlan" throughout the piece; Azt is the same root as in Aztec).
Alas, the problem with clever analogies is they create a huge temptation to overlook sizeable differences between the analogy and reality, differences which actually overwhelm the similarities. Analogies are not arguments; they only displace the argument from "this is why we should do X" to "this is why this analogy, which implies we should do X, is actually a valid and accurate depiction of reality." In the absence of a strong argument why the analogy is accurate, the analogy is reduced to a cute fictional story.
And the differences between the analogy and the reality are stark:
History: Israel first occupied the West Bank forty years ago, as part of their victory in the 1967 Six-Day War (when they heroically and quite properly vanquished four Arab armies that had massed to attack them).
By contrast, the United States first "occupied" the border states more than 150 years ago... long before the current Mexican government came into existence (in 1867, following the expulsion of Emperor Maximillian of France). In fact, even before the previous Mexican Republic of Benito Juárez was established by the constitution of 1857.
Texas was annexed in 1845; and California, Arizona, and New Mexico (plus Utah, Nevada, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming) in 1848, after the Mexican-American war, by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (TGH).
- Annexation: Israel has never annexed either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip; contrariwise, the United States not only annexed the territories ceded by the TGH... they are all full states and have been for longer than Israel has even existed -- with Texas (1845) and California (1850) becoming states even before the Mexican Republic existed.
Population: Israelis have never been the majority population in either of the occupied territories; those entities have always, always, always had a majority population of Arabs (who now call themselves Palestinans) and have always been totally opposed to being part of Israel.
On the other hand, the populations of the four putative "Aztlan" states consist overwhelmingly of American citizens or legal residents, and even more overwhelmingly of residents -- legal or illegal -- who accept the United States as the legitimate controlling power of thost states. Those who say the states are really part of Mexico are a tiny fraction of 1% of the population of those states.
- International ratification: Every country in the world, including Israel, agrees that the occupied territories are an odd-duck entity distinct from the nation of Israel; but no country in the world -- including Mexico -- seriously maintains that California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas are "really" part of Mexico.
There are other differences related to the ability of the two countries to hold onto the territories, but this should be sufficient to demonstrate that the analogy, while admitedly amusing, is not particuarly close or accurate. But it's worth reading the post; you will enjoy it.
Our votes went to two posts that got very little support... so you should go read them and help pump up their Sitemeter stats:
- Poverty and Terror, Again, by Soccer Dad;
- Hollywood's KoolAid Fest Continues: Wimps for Lambs, by Cheat Seeking Missiles.
Soccer Dad makes the argument -- which is almost unanswerable -- that there simply is no correlation, let alone causality, between poverty and terrorism; at least, the former does not cause the latter... though it's entirely possible that too much of the latter causes the former to become endemic in a society.
In the Cheat Seeking Missiles piece, Laer launches from a discussion of Lions for Lambs into a general condemnation of Hollywood for the recent spate of terrorism-related movies they've churned out. All right, they may be wildly unpopular... but at least they're unAmerican!
We fared better in the Nouncil category, where our first-choice was the winner:
- A Conversation in Bagram, Afghanistan, by Austin Bay Blog.
Col. Austin Bay initiates a conversation with a USAF lieutenant colonel fighter pilot about Afghanistan, the Taliban, and the war on global hirabah.
Our other choice, however, was somewhat less popular (our oblique way of noting that ours was the only vote):
- Shooting Elephants: Musharraf, Pakistan, and Iran, by Neo-Neocon.
The anonymous author of the Neo-Neocon blog limns the dilemma faced by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, as he struggles -- or wrestles, in her apt wording, with "the Scylla of dictatorship and the Charybdis of anarchy." Her analysis is quite complete and well worth perusing.
The Compleat Watcher
Here be dragoons.
Date ►►► November 17, 2007
Blood's a Rover
Clay lies still, but blood's a rover;
Breath's a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey's over
There'll be time enough to sleep.
A.E. Housman, a Shropshire Lad, poem IV
Over on his own blog, frequent commenter Rovin asks what I think the impact of immigration, illegal aliens, the failed immigration bill last year, and the drivers' licences for illegals position of the Democrats will be on the 2008 elections.
In general, I think it cuts slightly against the GOP right now, mostly because if they had passed the bill, they could have beaten the Dems about the head and shoulders for not building the wall. But immigration will not determine this election.
As it stands, if the GOP attacks the Dems for not building the wall, the Democrats can respond that when the Republicans controlled congress, they couldn't even pass an immigration bill with Democratic help. That reminds us of other GOP failures -- such as the failure to rein in spending -- that hurt the Republican argument that we're the adults.
The drivers' license question will not hurt any Democrat with Democratic voters; a few independents might be annoyed, but they won't base their vote on the question. GOP voters might be somewhat more motivated to head to the polls, increasing turnout. On this particular aspect (drivers' licenses for illegal aliens), slight benefit to the GOP.
Look for the Dems to propose a bill similar to what the GOP rejected in 2006, but with real amnesty (not the fake kind that conservatives pretended to find in the previous bill) and with little to no border security provisions. When the Senate GOP filibusters it, the Dems will try to ride that into electoral gain: "The Republicans won't even meet us halfway on immigration... it's 'my way or the highway' to Mitch McConnell!" This will help drive Dems to the polls; slight advantage to the Democrats on this particular aspect.
Added together, they mostly balance out with, as I said, a slight edge to the Democrats.
But I believe this election is going to be dominated by the Great Game being played out right now, where our military is winning a tremendous victory in Iraq -- while the Democrats are desperately trying to force defeat upon us by starving the Army. If the eventual Republican candidate can frame this issue properly, it can inflict a catastrophic blow not only on the Democratic presidential candidate (presumably Hillary) but upon Democratic swing seats in Congress.
The theme should be "they're trying to force another Vietnam-style, manufactured defeat on us, just like they did in 1974."
The biggest danger to the GOP is not that we'll sound alarmist; threats to national security are so serious in people's minds that they won't hold mere alarmism against us, so long as we don't sound hysterical. The biggest danger is that the GOP might be bullied by Democrats and their press gang into muting itself on this issue, so as not to sound "extreme."
Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice -- a marvelous saying I just made up. (I'm thinking of making up another one that goes, "Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue," but I haven't decided yet.) Let's grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face: I don't mean this personally or with any disrespect, but the Democrats surrendered to the Communists in 1974, and now they're trying to surrender to the militant Islamist terrorists in 2008.
In fact, I would love to see the following scenario play out during a debate between the Republican and Democratic nominees: They start arguing about national security. In a desperate ploy to save the Democrat, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asks a stupid question about global warming or some such asinine subject.
And the Republican, instead of answering, says... "If you don't mind, Wolf, we're having a serious discussion about national security. Sen. Clinton can decide which question interests her, but I'm going to stick with the important issue." Then he goes back on the attack against the defeatist Democrats, completely ignoring the global warming stupidity.
Heck, he could go ahead and make nearly the entire debate about national security... why not? Nobody ever won a war by "wishin' and hopin'." You win wars with brains, guts, and steel: the intelligence to come up with a winning strategy; the will to implement it and ride it all the way; and enough men and materiel to achieve victory.
Where are the Democrats on any one of these three utterly necessary resources? They have no plan for winning, no stomach for the fight, and they want to starve the Army to buy health insurance for the entire middle class.
Bang on the theme; force the Democrats to defend their wretched record. Be loud enough that they cannot just walk away. Force them to make the argument that imperialist America is causing all the problems in the world... it will only reinforce what we're saying about Democratic America-hatred.
If the Dems want to argue about who really lost Vietnam, great! That's a fight we can win. And far from being ancient history, we can bring it into the present by pointing out that they're doing the exact, same thing today.
Our "Sister Souljah" moment will come when the GOP nominee has the guts to talk directly to American Moslems and call on them to join the fight against terrorism and extremism in the name of their religion:
Where are you? Where are the Moslem organizations? Are you going to let the Hamas front-group CAIR speak for you?
This is the American Moslem moment: Stand up, denounce all terrorists -- including the animals who kill Jewish babies in Jerusalem -- and join the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marines. Sign up with the CIA. Take back your mosques from the radicals and shake some sense into your children. More than any other group in America, this fight needs modern Moslems who love life, and who love liberty and freedom, more than they hate supposed "infidels" and "apostates."
And demand that the Democrats join in this call for national wartime unity. Make them squirm.
If they ignore the issue, then the GOP nominee should accuse them of starving our troops and not even caring how many get killed because of their fecklessness. "Pelosi, Reid, and Hillary Clinton won't even debate the issue... it's not important enough to them. They only want to talk about defeat -- and how much they can raise your taxes to buy more pork."
The lay-off notices that the DoD is going to have to start sending out to civilian employees of the military and to defense contractors, if the Dems keep up this tactic, will deal the Democrats yet another body blow: "The Democrats are forcing the military to shut down, all because they hate George Bush more than they love America."
I'm actually getting a bit more confident about the Congressional elections; I've always been confident about the presidential election. I assumed that the Dems would have learned their lesson and started listening to folks like Rahm Emanuel and John Podesta; instead, they're still listening to Nancy Pelosi and MoveOn.org.
- The more we win in Iraq, the more desperate they become to force a loss;
- The more desperate they become to force a loss, the more obvious they are;
- The more obvious they are, the easier it will be to portray them as cowardly and unAmerican in 2008.
I don't understand why they're doing this; but for as long as they continue, we need to pound on them for betraying American soldiers in the field. It's a powerful theme and one they'll be hard-pressed to refute (original definition).
At some point, if they stop, then we can sound the theme that "we forced the Democrats to come to their senses at long last; now let's hope the damage they did to our military can be reversed, before it's too late."
Follow-up with a series of GOP proposals to support the war and help the troops, and let's see how far we can push them -- incidentally pissing off their anti-American base and depressing their turnout.
I know this isn't the analysis that Rovin was looking for; but honestly, because of the stunning success of the Petraeus counterinsurgency, immigration isn't going to have much of an impact on the presidential or Senate races. It may have a larger affect on congressional and gubernatorial races; but those will be driven by unique, local situations impossible to analyze unless you're living in the middle of them.
Date ►►► November 16, 2007
More Qwik Hits - Sleepless in Senate, Desert Desertions, and John Kerry
Heh, I'll bet you thought the title all referred to the same person, didn't you? Nope, three separate stories...
Sleepless in the Senate
Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) is irked that President Bush has decided to exercise his constitutional authority to make recess appointments when the Senate refuses even to hold hearings on those men and women he has appointed through the normal route.
So in the Democrats' never-ending quest to cripple the presidency itself, stripping as many powers and duties away from the Executive as they can gobble up into the Legislative, Reid has decided not to recess the Senate over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, as has been customary for decades. Possibly even since President Lincoln created the holiday.
Reid's stroke of genius is that, if the Senate isn't in recess, Bush can't make recess appointments:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has decided to keep the chamber in session over the Thanksgiving break to block President Bush from making any unsavory recess appointments while Senators are out of town. ["Unsavory?" Not that Roll Call would be at all biased in its coverage of this issue...]
In a statement inserted in the record Friday, the Majority Leader said he will hold the Senate in a series of pro forma or nonvoting sessions to prevent the controversial practice. ["Controversial?" Who has ever before denied the president has this power -- which is explicitly granted in the Constitution?] In the statement, Reid argued that nominations need to get on track, and that Bush has not met the Democrats “halfway” in agreeing to Democratically backed nominees to “important commissions.”
First of all, Sen. Reid of all people is a fine one to talk about not being met "halfway" on appointments. Does the phrase "blocked judges" ring any bells?
But second, I would love to see Bush call the bluff: When the GOP and most of the Democrats are out of town (as they will be), and there isn't even a quorum in the Senate (as will happen at some point at 3:00 in the morning), Bush should just quietly sign and time-stamp all the recess-appointment papers, whether the Senate is formally in recess or not. A Republican senator should stand outside the chamber, quietly videotaping the virtually empty room -- and showing the clock on the wall -- for future evidentiary use.
Then let Reid spend the next year plus duking it out in the courts. Republicans can run on the issue, noting how many recess appointments President Clinton made -- and demanding to know why Minority Whip Reid didn't object to any of them.
(Reid was Assistant Minority Party Leader, a.k.a. Minority Whip, of the Senate from January 1999 to January 2001, during which President Clinton certainly made recess appointments, including James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg and Roger L. Gregory to the Fourth Circus Court.)
Run on the scandal of the Democratic Senate trying to seize power from the office of the presidency itself, not just from Bush. Don't they trust future Democratic presidents?
The Democratic Party: It's not just a job; it's an ongoing criminal enterprise!
Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.
This might be more startling if one did not recall that since 1980, we have barely had any sustained hot wars; it's hardly surprising that more soldiers unprepared to serve in combat would desert during wartime than peacetime, when the military often becomes just a jobs program.
The only long confrontation (more than a few months) we had during that time was in Bosnia; and we were not handling the brunt of the ground action. We had a peacekeeping presence in the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), but mostly we were there in our NATO capacity... and NATO's involvement was mainly aviation.
The point is that the last major American war before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was Vietnam... and as even AP admits:
While the totals are still far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when the draft was in effect, they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year.
So the AP has discovered, amazingly enough, that major wars with long deployments lead to an increase in the desertion rate -- from 0.7% in 2006 to 0.9%. Shocking!
But they signally fail to tell us what we really want to know: How many of those deserters were Democrats taking their cue from Harry "Pinky" Reid?
John Kerry -- still searching
This one is just amazing. Reporting by the Associate Press tells us that John Kerry (D-MA, 95%) is still trying to disprove the allegations of the Swit Boat Veterans for Truth -- years after he lost his presidential bid largely on the issues the SBVT raised:
Sen. John Kerry, whose 2004 presidential campaign was torpedoed by critics of his Vietnam War record, said Friday he has personally accepted a Texas oilman's offer to pay $1 million to anyone who can disprove even a single charge of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
In a letter to T. Boone Pickens, the Massachusetts Democrat wrote: "While I am prepared to show they lied on allegation after allegation, you have generously offered to pay one million dollars for just one thing that can be proven false. I am prepared to prove the lie beyond any reasonable doubt."
So what is the one Swiftie allegation Kerry has vowed to prove "beyond any reasonable doubt" was a lie? AP doesn't say; presumably, John Kerry hasn't figured that part out yet.
AP is still carrying water for Kerry, by the way; consider this howler:
While fellow veterans and reporters disproved many of the group's claims at the time, Kerry refused to air ads responding to the criticism. His own response was muted for fear of legitimizing his critics' attacks. The senator conceded after losing to Bush that his lackluster response likely cost him the election.
Which claims were disproven "at the time?" AP doesn't say; presumably, they havn't figured that part out yet.
I have read many of these so-called disproofs; none impressed me with its logical or evidentiary acumen. Typically, by "disprove," they mean the same witnesses who took Kerry's side earlier took it again later, insisting that he really did so perform whatever feat of heroism he claimed to have performed. Each failed to respond to the SBVT's evidence, simply sweeping that aside as irrelevant.
This reminds me of the very recent (past few decades) redefinition of the verb "to refute." According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (my version is from 1989), until very recently, to refute always meant "to prove wrong; show to be false or erroneous." This is what they call the "uncontroversial" definition.
But in the past few decades, a new definition has been grafted onto the word -- a definition that is universally condemned by grammarians (especially the British) but is increasingly common nonetheless: merely "to deny the truth or accuracy of."
To quote from the Dictionary of English Usage:
Its most frequent use is by journalists in reporting the emphatic denials issued by those accused of wrongdoing. Hardly a day now goes by, it seems, without one goverment official or another refuting a new set of allegations.
I reckon "disprove" now joins the ranks of "refute" as simply meaning to forcefully deny an allegation.
Meanwhile, John Kerry is still desperately seeking the real medal-faker... across every golf course in America. Perhaps he should team up in doubles matches with O.J. Simpson.
Iraqis Pass Test: Top Shiites Will Be Tried for Mass Murder
A few days ago, we posted Iraq in the Balance: Will the Shia Prosecute Their Own?, that asked the question -- Will the majority Shia be willing to prosecute their own officials who commit a horrific string of human sacrifices... or does "retributative justice" apply only to Sunni terrorists?
We noted the mass-murder cases against two Shiite militia heads (Sadrites) who happened to be high muckety-mucks in the Ministry of Health: Former Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili, and Brig. Gen. Hamid al-Shammari, head of the Health Ministry security force. ("Happened to be," my eye; Muqtada Sadr demanded they be given those positions, presumably for the very task or murdering helpless Sunnis in hospital.)
A few days ago, the top Iraqi court said there was sufficient evidence to try the two for literally hundreds of gruesome murders they appear to have ordered. But there was a potential thorn in the ointment, as we noted in the earlier Big Lizards piece:
By a quirk of Iraqi law, ministries are allowed to block prosecution of their officials if they decree -- truthfully or not -- that those officials were "carrying out their official duties." Naturally, mass-murdering Iraqi Sunni is not one of the official duties of the Iraqi Health Ministry; but the Interior Ministry (the most powerful ministry in Iraq) has used this dodge in the past to prevent prosecution of rampaging police officials.
This is the crux of the point we made:
The consequences of this decision, no matter which way it falls, are so stark and existential that it's not unreasonable to say this opportunity will either make or break the new democratic Iraq.
The question is whether Iraq has truly turned towards the rule of law... or whether they have just substituted the new boss for the old boss, with business still as usual. And here is the answer in yesterday's New York Times:
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq has approved the trial of two Shiite former officials who are accused of killing and kidnapping hundreds of Sunnis, according to American advisers to the Iraqi judicial system.
The case, which could come to trial as early as this month, would be the first that involved bringing to trial such high-ranking Shiites for sectarian crimes.
An Iraqi judge ruled last month that there was sufficient evidence to try the two former officials, who held senior positions in the Health Ministry. But there had been concern that the ministry might try to block the case by invoking a section of the Iraqi criminal law that proscribes the prosecution of officials who are executing their official duties.
The approval to hold a trial was provided in a memo issued earlier this week by the acting health minister. Mr. Maliki has formally endorsed the decision, American officials said.
Take that, Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%)!
The Times understands the importance of this decision:
The case has emerged as a major test of the ability of Iraq’s judicial system to take on difficult cases, particularly those in which the accused are prominent Shiites.
“This case is as important, if not more important, than the Saddam Hussein case,” Michael Walther, a Justice Department official who leads a task force that is advising the Iraqi judicial system, said in a telephone interview. He added that a successful trial would demonstrate that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government “is ready to prosecute its own.”
Iraq certainly isn't out of the woods yet, not even on this one case: We still have to observe the trial itself to ensure that it's both fair to the defendants themselves and also thorough... not like the way the Jim Crow South used to "try" accused Klansmen (where the opening statement was sometimes immediately followed by a vote to acquit; no need for the jury even to retire).
But so far, the civilian government of Iraq, not just the Iraqi Security Forces, has chosen justice and modernity. If this trial continues appropriately, then we can say that one great pillar of a free, democratic, and stable society has been birthed in the heart of the Arab Middle East: an honest judicial system.
America, her military, and President George W. Bush in particular were the midwives of liberty.
When Sen. Reid and his Democratic friends hear about this, how many will be overjoyed -- and how many will be crushed with the disappointment of opportunity lost?
Date ►►► November 15, 2007
Ever Get That Weird Feeling...
Have you ever been talking to some stranger -- at a party, at a convention, at work -- and everything seems to be going fine... when all of a sudden, you realize the conversation has lurched southwards? You may not even know when it happened; but of a sudden, you feel the same frisson that infused Shelley Duvall in the Shining when she discovered that the entire novel that her husband Jack Nicholson had written consisted of nothing but endless pages of "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." That moment when you realize you've been talking to a crazy uncle who escaped from his nephew's attic. Well...
"Every place you go you hear about no progress being made in Iraq," said Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.
"The government is stalemated today, as it was six months ago, as it was two years ago," Reid told reporters, warning US soldiers were caught in the middle of a civil war.
"It is not getting better, it is getting worse," he said.
It's almost as if Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) suddenly started telling us about "tse-tse flies the size of eagles" carrying off young children, which Reid observed during his "nine months in the bush." [Ten points to the first commenter who knows where the tse-tse fly thing came from.] It begins to dawn on the listener that this isn't just Reid playing "Democrats' advocate;" the man truly believes the insanities that he utters.
And that imbues me with an existential terror: If a man with such a tenuous grasp of reality can make his way to the second-most powerful position in the Congress, what does that say about the natural insanity-filters that previously protected us from the worst excesses of parliamentary style democracies? Those filters that are supposed to keep nutbags like David Duke and Ross Perot out of national office -- what happened to them?
Every major newspaper and TV news broadcaster in America has been forced by circumstances to admit that, heck, who'd a thunk it, we appear to have turned the corner and be winning in Iraq now. But Harry Reid can't see it, can't see any of it: "It is not getting better, it is getting worse." (Considering that back in April, Sen. Reid announced that "this war is lost," one wonders how much worse it could be? Is al-Qaeda in Iraq poised to seize control of Kansas?)
- So Reid thinks it's "worse" now that Gen. David Petraeus, and especially his top counterinsurgency (COIN) aide, Australian Lt.Col. David Kilcullen, have succeeded in turning Iraqi Sunni decisively against al-Qaeda -- even to the point of taking up arms against the terrorists?
- It's "worse" with the ruling Shia now at least trying to prosecute top Shiite political leaders for crimes against humanity? (We're still waiting to see if this first essay succeeds.)
- It's "worse" because Iraq's economy is "surging", by many measures already significantly greater than it was under Saddam Hussein?
- It's "worse" even though thousands of displaced Iraqi families are returning to Iraq, especially Baghdad?
- It's "worse" despite the huge burst of reconstruction projects, which are no longer being bombed by bin-Ladenites who no longer infest Iraq?
This is quite simply a bizarre and worrisome delusion on a level with "Truther" ravings. But Reid is mostly harmless, because his insanity battles against his raging ineptitude: His inability to get even liberal Republicans to sign onto most of his schemes to declare defeat in Iraq and just "move on" is legendary (and a godsend). But if the filters are unable to weed out the broken Reid and the loopy Ron Paul (and his, ah, interesting supporters) -- would they also fail to weed out the next David Duke?
Without functioning "sanity shields," how do we stop an American Ahmadinejad from being elected president, governor, or senator? I don't fret about a simplistic, unsubtle troll like Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%) or Britain's George Galloway; they have no sway over the Congress anent their madness. The Democratic opposition to the war is not primarily driven by Murtha, who is out of step with his Democratic colleagues on many other issues; it's driven by lunatics like George Soros, a multibillionaire money-changer who has both the intelligence and the resources to turn his fantasy into our nightmarish reality.
I worry about the person who is both insane and intelligent, psychotic but smooth talking. We appear no longer to have a press, punditry, or people who first ask "does this guy connect with the real world as we know it," before asking whether he sounds "sincere." Sincerity is overrated as a lodestone; people can be sincerely demented.
We could survive a hypocritical, lying, vengeance-driven harpy like Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%); we've had them before (Nixon, Clinton 1.0). But I don't know that in this age, we could survive a president like Robert A. Heinlein's "Nehemiah Scudder" or the Dead Zone's "Greg Stillson" -- or alternatively, one of the real-life radical-secularist terrorists of ELF and ALF and infesting International ANSWER.
We desperately need to reinstitute the sanity filter in American politics, asking first whether candidates for public office have all their marbles before we even get to the question of whether we agree with some of their tenets: Republicans are no more helped by Ron Paul than Democrats are by Harry Reid -- or than Independents were by H. Ross Perot.
The best weapon against the reality-challenged is of course mockery: Make fun of them. This is not only effective but highly enjoyable. If you're humorless and dour, a "grim and grisly gruesome Griswold," then at least you can point out the insanities of the insane.
I know if feels like fighting a cripple; but unlike some guy in a wheelchair, who might make an excellent president (though our only experiment was hardly a raging success), some guy or gal who literally mistakes fantasy for reality is neither cute nor lovable (nor even livable) when he's sitting in the big chair with his finger on the button. Time to stuff your pity in a sack and loudly beholdest the beam in your mad-uncle presidential candidate's brain.
On all sides the aisle. Reality is too important to be left to the surreal.
Date ►►► November 13, 2007
Watchbaker, Watchbaker, Bake Me a Watch
Yeah, yeah, that time again. You could set your watch by it. Unless, of course, you want your watch to run somewhat faster than "weekly."
(What the heck does that mean? It doesn't even make sense. I was punchy from lack of sleep when I wrote it -- and I reckon you need to be equally punch-drunk to find it funny. Fortunately... I know my readers!)
Sometimes I think that winning the Watcher's Council weekly massacre is nine-tenths just coming up with a truly awesome title:
- Courts v. Terrorism = Wile E. Coyote v. Road Runner, by Big Lizards.
In fact, I must note that we didn't really win: We tied with Soccer Dad's post. The Watchthing had to pick one or the other; he was about to vote for the latter, but moved by all the trouble we've had lately (the haunting, the burnt toast, the Prodigious Hickey, and that whole thing with the lard jar that was so disturbing, I never even mentioned it to anyone), pity stayed his hand.
You remember this post: the whole spiel about why civilian courts just aren't up to the job of fighting terrorism, at least not by themselves.
We voted for a pair of posts that ended up doing pretty well themselves; in fact, they came in numbers 2 and 3... even in the right order! (And of course, in the ordinary voting, Soccer Dad tied with Big Lizards.)
The first is about the quandry of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%): Should she "unsex" herself and run just as a (genderless) candidate? Or should she run as "the girl," so she can complain about the unchivalrous nature of bullying men -- who keep asking her hard questions. I think she should just bite the bullet and run as a dumb bleached beach blonde.
The second is more or less a grudge post by Laer at Cheat Seeking Missiles, responding to a post by another Council blog -- Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse; Moran implied that anyone who sought to "politicize tragedy" was an idiot; and Laer, having examined the political implications of tragedies and disasters (as have we at Big Lizards), took exception.
We fared pretty well in our Nouncil vote, too: Our number-one pick won, and our number-two pick tied for third (along with about thirty other blogs):
- A Great Shifting of the Winds, by Eternity Road.
Aaron at Eternity Road posts that in recent years, and against what most people believe, the Democratic Party has truly become the party of the rich and infamous. The GOP remains the party of the middle-income voter, the religious voter, and the married voter.
- Clinton & Bush Both Thrown a Curveball on Iraq?, by the Anchoress.
The Anchoress writes about the deep and unfathomable "Curveball," who gave us the information about WMD in Iraq... which most people, probably even including the Anchoress, thinks was wrong; but which I have long argued was actually correct: We really did find "stockpiles of WMD" in Iraq.
But the CIA decided post-hoc not to count as WMD any device or chemical that was "dual use" -- since they belatedly decided that they were against villainizing Saddam Hussein... which might retroactively justify the Iraq war that the CIA opposed (and have been punishing President Bush for initiating ever since). Still, the aptly named Curveball is a character well worth studying.
Interestingly enough, nobody voted for the post we actually nominated in the Nouncil category... not even us! I've noticed that Power Line doesn't tend to do well in these Council hootenannies; don't know why.
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Newsbrief: FBI Gumshoe Turned CIA Spook May Have Been Hezbollah Plant
Not much to analyze yet on this one, but it's a case to keep an eye on: Will the drive-by media bother to further investigate this guilty plea -- given that the original administrative screwups happened under (ahem) the previous president?
A Lebanese-born C.I.A. officer who had previously worked as an F.B.I. agent pleaded guilty today to charges that she illegally sought classified information from government computers about the radical Islamic group Hezbollah.
The defendant, Nada Nadim Prouty, who also confessed that she had obtained American citizenship fraudulently, faces up to 16 years in prison under the plea agreement, which appeared to expose grave flaws in the methods used by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct background checks on its investigators.
Prouty fraudulently obtained residency in 1990 by paying an American citizen to marry her. She obtained U.S. citizenship in 1994, then got herself hired in 1997 as a special agent of the FBI, largely (it appears) on her ability to speak Arabic.
Meanwhile, Prouty's ne'er-do-well brother-in-law (her sister's husband) had already become a fugitive from justice for "a scheme to funnel millions of dollars from his business to people in Lebanon;" but the FBI failed to discover that in her background check. The New York Times doesn't tell us who those "people" were, why they were to receive such largess, nor whether they were affiliated with Hezbollah; but they do note that the sister and the brother-in-law attended a Hezbollah fundraiser in August 2002:
The plea agreement noted, however, that Ms. Prouty’s sister and brother-in-law attended a fundraising event in Lebanon in August 2002 at which the keynote speaker was Sheikh Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah. Sheikh Fadallah has been designated by the United States government as a terrorist leader.
In 2002 and 2003, Prouty romped through the FBI computers, conducting some highly suggestive and suspicious searches:
Ms. Prouty acknowledged two sets of illegal computer searches at the F.B.I. The first, in September 2002, involved case files that contained her name, her sister’s name or her brother-in-law’s name. The second, in June 2003, involved files from the national-security investigation of Hezbollah that was being conducted in Detroit, which has one of the nation’s largest Arabic-speaking communities.
She has pled guilty and could receive up to sixteen years in a federal slam.
So consider this a heads-up; let's all see if there is any media tracking of this extremely important story. And the first question will be... where does the NYT place it on the print version of the newspaper?
The second would be equally illuminating: Since this was a plea bargain, she must have been charged with more serious offenses that were pled down. What were those original charges? Did they include being a Hezbollah agent within the FBI and CIA?
Keep watching the spies...
Elite News Media: Reading Between the Lies
I don't know if I'll make this a continuing series; but for today, it's kind of fun (for me, and I'm all that matters in my narcissistic, little bubble-world) to just slalom through a news article and see if we can deduce what's really happening from the way the drive-by media bobs and weaves. Our text today is an AP piece by Devlin Barrett titled "Domestic Spying Inquiry Restarted at DoJ."
The Justice Department has reopened a long-dormant inquiry into the government's warrantless wiretapping program, a major policy shift only days into the tenure of Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
The investigation by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility was shut down last year, after the investigators were denied security clearances. Gonzales told Congress that President Bush, not he, denied the clearances.
"We recently received the necessary security clearances and are now able to proceed with our investigation," H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel for the OPR, wrote to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y. A copy of the letter, dated Tuesday, was obtained by The Associated Press....
"I am happily surprised," Hinchey said. "It now seems because we have a new attorney general the situation has changed. Maybe this attorney general understands that his obligation is not to be the private counsel to the president but the chief law enforcement officer for the entire country."
(Thumbnail distinction: The Office of Professional Responsibility -- OPR -- investigates allegations of unethical or criminal behavior by DoJ attorneys; the Office of the Inspector General -- OIG -- investigates allegations about non-attorney DoJ employees.)
All right, one investigation surrounding the NSA al-Qaeda phone intercept program has restarted -- not an investigation into the propriety of the program itself but into what the DoJ sttorneys told the president and Congress; that basic fact is clear. What AP is obscuring is why... what changed?
Now the investigators have received their security clearances; but two intriguing points bubble up that AP never follows:
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said, and I don't believe President Bush ever disputed, that it was Bush, not Gonzales, who denied the clearances in the first place. So how could a new Attorney General -- appointed by Bush -- change that?
(And it certainly doesn't have anything to do with Attorney General Michael Mukasey not being "the private counsel to the president but the chief law enforcement officer for the entire country." Does Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-NY, 100%, believe that Gonzales secretly talked Bush into denying the clearances, and now Mukasey has talked him into issuing them? This is garden-variety liberal lunacy, the "president as empty vessel" conspiracy.)
- Another batch of Justice Department investigators, run not by the Office of Professional Responsibility but by the inspector general's office [OIG], did receive security clearances... at the same time that the OPR investigators were denied. That's hardly the action of a president trying to squash an investigation!
The AP article reports this odd fact... but there is no follow-up, no analysis, not even a question mark. Of course not: The fact that other DoJ investigators got the proper clearances doesn't fit the "story" of Bush thwarting the investigation:
The OPR investigation was begun in February 2006 but was shut down a few months later when the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the security clearances to ask questions about the program. Justice Department officials said Gonzales recommended Bush approve the clearances, but the president said no....
A separate Justice Department internal investigation was opened last year by the agency's inspector general. Those investigators received their security clearances around the same time the OPR investigators' were denied, and their probe is ongoing.
Why the OIG but not the OPR?
So what is going on here? The OPR is a council headed by the Counsel on Professional Responsibility, currently H. Marshall Jarrett; but Jarrett has been there since 2005, all through the investigation. So there must be some reason why the president refused to issue clearances to the OPR under Gonzales, but immediately -- before even the ceremonial swearing-in -- issued them for essentially the same OPR under Mukasey.
One possiblity could be that Bush had lost confidence that anything Gonzales did wouldn't be so tainted by the (in my opinion) unwarranted attacks on Gonzales, that it would turn into a PR nightmare. Suppose the Gonzales OPR investigated and found no ethical violation; wouldn't the Democrats simply seize hold of that and scream "cover-up?"
So what may have really been standing in the way of an investigation... is the very damage fraudulently inflicted by Democrats on the creditibility of Alberto Gonzales! By hurling so many unprovable accusations against Alberto Gonzales, always prejudicial but never probative, the Democrats themselves made it politically impossible for him to conduct the very investigations they demanded. Any probe would precipitate a Catch-22:
- If Gonzales' Department of Justice found culpability, that would give Democrats ammunition to attack the Bush administration;
- If the DoJ found complete exoneration, that would allow Democrats to cry "cover-up" -- and still attack the Bush administration.
So what is the point of an administrative investigation? Since Bush obviously could not simply order the OPR not to investigate (think how that would look), the only power he had was to deny them the clearances until he had an Attorney General who was not tainted by the slanderous allegations of the Democrats.
By contrast, the Office of the Inspector General appears to be held in higher repute. For one thing, it's run by Glenn Fine... who was appointed in 2000 by President Bill Clinton. For another, since it doesn't investigate DoJ attorneys but only the non-attorney aides and other employees, I suspect it's seen by both parties as lower level and not as political: It doesn't investigate political appointees, who are generally attorneys. Ergo, there was no danger of precipitating another "cover-up" confrontation with the Democrats by allowing the Democrat-appointed Fine to investigate career non-attorney employees of the Department of Justice.
I suspect that, regardless of Bush's frequent (and probably sincere) avowals of support for Gonzales and his belief that the accusations were false, the president was savvy enough to know that sometime in the very near future, the pressure would become insurmountable... and Gonzales himself would crumble and resign. So Bush put off some investigations until such time as a new AG could more credibly conduct them.
The "importance" of these investigations
Here's an interesting admission against interest:
Democrats have complained in the past that neither probe reviews whether the surveillance program violates the Constitution, the kind of decision usually reserved for the courts.
So the Democrats are admitting that neither of these two internal DoJ probes will get at the actual meat of what everybody wants to know: Is it constitutional to eavesdrop on overseas terrorists -- even if we might accidentally overhear a conversation he has with an American citizen? That question cannot be resolved by the Department of Justice, but only by the federal court system.
In other words, these DoJ investigations are ancillary side issues... and even the elite media knows it. Yet they're making a huge stink out of it. Ergo, they're not at all confident that there is anything wrong with the eavesdropping program itself: If they thought they had a really strong case on the main issue, why would they even pay attention to the question of "whether the DOJ attorneys who were involved complied with their ethical obligations of providing competent legal advice to their client and of adhering to their duty of candor to the court"?
If you're confident you can convict a defendant of multiple murders, you don't focus on whether you can also get him for income-tax evasion; that's the straw you clutch at as a last resort.
Say, what about the "fired" United States Attorneys investigation? How's that going?
And finally, we have this very soft statement that nevertheless shouts volumes at us:
A department investigation also is looking at last year's firings of nine U.S. attorneys -- and whether at least one of them was dismissed because he refused to target Democratic candidates shortly before the 2006 elections.
"At least one of them?" A far cry from the original accusation -- that all seven (or nine, the number seemed only to grow for a time) had been "fired" because they wouldn't throw cases against Republicans or file false charges against Democrats or other wildly improper (and illegal) reasons.
Am I being precipitous by concluding that the phraseology "at least one of them" means that the Democrats have quietly given up on the rest, and are just focusing on a single case?
And which one? There are only two former USAs whose firings have ever been alleged by Democrats to be because they "refused to target Democratic candidates" in corruption probes: David Iglesias and John McKay. One other USA, Todd Graves, resigned under pressure after he refused to prosecute a voter-fraud case against the leftist group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which is widely believed to engage in voter registration fraud... which isn't exactly what AP says above.
As for the rest, the Left alleges they were fired for bringing corruption cases against Republicans, not for refusing to bring them against Democrats; and one (Bob Cummins) is alleged to have been fired to "make room" for Karl Rove's "protegé," Timothy Griffin.
So has the entire "dismissal of US Attorneys controversy" collapsed except for one case, for which liberals still keep hope alive? Enquiring minds say -- sure sounds like it!
"In conclusion..." -- and the audience spontaneously cheers
See? It is possible to get one's news from the elite media after all. It just requires an entire archaeological dig.
Mother of Mohammed! Is this the end of Mahmoud?
The title alludes, as I'm sure you all know, to the last line spoken by Edward G. Robinson in his revolutionary movie Little Caesar -- which, along with James Cagney's The Public Enemy, started the 1930s-40s trend of gangster biopics and may have been an early progenitor of film noir. The Hollywood gangster line eventually led to such classics as the Godfather movies and the more recent Goodfellas.
The original line in Little Caesar, is, of course "Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?" (But in the original 1929 novel by the incomparable W. R. Burnett, the line reads, "Mother of God! Is this the end of Rico?")
I raise the question "is this the end of Mahmoud" because, in a stunning turn of events, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now accused his critics of being traitors to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Those critics include former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the current chairman of the Assembly of Experts, which will select the next Supreme Leader of Iran... and is himself a likely pick for that very post when the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dies.
That verbal assault may be akin to waiting until Vladimir Lenin is on his deathbed to accuse Josef Stalin of being a counter-revolutionary.
Rafsanjani is also the chairman of the Expediency Council, which is supposed to resolve differences between the two branches of the Iranian legislature (the Majlis and the Guardian Council); the Expediency Council also directly advises the Supreme Leader. All of which is to note that Rafsanjani is probably the second most powerful cleric in Iran... and Ahmadinejad just called him and several of his close associates traitors:
One of Iran's most powerful cleric-politicians, former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rasfanjani, issued a veiled criticism of Ahmadinejad last week, saying officials must "avoid immaturity and not cause trouble for the people."
Ahmadinejad warned Monday that he would expose his critics, saying, "They are traitors."
"If internal elements do not stop pressures concerning the nuclear issue, they will be exposed to the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to students at Tehran's Science and Industry University. "We have made promises to the people and believe anyone giving up over the nuclear issue is a traitor."
Rafsanjani's great rival on the Assembly of Experts is Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who happens, by sheerest chance, to be President Ahmadinejad's guru. And by another strand of "the lattice of coincidence the lies on top of everything," when Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005, his only serious rival was -- wait for it -- Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Small world, ain't it?
Ahmadinejad skirted as close to actually naming one of Rafsanjani's closest advisors as he possibly could:
He accused critics of regularly providing "the enemy" with "information from within the ruling system...."
The president said one official has already been arrested for espionage and accused his critics of pressuring the courts to acquit him.
"But I announce here that the Iranian nation won't allow these persons and groups to use political and economic influence to save criminals from the clutches of justice," he said.
Ahmadinejad did not name the official. But Hossein Mousavian -- a Rafsanjani ally who served as top nuclear negotiator under reformist former President Mohammad Khatami -- was briefly detained this year. Authorities have not said what charges he faces, but the semiofficial Fars news agency has reported that the charges were likely related to espionage.
So let's review the bidding...
- Ahmadinejad has called a "traitor" anyone within Iran who disagrees with his absolutist stance on nuclear-weapons development;
- Further, Ahmadinejad threatens to "expose" all those he has dubbed "traitors" very soon now;
- Everyone in power in Iran understands that Ahmadinejad really means Rafsanjani and his posse, and they're all waiting for the other shoe to grind;
- Rafsanjani is likely the second-most powerful man in Iran... and his duties allow him to speak to the most powerful man in Iran, Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- probably every day;
- If Ahmadinejad tumbles from power, this will also strike a powerful blow against Rafsanjani's bitterest and strongest rival on the Assembly of Experts, and another top contender for the position of Supreme Leader when Khamenei drops his turban.
I don't know about the CIA and the State Department, but to me, this sounds like Ahmadinejad has declared all-out war against Hashemi Rafsanjani... and that he has bitten off considerably more than he can chew.
Add to that the widespread dissatisfaction with and even resentment against Ahmadinejad for his inability to fix the economy, for his repeated violent crackdowns on the population for "un-Islamic" activities (such as not having proper beards), and for his taunting of Western powers that has brought sanctions and might bring military destruction raining down upon Iran... and I think we have the makings of a Molotov Cocktail for Mahmoud.
Not that Rafsanjani is all that great a guy himself; he is an Iranian mullah, for Pete's sake. But to return to our gangster-movie theme, Rafsanjani is like Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino), the local Luccese family capo in Goodfellas... but Ahmadinejad is like Joe Pesci's character Tommy DeVito, the mobster who was too wild to live. (You'll have to watch this wonderful movie to find out how that all works out; but it's quite apropos.)
Rajsanjani really has only two choices:
- Ignore the accusation, thereby making himself appear weak just when he most needs to be strong;
- Or use the accusation as a bludgeon to beat Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like an ornery camel.
Let's hope that Rafsanjani decides enough is enough and institutes steps through the proper channels to kick Rumplestiltskin out on his teeny posterior.
Let Ahmadinejad go back to being mayor of Teheran. Or heck -- maybe he could take "Red Ken" Livingstone's place as mayor of London; that might actually be an international improvement!
Date ►►► November 12, 2007
Federal Judge Declares "Mistrial" Equivalent to "Acquittal"
U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle -- a Bush-43 appointee -- has found a novel way to prevent a cowardly Army lieutenant from having to stand trial at a court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq... and for calling the Commander in Chief a war criminal:
A federal judge has blocked the Army from conducting a second court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada of Honolulu, an Iraq war objector based at Fort Lewis, Wash., saying it's likely the second trial would violate his constitutional rights....
U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle ruled yesterday that no court-martial will be held for Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School graduate, pending the outcome of his claim that it would violate his Fifth Amendment rights by trying him twice for the same charges.
Watada's first court-martial ended in a mistrial in February. Settle wrote that the military judge likely abused his discretion in declaring the mistrial.
Say, that's a good one: Judge Settle has just created three novel legal principles in one sitting... which bests the record of Charlemagne "Chipmunk Cheeks" Brandenborjk, who once consumed eleven distinct varieties of turnip borscht in a single meal. Judge Settle settled the following burning (at least smoldering) legal questions:
- Does the principle of "double jeopardy," by which a person acquitted of an offense cannot be tried again on the same charge, extend also to cover prosecutions that end in a mistrial with no verdict at all? Judge Settle says Yes, thereby upending about thirty-eight decades of case- and statutory law.
- Do the ordinary civilian courts have jurisdiction over military officers being tried in courts-martial by military judges for a military offense against the Universal Code of Military Justice during wartime? Judge Settle says Yes, thereby startling the stockings off'n Gen. George Washington.
- Can a civilian judge look into the heart of a military judge and judge that the judge only called a mistrial for sneaky, underhanded reasons... and not because the defendant first stipulated X, and then based his defense on the denial of X? Judge Settle says Yes, and then goes on to guess what playing card you're hiding in your pocket.
Oh well; fools rush in where angels have dirty faces.
As to the first principle, most judges have accepted the basic idea that double-jeopardy only kicks in when there's been an actual verdict of not-guilty. I've never heard before that prosecutors are barred from retrying a defendant after a mistrial; perhaps one of our many lawyer-readers can enlighten us on this fine point of law.
The second is interesting, as it implies that military courts are inferior to civilian courts... even when trying military charges during wartime. (In his next case, Judge Settle is going to pick the 2008 Miss America and award last month's World Series to Colorado.)
But it's the third principle that's really wicked cool: According to Judge Settle -- who served for three years in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps -- anytime the Army (or presumably any other service) court-martials some malcontent, rabble rouser, or boot-quaking yellowbelly, any district judge in the general vicinity can step in and stop the trial on the grounds that he personally thinks the military judge is in cahoots with the prosecutor.
In February, military judge Lt. Col. John Head unexpectedly declared a mistrial in the third day of Watada's trial as the soldier prepared to take the stand in his own defense.
Head did so after he expressed concern that Watada did not understand what the soldier had earlier agreed to in what's called a stipulation of facts because it conflicted with his defense.
Now there's some obvious skulduggery on the part of Col. Head!
Happily, the Honolulu Advertiser has persuaded a fair-minded and unbiased analyst to give his considered opinion:
Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz, who represented Watada at the time, said yesterday that he believes the latest federal court decision means the case against Watada essentially is dead.
The Army can appeal the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which would likely be unsuccessful, Seitz believes, or even the U.S. Supreme Court.
Seitz, an experienced military law attorney, said Watada's lawyers should resubmit his resignation and the Army should accept it "and put an end to it."
Sage advice from Watada's former attorney.
At some point, President Bush has got to put his foot down anent the clear and unambiguous distinction between military justice and civilian procedures: We simply cannot have the federal courts -- which are themselves completely unable to protect us from known terrorists -- monkeying with duly constituted courts-martial to make them equally worthless.
And while we're on the subject, President Bush needs to reach right into the State Department... and fire any diplomat who refuses to accept a posting to Iraq. That plus a vigorous prosecution of Lt. Ehren Watada would go a long way towards refocusing our governmental resources on stopping the bad guys, rather than endlessly debating the provenance and niceties of the Iraq war.
Date ►►► November 9, 2007
Fake Post on Attorney General Michael Mukasey
This is a "fake post" because all I plan to do is quote liberally from a New York Times story... then make a stupid, "shaggy dog" joke at the end. So stop reading! Don't proceed any further, I beg of you... it's all just a colossal waste of your valuable time.
From today's Times:
The attorney general’s post became vacant in late August when Mr. Gonzales stepped down. For months, he had faced severe criticism over accusations that political calculations played a part in the department’s dismissal of some United States attorneys last year and over his role in shaping the administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance.
Mr. Mukasey was initially hailed by Democrats as a leader who would bring welcome change to the Justice Department. His nomination had been recommended by Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, a member of the party leadership familiar with Mr. Mukasey from his service on the bench in New York.
On the first day of his confirmation hearings, Mr. Mukasey said he would resign if directed by the White House to take any action he believed was illegal or violated the Constitution, winning Democratic praise [..."And there was great rejoicing"]. On the second day of his testimony, Mr. Mukasey sidestepped the question of whether waterboarding was torture and also suggested that the president’s Constitutional powers could supersede federal law in some cases [..."there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth"].
Those responses stirred strong Democratic opposition, throwing his confirmation into question.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 100%) appears to have known Michael Mukasey from long back; and Schumer, relying upon his own fond memories instead of the intensive vetting and interviewing they usually use, believed that Mukasey was the ideal man to turn the Department of Justice into the Department of Bush Bashery.
Based on past experience, Schumer clearly expected Mukasey to become a thorn in the president's eyes, eventually forcing President Bush to reject all of the various "tortures" that he currently allows CIA interrogators to employ:
- Shouting at top al-Qaeda prisoners
- Making them stand at attention
- Waterboarding them
- Even giving them the horrific and internationally condemned "belly slap"
Perhaps, Schumer fantasized, Mukasey's relentless opposition would force Bush to release all of the terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo Bay into ordinary civilian court, where liberal judges could swiftly dismiss the cases -- when the government proved unwilling to yank military leaders from the field to the courtroom and hand over critical, classified national-security documents as the defense demanded.
Surely Schumer daydreamed that he would be able to parlay these dismissals into a campaign theme that Republicans enjoyed torturing innocent people... just for kicks. But suddenly, Mukasey threw a monkey wrench into the ointment. He became a Bushenstein's monster, making it clear whose side he was really on.
Schumer and the Democrats found themselves trapped in a world they had made: Having brought his name up in the first place and pushed him so hard, they could not turn on Mukasey when they realized how different he was than Chuck Schumer remembered. The senior senator from New York would lose so much face, he'd look like Red Skull. Or maybe Alan Cranston.
Clearly, the Democrats were stunned and hurt by this about-face on Mukasey's part; and I'm sure they've spent many a sleepless night wondering what bribes, threats, or other inducements the president must have offered the Attorney General to get him to switch like that.
But I think they've missed an obvious answer: Has anyone ever considered the possibility that... Judge Mukasey simply grew in office?
Well, see, I warned you about this "post" -- charlatanism, through and through. But you just wouldn't listen. And as Larry Niven is wont to say, "not responsible for advice not taken."
Date ►►► November 8, 2007
Iraq in the Balance: Will the Shia Prosecute Their Own?
A surprisingly balanced article from the New York Times on a surprisingly vital question that hasn't gotten anywhere near enough coverage:
An Iraqi judge has ruled that there is enough evidence to try two former Health Ministry officials, both Shiites, in the killing and kidnapping of hundreds of Sunnis, many of them snatched from hospitals by militias, according to American officials who are advising the Iraqi judicial system.
The case, which was referred last week to a three-man tribunal in Baghdad, is the first in which an Iraqi magistrate has recommended that such high-ranking Shiites be tried for sectarian violence. But any trial could still be derailed by the Health Ministry, making the case an important test of the government’s will to administer justice on a nonsectarian basis.
By a quirk of Iraqi law, ministries are allowed to block prosecution of their officials if they decree -- truthfully or not -- that those officials were "carrying out their official duties." Naturally, mass-murdering Iraqi Sunni is not one of the official duties of the Iraqi Health Ministry; but the Interior Ministry (the most powerful ministry in Iraq) has used this dodge in the past to prevent prosecution of rampaging police officials.
The consequences of this decision, no matter which way it falls, are so stark and existential that it's not unreasonable to say this opportunity will either make or break the new democratic Iraq:
- If Health decides to allow the prosecution to proceed against former Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili and Brig. Gen. Hamid al-Shammari (al-Shammari was head of the Health Ministry security force), then Sunni all across the country -- indeed, across the entire Middle East -- will finally come to the realization that the democratic revolution is for real, that it's not just "meet the new boss." Iraqi Sunni will flock to the polls for the next election, whenever that is scheduled; and they will participate in the Iraqi government wholeheartedly. Iraq will have shown the world that it's not just a new oppression, this time by the majority against the minority.
- But if the Health Ministry refuses to allow the case to proceed, then for all Sunni in the region (and mind that the Shia are only a majority in a minority of Moslem countries), the "Iraq experiment" will be proven a colossal failure. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein will still have had utility, but nothing like the effect if a fair and just democracy could arise in its place.
One tribe seizing control from another tribe -- Arabs have already seen and understood this. What was unique was the idea that the oppressors would be ousted in favor of free state that practiced justice and rule of law. That is what has never before been seen in the Arab or Persian Middle East.
The two accused Shiite officials are both Sadrites, and Muqtada Sadr personally secured them their positions; curiously, the government is only trying to prosecute them now because of a terrible fumble by the Mahdi Militia:
The case, which involves officials allied with the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia, would have been difficult for the Iraqi government to take on in the past because Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki received crucial support from Sadr supporters in Parliament.
Since the spring, however, when Sadr ministers withdrew from the government, Mr. Maliki has distanced himself from Mr. Sadr’s supporters, and he has allied himself with a rival Shiite group, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.
Sachi has argued for some time that Sadr made a dreadful mistake by pulling out of the government and then fleeing to Iran; she noted that he was certain to lose control: In tribal countries like Iraq, propinquity is the lodestone of power. If you're not constantly looking down people's necks and breathing over their shoulders, they'll swiftly find some other master to serve.
The Times article recounts the fascinating (if repellant) history of the Mahdi Militia. Modeling itself after the Hezbollah of Iran and Syria (say, there's a shock), the militia began by building hospitals, infiltrating the Health Ministry -- and turning the health industry into a kidnapping, torture, and murder mill. The slaughter was carried out in an organized fashion, by order, and often targeting helpless Sunni already sick or wounded and in hospital... along with their loved ones, who were often kidnapped and butchered when they unwisely came to visit the patient. The two charged individuals together are thought to account for hundreds of these ritualistic human sacrifices.
We should definitely be holding our breath about this story. There are few events that can honestly be called "crisis points," where the fate of a nation balances on the knife-edge of uncertainty; but this qualifies.
So... keep watching the skies.
Date ►►► November 7, 2007
David Samuels Speaks Out
David Samuels has done us the kindness of responding with a comment to our most recent post on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and what she did or did not say to someone who raced to pass it along to Aluf Benn for condemnation. Our two recent posts on this topic were:
Given Mr. Samuels' respected position in the journalistic community -- and the relatively obscure state of things here at Big Lizards -- we are of course rather flattered. Despite my rather colossal ego and preening narcissism, I attribute his response to a desire to set the record straight, as he sees it, about what he said, rather than concluding that he is a regular Big Lizards reader.
But surely his dogged defense of his column deserves an equally thoughtful response; and it's a good excuse for another post, anyway. As Samuels offered his response as a public comment (under the handle "DS"), I feel free to quote big chunks of it in this post, for ready reference. (Throughout, I accept that this is the authentic David Samuels, which I believe because of diverse tests.)
His first point is one that I thought I myself made in the previous post; but Samuels would like to stress it:
In the space alloted me in the article that was republished in FrontPage, I am careful to distinguish between two distinct possibilities:
A. Condoleezza Rice has said things -- either directly to Aluf Benn or to a political source he trusts -- that cite her own personal experience as a black girl in the South as a proof of her empathy for Palestinian suffering in the West Bank and Gaza.
B. Condoleezza Rice means what she says, in a heartfelt, deeply personal way.
I strongly believe that A is true, while I think that B is nonsense. I think the reasons are quite clear from the text of my article, which was intended as a commentary on Rice rather than a close reading of Aluf Benn's column in Haaretz.
I certainly understood that point; Samuels' article is well and clearly written. That is what I sought to convey by dividing my own response into two phases:
- Phase 1, in which I praised Samuels for his rejection of point (B) above, and especially for his rejection of the standard conservative theme that Rice is freelancing, and that she has somehow bullied or bamboozled President Bush into going along against his better judgment.
- Phase 2, in which I noted that he nevertheless unreservedly accepts part (A), that she said what Benn claims she said -- comparing PA President Mahmoud Abbas to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. -- despite the fact that neither Benn nor anybody else has presented the least bit of evidence that she did -- other than hearsay evidence from an anonymous source.
I will make one caveat: Unlike David Samuels, I am agnostic about whether she actually said it; but having a scientific frame of mind, I am unwilling to accept claims that have no evidence behind them, requiring me to believe a person I don't know, who says he correctly heard what another person that none of us knows (and who goes nameless, to boot), about what the second chap thinks he heard from Condoleezza Rice.
I can state with some assurance that I have never heard Dr. Rice say what Benn says she said (to someone else, not him); and that it doesn't seem likely that she would say it (she's not an ass). Benn himself says she never says such things in public... so why should we believe she says them in private?
But let us sail on...
1. Aluf Benn is a very reputable Israeli journalist who operates at a very high level in his profession, has interviewed Rice a number of times and has never been accused of fabricating a story before.
Nor has he been now; and I'm perfectly willing to accept that Aluf Benn is very reputable.
But so too was Dan Rather... and yet he broadcast an obvious fabrication. Nevertheless, I don't accuse Rather of fabricating the story: I am utterly certain he believed the "Killian memos" were authentic when he broadcast them. I suggest rather that Rather was fooled by his own biases into believing something silly... and that he dug in his heels when confronted with evidence of his own wild error. And that is also what I suggest may be the case with Aluf Benn (the first part; I have no idea whether he would double down if somehow confronted with evidence that his claim was wrong).
Again, I thought I was fairly clear that I was not claiming that Benn made the whole thing up, as Samuels seems to think I said. (Samuels writes, "From your post, you appear to believe in an entirely different possibility -- Possibility C -- namely, that Aluf Benn made up his entire column and the sources behind it as part of a left-wing plot to make Condoleezza Rice look bad.") In fact, I took no position on that, merely noting the possibilities (in the earlier post, the first one linked above, not the most recent):
Finally, we have convincing evidence that either somebody, God knows who, told Mr. Benn that Rice in private says Abbas is like Dr. King; or else that Benn himself made it up. We certainly have no evidence whatsoever that she actually did say such a thing... and by now, you'd think we would have, wouldn't you?
Again, I did not say he fabricated it; I said that either he fabricated it, or else someone told him that she said that (the latter being Benn's claim). I expressed no opinion on which was the case -- not knowing Aluf from Adam -- but those really are the only two options, aren't they? But in neither case do we have even the remotest evidence of accuracy.
Let's assume that Benn did not fabricate the story:
- His source could have misheard or misunderstood what Rice said (is Benn's source a careful listener?)
- Benn himself could have misheard or misunderstood what his source said (do we know whether his anonymous source is a careful speaker?)
Condoleezza Rice could have been tired and said something she doesn't believe and didn't mean to say (do we know -- well, yes, we do know she is a human being, for all that).
My grandmother use to do it all the time. She was the first among her set to buy a couch with a hide-away bed (this was in the 1940s, I think); she brought her club over to see it... and then proudly informed them, "And the nicest thing about this couch is that if you pull off the cushions and tug on this strap, it opens up into a full-course dinner!" Needless to repeat, that was not what Grandma meant to say.
Any one of these three strong possibilities utterly undercuts the claim that she intentionally said what Benn claims she said, and what Samuels ends by accepting uncritically -- after first treating it skeptically.
I think Samuels also shoots a bit wide with this point:
It is not at all clear to me that causing a fuss about Rice among fervent right-wingers would in any way further Benn's own political agenda. I am inclined to believe that the opposite is true. Benn's story is confirmed by the right-wing journalist David Bedein -- which argues against the idea that this story was fabricated to serve a left-wing agenda. Undermining Rice at this moment seems like the agenda of the hard right.
First, it should be fairly clear that "undermining the Bush administration" is rather high on the agenda of all left-wingers, no matter what country they inhabit; they hope it will lead to President Hillary.
That it also happens to play into the hands of the Israeli Right (they malign Bush and especially Rice with great frequency) is unsurprising... because we see that same pseudo-alliance here in America, where the internationalist Left joins with the isolationist Right to attack Bush's foreign policy -- usually dumping on the black chick in the process.
Again, Samuels barks up the wrong tree by believing I'm trying to prove Benn made it all up; I think it far more likely that Benn believed what he was told precisely because it fit his preexisting bias against Condoleezza Rice, and indeed against many "right wingers".
I have noticed that a lot of Israeli lefties still think that conservatives hate Jews and side with the Arabs every chance they get. Thus it would be unsurprising for an Israeli leftist to readily believe it when a source tells him that the "hard right" Condoleezza Rice is an antisemite who sees Israeli Jews as Jim-Crow Klansmen oppressing the innocent-as-a-lamb Palestinian minority.
In the same way, Dan Rather was poised to readily believe it when Mary Mapes told him that light Col. Jerry Killian said he was being "pressured" to give Lt. George Bush better marks than he had earned and to pretend Bush had been present when he was AWOL. Rather didn't set out to lie; he simply accepted a fraudulent set of documents because nothing in them raised alarm bells... they perfectly fit what Rather already believed about Bush.
That is my best guess about Aluf Benn: His source told him something he already believed... and now he had the "proof" of what he'd known all along! So he ran with it.
And even you admit he is reckless -- which rather conflicts with your near-simultaneous claim that he "operates at a very high level in his profession;" I assume you mean more than that Benn is successful... you mean that he's a good and careful reporter, right? Yet you yourself write:
2. Benn himself clearly distinguishes the nugget of reporting that he presents as fact (Rice made a comparison between Palestine and the American South), and his further "guesses" about Rice's "personal feelings" -- which I label as "incendiary," and which are probably unsupported by anything besides Benn's imagination (although its always possible that Rice said those things, too).
While I hate to judge before all the facts are in, I tend to think that a careful reporter operating at a very high level -- one whose very word we should accept, even when his only source is anonymous -- shouldn't be making "incendiary" claims that are "probably unsupported by anything besides [his own] imagination." Call it a quirk of mine.
3. I have interviewed Rice several times and she made a point of discussing the subject of race or the experience of her girlhood in Alabama each time, without my prompting her.
Yes, I've heard her do that, too... but that's not the point, is it? The point is whether she compared Israeli Jews to the Bull Connorses and Sheriff Clarks of her youth... and compared Mahmoud Abbas to Martin Luther King.
And Mr. Samuels still has not responded to my basic point, which I supported with four examples from his FrontPage piece. I quote myself, as I am wont to do at the drop of a hatpin:
This is an old bugaboo of mine: The interlocutor begins with "it mighta happened," soon talks himself into "it prob'ly happened," and ends by working himself into a veritable frenzy of "it rilly did happen!" -- while never presenting a scrap of evidence beyond the sonorous sounds of his own sweet soliloquy.
I still want to know how Samuels gets from noting that Benn "never cited any source" to Samuels' virtual certainly that Benn correctly understood what his source was saying, that Benn's anonymous source was accurate, and that Rice really did say what Benn claimed she said -- that Abbas was like King. Was Samuels truly impressed, as a journalist himself (which I am not), by "I cannot name my sources.... But I rely on firm ground?"
After all, Samuels wrote in his comment:
While I am confident that Rice did say something similar to what Benn suggests that she said [i.e., that Abbas is like Dr. King], I also see no reason to believe that ANYTHING Rice says as Secretary of State... has any necessary relation to how Condoleezza Rice actually feels inside.
All right, I understand he believes she was lying when she "said" that. But again, what makes him think she even said that? Do we even know that Aluf Benn's source wasn't Emily Litella?
I would encourage you to read more carefully in the future, to avoid logic-chopping, and to be more judicious in your citations of other people's work.
If I may speak directly to Mr. Samuels... thank you; I do always strive to rise to the level of the elite media, even if I sometimes fall short. But never for lack of trying! I hope to always read carefully; I would be ashamed of my math background if I caught myself "logic-chopping" (I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but it sounds pretty bad); and I try to exercise judgment whenever I cite other people's work.
I very much appreciate your comment... and I hope you will respond once more to answer the burning question above: What, besides Aluf Benn's say-so, causes you to believe that Condoleezza Rice compared Mahmoud Abbas to the Rev. Martin Luther King, jr.? Have you ever heard her specifically make such a comparison?
Date ►►► November 6, 2007
Some Respect for the Lady
This David Samuels article from FrontPage Magazine takes a couple of small steps forward to rein in the hysterical Condi-bashing by so many conservatives; but it takes one giant leap backwards by perpetuating the most irritating part of the media charade: Accepting as uncontested fact an anti-Condi whispering campaign orchestrated by a "respected left-wing [Israeli] journalist" with a class interest in portraying Condoleezza Rice as biased towards Palestinians.
Here is the part that is reasonable and perceptive:
At the same time, it is also important to remember that Condoleezza Rice is not a talk show host but the U.S. secretary of state -- which is not a job that leaves very much room for personal moments. Her private rhetoric (if “off the record” conversations with foreign politicians and journalists can even remotely be considered private) is simply rhetoric -- that is to say, words intended for a purpose. Every word she speaks embodies the political will of the most powerful nation in the history of the planet – a nation currently having a bit of trouble in the Middle East.
Rice is a skilled political tactician who is fantastically loyal to President Bush, who has repeatedly declared his intention to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza before he leaves office.
This echoes the point we ourselves made three days earlier:
Honestly, we don't know what Condoleezza Rice thinks about, e.g., the Israeli-Palestinian "roadmap" nonsense, except that clearly it doesn't bother her enough to cause her to resign from the administration. It's possible she's 113% in synch with President George W. Bush's enthusiasm about a Palestinian state living "side by side" with Israel and at peace. But it's likewise possible that she thinks it's doomed to failure... but since that's the foreign policy the president wants, she may believe strongly enough in the unitary executive that she's willing to push hard even for something she opposes.
To put this as bluntly as I can, this is not Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's personal foreign policy. She is not a latter-day Svengali, mesmerizing George Bush (playing Trilby O'Ferrall?) with her eyes; she's not a zuvembie, casting a voodoo spell to suborn the president's will to her own, turning him into the walking dead.
She is ably and honestly representing the foreign policy of President George W. Bush, which is precisely the duty of every cabinet member; if a secretary can no longer represent and further the president's policies, because he (or she) disagrees so strongly on a moral or political level -- then he has the duty to resign.
Those are the only two choices... be the mouthpiece of the president, or go find another job. The only thing we know about Dr. Rice's personal position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that she doesn't disagree with Bush so strongly that she feels compelled to resign. Nothing more. As we also said, sometime after January 20th, 2009, we will likely find out her own position on a whole host of issues -- when she runs for office, writes a book, and/or gives post-administration interviews.
But here, illustrated better by this David Samuels article in FrontPage than I've ever before seen, is the essentially absurd dichotomy of all this speculation. How does the vague and unsourced Benn accusation here:
Though Benn never cited any source for his description of Rice’s deep personal identification with the Palestinian national cause, he has interviewed Secretary Rice before and obviously felt his source was good enough for print. He went on to "guess" that Rice’s feelings were based on the similarity between the separation fence and checkpoints in the West Bank and the Jim Crow laws that prohibited blacks from exercising their most basic civil rights. For good measure Benn also threw in the suggestion that Rice often confuses Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with Martin Luther King...
Benn’s off-the-record/on-the-record “hint” that Rice might be personally sympathetic to Palestinians has naturally excited Jewish right-wingers, who fear a sell-out at the upcoming peace conference in Annapolis, just as it pains left-wingers, who worry that she might think that they, too, are racists, the worst sin in the liberal “Al Cheyt...
...Abruptly transmaugrify, without visible evidentiary means of support, into the utter certainty of this:
While the intent of Aluf Benn’s “guesses” about Rice’s innermost feelings about the Palestinian cause is clearly incendiary, I have little doubt the secretary and her aides have whispered sweet nothings into the ears of Israeli and Palestinian politicians and even to Aluf Benn himself, suggesting that she can empathize with the Palestinian sufferings under Israeli occupation by virtue of having been born black in Alabama...
At the same time, it seems highly unlikely that Secretary Rice’s sudden empathy for the Palestinian cause is anything more than a tactical maneuver....
The paradox of Rice’s conduct...
Yet there is still something disturbing about the remarks Rice is reported to have made, however direct or vague they might have been, and however tactically clever they might seem to their author. Offhand analogies between Palestinians and Southern blacks or Israelis and Southern whites make a mockery of real pain and suffering by ignoring the specificity of actual historical experience. Comparisons of Palestinian “freedom fighters” with the American civil rights movement would merely seem ridiculous (imagine the membership of Hamas and Fatah joining hands and singing “We Shall Overcome”) if they were not also part of a bullying assault on historical specificity that has come to characterize much recent political discourse in America....
Condoleezza Rice, the political science professor and provost of Stanford University, would likely judge such bullying and divisive rhetoric harshly, as the product of a second-rate mind afraid to engage in reasoned discussion and debate. When she returns to private life, she will feel ashamed of herself.
This is an old bugaboo of mine: The interlocutor begins with "it mighta happened," soon talks himself into "it prob'ly happened," and ends by working himself into a veritable frenzy of "it rilly did happen!" -- while never presenting a scrap of evidence beyond the sonorous sounds of his own sweet soliloquy.
And then to cap off this eye-popping extravaganza of phantasmapalooza, the Samuels piece thuds back to earth with this final and self-referential awakening from the dream:
That said, I don’t see the slightest bit of evidence that the secretary of state actually believes Mahmoud Abbas is Martin Luther King in disguise, or that she has flashbacks to her childhood in Birmingham every time she sees the Separation Fence on her way to Ramallah. But a whisper or two can’t hurt, right?
No, Mr. S., it can't; nor is there any way that a put-upon Secretary of State -- "an accomplished black woman with a Ph.D. in political science, who plays the piano, who grew up as a little girl in the South and lost a friend when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the churches in Birmingham" -- can respond to such churlish insolence and impudence, such an attack on her basic honor, integrity, and decency, without seeming the fool for getting into a literal "he said, she said" back and forth with some lefty reporter about who knows better what is really in Condoleezza Rice's heart.
Good Lord, everyone; get a grip: We do not have any believable evidence that Dr. Rice ever said any such a thing. So let's stop the show trial and confine ourselves to complaining about what we do know... which is that the president's policy (not Condi Rice's policy) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has shifted from demanding that the Palestinian-Arabs live up to their earlier agreements -- an essential component of Bush's own "Roadmap to Peace" -- to now offering them inducements and enticements, compromises and concessions merely to blight Annapolis with their presence.
But that is Bush's fall from grace, not Condoleezza Rice's.
Watch Not for Whom the Watch Tolls... It Tolls for We (Us. Whatever.)
In the nine or ten years in which Big Lizards has been on the Watcher's Council, dutifully submitting posts for nomination (when we don't fall asleep on our hammock of nails and forget), decades in which we have sometimes won and sometimes lost, we've had joy, we've had fun, we've had seasons in the sun... we have always taken comfort in the fact that somebody, somewhere on the Council has always enjoyed our post enough -- or was moved to sufficient pity -- to cast us at least one, lowly vote... even in second place.
But this week, in what may be a harbinger of things to come, Big Lizards was completely snubbed and shut out by every, last member of the Council of Watchers. Not a single person voted for our nomination -- Mucking About With Mukasey... not one!
We suspect that this will continue into the future. Fate has spoken; our lot in life will be to become the invisible member of the Council, reduced to furtively scuttling about the kitchen floor after the banquet, picking up odd bits of cheese and scraps that fall to the floor and are missed by the hound.
We feel like Vice President Hubert "Humpty Dumpty" Humphrey: destined for a great fall and to be totally forgotten as soon as the eggshells are all swept away.
To kick us when we're down, the Council also gave the win to our nemesis and arch-rival Joshuapundit, the most anti-Bush member... whose posts, however well reasoned and well written, cannot seem to go more than a paragraph or two without bashing someone in the administration:
- Syria's Assad Caught With His Hands in the Nuclear Cookie Jar, by Joshuapundit.
The post describes the discomfiture of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose North-Korean built nuclear weapons reactor was just destroyed by the Israelis -- a bold and courageous act for which the entire world should applaud the most unjustly reviled nation on the planet, Israel. The post makes some very good points; but like David Copperfield's Mr. Dick and poor King Charles's head, Condoleeze Rice creeps into the post at the beginning then makes a strong comeback later, seizing control of the entire last third of the piece.
The two posts that we voted for did well, finishing 2 and 3 in the very order we voted them. In fact, in the normal voting, our number-one selection got the same number of votes as the winner; the Watcher had to break the tie... which, as reported, he chose to give to Voldemort. I mean Joshuapundit:
- Why Hate Crimes Are a Joke Part 5783, and Why the University of Delaware Digs 'em, by The Colossus of Rhodey;
- A Matter of Death, by Rhymes With Right.
The first post discusses -- well, it's best described by the press release from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, with which Hube opens the post: "The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a 'treatment' for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs."
The second post discloses the reaction of a congregation of United Methodists to a brutal triple-slaying of their own congregants... and how that changed the attitude of many of the survivors towards the death penalty.
We did pretty well in our first choice for the Nouncil, not so well in our second. Our first-place choice came in first, which is always a nice feeling. Almost but not quite making up for the career-ending humiliation of... but enough about us and our private tragedy:
- Is This the State of Academics Today?, by The QandO Blog.
This very funny post (all humorous posts get a few extra points in our evaluation, because humor is so hard to do... as we have invariably found to our chagrin and further shame) takes a look at how a professor of English can go astray when he assumes his facility with literature makes him an expert on pollution, global warming, and military strategy.
- Impossible to Take Seriously, by Power Line.
This Power Line post -- nobody but Big Lizards cast it a vote, which can only be explained by concluding that nobody actually read that far down the list of nominees -- notes that nearly all of the most vociferous media critics of the Iraq war appear to have gained their understanding of military affairs by watching Vietnam movies... bad ones.
And from Tribes (a bad remake of the great Jack Webb movie, the D.I.), to M*A*S*H (yeah, yeah, but the Robert Altman movie is really about Vietnam), to Soldier Blue (yeah, yeah, but it's is really about Vietnam), to the Boys in Company C, to Coming Home, to the Deer Hunter, to Apocalypse Now, to Spitoon, to Full Metal Jacket, there are an awful lot of awfully bad Vietnam movies to choose from.
If it's Tuesday, it must be the Watcher
See the sights and hit the heights here. And join in the general mockery and rock throwing at the lizard. I think I'll save everyone the trouble and go hang myself in effigy. Or in Bakersfield.
Another "Wedding Party"... Well, Not Quite
During a bulletin-board discussion the other day, a poster argued that whenever I talk about Taliban deaths, I ignore civilian casualties. "How do you know those were all Taliban?" he demanded; "they might all be civilians that we killed by mistake!"
I at once thought of the most effective -- and most fraudulent -- journalistic attack on Coalition forces in Iraq in 2004: the infamous "wedding party massacre". Power Line quotes from the Belmont Club:
Why was a wedding party in full swing at 02:45 am in the middle of the desert? A glance at the map would show the area in which the wedding took place was 250 kilometers from "Dr. Salah al-Ani, who works at a hospital in Ramadi," and who "put the death toll at 45." A long way to go for medical treatment or burial when Qusabayah is 50 kilometers away. Under normal circumstances, there are two wounded for every dead. By the normal ratios there should have been at least 90 injured. There was a videotape "showing a truck containing bodies of people who were allegedly killed in the incident. Most of the bodies were wrapped in blankets and other cloths, but the footage showed at least eight uncovered, bloody bodies, several of them children. One of the children was headless." A video of the dead, but where were the wounded?...
The scene in the desert included the now-infamous "immaculate instruments": An AP photograph of one spot of carnage showed some slightly damaged musical instruments lying on the ground. The photo was used to "prove" that the target really was just a wedding celebration, as the local villagers claimed, rather than a group of al-Qaeda fighters, as our military reported.
Yet an earlier photo taken of the exact, same spot showed no such instruments. Did they appear by magic, or were they planted after the fact? And if the latter -- what did AP know, and when did they know it?
There are so many incongruities in the "wedding party massacre" story that the only logical conclusion is that we, in fact, hit a gathering of al-Qaeda fighters, as the American military still insists. But al-Qaeda supporters swiftly collaborated with Iraqi Sunnis who had a direct feed to American news services such as AP and the New York Times -- perhaps those agencies' Iraqi stringers themselves -- and they spun the story to make us look like monsters. The elite media were only too happy to cooperate; there was a war on, recall... the war for the White House in the November, 2004 elections.
Fast-forward to Afghanistan last month. The same odious technique of simply accepting the word of interested, anti-American parties in preference to the word of the American military was the tactic du jour in this recent 60 Minutes piece, dissected by News Busters:
In a segment on Sunday’s "60 Minutes," anchor Scott Pelley described how "The enemy has killed hundreds of civilians this year, but surprisingly, almost the same number of civilians have been killed by American and allied forces." Pelley focused on U.S. air strikes citing a statistic from the liberal group Human Rights Watch: "So far this year, 17 air strikes have killed more than 270 civilians, according to the humanitarian organization Human Rights Watch.".
Now, I don't know if the Allies' air strikes have killed more civilians than the Taliban's direct attacks, though I do find Human Rights Watch's number rather suspicious. However, even if that claim is true, it changes nothing: The deaths are still the responsibility of the Taliban. Dafydd argued this point back in July:
When NATO drops bombs on Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters who are shooting at NATO or Afghan troops, and some civilians are killed -- who would you say "caused" those civilians to die: NATO or the insurgents?
The answer is the insurgents... because absent their incessant attacks, murders, and random use of explosives, we wouldn't be shooting at them in the first place; and the civilians wouldn't have died.
But Pelley digs his hole even deeper. He claims that NATO airstrikes often hit totally innocent houses, killing totally innocent people. From the transcript of the show:
Our journey took us through Afghanistan up the Shomali plain, north of the capital, Kabul. The Taliban are active here, so we hired Panjshiri mercenaries to cover our trip. The scene of the air strike is a village in the hills above Kapisa Province. We found the dead buried in a cornfield. There were no enemy combatants. It was four generations of one family, all killed in the air strike: An 85-year-old man, four women and four children, ranging in age from five years to seven months. One boy (Mujib) survived...
That's terrible! NATO attacked "four generations" of women, children, and senior citizens for no reason at all. But wait; as is usually the case, there actually is more to this story:
Mujib's father was not there. He's accused of being a local Taliban leader. The U.S. Has been searching for him, with no luck. The air strike came the night of March the 4th. An Army press release says it started after enemy forces fired a rocket at this U.S. Base above the village. The rocket fell, causing no coalition casualties; in fact, missing the fire base altogether. Then U.S. pilots saw two men with AK-47 rifles leaving the scene of the rocket attack and entering a compound in the village. The fort, which is on the hill over there, began raining down mortar fire on this location, mortar fire that came down for about an hour. It was night time, and even though there were no U.S. forces in contact with the enemy on the ground, a decision was made after the mortars to call in an air strike. U.S. Air force aircraft dropped two bombs on this neighborhood, each one weighing 2,000 pounds. This is what it looks like when a ton of high explosives hits a house made of mud. The bombs hit their intended targets. But when the smoke cleared, there were no men with rifles, just Mujib's family.
Who, specifically, told Pelly that "there were no men with rifles?" Likely the same villagers who told him that there were no Taliban in the village, when in fact there were "enemy forces" shooting at us.
If Mujib's father is "a local Taliban leader," then Mujib's family is Taliban. If the local Taliban leader lives openly in this village, then the village itself is Taliban as well. So why is Pelly so shocked to hear that these Taliban villagers hate Americans just as much (or even more) than they hated the Soviets?
These Afghans, like many others, are trying to decide whether to support the U.S. backed government. We expected anger, but we didn't expect this.
Pelly (talking to a villager) You can't be saying that the Soviets were kinder to your people than the Americans have been.
UNKNOWN MAN B( Translated ): We used to hate the Russians much more than Americans. But now when we see all this happening, I am telling you Russians behaved much better than the Americans.
Yes; the Russians had the good manners to lose. Of course the Taliban today hate Americans more than Russians: They kicked the Russians' rears -- but the Americans are kicking theirs.
So this is the same old story... another "wedding party massacre," this time in Afghanistan; and once again, the American elite media prefers to believe, not our own military, but Taliban-supporting villagers, about whom the only thing we really know is that they hate Americans.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Date ►►► November 5, 2007
Happy Guy Fawkes Night...
...Whichever side you're on!
Penny for the Guy
You are free to use the comments section to discuss the pros and cons of the Gunpowder Plot.
Dems On the Rampage, Dennis On a Tear
For this entire year, the Democrats have been stung by repeated legislative embarassments; they failed to:
- Force defeat in Iraq;
- Let the camel-nose of SCHIP into the tent (with the body, socialized medicine, to follow);
- Pass even one, single appropriations bill through Congress and to the president's desk;
- Follow through on their promise to make the 110th Congress "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history" by passing meaningful ethical reform with either a ban on earmarks altogether, or at least complete transparency of the earmarking process -- shining a spotlight on the earmarking roaches in the system;
- Make a decision on the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts for the middle class;
- Do anything at all about illegal immigration, and so on.
Their perennial, whiny complaint is that the Republicans in Congress keep filibustering Democrat-sponsored legislation, and that President Bush vetoes the trickle that does get through. But navigating that needle is part of the process of leadership.
Neither party has had anything like a veto-proof (or even unfilibusterable) majority in ages; neither has the luxury of completely dominating the legislative conversation and burying the other side's objections.
During the Republicans' tenure, they actually managed to pass significant pieces of legislation, from tax cuts, to allowing faith-based organizations to vie for charitable governmental spending, to beefing up the border with double fencing, to a couple of declarations of war, to easing environmental regulations, etc. The Republicans were largely successful at legislating because they found issues where even the bulk of work-a-day Democrats agreed with the GOP and disagreed with the Democratic leadership; thus conditions were ripe for Democrats to join with Republicans to provide enough votes to invoke cloture, thus preventing a filibuster.
But the Democrats of the 110th loudly announced, even before they assumed office, that they considered congressional Republicans to be mere speed bumps -- and the president an anachronistic irrelevancy. Their "negotiation" style consists of a lengthy series of take-it-or-leave-it ultimata... and evidently, the GOP's response has been not only to "leave it" but to show just how much power a unified minority party has. And of course, the president has the constitutional authority to veto legislation; it's not something dirty or underhanded, as the Democrats seem to believe.
Ergo, the Democrats find themselves at a crossroads. Two paths open before them:
- They can change their tone and begin working with the Republicans to craft bipartisan legislation, supported at least by the GOP rank and file, if not necessarily by the GOP leadership;
- Or they can retreat from the world of legislating into the comforting zone of endless investigations of the Bush administration, in order to create the illusion of progress when in fact all they're doing is loudly burning rubber at the starting line.
With all that as prologue, we come to a couple of articles. From the Associated Press...
House Democrats threatened Monday to hold President Bush's key confidants in contempt of Congress unless they comply with subpoenas for information on the Justice Department's purge of federal prosecutors last winter.
The White House shrugged off the ultimatum, saying the information is off-limits under executive privilege and that the aides in question - White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former presidential counselor Harriet Miers - are immune from prosecution.
"It won't go anywhere," predicted White House press secretary Dana Perino.
Congressional Democrats nonetheless submitted their 102-page report, and a Republican rebuttal, to the House clerk on Monday afternoon. The report accused Miers of contempt for failing to appear and testify as subpoenaed. She and Bolten were charged with failing to produce documents on whether the prosecutors were fired at the White House's behest.
The essential absurdity of this investigation is found in a couple of short, quiet sentences buried in the middle of the article:
If the report is passed, the House would forward the citation to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia for prosecution....
It's not clear that contempt of Congress citations must be prosecuted.
That's quite an understatement. In fact, the courts have made it very clear that they will not force the Executive branch to prosecute itself on orders from the Legislative branch. Thus, the most at Chairman John Conyers (D-MI, 100%) can do is shake his fist and demand that President Bush prosecute his own aides for carrying out his own policies... which seems implausible on its face. So beyond congressional self-abuse, what is the point?
The plain and simple fact is that the "fired" U.S. attorneys -- who were not fired, by the way, but mostly just not reappointed to another term -- were sent packing for purely performance-based reasons: They had their own private, political agendas, which they insisted upon following rather than following the agenda of the President of the United States. As they serve at the pleasure of the president, and the president was not pleased, they were gently encouraged to find employment elsewhere.
When next a Democrat is elected president, he will have the same authority: He need not keep reappointing U.S. attorneys, or any other appointed officials, who march to the sound of a different drum. It's as simple as that.
I don't think even the Democrats believe that once the president names someone to a position, he is obliged to retain that person forever, no matter what he does. I think this is just another way for Democrats to investigate -- which requires no negotiation whatsoever -- rather than legislate, which requires actually listening to the opposition and making some effort to accomodate their views in order to gain their support... an odious, Herculean labor that the Democrats simply cannot bear to undertake. (Actually, it's the Democrats, not the Republicans, who remind me of the Stymphalian birds.)
And while we're on the subject, we also have this: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Venus, 100%) has decided to use some obscure House rule to force the entire House of Representatives to formally cast a roll-call vote on impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney...
"The momentum is building for impeachment," Kucinich said in a Nov. 2 news release. "Millions of citizens across the nation are demanding Congress rein in the Vice President's abuse of power."
House Resolution 333 says Cheney should be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors," because he "purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States Armed Forces against the nation of Iraq in a manner damaging to our national security interests."
Kucinich insists that Vice President Cheney continues to violate the U.S. Constitution by insisting on the supremacy of the Executive Branch....
"Congress must hold the Vice President accountable," Kucinich said last week. He accused Cheney of using his office to advocate the "continued occupation of Iraq and prod our nation into a belligerent stance against Iran."
Which raises an interest question that itself demands an answer: Does Dennis Kucinich actually believe that opposing an Iraq pullout and advocating we be more "belligerent" towards Iran constitute "high crimes and misdemeanors?"
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats must now grapple with the confirmation vote for Attorney General designate Michael Mukasey; with several Democrats jumping ship and supporting Mukasey, including Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%) and Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), while the bulk of the leadership still opposes him, the ironic possibility exists that the majority in the Senate, led by Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), may try to mount a filibuster!
As we close in on the end of the first session of the 110th Congress, the stunning paucity of legislation makes this not just the majority that couldn't shoot straight -- it's the majority than cannot even shoot crooked. Rather, the Democratic congressional leadership, at least so far, resembles Ralphie Parker in a Christmas Story -- daydreaming about shooting Black Bart and his gang with Ralphie's Official Red Ryder Carbine Action Two Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle, felling the the GOP gang left and left with unbelievable but wholly imaginary accuracy.
The Democrats had better be careful: They'll shoot their eye out!
Date ►►► November 3, 2007
The "Flag-Burning Professor" - This May Surprise You
Drudge linked a provocative article from the Bangor Daily News today; the opening paragraph is certainly an attention grabber:
A University of Maine student alleges her former professor offered extra credit to class members if they burned the American flag or the U.S. Constitution or were arrested defending free speech.
On the first day of class, associate professor Paul Grosswiler offered the credit to members of his History of Mass Communications class, according to sophomore Rebekah McDade. Disturbed by the comment, McDade dropped the class and intends to take the course again next semester with a different professor.
Now, I must confess that I always begin reading such articles in a conflicted state of mind:
- I have a natural skepticism about extreme claims like this, stemming from the fact that I have a natural, inborn skepticism about, well, everything;
- I have learnt from bitter experience over the aeons that an awful lot of stories about acrid academia that are too insane to be true -- turn out to be true.
So I typically read in a state of trepidation, because whichever way it goes, one of my deep and cherished beliefs will be crushed. Usually I just shy away and pretend I read it, so I can impress people, but really just move my eyes back and forth and think about England.
But I actually read this one; and despite the fact that at least one other student, Kathleen Dame, possibly two (an unnamed "second student"), also say they think Prof. Grosswiler offered extra credit for such, I actually find I believe the professor himself instead:
In an e-mail responding to a request for comment from the Bangor Daily News on Friday, Grosswiler said he thought McDade misunderstood the class discussion, which was intended to elicit thought about the First Amendment. He said he has held this same discussion for years without incident.
"I don’t intend for students to burn either the Constitution or the flag, and over the years hundreds of students have understood that," Grosswiler wrote.
The thing is, I can easily see how a discussion could seem clear one way to Grosswiler and equally clear the opposite way to McDade and Dame... even in a fairly precise language like English, miscommunication is the norm, not the exception.
Suppose Grosswiler said something like this. I am just now making this up; this doesn't come from any transcript, and I have no idea what he actually said -- save only that I'm sure it was less persuasive and brilliant than my own fantasy lecture below. I only offer this monologue as an illuminating "f'rinstance":
Class, I don't want you just sitting back, listening to the lecture, nodding, and regurgitating what I said. I want you to really understand how important freedom of speech is... and how sometimes you must stand up and protect it, even if it means suffering the consequences.
Our Founding Fathers understood that; when Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty or give me death," at the Virginia Convention of 1775, he wasn't being metaphorical -- he meant it quite literally. The British considered what he said about liberty to be treason and sedition, which were both capital offenses in colonial America.
Over the years, people have chosen many methods of fighting to preserve freedom of speech: Back when flag-burning against the law, many people believed the prohibition, whether state or federal, violated the fundamental liberty of freedom of speech. The most obvious way to protest was by burning the flag and getting themselves arrested; in court, they argued their cases, and eventually they won: The Supreme Court overturned the laws against flag burning.
(Other protesters only burnt the Constitution, which wasn't illegal to do; they made the same point but didn't want to risk jail time.)
Through the centuries, people have been jailed, flogged, tortured, and hanged trying to preserve the precious freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press; and that's what this communications class is about. I want you to experience this material, not just read about it. I want you to go out there and demonstrate a committment to our American liberties, which so many brave men and even women have fought and died to preserve.
Therefore, I give extra credit to students who don't just swallow what I say and spit it out onto a test paper, but actually demonstrate their understanding of the importance of speech and a free press by going out and acting on that understanding.
I don't care what approach you take, whether it's giving a speech, writing an article, or storming the Bastille. You can burn the flag or the Constitution, or you can organize a protest against Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- but do something.
And don't think you can get away with an insincere gesture that's only meant to shock and offend. Whatever you do, it must sincerely come from your heart... and believe me, after twenty years in higher education, you can't fool me: I'll know if you're just faking it, and you won't get any credit.
So whatever you choose to do, go out and show me that you really understand the importance of our essential liberties -- and you'll get extra credit. But much more important, you'll understand just a bit of what so many people have suffered for our vital -- and very American -- freedom.
Yes, I can easily picture it. Of course, Grosswiler wouldn't be as eloquent as I; on the other hand, he would know how to spell "commitment."
Such a speech might easily be misinterpreted by hysterical females (or by hysterical males, of course; I just like scandalizing the proto-feminists) as "I'll give you extra credit for burning the flag." But it would very likely also be true that no student has ever decided to burn the flag to get extra credit... or that maybe someone did, but Grosswiler thought it was completely insincere, and he denied the credit.
In any event, he is absolutely right that there was a whole freedom-of-speech crisis over flag burning, and the Supreme Court did resolve it by ruling that burning the flag was protected speech -- Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); U.S. v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990). And for once, I agree with the Court's expansion of liberties; I'm not one of those who believes that "speech" means only the verbal conveyance of ideas. The very fact, as argued by those supporting the anti-flag desecration constitutional amendment, that the American flag is a cherished national symbol means that burning it is a very effective way to demonstrate hatred of America -- or at least hatred of something the firebug thinks America is doing. There is almost no getting around the fact that this is a clear political message.
Of course, so is giving money to a political campaign; the Court disgraced itself when it upheld McCain-Feingold, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The decision was 5-4 on the most odious provisions, and goofy Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was in the majority, joining liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, and David Souter.
I strongly believe that if the case were decided under today's Court, with Justice Samuel Alito instead of Sandra Day O'Connor, the BCRA would be struck down. As evidence, look at the decision in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., 551 U.S. (2007), where Chief Justice John Roberts' harsh opinion striking down some provisions of the BCRA (related to issue ads within 30 or 60 days of an election) and expressing contempt for campaign finance regulation was joined by Justice Alito. Alas, O'Connor was still on the Court in 2003, else we would live in a freer society.
(However, I would not go so far as to say everything, including stripping and lap dances, is protected speech, however; I would look at intent, how it's exercised, and whether others were allowed their own freedom of speech -- including the freedom not to listen to your speech. Thus, if you walk into a church during services and take off all your clothes to protest the Iraq war, I say you should be arrested: First, there is no rational connection between nudity and pacifism; second, you interfered with other people's liberties -- both freedom of religious worship, obviously, but also freedom of speech... which includes the freedom not to experience someone else's "speech.")
I appear to have wandered far afield, but it's a false apparition: What constitutes "speech" is at the very heart of this controversy. Judging solely from what I read in the Bangor Daily News article, I suspect this is more or less what Professor Grosswiler was trying to convey... albeit clumsily, since he's sure to be a liberal.
I don't think he was seriously encouraging college brats to go out and burn the flag or Constitution. I think McDade overreacted; a partisan group (The Leadership Institute, which I would probably join if I were the joining sort) seized the opportunity to make hay while the iron was hot; and a newspaper saw a chance for a sensational headline.
Ergo, I wanted to put my $58,712.16 worth in before the chorus of conservatives attacking poor Prof. Grosswiler became deafening.
Why Do I Find This CBS Story Less Than Credible?
Right. So I'm reading this CBS story that I Drudged up, and it's telling me that they've outed "Curve Ball." Curve Ball -- sez them -- fabricated a bunch of stories that "drove the U.S. argument for invading Iraq." Why, if it weren't for Curve Ball, that war-criminal Bush would never have been able to lie us into that war, which (according to the Squeaker of the House) is an utter failure!
And I run across this sentence:
More than a hundred summaries of his debriefings were sent to the CIA, which then became a pillar - along with the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium for nuclear weapons - for the U.S. decision to bomb and then invade Iraq. The CIA-director George Tenet gave Alwan’s information to Secretary of State Colin Powell to use at the U.N. in his speech justifying military action against Iraq.
They just had to slip it in there, didn't they?
And I sez to myself, sez I, that either:
- CBS is so behind the times, they're literally unaware that the Iraq Study Group formally reported that Iraq was indeed on a "quest for uranium for nuclear weapons," and that one source of this datum was none other than Ambassador Joe himself;
- Or else they think the readers are so ignorant and stupid they'll never realize CBS just pulled a fast one.
I'm putting my money on Curtain 2, where Carol Merrill is standing. And sadly, there really are a lot of Americans who are that ignorant and stupid.
Oh well. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time -- and CBS reckons that's good enough for the Nielsons. But for me, when a putative news source makes a whopper like that in the part of a story I'm familiar with, I know how much credibility to attach to their claims about the stuff I'm not familiar with at all.
Pre-posting update: I just noticed something else... "became a pillar... for the U.S. decision to bomb and then invade Iraq." What do they mean, bomb and then invade? I recollect we launched one missile attack that we hoped would kill Hussein; but the next day was the ground invasion.
And then I had a revelation (or acid flashback): It was the 1990-1991 Gulf War that began with a lengthy bombing... not this Iraq war! We began the air campaign on January 17th, 1991; and we didn't start the full ground war until more than a month later, February 22nd. Thus, the "bombing" lasted 36 days before the ground game.
But in the 2003 war, we made one air attack on the Dora Farms (where intel said that Hussein might be visiting Uday and Qusay) on March 19th... and then the ground invasion began March 20th. Checking my memory in Wikipedia, I found these telling sentences:
Before the invasion, many observers had expected a lengthy campaign of aerial bombing in advance of any ground action, taking as examples the 1991 Persian Gulf War or the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. In practice, U.S. plans envisioned simultaneous air and ground assaults to decapitate the Iraqi forces as fast as possible (see Shock and Awe), attempting to bypass Iraqi military units and cities in most cases.
You know, I now suspect the CBS newsroom ostentatiously refused to follow the fighting during the U.S. invasion of Iraq; they declined to honor the war with their presence. To those of us who did pay attention four years ago, the timeline is seared in our brains... thus we wouldn't make such a clumsy mistake.
I'll bet CBS didn't follow the invasion, and now they're just relying upon their vague and hazy memories of the Gulf War 16 years ago. What a maroon!
Date ►►► November 2, 2007
Time to Fisk - er - Power Line?
My favorite blog, Power Line, has spent the last few years firing rockets and mortars at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, seemingly blaming her for every State Department initiative they dislike -- and by and large dismissing the possibility that Rice might not be a Col. Kurtz-like rogue agent but actually representing the foreign policy of the president. I have said several times that I think they're theorizing beyond the evidence, which Sherlock Holmes dubbed a cardinal sin.
Honestly, we don't know what Condoleezza Rice thinks about, e.g., the Israeli-Palestinian "roadmap" nonsense, except that clearly it doesn't bother her enough to cause her to resign from the administration. It's possible she's 113% in synch with President George W. Bush's enthusiasm about a Palestinian state living "side by side" with Israel and at peace. But it's likewise possible that she thinks it's doomed to failure... but since that's the foreign policy the president wants, she may believe strongly enough in the unitary executive that she's willing to push hard even for something she opposes.
(Such selfless advocacy is hardly unprecedented, even in Foggy Bottom; Colin Powell pushed very hard to bring our allies along for the Iraq ride, even though he personally abhored the policy.)
My point is this: We won't know what Condi Rice thinks until, like John Alden, she can speak for herself. In 2009 and later, when the Bush administration has run its course, Rice may run for public office (perhaps governor of California when Arnold Schwarzenegger's term expires in 2010). Even if she doesn't, she would be a fool not to write a book and cash in on her (relatively) low-paid years in government service and at Stanford (low-paid compared to what she could have earned in private industry).
At that point, we'll finally learn what she really thinks about this; I can't imagine a campaign or memoir that didn't address what has occupied much of the time she has been at State and before that as National Security Advisor. But until then... well, what we have is a lot of rumor and inuendo by people who have a class interest in shiving her, such as the folks at Haaretz and self-proclaimed Zionists such as Boker tov, Boulder! (the clock on the blog shows Jerusalem time, though the blog presumably emanates from Colorado).
Sadly, the lads at Power Line often seize hold of such iffy, flakey "evidence" as more ammunition for their artillery barrage -- as today:
The latest round of diplomatic buffoonery includes a recurrence of Seceretary Rice's characterization of the Palestinian cause as a civil rights issue in the image of the one she grew up with in Birmingham, Alabama. As Joel Fishman recently reported:Last week in Jerusalem, U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, articulated some of her personal views which ultimately found their way into the press. For Dr. Rice the struggle of the Palestinians is analogous to that of the Afro-Americans for civil rights and she identifies with the Palestinians. She recalled what it meant to travel in segregated buses as a little girl in Alabama. She also compared the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to Reverend Martin Luther King, because, in her mind, both were committed to peace. According to reporter Aluf Benn, Rice views Abbas as committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence and, like Martin Luther King, opposed to terror and violence (Haaretz, October 16, 2007). Independently, David Bedein reported Rice's statements in The Bulletin (Philadelphia, October 17, 2007).
At the end of the post, Scott Johnson notes finally received a link to the Haaretz piece itself from a reader, and he links to it. Let's turn to the original to see what evidence "respected left-wing Israeli reporter" Aluf Benn actually cites:
When Condoleezza Rice talks about the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel, she sees in her mind's eye the struggle of African Americans for equal rights, which culminated in the period of her Alabama childhood.
Rice is very aware of political sensitivity, and avoids making such comparisons in public speeches and interviews, where she keeps to the official list of talking points. But in private, she talks about the
[Sic; the paragraph actually ends hanging with this sentence fragment]....
Now, Rice is comparing Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayad, to Martin Luther King. Abbas is committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence, and like Abbas he is opposed to terror and violence. Just as Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy and former British prime minister, compares the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tothe conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, so does Rice recall the struggle for civil rights in the United States when she speaks about the Palestinian boy who needs new hope instead of aspiring to commit a suicide attack. Rice's current visit to the Middle East is one of the most important in her term as secretary of state, perhaps the most important.
Please pardon my bluntness, but what the hell kind of evidence is this? Benn simply asserts, without even hinting at his sources, that Rice equates Abbas with Martin Luther King and the Palestinian conflict with "the struggle for civil rights in the United States" -- and Scott accepts the assertion uncritically. Why? I believe because it fits his preconceived storyline on Condoleezza Rice.
I cannot help but suspect that if Aluf Benn published a piece where he asserted, equally unsourced, that Rice had forcefully demanded that the Palestinians live up to their previous agreements before she would offer a new one, Scott Johnson would be very skeptical and demand to see something more substantive; he is convinced of the opposite. Thus doth conviction make convicts of us all.
At least one anti-Rice blogger, Boker tov, Boulder!, who is favorably linked by the Power Line post, thought the sourcing was thin enough that he (or she) e-mailed Benn to inquire what he actually had. BtB appears to find the following response very reassuring:
UPDATE: I wrote to Aluf Benn and asked for any substantiation of his comments on Secretary Rice. He very kindly responded immediately:I cannot name my sources, and as I have written, Rice did not speak in public about these matters. But I rely on firm ground.
Well! Who could argue with that? "Firm ground," indeed.
But come now; if a leftist reporter at, say, the New Republic offered his reliance on firm ground as sole authority for the flat claim that Bush told friends "in private" that he wanted to launch a ground invasion of Pakistan -- would Power Line accept it? Would any of us?
Scott uses a rhetorical trick to try to further discredit the Secretary of State:
These themes have become a motif in Secretary Rice's discussion of Palestinian statehood. She articulated them most egregiously last year in an astonishing speech before an American-Palestinian group. In that speech Rice likened the Palestinian struggle to the American struggle for independence and to the American civil rights movement. Rice said:I know that sometimes a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel must seem like a very distant dream. But I know too, as a student of international history, that there are so many things that once seemed impossible that, after they happened, simply seemed inevitable. I've read over the last summer the biographies of America's Founding Fathers. By all rights, America, the United States of America, should never have come into being. We should never have survived our civil war. I should never have grown up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama to become the Secretary of State of the United States of America.
But what "themes" does Scott mean? The theme in the previous attack was that Rice thinks Mahmoud Abbas is like Martin Luther King; but this theme is that she still has hope that rationality can prevail and a peaceful Palestinian state could eventually emerge.
First, I don't know about you guys, but those seem awfully different "themes" to me. But second, what of Scott's characterization that the passage "likened the Palestinian struggle to the American struggle for independence and to the American civil rights movement"? There is no question she compares them; but "compare" needn't mean "equate." I can compare elections in Iran to elections in the United States without likening them or saying they're the same.
In the sense that, if such a peaceful Palestinian state comes into being, it might be seen as something that "seemed impossible" right up until it "seemed inevitable," such a circumstance would be very much like the United States; but that's a far cry from saying Yassir Arafat was like George Washington or that Mahmoud Abbas is like Martin Luther King. I can say that many people thought it would have been impossible for the United States to lose a war (or a peace) to primitive North Vietnam; but by the time it happened, it sure seemed inevitable to me. Yet surely this doesn't mean I equate Ho Chi Minh to George Washington or even Martin Luther King, jr.
Like Anne Frank in her last days, Condoleezza Rice still has hope in the future and in people. What is Scott Johnson's hope? Does he not hope that the Palestinians can eventually come to their senses?
What are the alternatives? I see only two: that Israel runs the entire Arab population out of Gaza and the West Bank and annexes them as "Judea and Samaria," or that Hamas eventually expunges Israel. I think the first would so enrage the Arab world -- heck, the entire Moslem world -- that the war on global hirabah would become vastly more dangerous to us.
And of course the last is unthinkable. So honestly, I have great sympathy for Dr. Rice's hope that the Palestinians return to the land of sanity sometime, because it's really the only solution.
And for heavens sake, Rice was speaking "at the American Task Force on Palestine Inaugural Gala." She was talking to an audience of Palestinian-Americans! She called upon them to help in the task of liberating the PA from terrorist violence and the "humiliation" of being just a territory or "authority," not quite a state. What is she supposed to do -- tell that audience that Israel should annex the territories and expel all the Arabs?
So which of Power Line's claims have convincing evidence behind them?
- That Condoleezza Rice hopes for Palestinians to reject violence and create a peaceful state;
- That she considers Mahmoud Abbas a "moderate leader" -- which, since moderate is a comparative, means "moderate compared to his rivals in Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (which appears to despise Abbas, despite being part of Fatah, Abbas's party), Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaeda;"
- And that she wants to persuade Palestinian-Americans to join in the effort to nudge the PA in a more democratic and peaceful direction.
Finally, we have convincing evidence that either somebody, God knows who, told Mr. Benn that Rice in private says Abbas is like Dr. King; or else that Benn himself made it up. We certainly have no evidence whatsoever that she actually did say such a thing... and by now, you'd think we would have, wouldn't you?
That gruel of truth seems a bit thin to make the big buffet breakfast of Condoleezza bashing Power Line serves us.
They're still my favorite blog, of course; I will always aspire to their pinnacle of posting (near) perfection. But decades ago, I became pathologically obsessed with truth; and in this case, I must point out a few "inconvenient truths" about the animus that so many conservatives have against Condoleezza Rice.
Besides, she is a true lady (and a hottie), and I must therefore rise in defense of her honor.
Date ►►► November 1, 2007
Take Back the Right!
Front Page Magazine reports that yet another David Horowitz speech was disrupted by screaming left wing and Islamist thugs. I won't go into detail about what happened; it's the usual: Horowitz speaking as part of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" at Emory University; bunch of Leftists and Islamists show up full of sound and fury, signifying nothing; event has to be called off. Horowitz compares them to "the fascists... in Germany in the 1930s." You know the routine.
The reason I call this "routine" is that it really is:
Concordia University in Canada, 2002. (Note: YouTube, as is its wont, long ago censored the videos linked at the Power Line post.)
A Jewish student group, Hillel, organized a talk inviting former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; to prevent this, violent antisemites from the Muslim Student Association showed up and literally beat members of the audience who showed up to listen. One victim was a survivor of the holocaust; he too thought it reminded him of the Nazis. Never in his life did he think this kind of thing would happen in Canada.
- Only a few days ago in Denmark, four members of Stop the Islamization of Europe were ambushed and beaten with iron pipes on their way to a peaceful demonstration.
- Jewish community centers at universities are frequently vandalized or even torched.
- Stacks of Jewish and conservative newspapers are seized and burnt, printing systems destroyed, editors threatened and roughed up.
- Conservatives are hauled before star-chamber speech-code tribunals, convicted on the basis of anonymous complainers, and sentenced to "re-education."
You get the picture. But this post isn't simply a recitation of the hundreds of incidents of Leftists and Islamists suppressing everyone else's freedom of speech (but especially the freedoms of Jews). That's a given. We all know they don't believe in a free society; they will resort to anything, including murder, to silence us.
But what should we do about it? Blogging about the evil alliance between the so-called Left and militant Islam is all well and good, but it changes nothing. "Exposing" their tactics doesn't hurt them; I rather think they enjoy the PR and believe it scares away conservatives.
So yes, we must speak up, mustn't be intimidated by scare tactics. But we must not be careless: We have to bear in mind that these people are terrorist sympathizers, and many are actually terrorists themselves... and they need to be treated as such.
Inviting conservative speakers to the campus is commendable -- but do it with eyes open. Know what to expect! Participating in anti-Islamist demonstrations is courageous; but you'd better be prepared for outrageous disruptions and intimidation, violence, and increasingly likely, the use of weaponry by the MSA and their surrogates and accomplices.
Here are a few tactics to consider:
Monitor enemy actions
When word gets around that your conservative student circle is inviting a conservative, pro-Israel, or anti-"Islamofascist" speaker, the leftist students are bound to mobilize "resistance" against you. Hold your nose and read their stupid flyers, monitor their websites, infiltrate their rallies (using friends unknown to the campus Left and the local MSA) and make note of their plans. While some of the professional leaders may keep their plans secret, in order to get a large number of students to attend and disrupt the talk, they have to go fairly public.
Keep copies of everything you find; they may prove useful when you get sued (as you likely will; it's a favorite tactic of Islamists nowadays).
Learn their plans, plan a counterattack. Your freedoms and liberties are precious; don't trade them for a pot of message.
Open your mouths and persuade private citizens to volunteer for security detail
You know your school won't provide adequate security; heck, the kind of security guards the school provides are probably in cahoots with the protesters anyway! So talk as many friends as you can into showing up (free ticket!) and helping keep the peace.
Special emphasis on ROTC members, athletes, alpha males, and most especially, combat veterans returning to university on the modern G.I. Bill.
Open your wallets and hire commercial security guards
If you've got the wherewithal, then raise the jacksons and hire some private security guards from a company with teeth.
Blackwater comes to mind; I wonder what they charge for a few hours of three or four security men without firearms? Maybe they'll give you a discount rate, considering who the enemy is.
Screen the audience
The best way to short-circuit disruptive protestors is not to let them into the building in the first place. They're usually pretty easy to spot: They'll be the ones wearing orange, Gitmo jumpsuits and/or pink t-shirts with obscene anti-Bush slogans; carrying Israeli flags with a swastika instead of Star of David and misspelled signs that read "No blood for ol!" and "Rascist, sexiste, anti-gay. David Horwits, go away!"; compressed-air horns sticking out of camouflaged trousers; or black ski masks covering everything but their hate-filled piggy eyes. Leftists and Islamist radicals are rarely subtle... they don't need to be.
So anyone wearing or carrying obvious disruption paraphernalia gets nixed. Even if they offer to leave the tools of their disreputable trade at the door, they still have no business entering the hall and should be forcible kept out. Refund their ticket prices, so they'll have not a single legitimate charge to make against you... they'll have to rely on the bogus charge that you violated their freedom of "speech" by preventing them from blowing air horns to drown out your hired speaker... make the university board of rights squirm.
Eject the first jackass forcefully and immediately.
This is very important. Any group like this has a leader, and the followers await his cue. When the first guy stands up without permission and starts doing something objectionable, unseemly, intimidating, or obscene, your security guards should swoop upon him and eject him with visible (but not injurious) force. The other cowards will then be reluctant to stand up themselves when they see their leader made into such a laughable failure.
In any event, the security force must overwhelm any violent protesters; they cannot let the crowd overwhelm them.
Protect the speaker
Protect the speaker with a beefy blocker, and don't ever let protesters get anywhere near your guest.
On a nutshell
We must be vigilant -- and we must be prepared to fight back, to "take back the Right." Either that, or our enemies will just escalate until they're picking us off one by one, as we see happening in Lebanon today. There are many Islamists, and possibly a few Western Leftists, who would even kill you to gain your silence: Remember Theo Van Gogh, Salman Rushdie, and Daniel Pearl. Murder means nothing to members of the Muslim Brotherhood or any of its offshoots (such as Hamas or the Muslim Student Association); what's one more human sacrifice among so many?
Fight bravely; but more important, fight wisely. And let's be particularly careful out there...
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