Date ►►► January 31, 2008
Watcher Head and Goat
If we can get this post up quickly, before the Watcher announces this week's winners (or at least before I read the e-mail!), then we'll be current again. Accordingly...
And the (narrow) winner is:
- Liberal Fascism, by Done With Mirrors.
We're pretty happy about this (though we're not happy at being skunked again), because this was our first choice in the Council category. Both our first choices won this week.
This is a snarky, snarly review of the book Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg -- which I have but haven't yet read. We voted for this entry mainly for the wonderful alternative Callimachus invented to replace the left-right political axis:
A simple pair of labels invented to describe the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly in 1789 (in which the nobility took the seats on the President's right and left the Third Estate to sit on the left), they may have been useful for a time in describing the rudimentary politics of the early French Republic. Their application to anything else is a farce.
What would be better? Almost anything. A spiral galaxy, for instance. There is a large, undifferentiated, blurry center. There are arms that trail out of it, getting smaller and more extreme as they are more distant from the center. Here is socialism, and beyond it, communism. Here is conservative moralism, and beyond it theocracy. And out there is a lumpy arm that starts in libertarianism and ends in anarchism. The arms sometimes come nearer each other than the center as they spin out.
(Long quotes are nice; they make the post nice and big without requiring any writing on our part.)
Our other vote was for a more traditional political rant:
- The Radicalization of American Politics, by The Glittering Eye.
Mr. Eye objects to the increasing radicalization of the parties, as seen most clearly in the racially tinged combat between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination to the presidency.
We knew this next post was going to be the winner, and by a substantial margin:
- Bylines of Brutality, by Iowahawk.
Iowahawk has penned (phosphored?) a wonderful parody of the recent New York Times hit piece on the American soldier that pretended there was a trail of Iraq and Afghanistan vets who had come back more or less like Bruce Dern in Coming Home: Insane, violent, murderous psychopaths.
Iowahawk applies the same non-standards to prove that reporters and news anchors are bursting out in violent outbursts all over the world. It's very funny; read it!
Again, this was our first choice. Our second was the piece we nominated:
- A Relatively Scientific Experiment, by John at Power Line.
John takes a more sober look at the same story that Iowahawk just took down with laughter. This post was the first I read that seriously looked at the wretched statistics manhandled by the Times, in their wild-eyed vendetta against our troops.
(I don't know why, but Power Line gets no respect at all on the Council. I don't recall them winning anything in the almost eleven months I've been on the coven.)
As always, follow the link to see all those nominees that actually got a vote or two.
Date ►►► January 30, 2008
McCain's Greatest Asset
I'm going to pick up on a comment that frequent commenter MTF made to a previous post here at Big Lizards; he ended by saying this, which is quite perceptive:
If McCain can convince conservatives that he will nominate judges like Roberts and Alito and press to make the Bush tax deal permanent, then those windy promises, in combination with his strong and very real support of the war effort against al Qaeda will be very tough for anyone to best.
Let's amplify that: McCain will be tough for anyone to best even in the general election. Hence his continued status as Republicans' choice for the most "electable" Republican, according to virtually every survey ever conducted. But what exactly is it about McCain that makes him so electable?
It's certainly not the posiions he takes. To the extent that they differ at all from the other GOP candidates, they fly in the face of traditional conservative doctrine. Nor do they line up with some unmet demand of independents or moderate Democrats: McCain's position on immigration, for example, appears to satisfy no one except some Cuban immigrants in Florida. Most Republicans clearly prefer a much harder line, while Democrats would rather we had full-blown amnesty -- while McCain-Kennedy, despite he rap from those trying to kill it from the right, is at most a plea-bargain.
On the war in Iraq, while McCain certainly supported the counterinsurgency strategy at least a year before President George W. Bush did, and McCain has been its biggest booster, his position today is no different from that of Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and Mitt Romney... and Mitt is still in the race.
Some may point to "leadership;" but that is a portmanteau quality that is actually a concatenation of a number of different subqualities: the candidate's positions, his oratory skills, his background and experience, his general stature... and one other quality that I think is really at the core of McCainomania, and which has underpinned McCain's support all through his long career: John McCain is incredibly charismatic for a modern politician.
Not as charismatic as was Ronald Reagan or John Kennedy, but certainly far more so than any other president or presidential candidate of my lifetime... and so much more so than the other GOP candidates today that even diehard conservatives would be hard-pressed to deny it. In fact, I suspect even Democrats would rank McCain as at least as charismatic as Obama -- and the latter has the advantage of being a traditional, Ted Kennedy-syle liberal, which starts Obama off with a bunch of freebie points in that crowd.
McCain galvanizes the electorate in a way that Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee can only fantasize. The feisty former combat pilot and POW excites voters as I haven't seen in a very long time. John at Power Line frequently notes that voters in presidential elections "generally choose the person, not his policies." Thus, it didn't matter that Romney's economic positions were much closer to the traditional conservative fiscal policies favored by Florida Republicans... McCain still won those voters for whom economics was the most important issue.
Even the over-the-top vituperation against McCain by hard-core conservatives reflects McCain's charisma: A well-known GOP senator who is, in fact, just as apostate on immigration, political speech, and the Gang of 14, and just as heartily despised by many conservatives -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 83%) -- nevertheless doesn't generate anywhere near the level of invective hurled at John McCain. Why not? Because when Graham enters a room, it feels like someone just left.
I believe Mitt Romney would make better decisions as president; but John McCain would be much better at explaining those decisions to the American people. Communicating with ordinary Americans has, of course, been the bête noire of the current president, and we see how vital that skill is.
Most Democrats believe (falsely, in my opinion) that Hillary Clinton has more actual experience than does John McCain, who has spent his entire political career in Congress. But even they would admit that she has virtually no charisma whatsoever. Her grating voice, which gets shriller the louder she tries to talk; her Wicked Witch of the West cackle; her snideness and condescending tone... each of these combines to make Hillary one of the least charismatic personalities of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In a two person race, McCain would eat her alive, just by being himself.
Most Democrats believe (falsely, in my opinion) that Barack Obama is just as charismatic as John McCain. But in this case, the mismatch in experience is so stark, that I suspect in a general election, many moderate Democrats will vote for McCain... even if they won't say as much to a pollster. This wouldn't be the Bradley Effect -- the putative "latent racism" of voters, who tell pollsters they'll vote for the black guy, then actually pull the lever of the white guy. This is more like the "Reagan Effect," where Democrats swore to pollsters that they were going to remain loyal to their party -- but then secretly voted for the charismatic Republican over the lame and awkward Jimmy Carter.
In their final polls before the 1980 election, the five major pollsters -- ABC, Harris, Gallup, CBS/NYT, and NBC -- consistently underestimated Reagan's final vote; in addition, two overestimated Carter's vote, and only one (NBC) underestimated the incumbent (but only by half as much as they underestimated Reagan). All showed Reagan in the lead, but none by as much as he actually beat Carter. Assuming all pollsters were following standard polling procedure, the most likely explanation is that a lot of people said they were going to vote for Carter but actually voted for Reagan instead... the Reagan Effect.
Note: The link above is to a blogpost on the discrepencies of the final polls to the actual result from 1936 through 2000; I couldn't get to the blogger's source, alas. But here is a scholarly paper (from Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 69, no. 5, Special Issue 2005, pp. 642-654) ranking the accuracy of the polling in the 1980 election 13th out of the last 13 elections; see p. 8 of the pdf.
I foresee the same effect happening in November: Nearly all head to head polls currently show McCain beating either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama; no other GOP candidate -- including the two who recently dropped out -- even comes close to the Democrat, ranging from an RCP average 9 points behind to 16 or 17 points behind. While I still believe Romney could improve his standing during the general election and likely beat either Hillary or Obama, the fact remains it would be a tense battle... but McCain would start out ahead and probably increase his lead.
John McCain's greatest asset is his charisma; it's the most important element of "leadership" and the hardest to develop if one doesn't have it from the beginning. A candidate can change his positions to bring them in line with the country's priorities -- as both Romney and McCain did in significant ways. But if he has a charisma deficit, as Mitt Romney does, there is little he can do to correct that.
(For a laugh-riot example of a charisma-challenged nominee trying to ape personal magnetism, watch a tape of Al Gore's first debate against George W. Bush... you remember, the one where Gore prepared for the contest by eating four or five "power bars" and drinking a six-pack of Jolt Cola -- "twice the sugar and a thousand times the caffeine." Gore sighs, moans, groans, rolls his eyes, "corrects" almost every answer Bush gives, stalks Bush around the stage, and then retires to his own lectern to make more bodily noises.)
As things stand now, I expect that charisma deficit will become larger and more apparent as we continue through the primary season; ergo, I predict that John McCain will emerge as the nominee. And, while Democrats seem to think he'll be easy to knock off, I believe they are -- and Hugh Hewitt is -- just looking at paper assets, in which McCain comes up short. For example, on paper, the age question looms large; but as Reagan showed, in the actual voting booth, it's extremely rare that uninspiring youth trumps charismatic seniority.
The more I think about Hewitt's comparison of McCain to Blob Dole, the more ludicrous it seems: Dole didn't lose because he was old; Dole lost because he was monumentally dull and uninspiring. The only time that his candidacy even rose to the level of vague interest was when he committed yet another wince-worthy gaffe. I'm utterly certain that the Democrats will raise the issue of septuagenarian McCain's age; at 72, he would be the oldest non-incumbent nominee for president ever... older than Reagan in 2000, though a year younger than Reagan during his 1984 reelection campaign.
Democrats will raise the issue at first covertly, a whispering campaign; but by the end, desperate and hysterical, Hillary or Obama will probably raise it overtly. And McCain will just laugh it off, as Reagan did -- and as the electorate did then and will today. Nobody cares much about calendar age anymore; in candidate years, Hillary sounds and acts much older. And in an age battle with Barack Obama, I think Obama's "youth and inexperience," as Reagan put it, will actually hurt him far more than McCain's age.
In reality, McCain will be the Democrats' worst nightmare: A mesmerizing Republican who can rouse the masses to vote for him, who can communicate with them, and who can persuade them to support his policies. (Thank goodness we're talking about John McCain instead of, say, Paul Wellstone, or even Mark Warner... though don't rule Warner out for 2016.) In the end, I believe McCain will work his magic even on most conservatives, few of whom will sit out the election: The chore of voting for McCain will be overborne by the once in a lifetime opportunity to cast a vote against either Hillary or Obama for president.
So I take heart in the fact that, even though I still think Mitt Romney would be the better policy maker in the White House, John McCain is considerably more likely to keep the property in Republican hands.
And who knows? I strongly suspect his ability to connect with, and therefore communicate with the American people will actually make McCain more effective at selling the 80% of his policies that actually match those of mainstream Republican conservatives -- than a candidate who is with them 100% of the time, but just can't move people the way McCain can. In other words, McCain will probably end up being a more effective conservative Republican president than any of the current flock of actual conservative Republicans.
It's a sobering thought, but one that is hard to deny. Such is the power of the greatest asset.
Date ►►► January 29, 2008
Can't stop, running behind again, gotta go --
None of our votes won this week; we did much better next week.
- Ed. Schools: They're Awful (for the most part), by The Colossus of Rhodey.
Hube states his thesis right up front. He quotes George Leef:
The public overwhelmingly believes that the function of schools should be mainly academic – that is, to make sure that children learn very well the skills and knowledge that it takes to succeed in life....
On the other hand, the dominant view among those who run and teach in our education schools is that the key role of schooling is to achieve various social objectives. In their opinion, it's more important for teachers to properly adjust students' outlook on life and society than to instruct them in "mere" knowledge and facts.
Leef is right, and Hube expounds upon this profundity throughout the post.
Instead, we voted for a pair of lesser issues, evidently:
- Identity Politics Then and Now, by Bookworm Room;
- 500,000 Iraqis Did Not Die, by Cheat Seeking Missiles.
Bookworm writes about the politics of identification: "Vote for me because I look like you!" She contrasts this (largely Democratic) tendency with the (more often Republican) propensity to vote for the person whose philosophy and experience most closely matches what we see as ideal.
Is that an important topic? Nah. Tied for fifth.
Our second-place vote went to a post that notes the astonishing discrepency between the numbers of dead Iraqi civilians as estimated by the Lancet study and the World Health Organization... a gulf of greater than half a million souls!
Jeez, this is taking longer than I thought. All right, fifth gear! The winner was a nice piece by that Canadian guy who's under the gun for republishing the Mohammed cartoons:
- Kangaroo Court, by Ezra Levant.
Levant makes a great case that his purpose in publishing them was simply to exercise his freedom to publish them in the putative Western democracy of Canada. (We voted this one in first place, and I remarked to myself, "Self, this Nouncil post is going to win by a landslide."
It tallied 5 1/3 points, which means either eight first-place votes -- or else seven firsts and two seconds -- or six firsts and four seconds -- well, you get the picture. The silver medal was a three-way tie... and one of those three was yet another post about Ezra Levant's battles with the Canadian Human Rights Commission!
Another of the silver medalists was our second-place vote:
- The Media Does It Again, by Winds of Change.
Armed Liberal tears into the risible New York Times piece purporting to show a trail of death and destruction, or however they phrased it, following after Iraq-war veterans when they returned to the United States. (This was the piece we nominated.)
Here be Watchers.
Big Lizards Electoral Prediction!
Big Lizards officially predicts that the closer we get to the election, the louder and more emphatically will conservative pundits -- on TV, in print, and in the dextrosphere -- prophesy utter ruin, destruction, and complete left-liberal Democratic dominance on November 4th.
By September, many will be openly saying it's so hopeless, Republicans should just stay home and not bother voting. Sometime in late October, one or two conservatives may call for Republicans to vote for Hillary (or Obama), so they can get in good with rabidly anti-GOP voters and avoid an 84 to 16 Senate and a 339 to 96 House. Some Republican commentators will doubtless counsel Republican candidates to all change their party registrations en masse to the Beer-Drinkers Party.
(In this case, past performance really does predict future results.)
Then the Republicans will win the presidency and essentially break even in Congress.
Followed by the scramble of those same conservative seers to bull their way onto the argue-shows and say -- "Told ya!"
Also sprach Dafydd.
Date ►►► January 28, 2008
Props to Caleefornia’s Hornful Governator
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is so full of baloney that it is almost coming out of his ears! We could make sandwiches!
The governor who promised that he would never raise taxes is now engaged in an elaborate game of hocus-pocus -- now you see it, now you don’t -- that will end up tacking a 1.25% “fee” or “surcharge” onto all of our homeowner’s insurance payments in order to pay local fire districts back for money that he is going to swipe in order to balance the budget!
He calls it a fee, or a surcharge, although, of course, it’s a tax! Don’t get me wrong. Ronaldus Magnus as governor said things he had to back off from. In his first term he said that his “feet were set in concrete” about his opposition to a tax increase. Later, when he had to back down on that, he announced something to the effect that the “noise you hear” was the concrete cracking around his feet.
That’s honest. What Schwarzenegger is doing is dishonest. It’s in line with other dishonest statements he has made (perhaps the most egregious of his dishonesties is his assertion that he’s a Republican!).
For instance, he’s supporting the top Democratic hacks in Sacramento, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perrata, who put Prop. 93 on the ballot to give themselves four more years in office. Under current law they would be term-limited out of office at the end of 2008. But under the Byzantine provisions of Prop. 93, which Schwarzenegger supports as term limit “reform,” both pols, and quite a few other legislators, would be grandfathered in and able to continue screwing up the budget for several more years.
According to our RINO (Republican in Name Only) governor:
The current system of term limits -- which allows members of the Senate to serve two terms (eight years) and members of the Assembly three terms (six years), with a total maximum of 14 years -- is contributing to Sacramento's problems rather than fixing them. I am endorsing Prop. 93, which would lower the total number of years a member could serve to 12, but also allows him or her to divide them between the houses as they choose. I am convinced that this would result in the people of California getting a more experienced, more independent Legislature.
And it gives two corrupt hacks four more years to cut deals with Schwarzenegger!
Aside from the pig’s breakfast that is the combined Republican and Democratic primaries on Feb. 5, there are several other interesting items on the ballot. Most are concerned with Indian casinos and their compacts on the ballot this time.
Props. 94, 95, 96 and 97 are tossing Indian gaming compacts to the voters -- compacts that the legislature was unable to act on last year. They were negotiated between Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Pechanga, Morongo, Sycuan and Agua Caliente bands. These tribes own large casinos that they want to make even larger, with 5,000 slot machines for two casinos and 7,500 slots for two other casinos, as the upper limit. The state would get a larger percentage of the revenues than it has gotten from the original compacts signed in 2000 that limited tribes to 2,000 slot machines.
None of that money would come to local communities. It would just go to fill the bottomless black hole that Arnold and Fabian Nunez have created in the state budget. The new compacts would also require the tribes to work more closely with the state on addressing environmental concerns.
Many voters will look upon these four propositions as a referendum upon California Indian gaming itself. I can’t argue with someone who roundly hates Indian gaming because it has increased traffic or because he feels it has degraded the quality of life. People have a right to their opinions. But voting against these propositions won’t make Indian gaming go away -- and it won’t affect it a jot locally. It might make you feel better.
Ironically, if the voters reject the compacts, the governor will just go back to the drawing board and try to get something that will pass muster with the legislature, which mainly dragged its heels because of union opposition.
Prop. 91 would prohibit gasoline taxes from being used for anything other than transportation and would require that if the legislature borrows money from the fund to pay it back the same year. If you think you’ve voted on something like this before, you have -- a couple of times. Prop. 42 in 2002 protected fuel taxes from being raided except in an emergency. Of course, the legislature got around that by declaring a fiscal emergency on a regular basis.
So people who had put Prop. 42 on the ballot started to collect the signatures for Prop. 91. Meantime, Schwarzenegger and the group that collected the signatures for Prop. 91 were able to include the protections they sought in Prop. 1A. But too late to stop Prop. 91. So the folks who put Prop. 91 are no longer supporting it, although some small splinter group says that Prop. 91 would tighten the loophole even more. I say that anything that forces the legislature to spend gas taxes on roads and only roads is worth voting for -- so that’s the box I’m checking.
Prop. 92 would limit fees for students attending community colleges to $15 per unit. That would have the effect of increasing state spending on education. My personal feeling is that if your community college costs too much to attend, see if your local 7-Eleven has an opening so you can get a second (or even a first!) job. That’s what I did when I was younger.
Omninous If He Said It - But How Do We Know He Did?
You've all read it; it's all over new media:
Then there is the issue of judicial nominations, a top priority with conservatives. Nothing would improve Mr. McCain's standing with conservatives more than a forthright restatement of his previously stated view that "one of our greatest problems in America today is justices that legislate from the bench." Mr. McCain bruised his standing with conservatives on the issue when in 2005 he became a key player in the so-called gang of 14, which derailed an effort to end Democratic filibusters of Bush judicial nominees. More recently, Mr. McCain has told conservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito, because "he wore his conservatism on his sleeve."
I just listened to John Fund, the author of this claim (a snippet from his Wall Street Journal column today), on Hugh Hewitt's show... and I'm now more skeptical than ever that John McCain actually said this: In fact, it sounds exactly like the sort of smear McCain invents against Mitt Romney. I have the queasy feeling that several anti-McCain conservatives just played John Fund like a bass oboe.
Why? Let me rattle off some evidence...
- Let's start with the obvious: McCain voted in favor of the nomination of Samuel Alito when it came up -- two years ago this Thursday. In fact, he supported Alito's nomination all through the process; he didn't say anything about Alito "[wearing] his conservativism on his sleeve."
Now Hugh's got a point: Supporting the president's nomination is not the same as McCain making his own nomination; he may have been willing to live with Alito... but when he gets to make his own nominations, he might lunge for a Souter or Kennedy.
But on the other hand, the provenance of the alleged quotation is on pretty shaky ice itself:
- Not a single person has offered up any McCain citation to support this claim. Nothing!
If John McCain were running around telling this to conservatives, wouldn't at least one of them have gone public with it? Or wouldn't it appear in some news account of some event where McCain spoke?
Instead, we're asked to believe it on the basis that some guys told John Fund that McCain said (or perhaps implied) it... but he can't tell us who they are because of journalistic confidentiality.
- Contrariwise, numerous quotations have sprung up, going back to 2005, of McCain praising soon-to-be Justice Alito and citing him and Justice John Roberts as examples of the sorts of judges he would elevate to the Supreme Court.
If he's flatly saying that he would elevate judges in the mold of Samuel Alito, that's pretty definitive: That's exactly the reverse of what Fund's three nameless sources said; so it should carry even more weight, since it's straight from the horse's patoot, unfiltered.
- Finally, in Fund's own column, only the last seven words -- "he wore his conservatism on his sleeve" -- are inside quotation marks. The rest, including everything to give it context (Alito, Supreme Court, McCain's nomination), is mere paraphrase by Fund.
Did they say McCain literally said it? Did they say he implied it? Did they simply infer it from something innocuous McCain said? And who is Fund actually quoting -- one of his sources, or McCain himself?
We'll never know... at least not unless Fund (a) recorded the interviews, and (b) gets permission to let others listen to the recordings.
So until and unless somebody offers me better evidence than just John Fund saying three anonymous guys told him something McCain is supposed to have said, I will dismiss the charge. I still think Mitt Romney would make a nominally better president; and I still think McCain would make a nominally better candidate in the general election.
Ready for Superbowl Sunday
I’m getting ready for Superbowl Sunday.
I’ve programmed my TIVO. I’ve collected my coupons. I’ve got my shopping list. I’m getting my tires rotated today so that I’ll be in good shape to hit the road.
What? I’m not watching TV on that day?
Quite the contrary. Superbowl Sunday is my day to visit the malls, go the the bookstore and maybe even take in a movie, knowing that I’ll have the theater to myself and probably won’t have to deal with curtain crawlers or teenagers wearing their ballcaps backwards. Or many adults for that matter.
The Superbowl. That’s football, right? I know it’s not baseball. Or soccer. Isn’t there someone from the east coast playing someone else from the east coast? Do I have that right?
So, you ask, why am I programming my TV to record this event about which I have no interest? Simple. For the commercials. The Superbowl traditionally has some of the best commercials you’ll see all year. And, until the advent of the TIVO, I had to miss them because I would have had to watch the game.
Somebody asked me if I have any empathy, or sympathy for those who have to work on Superbowl Sunday in order to keep the stores open so that I will be able to browse to my heart’s content because other people won’t be clogging up the aisles or the freeways.
In a word, no. Oh, well, yes I can identify with them. I remember the days when I used to work at a convenience store that will remain nameless, although its rhyming numbers might give you a clue. I used to be assigned to work all night beginning on Christmas Eve.
The owner of the store would come in to wish me a Merry Christmas and I would grumble a merry "Bah Humbug!"
To which he would give me some trite wisdom about how I should celebrate Christmas.
To which I thought: "Well, if you weren’t so greedy, I’d be celebrating Christmas right now!"
I have since then come to realize that it’s the height of good capitalism to make people work on holidays. Even Superbowl.
I told a friend of mine about what I do each year and he said my strategy might backfire on me.
"Once me and the wife and kids went to Disneyland on Superbowl Sunday. It was packed! Full of other ‘whipped husbands and their wives," he said.
Well, no plan is perfect. But I think that mine will work out just fine. His experience does remind me that another advantage to this approach is that most of the people out and about on Sunday will be women -- who are not sports fans!
So, on Sunday, on what, if history is any judge, will be another boring football game, think of me, having fun and totally ignoring you and the national pastime.
Or is that baseball?
Romney Not Buying Election As We Predicted... What's Wrong With Him?
Another bizarre spurt of media madness. Let's just start with the headline:
Hunh? What the heck is this supposed to mean?
Mitt Romney's millions aren't limitless, nor is his willingness to spend them, so the Republican presidential contender has begun taking valuable time from his primary campaign to raise money from outsiders.
Once in Massachusetts the day after the New Hampshire primary, three times here in Florida this weekend and three more times this coming week in California, Romney has scheduled fundraisers to underwrite the expense of his campaign.
Really? You could've knocked me over with a sledge hammer, pally.
This makes no sense at all. Has there ever been a presidential candidate in the modern era who totally self-financed his campaign? Even H. Ross Perot held fundraisers (and so will Michael Bloomberg, if he runs... despite the fact that he would be the richest man who ever ran, at a net worth estimated by Forbes as $5.5 billion in 2007).
That a man worth a scant $150 million - $250 million would choose to raise funds for a White-House run, rather than simply firing off personal checks for everything, could only befuddle a complete political ignoramus. In fact, if the authors read their own story, they would realize how absurd is this idea:
Through Sept. 30, the date for the most recent federal campaign finance reports, Romney led the Republican field with $63 million in contributions. [That includes about $17 million of his own money.]
That's through September 30th, 2007. Had he simply written a check for that much to his campaign, he would have reduced his personal net by at least a quarter and as much as a third. That's not even counting Q4 of 2007, not to mention whatever he would have to spend in 2008.
Back in 2004, President Bush -- the incumbent -- raised $259 million for the primaries alone; after accepting the nomination, he then shifted to public financing (as nominee John Kerry had done a month earlier, after raising $233.5 million for primary season).
Even if Romney bankrupted himself, he wouldn't have anywhere near as much as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will have spent by the convention next year. And why should Mitt Romney spend his last dime, when he's so good at raising money from contributers who are desperate to give him money to defeat the Democratic nominee? (Folks are also donating millions of dollars to Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and even John McCain, Mr. Death to Campaign Contributions himself.)
Given that none of the candidates intends (at this point) to take public matching funds in the general election either (because they come with spending limitations attached), Romney (or any of them) would necessarily have to raise an additional $150 million or so in addition to the $250-$300 million raised for the primaries. It should be obvious to any fool that he cannot self-finance his entire campaign. (Bloomberg could, but he won't; the fundraising acts as a alternative measure of support besides polling.)
AP appears shocked, shocked to discover that Romney isn't simply whipping out his checkbook and buying the election; but that only means that the Associated Press envision Republicans, especially successful businessman Mitt Romney, sort of like the little guy in the Monopoly game: A passel of Phineas Jehosephat Bigbucks with bottomless wallets, lighting cigars with $100 bills... "A hundred million here, a hundred million there; what's money for, if not to spend?"
Amazingly enough, Romney has no plans to leave himself a pauper in his quest for the White House; and neither do the Clintons, the Obamas, the McCains, or the Bloombergs. Fundraising among individual donors is one of the finest examples of participatory democracy: Donating money is a way of exercising our right of freedom of speech. Or didn't AP know that?
Perhaps they've been spending too much time on the Straight-Talk Express.
Date ►►► January 27, 2008
The Coming Clinton Campaign: You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!
Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics has a post up about the increasingly strident rejection of "Billary" Clinton -- especially the Bill half of that machine -- by prominent Democrats. Not only pundits like Joshua Marshall and Frank Rich, but big names of the Democratic past, including Caroline Kennedy (famous for being the daughter of JFK) and Ted Kennedy (famous for drowning his sorrows, his joys, and his dates).
Key graf that caught my attention:
With Caroline Kennedy's endorsement this morning, and this tease by Mark Halperin suggesting Uncle Teddy's isn't far behind, there's a growing sense that the Democratic establishment is getting ready to throw the Clinton era into the dustbin of history. Of course, the Clintons will not be shoved aside easily, if at all.
In fact, I believe that with every passing day, Bill Clinton will seize more and more power and control within the campaign itself, until he becomes de facto campaign mangler, pushing aside Patti Solis Doyle... who is, after all, Hillary's pal, not Bill's. I'm guessing that she'll end up still campaign manager in name, but in reality she'll be nothing more exalted than Hillary's personal advisor. Top strategist Mark Penn will (I suspect) be restricted to chief pollster (his other hat). And I wouldn't be surprised if some of the old Clinton cronies were brought back officially... Paul Begala, James Carville, George Snuffleupagus. (The first two are already unofficial Clinton "advisors.")
Increasingly, it will be Bill Clinton calling all the shots, nakedly campaigning (if that's an image America really wants to envision) for a third term -- with occasional sly quips that, "of course, it's really the little woman who will wear the pants this time" (guffaws all around). On the trail, he will utterly eclipse the little woman.
If this eventuates, it can work both for and against us:
- On the one hand, Bill Clinton is one of the most brilliant campaigners we've seen in decades... after all, he was able to elect the most personally flawed president in modern history -- twice. His specialty is the mud run: Clinton goes so over-the-top in his personal attacks that he goads his competitor into responding, smear for smear. Once the race devolves into a mud-wrestling match between Bill Clinton and Somebody Else, Bill wins (and the man from Hot Springs loves it).
- But on the other hand, we now see more clearly than ever just how weary the entire country is of America's national soap opera, All Our Clintons (a.k.a., the Middle-Aged and the Pants-less).
Even Democrats are starting to remember just how embarassing that hillbilly was, and how shrewish and hectoring was his snide, condescending, sarcastic wife. They practically embody the awful, horrible couple which moves next door, eventually forcing all the longtime neighbors to dump their property and flee.
Consider this: In 1996, at a time of extraordinary (illusionary) peace and prosperity, before being impeached, and running against 113 year old Blob Dole... who only punctuated his anemic campaign by his senior moments, such as accidentally hurling himself into the mosh pit in Chico, California. With all that going for Clinton, the sitting president still couldn't even manage to get a majority of the popular vote.
I believe that either John McCain or Mitt Romney could run a very effective campaign against the Clinton tag-team that largely comprised pointing at Bill and saying, "Do we really want that back in the White House?"
But my, my... if my gut guess (not even at the level of a prediction) comes to pass, won't we have an -- interesting -- nine months to come. ("Interesting" in the sense of that supposed Chinese curse, of course.)
Date ►►► January 26, 2008
If this report is true -- and it certainly seems to be -- then John McCain has done a despicable thing... and has made it clearer than ever that in his heart, he is a Democrat -- and in the Clintonian mold:
John McCain accused Mitt Romney of wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq, drawing immediate protest from his Republican presidential rival who said: "That's simply wrong and it's dishonest, and he should apologize...."
As the two candidates campaigned along the state's southwest coast, McCain sought the upper hand with a new line of criticism, telling reporters in Ft. Meyers about Iraq: "If we surrender and wave a white flag, like Senator Clinton wants to do, and withdraw, as Governor Romney wanted to do, then there will be chaos, genocide, and the cost of American blood and treasure would be dramatically higher."
Minutes earlier, the Arizona senator took a slap at Romney without naming him during a question-and-answer session with Floridians, saying: "Now, one of my opponents wanted to set a date for withdrawal that would have meant disaster."
Mitt Romney immediately and vociferously objected that this was utterly false, and he demanded that McCain apologize; instead, the senator doubled down:
Campaigning later in Sun City, McCain took note of Romney's demand for an apology and said it is his GOP rival who should apologize to U.S. troops in Iraq "who are serving this nation in hard times and good" for his position.
So what is McCain talking about? The Associated Press, generally a reliable corner man for McCain (at least during primary season), has flatly sided with Romney this time, albeit while trying to softpedal McCain's false accusation:
While Romney has never set a public date for withdrawal, he has said that President Bush and Iraqi leaders should have private timetables and benchmarks with which to gauge progress on the war and determine troop levels. He has said publicly that he agrees with Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, that U.S. troops could move to more of an oversight role in 2008.
If this account is true -- and it would be passing strange were AP to lie on behalf of Mitt Romney in order to damage John McCain -- then what does this tell us about Mr. "Straight Talk?" I do believe this account for the most obvious of reasons: I have never heard Romney say anything like what McCain claimed he said, and McCain was unable to produce any quotation from Romney to back up his vile accusation.
Rather, Romney has certainly backed the counterinsurgency strategy since it began, long before it bore fruit; here is a statement from Romney dated January 10th, 2007, in which he flatly, completely, and unreservedly supports the then-new policy.
On May 30th, he again cautioned against withdrawal.
In April, he spoke to the Hill, saying President Bush and President Nouri al-Maliki should have their own, private set of timetables and milestones, to monitor progress in Iraq; he said nothing about any withdrawal, and he emphasized that any such measures of progress should be kept strictly secret:
“There’s no question that the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki [of Iraq] have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about, but those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. ... You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone,” Romney said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
While Romney stopped short of describing his preferred timetables as a path leading to U.S. withdrawal from Iraq [that is, he said nothing whatsoever about withdrawal], the concept of secret guideposts for war policy closely resembles Pryor’s plan, which the centrist Democrat first put in writing last month as an amendment to his leadership’s non-binding resolution on troop redeployment.
Romney says we should have secret milestones to evaluate the war's progress; some Democrat says we should have secret milestones and also a date-certain for withdrawal. Ergo, logically, Romney must support the timed withdrawal as well! We deduce this based upon the well-known rule of inference that if two things are roughly similar in one respect, they must therefore be identical in every respect (the Law of Vague Similarlity Means Complete Equality).
Finally, at a town-hall meeting Romney held last September, Romney detailed his Iraq plan:
Romney, along with all the presidential hopefuls, is keeping a close eye on the briefing that Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Amb. to Iraq Ryan Crocker are set to deliver to Congress next week.
While emphasizing to the New Hampshire audience tonight that to withdraw precipitously would bring considerable "regional consequences," Romney emphasized in some of the most detailed language he's used yet about the conflict that he sees the surge that Petraeus and Crocker are to report on as the first element in a three-step process designed to minimize the American presence in Iraq.
After the surge, Romney said he envisioned a draw-down of U.S. troops where those who remained would take on a "support role" away from the front-lines.
Beyond that phase, Romney said he would then like to move to a "stand-by" posture. "Our troops are out of Iraq and are available if absolutely needed" at this point, he explained.
He said he sees these three phases "happening relatively soon," specifically noting that if progress is made getting to the "support role" could happen next year. But while hoping for the best, Romney noted that he'd be monitoring the situation closely "to see what kind of success we are having at each stage."
Anybody besides John McCain see a "date for withdrawal" in that plan? Perhaps I'm just missing it.
Here's some straight talk: Romney's plan was almost identical to that of Gen. David Petraeus, Adm. William Fallon, and George W. Bush; that is exactly what they have all said all along: After the COIN is successful, we can begin withdrawing troops... cautiously.
I can draw only two possible conclusions from this shameless attack on Mitt Romney by John McCain:
- Either Mr. "Straight Talk" has demonstrated that he will (if he gets desperate enough) stoop to fabricating accusations against his enemies... that is, to flatly lying about them;
- Or else, that John McCain rejects the Petraeus plan as a betrayal and believes there should never be any drawdown in Iraq; in addition, he doesn't want even internal, secret milestones to gauge our progress there... McCain will simply know, via mystic gnosis, how it's going and what to do next.
That is, John McCain wants us to maintain our current level of 160,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, no matter what the facts on the ground may be, and no matter what the commanding generals in the field would prefer. I can only conclude that under a John McCain presidency, Navy Captain John "Full Throttle" McCain will simply overrule his own generals and admirals based on his gut feeling and micromanage the war, as Lyndon Johnson did.
Conclusion number one means that McCain is fundamentally dishonest. Number two means that, despite his military leadership being the only real selling point he has ever had, he would in fact be a catastrophic Commander in Chief.
I wonder which conclusion is correct?
Date ►►► January 25, 2008
Hamas Invades Egypt; Israel Blamed
For what I believe is the third time in as many days, Hamas militants breached the wall separating Egypt from the Gaza Strip, this time using bulldozers in full view of the Egyptian national police:
There were small clashes throughout the day, with short episodes of rock-throwing. Egyptians fired guns into the air and aimed water cannons above the heads of the those in the crowd to keep them back. The new breaches in the wall were large enough for cars and trucks to drive through, and some Egyptian guards then retreated.
But why is this peculiar thing happening at this moment in time? Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has the explanation:
Egypt is under pressure from Israel and the United States to restore the international border and regulate it, but does not want to use excessive force against the Gazans, whom the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, has insisted are starving under the pressure of Israeli restrictions on imports and travel.
Darn those Jews! For no reason at all -- other than a few thousand rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli cities -- the wicked Zionist Entity has ceased donating food, fuel, and medical supplies to the utterly helpless and impoverished Palestinian people who are currently attacking Israeli cities.
Therefore, Hamas has no choice but to bomb, tear down, or drive bulldozers through the border wall... so that the helpless, starving, impoverished Palestinians, with not a pair of shekels to rub together, can race through the gap by the hundreds of thousands... to bazaars in Egypt, where they buy millions of dollars worth of necessities, comforts, and luxuries.
If somebody can offer a better explanation to me than the obvious one -- that Gaza, led by its Hamas government, has noisily invaded Egypt, while the corrupt Egyptian police stood by and did nothing (and Mubarak blamed the Jews) -- I should like to see it.
But such a non-response on Egypt's part is likewise fraught with peril; as the Times asks, at what point does Mubarak worry that...
- Inviting Hamas to visit is altogether a different thing than inviting them to leave;
- Palestinians, around whom human sacrifice flows like water around a fish, are not exactly the most stable group to grant permanent right of access;
- And at what point, by simple custom and propinquity, does the "responsibility" for feeding, fueling, and treating millions of Palestinians -- who cannot ever seem to feed, fuel, or treat themselves -- devolve from Israeli shoulders to Egyptian?
Of course, Israel is no happier about these repeated breachings of the wall than are the Egyptians:
Hamas is trying to push Egypt into an agreement to regulate the border without having it sealed, as it had been from the time Hamas took over Gaza in early June. A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said, “The gaps shouldn’t be closed because they provide urgent assistance to the Palestinians.”
Israeli officials have expressed increasing concern to the Egyptian and United States governments that Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups are using the border breach to import military supplies and to send out fighters for training or terrorism.
Israel has raised its security alert for the Sinai and warned its citizens not to travel to the region’s popular beaches, fearing attacks there, and is saying it has credible reports of new efforts to smuggle gunmen and suicide bombers through the Sinai into Israel. The last suicide bombing in Israel, in the southern resort town of Eilat a year ago, was carried out by a militant who had traveled there through the Sinai.
There is, of course, no wall along the border between Egypt and Israel; the two countries have been at peace since the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, the only treaty ever signed between Israel and an Arab state that has actually worked... oddly enough, pushed through by President Jimmy Carter, the worst American president of the twentieth century. Thus, if Hamas terrorists can freely travel into Egypt, they can bypass the walls between "Hamastan" (Gaza) and Israel to carry out murderous bombings.
The precarious Israeli government led by Ehud Olmert of the Kadima Party is widely believed to be already fallen in all but name; an election today would very likely bring Likud to power, possibly even in the first majority government in Israel's history. And one major reason for this is the government's relentlessly ham-fisted policy towards the Palestinians; at the moment, for the latest outrageous example, Olmert is toying the with idea of handing over control of the crossings between Israel and Gaza itself -- to Hamas:
Mr. Olmert is expected to discuss the Gaza crisis along with peace talks in his Sunday meeting with Mr. Abbas. Israel is considering the possibility of granting the request of Mr. Abbas and the prime minister based in Ramallah, Salam Fayyad, to let the Palestinian Authority [Hamas] control the crossings between Israel and Gaza, allowing them to reopen. [I suspect that we should read "Olmert and his Kadima-led coalition is considering," not all of Israel.]
Israel had previously rejected the idea, because it would loosen the economic squeeze on Hamas, which intensified last week when Israel decided to cut off shipments into Gaza, including fuel for the local power plant, in response to rocket attacks from Gaza. That move produced international protests and the Hamas decision to breach the border with Egypt.
When Israel says "let the Palestinian Authority" control the crossings, that means Hamas; Fatah has no toehold left in the Gaza government, so any PA soldiers would actually be Hamas militants.
It may be worth noting that Hamas was founded in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who led the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood... the parent organization of many other terrorist groups, including not only Hamas but Egyptian Islamic Jihad (whence came Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaeda number two), al-Qaeda, and many others. It's difficult to determine whether the MB is itself a terrorist organization on the same scale as Hamas or EIJ, or whether it simply serves as a "gateway drug," a way station through which prototerrorists pass en route to forming their own, much more violent terrorist organizations.
However, the spiritual and political center of the Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt... which is yet another reason to be worried at the recent chumminess between that country and Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Date ►►► January 24, 2008
Center-Left Italian Government Falls
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi -- the man who beat the conservative Forza Italia and centrist UDC in 2006 by one-tenth of one percent in the vote -- has just lost a vote of confidence and has resigned, taking his brittle coalition government down with him:
Italian Premier Romano Prodi resigned Thursday after his center-left coalition lost a Senate confidence vote, a humiliating end to a 20-month-old government plagued by infighting.
Calling early elections or asking a politician to try to form another government are among President Giorgio Napolitano's options as head of state. Until he decides, Prodi will stay on in a caretaker role.
Elected in April 2006, Prodi has had a shaky government from nearly the start. It lurched toward collapse this week after a small Christian Democrat party, whose votes were vital to his Senate majority, yanked its support in the latest coalition spat.
And speaking of spats...
The government lost 161-156 after a fiery debate during which one senator was spat upon, fainted and had to be carried out on a stretcher.
So... any chance we can we get Silvio Berlusconi back?
Romney's Turn at the Times: Everybody Hates Him!
The New York Times has been working its way through attacking every single competitor to John McCain, their favored GOP candidate; and they've gotten to the Rs now: It's Romney time!
Beginning with the subtle headline -- "Romney Leads in Ill Will Among G.O.P. Candidates" -- They segue into the New Left's media specialty... the content-free hit piece:
With so much attention recently on the sniping between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama on the Democratic side, the almost visceral scorn directed at Mr. Romney by his rivals has been overshadowed.
“Never get into a wrestling match with a pig,” Senator John McCain said in New Hampshire this month after reporters asked him about Mr. Romney. “You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”
Mike Huckabee’s pugilistic campaign chairman, Ed Rollins, appeared to stop just short of threatening Mr. Romney with physical violence at one point.
“What I have to do is make sure that my anger with a guy like Romney, whose teeth I want to knock out, doesn’t get in the way of my thought process,” Mr. Rollins said.
The Times takes the putative hatred of Mitt Romney so much for granted, all that remains is explaining why. Here's the explanation by the Straight-Talk Express:
“He doesn’t play by the same rules the rest of us do,” said Charlie Black, a senior McCain strategist.
The Times continues, telling us that the McCainiacs were "positively gleeful" when they watched the tape of the aggressively belligerent AP "reporter," Glen Johnson, who started shouting at and arguing with Mitt Romney during a recent press conference. Johnson -- the AP employee assigned to follow Mitt Romney from town to town and belittle him at every turn -- was defending McCain from Romney's scrurrilous charge that McCain's campaign was run by lobbyists... a task made more difficult by the fact that it's absolutely accurate: McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, is, in fact, a former lobbyist.
(Frankly, I doubt the hell out of the Times' claim that McCain's people were "gleeful," considering how badly their surrogate, Glen Johnson, did in that exchange, which we covered here.)
Rather, I buy the explanation by this independent observer for any so-called animosity between the other candidates and Mitt Romney:
Mr. Schnur used a schoolyard analogy to compare Mr. Romney, the ever-proper Harvard Law School and Business School graduate, to Mr. McCain, the gregarious rebel who racked up demerits and friends at the Naval Academy.
“John McCain and his friends used to beat up Mitt Romney at recess,” Mr. Schnur said.
(Dan Schnur is a Republican strategist who has worked with John McCain in the past but is not connected to any campaign right now. He has doubtless seen McCain's mindless rages before.)
McCain, a notorious hellraiser, foul-mouthed and given to extraordinary temper tantrums, grudge-holding and vindictive, probably does resent Mitt Romney... who doubtless reminds McCain of the serious-minded, brown-nosing midshipmen who get stuffed into lockers at Annapolis. It's entirely possible that McCain, Mike Huckabee, and the ever-pugnacious Rudy Giuliani are befuddled and infuriated that one of those kids made it big in the financial world, becoming far more successful than the three of them combined -- bank accounts, pocket-change, Sunday clothing, blood chemicals, and all.
So who's next? Perhaps Mike Huckabee, having served his purpose in knocking down Romney (McCain's rival) in Iowa, will be next in the crosshairs. I suspect the line of attack will be, "He's too religious!"
Or maybe it will be Giuliani, whose messy personal life will open him up to the charge, "He's too irreligious!"
But I suspect that when all is said and dried, the one man who will not be brass-knuckled by Pinch's pals will be Sen. John Sidney McCain the IIIrd. Unless he wins the nomination, of course... in which case he'll become the "Raging Bullslinger," and will be pummled mercilessly right up through November.
Just speculation on my part, of course; I don't have any crystal ball. (Well, actually I do; but all it ever says is "Reply hazy, ask again.")
Date ►►► January 23, 2008
Our Lyin' Eyes
Let's say that you're Bill Clinton. And then let's say that you're telling lies. But I repeat myself (Mark Twain, forgive me!).
The Clintons, most particularly the First Laddie in waiting, are not strangers to mendacity; but Bill has always brought a certain elan to the process. He reminds me of the husband who, when caught in flagrante delicto with another woman, demands of his wife, "Do you believe me, or your lyin' eyes?"
Bill's special talent is that he actually believes his lies while he's spinning them. In the real world we call people who can do this sociopaths. In Washington D.C. they call them statesmen.
The MVPs in the statesmen department can look at reporters, tell an obvious lie, and the reporters will stumble off with a glazed look and repeat the lie.
Because Bill has the stature of being the most popular living ex-president, he can get away with saying practically anything about Mrs. Clinton's opponent and reporters will give it serious credence.
"Mr. President, you say that Barack Obama is a pygmy dwarf who sneaks into dog houses and steals their Milkbones. Well, we'll just have to go confront Senator Obama and ask him if he's going to do anything about the fact that his breath smells like kibble."
Or, Obama's history of opposing the Iraq War is "a fairy tale," although he's got the votes to prove it, whereas Senator Clinton opposed the war from the start, even though she voted for it.
The senator from New York is quite capable of making contradictory statements, often within the same paragraph. As was pointed out last week by columnist David Brooks, who noted this one dropped on a Sunday morning news show: "You have a woman running to break the highest and hardest glass ceiling. I don't think either of us wants to inject race or gender in this campaign. We're running as individuals."
No Fanfair for the Common Grunt
I suppose no news must be good news.
When we stop hearing about Iraq, it does not mean nothing is happening. In fact, many good things happened in Iraq last year; we just didn't read much about it in the press. But Bill Roggio reports significantly diminished Al-Qaeda activities in Iraq:
During a press briefing in Baghdad, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the Commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said al Qaeda in Iraq has been ejected from its strongholds in the cities to the rural regions of Iraq.
Al Qaeda in Iraq's network has been significantly degraded, but is still a threat. .... "Although the group remains a dangerous threat, its capabilities have been diminished," said Odierno. "Al Qaeda has been pushed out of urban centers like Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah and Baqubah, and forced into isolated rural areas. Many of their top leaders have been eliminated, and finding qualified replacements is increasingly difficult for them." Multinational Forces Iraq also estimates it has significantly degraded al Qaeda's ability to fund operations by dismantling its financier networks and leaders.
Operation Phantom Phoenix, the current nationwide operation targeting al Qaeda's remaining safe havens, was launched on Jan. 8. Iraqi and US forces have captured or killed 121 al Qaeda fighters, wounded 14, and detained an additional 1023 suspects. Al Qaeda's leadership has been hit hard during the operation, with 92 high values targets either killed or captured.
Although most of the missions were US/Iraqi joint operations, Iraqi security forces conducted some completely independent operations, and they were very successful. More and more Iraqis are stepping up to the plate:
Iraq's army and police could be ready to take over security in all 18 provinces by the end of this year as the U.S. military moves toward a less prominent role in the country, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
The Roggio post has some illuminating animation showing the evaporation of al-Qaeda's operational area from December, 2006 to December, 2007 (scroll to the bottom of the post). The difference is so obvious and significant that even honest Democrats, assuming there are any left, can no longer deny that we have by and large won this war and that the counterinsurgency was a brilliant success; it's not exaggerated to say that COIN completely flipped the dynamic of the war.
Powerline has graphs showing the decline of coalition and civilian casualties during 2007, including a 90% decline in sectarian violence in Baghdad from January to December.
So which member of the elite media is reporting this wonderful news, celebrating our incredible sucess? Aside from a few bloggers and some military-related sites, no one is, despite a January 17th press release distributed to the elite media and available online. And Reuters is the only major news service to carry ongoing coverage of operation Phantom Phoenix.
The Boston Globe has some news about increased Iraqi forces. AFP reported on Phantom Phoenix only as an afterthought; the main story was about six American deaths in a booby-trapped house; AFP did not report the overall success of COIN. Fox news posted a story about the reduction of American troops -- without ever mentioning the success that made the troop cuts possible.
Our presidential candidates, both Democrats and Republican, don't mention the war very much anymore; it has become a non-issue. When we seemed on the brink of failure, people couldn't wait to talk about it... how many civilians were blown up today? how many troops were ambushed? quagmire, quagmire!
But here is what actually happened over 2007:
Civilian deaths in 2007
Coalition deaths in 2007
Shouldn't this be on the front page of New York Times, rather than "Worries That the Good Times Were a Mirage" and "Heath Ledger, Actor, Is Found Dead at 28"?
It gets harder every day to draw any conclusion except the obvious one: The media elites are downcast that America has finally turned the Iraq war around; they don't want to report our success because they are afraid it will buoy the voters, lead to more successes, and therefore help the eventual Republican nominee: All of the major Republican candidates support victory; all of the major Democratic candidates are deeply invested in defeat.
Victory or defeat; which hand do you choose?
In other words, it's very, very difficult not to conclude that the elite media desperately hope for America to lose -- for the good of the Democratic Party; and that they do everything in their power to bring that about, from suppressing good news to "outing" highly classified intelligence vital to the long war.
Sadly, it's true: The elite news media have become America's new Copperheads.
How to Lie About Lying
This one is simply befuddling:
A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
Now, would any disinterested party read the above -- and not think the study authors were accusing President Bush and his administration of deliberately lying us into war? Surely this subtextual implication must have crept in because of bad writing; I can't imagine that the elite media would be so intentionally partisan.
Here are the specific charges:
The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.
"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."
One notes that "Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members" -- isn't that a lovely grammatical construct? -- do not deny that Iraq was "trying to... obtain" WMD, even though they appear to include such claims under the category of "false statements."
Nor do they deny the administration's claim that Iraq had "links" with al-Qaeda. They merely dispute the meaningfulness of those links... and dub that another "false statement" by the president and his administration.
Here is that section from the report itself, from their database of "false statements;" it's a perfect primer on the anatomy of a falsehood:
In July 2002, Rumsfeld had a one-word answer for reporters who asked whether Iraq had relationships with Al Qaeda terrorists: "Sure." In fact, an assessment issued that same month by the Defense Intelligence Agency (and confirmed weeks later by CIA Director Tenet) found an absence of "compelling evidence demonstrating direct cooperation between the government of Iraq and Al Qaeda." What's more, an earlier DIA assessment said that "the nature of the regime's relationship with Al Qaeda is unclear."
This one is instructive to deconstruct:
What they say: "In July 2002, Rumsfeld had a one-word answer for reporters who asked whether Iraq had relationships with Al Qaeda terrorists: 'Sure.'"
What they mean: Rumsfeld asserts that relationships exist between Iraq and al-Qaeda.
What they say: "[A]n assessment... found an absence of 'compelling evidence demonstrating direct cooperation between the government of Iraq and Al Qaeda.'"
What they mean: The later assessment found that there were relationships, but they did not rise to the level of military alliances.
What they say: "[A]n earlier DIA assessment said that 'the nature of the regime's relationship with Al Qaeda is unclear.'"
What they mean: Before we found out the nature of the relationships, we did not know the nature of the relationships.
If you can find that Rumsfeld's statement (1) -- which evidently consisted of the single word "Sure" -- is falsified by either (2) of (3), please take to the comments and explain it to the rest of us... because to me, laboring under the disadvantage of having been intensely trained only in the lesser rhetorical art of mathematical logic, they appear to be able to exist in the same 'hood without bothering each other.
Here is another "false statement" (we are meant to understand "obvious lie") that the Center discovered, after digging deeply into the substrata of hidden rhetorical diplospeak. I must admit, this one was a marvel of original research that all by itself may justify the report -- if only to bring this one hidden, obscure falsehood to the light of day:
On January 28, 2003, in his annual State of the Union address, Bush asserted: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." Two weeks earlier, an analyst with the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research sent an email to colleagues in the intelligence community laying out why he believed the uranium-purchase agreement "probably is a hoax."
This is such an out of the blue, never before seen accusation that I haven't had time to formulate a response. He has me there!
Thus the massive database of dishonesty and mountain of mendacity they unearthed, dutifully reported by the Associated Press... with but a single effort to elicit a general response from the administration -- and no attempt whatsoever to delve into these alleged "false statements" to see whether there is even a contradiction between what the administration said and what the Center for Pubic Integrity said. Yet there is also this unanswered (unasked) question that seems somewhat pertinent, at least to me:
How many of these "false statements" were, in fact, believed true by virtually everybody, Republican and Democrat alike, when they were made? How many were parroted by Democrats, including those on the House and Senate Permanent Select Intelligence Committees, who thereby had access to the same intelligence as la Casablanca? The Center doesn't tell, and the incurious media elites don't ask.
This is as close as they come in their executive summary:
Bush stopped short, however, of admitting error or poor judgment; instead, his administration repeatedly attributed the stark disparity between its prewar public statements and the actual "ground truth" regarding the threat posed by Iraq to poor intelligence from a Who's Who of domestic agencies.
On the other hand, a growing number of critics, including a parade of former government officials [Eric Shinseki? Weasely Clark? Bill Clinton?], have publicly -- and in some cases vociferously ["rabidly" would be the better word choice] -- accused the president and his inner circle of ignoring or distorting the available intelligence.
A growing number of critics! Well, who could argue with that?
Here are a couple of inconvenient truths the AP story neglects to tell us:
"A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations..."
The Fund for Independence in Journalism says its "primary purpose is providing legal defense and endowment support for the largest nonprofit, investigative reporting institution in the world, the Center for Public Integrity, and possibly other, similar groups." Eight of the eleven members of the Fund's board of directors are either on the BoD of the Center for Public Integrity, or else are on the Center's Advisory Board. Thus these "two" organizations are actually joined at the hip.
"Fund for Independence in Journalism..."
The Center is heavily funded by George Soros. It has also received funding from Bill Moyers, though some of that money might have actually been from Soros, laundered through Moyers via the Open Society Foundation.
Other funders include the Streisand Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts (used to be conservative, but in 1987 they veered sharply to the left, and are now a dyed-in-the-wool "progressive" funder), the Los Angeles Times Foundation, and so forth. The Center is a far-left organization funded by far-left millionaires, billionaires, and trusts.
Even the New York Times, in their "me too" article on the data dump, admits that there is nothing new in this release... just a jumble of statements, some of which later turned out to have been erroneous, others which just constitute heresy within the liberal catechism:
There is no startling new information in the archive, because all the documents have been published previously. But the new computer tool is remarkable for its scope, and its replay of the crescendo of statements that led to the war. Muckrakers may find browsing the site reminiscent of what Richard M. Nixon used to dismissively call “wallowing in Watergate.”
By "wallowing," the Times means those in the terminal stage of BDS can search for phrases like "mushroom cloud" or "yellowcake" and be rewarded by screens and screens of shrill denunciation of the Bush administration... just as Watergate junkies used to do (without the benefit of computers) in the early 1970s. (Mediocre science-fiction author and liberal "paleotruther" Isaac Asimov called this, evidently without realizing the irony, "getting my Watergate fix.")
The Nixon reference appears to have been suggested by the report itself; the executive summary ends:
Above all, the 935 false statements painstakingly presented here finally help to answer two all-too-familiar questions as they apply to Bush and his top advisers: What did they know, and when did they know it?
I'm certain it's sheer coincidence that this nonsense was spewed across the news sockets during the peak of the election primary season... and right before the primary in Florida, of all states. Had anyone at AP or the Times realized how this might affect the election, I know their independent journalistic integrity would have suggested they hold this non-time-constrained story until afterwards. Say, they could even have used the time to consider whether "Iraq and al-Qaeda had a relationship" and "the relationship didn't amount to direct cooperation" contradict each other.
A less charitable person than I might imagine this "database" was nothing but a mechanical tool to allow good liberals easier access to a tasty "two-minutes hate."
But realizing that the elite media has only our best interests at heart, my only possible conclusion is that, despite the multiple layers of editorial input that must occur at these venues, several important facts just slipped through the cracks:
- The fact that the Center for Public Integrity is a Left-funded, leftist, activist organization with a serious hatchet to grind with the Bush administration;
- The fact that the Fund for Independence in Journalism is neither independent, nor is it engaged in journalism (it's a front group of mostly the same people whose purpose is to shield the Center from lawsuits);
- And the fact that the vast majority of the supposed "false statements" are in fact simply positions with which liberals disagree, or else statements widely accepted at the time that later investigation (after deposing Saddam Hussein) showed to be inaccurate.
I must assume that these self-evident facts must simply have been honestly missed by the gimlet-eyed reporters and editors at AP and the NYT. Heck, even Pinch nods.
Date ►►► January 22, 2008
The Rap on MRAPs
Last Saturday, an attack on an "MRAP" (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle successfully destroyed the vehicle and killed one of the four occupants. But far from a slam, this very attack proves just how effective the MRAP truly is.
Important Note: Bill Roggio argues that, contrary to what the New York Times, AP, and other news sources claim, this was not the first combat death suffered by an occupant of an MRAP. I'll take the word of Roggio over that of the Times anyday; even so, the vehicles are a huge improvement over uparmored Humvees, Bradleys, or even Strykers.
The first point to notice about Saturday's IED attack is that the MRAP did its job well, protecting all those riders who were actually inside the secure area of the vehicle:
Three of the four people aboard suffered only broken feet and lacerations. Pending the results of an investigation, it is unclear yet whether the gunner was killed by the blast or by the vehicle rolling over.
But officers on the scene noted that he was the member of the crew most exposed, and that the vehicle’s secure inner compartment was not compromised and appeared to have done its job by protecting the three other crew members inside. “The crew compartment is intact,” said Capt. Michael Fritz. He said the blast would have been large enough “to take out” a heavily armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
The AP story on the same incident is even more explicit about the success of the MRAP:
"That attack has not ... caused anyone to question the vehicle's lifesaving capacity," [Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff] Morrell said. "To the contrary, the attack reaffirms their survivability."
The soldier who died Saturday was the gunner who sits atop the MRAP vehicle. Morrell said it is still not clear whether he died as a result of the explosion or the rollover. And Maj. Alayne P. Conway, deputy spokeswoman for the 3rd Infantry Division, said the attack and the death are under investigation.
Morrell said the MRAP hit a "very large, deep-buried IED" and that the "force of the explosion blew the MRAP into the air and caused it to overturn." Despite the size of the explosion, he said, the crew compartment "was not compromised" and the three soldiers inside escaped with cuts and broken bones in their feet.
"I think everybody is still amazed at the fact that, despite the size of this bomb, these vehicles are proving to be every bit as strong and as lifesaving as we hoped they would be," said Morrell, adding that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is "more convinced than ever that these vehicles do indeed save lives."
Before we go further, let's give a little background: What is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, an MRAP, anyway? Here is what I wrote back in May about the Cougar and the Buffalo, two MRAPs that were being acquired at the time:
Enter the MRAP: the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected class of vehicles. The Marines and the Army have more or less settled on the Couger H-series of MRAP and the Buffalo H-series of Mine Protected Route Clearance (MPCV) vehicles, both manufactured by Force Protection Inc... the latter being a somewhat larger version of the Cougar, equipped with a fork-toothed arm for explosive ordnance disposal (the Buffalo's nickname is "the Claw"):
Couger H-series MRAP (L) and Buffalo H-series MPCV (R)
The great innovation of the MRAP is to redesign the undercarriage itself... and to correct the flaw that made our earlier combat vehicles so vulnerable: their underbelly flatness. MRAPs have a V-shaped hull that channels blast effect to the sides of the vehicle, graphically demonstrated here. Even EFPs have trouble penetrating the undercarriage of an MRAP:
MRAP taking blast; explosive force is redirected to sides of vehicle
Much more at the link, of course. I can't seem to find a single news story that tells us exactly what type of MRAP was destroyed; but Noah Shachtman at Wired Magazine reports that some of his readers have said it was actually a Maxxpro, made by Navistar International Corporation -- formerly International Harvester -- not by Force Protection; Shachtman's readers say that is the type of MRAP used by the 1st Battalion of the 30th IR:
The MaxxPro MRAP, by Navistar International
Back to the Times:
Rear Adm. Greg Smith, a spokesman for the American military in Baghdad, confirmed that the attack was “the first death resulting from an I.E.D. attack on an MRAP,” but said that he could not comment on specific damage to the vehicle “for force protection reasons.” [See important note above; the rear admiral appears to be misinformed.]
Admiral Smith said the new vehicle had proven “in its short time here in Iraq that it is a much improved vehicle in protecting troops from the effects of improvised explosive devices.”
“However,” he added, “there is no vehicle that can provide absolute protection of its occupants.”
This is not the first fatality, but there have been only a few; yet MRAPs have been hit by IEDs more than a dozen previous times, according to AP -- few of which have resulted in fatalities, even when the vehicle itself was totaled. It's hard to imagine either an uparmored Humvee or even a Bradley surviving so many attacks while allowing so few occupant deaths.
Far from debunking or deflating the MRAP story, this IED attack is likely to make the Marines (who are in charge of the MRAP program for all branches of the military) even more anxious to replace all "outside the wire" Humvees with Cougars, Cheetahs, Buffalos, and other MRAPs.
Upgraded to Movable Type 3.36
We just upgraded from MT 3.34 to MT 3.36. You scrofulous riff-raff shouldn't notice any difference, except the IQ of our posts ought to increase by 0.6% (bringing us close to that magic 100!)
Should you experience any difficulties -- I mean new difficulties, not the same, old problems you always had -- please let us know, so we can try to fix it. (I think I correctly copied over all the plugins, but you never know...)
Also, should something that has been paining you for months suddenly alleviate, well, let us know about that, too!
Date ►►► January 21, 2008
Petraeus, Shmetraeus; the Real Question Is - Who's Next?
The New York Times carries the vaguely interesting speculation (whic barely even qualifies as news) that top Pentagon brass are trying to decide what to do with Gen. David Petraeus for his next assignment. The choices seem to be:
- Commander of NATO, which would give him a strong say in what we do in Afghanistan, where our combat mission is led by American NATO troops;
- Commander of CENTCOM, which would give him an even stronger say, assuming someone can figure out where to stick Adm. William Fallon. Fallon seems to be doing a bang-up job as CENTCOM commander right now and has said that rumors of his death or imminent retirement are greatly exaggerated.
The idea seems to be for President George W. Bush to give Petraeus an appointment and confirmation before leaving office a year from yesterday. If the administration does not, and if a Democrat wins the presidency, the incoming POTUS will surely do everything he can to sabotage Petraeus' career -- taking petty revenge against him for the crime of rejecting the Pelosi-Reid conclusion that we've already lost the Iraq war... and worse, being proven right!
But if Petraeus can serve a term in a less politically charged job (especially as NATO commander), goes this reasoning, then maybe President Hillary (or President Mike, President Barack, President John, President John, President Mitt, President Fred, or Citoyen Ron) will consider kicking him upstairs to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- a gold watch and a window seat.
I don't know. I don't care. He should stay in Iraq as long as possible, then be moved somewhere he can continue to fight... or perhaps train others to fight. I'm far more interested in the question, who will succeed Petraeus as Commander of Multinational Force - Iraq (MNF-I)?
Here, the Times again channels its beloved anonymous sources:
If General Petraeus is shifted from the post as top Iraq commander, two leading candidates to replace him are Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who is running the classified Special Operations activities in Iraq, and Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, a former second-ranking commander in Iraq and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s senior military assistant....
Of the potential successors for General Petraeus, Generals McChrystal and Chiarelli would bring contrasting styles and backgrounds to the fight. General McChrystal has spent much of his career in the Special Operations forces. He commands those forces in Iraq, which have conducted raids against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the mainly Iraqi group that American intelligence says has foreign leadership, and against Shiite extremists, including cells believed to be backed by Iran....
General McChrystal, a 53-year-old West Point graduate, also commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment and served tours in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and in Afghanistan as chief of staff of the military operation there in 2001 and 2002....
General Chiarelli’s strengths rest heavily on his reputation as one of the most outspoken proponents of a counterinsurgency strategy that gives equal or greater weight to social and economic actions aimed at undermining the enemy as it does to force of arms. General Chiarelli, 57, has served two tours in Iraq, first as head of the First Calvary Division, where he commanded 38,000 troops in securing and rebuilding Baghdad, and later as the second-ranking American officer in Iraq before becoming the senior military aide to Mr. Gates.
In a 2007 essay in Military Review, he wrote: “Unless and until there is a significant reorganization of the U.S. government interagency capabilities, the military is going to be the nation’s instrument of choice in nation-building. We need to accept that reality instead of resisting it, as we have for much of my career.”
There are times in a nation's life when its future lies in the balance, and it is within the power of men to turn the tide of history in one direction -- or the other. In this case, the choice of a successor for Gen. Petraeus appears to leave us with two stark directions:
- If McChrystal is selected, then we have turned towards a policy of clandestine warfare whose only function is to destroy the enemy's will and ability to fight against our interests; this, to my mind, is to return to the cold war strategy of yesteryear, though against a different foe.
- But if Chiarelli is chosen instead, we will have turned instead towards a policy of undermining the enemy by denying him the fertile breeding ground of political and legal chaos, resentment, fanaticism, hopelessness, and futility that attends failed states. We will be firmly on the path of nation-building.
I believe the latter would infuriate most conservatives... and I believe it essential that we follow that path nevertheless.
I harken back to the seminal book the Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P.M. Barnett. Barnett's genius was to recognize that virtually all threats to the United States and our interests came from a narrow swath cut through the middle of the map. The Pentagon had long called this jagged cancer in the world body the "arc of instability;" but Barnett realized it was something more profound: It largely comprises those nations that stubbornly refuses to integrate with the rest of the world's politics, economics, and communications net.
Not that the Non-Integrating Gap (as Barnett calls it) is bereft of political organization; factions are constantly maneuvering to bind all the world's disgruntled postal workers into a single, globe-girdling caliphate... that is, groups like al-Qaeda and countries like Iran engage in the ceaseless struggle of nation-building; but the "nation" they're trying to build is one that offers neither friendship nor a place at the table for us.
Turning to our Special Forces, not simply as tools but as the sharp end of our foreign policy, means abandoning the nation-building field to militant Islamism. You can't beat something with nothing: AQ and the mad mullahs offer something: stability under their rule. If we offer nothing but dark-of-night strikes on people, places, or things that piss us off, then we can never win this war.
Rather, it's absolutely essential that we offer a creative, constructive plan to drain the fever swamps that breed bin Ladens and Mezba-Yazdis and build something functioning in its place; otherwise, we may as well resign ourselves to a generational, existential war that we jolly well may lose.
We cannot simply frighten hirabis into quiessence by clandestine ops and air strikes. We're talking about people for whom, as Cal Thomas put it, "death is a promotion." If hirabis eagerly look forward to dying in order to kill us, how do we "deter" them? Besides, they're not even rational actors, and there is no central caliphate command that can surrender to us.
Gen. Petraeus succeeded because instead of just more killing, he gave the Iraqis a "tomorrow." After tearing down the insurgency, he built something better in its place. He protected the civilian population, helped strengthen the rule of law in Iraq, coordinated the "rebuilding" of that shattered state, made military service a respected career choice for Iraqis for the first time since the Baath Party took over, and in general, spread hope that out of the ashes of Saddam's putative empire, Iraqis could grow the green shoots of normalcy.
We need to follow up with another commander who has the same far-reaching worldview as David Petraeus... not just another Special-Ops marauder who can destroy but cannot build.
Date ►►► January 18, 2008
Is it just me, or does this guy...
...more and more start to look like (and sound like) this guy?
Date ►►► January 17, 2008
When Did "Semantics" Become a Pejorative?
This exchange recounted by Mike Allen at Politico (linked by Drudge) leaves me dumbfounded. Have I suddenly lost all understanding of the English language?
Mitt Romney was holding a news conference in Columbia, South Carolina, when a reporter dragged him into the following argument:
“I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign,” Romney said. “I don’t have lobbyists that are tied to my --”
Glen Johnson, an Associated Press reporter who was sitting on the floor as he typed on his laptop computer, interrupted to point out that Ron Kaufman, one of Romney’s top advisers, is a lobbyist.
“That’s not true, governor!” Johnson interjected, according to CBS News’ Scott Conroy, who was there. “That is not true. Ron Kaufman is a lobbyist.”
All right, let's stop right there: Romney had just said he didn't have lobbyists "running [his] campaign." Before he could get another sentence out, an AP reporter leaps up and hysterically screams "that's not true!"
When did it become the job of a news scribbler to interrupt a principal in the middle of a news event to "interject" the reporter's own opinion, shouting down the principal in the process? The arrogance of this little vontz would curdle fresh milk.
But there is another problem at the heart of the issue: Is English Mr. Johnson's primary language?
Romney just said he didn't have any lobbyists running his campaign; Johnson bellowed forth that this was a lie, because there was a lobbyist working as an advisor -- an unpaid advisor -- to Mitt Romney's campaign. He clearly imagines he has caught the candidate in a vile lie (read on). We continue:
“Did you hear what I said -- did you hear what I said, Glen?” Romney replied. “I said, 'I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign,' and he’s not running my campaign. He’s an adviser. And the person who runs my campaign is [campaign manager] Beth Myers, and I have a whole staff of deputy campaign managers.”
Kaufman has traveled on Romney’s campaign plane. Johnson asked if that means Kaufman is “window dressing -- he’s a potted plant on your plane?”
Romney fairly politely points out that Kaufman is not involved in running Romney's campaign; he's just an advisor. So Johnson demonstrates his unbiased non-partisanship by demanding whether that means Kaufman is just a "potted plant."
Yeah. I reckon those are the only two options: Either you actually run the campaign -- as former lobbyist Rick Davis actually runs John McCain's campaign as his campaign manager, which is what Romney was pointing out -- or else you're just "window dressing," just a "potted plant." You're either the king or a peasant; there's nothing in between.
On we go; Johnson is just getting started:
“Ron is a wonderful friend and adviser,” Romney said. “He’s not paid -- he’s an adviser, like many others. But I do not have lobbyists running my campaign.”
[Evidently, Johnson began hooting with laughter, though Politico doesn't mention it; I infer from Romney's response. -- The Mgt.]
“Glen, I’m appreciative that you think that’s funny,” Romney said. “But Ron Kaufman is not even in on the senior strategy meetings of our campaign.”
There you go; if true -- and not even Johnson has gainsaid it -- that should be definitive: While not everybody who sits in on the strategy sessions could be said to be "running" the campaign, those who don't get invited certainly are not. It's a necessary (though not sufficient) criterion. "Running" a campaign means setting strategy, as I think everyone understands... except perhaps the truculent reporter.
But Glen Johnson isn't ready to relinquish his self-appointed "j'accuse" role:
The exchange continued when Johnson questioned the portrayal of Kaufman as uninvolved in campaign strategy.
“Excuse me, Glen,” Romney shot back. “He is not in on the senior strategy meetings of our campaign.”
“Was he in debate [prep] sessions at all -- any time?” Johnson asked.
“At any time, has he ever been in a debate session?” Romney asked. “Sure. Is that a senior strategy meeting? Is that a senior strategy meeting of our campaign? No."
But here is the part that personally irritated me:
Romney and Johnson got into it again briefly as the event was breaking up, with Johnson telling Romney he was engaged in “semantics.”
Anybody here know what the definition of "semantics" is? Raise your hand if you think that word means "dirty, underhanded, mendacious verbal tricks designed to deceive people into believing a lie."
Anybody who raised his hand -- leave the room; that includes Glen Johnson.
The definition of semantics (in the sense clearly meant by Johnson) is:
- "The meaning or the interpretation of a word, sentence, or other language form: We're basically agreed; let's not quibble over semantics."
- "The study of the meaning of words."
- "The study of language with special concern for the meanings of words and other symbols."
Every source I looked at agrees: semantics is the study of what words mean. It exists as a field of study because meaning matters: The noun-phrases "running my campaign" and "adviser" have two entirely separate meanings... which is, yes, a semantical statement.
If I said that "I made the decision to buy a car," what would you think of the intelligence -- not to mention the honesty -- of a person who immediately shouted, "That's a dirty lie! I know for a fact that you asked a friend whether he thought it was a good deal before you signed the contract!"
I would think such a person a boor, a lout... and someone who had a secret agenda to assassinate my character. And that is precisely what I think of Mr. Johnson anent Mitt Romney: The reporter seems to have a great passion for trying to "prove" that Romney is a liar, even if that means twisting the clear and familiar meaning of common words into a pretzel.
But this plays directly into the tendency of liberals (I think I've pointed this out before) to engage in what I call "Argument by Tendentious Redefinition." That's when one takes a dreadful word -- such as racism, pederasty, or rape -- and redefines it to mean something completely different, with a much lower threshold for application: Driving a snowmobile is "raping the environment;" having sex with a nubile 19 year old girl is "child molestation."
Then the arguer uses the word without explanation of the redefinition, knowing that listeners will take it in its original meaning: "Jane Smith is a rapist! Father Jones is a child molester!"
I see this all the time on the Left, as when radical feminists imply that, because of the "power relationship," all heterosexual sex is rape... and then they routinely call ordinary family men "rapists." Or when leftists redefine the word "fascist" to mean "anyone who supports traditional American values," then casually call all Republicans fascists.
If you oppose same-sex marriage, you're a "homophobe;" against racial preferences, you're a "racist;" support a foreign policy the contemplates the use of force, and you're an "imperialist out to conquer the world;" and all businessmen and woman are "robber barons."
And now we can add a new one: If you dare to use the English language with clarity and precision, rather than allow some nitwit illiterate who managed to get a job at the Associated Press to falsely claim that you're a liar... then you're engaging in "semantics!"
Does Glen Johnson realize what a prize jackass he's made of himself?
I have no idea whether Johnson has a personal animus against Romney; he certainly has a career interest in scandal, because then he can write about it. But there is no question that, like David Lynch's "World's Angriest Dog," Johnson was straining at his leash to sink his teeth into Mitt Romney's glutes.
That is what comes through stark and clear in this exchange... not that "Mitt Romney is a liar," but that "Glen Johnson is a boor who tried to pick a fight with the candidate for his own personal, psychological, or career issues." He needs to be reassigned to a position of less responsibility.
Allow Us to Blow Our Own Canoe
This isn't really a normal Watcher's Council vote post... but it was a vote, of a sort.
Secretly, while the innocent were sleeping, the Watcher of Weasels conspired to keep a clandestine list of all the votes cast for blogs -- both Council and Nouncil -- which came in first in a weekly Council vote.
That is, whenever a blog would win a Council vote, the WoW would add all votes for that winner to a running tally. If later, that same blog won again, then all the votes for it that week would be added to the previous total, and so forth. At the end of the year, the Watcher toted up all the running tallies and declared a winner in The 2007 WOW Awards.
You probably wonder why we're telling you all this.
(Actually, I doubt that; knowing our entirely overblown opinion of ourselves -- which causes us, e.g., to refer to ourselves constantly in the first-person plural -- you have probably already guessed why. But our well-known modesty forbids us to come right out and say it.)
But of course, we did supply a link...
For those readers as interested in the past as we, here are the previous three years' winner tote boards (I think 2004 was the first year that the Watcher of Weasels compiled an overall winner):
Since we don't actually know whether the Watcher of Weasels is male or female -- or whether, like the Stig, the WoW exists in a freakish netherworld of uncollapsed wave equations -- we shall use the ficticious, all-purpose, genderless pronoun "yeye," invented by Damon Knight (who always insisted it was Swahili, or somesuch).
Here is the earliest Watcher post still up on yeye's site, from March 22nd, 2003: Humanoid Spacifications. That's from before the Iraq War began... in blog years, it's practically precambrian!
It appears that in addition to yeye's current domain-name digs (watcherofweasels.com), the Watcher is or was at one time blogging out of upsaid.com... which looks like a sort of blogger.com type thingie. Yeye had a journal there titled "My Jornal," but with a subdomain of "watcherofweasels;" or at least, so it looks. (The name in the user profile is given as "anna," by the way; which is why I hesitate to assign a sex to the WoW).
The creation date of the journal is listed as April 28th, 2004... but that should be the date when it was recreated or reinitiated or somesuch; because, in the first post we could find that explicitly mentioned the Council -- dated October 24th, 2003 -- the WoW makes reference to earlier Council rules in a (now defunct) link to upsaid.com/watcherofweasels. So the dates are all bollixed up, for some reason.
In any event, the Watcher is evidently one of the Grand Old Men or Grand Old Dames of the blogosphere. While blogging had precursors going back to the late 1980s (in 1987, I was sending around an e-mail newsletter titled the Huge Report), blogging as we know it today, looking like modern blogs, really began in late 1998. But the big explosion happened around 2004... so anybody preceding that should be considered a member of First Blogdom (those "blogging" before HTML -- the real pioneers! -- should be called members of Zeroth Blogdom).
We can see your eyes glazing over, so that's enough ancient history for today.
Date ►►► January 16, 2008
At Last, the Final Ketchup Watcher!
Since the vote this week has not even occurred, we're not yet late... so as soon as this post on last-week's Coucil vote hits the 'sphere, we'll actually be all caught up!
The winner was our number-two vote this time:
- Britain's Prosecution of The Blogger Lionheart for Criticism of Islam, by Wolf Howling;
The title says it all: the UK has issued an arrest warrant for a British blogger... for the crime of "stirring up racial hatred" by criticising radical Islamism. Can Britons spell S-h-a-r-i-a?
While the Wolf Howling post was good, we had been planning to blog about that ourselves and never got around to it -- a fact we hold against the wolves. Clearly, we could not possibly put that post in first place, as it just highlights our own inadequacy, lethargy, and laziness. We stuck it in second place, hoping nobody would notice.
Whoops; I think we weren't supposed to write that part out loud.
Instead, we voted for another excellent post -- this one by perennially enjoyable and edifying Laer:
- Honor Killings? What Honor Killings?, by Cheat Seeking Missiles.
Laer highlights the different treatments given (a) a story about an alleged "hate crime" against a black couple, and (b) the non-story about an Egyptian immigrant who is accused of the "honor" murders of his two daughters. (That's an act of "honor" like blowing up a children's hospital is an act of "jihad": Both are nothing more than acts of human sacrifice that will send the perpetrators straight to Hell.)
With the death in Iraq of Maj. Andy Olmsted -- blogger and former member of the Watcher's Council -- we were pretty sure that one of the winners would be one of the many heartfelt obituaries for Maj. Olmsted; it turned out to be in the Nouncil category:
- Andy Olmsted, by Obsidian Wings.
This vote is entirely fitting: Hilzoy was Olmsted's co-blogger at Obsidian Wings; Olmsted blogged there under the handle G'Kar, and it was there that he could fully express his love of the SF epic show Babylon-5, as well as comment on matters in the real world.
Requiescat in pace, Major.
We voted for a pair of other worthies:
- Sen. Obama's Calls for Unity Are Not What They Seem, by Dennis Prager at Townhall.com;
- An Amusing Greenie Attack on the Inhofe Report, by A Western Heart.
The first -- our own Nouncil nominee -- is a brilliant column by Dennis Prager. Prager notes that whenever somebody talks about "unity," he always means that everyone should unify around the unifier's ideas... tossing aside their own like used Kleenex.
The second is, well, just what the title says... a fun fisking of a pro-globaloney attack piece. The fisker is Dr. John Ray, a psychologist and behavioral scientist now out of academe and living in his native Brisbane, Australia.
I know you've never seen this before, but...
You can see all the entries that got votes by motivating here.
Kids... Those Darn - Kids!
I was reading a piece on AP which reported that in the United States, births are significantly up; fortunately, AP gave us the benefit of its anointed, elite-media analysis of the looming catastrophe -- a rising fertility rate -- that will positively dwarf the pending disaster of global climate change:
Bucking the trend in many other wealthy industrialized nations, the United States seems to be experiencing a baby boomlet, reporting the largest number of children born in 45 years.
The nearly 4.3 million births in 2006 were mostly due to a bigger population, especially a growing number of Hispanics. That group accounted for nearly one-quarter of all U.S. births. But non-Hispanic white women and other racial and ethnic groups were having more babies, too.
Good heavens! More children; don't these people know that we're destroying the Earth as it is? What can be causing this aberrant behavior?
Experts believe there is a mix of reasons: a decline in contraceptive use, a drop in access to abortion, poor education and poverty.
Zounds, have things gotten so bad that women are forced to start having babies again? Quelle horror!
One of those religious fanatics might suggest that more people are simply deciding to have more children, perhaps because they believe in the future here -- as they certainly do not in the socially conscious European countries. (Since there is no future, believing in one is a sign of desperation, delusion, or senility.) But even if the religious explanation is true, it just proves what unsophisticated boobs red-state Americans are:
"Americans like children. We are the only people who respond to prosperity by saying, 'Let's have another kid,'" said Nan Marie Astone, associate professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University.
Those crazy Americans. Don't they understand the danger the human population poses to this planet? And will this boomlet continue? AP turns to the most appropriate subject-matter expert to ask about this freakish rise in childbirth:
Demographers say it is too soon to know if the sudden increase in births is the start of a trend.
"We have to wait and see. For now, I would call it a noticeable blip," said Brady Hamilton, a statistician with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yep, when I want to learn more about the causes of an inexplicable increase in fertility, my first choice would certainly be to contact the Centers for Disease Control. And Prevention.
At least there is a dark lining to this silver cloud:
To many economists and policymakers, the increase in births is good news. The U.S. fertility rate - the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime - reached 2.1. That's the "magic number" required for a population to replace itself....
But the higher fertility rate isn't all good. Last month, the CDC reported that America's teen birth rate rose for the first time in 15 years.
Aha! So the increased fertility rate reflects nothing more than rampant unmarried teen mothers. We always knew the evil of the anti-family Republican regime would eventually catch up with us; this must be the explanation for the putative "boomlet." Oh, wait:
The same report also showed births becoming more common in nearly every age and racial or ethnic group. Birth rates increased for women in their 20s, 30s and early 40s, not just teens.
Oh. Ah, nevermind.
Demographers say there has been at least one boomlet before, around 1990, when annual U.S. births broke 4.1 million for two straight years before dropping to about 3.9 million in the mid-1990s. Adolescent childbearing was up at the time, but so were births among other groups, and experts aren't sure what explained that bump.
It's just totally counterintuitive: Why on earth would anybody want to have children? For God's sake, a Republican is in the White House! Shouldn't this be a time to protest by refusing to have babies, thus denying the regime the cannon fodder it needs to threaten the world?
Unless... maybe it's a result of all those union-job-stealing illegal immigrants swarming in with their crazy foreign ideas that there's something good, in some mysterious way, about having a family:
The high rate probably reflects cultural attitudes toward childbirth developed in other countries, experts said. Fertility rates average 2.7 in Central America and 2.4 in South America....
Some complain that many illegal immigrants come here purposely to have children.
"The child is an automatic American citizen, thus entitled to all benefits of American citizens. This gives a certain financial incentive for people coming from other countries illegally to have children here," said John Vinson, president of the Virginia-based American Immigration Control Foundation.
There you go: Even those hardline, anti-immigration, militia-joining, federal-building-bombing, Buchanan-supporting, white supremacist, hood-wearing members of the Taliban wing of the Republican Party agree with us that having kids is unAmerican.
So what can we do about this scourge of spawning? Isn't there some sort of international "Protocol" we can join against childbirth? One must exist, because the European Union and Japan have clearly negotiated just such an agreement. How else to explain their refreshingly low fertility rates?
Here are some possible solutions we can consider:
Fertility levels tend to decline as women become better educated and gain career opportunities, and as they postpone childbirth until they are older. Experts say those factors, along with the legalization of abortion and the expansion of contraception options, explain why the U.S. fertility rate dropped to its lowest point -- about 1.7 -- in 1976.
Sadly, however, it appears that the contrarian American public just doesn't get it, like they just don't understand the peril of unbridled Capitalism and the immorality of having a strong military:
But while fertility declines persisted in many other developed nations, the United States saw the reverse: The fertility rate climbed to 2 in 1989 and has hovered around that mark since then, according to federal birth data.
Kohler and others say the difference has more to do with culture than race. For example, white American women have more children than white European -- even though many nations in Europe have more family-friendly government policies on parental leave and child care.
More proof, as if any were needed, of the greater enlightenment of women on the other side of the pond.
Finally, there is one other dark side to this that we will never talk about. Except we have to let you know about it, because how else would you know what we're not going to talk about?
The influence of certain religions in those latter regions is an important factor, said Ron Lesthaeghe, a Belgian demographer who is a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. "Evangelical Protestantism and Mormons," he said.
Either Professor Lesthaeghe was cut off in mid-sentence, or else Catholics have finally come to their senses. Maybe next they'll go all the way and start supporting a woman's right to choose!
In any event, surely you can see the dilemma here: How on earth can we cure this problem of excess births? What external controlling factor is forcing more and more women back into the baby quagmire... women who should be in the vanguard of freeing themselves from biological servitude?
It's a serious problem. We'll need some major research grants to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to finally reverse this epidemic of new life.
Date ►►► January 15, 2008
Why Can't We All Just Not Get Along?
One of the more grating claims that Hillary Clinton makes about the changes she is salivating to accomplish in Washington is how "we are going to do this together."
I don’t know who she means when she talks about "we," but she certainly can’t mean "me." Of course, I’m just one person, but there’s got to be plenty more where I came from. We just don’t show up in the focus groups and Oprahesque crying sessions where Hillary likes to pretend that she’s listening to "the people." Why? Mainly because we’re not invited.
I’m sure that Hillary (or Obama for that matter) doesn’t want to hear from someone who thinks that socialism has been tried and found wanting all over the world, and that we really don’t need government to be our "Papa" or "Mama." We’d be much better off if government was more like an absentee landlord who doesn’t get involved all that much with the day to day workings of society.
People who don’t think there’s really all that much wrong with our current society are often shunted over to the side while the media focuses its attention on the tiny percentage of the country that’s unhappy. It’s fine that they are getting the attention. What bothers me is that the rest of us have to fund their concerns. What is it exactly that needs to be changed? I’d vote for changing all of the free broadcast time that’s given to people like John Edwards, who spend all their time carping about how things are bad for the little guy.
Things are always bad for the "little guy." As Jesus once said, "The poor will always be with us." A controversial way to look at it is that as long as there is the freedom for some people to achieve more than others, there will always be inequality. Or as Will Durant put it: "the goddess of liberty is no friend to the goddess of equality." You can’t have equality without losing freedom. Most Americans don’t want to penalize the rich for achieving because they to would like to be rich someday. Americans aren’t naturally a class warfare people.
That’s why it’s always such a fantasy ride to listen liberals dream about all the changes they want to make in society, when a good percentage, often a majority, of the population doesn’t want to jump aboard for the trip and won’t go there unless they are completely lied to about where the train is going.
When liberals talk about ending gridlock and getting rid of partisanship, what they really mean is that they want people who disagree with their version of the world to lie down and play dead. Liberals are never willing to give up their passions and ideals, but they want people like me to stop fighting them -- in the name of unity. Frankly, I think the country is much better served when we have gridlock in Washington D.C. Better that nothing gets accomplished than that bad things get accomplished.
Yet Hillary perseveres in the idea that she is going to bring us all together to accomplish some great thing, presumably at the top of the list "health care reform." To bring the partisans together. But this is the woman who has throughout her career made a point of demonizing anyone who disagrees with her. She doesn’t just sack the quarterback, she whacks his wife and children and sows salt on his devastated estate.
It was Hillary, remember, who authored the "vast right-wing conspiracy," charge. It was Hillary who decided that the best way to get rid of the White House travel office staff that was not made up of Clinton loyalists was to accuse them of financial improprieties and to prosecute one of them (unsuccessfully) for embezzlement, instead of just reassigning them. It is Hillary who constantly reminds us that she has been the target of "the right wing" and that she’s "still standing." Is this supposed to make conservatives embrace her? They never will, and so the happy dream of us all doing this "together" is a chimera. At best, Hillary will get the conservatives gagged and trussed and making minimal fuss.
Remember, too, that just about every presidential campaign that promised to unite the disparate political elements of the nation instead sparked intensely partisan battles. Remember Nixon and "bring us together?" Or George W. Bush’s promise to bridge the divides?
Whatever you may think of the Clinton years, the fact remains that Bill & Hilary were tremendously polarizing figures. That’s a given when a president is impeached. And even fewer people have middlin’, undecided opinions about Hillary than they do about Bill. Hillary is actually the Democrats’ version of Richard Nixon. Like Nixon, she thinks it’s "her turn." Like Nixon she has a list of enemies a mile long; and once she’s in power, boy, will it be payback time! She’ll probably create a new Department of Getting Even and appoint James Carville the first secretary.
The last time we had a figure that aroused this much animus from a large percentage of the population, his election led to the Civil War!
It’s certainly possible, maybe even likely, that Hillary will win the nomination by whatever means necessary, by digging up whatever dirt and throwing whatever mud is necessary to destroy Barack Obama. Oh, and by claiming superior experience. Which, when you boil it down, amounts to being caregiver for 35 years to one of the most petulant, childish, self-absorbed narcissists in American political history during his turbulent, storied career... or as Matt Drudge characterizes it this week: his oral history. Yuk! Yuk! Come to think of it, maybe that is superior experience.
But the numbers are brutally one-sided in this contest to decide whether it’s more important to elect the first black or the first woman as president: There’re a hell of a lot more women then there are black people. That’s probably why Hillary feels that she can get away with saying that LBJ was actually more important to Civil Rights than Martin Luther King, Jr., although it may have escaped her notice that there is a federal holiday named after MLK, whereas LBJ’s name most often comes up in connection with traits that we don’t admire in a president, like dishonesty, venality, and corruption.
The fun part of the Clinton/Obama battle is that both candidates’ supporters have positioned the debate so that no one can criticize either candidate without being accused, on the one hand, as a racist, or on the other, as anti-woman. It’s delicious, really, that the Democrats would be hoist by their own petard in this way, since their favorite tactic over the years has been to paint Republicans as racists and anti-feminists.
I don’t know what percentage of the Democrat’s number are made up of black women. It’s a shame that Obama can’t get a sex change operation at this late date. Hillary might get one too, but then she’d be a woman.
Having done all that she needs to do to destroy Obama, Hillary will probably be elected president. But if anyone thinks that this will lead to the lions lying down with the lambs, think again.
It’s a recipe for lamb chops on the barbie.
A Scottish rebel said of the Ancient Romans after they ravaged his land: "They make a desert and call it peace." Hillary and her kind will imprison our liberties, hobble our enterprise, gag our speech and call it freedom.
The Hewitt-Medved Steel Cage Death Match
Between Hugh Hewitt, completely in the tank for Mitt Romney, and Michael Medved, completely in the tank for John McCain -- except insofar as it becomes necessary to take a temporary skinny-dip with Mick Huckabee (or, as today, Huckabee surrogate Chuck Norris) in order to promote Anybody But Romney -- I can hardly listen to the radio anymore.
Sean Hannity is on opposite Medved; but for some reason, the ABC network comes in really badly on my radio... lots of static. I tried listening to find out for whom he's in the tank, but all I heard were listener calls; it's hard to judge someone's positions when he's responding to other people's questions and comments.
Rush Limbaugh comes on here in the unholy timeslot of 9:00 to noon. That's too early for any decent-minded person to listen to talk radio.
What goes here? I understand talk radio folk tend to be more overtly political than newsreading heads (who simply do a better job of concealing their biases). Still, I don't recall the hosts being so completely identified with particular Republican candidates in the primaries back in 2004 and 2000. Is it just me, or have conservative talk-show hosts become more nakedly partisan this cycle?
Mike Huckabee for Minister in Chief?
I hardly know what to make of this, other than the obvious. Has any serious presidential candidate ever spent an entire campaign day preaching the gospel from the pulpit? And can there be any explanation more benign than that Mike Huckabee is simply trying to turn out more ardent, Christian tribalists -- willing to overlook any policy disagreements they may have, just so they can vote for a Baptist minister?
Republican Mike Huckabee spoke from the pulpit Sunday, not as a politician but as the preacher he used to be, delivering a sermon on how merely being good isn't enough to get into heaven....
As in Iowa, where he won the Jan. 3 caucuses, Huckabee is rousing pastors to marshal their flocks for him. He pitches himself as someone who not only shares their views against abortion and gay marriage but who actually comes from their ranks.
Huckabee supporters keep telling me that their guy isn't trying to appeal to evangelical Christians on an "identity" basis. But I can't hardly turn around without more evidence that Huckabee is doing exactly that: Vote for me because I'm an evangelical Southern Baptist... just like you!
More from the AP story:
In South Carolina, Huckabee didn't ask for votes or discuss the campaign, but senior pastor Michael S. Hamlet encouraged the congregation to vote according to how they try to live their lives, by the principles of Bible scripture.
"I'm going to tell you something, when you go vote, you ought to follow those principles," Hamlet said.
But Huckabee did wade into politics Sunday evening in Michigan, telling members of the Apostolic Church of Auburn Hills about his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and expressing his concern about job losses in the state. He played bass guitar in the praise band and, before he spoke, the organist played a few notes of "Hail to the Chief."
Huckabee's shoestring campaign has relied on pastors to encourage their flocks to vote.
Besides pulpit Sunday, here's today's example:
"[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards," Huckabee said, referring to the need for a constitutional human life amendment and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
There are a number of good secular reasons to consider a constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage and banning abortion:
- One can believe, as I, that traditional two-person, male-female marriage is one of the pillars supporting Western civilization; kicking it out may bring the whole edifice crumbling down;
- One can believe, as I don't, that a zygote is a human person from the moment of conception, so abortion is essentially murder.
Neither of these arguments requires a religious context; both are purely secular... as government should always be. I agree with the very religious Dennis Prager: We should have a religious society but a secular government.
But Huckabee eschews the strong secular arguments in favor of the purely religious ones: We must amend the Constitution in order to bring it into line with "God's standards." Well, whose God? Yours, mine, or that fellow's behind the tree? What is this but a naked appeal to voters with a strong evangelical-Christian identiy? Vote for me because I'm one of you.
Here are just a few of Huckabee's campaign arguments:
- His proclamation that he's "the Christian candidate" in the race;
- His (false) claim in a debate that he was the only candidate on the stage who had a theology degree (in fact, he doesn't);
- His snarky "question" about Mormonism -- don't they believe that Jesus and the Devil are brothers? -- shorn of the explanatory context that Mormons believe this connection is only due to the fact that God created all other beings and creatures... hence all are in some sense "brothers and sisters," even when diametrically opposed to each other... as with Jesus and the Devil;
- His day in church reminding the electorate that he's an ordained minister;
- The constitutional-amendment comment about "God's standards" (Ayman Zawahiri could say exactly the same thing; that's how meaningless an argument it is).
And on and on. I think we have a pretty clear portrait of a one-note candidate: Vote for me, because I'm the Christian here. This makes me very uncomfortable, because I worry that if elected, Mike Huckabee would not govern by a clearly articulated set of conservative principles.
In fact, many of his positions, both foreign and domestic, are basically liberal; for example, his reference to our "arrogant" -- that is, interventionist -- foreign policy, and his nine-year criminal-pardon spree in Arkansas, issuing more than all neighboring states combined. Except on social issues, Mike Huckabee is at least as liberal as John McCain.
Instead of a firm set of principles, Huckabee would be guided by his own personal spiritual revelation on each issue, just like another former Southern governor who became president. And I don't mean that other feller from Arkansas.
Date ►►► January 14, 2008
Elitism In the Dextrosphere
Paul Mirengoff closed a post today with some help from John Hinderacker:
Whelan advises Greenhouse: "It’s well past time for you to come clean. Remember, it’s always the coverup that kills you". But maybe not, if you're writing for "arguably the most elite audience in the nation."
JOHN adds: For what it's worth, I suspect that we write for "the most elite audience in the nation." Certainly, by any objective measure, an audience that is more "elite" than that of the Times.
John, I have to tell you that's nonsense on stilts, and you know it. Clearly Big Lizards is far more "elite" than either the Times or Power Line: Why, you chaps routinely pull in excess of 70,000 page views per day, while we average only 1/35th of that at 2,000 page views per day.
As the major elements of elitism clearly include exclusivity, you're simply out of the running. Big Lizards is the most exclusive, hence most elitist of the trio.
We're number one!
We're number one!
Whoops, I just realized there are a heck of a lot of blogs that don't receive anywhere near 2,000 page views, either; ergo, they're even more exclusive than we.
We're number 4,666,908!
Now that I think about it, I'd rather we were a little less elite -- and a whole lot more "hoi polloi." Thar's gold in them thar masses.
More Stale Watchers... Will We Ever Sight Land?
Someday, we shall overcome this evil curse of being behind in our Watchers. For I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal enmity against all forms of stale-Watcher tyranny over the mind of Man.
I've always rather liked posts that take on the self-inflated and prick their balloons:
- The Freddys Seven, by Soccer Dad.
Soccer Dad pops the automythological "relevance" of the "Reverend" Al Sharpton. 'Nuff said.
Here were our two votes in last week's Council category:
- America Derangement Syndrome -- Or, Yes, You Can Call Them Unpatriotic, by Bookworm Room;
- Politics Anonymous, by Right Wing Nut House.
In the first, Bookworm demonstrates that anti-Americanism is endemic in Europe and has always existed; it wasn't caused by having a "cowboy" in the White House... they always hate us. When the president is a Democrat, they're just politer about expressing their hatred. (But of course, anybody who watches the BBC car show Top Gear is quite familiar with this bizarre attitude; the main presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, nakedly loathes everything about the United States... and worse, he casually assumes that every decent person feels the same. I've never actually heard him refer to us as "the colonies," but I'm sure he thinks it -- in the most patronizing, infantalizing way.)
The second is a fun romp by the curmudgeonly Rick Moran through all the candidates... and it turns out he hates them all as even-handedly as European elites hate every aspect of America!
The winner was a post comprising a litany of myths about Israel and her neighbors:
- Exploding Myths, by Treppenwitz.
I agree with the author, David Bogner, in each case; but I'm not sure what is unique enough about the post for it to win the vote this week. Still, it's nice to see these all in one place.
Rather, we voted for a couple that we thought quite different from the norm of Nouncil nominations:
The first recasts one of the principals in the primary pandemoneum -- Ms. Hillary -- as a couple of characters from the P.G. Wodehouse "Bertie Wooster" stories... both are women to which Berties has unintentionally and inexplicably become engaged at various times. Depending on Hillary Clinton's mood du jour, she can be the strident and mannish Honoria Glossop or the pseudo-intellectual Florence Craye. But never, ever the soppy and simpering Madeleine Bassett! (I personally think that at core, she's more like Bertie's Aunt Agatha -- the bad aunt who chews broken glass and bays at the moon.)
The second was our own nomination, a Power Line post in which Scott "Big Johnson" Trunk -- whoops, reverse those -- quotes Thomas Houlahan on the myriad things Hillary Clinton doesn't know about Pakistan... but thinks she does.
This is an example of what Don Rumsfeld would have called an "unknown unknown," where one not only doesn't know, one doesn't know that one doesn't know. This is the most dangerous kind of ignorance, and it's emblematic of today's Democratic Party. Another way to put it, generally attributed to Will Rogers (and quoted in widely varying forms), is: "It ain't what he don't know that scares me; it's what he knows that just ain't so."
How to find a Watcher for your very own
Just search here, and I'll bet one will pop up!
Date ►►► January 13, 2008
Paul of Mises; or How the New Republic Bewitches the Right
Is it possible to publish a scurrilous hit piece -- on a scurvy knave? I believe it is.
The New Republic -- which used to be in the conservative doghouse, after its endless flogging of the American soldier via its "diarist" penned by Scott Thomas Beauchamp (and its even more endless halfwitted "defense" of those pieces) -- now appears to have found favor once more with prominent movement conservatives.
How? By attacking the hated Ron Paul with the same venom, and the same disingenuousness, that it normally reserves for attacking people the Right actually likes.
Tsk; are we really that easy a house of roundheels, falling on our backs for any man with a flashy smile and a nasty assault on Ron Paul? (If Bill Burkett shows up tomorrow with documents "typed in 1972" that accuse Paul of being a Soviet agent, will we swallow those, too?)
Still, even the worst barnacle on the bloated belly of the GOP deserves his Zola; and I figure I can do at least as well as that socialist Frenchie. John Adams defended the soldiers of the Boston Massacre; Horace Rumpole is willing to stand up for thieves, brigands, and murderers; and today, I'm willing to bat aside this atrocity exhibition of an article... while not conceding my right to fling my own mud at the appalling Paul in the morning.
Note that my defense is accompanied by the background music of Ron Paul himself, bleating that he didn't write it and had no idea what people were writing in his name for more than a decade:
“This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. It's once again being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary.
“When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.” [Quotation marks in original]
So the louse is a lying libertarian! No matter -- I'm not defending Ron Paul per se (I have no idea whether he is merely a loser or a thug as well); I'm defending all those from whom such statements might be heard and grievously twisted to make them appear to be racist, sexist, homophobic, and all the other ists and ics in the demonology of contemporary liberalism. And I'm chastising (in future, that might be "horsewhipping") those Republicans and conservatives who are so anxious to hurt Ron Paul that they will champion any attack on him, no matter how unprincipled itself.
Let's start with hit-piece author James Kirchick's root accusation: The main attack on Ron Paul in this article is that he accepts a libertarian view of history. Libertarians, as a group, are obsessed with intellectualism; they wear it on their sleeve. One axiom understood well by them is what I call the Orwellian Observation, which I have quoted several times already:
That in mind, libertarians are unwilling to concede to the Left the holy task of writing history; they understand that if you allow socialists to write history, history will be viewed through the eyes of socialism. Ergo, libertarians love to reinvestigate historical "truths" (as seen by liberals and statists). They call this activity "revisionist history," "revisionist politics," and so forth.
The revisionist libertarian view of politics is that, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
Some of you may still recognize that quotation. For the rest, shame on you; you need to go wash your brains out with soap.
The difference between libertarians and Ronald Reagan is only that they see this rule applying, not just in "this present crisis," but as a general matter: Thus, anything that vastly increases the cost, size, or reach of the federal government is the wrong approach, as far as libertarians believe.
From what I can gather by reading as much of Kirchick as I can find on the web, he is a conservative establishmentarian not much given to originality of thought. He is certainly not a liberal, but neither is he a libertarian (not even small-L). He doesn't see government as the problem... he sees liberal government as the problem, with more conservative government as the solution.
Kirchick is not even particularly Reaganesque, let alone Heinleinian. He is perfectly happy to submit his gems to a magazine like TNR -- alongside fellow-writers like Beauchamp, and under the editorial tutelage of Franklin Foer -- and magazine and editor are perfectly pleased to publish Kirchick. (He also writes long, run-on paragraphs and could benefit by tighter editing.)
At a guess, I would say Kirchick is a big fan of the Claremont Institute. It's a great bunch of folks; but it also happens to be more or less at war with libertarianism in general -- and with the Ludwig von Mises Institute in particular.
That is the first damning charge out of the blocks: Ron Paul is associated with the von Mises Institute. But to use the Institute as a bludgeon against libertarians displays the same bigotry as using the Federalist Society to beat down conservatives. One would think that conservatives would show some caution about an argument of "guilt by association with the innocent." One would think.
However, like the English Puritans -- who escaped persecution in England only to resurrect it in the American colonies -- what conservatives actually learned from being pummeled over their association with the Federalist Society is how effective such an attack can be. Thus, they applaud the same kind of attack on libertarians!
The Institute's faculty includes Bruce Bartlett, Wendy McElroy, and Paul Craig Roberts, and it is largely based around the writings (besides Mises) of the late Murray Rothbard. To see how "racist" and "radical" the Institute is, you can read the Rothbard article "Myth and Truth About Libertarianism" and decide for yourself whether you agree with Kirchick -- and with boatloads of "me too" conservatives -- that libertarians want to restore black slavery, put women back in the kitchens with leg irons, and institutionalize atheism.
Which brings us to what is certainly the most controversial belief of many libertarians -- one that Kirchick and the New Republic twist into a Gordian pretzel of inuendo and conclusion-jumping: Many (perhaps most) libertarians believe it was not a good day but a bad day when the North won the Civil War... but not for the reason that Kirchick maliciously implies. He wants to push the meme that libertarians lament the victory because they're all racists... which is utterly preposterous to any educated person who knows anything at all about the libertarian philosophy, to which slavery and racism are anathema.
Rather, libertarians lament the ending of that war because of the extraordinary expansion of authoritarian federal government that followed.
The three or four libertarians in America who are wise realize that it wasn't just the victory; it was the victory plus Abraham Lincoln's assassination, which led to the horrors of Reconstruction. Many of us believe Lincoln himself would have ensured that the South was not utterly subjugated. Slavery would have been abolished, good for liberty; but the secessionist states would not have been made permanent "wards of the court," which was bad for liberty. Alas, John Wilkes Booth shot and killed the Great Emancipator, leaving the Weak Equivocator in nominal control; and Andrew Johnson was unable to rein in the vengeful Republican Congress.
This accounts for about half the attacks in Kitchick's article, nearly all of which take this form:
The politics of the organization are complicated--its philosophy derives largely from the work of the late Murray Rothbard, a Bronx-born son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and a self-described "anarcho-capitalist" who viewed the state as nothing more than "a criminal gang"--but one aspect of the institute's worldview stands out as particularly disturbing: its attachment to the Confederacy. Thomas E. Woods Jr., a member of the institute's senior faculty, is a founder of the League of the South, a secessionist group, and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, a pro-Confederate, revisionist tract published in 2004. Paul enthusiastically blurbed Woods's book, saying that it "heroically rescues real history from the politically correct memory hole." Thomas DiLorenzo, another senior faculty member and author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, refers to the Civil War as the "War for Southern Independence" and attacks "Lincoln cultists"; Paul endorsed the book on MSNBC last month in a debate over whether the Civil War was necessary (Paul thinks it was not). In April 1995, the institute hosted a conference on secession at which Paul spoke; previewing the event, Rockwell wrote to supporters, "We'll explore what causes [secession] and how to promote it." Paul's newsletters have themselves repeatedly expressed sympathy for the general concept of secession. In 1992, for instance, the Survival Report argued that "the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society" and that "there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it."
Well, I warned you about Kirchick's paragraphs.
The only way this can be twisted into something horrific is if one mentally edits the statement "the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society" into "the right of secession in order to push blacks back into slavery should be ingrained in a free society."
This is a very, very liberal way to argue. Isaac Asimov does it all the time; for example, when he confronted (in one of his thirty or forty autobiographies) the idea of a looser confederation of states, united regionally but not so strongly as today, his response was that we had already tried that before: We called it "feudalism," and it was notable chiefly for the bubonic plague.
There you have it: America must remain as nationalist and top-down authoritarian as we are in order to avoid the Black Death!
The people surrounding the von Mises Institute--including Paul--may describe themselves as libertarians, but they are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine. Instead, they represent a strain of right-wing libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning point in American history--the moment when a tyrannical federal government established its supremacy over the states. As one prominent Washington libertarian told me, "There are too many libertarians in this country ... who, because they are attracted to the great books of Mises, ... find their way to the Mises Institute and then are told that a defense of the Confederacy is part of libertarian thought."
Well... in fact, it is. It's not the only part, and not every libertarian agrees with the argument (I reject it on grounds that the Confederacy was in fact less free than the Union, so its victory would not have promoted liberty). But it is a long-established libertarian argument that is uncontroversial in libertarian circles... and it is not a veiled support for racist ideas about the supposed inferiority of blacks.
This attack-track reminds me of those who repeatedly claimed that the Charles Murray-Richard Herrnstein book the Bell Curve was a "racist book." The claim never rose to the level of argument, because an argument requires actual citation of evidence... along with at least some indication that the argument's proponents have at least glanced once or twice inside the book they are denouncing. Having actually read that book -- and disagreed strongly with its conclusion -- I feel nothing but disgust for those conservatives who leapt aboard the "Charles Murray is a well-known racist" slanderwagon. Murray is, of course, anything but a racist.
In any event, the belief that the Civil War utterly remade America is not confined to libertarians; at the very end of the novel Lincoln, by Commie-symp leftist Gore Vidal -- the man who famously called William F. Buckley, jr., a "crypto-Nazi" in a 1968 TV debate (Vidal claims he misspoke, intending merely to call Buckley a "crypto-Fascist") -- we find the following passage. American historian Charles Schermerhorn Schuyler is speaking to John Milton Hay, erstwhile private secretary and assistant to Abraham Lincoln, at a diplomatic reception at the Tuileries in 1867. He asks Hay what had become at that time "the question":
"Where," asked Mr. Schuyler, "would you place Mr. Lincoln amongst the presidents of our country?"
"Oh, I would place him first."
"Above Washington? Mr. Schuyler looked startled.
"Yes," said Hay, who had thought a good deal about the Tycoon's place in history. "Mr. Lincoln had a far greater and more difficult task than Washington's. You see, the Southern states had every Constitutional right to go out of the Union. But Lincoln said no. Lincoln said this Union can never be broken. Now, that was a terrible responsibility for one man to take. But he took it, knowing he would be obliged to fight the greatest war in human history, which he did, and which he won. So he not only put the Union back together again, but he made an entirely new country, and all of it in his own image....
[They compare Lincoln and Otto von Bismarck, who did the same thing among the German states.]
"It will be interesting to see how Herr Bismarck ends his career," said Hay, who was now more than ever convinced that Lincoln, in some mysterious fashion, had willed his own murder as a form of atonement for the great and terrible thing that he had done by giving so bloody and absolute a rebirth to his nation.
I would think that the basic fact that the Civil War constituted a "bloody and absolute rebirth" of America, which "made an entirely new country," would be by and large uncontroversial among historians. The only real difference here between establishment thought and revisionist libertarian thought would be the reaction of the thinker: The former applauds the rebirth, the latter bemoans it.
Shame on any "conservative" who condemns Ron-Paul libertarians simply because they disagree with the likes of Gore Vidal, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Isaac Asimov, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other lefties and liberals about the joys of unbridled nationalist authoritarianism -- or even internationalist authoritarianism.
Kirchick uses the "anti-nationalization = pro-slavery" meme to lay a foundation to interpret every other writing attributed to Ron Paul in a way that emphasizes race (tribe) over individualism. I hope all those conservatives who wave this hit piece as a "bloody shirt" against libertarian thought simply don't understand it (but why not?); because they are, in fact, championing "affirmative action" in all its inglory. I would be repulsed if they did so in full knowledge of their apostasy, so I prefer that they know not what they do: Their ignorance is my bliss.
But whether or not Kirchick thinks himself conservative, that is what he is doing. Viz.:
Paul's alliance with neo-Confederates helps explain the views his newsletters have long espoused on race. Take, for instance, a special issue of the Ron Paul Political Report, published in June 1992, dedicated to explaining the Los Angeles riots of that year. "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began," read one typical passage. According to the newsletter, the looting was a natural byproduct of government indulging the black community with "'civil rights,' quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black tv shows, black tv anchors, hate crime laws, and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda."
Setting aside the inflammatory diction, exactly which part of this analysis is now rejected by mainstream conservatism?
This litany is simply a somewhat more aggressive phrasing of what has also been said -- before and since -- by such well-known "racists" as Newt Gingrich, Bob Barr, Bill Bennett, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, and Dinesh D'Souza (e.g., the latter's discussion of the cult of the "bad Negro" in his seminal book the End of Racism).
Kirchick is not utterly consumed by Paul hatred; he does toss the man one bone:
To be fair, the newsletter did praise Asian merchants in Los Angeles, but only because they had the gumption to resist political correctness and fight back. Koreans were "the only people to act like real Americans," it explained, "mainly because they have not yet been assimilated into our rotten liberal culture, which admonishes whites faced by raging blacks to lie back and think of England."
Again, I'd like a show of hands of all conservatives who believe that defending one's own property from rampaging mobs is now a disreputable act. It must be so in Kirchick's mind, because he uses it as the "counterweight" that negates the praise "Ron Paul" seems to heap upon a racial minority at the expense of the white majority. Without such a negation -- sure he did X, but that's only because of Y! -- would otherwise severely undercut the "Ron Paul as racist" meme that Kirchick is developing here.
The only correction I would make -- bear in mind, I was in the middle of the riots, as I lived in the Wilshire District of Los Angeles in 1992; buildings were torched on all sides of my duplex -- is that most of the "raging" rioters were illegally resident, Spanish-speaking immigrants... though a solid 40%+ were unquestionably "raging blacks."
Note, by the way, that the writings to which Kirchick objects (and which he believes paints Paul as a racist) were not published in the sober light of detatched analysis after years of brooding. They date from June, 1992... published a scant month and a half after the explicitly racial riots ended... and likely written a fortnight to a month before then. These newsletters were written in the white heat of passion, with echos of gunfire still reverberating in the night and a pall of smoke from thousands of arson fires still wafting across the Southwest.
I believe a little excess passion can be excused.
Where is the racism that Kirchick so evidently sees (or imagines)? It comes from one simple identification he makes at the beginning, which I believe to be a misidentification: When "Paul" (or whoever ghostwrote the pieces) writes about "blacks," Kirchick clearly believes he means, "People with significant African ancestory." But what I think he really means is, "People who accept and live within the American black culture."
There is a huge difference between these two meaning: The first is immutable; the second can be changed. While you cannot change the color of your skin (except via the Michael Jackson method), you can always change your culture.
Look, white people aren't born as "white people;" they have to learn to be "white" (that is, the majority cultural norm) over many years of growing up. Certainly immigrants have to struggle even harder... and we have a special word that corresponds to this effort: to assimilate. But native-born Americans -- black and white and everything else -- must assimilate just the way foreigners do; they must jettison those personal and family characteristics that hinder their advancement in their chosen world and encourage and inculcate those characteristics that enhance their advancement.
It's impossible to tell from the snippets that Kirchick gives us whether the writer of the newsletter pieces was always careful to refer to black culture; or whether he occasionally slipped up and said something that applied onto to blackness as a race or color issue. Nor would I take Kirchick's word for it, because I have already seen that he'll say anything to dig the knife in deeper. But I have certainly known libertarians who have said similar things; and in those cases, their attacks were meant for the negative aspects of black culture, not skin color. None of those I personally knew applied those same stereotypes to Sowell or Williams or Justice Clarence Thomas, to Ward Connerly or Larry Elder, or even to Alan Keyes.
But look how Kirchick uses such ambiguous phrases for the purpose of painting a very ugly picture in primary colors:
In an October 1992 item about urban crime, the newsletter's author--presumably Paul--wrote, "I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming." That same year, a newsletter described the aftermath of a basketball game in which "blacks poured into the streets of Chicago in celebration. How to celebrate? How else? They broke the windows of stores to loot." The newsletter inveighed against liberals who "want to keep white America from taking action against black crime and welfare," adding, "Jury verdicts, basketball games, and even music are enough to set off black rage, it seems."
Odd; I'm sure I've heard Bill Cosby say much the same thing.
Each of these mini revelations about Ron Paul is designed to play into conservative stereotype of libertarianism as a cover for racism, sexism, homophobia, religious discrimination, and everything else that too many conservatives think is the natural consequence of "godless" libertarianism, which they tend to see as simple libertinism tarted up with a fancy pedigree.
You would think that with all this "racism" going on, Kirchick would be able to fine one, single, unambiguous example of bona-fide racial prejudice. But the most he can offer are a few instances where a Paulite newsletter referred to savage street thugs who happen to be black as "animals" and noting the propensity of many urban dwellers, who happen to be black, to "celebrate" by violence.
You would think; but I haven't seen one. Instead, Kirchick reports with incredulity verging on parody that the "Ron Paul" newsletters predicted a collapse of civilization when South Africa became a "multiracial democracy" (or as a libertarian would see it, yet another socialist, authoritarian state); and in fact, we saw exactly that, with South Africa moving from a net exporter of food to a net importer.
And then Kirchick writes -- as if relating the shocking news that Ron Paul believes in the Tooth Fairy -- that one of the articles warned of a "South African Holocaust."
Kirchick was right; we never saw a South African Holocaust when that country shifted from a de facto colony run by the Boers to a "multiracial democracy" run by Nelson Mandela.
It happened in Zimbabwe instead, as it shifted from a de facto colony run by the heirs of Cecil Rhodes to a monoracial, bloodthirsty dictatorship whose president-for-life, Robert Mugabe, has nearly succeeded in ethnically cleansing all the whites out of what was once Rhodesia... using mass murder and "nationalization" to turn "the breadbasket of Africa" into yet another African basket case. This is supposed to make you shake your head and tsk-tsk about Ron Paul and his groupies and surrogates who actually write the column.
But Kirchick went even farther, trying to hang David Duke from Paul's neck like an albatross. But again, it's a mendacious melange of inuendo and sly wording:
While bashing King, the newsletters had kind words for the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke [But Kirchick cites no "kind words;" only factual analysis]. In a passage titled "The Duke's Victory," a newsletter celebrated Duke's 44 percent showing in the 1990 Louisiana Senate primary. "Duke lost the election," it said, "but he scared the blazes out of the Establishment." In 1991, a newsletter asked, "Is David Duke's new prominence, despite his losing the gubernatorial election, good for anti-big government forces?" The conclusion was that "our priority should be to take the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-crime, anti-welfare loafers, anti-race privilege, anti-foreign meddling message of Duke, and enclose it in a more consistent package of freedom." Duke is now returning the favor, telling me that, while he will not formally endorse any candidate, he has made information about Ron Paul available on his website.
If Kirchick wants us to believe that Ron Paul is an enthusiastic Duke supporter, then riddle me this: Why is Paul dismissing Duke as being insufficiently pro-freedom? Isn't the simpler explanation that Paul liked "the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-crime, anti-welfare loafers, anti-race privilege, anti-foreign meddling message" espoused by David Duke (who was probably lying about what he really believed) -- but that Paul did not like the racism and other anti-freedom positions?
James Kirchick and the New Republic are not content to smear Paul as a racist; he must be discredited with all special interests. So naturally, he must be shown to be homophobic as well. Kirchick spends another pair of interminable paragraphs lambasting Paul for the withering scorn he heaps upon "the gay lobby" (does Kirchick think there isn't one?) and upon gay activists who have transformed AIDS into "a politically protected disease thanks to payola and the influence of the homosexual lobby" (does our intrepid "diarist" imagine AIDS research has no federal funding advantage over, say, research into prostate cancer, adult stem-cells, or allergies?
Each of these areas of medicine has the potential to save more American lives than if we developed a full-blown cure for AIDS tomorrow. But on the other hand, none is considered "sexy;" and none has a guardian angel like AIDS has in ACT-UP, GLAAD, and Queer Nation.
First he came for the blacks, then he came for the gays, and at last he has come for the Jews, as we all knew he would: Ron Paul the Closet Nazi is nothing if not predictable.
By "Jews," of course Kirchick means "Israelis;" and by "obsession with Israel," he means Paul frequently denounces the country that veers between being socialist, when somebody like Shimon Peres is in command, and being welfare-statist, when a Likudnik like Yitzhak Shamir sits in the big chair.
False inference piles upon misunderstood argument, forming towers of paralogical paradox. Each piece of misinformed speculation solidifies into a foundation for a confabulated conclusion.
I hope the Colossus of Kirchick is emerging from the clutter. As I have said many times, it's easy to win an argument when you get to script both sides. Kirchick has mastered the art of cherry-picking (or hairball-picking) a word, a phrase, even a sentence fragment that is ambiguous enough that by judiciously presenting it in the worst possible light... he can make anybody, including Ron Paul, resemble Paul Josef Goebbels. Let me give you another example:
Well, this fellow claims to have spend more than a year trying to prevent a war; but he inadvertently reveals that he thought all along that "insurgent agents" -- whom he doesn't name -- secretly intended to "make war rather than let the nation survive." This seems rather dishonest as a diplomatic effort (and more than a little paranoid, to boot).
But then, he shifts the blame for war to "colored" people, writing quite openly that "this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war." Without even realizing the irony, he wonders aloud how he "should dare to ask a just God's assistance" to rain death and destruction upon innocent people. I think we all know the answer: He should not.
Having gone wholly over to the dark side, the president opines that God Himself conveniently ordained the subjugation of black persons (when that was good for the white economy), then made an abrupt U-turn and suddenly declared evil what He had previously blessed as good when that became the president's new position. What a perfect religious rationalization for political flip-flopping!
Having now declared himself fully justified by God to do whatever he feels like doing ("as God gives us to see the right"), and while acquitting himself of the charge of "malice," for of course he has only the best of intentions, the president is able to countenance the horrific death and destruction he unleashed by making his followers the too-easy promise "to care for... his widow, and his orphan." He forgets to mention that he was the one who created those widows and orphans in the first place.
Thus might James Kirchick analyze Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address.
There is much more in this article, including a hoot of a section on Paul's supposed conspiracy mongering: That is, Paul evidently peaceably assembled with people who espoused "anti-government paranoia that festered among right-wing militia groups during the 1980s and '90s." I'm not sure when conservatives shifted to the FBI's side in the Ruby Ridge incident and to Janet Reno's side at Waco, but the transformation appears to be complete.
At least Paul's "conspiracies" are "shopworn," according to Kirchick -- meaning they're the sort believed in by wackos who imagine the government spies on dissident groups, assaults children and dogs, besieges compounds for the crime of wanting to live apart, and tears screaming children from their loving relatives' arms in order to ship them back to a Soviet-style hellhole in the Caribbean. How droll! Fortunately, not even Kirchick goes so far as to accuse Ron Paul of believing himself the victim of alien abduction or demonic possession; but that's about all I can say in Kirchick's defense: He may submit to the New Republic, but he draws the line at the Weekly World News.
But I think we've all seen enough. I would have to say I gave Kirchick a fairer shake than Kirchick gave Paul; but the former's selective quotation, inuendo, and paralogia convict Kirchick via his own words.
What's worse, he puts people like me in the irritating position of having to defend the indefensible Paul -- not because we like or support him, but simply because we're appalled by the unfairness of the attack... and its broad brush, which might apply to any movement libertarian who ever dared read the evil Murray Rothbard or support the wicked economics of Ludwig von Mises. I haven't felt this dirty since Rudy Giuliani pulled a shabby lawyer's trick to deny John "the Dapper Don" Gotti counsel of his choice (Bruce Cutler, for those with short memories).
But I'm sure it will sell magazines. And I'm sure it will further Kirchick's career. And heck, it's only Ron Paul, the nutty uncle in the attic; who cares if he's libeled?
The conservative blogosphere forgets everything it has ever known or believed about such magazines and such smears: It laps up Kirchick's unctious implications as eagerly as a rat terrier at the River of Lethe.
If this is today's "intellectual" conservatism, you can have it.
Date ►►► January 10, 2008
Operation Phantom Phoenix
Two new joint American-Iraqi operations are currently under way in Iraq: Phantom Phoenix and Iron Harvest. The first is nationwide operation, while Iron Harvest focuses on a new al-Qaeda safe haven that had been developing in Diyala province, created by terrorists who were pushed out of Anbar. According to Bill Roggio of Long War Journal, Coalition forces have "launched a series of feints in Diyala to confuse al Qaeda's leadership."
Coalition forces are meeting less resistance than they expected, according to AP:
The top U.S. commander in northern Iraq said Wednesday a nationwide operation launched against insurgents was meeting less resistance than expected, but that troops would pursue the militants until they were dead or pushed out of the country.
Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling told reporters in Baghdad that in his area of control alone, 24,000 American troops, 50,000 members of the Iraq army and 80,000 Iraqi police were taking part in the offensive against al-Qaida in Iraq....
First, U.S. and Iraqi forces would try to clear areas of insurgents. Then, Iraqi police would move in to establish some semblance of law and order. Finally, Hertling said, the so-called "Awakening Groups" or "Concerned Local Citizens" -- mostly Sunni fighters who have joined the Americans in the battle against al-Qaida - would be relied upon to maintain stability after troops move out of areas....
Hertling said his troops had killed 20-30 insurgents so far.
Unfortunately, the reason for the light resistance appears to be that the operation was blown, and many of the insurgents fled north to avoid it. Information tends to escape the Iraqi forces. From the Long War Journal post on Iron Harvest:
Both Iron Harvest and Phantom Phoenix "are seeing less resistance than expected," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "There are expectations that the decrease in resistance can be due to leaks in the [Iraqi security forces] or extremists might have seen an increase in helicopters in their areas prior to the operation."
And from AP:
Hertling said reports that insurgents in Diyala had fled north just before Phantom Phoenix began were probably accurate, a reason troops have met relatively little resistance so far. He also said the insurgen[cy] probably learned of the military's plans in advance.
"Operational security in Iraq is a problem," he said, noting that the Iraqi army uses unsecured cell phones and radios. "I'm sure there is active leaking of communication. That is why we have to keep a tight line on operational security."
It appears that "a tight line" now includes keeping Iraq security forces out of the loop of specific attacks until just before they launch.
I do not understand why Iraqis or anyone else would use unsecured phone lines, given how easily those are intercepted (which should be common knowledge by now). However, communications security is always a number-one concern for any military. Remember, "loose lips sink ships!"
(My father, who handled confidential information all his life as an attorney, is particulary tired of the Japanese media's (or US, for that matter) complete disregard for national security. He even accuses me of talking too much about my work. "'Unclass' does not mean you can disclose to public. It should still be 'need to know basis.'" He is correct about the last, of course; but everything we discuss here at Big Lizards is already disseminated to the public. We never post confidential, classified, or even sensitive information here.)
Unlike the pre-Petrateus days, our counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) requires our troops to remain in the area once we secure it; so once we expel the terrorists -- or even if they flee northward after picking up intel from blabbermouths in the Iraqi Army -- they will never be able to come back. Rremember what happened to Sadr when he fled back to Iran? A few weeks of exile has turned permanent... at least permanent exile from command of any militia units.
It's not necessarily a bad thing that the terrorists fled. With every such retreat, they have fewer and fewer places to go; and eventually, they will run out of options. Bill Roggio reports:
Al Qaeda's attempt to establish a new base of operation in the Mosul region is believed to have been blunted. Yet a series of bombings against Christian churches in the region are believed to be an attempt to stir up sectarian violence in the area, a senior military intelligence officer told The Long War Journal. Al Qaeda has also attempted to increase sectarian violence in the flashpoint city of Kirkuk, where Arab and Kurdish groups are vying for political power in the oil-rich city.
The Samarra region may also be a focal point of Operation Phantom Phoenix. The Samarra-Tarmiyah region is believed to be a command and control node for al Qaeda in Iraq’s central leadership. Multiple media cells and senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders have been killed or captured in the region, including Abu Abdullah, a regional emir.
Phantom Phoenix may also target the Iranian-backed Special Groups, the Shia terror cells targeting Coalition and Iraqi security forces, Iraqi political leaders, and civilians.
Then can always run away; but unlike the prodigal son, they can't slink home again and expect their former victims to fall on their necks and kill the fatted calf for them. [If they do fall on their necks, it will probably be with scimitars...! -- Dafydd]
Date ►►► January 9, 2008
Michigan Will Be - Ah - Interesting
Let's start with (you'll pardon the obscene language) the polling...
At the moment, the RCP average for MI has Mitt Romney up over John McCain by 0.8%, over Mike Huckabee by 1.3%, over Rudy Giuliani by 10.0%, and over Rip Van Thompson by 15.0%. In other words, the top three candidates are tied.
That includes polls from December; however, even if we only look at polls this year, the top three are just as tight: McCain at 23.5, Romney at 21.0, and Huckabee at 20.5. The span from top to bottom is still within the margin of error.
Now for the structural dilemma: Michigan is one of those states that has an open primary: I believe any voter, no matter what his party affiliation, can request the ballot for any party's race. In other words, not just Independents but also (I think) Democrats could, if they wished, vote in the Republican primary in Michigan.
At the same time, both Barack Obama and John Edwards (not to mention Joe Biden and Bill Richardson -- who Drudge is reporting has just dropped out) withdrew from the Michigan primary last year and were thwarted in their attempts to get back on the ballot. Thus, the only top-tier Democrat in the Michigan race is Hillary Clinton.
Because the Democratic race is a foregone conclusion (and is worth exactly zero delegates anyway, since the DNC chose to strip the state), it's entirely possible that an angry mob of pitchfork-brandishing Democrats will join the bored mob of frozen cherry-pie wielding Independents and vote in the GOP primary, just to make mischief.
But on the third hand, John McCain is not the immortal beloved of Indies in Michigan that he is in New Hampshire; so it's not clear who this potential spoil of lefties will support: If they imagine that John McCain would be the tougher Republican to beat (because he would draw more non-Republicans than other candidates), they might pour their support into his chief rival, Mitt Romney. Or into the coffers of Huckabee, reasoning that a religious zealot like him can't possibly win.
But on the fourth hand, even if McCain or Huckabee wins Michigan on the strength of non-Republican voters, that doesn't really tell us much about the future... since in the mega-states (California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio), none is an open-primary state, I believe. In the others, you have to be a registered Republican to vote in the Republican primary (which is as it ought to be, forever and ever, amen).
A more appropriate metric for predicting the rest of the race is to look at who wins the Michigan race among Republican voters only... particularly since the RNC cut Michigan's GOP delegate count in half, so it doesn't make that big a contribution to the overall total.
On the fifth hand (is this a centipede?), Michigan is undergoing a "one-state recession;" and in New Hampshire, McCain won fairly strongly among those who were worried about the economy, while Romney did better among those who were not worried.
On the sixth hand (I think it's a millipede), Mike Huckabee would be cutting into this same group of hardscrabble voters; if he and McCain split it, that would be good for Romney.
On the seventh hand, if Romney doesn't win in Michigan, then most likely, one of the other two top candidates will have two wins, and might vault into the lead in delegates.
And having reached the seventh hand of the seventh voter, we may as well stop here... with the conclusion that Michigan will be -- as stated -- interesting.
Oddities and Entities of the New Hampshire Primaries...
The night of the New Hampshire primary election, CNN did something I haven't seen before: It released all its exit polling data in a slick, easy-to-read format. This gives us a fairly unprecedented glimpse into the mad world of presidential primary elections.
Exit the Republicans...
Let's start with the Republican exit polling. Here are some interesting tidbits gleaned from the (longish) whole...
- First, John McCain won both sexes and all age groups among Republicans -- except those 65 and older. Go figure.
- McCain won the votes (narrowly) of those who think debates are "very important" and those who think debates are "not too important;" but Mitt Romney won the votes (even narrowerly) of those who think debates are "somewhat important." Yeesh.
I find this datum particularly damning: Romney won the votes of those who are "enthusiastic," those who are "satisfied," and in a different question, those who have a "positive" view of the Bush administration. Contrariwise, McCain won the votes of those whose reaction to President Bush is "dissatisfied," "angry," or "negative."
Evidently, the elite media is still doing a bang-up job recruiting for the McCain campaign by telling the country Bush is the worst president in all of American history.
- McCain won the votes of those who think the next president should "continue" the Bush policies... and the votes of those who think the next president should be "less conservative" than Bush; Romney, of course, won the votes of those who think the next president should be "more conservative" than Bush. I think Hugh Hewitt might have something in his oft-repeated claim that McCain would take the country in a more liberal direction than Romney.
- If you're worried about the economy, you're a McCainiac; if you're not, you're a Romnoid.
- Here's a real head-scratcher: Despite McCain's deserved identification with the Iraq war (as the only candidate to advocate we switch to a counterinsurgency strategy, even back in 2006), Romney gets a huge nod (almost 2-1) from those who "strongly approve" of the "U.S. war in Iraq;" but McCain gets those who "somewhat approve," "somewhat disapprove," and "strongly disapprove." Explain that one, if you dare...!
- And finally, this is my very favorite: Mitt Romney wins among those respondents who say they "strongly favor" their candidate; but John McCain wins among those people who say they have "reservations" about their candidate!
Exit the Democrats...
Now let's spin down to the Democratic exit polls. There really are only a couple of fascinating bits here, but they're whoppers:
- Those Democratic voters who want us out of the war immediately -- went very strongly for Hillary Clinton, the gal who still talks about leaving a substantial portion of the troops in Iraq; those voters who want any withdrawal to be gradual, and those who want U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, both went for Barack Obama... the guy who talks about an immediate withdrawal. Do Democratic voters know something about these two candidates that eludes those of us on the right?
- The second funky question is this: If Bill Clinton could run again, would you rather vote for him, or for your own candidate? Among Obama supporters, 47% would vote for Obama anyway, while a scant 24% are pining away for Bill. But for Hillary supporters, only 27% would still vote for her, while a hilarious 58% say they would rather vote for Bill than Hill!
Isn't it amazing the things one can discover peeping through keyholes?
Sneak and Peek
[After a scant two and a half years of persuasion (the strappado was found most efficacious), we have finally prevailed upon our older half to begin contributing to Big Lizards. What follows is the first lizardly blogpost by Brad Linaweaver, famous in three counties (and wanted in four) for his efforts to shine a light on Der Krapp of low-budget movies; for his bootless quest to convince us that our nights are lit by a Moon of Ice; for his unrelenting attacks on the hated neocons in Post-Nationalism; for a tetralogy of Doomed books he co-wrote with some other jerk; and for putting the "tine" back in "libertarian." Without further vamping...]
Although I started out supporting the Iraq war and turned against it in 2006, I have never turned against the thin red line of heroes without whom America is doomed. As Dafydd knows, my criticisms of the Iraq policy are based on Old Right libertarian analysis. But that doesn't prevent me from honoring the achievement of General Petraeus in what came to be known as the surge. The General was given a specific military task to perform which he did splendidly. When Moveon.org decided to make fun of this officer with childish attacks on his name and an inability to separate short term military success from long term political hopes, the dumbass American Left hurt their own anti-war effort. Incredible!
This foolish attitude permeates the current films on Iraq. Talk radio and Fox News fail to understand the real problem. These films are not so much anti-Bush or pro-terrorist as they are actually anti-soldier. We are discussing the absolute worst heritage of the American New Left.
Today's Right does not fight this problem to my satisfaction, because they are too busy defending the President or criticizing the enemy. Our culture is in deep nonsense if we condemn those who volunteer to do military service in this dangerous world, or any other dangerous world we might inhabit. We will not have to live under Bush forever. The current enemy is not eternal, believe it or not. But soldiers will always be needed in any conceivable real world.
I'm not going to be a regular contributor to Big Lizards, but I've been reading it all these years, and I'd like to be an irregular contributor; so let me start off 2008 by wishing everyone a Happy New Year and honoring Sachi in her current service to our country.
[Nota bene: Brad is well aware of this; but just in case some readers are not, I hasten to point out that Sachi is a civilian employee of the United States Navy; she is often found asea -- I mean that literally, not psychologically! -- testing freedom's most advanced weaponry. -- the Mgt.]
Date ►►► January 8, 2008
New Hampshire: Hillary Pulls Huge Upset; McCain Does Predictably
Well, another state has passed into the rear-view mirror in our breakneck drag race through the abbreviated primary season. New Hampshire is now irrelevant once more.
On the Republican side, the night started out looking like John McCain was going to swamp Mitt Romney, crushing him like a grape beneath an elephant's foot. But in the end, it appears that a later swing to Romney left the race at just about what the pollsters had predicted: McCain won by 5%, slightly more than the 3.8% predicted on today's RCP average, according to CNN with 90%+ of the precincts reporting.
The more-or-less total count (here is CNN's primary page) has McCain up 37% to Romney's 32%.
But there is no question that on the Democratic side, the pollsters were utterly flummoxed: There was no huge wave of young voters for Barack Obama; Hillary Clinton was not buried; and female voters returned to the Red Queen -- who also won among Democrats. Most specifically, although there were more Independents among Democratic voters than Republican -- 40% among Dem, 33% among GOP -- Obama's edge among Indies was obviously not sufficient to overcome his deficit among Democrats.
Hillary was supposed to lose to Obama by 8.3%; instead, she won by about 2%, meaning the pollsters were off by upwards of 10%. That's seriously mistaken, implying a completely incorrect turnout model.
Three first impressions:
It appears that a lot more Independent voters chose to vote in the GOP race than were expected; this would explain McCain coming in slightly higher than the polls reported today, but right on the polls of yesterday: If the Independents had been only 28% of the Republican numbers instead of 33% (AP says they accounted for "about a third of Republican ballots"), the race would have ended up almost exactly where the RCP average predicted: McCain ahead by 3.8%.
But 5% more Independents in the Democratic race wouldn't, by itself, have given Obama the 6- to 10-point victory that virtually all pollsters predicted. Thus, Obama must have gotten a smaller percentage of those Independents -- and possibly a smaller percentage of Democrats -- than were showing up in the polls, as well. (Sachi suggested that Hillary's crying jag must have worked. Say, maybe she'll cry before every primary from now on!)
- The Democrats still have somewhat of an advantage in terms of total votes cast: 258,600 to 213,400 for the Republicans. I don't know how this translates into the general election, since Independents are gaming the system.
Among Republicans, immigration was the metric: Those who favor deporting illegals by and large voted for Romney; those who favor a path to citizenship mostly voted for McCain (I know you're shocked to hear that....)
Among those voting Republican who named immigration as one of the nation's top issues, Romney was the big winner (which bodes well for the border states); among those who picked the economy or Iraq but not immigration, McCain did very well (which probably bodes well for big eastern states, though McCain will have to fight through Rudy Giuliani on that front).
Bottom line: The pollsters did pretty well on the Republican side but completely missed the boat among Democrats. Make of that what you will.
Barack, Check Your Brakes
It will take more than a defeat in Iowa and New Hampshire to capsize the Clinton candidacy. It may take a wooden stake and a truckload of garlic. Meanwhile, my advice to Obama is: check your brakes. Don’t eat anything from sources you can’t vouch for. Avoid balconies. Watch the movie the Omen for other ways that you might come to grief.
I’m not one of those cynics who believes that Hillary Clinton was crying crocodile tears earlier this week in reaction to her loss in Iowa. Bill was the one who could always manufacture tears on command. She was crying, all right -- and genuinely. For herself. She has lived so very long with the strongly held conviction that she is owed the presidency, that it’s her turn and no doubt believes that no one else is capable of carrying out the liberal agenda.
Asked to comment about her tears, Mrs. Clinton said: "I care about what is going on in peoples' lives. That's how I got involved in this kind of work. That's what I think a president should be concerned about. And there's a lot of concern and worry and just people hoping and praying that their problems are gonna be solved."
That’s why Mrs. Clinton is so annoying to people like me. I don’t think government is here to "solve my problems." Nor capable of it. I don’t want Mrs. Clinton to be interested in my life. Government generally causes more problems than it fixes. But Mrs. Clinton is the eternal nanny who is constantly seeking to "improve everyone." Which is kind of rich considering that she comes from one of the most dysfunctional marriages in history! Fix yourself, I say!
Correction: I was incorrect last week when I wrote that no minister has ever been elected president. James Garfield, 20th president, was, among other things, a minister.
Date ►►► January 7, 2008
The Red Queen's Race - UPDATED
UPDATE: See below in Michigan and Florida sections.
I have already made a prediction (pre-Iowa) that Mitt Romney would beat John McCain in the New Hampshire primary. While that prediction looks awfully shaky recently (McCain has a 4.8-point lead in the RCP average of polls), I'm not prepared to withdraw it; I hang my hat, however precariously, on the Rasmussen rolling poll that shows McCain with only a scant, one-point lead: If the angry senator from Arizona loses just a little more of his beloved independents to the Obamawagon, Romney can still pull this one out. Maybe.
But I will make a very confident prediction on the other side: Hillary Clinton is going to lose New Hampshire to Barack Obama... "big time," as a certain beefy veep might say.
The same pollsters who tell us that Romney has a tough election tomorrow say that the Obama-Hillary steel-cage deathmatch is going to be a blowout: Obama leads by 7.7% in the RCP average; and Rasmussen in particular has him up by 10%.
Assuming I'm right, what will this do to the Red Queen's race in subsequent primaries? Just glancing at the currently showing polls, a naive observer would be tempted to say that it's still a shoe-in for Hillary Clinton, that she's a lock for the nomination. But let's look a little closer at where things stand right now...
Michigan, January 15th: Hillary is way up; but the last polling was conducted on November 13th! For the entire month of November, Hillary led in New Hampshire by an average of 11.7%; in the first half of November, she led by a whopping 13%. Now she's running 7.7% behind in that state... clearly, there has been significant movement towards Obama... does it apply in Michigan, too?
If Obama has risen by the same 20.7% in Michigan as he did in New Hampshire, then right now we might be staring at a slim Hillary lead of 2-3% in the Wolverine State. But have we any evidence to conclude thus?
UPDATE: The argument here is sound, but the polling actually makes no difference; I hadn't recalled, until commenter Watchman reminded me, that Hillary Clinton is the only top-tier Democrat on the ballot in Michigan. The other two, Barack Obama and John Edwards, along with second-tier candidates Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, pulled out of the Michigan race in October during the dispute about Michigan moving up its primary.
That means that Michigan is a "break even-lose" race for Hillary: There is no upside, only a downside if she gets less than 80%-90% of the vote. She can't even say she drove Obama and Edwards out of the race, because they left over a matter of principle. (A silly principle, but one that supporters can nevertheless respect.)
In addition, the DNC voted to strip Michigan of all of its delegates on December 1st, 2007, for the same reason that the candidates pulled out. (They similarly stripped Florida of its delegates a few months earlier.)
Thus, Michigan has become a complete non-entity in the 2008 Democratic primary race.
- Nevada, January 19th: She was way up in early December, but who cares? It's only 25 delegates and has all the psychological impact that the Wyoming primary did. Besides, it has the same problem as Michigan: We haven't seen any polls in more than a month.
South Carolina, January 26th: Obama is all over everyone here in 2008 polling, but the flip in the polls occurred about mid-December; before that, it was the Red Queen, brandishing her inevitability and crying "off with their heads!"
This is good evidence of when Obama began to rise: In those states where we have continuous polling, Obama was behind until somewhere between the beginning of December and mid-December... then he takes control. This pattern applies not only in the states with heavy scrutiny, like Iowa and New Hampshire, but also in relatively obscure primary states, such as South Carolina; this gives us some confidence to conclude that the same pattern has likely happened in those states where there is not continuous polling, and we can't check directly.
Florida, January 29th: Big state. Big Clinton lead... as of December 18th; but that was already dropping. The same four polls had her up by a mean average of 30.3% in their last versions; by the 18th, the average was down to 24.8%, a 5.5% rise by Obama over the space of two weeks to a month. And that was then; this is now.
I suspect that if polls were conducted today, Hillary's lead in Florida too would have shrunk to a tiny speed bump -- or perhaps melted utterly, like butter on a Daytona blacktop in August.
UPDATE: Recall that neither Hillary, Obama, nor Edwards has been campaigning in Florida; all three pledged to boycott the state when it, too, moved its primary into January... and when it, too, was stripped of its delegates (on the GOP side, the RNC cut the delegate-count in half for the same reason). This may account for the lack of polling in Florida, since nobody is campaigning there -- yet.
I suspect that one of the Dems (I won't say who) will break the logjam, violate her pledge, and start campaigning in Florida without much in the way of explanation or apology. And when she does, the fact that she was first will hurt her campaign even more... and will draw the other candidates into the state with a vengeance.
- California and New Jersey, February 5th "Über-Tuesday," as Rich Galen calls it: Again, no polling since the beginning of December. 'Nuff said.
Right now -- though the word "now" is a bit problematical, considering the geological age of most of this polling -- the race still seems the Red Queen's to lose. But all of this is prologue, because once she loses the New Hampshire primary, everything changes: She will have been spanked in Iowa (third place!) and immediately thumped in NH. She'll start to have that glassy-eyed, second-tier stare; and all the crying jags in the world won't make her seem any more inevitable.
Mitt Romney can survive a second-place finish in New Hampshire, I believe; he has never, ever, ever been thought of as inevitable or a shoe-in or even the national front-runner in the race -- as Giuliani, McCain, and now Huckabee have all been.
Romney has the money to dig in and fight hard all the way to the convention, if he chooses to do so. And in any event, he is associated with a number of policy proposals and the experience of having been the governor of a state that, while not very big (13th by population), still looms large in the history of the nation.
Hillary has none of that... including, possibly, money: Joe Trippi says that the Hillary Clinton campaign is either broke already or rapidly heading there.
Now, take that with a couple of fistfuls of salt; Trippi is a senior advisor to John Edwards and has a vested interest in saying nasty things about Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham. This is clearly spin; but just because a claim is spin doesn't necessarily mean it's false.
In any event, money or none, Hillary has no particularly interesting policy proposals (other than "party like it's 1999 -- again"); she has never been in charge of anything except HillaryCare; and her brief tenure in the Senate has been about as anonymous as possible in that body of raw ego. Her only claim to fame is that she is clutching the coattails of the last Democratic president. Thus, if she gets a scarlet L branded on her forehead (for loser, I mean; not for liberal, which we already knew), there really is no way to recover and resuscitate her campaign... as John McCain did after his own was legally declared dead a few months ago.
After tomorrow -- regardless of whether there is an unexpected turnaround in "the eleventh hour of the eleventh minute of the eleventh day" that leaves the Red Queen sitting on the throne, cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West Wing -- when there will be a new round of polling in all the upcoming races, we'll get to see just how much electoral hemorrhaging has actually occurred in Hillary's "insurmountable" lead.
I suspect we'll need a bucket and a mop.
I have suddenly realized something sad about Michael Medved: He never was pro-Huckabee, as he appeared; I doubt he is now really pro-John McCain. What he has always been in reality... is an "Anybody But Romney" fanatic.
I now think he supported and defended Mike Huckabee only because Huckabee was Romney's chief rival in Iowa; and today, Medved has become John McCain's biggest fan only because McCain is Romney's chief rival in New Hampshire. What's sad is that there really is nothing in Romney's background, proposals, or current demeanor that would justify such desperate opposition, except for the one possibility that I prefer not to think (but am starting to be driven to wonder about): religion.
I certainly hope that's not what's driving Medved, but I have a hard time understanding his animosity otherwise. (It can't be Romney's so-called "flip flopping" for reasons discussed below. Of all people in the world, Michael Medved should be the last to object to a candidate making "right turns.")
What really convinced me was a caller to Medved's show today, and the host's non-response to the caller's challenge. Medved had gleefully noted that during one of the debates over the weekend (I think the Saturday debate on ABC), Romney said that his ads did not refer to the McCain's immigration bill as "amnesty." But during a talk-show appearance the next day, the host (Medved mentioned the name, but I've forgotten) played Romney's current ad -- which repeatedly referred to the bill as amnesty.
Medved has a point: Whether you think the bill was amnesty, as do most conservatives, or think it was actually more like a plea bargain (as I do), Mitt Romney was either lying, or he was irresponsibly endorsing commercials that he had not, in fact, seen.
But then Michael Medved took a call from a caller who offered a great "challenge": John McCain has repeatedly said that he does not now support, and never has supported, amnesty for illegal aliens. Yet a quotation surfaced last July, found and reported by Politico (hat tip to Patterico's Pontifications):
“Amnesty” now is a political dirty word – the favorite slur of the bill’s opponents. But it was not always thus. The Googling monkeys discovered that McCain himself embraced the term during a news conference a few years ago in his office in Tucson, Ariz. “McCain Pushes Amnesty, Guest-Worker Program,” reported the Tucson Citizen of May 29, 2003. The senator is quoted as saying: “Amnesty has to be an important part because there are people who have lived in this country for 20, 30 or 40 years, who have raised children here and pay taxes here and are not citizens. That has to be a component of it.” The newspaper also quoted McCain as saying: “I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people who are eligible and at the same time make sure that we have some control over people who come in and out of this country.”
From here on, what follows is an approximation of what the caller and Michael Medved said... a "squortation," my portmanteau neologism for "squirmy quotation," since I don't have a transcript. Therefore, I'm not putting anything I don't explicitly remember into "quotation marks;" I'll use 'single-quotes' instead:
'Well?' asked the caller; 'If you're going to call Romney a liar for saying he didn't call the McCain-Kennedy bill amnesty when he did -- shouldn't you also call McCain a liar for saying he never supported amnesty... when he did support it, explicitly, as recently as 2003?'
The caller even cited some talking head who read that quotation to McCain over the weekend during an interview. Yet later that same day, McCain repeated his claim that he had "never supported amnesty."
After some fumbling around, Medved finally responded thus: 'McCain's bill wasn't amnesty.'
The caller pointed out the irrelevancy of that response, which parrots what McCain says (today): 'It makes no difference whether you think the bill was or was not amnesty; what matters is that McCain explicitly supported amnesty in 2003, by name, and now says that he never supported amnesty. And said it after having been confronted with the very quotation. Isn't that just as big a lie as anything Romney has said?'
Medved: 'The immigration bill was not amnesty. I don't know why people keep saying it was!'
Medved then went on to say that this "lie" (note the actual quotation marks now), coupled with "Romney's repeated flip-flops," should probably sink the "plastic" Romney's candidacy.
Repeated flip-flops? Coming from a guy who, by his own admission (in writing!), used to be a leftist, anti-war radical and now calls himself a right-wing conservative, this is a bit thick.
If merely changing one's mind constitutes "flip-flopping," then does Medved consider himself a serial flip-flopper too? In my opinion, to be a "flip-flopper," you have to move from A to B and then back to A on some major issue of principle, shifting back and forth with every passing wind, like a weathercock.
Simply moving one time from A to B is not flip-flopping: It's evolving. It may be evolving in a conservative direction (like Mitt Romney) or a liberal one (like, say, David Brock); but it's not a John Kerry-esque flip-flop.
I've come to the reluctant conclusion that today, Medved simply will say anything to promote McCain over Romney in the New Hampshire primary. But wait; didn't he used to be willing to say anything to promote Huckabee over Romney in the Iowa caucuses?
What is the common theme here?
I find I haven't really been listening to Medved much lately; I'm put-off by his rudderless animosity and snideness towards any caller who supports Mitt Romney: Every pro-Romney argument is instantly dubbed a "Romney talking point," as if the caller must be receiving orders e-mailed from the former governor's campaign headquarters. I only tuned in today because I wasn't doing anything else at that moment. And lo! Within minutes, there he was, attacking Mitt Romney again... but this time not on behalf of Mike Huckabee, who has no chance in New Hampshire, but on behalf of John McCain, the only man with a good shot at stopping Romney.
I used to like Medved. I thought he had interesting things to say, a different perspective from the Christians who dominate talk-radio and even from his coreligionist, Dennis Prager. But recently, Michael Medved has become a crashing bore. I don't think I'll be listening to him in future.
Honestly, I think it a sad day when the Republican coalition turns on itself like a pack of cannibals... when a once-interesting conservative engages in a kind of self-immolation to stop Mitt Romney at any cost. It reminds me inescapably of the career sacrifice that comedian Mort Sahl committed in his efforts to destroy Richard Nixon; or more recently, what Al Franken and Garrison Keillor have done to their careers in order to stop Republicans generally.
It's the kind of thing I associate only with Democrats and sordid leftists; it troubles me that conservative Republicans (rather, neo-conservatives -- in the original sense -- like Michael Medved) are now aping the self-destructive strategies of their New Left counterparts.
Nix On "Negative" Nomenclature
Am I the only person whose bones boil whenever he hears every "compare and contrast" ad lumped together with character-assassinating hit pieces under the all-purpose pejorative of "negative campaigning?"
I declare a temporary ban on the use of that phrase. Thwart me at peril to your immortal soul. In the meantime, here is a quick primer on negativity:
- If Mitt Romney puts up an add accusing John McCain of authoring a bill to grant "amnesty" to illegal aliens, rejecting the Bush tax cuts, and killing the nominations of several conservative circus-court nominees via McCain's "Gang of Fourteen," that is a perfectly legitimate issues ad.
- If McCain responds with an ad calling Romney "untrustworthy" and a "liar," that is a petulant and scurrilous personal-attack ad.
The latter is never justified by the former, unless the so-called "victim" of the first ad (McCain in this case) can show that his opponent's ad really was misleading to the point of being a lie; not just by the ever-fluid definition of John Sidney McCain III, but by the ordinary dictionary definition as well.
But to the elite media, which this year wants the GOP nominee to be Mike Huckabee or John McCain (and which always wants a vicious civil war among Republicans), any ad that looks critically at any issue belonging to either of the two favored candidates -- when coming from one of the disfavored ones -- is functionally identical to personal excoriation of the sort that a hundred years ago would require my friends to pay a visit upon your friends: Saying McCain struck a great blow against freedom of speech with McCain-Feingold is, to the elites, ethically the same as saying "McCain does Girl Scouts."
So how does the drive-by media -- itself interested only in snippets of sound to bitch-slap the Right -- expect mere mortal voters to make up their minds about the vote? If not from a candidate's rivals, then how?
Do they imagine we can rely upon each candidate to tell us where he falls short, when he stepped off the path of ideological righteousness, and why he says one thing while doing another? Or do the media think there is another electoral entity, one perched far above the madding campaigns, who will remind us what each candidate did that he now wishes undone? (Yes, of course they do: themselves!)
I want to see "negative" issue ads. I want to hear from Romney what McCain did, and from Huckabee what Romney said. When Gaylord Parkinson, Chairman of the California Republican Party in 1966, enunciated his Eleventh Commandment -- Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican -- he said nothing about his fellow Republican's cockamamie proposals, bills, and resolutions. Those are, and have always been, fair game in a campaign. Heck, primaries have to run on some kind of fuel besides hot air.
I also want to see positive issue ads: I want to know what are the candidate's priorities, what he proposes, and what grand vision superglues his propositions seamlessly together. Both positive and negative approaches have their validity, so long as we don't transmaugrify disagreement into demonization.
The only time it's appropriate to attack a candidate's character -- is when that character is so toxic and villainous that even electing a Democrat is preferable... such as the 1991 gubernatorial election in Louisiana.
The Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, placed second in the open primary when many voters cast "protest votes" against incumbent Republican Gov. Buddy Roemer. This put Duke into the runoff with the Democrat, Edwin Edwards... and the Louisiana Republican Party actually endorsed Edwards, the Democrat, for governor.
So yes, Sen. McCain... you are welcome to attack the character of your opponent in an election; but only if you can make the case, with a straight face, that he's as evil as David Duke. If not, then shut your pie-hole and stick to the issues.
And in the meantime, Ms. CNN newsreader, Mr. Times Square traducer, Mr. Boston Globe brahmin... see if you can wrap your "multiple layers of editing" around the distinction between examination and extermination.
Date ►►► January 6, 2008
Wait - Watch Which Watcher, Wretch?
Would you believe it? We're still not caught up. Once again, this is last week's Council decision; we still hope to get to this week's decision later tonight.
(Yeesh, this is like trying to pay off credit cards...)
The only thing as good as winning a Watcher's Council contest -- is seeing your number one and two votes come in -- numbers one and two:
- Judeo-Christian Doctrine and Moral Freedom, by Bookworm Room.
Bookworm makes the case that Islamism has a very important similarity to Leftism: "[N]either believes in free will or in man’s ability to make moral decisions independent of his immediate circumstances."
This was our first choice in the Council vote, as noted; here was our second -- which came in second:
- Ron Paul, by Done With Mirrors.
See if you can guess what this post is about. I'll wait.
Figured it out, have you? Well, I thought it one of the most erudite takedowns I've ever seen of the pompous, morally preening, far-above-the-fray (in fact, far above the mortal plane) candidate for the Libertublican Party.
We didn't do quite as well in the Nouncil category: Our number two took number two, but our number one was down in the pack. The winner was a nice defense of fear itself as a motivator to fight (and it includes a rant against Paul Krugman, everybody's favorite economist... where "everybody" means the collection of all anybodies who see no connection between economics and the free market):
- Fear, by Silver Bullet.
Ron Silver -- yes, the newly conservative (he would say "revolutionary liberal") actor guy from the West Wing -- writes that a certain level of fear about guys in caves declaring war on the United States is healthy... because it encourages us to take seriously guys in caves declaring war on the United States. (Had we a little more fear in the 1990s, we might have solved the al-Qaeda problem before it metastasized.)
I liked the Silver piece, but we voted for a couple others that were excellent as well:
In the first, Jennifer Rubin runs down a list of the Democrats' accomplishments last year... and a more run-down lot you'll never find. And in "Laughter and Tears," Francis W. Porretto ("Fran") gives us his last column for a while. He's a fellow author (though I'll bet he's published more recently than I!), and he has to take a blogbreak to finish some book he has under contract. (Something about an irate publisher with a 55-gallon drum of white-out...)
Fran runs through some of what has been making him so angry and tired recently, a series of events that revolve around the issue of power: the power sought by a few to rule over the many. It's well worth reading... and it reminds me somewhat of another author, far better known than I -- and, I suspect, than Francis Porretto: Harlan Ellison.
I wonder if Fran has been noshing on some of Harlan's "angry candy?"
Yeah, yeah; I know: Full results. Here. Now.
Date ►►► January 4, 2008
Killing Us With Kindness to the Unkind, Decency to the Indecent
A "shibboleth" is a word used as a test: The pronunciation determines whether one is an "insider" or "outsider" (part of the tribe or a spy from some other tribe). More generally, it can mean a phrase or even a custom whose precise execution tells us to which tribe the actor belongs.
In this case, here is the shibboleth I'm thinking of, from an AP story on a death-penalty case before the U.S. Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether a state can execute someone convicted of raping a child, one of the few remaining crimes that does not require the death of the victim to result in capital punishment.
Patrick Kennedy, 43, was sentenced to death for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter in Louisiana. He is one of two people in the United States, both in Louisiana, who have been condemned to death for a rape that was not also accompanied by a killing.
The Supreme Court banned executions for rape in 1977 in a case in which the victim was an adult woman.
Kennedy's lawyers say the death penalty for child rape violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
In my tribe, "cruel and unusual" evidently means something very different than it does to defense lawyers... or at least different from what they argue (I don't care what they believe in their heart of hearts; they are attempting to enshrine into common law the idea that nothing, nothing, nothing can legitimately draw a sentence of death but cold-blooded murder with special circumstances; many even argue against that).
Who composes the other tribe, those who fight every death sentence? Well, some members are simply anti-punishment; these are the ones who agitate not only for the abolition of the death penalty but also to reduce all sentences for all crimes.
Other members are simply driven mad with fear that an innocent person might be wrongly executed by accident (or maliciousness). In fact, I'm certain that many already have been: In this country alone, we have had capital punishment since -- well, since this country sprang into existence. And for much of our history, many locales were none too scrupulous about whom they punished, even via the ultimate sanction. *
For both groups, we note many bizarre customs that differ, I believe, from the tribe to which most Americans belong:
- In their tribe, the pain that might be felt for a few moments by those being executed by lethal injection is more important than the pain that will be felt for the rest of the lives of the victims or their families.
- In their tribe, you cannot execute a serial killer, because he is by definition suffering from a mental illness; you cannot execute a stupid killer, because he is by definition mentally retarded; you cannot execute a 17 year old killer, because he is by definition a "child" with no well-formed sense of right and wrong... nor a 19 year old killer because he was (by definition) a "child" when he killed.
- In their tribe, no appeal from a death sentence is ever the "final appeal."
- In their tribe, capital punishment may be constitutional -- but every possible method of carrying it out is unconstitutional.
- And in their tribe, the "right" of a raper of children to kindness and decency is of more weight than the horrific, lifelong trauma he inflicts on his victims... which might be alleviated by the knowledge that he paid the ultimate penalty for his depraved indifference to human life.
I have said for years (and gotten in trouble for saying it) that I agree with the liberals on one point: All human life has value; but sometimes, that value is a negative number. I don't restrict that condemnation only to serial killers and cannibals; I apply it to any person who has that "depraved indifference" to the lives of other human beings, and who criminally uses them as his playthings. I think it especially apt for those who hurt the most vulnerable among us -- children -- simply for the criminal's own sick pleasure. And I, personally, would execute every one of such vile, amoral subhumans.
If you kill a person who doesn't need killing (as determined by a court), you should have no guaranteed that you will get to keep your own life. (On the other hand, I have a fairly generous definition of which persons might "need killing.") Similarly, no rapist who steals the life and innocence of a child, even if he leaves the child alive, should receive any guarantee of being allowed to live. And the same for those who commit treason: No guarantees, no "right to life."
The death penalty should never be mandated; that's an invitation to kill all the witnesses, as well as (obviously) the victim himself. There should be discretion allowed the judge for tough cases, such as when a person overreacts in a tense situation and kills an innocent... or even a criminal, but one who is not egregious enough to "need killing."
For example, a father who premeditatedly kills a 20-something year old sleazebag for having "consensual" sex with the father's 14 year old daughter should not be executed; a life sentence, or even a long term short of life, would be more reasonable. (I put "consensual" in quotes because legally, a minor cannot consent to sex; but there is a huge difference between statutory and forcible rape, in my opinion.) Same with a neighbor who burns down an occupied crack house that has been selling drugs to local children.
I don't believe in "zero tolerance" laws, and I would not demand death in every case of murder. Nevertheless, I believe we should have twenty to thirty times as many executions per year as we actually have. At the very least, we should clean out Death Row, executing all those prisoners awaiting a death sentence who have had several reasonable chances to bob for the apple of appeal. We should be executing at a rate faster than we're sentencing to death, otherwise we'll never catch up... and most of the capital sentences will end up being de facto LWOPs (life without parole) instead.
As I said, I would always make exception for those who kill people who need killing; and I have a much more expansive definition of that then does, e.g., Dennis Prager or Patterico (I think). For example, I believe "He was in the act of robbing me" should be a legitimate (affirmative) defense to the charge of unpremeditated homicide, even if the robber had no weapon, if there were no other reasonable way to stop the robbery. I despise thieves, especially those who burgle and rob with impunity, knowing that if they're caught, they'll simply be let off with time served.
If I'm on a jury deciding a case where the facts show than the old lady on trial for murder shot and killed a mugger in the subway, even one who just punched her and took her purse (no threat of death) and was on his way out the door... well, at the very least, she gets a hung jury, because I would not vote to convict without some extraordinary circumstance. When a thug undertakes to terrorize and violently assault someone, he assumes the risk of getting shot himself.
In any event, I do not consider death for a child rapist either cruel or unusual; in fact, I consider it cruel and unusual to society, to the parents, and especially to the child victim to let such a person live... especially considering that so long as he is alive, some soft-hearted, soft-headed judge, parole board, or governor can always decide to set him loose on the world again.
* I can even give you a probable name: Caryl Chessman, executed for being the "Red Light Bandit," was likely innocent of those rapes, I believe. My father was a 3-L in law school at the time, and he attended some of Chessman's final appeals in 1960. My father's impression was that the court never seriously considered Chessman's central argument: That the trial transcript was fundamentally flawed; they simply responded that the transcript in question didn't show any serious irregularities.
Date ►►► January 3, 2008
Iowa Caucuses... Lizardly Predictions Part II
The predictions --
We got some things right and some things wrong. Here were our predictions:
- Mitt Romney wins the Iowa GOP meet & greet, beating Mike Huckabee by about 6 points;
- Barack Obama beats Hillary Clinton in the Democratic contest by less than Romney beats Huckabee;
- On the Republican side, John McCain will be third;
- Nobody will care who was fourth;
- McCain will certainly stick it out through New Hampshire; but when he loses (narrowly) to Mitt Romney, he will pull out before South Carolina (but possibly after Michigan and Nevada).
The results --
The final numbers, so far as I can tell (hat tip to DRJ at Patterico's Pontifications), are as follows.
- Barack Obama 93,951 - 38 percent
- John Edwards 74,377 - 30 percent
- Hillary Clinton 73,666 - 29 percent
- Bill Richardson 5,278 - 2 percent
- Joe Biden 2,329 - 1 percent (has now dropped out of the race)
- Uncommitted 345 - 0 percent
- Chris Dodd 58 - 0 percent (has now dropped out of the race)
- Mike Gravel 0 - 0 percent
- Dennis Kucinich 0 - 0 percent
- Mike Huckabee 39,814 - 34 percent
- Mitt Romney 29,405 - 25 percent
- Fred Thompson 15,521 - 13 percent
- John McCain 15,248 - 13 percent
The other four Republicans were not reported after a certain point; this is where they were with 93% of the precincts counted:
- Ron Paul 11,232 - 10 percent
- Rudy Giuliani 3,853 - 3 percent
- Duncan Hunter 499 - 0 percent
- Tom Tancredo 5 - 0 percent
The analysis --
- Mitt Romney wins the Iowa GOP meet & greet, beating Mike Huckabee by about 6 points;
Dead, flat wrong.
- Barack Obama beats Hillary Clinton in the Democratic contest by less than Romney beats Huckabee;
Aside from the prepositional phrase, the other half of this was correct. 50% correct.
- On the Republican side, John McCain will be third;
Hm... more or less correct, as McCain and Thompson pretty much tied for third (a difference of 273 votes out of more than 100,000 cast). I'll say this is correct within the margin of counting error.
- Nobody will care who was fourth;
Pretty correct on the Democratic side: The only person who cared who was number four was Joe Biden -- who was number four. He cared enough to drop out of the race.
On the Republican side, there really was no number four; there were two number threes, followed by a number five... and nobody really cared about Ron Paul. So I'll say this is about 75% accurate.
- McCain will certainly stick it out through New Hampshire; but when he loses (narrowly) to Mitt Romney, he will pull out before South Carolina (but possibly after Michigan and Nevada).
So of the four predictions it's possible to judge now, I have an accuracy rate of 56.25% by my own calculations. Not great, not bad, just fair.
Did you do better?
There are good reasons why the United States has never elected a minister, priest, rabbi, imam or other religious leader as president of the United States.
While there is actually no "separation of church and state" in the U.S. Constitution (that was a phrase Thomas Jefferson used in correspondence and which secularists jumped on gleefully a century or more later), keeping religion out of the deliberations of government is actually a pretty good idea.
While the Constitution limits itself to saying that there will be "no establishment of religion," Jesus himself in the New Testament provided a pretty good common sense way to delineate the relationship of church and state: "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s."
I really don’t want someone in the White House who answers to a higher authority than the U.S. Constitution. Who knows? Maybe that means I don’t want the current occupant in the White House.
It certainly means that I don’t want a former or current minister of the gospel in the Oval Office, except as a spiritual adviser. Yes, I’m talking about former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a candidate for the Republican nomination.
When the great decisions are being made, I don’t mind public officials consulting their hearts and their Bibles, but I draw the line at someone saying, "The United States cannot do this because the Bible says not to."
When January comes around I don’t want the Sermon on the Mount, I want the State of the Union. I want the bully pulpit, not an actual pulpit.
Since the number one concern of ministers is moral rectitude and inspiring men to live above their lowly natures, it really doesn’t do to have a minister as a political official whose duty might require him to order the deaths of thousands, or even one person, because that is required to secure the safety of America’s citizens.
No "turning the other cheek," please. That is for individuals, not nations. Governments do not, or should not, allow criminals to get away with murder, even though the New Testament might imply that individuals should do that very thing.
At the same time it is sometimes the duty of a president to do things that might be regarded as in a moral gray area. I fully expect and require the president to lie when it is necessary. Not to me the voter, necessarily, and certainly not because the president has done something naughty and wants to get away with it. But I do think that it is sometimes necessary for a president to lie to protect the lives of soldiers or agents who might be in mortal danger. It is naive to believe otherwise.
Could a minister in good conscience do that?
Huckabee is of that strain of politicians, of whom there are a lot this year, who ask us to vote for them because of what they are, rather than what they have done. We are asked to vote for McCain because he was prisoner of war for five years. We are asked to vote for Hillary because she was the president’s wife for eight years, but more to the point, because she IS a woman. Huckabee says we should vote for him because he is an evangelical Christian and a Southern Baptist.
Well, I was raised a Southern Baptist and know and like lots of them. But that doesn’t qualify any of them to be president, necessarily.
I’ve always resisted the idea that I should vote for someone because he is "part of a group," even if it’s my group. We should have no other "group" except Americans. I especially abhor the argument that a group cannot be represented by anyone other than a member of their group. Many evangelicals are apparently taking that position this year -- and while it may mean that they will take over the Republican party for a spell, it probably also means that they will ultimately be represented by their worst nightmare.
Interestingly enough, Barack Obama doesn’t seem to be signaling that voters, particularly black voters, should vote for him because he is a member of the "black group." He is the first black man to run for president not as a black man, but simply as a man with ideas and accomplishments of his own, independent of his race. He is, let it be said, a bit preachy.
There is also a very good reason for the 22nd Amendment, although until recently I haven’t bought the reasoning. But the more I see Bill Clinton panting (I almost wrote "demeaning himself," but that’s an impossibility) to get into the White House again, the more I see the wisdom of limiting presidents to two terms.
Whether Clinton -- who is [accused of being] a rapist and is without doubt a serial liar -- would be president, or it would actually be his wife, her election would, in effect, abrogate the 22nd Amendment.
And if they get away with it, does anyone have any doubts that perhaps a dozen or 16 years from now we’ll see a geriatric Bill and Hillary campaigning for Chelsea, who will be able to claim all that experience because, as First Daughter (twice) she was in the same building when President Clinton (whichever one of them) made those world-changing decisions?
[The edit in brackets is by Dafydd, not by Dave Ross, and purely for reasons of liability, not because I think Dave is wrong.]
Date ►►► January 2, 2008
Use an iPod, Go to Jail - UPDATED to the point of being NULLIFIED!
UPDATE January 3rd, 2008: It doesn't often happen that Big Lizards is completely, utterly wrong in a post; but I'm pretty sure this is one of those rare times...
Commenter Levi from Queens linked to a LaShawn Barber post that demonstrates fairly conclusively that the Washington Post reporter got this absolutely wrong: Evidently, the RIAA did not argue that uploading a song or CD to your computer alone violates copyright; they argued that uploading it to a KaZaA shared folder, where other KaZaA users could access it, download it, and reupload it or make copies, violates copyright.
That point is perfectly sound: If the file is made available for anyone to download, that's the same as making copies and leaving them in a bin outside your house.
I'll leave this post up, because I think it fairly well written on our part; we were simply misled by the elite media, with their multiple layers of editorial fact-checking. What follows is the original post, with another additional warning at the crucial point.
Sadder but wiser, Dafydd
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has found a clever, new way to jump the shark and make itself look like an organization of dangerous buffoons. I could simply tell you what they're doing; but it's so bizarre, you would accuse me of making it up. Instead, I'll advance the central point of this post via a quote from the Washington Post:
Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.
The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.
WARNING: This claim by the Post appears to be completely spurious; see the update above.
(There, now you can accuse the Post of making it up instead!)
[Why yes... you certainly can!]
I can't find a citation (after not much time spent Googling), but I swear I remember that in the early days of VCRs, the studios sued Sony (makes of Betamax) on the theory that a consumer taping a movie on Wednesday night to watch on Thursday night instead was violating the copyright owned by the studio. The theory was that, if Mr. Viewer could do that, he could also keep the tape forever... and thus would be unlikely to buy a commercially released videotape of the same movie.
The courts slapped that one down, enunciating the common-sense rule that copyright is only violated when the movie is duplicated and passed along to others, especially as a commercial transaction. The Post quotes Ray Beckerman, who represents six clients being sued by the RIAA:
"The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation...."
But lawyers for consumers point to a series of court rulings over the last few decades that found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording.
The Howell case is emblematic of a serious inability to deal with a changing market... a legal "stop the world, I want to get off" market strategy.
But legalities aside, this is a catastrophically kooky angle to pursue. What's really going on, between the lines, is that the RIAA is trying to use the courtroom to make a stand against the advance of technology, which is rendering null and void the old business model used by the recording industry for decades and decades. This is tantamount to an admission that they have no clue how to deal with it in the marketplace:
As technologies evolve, old media companies tend not to be the source of the innovation that allows them to survive. Even so, new technologies don't usually kill off old media: That's the good news for the recording industry, as for the TV, movie, newspaper and magazine businesses. But for those old media to survive, they must adapt, finding new business models and new, compelling content to offer.
The RIAA's legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only "created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies," Beckerman says. "Every problem they're trying to solve is worse now than when they started."
Simply put, customers no longer put off listening to music until they're home, sitting before the home stereo setup. Today, I would guess that the majority of music listening is done away from home: at work, while at the gym, while walking from place to place or riding public transportation, or on long airplane flights.
Even at home, many folks prefer to copy their CDs to hard drive, then use any of a hundred "PC jukebox" applications to program their musical entertainment (and video, if they also copy their DVDs). By running a couple of cables, listeners and viewers can even play the media through their normal home speakers or on their ordinary digital TV.
(In our case, Sachi downloads the CDs we buy from the computer to her iPod, then takes the latter to work: Her employer won't let workers listen to internet radio, and dragging a portable CD player and a stack of disks around is too cumbersome.)
But attacking customers who legally buy the product that RIAA members sell (as we do) -- simply for using that product in a more convenient way -- smells like an invitation to retaliation. Angry customers might start ripping songs instead, under the theory that if the legitimate producers are going to act so unreasonably, trying to bankrupt customers for no reason other than listening on an MP3 player instead of direct from CD, then why should customers respect the copyright in the first place?
Buyers who are more scrupulously honest can retaliate by buying music from alternative sources... sources who don't object to porting the music to all devices one might carry around. Either way, I cannot see any way that such an aggressive attempt to stop consumers from consuming the product the way they want will increase sales; rather, it will accelerate the already precipitous slide in profits among companies that produce and distribute music... which honestly would be a shame, since that invariably translates into lower income for the artists, who generally have nothing to do with the legal claims of the producers.
Note that the United States Constitution, whence flows all of the law on copyright, includes the following explanation of its purpose:
In other words, the fundamental reason for the government to protect literary and musical copyrights is not to enrich the creator (much as I, personally, might enjoy that!), but rather the civic duty to promote literature and music among the general public. I don't see how dictating the exact format by which a customer can read or listen fits that purpose.
(By contrast, preventing people from posting unapproved copies of books or music online for anyone to download clearly fits the purpose of the preamble to the "copyright clause" of the Constitution.)
If somebody wants to purchase a book of mine, then scan it to computer -- for personal use only, not to share -- I have no objection whatsoever. Perhaps he wants to put it on his Kindle or his Sony eReader to read along with other books. I don't even care much if he passes the Kindle to a friend; that's functionally equivalent to loaning out a book after you read it. (I assume here that one can't "reverse engineer" the book and save it into an easily uploaded format; if I'm wrong, I reserve the right to reevaluate.)
I would draw the line, as I have on occasion, at making my books commercially or freely available for download without my express permission... because that could seriously cut into my royalties. That is, assuming any book of mine ever earned out and paid royalties, and assuming the publisher is honest enough to report such a momentous event -- but that's a whole 'nother rant, let me tell you!
As a general rule, the more extreme the claim by the proponent of one side of a controversial issue, the more his position deviates from common sense, the greater the loss of credibility among otherwise sympathetic third parties.
I believe the RIAA would get very broad acceptance and agreement among the buyers of CDs and DVDs -- yes, even among most teenagers -- if the RIAA merely defended the proposition that the artists who create the music and movies, and the companies that pay for producing them and making them available, should be protected against commercial pirates and against people who make everything available online for free. If they could come up with some way of preventing such pirating and bootlegging without seriously inconveniencing legitimate customers, it would probably gain widespread support.
But by trying to criminalize the ordinary way that many (if not most) people listen to the music they legally purchase, the RIAA becomes a parody of itself -- and it stokes the flames of rebellion against even the legitimate claims it makes, which get lost in all the shouting about the ludicrous and insulting court actions.
Get a grip, RIAA; your members own the copyright, but that is not a license to dictate to consumers how they're allowed to consume. This is a capitalist country, so all parties have a shared purpose: The artists want their music heard, and they want to profit thereby; consumers want to hear the music and are willing to pay for it. Why poison what could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship?
Date ►►► January 1, 2008
Iowa Caucuses... Lizardly Predictions
Getcher red-hot predictions here!
I always like to make hard and fast predictions right before a measurable contest, presenting the maximum opportunity for looking like a blooming idiot.
With that cheery thought in mind, I predict:
- Mitt Romney wins the Iowa GOP meet & greet, beating Mike Huckabee by about 6 points;
- Barack Obama beats Hillary Clinton in the Democratic contest by less than Romney beats Huckabee;
- On the Republican side, John McCain will be third;
- Nobody will care who was fourth;
- McCain will certainly stick it out through New Hampshire; but when he loses (narrowly) to Mitt Romney, he will pull out before South Carolina (but possibly after Michigan and Nevada).
Let's see if I can manage to miss all five predictions and suffer utter humiliation!
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