Date ►►► February 29, 2008
Chinese Takeout - UPDATED
We have discussed dangerous chinese products on this blog before, and unsafe food from China has been in the news over and over. But the bad news from China just keeps on coming, with no end in sight:
- Just a few weeks ago, frozen potstickers riddled with pesticide seriously sickened dozens of Japanese consumers, including children. Some of the children would have died, were it not for the excellent medical emergency personnel.
- Yesterday, it was poison salt, of all things: A restaurant in south China was found to be using industrial sodium nitrate, which killed several customers and sent dozens to the hospital.
- A seven year old boy was killed last year after eating food he purchased from a street vender; the vender ran out of regular salt... so he borrowed sodium nitrate from a nearby construction site and used it in his noodles.
- And here in the United States, tainted Chinese-made blood thinner caused a severe allergic reaction in patients, killing four people and sickening many more.
Update March 2, 2008: The blood thinner product resulted in more deaths than previously thought:
The Food and Drug Administration said the number of deaths possibly associated with the drug, made from pig intestines, had risen to 21 from 4. But it cautioned that many of those patients were already seriously ill and that the drug might not have caused their deaths.
Pollution in China is now such a problem that entire rivers are sinking into the ground and disappearing, leaving a toxic-waste riverbed; and clearly, Chinese health and safety regulation is woefully inadequate to protect the food supply and other products. So can anybody blame the U.S. Olympic team if they decide to bring their own food to the Beijing Olympics?
The United States Olympic Committee, which will have more than 600 people in its delegation, is planning to transport its own produce because of fears about public health and food standards in China.
The athletes will eat their three daily meals at their training camp at a local university, which is outside the official confines of the Olympic Park....
Other countries are understood to be considering plans to cater their own food after a series of public health scares in China [and other countries that import Chinese food]. Chinese-made dumplings contaminated by pesticides made thousands of Japanese ill last month.
The Chinese government is said to be very "offended" by this US decision; outraged, even. Regulations by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) forbid teams bringing their own food to the Olympic village (which is why the American team is staying off-site, to avoid that regulation). This is to prevent teams sneaking in illegal performance-enhancing substances, and also to protect the profits of contracted caterers -- a very big deal in China.
However, local Chinese food itself often contains illegal performance-enhancing substances:
When a caterer working for the United States Olympic Committee went to a supermarket in China last year, he encountered a piece of chicken -- half of a breast -- that measured 14 inches. “Enough to feed a family of eight,” said Frank Puleo, a caterer from Staten Island who has traveled to China to handle food-related issues.
“We had it tested and it was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes. They all would have tested positive.”
Many Japanese are afraid for their athletes' and fans' safety, and some openly say the Chinese purposely poisoned the dumplings to kill Japanese. (The factory workers knew the products were going to Japan, since the packages were all in Japanese.) Some Japanese call for boycotting the Beijing Olympic altogether.
Aside from accidental food poisoning, I cannot help but wonder about the insistance that all athletes eat food supplied by China. Might the Chinese deliberately give them tainted food to sicken them, or even purposely dope the foreign athletes, in order to make them test positive and eliminate them from the competition?
Given China's past actions at sports events (particularly against Japan), and how much irrational anti-Japanese hatred the Chinese public has demonstrated -- mobs attacking visiting Japanese businessmen, for example -- such speculation cannot be dismissed out of hand. Just the other day, during the Asia Cup soccer match between China and Japan, Chinese players kicked, tackled, and choked the Japanese players (this clip is in Japanese, but the video tells the story):
(Here's the YouTube link, if you cannot see the video here.)
The North Korean referee ignored many of these violations, issuing only a couple of yellow cards and not a single red card against China. The Chinese fans cheered and threw bottles and garbage at the Japanese team.
I cannot confirm this, but I heard on Japanese radio that the Chinese government is planning on stopping the U.S. team from bringing food into China at all; the food will be confiscated by Customs at the border.
If that happens, I honestly believe the U.S. team should turn around and go home. If China cannot (or will not) guarantee our athletes' safety, we should not participate in the event.
News Flash: Michael Steele Won't Close VP Door
Former Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele of Maryland, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2006 (losing to Ben Cardin), is hosting Hugh Hewitt's show today. A caller just brought up the persistent speculation that Steele would make a good running mate for John McCain (I agree); then he asked Steele what he thought about that.
Steele noted that he had had no contact with the McCain campaign and hadn't been lobbying for the job; but he pointedly did not rule out the possibility. In fact, he went so far as to say that "if the phone rings, I'll answer it" -- which I take to be a signal that he is certainly interested in discussing such a possibility, if McCain should ever make the offer.
Just a rare instance of a news scoop from the site whose motto is, "Never first, always final!"
It appears that Barack Obama has a guardian angel -- with brass knuckles -- looking over his career; but the senator also firmly believes that "the Lord helps those who help themselves."
At each of the two major steps forward in Obama's political career -- becoming an Illinois state senator and a United States senator -- he has advanced not by winning a vote against a tough opponent, but by default, after those tough opponents were forced off the ballot. Similarly, Hillary Clinton could not run against Obama on substance, since their positions are nearly identical; the best she could do was complain that he mesmerized an audience the way she only wished she could.
It seems that our friend and worthy adversary is only really comfortable when he's running against an empty chair... or a Doppelgänger.
Let's skip through his political career chronologically...
The Illinois state Senate
Perennial Watcher's Council winner Wolf Howling posted about John McCain's current campaign-finance woes (more about that anon); but he (or she) also linked to a Chicago Tribune story about Obama's rise to the Illinois state Senate:
The day after New Year's 1996, operatives for Barack Obama filed into a barren hearing room of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city's South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama's four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot.
This was for the 13th district in Chicago, a Democratic stronghold; the real election is the Democratic primary, with the actual general election being a coronation. So by sending his lawyers to force all the other candidates off the primary ballot, Obama cleared the decks for an essentially unopposed election.
One of the lesser candidates, Gha-is Askia, summed up Obama perfectly:
"Why say you're for a new tomorrow, then do old-style Chicago politics to remove legitimate candidates?" Askia said. "He talks about honor and democracy, but what honor is there in getting rid of every other candidate so you can run scot-free? Why not let the people decide?"
Well, all right. It happened once; that's just happenstance. Obama remained in the state Senate for eight years, then ran for the United States Senate, for the seat vacated by the retiring Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.
United States Senate, part I
First, Obama had to secure the nomination... and that didn't look too likely. His main opponent was the front runner, Blair Hull -- a self-financing securities trader. Hull was running far ahead of Obama as late as mid-February, 2004.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the primaries: For some reason, never explained, journalists and TV broadcasters suddenly became obsessed with gaining access to Hull's divorce records from six years earlier.
They went to court; despite such records normally remaining sealed, they persuaded the judge to open them to the general public. I can only conclude that some person or persons unknown gave them a significant piece of evidence indicating there was something in there that was "important" for voters to know.
What they found was that Hull's wife alleged that, at one point during the proceedings, Hull had threatened to kill her. Now, I have never threatened to kill a woman; but I've never been divorced. I understand it's not that uncommon when the divorce is bitterly contested. Hull was not charged with that offense.
She also alleged that he had battered her (which could mean anything from beating her to grabbing her arm). He was arrested, as I suspect was required under Illinois law (we have a similar law in California); but he was not charged with that offense either.
Despite the lack of any evidence for anything other than the usual allegations that spouses make in acrimonious divorces (especially when hundreds of millions of dollars are involved), Hull's campaign collapsed. From front runner, he ended up finishing a distant third with only 10% of the vote.
The beneficiary of Hull's electoral free-fall was none other than Barack Obama... who once again found his most dangerous opponent suddenly sidelined by something completely unrelated to the campaign. This time, however, Obama had nothing to do with it -- or at least not as directly as the last time... no fingerprints. It was the local news media who suddenly (goodness knows why) got bees in their bonnets about Hull's divorce proceedings.
Okay, big deal; so it happened twice, not just once. Twice could still be just coincidence.
United States Senate, part B
Now Obama rolled into the general election. In the GOP primary, the intimidatingly named Jack Ryan had cruised to the nomination. In many ways, Ryan was an ideal candidate: a self-financing investment banker worth hundreds of millions of dollars, who had nevertheless spent years teaching poor, black kids in inner-city Catholic schools. Ryan was tall, slender, and as good looking as Obama. He was a solid conservative but not a scary evangelist. And he was formerly married to a Borg.
Obama jumped out to an early lead, after a rookie gaffe by Ryan; however, there was still plenty of time (almost five months) for Ryan to recover come back strong. But then, a funny thing happened on the way to the general election: For some reason, never explained, journalists and TV broadcasters suddenly became obsessed with gaining access to Ryan's divorce and child custody records from five years earlier.
They went to court; despite such records normally remaining sealed, they persuaded the judge to open them to the general public. I can only conclude that some person or persons unknown gave them a significant piece of evidence indicating there was something in there that was "important" for voters to know... something big enough to overcome the natural desire to maintain the privacy of their child, Alex. Particularly so, since both parents had requested that the court not release those records.
Once again, a little bird appears to have whispered into the ears of reporters from the Chicago Tribune and the local ABC affiliate. They found an unproven allegation from Ryan's actress wife (Jeri Ryan, "Seven of Nine" on Star Trek: Voyager) during the custody fight that on a couple of occasions, Ryan took her to a sex club and expressed a desire for the two of them to have sex while in the presence of other couples and spectators.
Jeri Ryan swore in the affidavit that she was appalled (though I would have paid good money to see Six of Nine naked), and that this contributed to her no longer being attracted to her husband. In spite of this claim, husband Jack Ryan won custody, leading to the conclusion that the judge either didn't believe Mrs. Ryan's claim or didn't take it as seriously as did she.
Nevertheless, the revelation shattered Ryan's conservative campaign (I reckon conservatives don't like pree-verts): Within a week after the story broke, Ryan dropped out of the race... leaving the Republican Party with no nominee. After a few weeks of increasing desperation -- during which Democrats were in court trying to prevent the GOP from substituting anybody at all -- they finally accepted carpetbagger Alan Keyes as their nominee. He went on to lose in a landslide to Barack Obama... which is hardly surprising, since Keyes was not an Illinois resident and had never even considered running in Illinois until the collapse of Ryan's campaign.
Like a web, the pieces all fit into place...
There is a wonderful aphorism by Ian Fleming, found in the James-Bond novel Goldfinger:
When the same sort of mysterious, slate-clearing event occurs three times in a row, and each time to the benefit of the same man, I believe it's time to consider whether "enemy action" is afoot; or in this case, consider the possibility that the person behind the Jack Ryan tipoff to the news is the same as the person behind the Blair Hull tipoff, and the same guiding intelligence as was behind the challenging of all four candidates opposing Obama in the Democratic primary for the state Senate seat for the 13th district of Illinois. And that intelligence would most likely be Barack Obama and his strategists.
This is not proof positive, of course; maybe Chicago newsmen always compulsively try to pry into divorce records, and maybe Chicago courts routinely grant access even with no evidence of any kind that there might be something voters "need" to know.
But to me, it seems far more plausible that none of this happened by sheer happenstance or coincidence, but by concerted action on the part of a bare-knuckle brawler in the Al Capone, Richard Daley mold. "That's the Chicago way;" that's what they do up in the 13th.
And now, of course, something funny is happening on the way to the presidential election...
The road to Casablanca
Maybe the New York Times speculation that John McCain can be sued off the ballot has nothing to do with Obama. Perhaps nobody in the campaign put the bug in the Times' ear; maybe it just occurred to them completely independently. So be it; they're still acting as Obama's guardian angel with a cosh and knuckle dusters.
But it doesn't even stop there. Wolf Howling explicates another devious attack on McCain's ability to campaign... an attempt to send him into electoral penury. Let me simply quote from Mr. Howling's excellent journalistic adventure:
How this all came about is, last year, with his campaign in shambles, McCain signed up for public financing during the primaries.. Under the public financing rules, he would not receive any public financing until March. Obviously that would not have worked in this season of early primaries. But the promise of those funds did bear on McCain obtaining a $1 million bank loan in advance of Super Tuesday. In the end, he never even dipped into the loan itself as his fund raising picked up sufficiently.
That notwithstanding, McCain has now notified the FCC that he intends to withdraw from the public financing agreement during the primaries. The rules say that if you dip into the public funds -- which McCain hasn’t -- or you use public funds as collateral for a loan, than you are obligated to follow the public financing rules.
So, the question is, did McCain use those funds as collateral? That is a legal question, and one has to look to the terms of his loan.
As it happens, the McCain campaign was very careful to structure the loan so that the collateral was not the federal matching funds. In this, they had an already approved guide to follow:
If that sounds like a rather slippery legal maneuver to you, well it does to me also. Objectively, in a court of law, I can see it standing up. But I would also have to grant to my friends on the other side of the aisle that it smells enough that they at least have reasonable grounds to cry foul. However, those grounds may be somewhat limited. Apparently, at least according to those in the McCain camp, this is precisely how Howard Dean went about his withdraw from public financing during the 2004 campaign.
McCain has given notice to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) that he is withdrawing from public financing for the primaries; but the FEC isn't prepared simply to wave adios. They want to discuss the matter among themselves and then vote on it; and they say that until they do vote, McCain must remain within the public-financing system -- and abide by the draconian spending limits.
In the primaries, candidates taking public campaign financing are restricted to spending $50 million... and McCain has already spent $40 million plus. That means that if he is forced into this system, he will have to essentially "go dark" for the next six months, until the GOP National Convention in early September.
During that period, Obama will be able to spend campaign money without limit... and McCain will not be allowed to spend hardly any. So it would seem to be vital that the FEC hold its vote as soon as possible, so as not to disrupt the GOP campaign and -- in essence -- once again "clear the decks" for an easy Obama win over an emasculated opposition.
Alas, there is a monkey wrench in the ointment: They cannot hold such a vote because they don't have a quorum. They need four of the six possible members to show up; but there are currently only two members in the FEC. Two others await confirmation (a Democrat and a Republican are always nominated together, because the committee must maintain an equal number of each party).
The Democratic nominee, Steven Walther, has enough votes to sail right through, as likely does the Republican nominee, Hans von Spakovsky. Alas, Mr. von Spakovsky cannot get a vote... because one senator has put a hold on his nomination.
See if you can guess which junior senator from Illinois has prevented a confirmation vote for Mr. von Spakovsky. Others have since joined in, but Barack Obama was one of the first. Thus, Barack Obama is abusing his senatorial privileges to try to force McCain to go dark for the next half a year... and utterly pervert democracy in the process. But heck, as Mayor Daley should have said, You can't make an omlet without breaking a few heads.
Yet another funny thing on the way to the presidential election!
Like a puzzle, the strands all join at the center...
Perhaps it's just I, but there appears -- at least on first glance -- to be a bit of a pattern here. And the pattern isn't even limited to a particular Democratic campaign for the presidency. Consider this: The FISA reform bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, better than 2-1 (thus necessarily with "bipartisan" support). Everyone agrees that the Senate bill would pass in the House as well, were it ever put to the vote.
But it hasn't been, and there is no guarantee it ever will be. The merits of the bill itself are irrelevant; Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) is withholding it for two extremely vital reasons:
- The provision granting telecommunication companies immunity from lawsuit -- for having cooperated with the federal government in tracking down terrorists right after 9/11 -- interferes with the ability of John Edwards and his cronies to extract tens of millions of dollars from them, on the novel legal theory that "No good deed goes unpunished by a court of law." (Besides, the telecoms should be taught a good, hard lesson for having aided and abetted "the regime.")
- And must urgent of all, the Bush administration must not achieve yet another political victory!
Compared to these two critical political concerns, mere national-security needs surely pale. But notice the tactic used... rather than make their case to the voters that there is no need for FISA reform, rather than put it to an up or down vote in the House, the Democrats would rather use parliamentary maneuvering to prevent it ever coming before the members.
Structurally, this is the same technique used by those who don't think the anointed, such as "Back-Room" Barack, should have to run against a real opponent in a real election; after all, fickle, dimwitted voters might choose the wrong man.
It's not even confined to the United States. Recall the saga of the the left-wing Liberal Party in Canada during the sponsorship scandal: At the end, when it was patently obvious that the Grits had lost the confidence of the country (let alone Parliament), it took an actual, literal vote of no-confidence to dynamite them out of control. (You never hear "it's a fair cop" from the Left; it always requires a shootout at the O.K. Corral to haul them away.)
It's the same with the thoroughly discredited Kadima-Labor coalition in the Israeli Knesset: Everybody knows that if there is ever again an election in Israel, Likud will be forming a new government... and maybe even the first majority government in Israeli history. For that very reason, the ruling coalition appears resolved that never again will there be a vote in Israel, if they can help it!
Sententious epilogues R we
Simply put, the Right sees the vote as a sacred duty, even a privilege, and they abide by it even when it's a little suspicious (think of Nixon in 1960 or John Ashcroft in 2000). But the Left sees the vote as an annoying imposition, a petty and superfluous speedbump standing in between the anointed and their vision. Their first impulse is to abrogate the vote in advance by some clever legal argument ("None of my opponents have enough legitimate signatures!" "McCain isn't really a natural-born citizen!"). When that fails, and they lose the election, they instinctively file a flurry of subpoenas and lawsuits, hoping somehow to reverse the ballot box in the courthouse.
And evidently, this applies even to Mr. Clean, Mr. Articulate, Mr. Agent of Change. Meet the new Barack, same as the old Barack.
So what should John McCain do? Here is the Big Lizards three-point plan:
- Completely ignore the nonsense about him being "ineligible" because he was born in the Canal Zone. It's so stupid, even Judge Thelton Henderson would rule against the Democrats.
- Tell the FEC to FO. McCain should ignore the FEC and raise and spend as much as he needs, without regard to the primary spending limits for those joining the federal campaign-finance system. If the FEC threatens him, laugh in their faces. What are they going to do, vote to fine him? They can't vote to impose a penalty -- they don't have a quorum! Remember? That's what started this whole nonsense.
- And if "Back-Room" Barack or any other Democrat objects, demanding that McCain accept campaign limits while Obama does no such thing, McCain should take to the airwaves to demand to know why Democrats are desperately trying to to take away the people's sacred right to choose their president. "Just what are you afraid of, Senator Obama, if real Americans are allowed to vote?"
All these confusticating freakshows will drop by the wayside, leaving only the big top itself: The grand strategic issues of war, peace, and economics.
You know, substance... socialist Barack Obama's weakest link.
Date ►►► February 28, 2008
Say - Maybe Democrats Will Sue to Force McCain Off the Ticket!
The New York Times is practically begging them to do so, on the grounds that McCain -- born in the Panama Canal Zone -- may not be a "natural born citizen":
Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.
Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.
And why was McCain born in the Canal Zone? Because that's where his father -- then-Lieutenant (later Admiral) John Sidney McCain, jr., USN -- was stationed in 1936.
What a magnificent gift that would be to the Republican Party: to have Democrats sue to force the Republican nominee off the ballot... because his father foolishly obeyed his orders and moved to the Canal Zone, thus making his son a foreigner! Perhaps we should warn all military officers and enlisted men serving abroad that their children won't be eligible to be president or vice president.
Here is the constitutional clause in question, from Article II, Section 1:
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.
The purpose, as we all know, was to prevent foreigners from running our country. I would guess that virtually every American who has ever thought about this believes it means that only those who are citizens from birth -- as opposed to naturalized citizens -- are eligible to those two offices. Thus, neither Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan (born Canadian) nor Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of Cahleeforneeah (born Austrian) could take the oath.
Perhaps there is some technical, legal argument that what it really means is that only American citizens who happened to be born in a state of the United States are eligible to be president. If so, it's an argument only a lawyer could make... and only if he had a secret agenda, such as using a legal absurdity to "elect" Barack Obama without the tedious necessity of winning the vote.
The point is that election law is intended to make elections fair, a true expression of the will of the people... not to be twisted to give advantage to one side in a contest, at the expense not only of the other candates, but the voters as well. Yet so often, Democrats see the law as a puzzle, whose "solution" will give them the power to snatch a legal "victory" in spite of the vote.
This is not just anti-Democrat bias; it took former Vice President Al Gore to prove that you can't sue your way into the White House. Nobody else had ever thought of trying.
If the Democrats are crafty, judge-shopping to find a friendly Carter- or Clinton-appointee who will bend over backwards to give them the robes off his back, they might be able to get a district-court ruling in their favor. But the moment the case hits the circus courts, as Rumpole calls them, it will be thrown out; and I'm sure the Supreme Court would decline to aid and abet such a ludicrous attempted hijacking.
The upshot would be the spectacle of the Democrats (or their obvious allies) struggling (and failing) to disenfranchise the entire Republican electorate so that the Democrat could win. And I firmly believe that would lead to absolute catastrophe for Barack Obama; it would look so corrupt and anti-democratic that the backlash would elect McCain in a landslide.
I doubt the Democrats will take the bait; but as I said, the Times -- being now dominated by 1960s radical leftists who believe in winning by any means necessary -- seems to have convinced itself there is a real case here for barring McCain from the office. Over and over, the story notes that the courts have never ruled on the question:
“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation....”
Ms. Duggin and others who have explored the arcane subject in depth say legal argument and basic fairness may indeed be on the side of Mr. McCain, a longtime member of Congress from Arizona. But multiple experts and scholarly reviews say the issue has never been definitively resolved by either Congress or the Supreme Court....
Quickly recognizing confusion over the evolving nature of citizenship, the First Congress in 1790 passed a measure that did define children of citizens “born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States to be natural born.” But that law is still seen as potentially unconstitutional and was overtaken by subsequent legislation that omitted the “natural-born” phrase.
This certainly seems to be egging the Democrats on; or perhaps not the Democrats themselves but a group like MoveOn.org: Brazen in their radicalism, open in their hatred of Republicans, unconcerned about their political viability -- and heavily funded by anti-American currency manipulator George Soros. Perhaps the Times hopes that just such a 527 as MoveOn will file the case and fight it up through the courts, maintaining the plausible deniability of the Democratic candidate.
But it won't work: So long as the Democratic Party continues kissing MoveOn.org's ring, they own whatever sleazy, mendacious tactics MoveOn uses. Obama would be forced to publicly disavow MoveOn, telling them to drop the case (for all the good that would do; MoveOn is beholden only to Soros, not to the Democratic nominee)... and then denounce them when they do not.
In any event, such a court fight would wipe out Obama's plan for a total "feel-good" campaign, as he gets whipsawed between a John McCain in righteous anger at "the Democrats" trying to "rig the election, Hussein style" -- and the radical-left wing of Obama's own party, which would take up the cry that Vietnam veteran and POW McCain was "not eligible" for the presidency because his father was dumb enough to move where he was posted in the 1930s.
As with the attempt by lawyers connected with the Gore campaign -- but not the campaign itself -- to disenfranchise Florida military personnel and all the abstentee voters in Martin and Seminole counties, no matter how much the candidate swears that his supporters don't have his support, nobody believes him... except his own supporters. If Obama tried it, the vast middle would laugh in his face.
I reckon the elite media think that the courts, like themselves, are just looking for a really, really clever way to thwart the GOP. It's like when smirking gun-prohibitionists say, "Well maybe the Second Amendment won't let us ban guns -- but it doesn't say anything about banning bullets!" To radicals, the law is not a tool to allow society to function smoothly: It's a videogame they can play to get their way, without actually having to win the vote.
I suspect the Democrats are too faint-hearted actually to push such a case (or else they're politically savvy enough to realize what would happen). They're not utter fools.
So the Times will be left to twist slowly in the wind, looking like the target in a game of pin the tail on the Democrat. Don't they ever get tired of looking stupid? Or will they, like Wile E. Coyote, just shake themselves off and try the next ingenious device (from the Acme Ingenious Device Company) to bring down the Roadrunner... and end up in a tiny poof! at the bottom of a cliff?
Instant Update: Patterico has the same story; in his post, he quotes one of the all-time greatest ripostes to such buffoonery at the Times. From "commenter 29Victor" at Hot Air:
Good thing McCain wasn’t born on February 29th, they’d be debating whether or not he is over 35.
Date ►►► February 27, 2008
Watcher Countdown - Three! Superabbreviatedwatcherpost
From the February 22th Watcher post.
We -- er, ah -- completely spaced on voting. I think we only did this once before. The upshot is that we only have the two winners... and we didn't even read them!
But we are now entirely caught up on Watches.
We didn't vote for this piece, but only because we didn't vote for any piece. Too busy sunning ourselves on the sands of Brighton Beach. (Actually, BB doesn't have sand; just rocks. Big rocks. Step on them and break your ankle rocks. The naked English ladies were worth the risk, however.)
- Make Washington's Birthday a National Holiday Again, by Right Wing Nut House.
A paean to our first and greatest president (Gore Vidal notwithstanding), and perhaps the greatest day in his military command. And might we append a peroration on why it sucks that the only American to have a federal holiday named after him is someone who never held elective office in his entire life?
Sigh. Another 75,000 word Michael Totten piece.
- The Dungeon of Fallujah, by Michael J. Totten.
Totten visits... well, a dungeon-jail in Fallujah. 'Nuff said.
See the posts the Lizards never read!
Watcher Countdown - Four! Midwatch by the Watcher's Watch
The February 15th Watcher strategic conference and three-legged race.
Climbing out of the hole, just one more to go.
And the second shall be first, and the first shall be second, unto the end of Councildom. Our second pick actually tied with our first pick; so the Great Chronometer picked the winner:
- Mandate Me, Baby, by Right Wing Nut House.
Rick Moran rails about health-insurance mandates. Ook ook, can any subject be finer and nearer our hearts?
- Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and McCain Derangement Syndrome, by Wolf Howling.
Mr. Howling lights into the divine Ann (yeah, sure, if I were single) and the sublime Rush (not even if I were gay) for their continued attacks on John McCain, even after it was all over but the shouting. Now is the time for all good men to come together, right now, over he.
And the first shall be first, and the second shall be third, so sayeth Saurus Giganticus. The winner in this category is not only our top pick... we were the reptiles who nominated it!
- Are We At War? And What Is the Political Consequence of That For Conservatives In This Election?, by BeldarBlog.
Beldar asks the most important question of this election; for if we truly are at war -- and Big Lizards has believed that we are even before hatching from our leathery egg -- then our nation simply cannot afford for conservatives to monkey around with "protest votes" for Huckabee (or in the case of the divine she above, Hillary Clinton!)
- Obama's Politics of Collective Redemption, by American Thinker.
This came in third: Kyle-Anne Shiver examines the "messianic" fervor of Obamasm -- and shudders.
And the last shall be 45th, and the penultimate shall be 16th, and...
Here be -- as we refer to the Professor and Mary Ann -- "the rest."
Date ►►► February 26, 2008
Watcher Countdown - Five! "The Ancient of Weeks"
These last five posts in my tenure on the Watcher's Council will necessarily be brief (and, as you see, often late -- this is for the Watcher post of February 8th!) So forgive me for wasting less of your valuable time than normal...
The winner this week begins his post by saying, "no one's ever going to read this all. But what the hell." Shamefacedly, I must confess it was certainly true in my case! While Callimachus' writing is up to his usual high standards, I find the subject-matter -- ruminations on the Confederate battle flag -- simply tedious, despite the fact that I was born and raised in the South (of California, that is):
- A Short Hitch, by Done With Mirrors.
Rather, we voted for two posts that had absolutely nothing to do with old Stars and Bars:
- Obama Disparages the Military & Gets a Pass On Iraq From Fox News, by Wolf Howling;
- Cutting Off Berkeley, by Rhymes With Right.
In the first, Mr. Howling notes that Barack Obama continues to call our presence in Iraq an "occupation;" in fact, it ceased being an occupation when Saddam Hussein's Baathist government fell, and a new government was democratically elected -- and asked us to stay to fight against the terrorist insurgents trying to tear down what the Iraqi people built. Evidently, Sen. Obama is unaware of this history. (I wonder how he would have done on that "quiz" survey that Common Core gave to random 17 year olds?)
In the Rhymes With Right post, Greg notes with enthusiasm Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC, 100%) quest to eliminate from the Senate appropriations process any and all "earmarks" for the city of Berkeley, California... on grounds that if, as the city council wrote in a letter, the United States Marines were "unwelcome intruders" in their fair city -- then the city was not entitled to free money from the federal government they reject.
Sounds good to me!
Our own entry tied for last place... but at least we were spared the ignominy of getting no votes at all.
We did rather better in the Nouncil vote, with our number-one vote winning, and our number-two tying for third. (Our own Nouncil nomination got only one vote... and it wasn't even from us!)
- Changing the Organizational Culture (Updated), by Small Wars Journal.
LG William B. Caldwell urges us to become real players in the new world of communications via the internet, something our terrorist enemies have already done. To that end, he proposes we take advantage of the greatest strength of the American military: Not our technology (though that is extraordinary), nor our training (excellent as it is), but the trust and authority we have always invested in our individual soldiers -- as individuals -- to make decisions and take personal responsibility for their areas of operation.
This is something no other national military does to anywhere near the degree we do; most allow their lower-level members no authority whatsoever without orders from higher up... even when they come under attack. Caldwell urges us to allow and even encourage soldiers to post YouTube videos, blogposts, and suchlike; and dang, but that's a great and very American idea!
In our other pick, Oliver Kamm reviews a book on Iraq by Jonathan Steele, and finds that it comes up short:
- Our Policy In Iraq, by Oliver Kamm.
Full Monty Watcher
See him in all his glory here!
McCain Should Apologize for Apologizing
This is something Democrats do that just drives me nuts; and it's twice as irritating when done by a Republican:
Republican John McCain quickly denounced the comments of a radio talk show host who while warming up a campaign crowd referred repeatedly to Barack Hussein Obama and called the Democrat a "hack, Chicago-style" politician.
Hussein is Obama's middle name, but talk show host Bill Cunningham used it three times as he addressed the crowd before the likely Republican nominee's appearance....
"I apologize for it," McCain told reporters, addressing the issue before they had a chance to ask the Arizona senator about Cunningham's comments.
Can we please leave off the insulting, Clintonian stunt of apologizing for what somebody else has done? Please?
It's quite sufficient for McCain to say that he didn't authorize Cunningham to say that, and that he won't be allowed to say it again. Cunningham is not a campaign staffer; he's an independent talk-show host... and his opinions and statements -- no matter how counterproductive -- are his own. McCain is not responsible for Cunningham's mouth.
You start here, and pretty soon you're apologizing to Russia for the Berlin airlift, apologizing to blacks for not having fought the Civil War a hundred years earlier, and apologizing to the world for the Founding Fathers not writing socialized medicine into the Constitution.
In the meantime, I hereby apologize for John McCain's apology on behalf of a person he doesn't know, didn't personally approve, didn't hear, and didn't talk to afterwards.
Zero Plus Zero Degrees of Separation!
Michelle Malkin was looking about for a new blogger to replace the outgoing Bryan Preston, whose new gig is to produce Laura Ingraham (in a Carpathian laboratory during a thunderstorm). Our dearest Michelle finally settled on "Captain" Ed Morrissey, formerly of Captain's Quarters.
He's probably getting more money than he squoze from the advertisers on his site; but from what he said on Huge Hewgitt today, I think the main attraction is that he doesn't have to provide anything but content now... ODM has minions who handle the scutwork of keeping a blog up and running (upgrading the software, running down problems, rebuilding the entire blog when necessary, tweaking the templates, scrounging for ads, reading every comment to make sure nothing libelous or that violates national security or copyright is posted in a comment, and so forth).
But I was suddenly struck by the fact that this new powerhouse of a blog -- Hot Quarters? the Captain's Air? -- is now run by not one but two people who have had me as a guest blogger!
So I'm thinking: If our dearest Michelle decides to expand and add one more permanent blogger...
Would I do it, if she ever offered? Well, it would depend. I would probably have to stop blogging on Big Lizards, as Ed has stopped blogging on Captain's Trousers. But on the other hand, presumably, the compensation would be serious money. On the third hand, I actually like much of the "scutwork," as I called it; in particular, I like reading all the comments myself. (I don't often respond, because I see the comments section as your section, gentle readers.)
On the fifth hand, I would be playing second fiddle; what if Michelle suddenly decided to spit me out like a mouthful of overripe squid? On the sixth hand, it could be a springboard to actual publication in actual political magazines -- then I could dump her like a helmet full of pickled ferrets.
Of course, on the seventh hand, neither the captain nor our dearest Michelle has shown any inclination to hire me for anything that would involve money; I suspect the only short list I was on was the list of short bloggers. So this is all just pie in the fly speculation.
But what the heck -- it gave us all another useless blogpost to fritter away the empty hours; so it fulfilled some practical function, at least.
Date ►►► February 25, 2008
Bombs and Bombast
In a post today, Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics gleefully reports that the "virtual fence" program hasn't worked well so far:
Keith Epstein of Businessweek reports that the "virtual fence" all the candidates kept referring to (especially the GOP ones) as the cornerstone of border security turned out to be a miserable failure....
Doesn't this hurt McCain, given that the virtual fence was one of the tools he was counting on to help deliver his promise of "certifying" the security of the border? Will he have commit to building the real "g**damn fence" now?
No, it shouldn't hurt McCain... any more than the early failures of the ballistic missile defense system seriously hurt the BMD program. It just means we have to keep building the physical fence -- while continuing to work on the virtual one.
For some reason, the idea of a virtual fence became the focal point of the ire of immigration-absolutists during the debate last year over McCain-Kennedy. It became vital to anti-plea-bargain conservatives to "debunk" the virtual fence, presumably on the grounds that only a real fence -- three hundred feet high and sixty feet thick, dotted with machine-gun emplacements and sporting a minefield -- could keep out the illegal Mexicans.
They saw the virtual fence as a heavily watered drink some cheapskate bartender was trying to foist on them.
Do I sound a bit caustic? Sorry, I tend to get that way when Republicans act-out like Democrats. In particular, the reflexive bias against technology has always set my teeth on fire.
Democrats in the 1980s became hysterical at the thought of a technological shield against incoming nuclear missiles; and now the conservative wing of the GOP is running around like a chicken with its legs cut off over the possibility of a technological shield against illegal immigration.
I can only conclude that they believe even breathing the words "virtual fence" amounts to "surrender" and "amnesty," as if it were always just a ruse to avoid building a real fence. But the areas suggested for the virtual fence are precisely those that have such rugged terrain that (a) there are hardly any illegal crossings, and (b) it's extremely difficult (if not impossible) to build a "real" fence in the first place.
So that those areas would not be left totally unguarded, various people proposed a network of radar installations, cameras, motion detectors, heat sensors, and a computer system tying it all together... modeled roughly on the Aegis combat system that protects many of our cruisers and destroyers.
Regardless of whether or not this particular version of a virtual fence has worked, we absolutely need one. Believe it or not, keeping out Mexicans is not the only problem we have that requires some sort of barrier:
- The border with Canada is vastly bigger than the southern border, and it would take a long, long time to toss a fence across it;
- And then, of course, there's the Gulf of Mexico; terrorists can boat up the Gulf and hop out onto the beach;
- And there are the Iraqi borders with Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran;
- And don't forget the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and (naturally) Iran;
- Not to mention borders between our allies and their enemiess;
- Finally, any physical fence that can be built -- can be breached; cf. the fence that used to separate Gaza from Egypt. Even if we could literally build fences separating us from all potential enemies, those fences can be tunneled under, flown over, or blown up.
We need to keep working on the virtual fence because we are soon going to need it -- desperately, and in many, many places. Similarly, it's a darned good thing that we kept working on BMD, despite early failures of the components of the original Strategic Defense Initiative (particle-beam technology, railgun ground launchers, nuclear-powered pulse weapons)... because now we really, really need it for a completely unforseen adversary. Thank goodness we have it.
It's quite reasonable to argue that the virtual fence technology is not yet good enough to rely upon, so we need to build a physical barrier. But it's wrong -- one of those few actions that are always wrong -- to heap scorn upon a technological program because the early alpha-tests weren't entirely successful. Worse than wrong, it's foolish, Luddite, and short-sighted.
By all means, build the physical double-fencing along the southern border with Mexico; but don't delude yourselves that that's all we need. Or that we'll never need the virtual fence. Or even that we'll actually be able to build an effective physical fence everywhere that we need to stop people from coming... or even along the entire southern border itself.
The physical fence is a stopgap; we urgently need to do two things. As Caiaphas says in Jesus Christ Super Star, "We need a more permanent solution to our problem":
- Perfect the virtual-fence, smart-card, and employer verification technologies;
- Reform our own legal immigration system so that it is rational, just, and above all, predictable, to take the pressure of millions off the wall.
When law-abiding, eager-to-assimilate immigrants see a system that tells them what they need do to be granted residency or citizenship, they will follow the legal brick road. Contrariwise, if they see a system that arbitrarily excludes them, while welcoming much less assimilable immigrants with open arms, the pressure to just give up and sneak into the country, making a better life for their wives and chilren, becomes overwhelming.
(Imagine that you go through four or five years of university, passing all classes and tests; but at the end, somebody hands you a pair of dice... and you only get your diploma if you roll ten or higher.)
Until these two problems are solved, a physical fence is just a very wide target for bombs -- and bombast.
Routing the Boy Sprouts
For some reason, Michael Medved was going on about the ultimatum by the City of Brotheley Love to rout the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America... unless they relent and start welcoming openly gay scouts and scoutmasters. If they don't, they'll have to start paying a rent of $200,000 a year on a property they have occupied for over eighty years. Since they can't afford that rent, they will be evicted.
I say "for some reason" because this isn't a new story; the actual vote in the Philadelphia City Council (16 to 1) was taken in 2007, and the Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece about it on February 16th this year (may require paid subscription). So far as I know, the only thing that happened today was that the WSJ published some letters to the editor about that opinion piece.
Neither hither nor yon. Medved took it upon himself to defend the Scouts, which meant defending their "morally clean" policy -- which the BSA has interpreted, and not without good reason (it is a religious organization with strong Christian roots), as meaning no openly gay scouts or troop leaders. Alas, Medved had one of those rare days (this is irony, in case you missed it) when he was unable to articulate an effective defense of a conservative principle. In particular, one gay caller -- yes, I know he was gay because he affected the Standard American Gay Accent... and if you don't know what I mean, you must live in a small town -- tore Medved a new, ah, I mean to say, ripped him up one side and down the other shoe.
So Medved just fumfahed around and shouted about the Bible; the caller filibustered while the host burned.
All right. So let's examine the question that Michael Medved could not effectively answer: Why, apart from Judeo-Christian religion, shouldn't the Boy Scouts have openly gay scoutmasters and members?
First, let me answer a related question that sometimes crops up (from the truly extreme haters of the Boy Sprouts): Why don't the Boy Scouts allow girls to join?
I think we all know the reason why: S-E-double-X. Scouting is about male bonding, about boys getting together to hike, to work on projects, to engage in acts of service to humanity... all in an atmosphere where they don't have to think about love, dating, or sex. Is there anybody -- outside of a meeting of the ACLU -- who isn't aware that when you have a bunch of boys together, the dynamic is completely different from when you have a mixed group of boys and girls?
Since the vast majority (about 98%) of boys are heterosexual, when they are around girls, they experience certain feelings and biological urges. Boys in Scouting are at precisely the age where such feelings begin, rage out of control, and only after several years become familiar, normal, and controllable.
I'm about to get really, really explicit; if that bothers you, cover your eyes while you read the next few paragraphs.
Those of you who don't happen to be male may be unaware of this; but for most boys, when they first become pubescent (or even slightly before), they are unable to control their erections; it just rises and won't fall. Girls, did you ever wonder why so often in junior high (middle school), boys would walk around with a really distressed, embarassed look on their faces -- and their notebooks pressed tightly against their laps? Well, now you know.
The erection can be caused by almost anything related to females: A girl wearing a halter top or miniskirt (in my day), or even by the rear end of a cute female teacher, jiggling while she writes on the blackboard. Or by a sexual daydream sparked by some cute female fellow student across the room... the one you'd never dare talk to because you know she would laugh in your face. (Yes, even popular kids have those same anxieties.)
It's honestly a relief for 13, 14, and 15 year old boys to get away from girls, so that they're not constantly worried about embarassing or humiliating themselves, flushing deep red, being convinced that the girl they're working on a project with has suddenly read their minds about what they fantasized about her last night. I'm convinced that's a major draw of the Boy Scouts, though I never had an opportunity to be a member: When boys are out hiking and horsing around, telling stupid guy-jokes, comparing LSD experiences, and laughing at the sartorial taste of the science teacher, they have an incredible sense of freedom, relief, and camaraderie.
Mix in a few 13, 14, and 15 year old girls, and the boys would be hiking on egg shells: Anything they said or did would have to be planned and carefully considered, and would carry the threat of imminent death by embarassment. Besides, it's hard to hike with your backpack turned around and pressed tightly against your lap.
Then, of course, there is the very real threat of actual sexual activity. I will here offer a very rare personal revelation, a confession, if you will. Hang on, this may be shocking:
Back when I was 13, 14, and 15 years old, I would have jumped at the chance to have sex with a girl. Almost any girl. Even more shocking, women I have talked to (when they were adults) frequently admit that when they were that age, they were also very attracted to boys and might well have acted on that attraction, if the boy pushed a little... and were they given the opportunity.
One critical function of society is to give young teens no such opportunities.
Besides the emotional problems that often afflict sexually active young teens, there is the danger of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. And for whatever adults were responsible for the welfare of those kids, there are obvious liability issues.
Thus, for all those reasons, the Boy Scouts do not admit girls; the Girl Scouts do not admit boys; and both organizations for the most part segregate the sexes. I'm sure there are some functions both boys and girls attend, but most activities, meetings, and functions are monogendered.
But what does that have to do with gay Scouts? Before answering, let's ask the next seemingly irrelevant question: Why don't the Boy Scouts have Scoutmistresses along with the Scoutmasters?
Forget the obvious answers. I know Scouts sometimes go skinnydipping in wilderness lakes; but they could wear swimsuits. And the Scoutmistress could avoid entering the shower facilities when any boy was present. Consider only the problems that cannot easily be prevented.
First, having a woman leading boys to a remote, private, or sequestered area brings up all the problems associated with having girls among the campers. Second, she may be tempted to mother the boys -- or the boys may perceive her as mothering them -- when what they really need is fathering. Boy Scouts need to be led by men for the same reason that boys growing up need fathers: Because in general, only a good, strong, decent man can teach young boys how to grow into good, strong, decent men. (Just as girls need a strong, loving, nurturing mother to grow up to be strong, loving, nurturing women. That's why children ideally need a male father and a female mother... but that's a whole 'nother post.)
Finally, there is one other issue that needs to be addressed, and it's disturbing: There are ephebophilic women who are attracted to teenaged boys; and there certainly are teenaged boys who are attracted to older women. It's not difficult to imagine terrible sexual problems arising -- whether real or imagined -- when young, teenaged boys are led on hikes or retreats by a reasonably young woman.
To name just a few:
- Boys trying to "sneak a peek" at the Scoutmistress while she showers or goes to the bathroom;
- A boy being traumatized when the Scoutmistress accidentally walks into the shower facilities, not realizing he hasn't finished;
- Boys sexualizing the Scoutmistress while talking to each other (or holding certain secret kinds of "contests"), thus losing respect for her as a leader;
- Actual sexual contact between one of the boys and the Scoutmistress;
- And yes, even forcible rape.
Looming over all of this, from the perspective of the BSA as an organization, is again the issue of legal liability: Can you imagine the lawsuit that would result if a 15 year old Boy Scout and his 32 year old Scoutmistress were caught in a compromising position? The troop would certainly be sued out of existence; the Boy Scouts of America could follow, depending on how big the judgment was and whether the troop or council had been forced by the organization to accept that woman as a Scoutmistress.
So with that background, let's turn -- at last! -- to the real question: What about gay Scoutmasters and Boy Scouts?
Gay men and boys
First, everything said above about female Boy Scouts (except pregnancy) and about Scoutmistresses applies to gay Scoutmasters. Yeah, everything... and more:
Scouts would always be wondering if the Scoutmaster were "checking them out." If he entered the shower area while they were using it, it would make virtually all of them extremely sexually uncomfortable... probably worse than if the Scoutmistress did.
It's terribly unfair for gays and liberals to retort that the boys should "just get over it." They're at a very vulnerable period of change in their own lives, becoming sexual beings. It's incredibly cruel to make them confront being in intimate circumstances with open homosexuals at the same time.
If the gay Scoutmaster is magnetic and charismatic (as many heterosexual Scoutmasters are), the boys might mistake admiration for sexual attraction, knowing the sexual preference of the Scoutmaster (projection); they might become terrified that they were "secretly gay," even if they, themselves, didn't realize it until just now.
Sound crazy? Kids of this age have all sorts of terrors, and this is a very common one: "What if it turns out I'm really gay?"
- Anytime the Scoutmaster privately counsels a boy (which is one of their jobs, I believe), no matter how innocuous, questions will arise in the mind of the individual Scout, his friends, and his parents. If a Scout is himself gay, and he spends any time with the gay Scoutmaster, you can magnify those questions a hundredfold.
- And what should the Scoutmaster do if one boy wants to ask a lot of questions about homosexuality? Especially if the boy thinks he might be gay himself. Should he answer, and open up a whole new Pandora's Box of threats and liabilities? Or should he reject the kid, possibly driving him into depression or self-loathing?
- Even when there is no personal contact, having an openly gay Scoutmaster raises the specter of sex in a situation that should be completely asexual.
Allowing openly gay boys to become Boy Scouts would open the same barrel of worms as allowing gay Scoutmasters: Among other issues, how could sexual situations and discussions be avoided among young teens -- if one of their number says he is attracted to others? Unlike in the military, we're not talking about adults; we're dealing with adolescents who are none too certain about their own sexuality.
And of course, assaults would occur; and on the other side, some gay Scouts would insist that every slight or disciplinary action was motivated by "homophobia." It would be just as much of a nightmare as the openly gay Scoutmaster.
Finally... what happens if, heaven forbid, a Scout returns from a multi-day hike and accuses the gay Scoutmaster of having sexually assaulted him? The legal jeopardy for the BSA would be off the scales.
If the Scoutmaster were heterosexual, he could more easily defend himself from the charge; but a gay Scoutmaster would start out with two strikes against him, in the jury's mind. At the very least, one strong defense -- "of course I didn't have sexual contact with him because I'm not attracted to males!" -- would be out the window.
There are plenty of gentlemen on the left who have the intense, messianic desire to sue the Boy Scouts out of existence -- just as there are those (many of the same people, in fact) whose greatest dream is the sue the Catholic Church out of existence; and the way the latter picked, and which almost succeeded (and still might), was to sue on behalf of "children who were molested by priests."
It made no difference that by "priests," they meant openly gay priests; by "molested," they meant, in 95% of cases, gay priests engaged in consentual sex with their supposed victims; and by "children," they meant, in the vast majority of cases, a male parishoner aged from 16 years old -- to 25 years old.
I'm sure I'll get attacked for this... but having sex with older teens and young-looking young adults is normal gay sexual behavior for a huge chunk of the gay community: Gays who hunger for twinks are a much bigger percentage of all gay males than men who hunger for Lolitas are a percentage of all straight males.
For obvious reasons, this applies very strongly to accepting gay Scoutmasters: It the BSA were insane enough to allow this, then it is inevitable that [openly gay] Scoutmasters would be sued for molesting [having consentual sexual contact with] Boy-Scout children [of 16 and 17 years old].
If the gay Scoutmaster actually did, in fact, have sexual contact, the legal damages would threaten to bankrupt the entire organization; but at least everyone but the most extreme could agree that he was a criminal.
However, if the gay Scoutmaster were likely innocent, it could be worse. Those who supported gays in scouting would fell compelled to champion the cause of the accused, while those who opposed the policy would seize upon the accusation to show that even a false charge damages the BSA.
The legal brawl would tear scouting apart: There are some crimes so heinous, not even innocence is a defense. Civil war would erupt within the ranks of the BSA, and those who oppose having gay Scoutmasters would end up seceding from the BSA, leaving the cherished name Boy Scouts of America as the property of those for whom social acceptance of gays is the most important issue in life. The Boy Scouts of America would have been conquered and colonized by GLAAD, Lamda, and the Man-Boy Love Association.
Just as the Civil Rights Congress became nothing but a Communist front, the BSA after that split would become nothing but a gay front group, agitating for everything from same-sex marriage to the right to create and distribute gay teenaged porn. That is the way of the Left; that is how they fight... and that is often how they win.
So why didn't these dire results come to pass when the Girl Scouts declared absolute neutrality on sexual preference?
- Like it or not, society simply doesn't take lesbianism as seriously as it takes male homosexuality... and it never has. Thus, the social and legal problems that result are not as destructive to the organization as a whole.
- Many local Girl Scout councils ally with Planned Parenthood and other feminist organizations, causing the Left to consider all Girl Scouts to be potential allies;
- Finally, because Girl Scouts of the USA has never been woven as deeply into the fabric of America as has the Boy Scouts of America... so it's simply not as much of a target of the anti-American Left as is the male counterpart.
You have to understand: Most of the problems that would result from the BSA deciding to accept openly gay Scoutmasters stem not from the Scoutmasters themselves, or even from the Boy Scouts, but from the desperate quest on the part of leftists to destroy the organization. And those destructive activists are perfectly willing to play on the fear many Americans have of gays "corrupting" kids, if such fear will help destroy the Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts cannot even consider allowing openly gay men to serve as Scoutmasters, because it would open a security breach a mile wide, through which the forces of destruction would pour in a never-ending stream. Just ask the Catholic Church: Aside from a tiny handful of actual child molesters (like Father John Geoghan in Boston or Father Brendan Smyth in Ireland), the Church "sex scandals" by and large comprised gay priests having consentual sex with teenaged boys and young men... many over the age of consent. It was the greatest crisis of the Church in modern times.
And that is exactly what would happen in the BSA: A certain number of gay men would become Scoutmasters just for the sexual opportunities... and those men would strew legal apocalypse in their wake.
So that is my answer to Mr. Medved's agitated, filibustering caller: The Boy Scouts cannot allow openly gay men to serve as Scoutmasters or openly gay boys to join the Boy Scouts because, in the end, it would either destroy the organization -- or at the least, put it through a crisis very much akin to the one the Church suffered some years ago (and which reverberates to this day).
It's too bad that gay men cannot contribute by being Scoutmasters, but they can find other ways to support Scouting, if they want. And it's too bad that gay kids can only participate by not talking about their sexual preferences; but since Scouting isn't about sex anyway, Scouts shouldn't talk about sexuality, even if they're heterosexual. There is no inquisition; the BSA doesn't launch an intensive background investigation and dating history before accepting a kid into the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts.
So just don't talk about it. Again unlike the military, joining the BSA is a privilege, not a right and not a duty. Abide by the private religious organization's rules... or go somewhere else.
And state and local governments should simply stop trying to dictate suicide to the Boy Scouts, and focus instead on how Scouting can truly help millions of kids across the country. Diversity means diversity of thought, not just race and gender; so why not show some tolerance for those who believe in traditional morality?
The motto of the Philadelphia City Council, and all the Philadelphia City Councils across the nation, should simply be -- live and let camp.
Date ►►► February 24, 2008
No "There" Here, There, or Anywhere
Close scrutiny of a lengthy article in today's Washington Post about John McCain's nefarious dealings with an admitted lobbyist reveals -- that absolutely nothing happened.
Here is the core of the article:
The McCain campaign said Thursday that the senator had not met with Paxson or Iseman on the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde and Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC regarding this proceeding," the campaign said in a statement.
But Paxson said yesterday, "I remember going there to meet with him." He recalled that he told McCain: "You're head of the Commerce Committee. The FCC is not doing its job. I would love for you to write a letter."
All right: McCain doesn't remember a personal meeting, Paxson does; neither has documentation that would prove one way or another whose memory is better. But who cares? What is the point? The point is McCain's communication with the FCC... and on that, everyone is in agreement:
On Nov. 17, McCain sent a letter to FCC Chairman William E. Kennard saying, "I write today to express my concern about the Commission's continuing failure to act" on the three-station deal involving Paxson....
The second letter was sent to other members of the FCC after McCain had not received a reply from Kennard.
"The sole purpose of this request is to secure final action on a matter that has now been pending over two years," McCain wrote. "I emphasize that my purpose is not to suggest in any way how you should vote -- merely that you vote...."
After the letters became public in 2000, they were widely criticized. Kennard's predecessor, however, defended McCain, saying he did not find the letters objectionable. A subsequent review by the FCC General Counsel's Office determined that McCain had violated the commission's ex parte rules, though the breach was deemed inadvertent.
Five days after McCain's second letter, the FCC voted 3 to 2 to approve the deal. The commission also imposed a condition prohibiting Cornerstone from "proselytizing." Cornerstone would not agree to those terms, and the deal collapsed.
And that's it! That's all John McCain stands accused of: lighting a fire under a foot-dragging federal agency. FCC Chairman William Kennard, appointed by Bill Clinton in 1997, thought it was improper for McCain to tell him he was incompetent and to get his posterior in gear; but there is not even agreement among FCC chairmen appointed by Bill Clinton... as Kennard's predecessor, Reed Hundt (1993-1997), saw nothing wrong or improper about it.
There's a fancy term for a representative or senator prodding a federal agency to fish or get off the pot, to stop dawdling and do its job, to make a decision one way or another instead of endlessly dithering and doing nothing: We call it "constituent services," and it's a vital function of the legislative branch -- which has, after all, oversight over federal agencies.
I think I've told you before that when Sachi was trying to become a citizen, the INS threw one roadblock after another in her way. At the end, she had satisfied every requirement (some of them more than once, as INS would, e.g., delay responding to her for eight months -- then tell her that her fingerprints had "expired" and had to be retaken). All she needed was the ceremony where they would swear her in... but they refused to set a date! They just wouldn't respond; and Sachi knew that if they delayed long enough, she might have to start the process all over again.
So we contacted our then-representative, and he contacted the INS and yelled at them. They finally bestirred themselves and gave Sachi a swearing-in date.
What is the difference between that service and the one McCain performed for Lowell "Bud" Paxson?
"But Paxson gave McCain money!" So what? We had contributed to our congressman's reelection.
"But Paxson flew McCain around in his corporate jet!" That was perfectly legal at the time (1999); it has since been banned, but there is no ethical requirement that a senator anticipate future decisions of the Senate to change its procedures.
"But McCain interfered with the functioning of the Federal Communications Commission!" Right -- and they bloody well needed interfering with, if they were going to leave a company dangling for thirty months, while the FCC decided whether leftist activists in Pittsburgh could derail a business deal because of their own anti-religious bigotry:
The transaction called for the Christian broadcaster Cornerstone TeleVision of Wall, Pa., to take over the noncommercial license of WQEX, the sister station to public broadcaster WQED. Cornerstone would then sell its commercial license to Paxson for $35 million. The money would be split between Cornerstone and WQED, which was operating in the red.
The proposed station swap was highly contentious in Pittsburgh and involved a multi-pronged lobbying effort by the parties to the deal. Local activists and some community leaders had objected to one of their public TV stations being turned over to a religious channel.
The public opposition caused a long delay at the FCC, and by late 1999, it had been 30 months since the deal was offered for FCC approval. "What you had was the FCC normally taking a year to approve the transfer of stations, but they took two years," Paxson said. [Actually, the FCC took two and a half years, to be precise; and they would have taken another two and a half years, had McCain not kicked them in the glutes.]
And this is the absolute worst that the New York Times and the Washington Post, not to mention AP and a raft of lesser "elite" media sources, can find to smear John McCain; this is the big scandal that is supposed to sink his campaign.
(Oh, I forgot one other "McCain" scandal: According to many news sources, John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) actually represents the same state as some other guy, Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ, 84%), who was just indicted; even worse, the Republican representative from Arizona volunteered for the presidential campaign of the Republican senator from Arizona.
(Of course, Renzi didn't engage in any land-swapping deals with McCain -- as did a certain other senator running for president with his longtime pal and fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, now under indictment for political corruption; but that, as Democrats are wont to say, is totally different.)
This McCain "scandal" -- he wrote a couple of letters to the FCC telling them to get on the hump and make a decision, but pointedly told them he didn't care what the decision was -- is so limp that I'm amazed the drive-by media isn't embarassed to flog it. But flog it they are, and flog it they shall, swallowing their humiliation in the desperate hope against hope that they can portray McCain as corrupt... which is about the only chance they have to defeat him and put Barack Obama in la Casa Blanca.
It's so sad, the depths to which the fourth estate has sunk. Why doesn't the Washington Post just end the suspense -- and reorganize itself as a 527?
Date ►►► February 22, 2008
More Good News: Team McCain's "Rapid Response"
Very, very short suggestion that everyone read the Politico piece on how the McCain campaign reacted swiftly and surely to defuse the vile New York Times/elite media sex libel.
It's quite astonishing, really. And the competence and airspeed of the campaign's paratroopers gives me a lot of confidence heading into the general campaign -- where, whether we're facing Hillary Clinton (unlikely) or Barack Obama, this sort of smear job will be the norm against John McCain.
Since November, McCain’s campaign had feared the story and its impact. But the delay also allowed McCain’s backers to plot exactly how they would respond.
An hour after The Times posted the story at about 7:45 p.m., Hazelbaker issued a scathing response labeling it “a hit and run smear campaign.” Soon after, the campaign sent reporters the extensive response prepared for the Times back in December. After that, the press received excerpts from the appearance of Robert Bennett, the Washington lawyer hired by McCain to try to deal with the newspaper on the story, on Fox’s “Hannity & Colmes.”
At the same time, McCain backers were gathering up favorable reaction and analysis on the cable networks and forwarding it to conservative media voices and other opinion makers on the right.
“We wanted to be fast, forward-leaning and as open and transparent as possible,” said a McCain aide involved in the effort.
(Long, long list of specific actions taken by the McCain camp omitted so eyeballs will not glaze over and lawsuits will not be filed.)
"Tactically, the McCain campaign executed flawlessly and quickly to put this story back in the box,” said GOP strategist Phil Musser, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association. “They re-shaped the coverage from dawn to dusk, avoided any big name conservative defections and were actually monetizing the event online at the Grey Lady's expense.”
“Ironically,” says Musser, who supported Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, “the larger impact of the whole story may well be to further galvanize McCain's leadership position, especially if it goes away quickly.”
Good. I don't know whether it was Hillary or Obama who drove this (likely Hillary, if it were anybody), or whether the Times decided to freelance their character assassination... but it looks as though the smear has been nipped and kicked in the bud and bum, respectively. There might even be some blowback against the elites.
Either Way, Somebody's Going to Sulk
Something amusing has just occurred to me. I'm going to inflict it upon you.
First, we all know the normal "Democratic freakout" scenario that everyone has been talking about for thirty or forty years:
Scenario 1: Hillary continues to lag behind Obama throughout the primary season; but because of the proportional awarding of delegates, she ends up only about 200-300 delegates behind him. Then, in a political back-room deal that is almost Clintonian in its deviousness, she manages to force the convention to seat the Michigan and Florida slates of delegates... and she bribes enough stupordelegates to switch that she just squeaks ahead of Barack Obama by five or six votes.
Hillary becomes the nominee -- by the most sculduggerous means since John Quincy Adams stole the presidency from Andrew Jackson in 1824.
Blah, blah, blah. Under this scenario, we can all guess what would happen: Hillary would offer the downticket slot to Obama, who would refuse (not wanting to tie himself to her losing campaign -- and being unwilling to play second violin to her screechy lead for four years in the unlikely event that she won). Thereafter, the huge majority of blacks would be enraged at the Clintons: For the first time ever, a black man would have been within arm's reach of the Democratic nomination... and then that white [rhymes with snow] comes along and snatches it away from him!
A record number of black voters might sit out the election in a snit, leading to the loss not only of the entire South (which is going red anyway), but also such Democratic states as Michigan, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania... each of which has a fairly high percentage of black voters.
But there is another scenario, even more likely, which could be just as delicious -- from a GOP point of view...
Scenario 2: Hillary continues to lag behind Obama throughout the primary season; but because of the proportional awarding of delegates, she ends up only about 200-300 delegates behind him. She tries to pull off a political back-room deal that is almost Clintonian in its deviousness: She manages to force the convention to seat the Michigan and Florida slates of delegates... but then she falls just short of enough superdelegates to squeak past Barack Obama.
Barack Obama becomes the Democratic presidential nominee... but Hillary supporters are screaming foul and accusing Obama of outcheating them.
So what happens under this scenario? How about this: Hispanics historically are suspicious of, and often have a great bias against, blacks; it comes from the social and cultural differences (religion, work habits, geographical orientation -- Southwest vs. deep South and New York); from the naked scorn that many blacks have for "Mexicans;" from the way that the much smaller minority of blacks has managed to seize total control of the entire civil-rights establishment and keeps Hispanics away from the levers of power; and indeed, just because of competition for government dollars.
In particular, Hispanics have pretty much backed Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama. So when she fails to steal the nomination (as she has promised them), Democratic Hispanic voters blame Obama -- and they sit out the election in a snit. Worse, because John McCain is best known for his attempt to regularize illegal aliens (the vast majority of whom are Hispanic), many of these disaffected former Democratic voters vote instead for McCain... and McCain ends up getting a greater share of the Hispanic vote than even George W. Bush did in 2000 (35%) or 2004 (44%).
Maybe McCain gets 50% or 55%... and suddenly states like Washington, Rhode Island, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticutt, and even California come into play.
Double-plus go team!
There is only one plausible scenario that would not bring either of these two gifts to the GOP:
While (3) is plausible, I don't think it likely; the very structure of the delegate-awarding process argues against it. Thus, we will either have a wonderful opportunity to increase the Republican share of the Hispanic voting population... or else a great chance of reducing the Democratic share of black votes. Either way, we could win big. And either way, somebody's going to sulk and demand a nationwide recount.
Date ►►► February 21, 2008
Associated Press, Like Others, Retails Malicious Rumor as "Reporting"
Don't you just love this headline? Cindy McCain, Like Others, Stands by Man
Hm... now what might this imply via subtext? Oh, let's read a little further:
She and her husband, likely Republican presidential nominee John McCain, emphatically denied suggestions in published reports that he had an affair with a lobbyist.
A coterie of wives has confronted the public pain of such an accusation. Smaller still is the band who, like Cindy McCain, have spoken out.
Now, bear in mind that this AP article arises in response to a sleazy New York Times article from earlier today -- which implied but did not openly claim that John McCain had some sort of affair with a 40-something lobbyist... eight years ago. There is a reason that the Times was so circumspect: Not a single person has stepped forward to say such an affair occurred. Nobody.
Here is how the Times put it:
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself -- instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.
When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.
Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.
Understand? Not only has nobody come to the Times and said "they were having an affair." Even the people who did talk to them don't claim to have known that; they were simply worried that others -- read "the elite media" -- might leap to that conclusion.
Yet somehow, this non-allegation allegation has metastasized into "suggestions in published reports that he had an affair with a lobbyist," as AP put it. (Like those "suggestions in published reports" that John McCain fathered a "black child.")
And now we see the insidious nature and tactics of rumor-mongering... because AP goes explicit, just in case you missed the connection (they know their core audience, and they know they have to be spoonfed the slimy inuendo):
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady who is battling Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, memorably insisted to CBS's "60 Minutes" during the 1992 campaign, "I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette." She sat beside husband Bill.
And there was her cool demeanor, six years later, at the news conference where her husband declared of Monica Lewinsky: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
Mrs. Clinton made this barbed observation to the journalists who were present, "I'm pleased to see so many people in attendance who care about child care," a reference to the reason the news conference had been arranged.
You see? So Cindy McCain is standing by her man and insisting that he didn't have the affair, just as Hillary Clinton did with Bill Clinton. But of course, when Hillary did so, she was either lying herself -- or she let her husband make a fool of her.
Can anybody guess what the subtextual implication of this is, anent the McCains?
Think it was just a coincidence? How about this paragraph:
On Thursday, Cindy McCain struck a balance between strident and shocked as she calmly helped her husband confront the allegations. She was no Hillary Clinton, but neither was she silent, like the wives of New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey and Idaho Sen. Larry Craig. The first announced he was gay, the second said he was not.
Hillary Clinton's husband really was having multiple affairs in the White House. Dina Matos McGreevey's husband really was having an affair with a male aide. Suzanne Craig's husband really did pled guilty to making homosexual advances to an undercover police officer in a public toilet. Cindy McCain's husband...
Just in case the connection hadn't been hammered home enough... the AP story goes on to compare Cindy McCain to the wives of Louisiana Rep. David Vitter, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and Sen. Gary Hart... all of whom have admitted -- or been caught red-handed in -- their extramarital sexual affairs.
This inuendo is simply loathsome. Here is the chain of "reasoning" so far in this "news" story:
- Some former McCain staffers -- anonymous, of course (doesn't any source give his name anymore?) -- were worried that McCain's friendship with Vicki Iseman might possibly be improper, though they had no evidence that it was;
- Others were worried that gutter-minded journalists might leap to the conclusion that it was improper, especially if McCain were nominated;
- Therefore, they discouraged her from hanging around McCain;
- The Times decided it was urgent to bring this before the American people, so that McCain would have to answer for his transgressions -- real or confabulated;
- This gave AP cover to openly compare McCain's wife to the wives of numerous politicians who were openly accused of sexual impropriety by the other women/men involved... and who subsequently admitted their sins;
- Therefore, we are to conclude, John McCain must be equally guilty.
Well! Who could argue with that?
Then, like any successful used-car salesman, the writer (Libby Quaid, whoever he or she is) "closes the deal" in the final paragraph:
"The allegation of infidelity is still a powerful allegation, and it remains powerful because it's about trust and responsibility, the idea that if you're cheating on your spouse, what can we expect of you in the presidency," he said. ["He" = Stanley Renshon, "political psychologist" -- huh? -- at CUNY.]
Get the point, you Bible-thumping, woman-hating, judgmental Evangelical Christians who have been threatening to sit out the election? John McCain is just like womanizer Bill Clinton, party-boy Gary Hart, and gay Gov. Jim McGreevy! So go ahead and sit home in a snit on November 4th... you don't want to put some atheist sex maniac like him in the White House, do you?
Great leaping horny toads. At least the Weekly World News has faux photographs of the space aliens who are taking over the world. AP doesn't even bother with that level of substantiation! What next... will they hint that Cindy McCain had thespian encounters at USC, and that McCain himself has been caught masticating in public?
As Mark Twain put it (with a slight lizardian edit) in Life on the Mississippi...
Score... Direct Hit
The specially designed (I don't know what they mean by that) SM-3 struck the ailing satellite perfectly last night, destroying it.
In particular, the dreaded hydrazine tank appears to have been obliterated: Evidently, the missile hit the tank dead-on, exploding it in a visible flare.
At 5:26 pm Hawaii time, the USS Lake Erie fired the missile; the satellite ceased to exist at 5:29.
Several unfriendly countries (notably China) have remarked that besides preventing a dangerous situation if the hydrazine tank had, as seemed likely, survived its plummet to earth and burst open on impact... we have also managed to test an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) on the sly. (Of course, the Chinese shot down one of their own satellites on January 11th, 2007... but that's totally different.)
Nobody, however, has remarked upon the fact that, as this satellite was in orbit, traveling at (obviously) an orbital velocity of approximately 7,600 m/sec (17,000 mph), it's a nice simulation of an incoming ballistic missile in coast phase -- that is, after the rocket burn has ended and prior to the warhead(s) reentering the atmosphere.
In an earlier post, we quoted from the New York Times, which salivated over the possibility that the humiliating miss that the Left expected from this warmongering mission might finally drive a stake through the heart of ballistic missile defense (BMD):
Should it succeed, the accomplishment would embolden those who champion even more spending on top of the $57.8 billion appropriated by Congress for missile defenses since the Bush administration’s first budget in the 2002 fiscal year.
It might even revive a dormant effort to focus the military on antisatellite operations, as well. Failure, on the other hand, would be cited as hard and fresh evidence for those who point to the futility of space-warfare programs.
We mocked the illogic of this conjunction; even had we failed, why would that cast doubt on the efficacy of missile defense? We have no choice: Since our enemies will shoot missiles at us, we must be able to knock those missiles down.
But logic aside, we did not fail. We succeeded. In fact, we succeeded spectacularly.
So by the "logic" of the Left, I reckon we can say without fear of contradiction...
Date ►►► February 20, 2008
Jobs for Jihadis!
The AP headline: Religious Hard-Liners Out in Pakistan.
Fed up with violence and economic hardship, voters in the deeply conservative northwest have thrown out the Islamist parties that ruled this province for five years - a clear sign that Pakistanis are rejecting religious extremism in a region where al-Qaida and the Taliban have sought refuge. [Say... that sounds promising...]
Instead, voters in turbulent North West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan, gave their support to secular parties that promised to pave the streets, create jobs and bring peace through dialogue and economic incentives to the extremists.
...And that sounds about as effective as making little al-Qaeda dolls and sticking pins in them. Or electing Barack Obama.
The New York Times carries essentially the same message:
The winners of Pakistan’s parliamentary elections said Tuesday that they would take a new approach to fighting Islamic militants by pursuing more dialogue than military confrontation, and that they would undo the crackdown on the media and restore independence to the judiciary....
The two opposition parties share similar views of how to tackle the terrorism problem. The new approach is more likely to be responsive to the consensus of the Pakistani public than was Mr. Musharraf’s and is more likely to shun a heavy hand by the military and rely on dialogue with the militants.
Mr. Zardari [Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto and head of the PPP since her murder] said his party would seek talks with the militants in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have carved out a stronghold, as well as with the nationalist militants who have battled the Pakistani Army in Baluchistan Province.
Alas, what the victors propose is not "a new approach;" it's the same old approach that has been used in Pakistan under the previous administrations of Bhutto and Sharif, is currently being used in European countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, and is being pushed by the Democrats in the United States Congress -- and in particular by Barack Obama, favorite for the Democratic nomination for president, who wants to sit down and dialogue with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Who I believe just said that Israel was a "filthy bacteria... lashing out... like a wild beast." And as George Orwell quotes, "the fascist octopus has sung its swan song.")
We even have a name for this strategy: Appeasement. But at least Neville Chamberlain never fantasized that appeasing Adolf Hitler would produce permanent peace... only "peace in our time."
A combination of trying to buy off al-Qaeda and the Taliban, coupled with the relegation of terrorism to a police problem, not enemy military action, has been tried repeatedly... and has produced one colossal failure after another. President Clinton's policy of policing and appeasing led directly to the 9/11 attacks, for a recent American example. It fails because it avoids the most fundamental and necessary strategy to combat Islamist terrorists: naming the enemy.
This is the perennial problem with Pakistan and other Islamic countries: Even more than the West, the ummah rejects the idea that the problem with hirabis is not that they're poor, downtrodden, or unemployed; their problem is that they are monstrously evil butchers whose vision of Islam demands constant human sacrifice. Militant Islamists are like a mutant hybrid of mullahs and Aztecs.
Naturally, the putative "new approach" of the winners in last Tuesday's Pakistan elections plays well in the elite media, because it plays into the Bush derangement syndrome that fevers their brains; and it also makes everything seem much less scary: They don't want to kill us because of who we are... they want to kill us because they don't have jobs! If we just get them jobs, feel their pain, reassure them that we love them, and dialogue with them, then all this scary stuff will just go away.
And besides: The enemies (Pakistani parliament leaders) of our enemy (President George W. Bush) must be our brothers. Back to AP:
That [the plan to "bring peace through dialogue and economic incentives to the extremists"] may conflict with U.S. pressure to step up the fight against armed militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban....
Five years ago, voters in this mostly Pashtun province -- many of them from the same ethnic group as the Afghan Taliban -- set off alarm bells in the U.S. when they elected a provincial government dominated by a coalition of pro-Taliban clerics -- the United Action Alliance.
The alliance rode to victory on the crest of public outrage over the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, not only winning control of the North West Frontier but taking 12 percent of the vote in national parliament balloting as well.
See? It's all Bush's fault. If only we had listened to Sharon Stone, instead of the Israel lobby; if only, instead of invading Afghanistan after 9/11, we had chosen peace -- and offered the Taliban and al-Qaeda dialogue, understanding, and a jobs program. Possibly membership in NATO.
The election results are very mixed. There were two major winners: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP, headed until she was assassinated by Benazir Bhutto, the first head of state to formally recognize and heavily fund the Taliban), nor the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N, headed by the beloved protege of former Pakistan dictator General Zia, Nawaz Sharif). But neither could even crack the a third of the seats in the National Assembly; the PPP got 86 out of 268 seats (32%), and the PML-N got 66 (25%).
The Pakistan Muslim League (Q) -- the PML faction that supported Pervez Musharraf -- took only 38 of the 268 contested seats, for 14%. And "the remaining seats were divided among seven smaller parties and factions and 27 independent candidates," as the Times reports. (Ten seats are not yet decided.)
In addition, neither of the winning parties has a successful track record. From the Times:
But Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif have reasons to bear grudges. Mr. Zardari, who returned from exile only after Ms. Bhutto’s death, spent eight years in prison on murder and corruption charges under the government of Mr. Sharif. Mr. Musharraf was army chief at the time.
Mr. Sharif was thrown out of the government in 1999 by Mr. Musharraf, who mounted a coup and arrested and then exiled him. Many Pakistanis agree that the governments of Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Sharif did not distinguish themselves. Both were ridden with corruption.
But I believe there is real hope here, though not in the way that the drive-by media fantasize. See if this reminds you of anything:
Powerless to stop the militants, local police stood by as tribal leaders opposed to the Taliban were assassinated and owners of video and music stores received threats to close their businesses or face death.
"They made false promises. They said they would give us education, food and jobs but they didn't give us anything. They were all lies," said retired soldier Mohammed Akram Shah. "I am from a village of more than 30 homes and we don't have any electricity even after five years."
As I read this, I see the nascent beginnings of a Pakistan Salvation Council. I don't know if it will be born, but the sperm (the staggering arrogance and murderous hatred of the militant Islamists) and egg (more than five years of Pakistans in the tribal areas having to live under the brutal jacksandal of Taliban/al-Qaeda rule) have merged, and the anger of the people indicates we're at least at the blastocyst phase, if not yet a full-blown embryo.
As Pakistan is still a Democracy, gestation of a Pakistan Salvation Council would likely take the form of a political party, rather than a militia. But if the Moslem terrorists respond as they always have before -- murderously -- then the party will likely metamorphose into an armed political movement. But clearly, the people of Pakistan are fed up to the eyelids with living under terrorist rule... but also by the feeble, half-hearted military tactics of Musharraf's army, which is strong enough to rile the terrorists but not enough to destroy them, cripple them, or drive them out. It's been a "lite" version of the American strategy in Iraq prior to the arrival of Gen. David Petraeus.
So on the whole, I'm pleased by the vote. Not because it's the right solution -- it isn't -- but because it indicates that Pakistanis are groping for a way to boot the militant Moslems. They recognize that what Musharraf was doing wasn't working; they're somewhat willing to give the PPP and the PML-N a second chance (but not particularly persuaded that they're going to succeed)... and I think they're going to start edging closer to the solution that has worked throughout Iraq and that is starting to appear in Afghanistan: Sunni tribesmen themselves rising up against the slaughterhouse-rule of al-Qaeda and the Taliban and recapturing Islam from the Baal worshippers who have declared themselves beyond any judgment but their own.
Islam has gone through periods of horrific expansionist violence against the West and times of relative peace. We're currently in one of the former; but ordinary Moslems around the globe have the power -- and increasingly the will -- to wrench Islam back to the latter.
The rise of salvation councils à la Iraq is exactly what we mean when we call for a more "moderate" Islam.
Date ►►► February 19, 2008
Fair and Balanced - AP Style
I predicted this many years ago, but it still amazes me when a putative news source publishes an article on a controversial issue being pushed by the Left -- and doesn't even trouble to ask a single person on the right to comment.
The issue in this case is the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program that President Bush began shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The ACLU and various other anti-American activists brought suit against the federal government on the grounds that they were convinced the purpose was really to spy on American dissidents. They won at the district level, but the Sixth Circus tossed them out of court; and today, the Supreme Court denied certiorari:
The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to civil rights and privacy advocates who oppose the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. The justices, without comment, turned down an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union to let it pursue a lawsuit against the program that began shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The action underscored the difficulty of mounting a challenge to the eavesdropping, which remains classified and was confirmed by President Bush only after a newspaper article revealed its existence.
Their case has been dismissed by a federal appellate court, and now the Supreme Court has rejected it as well. I can understand why some might consider that "a setback" to pursuing it further... but thank goodness they're not giving up yet!
The ACLU is quoted defending its position; the ACLU's position is described (positively); the ACLU's position is argued. A similar lawsuit filed by an Islamist "charity" front group is sympathetically described, and the suits against the telecoms are mentioned without comment.
But not only do we find not a single argument, comment, or even encouraging word for the president's side... there isn't any indication they even tried to get any. There isn't even the pathetic excuse I see so often... that the spokesman for so-and-so "did not return the phone call from" or "get back to" the reporter in the fifteen minute window he allowed for rebuttal. It appears they never bothered asking a presidential spokesman or supporter of the TSP to defend it.
I doubt there was any discussion about this in the AP newsroom; in fact, I strongly suspect the thought never even occurred to either the (anonymous) reporter or the AP editors to find some Republican and ask him what he thought about the case, the program, or the plaintiffs. Were it suggested, the response would likely be the same blank stare as if someone had suggested they ask a spokesman for the American Nazi Party or the KKK what he thought about blacks and Jews being allowed to vote.
The New York Times is currently carrying the AP story without any changes; I'm sure they'll eventually write their own... we shall follow the progress of the Times' story with great interest. Interestingly, the Washington Post has an earlier version of this AP story that includes this feeble, half-hearted attempt on the part of the (still anonymous) writer to characterize the president's position:
The White House said the monitoring was necessary because the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act left dangerous gaps in the government's eavesdropping authority.
One can almost hear the snort of derision and see the eyeballs rolling as they wrote this. Yet even this single, grudging sentence of explanation -- which fortunately didn't require anyone at AP actually to talk to a Republican -- was dropped from the later story.
My prediction: More and more, this will become the norm. The elite media will finally drop the charade that they have any objectivity at all and sink, openly and brazenly, to the level of journalism in the 18th and 19th centuries... where newspapers attacked their political opponents with wanton abandon, without the slightest pretext of impartiality.
The difference, alas, is that back then, there was a fairly even mix of political opinion in these wildly partisan newspapers. Today, we have a sea of blue speckled here and there with dots of red. In this environment, such pugnacious press partisanship is not just a disservice to the country... it's actually dangerous to our continued existence.
Date ►►► February 17, 2008
That's So Hillary
Associated Press, yesterday:
Harold Ickes, a top adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign who voted for Democratic Party rules that stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates, now is arguing against the very penalty he helped pass.
In a conference call Saturday, the longtime Democratic Party member contended the DNC should reconsider its tough sanctions on the two states, which held early contests in violation of party rules. He said millions of voters in Michigan and Florida would be otherwise disenfranchised -- before acknowledging moments later that he had favored the sanctions.
A man -- or woman -- is known by the company he keeps.
Or in this case, hires.
Step On a Crack, Defund Ballistic Missile Defense
Children often make up games where two utterly unrelated things are joined together in a faux causal relationship: "Step on a crack and break your mother's back." (In this case, it's not a double command: First step on a crack, then when you've finished, go break your mother's back; the conjunctive "and" actually functions as an "if... then" formulation: If you step on a crack, then you will break your mother's back.)
So it's not surprising that the superannuated lost boys of the Democratic Party do the same thing; no matter what their chronological age, they still have the heart -- and the logical faculty -- of a whiny, prepubescent child (New York Times article requires free registration):
The order by President Bush for the Navy to launch an antimissile interceptor [from an Aegis BMD equipped ship] to destroy a disabled satellite before it falls from orbit carries opportunity, but also potential embarrassment, for the administration and advocates of its missile defense program....
Should it succeed, the accomplishment would embolden those who champion even more spending on top of the $57.8 billion appropriated by Congress for missile defenses since the Bush administration’s first budget in the 2002 fiscal year.
It might even revive a dormant effort to focus the military on antisatellite operations, as well. Failure, on the other hand, would be cited as hard and fresh evidence for those who point to the futility of space-warfare programs.
Perhaps someone more learned in the labyrinths of logic can explain to me why failing to hit the satellite (if that happens) means that ballistic missile defense -- no, all "space-warfare programs" of whatever type -- are futile. I confess, the logical leap eludes me.
At worst, if the shoot-down doesn't work, it means that the current system, in its current state of advanced beta testing, requires a bit more tweaking before ready for deployment. But a failure could also mean nothing, if it's just a fluke failure of a standard system.
Note, we're not even talking about the entire Aegis system... just the Ballistic Missile Defense part. The Aegis system comprises two main components:
- Detecting, identifying, tracking, and intercepting short- to medium-range missiles whose ballistic track does not leave what is usually considered "the atmosphere"*; this program dates from the late 1960s;
- And doing the same to defend against long-range missiles that really do leave the atmosphere. This component is called Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), and it dates from the late 1990s (as "Aegis LEAP," for Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile).
There is no specific name for the former system; it was just called the Aegis system, and the newer research is nowadays generically referred to as Aegis BMD, rather than Aegis LEAP. The original Aegis system (non-BMD) has been deployed since the late 1970s; today, according to Wikipedia, there are over 100 Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruisers that have already deployed... in six different navies: Australia, Japan, Norway, Spain, South Korea, and of course the United States (since we invented it).
Aegis BMD is newer; we're just starting to deploy such ships now, the first in 2004, and only in the United States Navy, so far as I know -- though other navies sometimes participate in Aegis BMD tests. It grew out of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, but it's now a Navy program. One major difference between the two is that the BMD version uses SM-3s (Standard Missile 3), which is a long-range missile, while the older (non-BMD) systems generally used medium-range SM-2s (though you can use an SM-3 in a non-BMD intercept, if you want). Also, BMD uses much more sensitive and robust tracking stations circling the globe; it's a quantum leap over the old version.
Naturally, since the failing satellite we intend to destroy is in orbit at the edge of the detectable atmosphere, we're going to use the BMD version of the Aegis to shoot it down. The technology is pretty well tested out, and the odds are very good that it will do just what it's supposed to do. But the argument of "opponents" of missile defense (a.k.a., supporters of America being attacked), that a miss means the entire field of ballistic missile defense must be scrapped as useless, is so facile and infantile, I wonder that the Times had the chutzpah to put its name to it.
Here is the newspaper's reasoning:
Often compared to hitting a bullet with a bullet, the shooting down of ballistic missiles with an interceptor rocket is difficult, as an adversary’s warheads would be launched unexpectedly on relatively short arcs [hence all those tracking stations, Poindexter] -- and most likely more than one at a time. [Most likely? Says who? That depends on who's shooting, doesn't it? A terrorist might have only one to shoot.]
So it should be easier for the Standard Missile 3, a Navy weapon launched from an Aegis cruiser in the northern Pacific, to find and strike a satellite almost the size of a school bus making orbits almost as regular as bus routes around the globe, 16 times a day.
Sure, "should be." But suppose this one particular SM-3 -- which is off-the-shelf technology -- has a rocket malfunction and fails to rise high enough to hit the target. Why would that kind of failure indicate that all "space-warfare programs" are acts of "futility?" Try as I might, I cannot find any logical connection. It's like saying if a rifle jams, that demonstrates the futility of firearms-warfare programs.
But really, this article has little to do with shooting down a satellite with an Aegis BMD system from a naval ship in the northern Pacific Ocean... and everything to do with the liberal establishment's running hysteria with the very idea of active defense, as opposed to "defense" by paper treaty. The real point the Times wants to make is that we cannot rely upon self-defense measures, technology, the military, or American innovation to save ourselves; our only safety lies in getting signatures on little pieces of pressed wood-pulp. It's the decades-old Luddite exaltation of arms control over national defense:
The United States is perhaps the nation most dependent on satellites, both for commerce and for military communications, reconnaissance and targeting. And, to be sure, the Bush administration was harshly critical when the Chinese launched an antisatellite missile last year, the first time any nation had blasted an object in space in the 22 years since the United States last conducted such a test.
At the same time, however, the United States has resisted suggestions that a new arms-control regime be negotiated to govern space weapons, and has asserted its sovereign right to defend its own access to space and to deny it to others in future wars. [Sovereign rights! How barbaric]...
Efforts to ban space weapons, like the treaty proposed by China and Russia, are generally favored by arms-control analysts, even though they view the latest such initiative [from Russia and China] as deeply flawed.
(It would be churlish of me, alas, to cite the "deeply flawed" nature of the current proposal from our enemies as "hard and fresh evidence" for those who point to the futility of arms-control programs.)
There are several hard and fast realities that cannot be wished away by all the aging hippies suffering from Peter-Pan syndrome in all the New-Left think-tanks in America:
- We have enemies who possess long-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads that can reach the United States; these enemies may decide at some point that they can take any retaliatory hit and survive... especially if we have destroyed our own retaliatory arsenal -- or just as bad, allowed it to deteriorate to the point where we cannot rely upon it.
- We have even more enemies who possess medium-ranger ballistic missiles and WMD technology which can rain chemical or biological warheads on any country in Europe, hoping America will be unwilling to get involved in such an exchange (say, if we have Barack Obama as president).
- And we have many, many enemies who aren't even nations themselves... but who are just dying (literally!) to get their mittens on WMD warheads for the medium-range missiles they have already secretly bought from Iran, who got them from North Korea, who got them from China or Russia. They have the will, if not yet the means, to launch horrific WMD missile attacks on Western countries... without there being any responsible adult to hold accountable under any treaty ever signed by anyone.
On a nutshell, we cannot entrust national security to a handful of pages with signatures on them. If one of our adversaries chooses to abrogate a treaty (very likely, with the likes of Putin, Kim Jung Il, and Ahmadinejad) -- or if the actor who attacks us isn't even the head of any state but just a hirabi with deep pockets and a good Rolodex -- we can't jolly well wave the paper and say, "You can't attack us... we have an agreement!" Once the missiles start flying, there's no one left to cry to.
No matter how many failures, how many successes; no matter what the cost or how long it may take; we must press on defending our country from every threat we can see or even imagine. Closing our eyes, refusing to defend ourselves is never an option... whether because we decide it's too hard or too expensive, or because we let treaty fetishists make fools of us.
Treaties are valuable; I have nothing against them -- though they should be verifiable and fall with equal gravity on all parties. But the proper order is to protect ourselves first, then sign a treaty later... after the enemy realizes he cannot harm us. That's the only thing that will keep him honest: The utter certainty that the treaty is the best he will ever get, and attacking us would be infinitely worse for him.
The only trustworthy foreign potentate is one who has nothing to gain and everything to lose by betraying America. Good fences make good diplomats.
Date ►►► February 15, 2008
At least John McCain reassures us on one critical point:
McCain said that if Obama becomes the nominee and decides against taking public money, he might do the same.
"If Senator Obama goes back on his commitment to the American people, then obviously we'd have to rethink our position," McCain said. "Our whole agreement was that we would take public financing if he made that commitment as well. And he signed a piece of paper, I'm told, that made that commitment."
Thank God the GOP nominee-in-waiting isn't such a conviction fetishist that he would insist upon taking federal money -- and the spending limits they require -- even if Obama breaks his word and opts out of the system.
(By the way, Hugh Hewitt has been playing a recent speach given by Michelle Obama at UCLA... and I think we have finally found someone more vapidly fascist than Barack, believe it or not.)
She's a Self-Made Fool
Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) said, just a few days ago, that despite the now impossible to deny military success of the "surge" (how I hate that misleading word, whether Democrat or Republican uses it), the entire Iraq war is lost because the Iraqi government hasn't made any political progress.
Then Wednesday, as if on cue, the Iraqi parliament enacted legislation for provincial elections... resolving one of the three central political -- er -- quagmires standing in the way of building a relatively free and relatively democratic Iraqi nation. (The other two are anti-de-Baathification, which was passed some weeks ago; and oil revenue sharing, which is very close to being fully resolved.)
It appears the Iraqi parliament has accomplished more of its own agenda than has Nancy Pelosi since she and her cronies took over Congress thirteen months ago.
The capper came last night, when the Speaker refused even to call a vote on semi-permanizing the FISA reforms that passed by more than two-thirds in the Senate and had a solid majority already declared for passage in the House. It was simply more important to Nan to:
- Slime the Bush administration by passing -- on a narrow, party-line vote -- "contempt of Congress" charges against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Chief Counsel Harriet Miers... for not confessing that political appointees were appointed for partially political reasons;
- Pay off their biggest special-interest donors, the trial lawyers, who want to get rich feeding off the carcass of the telecom industry, which had the misfortune to agree to help the government track down terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, no good deed goes unpunished -- by Democrat-supporting trial lawyers. (By the way... once the lawyers sue Big Telephone out of existence, who will offer the conference-call service litigators live for?)
Looks like Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) may have to share his booby prize with his sister across the Rotunda.
Date ►►► February 14, 2008
Separated at Birth?
Baby B.E.M. and Momma B.E.M.
Oh wait; they were separated at birth, weren't they?
She Needs a Man
Bear with us for a bit...
Hillary Clinton is our first serious (?) female candidate for president.
Feisty (fisty?) Hillary
From Day-1, her campaign has been run by Patti Solis Doyle, Hillary's longtime -- uh -- friend:
Patti Solis Doyle
But Solis Doyle was just ousted, and now Hillary's campaign is run by Margaret "Maggie" Williams, Hillary's former chief of staff and loyal to the core:
What do these three people have in common, besides being fanatically loyal to Hillary? Let me give you a broad hint... it has something to do with gender.
Of course, she does have pollster Mark Penn working for her, along with other males; but they are subordinated to the folks above... and Penn, at least, appears to be growing increasingly frustrated by the inept campaign.
But let's step back a bit in time. Most accounts I have read say that it was Hillary who insisted that President Bill Clinton name a woman -- one willing to be a sock puppet for Hillary -- as attorney general. First he tried Zoe Baird, but she turned out to have hired an illegal alien to be her chauffeur and another to be nanny to her child, not even paying Social-Security taxes on their wages.
The second try was Kimba Wood; she too turned out to have an illegal-alien problem.
The third time was the not very charming Janet Reno. Reno had no illegal-alien nannies -- probably because she had no children -- so she was confirmed. She subsequently transmogrified, a few years later, into the de facto counsel for Bill and Hillary Clinton, while still remaining on paper the attorney general... but that is beyond the scope of this post.
Reno's top deputy was Jamie Gorelick; she was also generally considered Hillary's "political officer" (in the Stalinist sense) within the Justice Department. Certainly Justice staffers were more afraid of Gorelick's wrath than that of the attorney general herself.
Gorelick, you will recall, published a memo in 1995 directing the US Attorney and the FBI, then investigating the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to essentially erect a wall between intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement, not allowing side either even to communicate with the other. This stupid idea went far beyond the law's requirement (as she admitted in the memo) and almost certainly led, in part, to many terrorist attacks on the United States, including the 9/11 attacks themselves (which she continues to deny to this day).
It became clear during the run-up to the 9/11 Commission (on which Gorelick served) that Hillary, not Reno, was behind the memo that created "Gorelick's wall."
Then there was Susan Thomases, a New York corporate lawyer with little government experience and but a small bit of political experience -- but Hillary's closest friend from the 1970s.
Thomases had a slightly better political resume than others in "Hillaryland" (Patti Solis Doyle's term): She had been a scheduler for Vice President Walter Mondale and had run the Senate campaign of Bill Bradley in 1978, and she was a successful Manhattan attorney. Still, this seems a bit slim to qualify her for her role as Hillary Clinton's closest advisor, troubleshooter (mainly on Whitewater allegations), personal lawyer, scheduler to the President of the United States, and unofficial "enforcer" of Hillaryland.
She later became famous for testifying more than 180 times during the congressional Whitewater investigation that she did not remember key facts or incidents, so couldn't answer whatever question she had been asked. (Pundits called it the "Alzheimers defense.")
I asked before what these Hillary appointees have in common; let me be more specific about the answer: It's not just that they are all women; the real similarity is that they were all chosen by Hillary Clinton precisely because they were women. she appears to have only two criteria for her appointments. The appointee must...
- Be fanatically loyal to Hillary Clinton;
- And be a woman.
Does anybody imagine that in 1993, the top three candidates for Attorney General of the United States were all women? Does anyone believe that the best choice Hillary could have made for campaign manager was Patti Solis Doyle... who had run a (virtually unopposed) mayoral campaign for Richard Daley in Chicago and two (virtually unopposed) Senate campaigns for Hillary, but who had never, ever held a significant position in either a presidential campaign, or even in a campaign of any sort against a tough opponent -- but who just happened also to be a woman?
Maggie Williams is now running Hillary's presidential campaign. So far as I can tell, she has never served on any other campaign; she was a "senior advisor" to the campaign before Solis Doyle was ousted... but Williams was earlier Hillary's chief of staff (fanatical loyalty); and of course, she is a woman.
Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood, Janet Reno, Jamie Gorelick, Susan Thomases -- pretty much the same evaluation: Not particularly qualified, except in the all-important loyalty and gender checkboxes.
Hillary Clinton has always been proud to call herself a feminist (one of those feminists who owes everything she has or is to a man, her husband), but she is a particular kind of feminist: She is not what Christina Hoff-Sommers would call an equity feminist, one who wants only equality of opportunity for women; Hillary is what Hoff-Sommers calls a gender feminist... that is, a tribalist whose "tribe" is women.
Hillary enthusiastically supports anything that helps women or girls, whether fairly or unfairly; thus, she still applauds university admissions standards that give preference to women, even though women outnumber men on college campuses by a substantial margin. Likewise, a gender feminist like Hillary champions any policy that hurts or retards men and boys relative to women and girls.
Contrast Hillary's female appointees to George W. Bush's appointment of Condoleezza Rice first as National Security Advisor, then as Secretary of State, and his nomination of Harriet Miers as Supreme Court justice. Or for that matter, with Bill Clinton's appointment of Madeleine Albright as Secretary of State. Bush certainly did not pick Rice just to pick a woman; she had previously served as special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. William J. Crowe, Jr; then she served on the National Security Council as the senior advisor on Soviet and East European Affairs. She was Bush's senior foreign-policy advisor during the campaign; so it was perfectly natural that he name her his NSA.
Harriet Miers was the president of a large Dallas law firm; then president of the Dallas Bar Association, then the Texas State Bar Association and chairman of the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. Most important, she was chief counsel to Governor Bush's transition team in 1994, and she became Bush's personal attorney while he was governor. She headed the Texas Lottery Commission, a fairly large bureaucracy, and reportedly did a very good job.
Yet despite the fact that she was well qualified and a very close friend of the president, he did not name her Attorney General of the United States; that honor went to Sen. John Ashcroft. She did eventually become White House Counsel in 2004... and it was from that position -- and her role as head of Bush's selection committee to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- that Bush's eventual nomination came of Miers herself to replace O'Connor.
He said at the time he specifically wanted to pick someone who did not come from the appellate courts. When conservatives objected, he withdrew Miers (after a long struggle) and picked Judge Samuel Alito... from the Third Circus Court of Appeals. So it goes.
And even Madeleine Albright had a stellar academic career, and served as Clinton's Ambassador to the United Nations for four years, before he named her Secretary of State. There is no indication that Bill Clinton named her just because she was a women, though I'm sure he was not blind to the PR aspect. (Bill Clinton has a rather different set of political sins than does his wife.)
But Hillary Clinton is determined that her campaign will be run by and for women, regardless of whether there are better qualified and more experienced campaign managers who happen, sadly, to be male. And we see the consequences of Hillary's tribalism today: Despite every institutional advantage one can imagine, she is being slowly ground into hamburger by a complete lightweight no-name with even less experience than she has.
Her campaign is in free-fall not because it's run by a woman, but because it has all along been run by people selected primarily because they are women. Hillary's gynocentrism has probably thwarted her political aspirations, unless she gets amazingly lucky -- and both Barack Obama and John McCain make catastrophic, career-killing mistakes ("Macaca!").
The only way I can think for her to turn her candidacy around would be to hire a male campaign manager... not because a generic man would be better than Maggie Williams or Patti Solis Doyle (although that's probably true), but because such an appointment would signal that Hillary had actually changed her own psyche from gender feminism towards an equity position, selecting not "the best woman" for the job but "the best person."
But considering the psychology of the individual, I consider that a very slim possibility indeed. Hillary would rather lose while surrounded by a pavillion of women than put a man in charge -- and win.
Date ►►► February 13, 2008
A Very Patterico Moment
I want to set up a very realistic situation where I would certainly advocate we waterboard a suspect, and ask whether Patterico would do likewise. I suspect he will be on my side on this one, but I don't know for sure: His prosecutorial background gives him a very different perspective than I, a non-lawyer, can have. I'm especially curious because Patterico is adamant that waterboarding is torture; but he does not dogmatically insist that it should never, ever be used under any circumstances.
What I want to create here is not a cartoon situation -- if you don't waterboard this guy, the entire planet will blow up in thirty minutes! -- but rather a very real circumstance in which a CIA station chief in, say, Poland might find himself.
Naturally, everybody else is free to chime in, too. Maybe Patterico will be willing to put up a link, so his own readers can comment here. Or alternatively, they can read the scenario and comment at P's Ps.
Here we go...
You are a CIA station chief in an undisclosed, secret CIA prison in Poland (with Warsaw's consent). A prisoner is brought to your location, picked up by the Germans in Afghanistan and transferred to U.S. custody six days ago. We'll call him Mahmoud.
Mahmoud was not previously known to any intelligence agency before his capture (he was not the main target of the raid). He doesn't appear to be a big fish. But when he was grabbed, he had a laptop with him, and he was in the process of trying to erase the hard drive. Most of the information is irretrievably gone, a little bit remains; and within that remaining little bit, your techies manage to extract references to a huge attack planned for somewhere on the American mainland. From the timeframe discussed, it appears to be one to three months away. You don't know anything more than that.
You do not know for sure whether Mahmoud has more detailed information about the attack, but he evidently knew enough to try to erase the drive, even at risk of his own life. He has already been interrogated by the Marines and by CIA personnel where you are, but it's clear he has more information that he's holding back. The timeframe is tight enough that you must make a decision immediately, but not so tight that there would be no time to act on any information.
So what you know is this:
- A major attack is planned somewhere in the continental United States;
- Mahmoud may or may not be a major player, but he appears to know something significant about it;
- However, he might not know enough to allow authorities to thwart the attack. But on the other hand, he might;
- He would not talk under ordinary interrogation. You might be able to break him given time, but every week that passes makes it less likely his intelligence can be used to stop the attack.
We add one more point:
- You already have solid evidence that he participated in some attacks on American troops that resulted in fatalities. So if we want to try him later at a military tribunal, we don't need a confession to convict him; we already have ample forensic evidence.
You ask the DCI whether you can waterboard him; word comes from the White House via the DCI that you are authorized to waterboard Mahmoud, but you must use your own discretion whether you actually do it: You are the only one close enough to the scene to make that call. You get the impression that the president will stand behind you, whatever you decide... but of course, that only applies to this particular president. You don't know who will be president in 2009.
So the question is, do you order Mahmoud to be waterboarded? I have told you that I would say yes, waterboard him; I will also say that absent point 2 above, I would probably say no.
This is as realistic (and borderline) as I could make it without having more specific knowledge of any real-world situation similar to this. So, Patterico... what say you? (And everybody else, what say youse?)
I absolutely love asking intelligent people tough ethical questions that reside in the twilight zone between "decidedly yes" (Ayman Zawahiri) and "of course not!" (Cindy Sheehan). I enjoy watching how they think the situation through, to gain an insight into how others go about resolving such dichotomies between lives and souls.
Another Painful, Humiliating Loss for Majority Leader Harry Reid...
...Another legislative victory for America:
The president’s remarks came the morning after the Senate handed the White House a major victory by voting to broaden the government’s spy powers and to give legal protection to phone companies that cooperated in President Bush’s program of eavesdropping without warrants.
The immunity for the phone companies is the key difference between the Senate bill and the one passed by the House last year. The president said that without that protection, American telecommunications companies would face lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars. Without the protection, he said, “they won’t participate, they won’t help us.”
“Liability protection is critical to securing the private sector’s cooperation with our intelligence efforts,” Mr. Bush said.
The bill now returns to the House of Representatives, which refused to grant such retroactive immunity to the telecoms before... presumably on the grounds that they had helped us identify terrorist cells in the United States right after the 9/11 attacks; and, well, no good deed goes unpunished. Or should, if the Democrats have their way.
Incidentally, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raced to Washington D.C. (or perhaps simply stayed there, if he was there for the primary yesterday) to vote against the immunity clause in a failed amendment that would have stripped it from the bill; but then he suddenly became unavailable and incommunicado for the roll-call vote on the actual bill. As was Hillary Clinton, also a Democratic presidential candidate. Profiles in courage!
How bad was the thumping of Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%)?
On Tuesday, the Senate rejected amendments that would have imposed greater civil liberties checks on the government’s surveillance powers. Finally, the Senate voted 68 to 29 to approve the legislation, which the White House had been pushing for months.
The outcome in the Senate amounted, in effect, to a broader proxy vote in support of Mr. Bush’s wiretapping program. The wide-ranging debate before the final vote presaged discussion that will play out this year in the presidential and Congressional elections on other issues testing the president’s wartime authority, including secret detentions [of international terrorists], [so called] torture and Iraq war financing.
That last point, innocuously labeled "Iraq war financing," covers a multitude of leftist sins. It also means that the Democrats plan to try -- for about the eleventh or twelfth time -- to strangle war funding during a war and force defeat on troops who are currently pressing on to victory. This Quisliotic effort is led by the defeatist Reid, who famously declared many months ago, before the counterinsurgency even began, that it had already failed; that we had already lost; that the only thing left to do was evacuate the field and let al-Qaeda take over Iraq.
He spoke only the truth as he saw it, for Harry Reid is an honorable man. So are they all, all honorable men.
The attempted surrender in Iraq had, of course, nothing whatsoever to do with the Democratic Party compulsion to blame everything they hate, from the war to terrorism to the weather to the Boy Sprouts, on President George W. Bush. Honorable men would never be so petty and reckless as to precipitate military defeat and the deaths of hundreds of thousands, just to embarass our own government. And they are all honorable men.
So the next question is, will Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) now throw herself on the defeatism landmine, bravely immolating herself to rescue the leadership of her Senate counterpart -- at the expense of her own?
Is a rabbi Catholic? Does Ivana Trump sleep in the woods?
How big was the victory for the United States of America in the valiant quest to exterminate the human sacrificers in al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other transnational terrorist groups, along with their national sponsors in the Arab states, in Pakistan and Indonesia, and especially in Iran -- our war against global hirabah (Arabic for "unholy war")? Take a look at what our "lame duck" president achieved in Harry Reid's Senate:
The measure extends, for at least six years, many of the broad new surveillance powers that Congress hastily approved last August just before its summer recess. Intelligence officials said court rulings had left dangerous gaps in their ability to intercept terrorist communications.
The bill allows the government to eavesdrop on large bundles of foreign-based communications on its own authority so long as Americans are not the targets. A secret intelligence court, which traditionally has issued individual warrants before wiretapping began, would review the procedures set up by the executive branch only after the fact to determine whether there were abuses involving Americans.
“This is a dramatic restructuring” of surveillance law, said Michael Sussmann, a former Justice Department intelligence lawyer who represents several telecommunication companies. “And the thing that’s so dramatic about this is that you’ve removed the court review. There may be some checks after the fact, but the administration is picking the targets.” [As opposed to unelected federal judges on the secret FISA court -- all honorable men -- picking the terrorist-surveillance targets.]
The Senate plan also adds the provision that was considered critical by the White House: shielding phone companies from legal liability. That program allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants on the international communications of Americans suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda.
More than three dozen lawsuits have already been filed against AT&T, MCI, and other telecoms for violating the privacy rights of Americans who receive phone calls from al-Qaeda. It would be rude and offensive for us to compare these lawsuits to the threats by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to target a huge bunch of "John Doe" passengers in the lawsuits filed by CAIR on behalf of the "flying imams" against US Airways. Certainly there can be no similarity between lawsuits designed to stop telecoms from participating in future efforts to identify al-Qaeda cells inside the United States -- and suing passengers for reporting extremely suspicious behavior by Moslem activists on an airline flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix.
No, we can all agree they're not in the least bit similar; still, I wonder how many Democrats would also vote against extending immunity to ordinary citizens who report suspicious, terrorist-like behavior to authorities, immunity from being sued for daring to speak up.
(We'll probably never know; both the House and Senate finally reinserted such protection into the reauthorization of the Homeland Security Bill in late July, 2007... but only after the Democrat-led conference committee first stripped it from the bill on July 20th. I don't know what deal was struck to get it back in, but I believe it was finally reinserted into the final bill before passage.)
Contrariwise, we certainly do know that there are 21 "Blue Dog" Democrats willing to vote for the Senate version of the FISA-reform bill:
Some House Democrats were prepared to support immunity, regardless. In a Jan. 28 letter, 21 Democrats in the conservative Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., supporting immunity and listing other provisions that they believed were needed in a FISA bill.
They wrote that the Senate bill “contains satisfactory language addressing all these issues, and we would fully support that measure should it reach the House floor without substantial change.”
Those 21 Democrats, plus the 202 Republicans in the House, makes a 51% majority in favor of reforming FISA to allow intelligence agencies to engage in rapid-response surveillance, rather than wait weeks for a FISA decision -- and have to show "probable cause" to surveille even foreign terrorists living abroad. And of course, there are other Democrats who will support the Senate version just to prevent the FISA law from expiring, as President Bush has already announced that he will support no more temporary extentions.
On the other side, some of those 202 Republicans might vote against it. But clearly, this is a vital issue in the war on global hirabah; a substantial portion (possibly a majority) of the House supports it; and the Senate just passed it overwhelmingly.
Of course, Speaker Pelosi pushed instead for a 21-day extension of the bill... knowing the Senate would never go along, and the president wouldn't sign it anyway. Of course, it might buy a few days time. Of course, the August extention expires Saturday. Of course, the House won't be in session either tomorrow or Friday. Of course, of course.
Of course, the delay tactic failed when "more than 30" Blue Dogs joined the Republicans to vote it down, 229 to 191.
That means the Speaker has only two options left in her bag of tricks:
- Refuse to vote on the Senate bill, thus allowing the entire edifice of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reform to expire in three days... leaving our intelligence agencies high and dry. And all for the want of the will to allow a vote that Pelosi knows she will lose.
- Hold her nose and hold the damned vote.
Which hand will she choose? I suspect that by the end of the day, we will have a vote and a new FISA law sent to the president's desk for signature. That will resolve our intellignece crisis... for the next six years; after which -- you're way ahead of me -- it will expire. Again.
Democrats: So are they all, all honorable men (and women).
Date ►►► February 12, 2008
When a Man Stops Believing in God...
-- A chestnut typically attributed to G.K. Chesterton, who never precisely said or wrote it.
(We never could get a reader voting system to work properly and securely on Big Lizards; so please pardon us if we hijack the "Dhimmi of the Month" category for an apropos post that includes no poll.)
The soon-to-be-ex-Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams -- the top dog in the Church of England (not counting the titular Queen) -- has essentially argued that Parliament should consider implementing some form of sharia law in Great Britain, in order to sooth the hurt feelings of British Moslems suffering under liberty and democracy. But his paralogical argument evinces the brain rot that comes from liberal extremism (a.k.a., liberation theology -- the theory that Christianity commands us to be socialists), as well as the cultural self-loathing and self immolation that is usually the result of creeping atheism: If Williams really believes that there is a God as depicted in the Old and New Testaments, and if God loves liberty and human freedom (having given us freedom of choice) -- then why would he argue that Britain should introduce a form of legal jurisprudence diametrically opposed to those virtues?
This leads me to wonder... Does Archbishop Dr. Rowan Williams still actually believe in God? Or does he now believe, rather, in anything?
Note: I shall put the full text of Dr. Williams' lecture in the "slither on," with each paragraph numbered for easy consumption and reference. When I refer to paragraph number 13 or 7 or somesuch, you can read the whole paragraph in the permalink.
The axiomatic source of Williams' astonishing conclusion is not quite Marxist; but it is at least Marxian. He believes, along with Marxists, that all relationships are power-struggles between competing groups. In every such political struggle, there is a majority group -- which is "advantaged" by its majority power -- and a reflectively disadvantaged minority group.
There is a reason he needs this axiom: The simple fact is that he can only call for treating Islam as the equal of other forms of thought if he first supposes that Islamists who demand sharia courts in England act like other reformers; that is, they make logical arguments and abide by the democratic process.
But of course, they don't; they hurl charges of religious bigotry at anyone who disagrees with them; they declare fatwahs; they call for assassinations; they set off bombs in the tube. So how can Williams reconcile this dichotomy?
He turns to the argument made by many black supremecist demagogues, such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Like them, Williams clearly believes that only the advantaged (majority) group can commit racial (religious) bias. If the disadvantaged (minority) group does the same thing, it's totally different: Because the minority hasn't the advantage of power, they must engage in, let us say, asymmetrical warfare, having no other way to fight back. If a runt is fighting a giant, we don't call him a cheater if he grabs a two by four and kneecaps the brute. Thus, Williams argues, we should cut the Moslems some slack when they engage in what otherwise would sure look like extreme sectarian hatred and even violence against "infidels":
7 I have argued recently in a discussion of the moral background to legislation about incitement to religious hatred that any crime involving religious offence has to be thought about in terms of its tendency to create or reinforce a position in which a religious person or group could be gravely disadvantaged in regard to access to speaking in public in their own right: offence needs to be connected to issues of power and status, so that a powerful individual or group making derogatory or defamatory statements about a disadvantaged minority might be thought to be increasing that disadvantage. The point I am making here is similar. If the law of the land takes no account of what might be for certain agents a proper rationale for behaviour -- for protest against certain unforeseen professional requirements, for instance, which would compromise religious discipline or belief -- it fails in a significant way to communicate with someone involved in the legal process (or indeed to receive their communication), and so, on at least one kind of legal theory (expounded recently, for example, by R.A. Duff), fails in one of its purposes.
Having thus cast out Judeo-Christian philosophy as the basis of Western civilization, Williams has set the stage for special privileges for Moslems; after all, he isn't calling for special Catholic tribunals for the Irish or Napoleonic courts for French immigrants. He can now proceed to knock down the other legs of the stool of Western civ, starting with individualism.
What matters to Williams is not the will of the individual but what particular groups the individual represents. In this case, he cares about individuals primarily as cogs in the Moslem group.
He assumes that if the umma (broadly defined, "Islamadom," as the Moslem version of Christendom), as a group, demands sharia, then every member of the should want to live under sharia law. The group desire -- in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, the Waziristan region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the suburbs of Paris, and at Cronula Beach in Australia -- sets the standard for each individual, including those in the UK branch of the umma. In such a worldview, rights inhere in the group, not the individual. E.g., from paragraph 12: "recognition of the corporate reality and rights of the umma."
But how can a fuzzy-bordered collection of people have "rights?" Our own American courts have consistently ruled that "the right of the people" means an individual right that inheres in each individual person; we don't recognize collective rights (rather, we shouldn't).
Or from paragraphs 5 and 6, discussing people who are "belonging to the umma." This is not like belonging to a church, which requires the active consent of the individual; the umma comprises not only all believing Moslems but everyone who was born into Islam, whether or not he has renounced it: Apostasy is considered a horrific crime by sharia courts, which Williams acknowledges. He argues against allowing British sharia courts to enforce the penalties for apostasy -- but he does not object to them pursuing social punishment for apostasy within the community. Therefore, he accepts the basic premise that once a Moslem, always a Moslem; not even death will release you.
So when he talks about the umma, it includes many involuntary members who are lumped in with those who (he seems to believe) should want to live under some form of sharia.
Ideal or no ideal:
Williams also rejects the core Western cultural system of hypothesis, observation, and conclusion. He does not care what his own eyes tell him about the real human beings who compose the umma in Great Britain.
Williams argues is that there is some enlightened version of Islam (probably true) that allows the umma and Western civilization to mesh, but that "Islamic primitivists" keep mucking up the gears. His sharia courts would, of course, be of the enlightened kind of Islam (from 9):
There needs to be access to recognised authority acting for a religious group: there is already, of course, an Islamic Shari'a Council, much in demand for rulings on marital questions in the UK [its defect from Williams' viewpoint is that it has no legally binding authority -- DaH]; and if we were to see more latitude given in law to rights and scruples rooted in religious identity, we should need a much enhanced and quite sophisticated version of such a body, with increased resource and a high degree of community recognition, so that 'vexatious' claims could be summarily dealt with. The secular lawyer needs to know where the potential conflict is real, legally and religiously serious, and where it is grounded in either nuisance or ignorance. There can be no blank cheques given to unexamined scruples.
14 So the second objection to an increased legal recognition of communal religious identities can be met if we are prepared to think about the basic ground rules that might organise the relationship between jurisdictions, making sure that we do not collude with unexamined systems that have oppressive effect or allow shared public liberties to be decisively taken away by a supplementary jurisdiction. Once again, there are no blank cheques.
But the reality is that utopianism gives way to real-world power plays: Utopian Marxism gave way to practical Stalinism; utopian pacifism gave way to reflexive anti-Americanism and support for violent revolutions of the Left. A utopian sharia court may start as a "much enhanced and quite sophisticated version of such a body, with increased resource and a high degree of community recognition" -- though even that is questionable, considering who would be implementing it in the first place. But it would soon be supplanted by a more practical sharia court that simply enforced all the rules of Islam in the most literal and primitive way imaginable, rather than carefully picking what Westerners would consider the "sophisticated" -- that is, historically heretical -- interpretation of sharia.
The real problem with Williams' argument is that he clearly has no faith whatsoever in Western culture -- or even the Western God he professes to worship. There is no conflict between internal religious duties and Western jurisprudence; if an individual Moslem chooses to live his life according to the religious dictates of a sharia court, we allow him to do so, freely and without official prejudice or legal disfavor. (The reverse is never allowed by real sharia courts in the real world, of course.)
So-called "sophisticated" Islam is perfectly compatible with a fully Western legal system: Even today, some enlightened but non-official sharia court could rule that Achmed's daughter Sophia must marry Faisal, as Achmed decided. But then it is up to Sophia and Faisal to agree or reject this decision, because Western lands allow individuals to make their own choices.
Thus, since voluntary "submission" to Islam is already allowed by Western authorities under existing law, Williams' call for separate and overlapping legal jurisdictions -- one secular Western democratic system, and a separate sharia system with "supplementary jurisdiction" -- can only be a call for sharia courts having binding jurisdiction over the umma and all its members:
- They already have non-binding jurisdiction over anyone who chooses to obey;
- Williams calls for a change, for sharia courts with greater official power;
- Ergo, Williams must want to give sharia courts the only power they lack today: legal authority to enforce their decisions willy-nilly on whomever they see as part of the umma, whether the victim chooses to accept such jurisdiction or not.
In the real world of politics, the imam's fantasy will become some poor slob's reality in the time it takes to establish a British Islamic Commission for the Protection of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice.
And even if British law doesn't accept such expanded sharia jurisdiction in every location, the mere act of declaring that such "supplementary jurisdiction" exists -- at any officially recognized level -- will have the effect of emboldening the sharia courts, disheartening Islamic dissidents in Great Britain, and encouraging the "simple folk" in the British branch of the umma -- primitivists almost by definition -- to own slaves, beat their wives, order their daughters to marry the father's pick of suitors, or kill those daughters to protect the family "honor." And of course, it will encourage hirabis to commit acts of terrorism to push for even more empowered sharia zones in Britain, ultimately demanding that the entire U.K. become part of the umma. "Parliament surrendered once," they will say; "they will never fight for their corrupt and godless system!" Correct or not, it's a prescription for civil war within the entire Commonwealth.
The horrors of Islamic courts everywhere else in the world will not stop at the English Channel; if Britain gives Moslem radicals sharia-lite, then a demand for full-blown sharia will inevitably follow and be very hard to resist; folks get in the habit of surrendering. Thus, sharia law will not supplement but supplant the "unbreakable" golden thread of British law, whence our own Founding Fathers took the inspiration for our own Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The lions shall lie down upon the lambs
Here is Williams' key utopian fallacy:
17 The rule of law is thus not the enshrining of priority for the universal/abstract dimension of social existence but the establishing of a space accessible to everyone in which it is possible to affirm and defend a commitment to human dignity as such, independent of membership in any specific human community or tradition, so that when specific communities or traditions are in danger of claiming finality for their own boundaries of practice and understanding, they are reminded that they have to come to terms with the actuality of human diversity - and that the only way of doing this is to acknowledge the category of 'human dignity as such' -- a non-negotiable assumption that each agent (with his or her historical and social affiliations) could be expected to have a voice in the shaping of some common project for the well-being and order of a human group.
He simply doesn't understand that, when the possibility of some form of official jurisdication is dangled before any group hungry for power -- and in particular sharia-loving Salafists or Qom-school (Khomeini-ist) Shia -- their tendency will be to "say anything" to get the power... and then immediately set about expanding it beyond what was agreed. They will cheerfully promise to acknowledge "human dignity as such," and agree that the sharia courts will not have finality; but they will have no intention of making good on those promises.
Islam even has a special word for such "pie-crust promises," as Mary Poppins calls them ("easily made, easily broken"): al-Takeyya -- lying for the sake of Allah. Promising to keep their rulings within the context of a superceding legal authority is necessary to gain official recognition of Islamic courts within Great Britain; but true Islamists would never accept the sovereignty of a nation-state above that of the word of God.
Hence, they advance the cause of Islam by agreeing to the "Peace of Williams" and becoming a recognized legal authority; and then they further it even further by instantly reneging on that promise. They know that it's easy to create a bureaucracy but virtually impossible to extirpate one, especially amid charges of religious bias -- and when the sharia courts the seeming blessing of the de facto head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.
But in addition to flying in the face of observed reality (name a country where sharia courts have been granted such co-jurisdiction -- alas, there are many -- but where they have avoided abusing that authority -- alas, there are none), Williams' mullings and ruminations about the joys of communalism and religious co-jurisdiction also contradict his own earlier preaching (in this very lecture) in favor of the Marxian idea of power.
Specifically, Williams argues that individuals should have the free choice to "opt out" of their own rights... rights we here in America consider inaliable (where "to alienate," in both Leftspeak and as our Founding Fathers understood the term, means exactly that: to give away something that belongs to you, whether the fruit of your labor -- or your fundamental right of freedom of speech or association). Archbishop Williams in paragraph 19:
At the moment, as I mentioned at the beginning of this lecture, one of the most frequently noted problems in the law in this area is the reluctance of a dominant rights-based philosophy to acknowledge the liberty of conscientious opting-out from collaboration in procedures or practices that are in tension with the demands of particular religious groups: the assumption, in rather misleading shorthand, that if a right or liberty is granted there is a corresponding duty upon every individual to 'activate' this whenever called upon.
So individuals should be allowed to reject the freedoms and liberties that the United Kingdom would otherwise defend on their behalf.
But wait... didn't he argue earlier the Marxian belief is that all relationships are power relationships... and specifically, that the minority is always at a terrible power disadvantage to the majority? This is why leftists have cleverly managed to modify the English language to redefine "disadvantaged" to be a synonym for "minority."
Well, how then about a minority of one? What chance does a sixteen year old Moslem girl living within the umma (London branch) have to exercise her free will against the demands of the entire community surrounding her, that (for example) she marry who her father tells her to marry? Particuarly when that community, through its sharia courts, has been granted special recognition by the same government of Great Britain that formerly defended her rights to the hilt as inalienable elements of her individuality... rights that could not be taken away, even if she were cowed enough by her community to claim that she, herself, didn't want them anymore.
If we are to believe (as I'm sure Rowan Williams does) that the "consent" of a woman to sleep with her boss is inherently suspect, as he has so much power over her that she may well not be making a free choice but a defensive one in order to keep her high-paying job -- then how can we reject out of hand the possibility that the Moslem girl above is doing the same?
The Most Reverend and Right Honorable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury cannot have it both ways: Either one believes that the individual is, or should be required to be, responsible for his own actions and for defending his own rights in the proper venue -- a Western court of law that actually recognizes those individual rights and does not recognize any putative "communitarian rights" against the individual... or else one must instead believe that the minority (including a minority of one) is always at such a disadvantage against the majority that we can never trust the acquiescence of the former to the latter's will... and must intervene willy-nilly against the majority wherever it is found, including the majority Moslem cultures surrounding smaller, weaker individuals or apostate minorities in neighborhoods of London, York, and Canterbury.
Yet by empowering those majority-minority Moslem cultures even more, Williams' does precisely the opposite of what his philosophy ought to suggest: He makes it even harder for apostate (or even dissenting) individuals or minorities within those communities to express themselves "in their own right." Not only need they fight the disapproval of the community itself, they will surely be hauled up before a sharia council... which, even if it lacks legal authority to conduct an official inquisition, will at the very least, be able to organize community disapprobation, condemnation, and eventually exile from a community that may still be important to the dissenter.
Williams himself (quoting "Jewish legal theorist Ayelet Shachar" in paragraph 13) warns against "the ultimatum of 'either your culture or your rights.'" Yet his scheme to give official recognition to sharia courts, even if they're restrained in the punishments they can mete out, will produce exactly such ultimata, over and over, as its most likely outcome.
He has fallen into the root reductio ad absurdum of using "tolerance" as the core value of society: Do you then tolerate the intolerant?
He believes that British society, and indeed Western civilization, should be less exclusionary and invite sharia courts into the official "social contract" -- for Moslems in Great Britain. But Islam itself is an exclusionary religion; hence the terrible punishments for apostasy, heresy, and blasphemy; and in particular, there is a strong strain of such "primitivist" Islam in Britain, as the Salmon Rushdie death threats from British imams and the July 7th bombings make clear.
Even if (on paper) these Williamsian sharia courts would not "actively interfer with liberties guaranteed by the wider society," they would substantially undermine such liberties by organizing social opposition to them under the new sharia authority. If the Islamic courts had no paper authority to strip Moslems in Britain of those rights, they would simply issue a fatwah -- and lynch-mobs within the community would do it for them.
I suppose that possibility never occurred to the holy naif. Well, it occurs to me.
Who was that mitered man?
We have seen earlier bizarre spiritual journeys, leftist radicalism, and unfathomable (and silly) applications of liberation theology to the real world by this particular Archbishop of Canterbury:
- He was a radical pacifist protester during the 1980s;
- He sees Capitalism as the great threat to the world -- not Communism or Islamism: "Every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against the economic losers in the worldwide game."
- About al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, he is quoted in the same Wall Street Journal opinion piece as saying, "Bombast about evil individuals doesn't help in understanding anything."
- He supports ordaining gay priests and he supports same-sex marriage.
So in a sense, coming out of the closet and calling for the implementation of sharia courts -- even if limited in their enforcement powers and having only "supplementary jurisdiction" (they must outsource their stonings and beheadings to angry committees of vigilance) -- seems right in line with his other positions; they all form part of the same mosaic of rejection of Western civilization and culture. Williams is not a total radical; he completely accepts his church's pro-life stance, for example. But he is clearly a radical socialist who accepts all the nefarious propaganda against the belief of Western exceptionalism.
Rowan Williams, whatever he may say if asked this question directly, undeniably manifests a strong belief in cultural relativism... the idea that each culture must be judged solely by its own axioms and beliefs: The cultural relativist would refuse to call any culture "evil," from the Nazis death-campers to the Aztecs human sacrificers to the Canaanite Moloch-worshippers. Except, perhaps, Western culture; cultural relativists have special dispensation to attack the West without regard to their general theory. (Gilbert and Sullivan wrote about such folk, who existed even in the 19th century: "The idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone all centuries but this and every country but his own.")
In which we swallow our own tail
So to sum up, Williams rejects the very idea that Western Judeo-Christian values are actually better -- more decent, more successful, more just -- than the values of the radical Islamists who want to blast back to the seventh century. He doesn't see individuals or individual activity as important, not nearly as much as masses of people organized into communities. He rejects the concept that people -- even Osama bin Laden -- can actually be evil. He rejects the supremacy of Judeo-Christian law, universal law, a law for all... the greatest gift the Jews ever gave the world. And he even rejects the evidence of his own senses as to what happens whenever countries allow "sharia-lite" into official jurisprudence.
It seems quite clear to me that if Rowan Williams ever really had faith in the core values of our culture -- or its theistic God -- he lost it long ago. He is a man who has stopped believing in God... and now, as Chesterton didn't say (but meant to), the Archbishop of Canterbury believes anything.
For further reading -- dare I say supplementary, if rather shallow -- consider these articles:
- Archbishop Argues for Islamic Law in Britain, by the Times (of London) online.
- Sharia law row: Archbishop is in shock as he faces demands to quit and criticism from Lord Carey by ThisIsLondon.com;
0 Full text of Archbishop's Lecture - Civil and Religious Law in England: a religious perspective
Full text of the lecture by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that sparked controversy for advocating the adoption of parts of Sharia, or Islamic Law, in Britain
1 The title of this series of lectures signals the existence of what is very widely felt to be a growing challenge in our society -- that is, the presence of communities which, while no less 'law-abiding' than the rest of the population, relate to something other than the British legal system alone. But, as I hope to suggest, the issues that arise around what level of public or legal recognition, if any, might be allowed to the legal provisions of a religious group, are not peculiar to Islam: we might recall that, while the law of the Church of England is the law of the land, its daily operation is in the hands of authorities to whom considerable independence is granted. And beyond the specific issues that arise in relation to the practicalities of recognition or delegation, there are large questions in the background about what we understand by and expect from the law, questions that are more sharply focused than ever in a largely secular social environment. I shall therefore be concentrating on certain issues around Islamic law to begin with, in order to open up some of these wider matters.
2 Among the manifold anxieties that haunt the discussion of the place of Muslims in British society, one of the strongest, reinforced from time to time by the sensational reporting of opinion polls, is that Muslim communities in this country seek the freedom to live under sharia law. And what most people think they know of sharia is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments; just a few days ago, it was reported that a 'forced marriage' involving a young woman with learning difficulties had been 'sanctioned under sharia law' -- the kind of story that, in its assumption that we all 'really' know what is involved in the practice of sharia, powerfully reinforces the image of -- at best -- a pre-modern system in which human rights have no role. The problem is freely admitted by Muslim scholars. 'In the West', writes Tariq Ramadan in his groundbreaking Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, 'the idea of Sharia calls up all the darkest images of Islam...It has reached the extent that many Muslim intellectuals do not dare even to refer to the concept for fear of frightening people or arousing suspicion of all their work by the mere mention of the word' (p.31). Even when some of the more dramatic fears are set aside, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what degree of accommodation the law of the land can and should give to minority communities with their own strongly entrenched legal and moral codes. As such, this is not only an issue about Islam but about other faith groups, including Orthodox Judaism; and indeed it spills over into some of the questions which have surfaced sharply in the last twelve months about the right of religious believers in general to opt out of certain legal provisions -- as in the problems around Roman Catholic adoption agencies which emerged in relation to the Sexual Orientation Regulations last spring.
3 This lecture will not attempt a detailed discussion of the nature of sharia, which would be far beyond my competence; my aim is only, as I have said, to tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state, with a few thought about what might be entailed in crafting a just and constructive relationship between Islamic law and the statutory law of the United Kingdom. But it is important to begin by dispelling one or two myths about sharia; so far from being a monolithic system of detailed enactments, sharia designates primarily -- to quote Ramadan again -- 'the expression of the universal principles of Islam [and] the framework and the thinking that makes for their actualization in human history' (32). Universal principles: as any Muslim commentator will insist, what is in view is the eternal and absolute will of God for the universe and for its human inhabitants in particular; but also something that has to be 'actualized', not a ready-made system. If shar' designates the essence of the revealed Law, sharia is the practice of actualizing and applying it; while certain elements of the sharia are specified fairly exactly in the Qur'an and Sunna and in the hadith recognised as authoritative in this respect, there is no single code that can be identified as 'the' sharia. And when certain states impose what they refer to as sharia or when certain Muslim activists demand its recognition alongside secular jurisdictions, they are usually referring not to a universal and fixed code established once for all but to some particular concretisation of it at the hands of a tradition of jurists. In the hands of contemporary legal traditionalists, this means simply that the application of sharia must be governed by the judgements of representatives of the classical schools of legal interpretation. But there are a good many voices arguing for an extension of the liberty of ijtihad -- basically reasoning from first principles rather than simply the collation of traditional judgements (see for example Louis Gardet, 'Un prealable aux questions soulevees par les droits de l'homme: l'actualisation de la Loi religieuse musulmane aujourd'hui', Islamochristiana 9, 1983, 1-12, and Abdullah Saeed, 'Trends in Contemporary Islam: a Preliminary Attempt at a Classification', The Muslim World, 97:3, 2007, 395-404, esp. 401-2).
4 Thus, in contrast to what is sometimes assumed, we do not simply have a standoff between two rival legal systems when we discuss Islamic and British law. On the one hand, sharia depends for its legitimacy not on any human decision, not on votes or preferences, but on the conviction that it represents the mind of God; on the other, it is to some extent unfinished business so far as codified and precise provisions are concerned. To recognise sharia is to recognise a method of jurisprudence governed by revealed texts rather than a single system. In a discussion based on a paper from Mona Siddiqui at a conference last year at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, the point was made by one or two Muslim scholars that an excessively narrow understanding sharia as simply codified rules can have the effect of actually undermining the universal claims of the Qur'an.
5 But while such universal claims are not open for renegotiation, they also assume the voluntary consent or submission of the believer, the free decision to be and to continue a member of the umma. Sharia is not, in that sense, intrinsically to do with any demand for Muslim dominance over non-Muslims. Both historically and in the contemporary context, Muslim states have acknowledged that membership of the umma is not coterminous with membership in a particular political society: in modern times, the clearest articulation of this was in the foundation of the Pakistani state under Jinnah; but other examples (Morocco, Jordan) could be cited of societies where there is a concept of citizenship that is not identical with belonging to the umma. Such societies, while not compromising or weakening the possibility of unqualified belief in the authority and universality of sharia, or even the privileged status of Islam in a nation, recognise that there can be no guarantee that the state is religiously homogeneous and that the relationships in which the individual stands and which define him or her are not exclusively with other Muslims. There has therefore to be some concept of common good that is not prescribed solely in terms of revealed Law, however provisional or imperfect such a situation is thought to be. And this implies in turn that the Muslim, even in a predominantly Muslim state, has something of a dual identity, as citizen and as believer within the community of the faithful.
6 It is true that this account would be hotly contested by some committed Islamic primitivists, by followers of Sayyid Qutb and similar polemicists; but it is fair to say that the great body of serious jurists in the Islamic world would recognise this degree of political plurality as consistent with Muslim integrity. In this sense, while (as I have said) we are not talking about two rival systems on the same level, there is some community of understanding between Islamic social thinking and the categories we might turn to in the non-Muslim world for the understanding of law in the most general context. There is a recognition that our social identities are not constituted by one exclusive set of relations or mode of belonging -- even if one of those sets is regarded as relating to the most fundamental and non-negotiable level of reality, as established by a 'covenant' between the divine and the human (as in Jewish and Christian thinking; once again, we are not talking about an exclusively Muslim problem). The danger arises not only when there is an assumption on the religious side that membership of the community (belonging to the umma or the Church or whatever) is the only significant category, so that participation in other kinds of socio-political arrangement is a kind of betrayal. It also occurs when secular government assumes a monopoly in terms of defining public and political identity. There is a position -- not at all unfamiliar in contemporary discussion -- which says that to be a citizen is essentially and simply to be under the rule of the uniform law of a sovereign state, in such a way that any other relations, commitments or protocols of behaviour belong exclusively to the realm of the private and of individual choice. As I have maintained in several other contexts, this is a very unsatisfactory account of political reality in modern societies; but it is also a problematic basis for thinking of the legal category of citizenship and the nature of human interdependence. Maleiha Malik, following Alasdair MacIntyre, argues in an essay on 'Faith and the State of Jurisprudence' (Faith in Law: Essays in Legal Theory, ed. Peter Oliver, Sionaidh Douglas Scott and Victor Tadros, 2000, pp.129-49) that there is a risk of assuming that 'mainstreram' jurisprudence should routinely and unquestioningly bypass the variety of ways in which actions are as a matter of fact understood by agents in the light of the diverse sorts of communal belonging they are involved in. If that is the assumption, 'the appropriate temporal unit for analysis tends to be the basic action. Instead of concentrating on the history of the individual or the origins of the social practice which provides the context within which the act is performed, conduct tends to be studied as an isolated and one-off act' (139-40). And another essay in the same collection, Anthony Bradney's 'Faced by Faith' (89-105) offers some examples of legal rulings which have disregarded the account offered by religious believers of the motives for their own decisions, on the grounds that the court alone is competent to assess the coherence or even sincerity of their claims. And when courts attempt to do this on the grounds of what is 'generally acceptable' behaviour in a society, they are open, Bradney claims (102-3) to the accusation of undermining the principle of liberal pluralism by denying someone the right to speak in their own voice. The distinguished ecclesiastical lawyer, Chancellor Mark Hill, has also underlined in a number of recent papers the degree of confusion that has bedevilled recent essays in adjudicating disputes with a religious element, stressing the need for better definition of the kind of protection for religious conscience that the law intends (see particularly his essay with Russell Sandberg, 'Is Nothing Sacred? Clashing Symbols in a Secular World', Public Law 3, 2007, pp.488-506).
7 I have argued recently in a discussion of the moral background to legislation about incitement to religious hatred that any crime involving religious offence has to be thought about in terms of its tendency to create or reinforce a position in which a religious person or group could be gravely disadvantaged in regard to access to speaking in public in their own right: offence needs to be connected to issues of power and status, so that a powerful individual or group making derogatory or defamatory statements about a disadvantaged minority might be thought to be increasing that disadvantage. The point I am making here is similar. If the law of the land takes no account of what might be for certain agents a proper rationale for behaviour -- for protest against certain unforeseen professional requirements, for instance, which would compromise religious discipline or belief -- it fails in a significant way to communicate with someone involved in the legal process (or indeed to receive their communication), and so, on at least one kind of legal theory (expounded recently, for example, by R.A. Duff), fails in one of its purposes.
8 The implications are twofold. There is a plain procedural question -- and neither Bradney nor Malik goes much beyond this -- about how existing courts function and what weight is properly give to the issues we have been discussing. But there is a larger theoretical and practical issue about what it is to live under more than one jurisdiction., which takes us back to the question we began with -- the role of sharia (or indeed Orthodox Jewish practice) in relation to the routine jurisdiction of the British courts. In general, when there is a robust affirmation that the law of the land should protect individuals on the grounds of their corporate religious identity and secure their freedom to fulfil religious duties, a number of queries are regularly raised. I want to look at three such difficulties briefly. They relate both to the question of whether there should be a higher level of attention to religious identity and communal rights in the practice of the law, and to the larger issue I mentioned of something like a delegation of certain legal functions to the religious courts of a community; and this latter question, it should be remembered, is relevant not only to Islamic law but also to areas of Orthodox Jewish practice.
9 The first objection to a higher level of public legal regard being paid to communal identity is that it leaves legal process (including ordinary disciplinary process within organisations) at the mercy of what might be called vexatious appeals to religious scruple. A recent example might be the reported refusal of a Muslim woman employed by Marks and Spencer to handle a book of Bible stories. Or we might think of the rather more serious cluster of questions around forced marriages, where again it is crucial to distinguish between cultural and strictly religious dimensions. While Bradney rightly cautions against the simple dismissal of alleged scruple by judicial authorities who have made no attempt to understand its workings in the construction of people's social identities, it should be clear also that any recognition of the need for such sensitivity must also have a recognised means of deciding the relative seriousness of conscience-related claims, a way of distinguishing purely cultural habits from seriously-rooted matters of faith and discipline, and distinguishing uninformed prejudice from religious prescription. There needs to be access to recognised authority acting for a religious group: there is already, of course, an Islamic Shari'a Council, much in demand for rulings on marital questions in the UK; and if we were to see more latitude given in law to rights and scruples rooted in religious identity, we should need a much enhanced and quite sophisticated version of such a body, with increased resource and a high degree of community recognition, so that 'vexatious' claims could be summarily dealt with. The secular lawyer needs to know where the potential conflict is real, legally and religiously serious, and where it is grounded in either nuisance or ignorance. There can be no blank cheques given to unexamined scruples.
10 The second issue, a very serious one, is that recognition of 'supplementary jurisdiction' in some areas, especially family law, could have the effect of reinforcing in minority communities some of the most repressive or retrograde elements in them, with particularly serious consequences for the role and liberties of women. The 'forced marriage' question is the one most often referred to here, and it is at the moment undoubtedly a very serious and scandalous one; but precisely because it has to do with custom and culture rather than directly binding enactments by religious authority, I shall refer to another issue. It is argued that the provision for the inheritance of widows under a strict application of sharia has the effect of disadvantaging them in what the majority community might regard as unacceptable ways. A legal (in fact Qur'anic) provision which in its time served very clearly to secure a widow's position at a time when this was practically unknown in the culture becomes, if taken absolutely literally, a generator of relative insecurity in a new context (see, for example, Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights. Tradition and Politics, 1999, p.111). The problem here is that recognising the authority of a communal religious court to decide finally and authoritatively about such a question would in effect not merely allow an additional layer of legal routes for resolving conflicts and ordering behaviour but would actually deprive members of the minority community of rights and liberties that they were entitled to enjoy as citizens; and while a legal system might properly admit structures or protocols that embody the diversity of moral reasoning in a plural society by allowing scope for a minority group to administer its affairs according to its own convictions, it can hardly admit or 'license' protocols that effectively take away the rights it acknowledges as generally valid.
11 To put the question like that is already to see where an answer might lie, though it is not an answer that will remove the possibility of some conflict. If any kind of plural jurisdiction is recognised, it would presumably have to be under the rubric that no 'supplementary' jurisdiction could have the power to deny access to the rights granted to other citizens or to punish its members for claiming those rights. This is in effect to mirror what a minority might themselves be requesting -- that the situation should not arise where membership of one group restricted the freedom to live also as a member of an overlapping group, that (in this case) citizenship in a secular society should not necessitate the abandoning of religious discipline, any more than religious discipline should deprive one of access to liberties secured by the law of the land, to the common benefits of secular citizenship -- or, better, to recognise that citizenship itself is a complex phenomenon not bound up with any one level of communal belonging but involving them all.
12 But this does not guarantee an absence of conflict. In the particular case we have mentioned, the inheritance rights of widows, it is already true that some Islamic societies have themselves proved flexible (Malaysia is a case in point). But let us take a more neuralgic matter still: what about the historic Islamic prohibition against apostasy, and the draconian penalties entailed? In a society where freedom of religion is secured by law, it is obviously impossible for any group to claim that conversion to another faith is simply disallowed or to claim the right to inflict punishment on a convert. We touch here on one of the most sensitive areas not only in thinking about legal practice but also in interfaith relations. A significant number of contemporary Islamic jurists and scholars would say that the Qur'anic pronouncements on apostasy which have been regarded as the ground for extreme penalties reflect a situation in which abandoning Islam was equivalent to adopting an active stance of violent hostility to the community, so that extreme penalties could be compared to provisions in other jurisdictions for punishing spies or traitors in wartime; but that this cannot be regarded as bearing on the conditions now existing in the world. Of course such a reading is wholly unacceptable to 'primitivists' in Islam, for whom this would be an example of a rationalising strategy, a style of interpretation (ijtihad) uncontrolled by proper traditional norms. But, to use again the terminology suggested a moment ago, as soon as it is granted that -- even in a dominantly Islamic society -- citizens have more than one set of defining relationships under the law of the state, it becomes hard to justify enactments that take it for granted that the only mode of contact between these sets of relationships is open enmity; in which case, the appropriateness of extreme penalties for conversion is not obvious even within a fairly strict Muslim frame of reference. Conversely, where the dominant legal culture is non-Islamic, but there is a level of serious recognition of the corporate reality and rights of the umma, there can be no assumption that outside the umma the goal of any other jurisdiction is its destruction. Once again, there has to be a recognition that difference of conviction is not automatically a lethal threat.
13 As I have said, this is a delicate and complex matter involving what is mostly a fairly muted but nonetheless real debate among Muslim scholars in various contexts. I mention it partly because of its gravity as an issue in interfaith relations and in discussions of human rights and the treatment of minorities, partly to illustrate how the recognition of what I have been calling membership in different but overlapping sets of social relationship (what others have called 'multiple affiliations') can provide a framework for thinking about these neuralgic questions of the status of women and converts. Recognising a supplementary jurisdiction cannot mean recognising a liberty to exert a sort of local monopoly in some areas. The Jewish legal theorist Ayelet Shachar, in a highly original and significant monograph on Multicultural Jurisdictions: Cultural Differences and Women's Rights (2001), explores the risks of any model that ends up 'franchising' a non-state jurisdiction so as to reinforce its most problematic features and further disadvantage its weakest members: 'we must be alert', she writes, 'to the potentially injurious effects of well-meaning external protections upon different categories of group members here -- effects which may unwittingly exacerbate preexisting internal power hierarchies' (113). She argues that if we are serious in trying to move away from a model that treats one jurisdiction as having a monopoly of socially defining roles and relations, we do not solve any problems by a purely uncritical endorsement of a communal legal structure which can only be avoided by deciding to leave the community altogether. We need, according to Shachar, to 'work to overcome the ultimatum of "either your culture or your rights"' (114).
14 So the second objection to an increased legal recognition of communal religious identities can be met if we are prepared to think about the basic ground rules that might organise the relationship between jurisdictions, making sure that we do not collude with unexamined systems that have oppressive effect or allow shared public liberties to be decisively taken away by a supplementary jurisdiction. Once again, there are no blank cheques. I shall return to some of the details of Shachar's positive proposal; but I want to move on to the third objection, which grows precisely out of the complexities of clarifying the relations between jurisdictions. Is it not both theoretically and practically mistaken to qualify our commitment to legal monopoly? So much of our thinking in the modern world, dominated by European assumptions about universal rights, rests, surely, on the basis that the law is the law; that everyone stands before the public tribunal on exactly equal terms, so that recognition of corporate identities or, more seriously, of supplementary jurisdictions is simply incoherent if we want to preserve the great political and social advances of Western legality.
15 There is a bit of a risk here in the way we sometimes talk about the universal vision of post-Enlightenment politics. The great protest of the Enlightenment was against authority that appealed only to tradition and refused to justify itself by other criteria -- by open reasoned argument or by standards of successful provision of goods and liberties for the greatest number. Its claim to override traditional forms of governance and custom by looking towards a universal tribunal was entirely intelligible against the background of despotism and uncritical inherited privilege which prevailed in so much of early modern Europe. The most positive aspect of this moment in our cultural history was its focus on equal levels of accountability for all and equal levels of access for all to legal process. In this respect, it was in fact largely the foregrounding and confirming of what was already encoded in longstanding legal tradition, Roman and mediaeval, which had consistently affirmed the universality and primacy of law (even over the person of the monarch). But this set of considerations alone is not adequate to deal with the realities of complex societies: it is not enough to say that citizenship as an abstract form of equal access and equal accountability is either the basis or the entirety of social identity and personal motivation. Where this has been enforced, it has proved a weak vehicle for the life of a society and has often brought violent injustice in its wake (think of the various attempts to reduce citizenship to rational equality in the France of the 1790's or the China of the 1970's). Societies that are in fact ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse are societies in which identity is formed, as we have noted by different modes and contexts of belonging, 'multiple affiliation'. The danger is in acting as if the authority that managed the abstract level of equal citizenship represented a sovereign order which then allowed other levels to exist. But if the reality of society is plural -- as many political theorists have pointed out -- this is a damagingly inadequate account of common life, in which certain kinds of affiliation are marginalised or privatised to the extent that what is produced is a ghettoised pattern of social life, in which particular sorts of interest and of reasoning are tolerated as private matters but never granted legitimacy in public as part of a continuing debate about shared goods and priorities.
16 But this means that we have to think a little harder about the role and rule of law in a plural society of overlapping identities. Perhaps it helps to see the universalist vision of law as guaranteeing equal accountability and access primarily in a negative rather than a positive sense -- that is, to see it as a mechanism whereby any human participant in a society is protected against the loss of certain elementary liberties of self-determination and guaranteed the freedom to demand reasons for any actions on the part of others for actions and policies that infringe self-determination. This is a slightly more gentle or tactful way of expressing what some legal theorists will describe as the 'monopoly of legitimate violence' by the law of a state, the absolute restriction of powers of forcible restraint to those who administer statutory law. This is not to reduce society itself primarily to an uneasy alliance of self-determining individuals arguing about the degree to which their freedom is limited by one another and needing forcible restraint in a war of all against all -- though that is increasingly the model which a narrowly rights-based culture fosters, producing a manically litigious atmosphere and a conviction of the inadequacy of customary ethical restraints and traditions -- of what was once called 'civility'. The picture will not be unfamiliar, and there is a modern legal culture which loves to have it so. But the point of defining legal universalism as a negative thing is that it allows us to assume, as I think we should, that the important springs of moral vision in a society will be in those areas which a systematic abstract universalism regards as 'private' -- in religion above all, but also in custom and habit. The role of 'secular' law is not the dissolution of these things in the name of universalism but the monitoring of such affiliations to prevent the creation of mutually isolated communities in which human liberties are seen in incompatible ways and individual persons are subjected to restraints or injustices for which there is no public redress.
17 The rule of law is thus not the enshrining of priority for the universal/abstract dimension of social existence but the establishing of a space accessible to everyone in which it is possible to affirm and defend a commitment to human dignity as such, independent of membership in any specific human community or tradition, so that when specific communities or traditions are in danger of claiming finality for their own boundaries of practice and understanding, they are reminded that they have to come to terms with the actuality of human diversity - and that the only way of doing this is to acknowledge the category of 'human dignity as such' -- a non-negotiable assumption that each agent (with his or her historical and social affiliations) could be expected to have a voice in the shaping of some common project for the well-being and order of a human group. It is not to claim that specific community understandings are 'superseded' by this universal principle, rather to claim that they all need to be undergirded by it. The rule of law is -- and this may sound rather counterintuitive -- a way of honouring what in the human constitution is not captured by any one form of corporate belonging or any particular history, even though the human constitution never exists without those other determinations. Our need, as Raymond Plant has well expressed it, is for the construction of 'a moral framework which could expand outside the boundaries of particular narratives while, at the same time, respecting the narratives as the cultural contexts in which the language [of common dignity and mutually intelligible commitments to work for certain common moral priorities] is learned and taught' (Politics, Theology and History, 2001, pp.357-8).
18 I'd add in passing that this is arguably a place where more reflection is needed about the theology of law; if my analysis is right, the sort of foundation I have sketched for a universal principle of legal right requires both a certain valuation of the human as such and a conviction that the human subject is always endowed with some degree of freedom over against any and every actual system of human social life; both of these things are historically rooted in Christian theology, even when they have acquired a life of their own in isolation from that theology. It never does any harm to be reminded that without certain themes consistently and strongly emphasised by the 'Abrahamic' faiths, themes to do with the unconditional possibility for every human subject to live in conscious relation with God and in free and constructive collaboration with others, there is no guarantee that a 'universalist' account of human dignity would ever have seemed plausible or even emerged with clarity. Slave societies and assumptions about innate racial superiority are as widespread a feature as any in human history (and they have persistently infected even Abrahamic communities, which is perhaps why the Enlightenment was a necessary wake-up call to religion...).
19 But to return to our main theme: I have been arguing that a defence of an unqualified secular legal monopoly in terms of the need for a universalist doctrine of human right or dignity is to misunderstand the circumstances in which that doctrine emerged, and that the essential liberating (and religiously informed) vision it represents is not imperilled by a loosening of the monopolistic framework. At the moment, as I mentioned at the beginning of this lecture, one of the most frequently noted problems in the law in this area is the reluctance of a dominant rights-based philosophy to acknowledge the liberty of conscientious opting-out from collaboration in procedures or practices that are in tension with the demands of particular religious groups: the assumption, in rather misleading shorthand, that if a right or liberty is granted there is a corresponding duty upon every individual to 'activate' this whenever called upon. Earlier on, I proposed that the criterion for recognising and collaborating with communal religious discipline should be connected with whether a communal jurisdiction actively interfered with liberties guaranteed by the wider society in such a way as definitively to block access to the exercise of those liberties; clearly the refusal of a religious believer to act upon the legal recognition of a right is not, given the plural character of society, a denial to anyone inside or outside the community of access to that right. The point has been granted in respect of medical professionals who may be asked to perform or co-operate in performing abortions -- a perfectly reasonable example of the law doing what I earlier defined as its job, securing space for those aspects of human motivation and behaviour that cannot be finally determined by any corporate or social system. It is difficult to see quite why the principle cannot be extended in other areas. But it is undeniable that there is pressure from some quarters to insist that conscientious disagreement should always be overruled by a monopolistic understanding of jurisdiction.
20 I labour the point because what at first seems to be a somewhat narrow point about how Islamic law and Islamic identity should or might be regarded in our legal system in fact opens up a very wide range of current issues, and requires some general thinking about the character of law. It would be a pity if the immense advances in the recognition of human rights led, because of a misconception about legal universality, to a situation where a person was defined primarily as the possessor of a set of abstract liberties and the law's function was accordingly seen as nothing but the securing of those liberties irrespective of the custom and conscience of those groups which concretely compose a plural modern society. Certainly, no-one is likely to suppose that a scheme allowing for supplementary jurisdiction will be simple, and the history of experiments in this direction amply illustrates the problems. But if one approaches it along the lines sketched by Shachar in the monograph quoted earlier, it might be possible to think in terms of what she calls 'transformative accommodation': a scheme in which individuals retain the liberty to choose the jurisdiction under which they will seek to resolve certain carefully specified matters, so that 'power-holders are forced to compete for the loyalty of their shared constituents' (122). This may include aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions and authorised structures of mediation and conflict resolution -- the main areas that have been in question where supplementary jurisdictions have been tried, with native American communities in Canada as well as with religious groups like Islamic minority communities in certain contexts. In such schemes, both jurisdictional stakeholders may need to examine the way they operate; a communal/religious nomos, to borrow Shachar's vocabulary, has to think through the risks of alienating its people by inflexible or over-restrictive applications of traditional law, and a universalist Enlightenment system has to weigh the possible consequences of ghettoising and effectively disenfranchising a minority, at real cost to overall social cohesion and creativity. Hence 'transformative accommodation': both jurisdictional parties may be changed by their encounter over time, and we avoid the sterility of mutually exclusive monopolies.
21 It is uncomfortably true that this introduces into our thinking about law what some would see as a 'market' element, a competition for loyalty as Shachar admits. But if what we want socially is a pattern of relations in which a plurality of divers and overlapping affiliations work for a common good, and in which groups of serious and profound conviction are not systematically faced with the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty, it seems unavoidable. In other settings, I have spoken about the idea of 'interactive pluralism' as a political desideratum; this seems to be one manifestation of such an ideal, comparable to the arrangements that allow for shared responsibility in education: the best argument for faith schools from the point of view of any aspiration towards social harmony and understanding is that they bring communal loyalties into direct relation with the wider society and inevitably lead to mutual questioning and sometimes mutual influence towards change, without compromising the distinctiveness of the essential elements of those communal loyalties.
22 In conclusion, it seems that if we are to think intelligently about the relations between Islam and British law, we need a fair amount of 'deconstruction' of crude oppositions and mythologies, whether of the nature of sharia or the nature of the Enlightenment. But as I have hinted, I do not believe this can be done without some thinking also about the very nature of law. It is always easy to take refuge in some form of positivism; and what I have called legal universalism, when divorced from a serious theoretical (and, I would argue, religious) underpinning, can turn into a positivism as sterile as any other variety. If the paradoxical idea which I have sketched is true -- that universal law and universal right are a way of recognising what is least fathomable and controllable in the human subject -- theology still waits for us around the corner of these debates, however hard our culture may try to keep it out. And, as you can imagine, I am not going to complain about that.
Date ►►► February 11, 2008
At Long Last, Patterico Posts Something Interesting!
Ever since a particular guest blogger moved on to greener and more reptilian pastures, Patterico's Pontifications just hasn't been the same. But there are still flashes of brilliance that recall those glory days of 2005.
Patterico -- I like to call the wife of the Mozart-loving Patterico "Patterica," but he still hasn't figured out why -- finds frequent occasion to point to some goofball blogger named SEK (no, it's not Samuel Edward Konkin the IIIrd, blogging from behind the veil). Grand Master P. seems to think SEK is hilarious (which he probably pronounces George-Will fashion: HIGH-larious); in fact, SEK is about as funny as Al Franken with dyspepsia.
But this -- this -- is funny as all get out. (What does that mean? "As funny as all get out." "Shut the front door!" "What, after the horse has already escaped?" I don't get it.)
And I rib you not, this yolk actually came from Patterico himself. I don't know what came over him; he's not generally known as the Uncle Miltie of the blogosphere. For one thing, Patterico invariably ends every joke he tells with the same punchline ("Is that all you do? Bird impressions?"), no matter what joke he started off telling: "A drunk, a cripple, two Jews, and an ex-Secretary of the Interior went into a bar, and the cripple said -- is that all you do? Bird impressions?"
But somehow, Patterico channeled the disembodied spirit of Jackie Mason this time. Which must have come as a terrible shock to Mr. Mason, who is still sucking air.
Look, first you have to read that thing I linked just above, even though it comes later; Patterico has written a blogpost to the extracting standards of the Los Angeles Times... following the rules they do, rather than the rules they say.
Next, read this explanation, which he posted a minute earlier, for some obscure reason known only to God, Patterico, and Brother Theodore -- and two of them are dead. He (Patterico, not God) explains exactly where he got each particular rule he uses to smear honey on Tim Rutten and bury him in a fire-ant hill (a giggle that Patterico learnt during his two years in seminary school back in Vermont, 1973).
Here is a single, brief snippet from the explanation, just for flavor:
[I]n his latest column, Rutten erroneously claims that, at the beginning of Bush’s presidency, Cheney and his allies “arrived packing heavy artillery” and executed a “coup d’etat.”
Here, I am using the L.A. Times-approved technique of taking a metaphor and pretending that it is an erroneous statement. Rutten does say in his column that, at the outset of Bush’s presidency, “Cheney, his staff and his allies arrived packing heavy artillery in the form of the unitary executive theory.” The “packing heavy artillery” bit was a metaphor. You know, kind of like when Bush, speaking about Iraq, said: “Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.” That was a metaphor too -- but the paper felt justified in calling it an “erroneous” statement.
If they can take Bush’s metaphors and call them mistakes, why, I can do it to Tim Rutten. Is that all you do? Bird impressions?
The pair of posts were simply highlarious. I laughed until I stopped! And so will you, if you give them half a chance (i.e., read with your right hand covering you left eye).
I reckon some things will ever change. Thank God.
Date ►►► February 10, 2008
Who Is the Republican Core Anyway?
In a comment on another post, commenter Caustic Conservative gloomily wondered whence would come the electioneering energy for John McCain:
I still worry about who it is that will be financing the McCain campaign, and manning the phone banks this fall. There is an energy gap to his candidacy--you see it in turnout between R's and D's--that maybe no GOP candidate could overcome this year, but given McCains prior antagonism of his conservative base could be very costly to him.
A McCain fan I know says the cure for this comes in two words: Hillary Clinton. I agree to a certain extent, but I no longer believe her candidacy is even likely at this point. If that is the best argument to get out the vote for McCain in the fall, where do we stand in the end?
Many conservatives seem to have an appalling paucity of imagination. Why do they suppose that the core of any Republican campaign must comprise conservatives? Can they really not imagine any other core Republican voters but themselves?
I know for a fact (because I knew many of them) that in 2000, a great deal of George Bush's army of volunteers were moderates, not conservatives. Remember, Bush ran not as a conservative but a "compassionate conservative," which everybody understood to mean a center-right, big-government Republican who was hawkish on taxes and some social issues (such as abortion), but who was not particularly interested in a conservative foreign policy. (That last changed in September, of course.)
Come to that, I suspect I'm far more of a core Republican than the huge majority of conservatives; yet I'm not a conservative. I actually support the Democrats on many issues; and in the past, I usually voted Democratic. But the Democratic Party has become so toxic on certain subjects I consider existential -- the war against global hirabah, for example, but also taxes, spending, same-sex marriage, energy, globaloney, and in general, their increasing captivity to socialism -- that I cannot vote for any Democrat, anywhere, anytime, until the party changes drastically.
I'll note that in 2004, I remained optimistic and encouraged people to get out and vote and even converted many of my more libertarian friends to being GOP voters -- while at the same time, hard-core conservatives (most of you know who I mean) spent the whole summer predicting utter ruin for the GOP, being roundly pessimistic, and doing their best to depress Republican turnout by saying, in essence, that Bush couldn't possibly win reelection.
With conservatives like that, who needs RINOs? (They came around later in the year; but I was consistent in my optimism and American spirit all year.)
Ever since Reagan in 1980, conservatives (with very bad memories) have flattered themselves that they are the true core of the GOP. I say "bad memories" because it wasn't even true back in 1980: the very term "neocon" originally meant a Democrat who was converted to Republicanism by the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. Remember "Reagan Democrats?" Those were Democrats disgusted by the leftward lurch their party had taken, and especially revolted by the anti-American, feckless, belly-crawling, malaise-spreading surrender monkey, Jimmy Carter, who therefore voted for Ronald Reagan instead. This, by the way, describes many of the people crowing today about their "true core" status.
(I find it particularly surreal when neocons in the original sense like Michael Medved and much of the current dextrosphere -- including many of my favorites -- rail against people like Mitt Romney for being late converts to conservatism.)
As I said earlier in comments to another post, this is a mistake: The "core" of any party comprises all those who always turn out to vote for that party, who campaign for it, and who donate to it. That is the basic definition. In some elections, nearly all of those people called themselves "conservatives." But more commonly, that core group includes both conservatives and other Republicans -- who are just as much the "base" of the party as conservatives.
From 1900 through the entire FDR era (including Truman), the GOP was more what we would today call "country-club conservatives," who had more in common with "limousine liberals" than they did with entrepeneurs, working men, and soldiers. They opposed Roosevelt's economics not on free-market grounds but on the principle of conservation of the wealthy elite; and they certainly didn't have a more aggressive foreign policy than President Roosevelt! Even the William F. Buckley of that era was quite different from the later Bill Buckley, who called himself a libertarian conservative. It was a different universe.
In the Dwight Eisenhower administration, the GOP was quite moderate. Richard Nixon was a committed anti-Communist, but he was never a conservative; that's why the election of 1960 was a dead heat: There wasn't a dime's worth of difference between Nixon and JFK on foreign policy, and the only difference on domestic policy was that Kennedy was marginally more conservative (on taxes, for example, where Kennedy was somewhat of a supply-sider; Nixon, by contrast, famous remarked, "We're all Keynesians now" in 1971.)
Thus, for practically the first three quarters of the twentieth century, until 1972 (with the exception of Barry Goldwater in 1964, a candidate for conservatives only), conservatives were on the outside looking in. The GOP was pretty much dominated by establishmentarians, moderates, Realists, anti-Communists, and what we would today call RINOs -- liberal Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller. This was "the great silent majority" that Nixon relied upon.
Conservatives like Bill Buckley spent as much time bemoaning the Republicans as the Democrats. They didn't like the GOP, but they certainly weren't going to move en masse to the Democrats, where they would have to link arms with Southern segregationists, which movement conservatives refused to do. The probably held their nose and voted Republican most of the time... but they were not the party's core; they were estranged stepchildren.
But in 1972, when Nixon was running for reelection, the Democratic Party lurched to the hard left and nominated George McGovern, a peacenik who was soft on the Soviet Union... resulting in a massive landslide for Nixon. This remained the Democratic position right up until Bill Clinton in 1992... thus, the conservatives -- terrified of the alternative -- had no choice but to join with anti-Communist moderates -- and that coalition was the core of the party for eight election cycles, from 1972 through the 1988 presidential election.
In 1976, Nixon's so-called "corruption" (it's worth reading Silent Coup, by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, for a revisionist history of this subject), coupled with the Andrew Johnson-like weakness of the appointed President Gerald Ford, led to the very narrow victory of another peacenik Communist appeaser (who sailed during the election under false colors as a foreign-policy hawk). But when voters realized who Jimmy Carter really was, he was crushed the next election by Ronald Reagan.
Yet even then, the "core" of the GOP in 1980 still included a lot of moderates and even some converted liberals. In fact, we can make this into a general rule, which should be obvious: Whenever a party has a "big tent," its core is necessarily heterogenous. But when the core is homogenous, that typically means the party is not attracting any but true believers; hence it typically loses a lot and wins only narrow victories.
Reagan's main rival in the primaries was George H.W. Bush, who -- as we all remember -- was the man who first used the phrase "voodoo economics" to describe the combination of huge tax cuts, a major cut in the prime lending rate, gigantic increases in military spending, and draconian spending cuts in non-military spending (the last was killed by Congress, alas) that we now call "Reaganomics."
During the hapless presidency of George H.W. Bush, the moderates decided that there was nothing left to tie them to the GOP: Reagan was gone, and Bush was a poor substitute. Most of them flirted with the bizarre but charismatic H. Ross Perot, in whom some saw a new Reagan; others joined with Bill Clinton. The 1992 election was a muddle; and even by 1996, Clinton still couldn't get a majority... Ross Perot sucked off some of the moderate vote. But in 1992 and 1996, only conservatives really consistently backed the GOP candidate (GHW Bush and Bob Dole, respectively); and of course it was conservatives who led the way in the Republicans' 1994 congressional victory. These three elections, plus 1964, 2004, and 2006, are the only times that the Republican core has really been completely conservative.
In 2000, Bush was the establishment GOP candidate, McCain was the maverick party straddler, and the conservative vote was splintered between Gary Bauer (religious Right), Steve Forbes (free-market conservatives), and Alan Keyes (social conservatives), with the last being the last man standing. (Pat Buchanan was a relict even back then; his heyday was as Ronald Reagan's speechwriter.)
I can make a good argument that conservatives were the core of the GOP in 2004, as most of the Bush moderates jumped ship to John Kerry; had they not, then Bush would have enjoyed the usual incumbent's advantage and won by 56% to 43%. And of course, in 2006, conservatives were the only ones to vote Republican -- which is why the GOP lost a bunch of seats.
And there you have it: Conservatives have been "the core of the Republican Party" only six times in this century or the last: 1964, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2004, and 2006; on four of those six, the GOP lost.
In all the other elections since 1900, so far as I can determine, the Republican "core" comprised a coalition between two or more groups -- sometimes including the conservatives, but sometimes not (I think a lot of conservatives probably supported the somewhat more conservative JFK over the liberal Richard Nixon). Thus, conservatives are not "the core" of the GOP except occasionally, or when they join with other groups in a core coalition.
So back to the original question: Who is going to work energetically for John McCain? For heaven's sake, he has an army of people who dote on him, and have done since at least 2000. Many of them are moderates who sometimes vote Democratic; but this time, they'll throw everything they have into getting McCain elected president.
Well, this year, just as in 1980, we're going to have another anti-American, feckless, belly-crawling, malaise-spreading surrender monkey as the Democratic nominee, no matter which of them wins. In addition, the Democrat will be either corrupt to the core -- or else a complete vapid naif with no experience whatsoever. Arrayed against her or him, we'll have a charismatic leader with a very compelling personal history of almost unimaginable courage under torture, and with a whole warehouse full of substantive ideas (which everyone will applaud partially and reject partially).
I think we're going to have a huge passel of volunteers... it's just that many of them won't be hard-core movement conservatives. Just as with Reagan.
Alas, this is all played out against the backdrop of a successful war rendered unpopular by the relentless misreporting and deliberate lying of the elite media and the Democrats. I suspect the war will be nowhere near this unpopular by November; but it won't yet be remembered fondly (that comes later, after some time for the American people to reflect). Plus, the economy will be thought to be shaky, even if it's improving: Public opinion is always a lagging indicator.
I believe, in the end, the voters will choose the charismatic leader with real ideas (love them or loathe them) over either the dull as dishwater candidate espousing the tired, old policies of yesteryear, or the charismatic but content-free orator whose politics is just as far to the left as Jimmy Carter's (and I mean the Carter of today, not the Carter of 1976).
And if McCain does win, he will win because the core of the Republican Party is once again a coalition of many different kinds of Republican.
Date ►►► February 9, 2008
How the Democrats Will Attack McCain... and Fail Miserably
Patterico linked to a Politico post by Jeanne Cummings titled Gloves Off: the Dem Plan to Hit McCain. Ms. Cummings raises a number of policy issues on which the Democrats plan to attack John McCain during the general campaign; and she's doubtless right about that. But I don't think she appreciates the extent to which policy has become irrelevant in the 2008 election.
McCain's support falls into two categories:
- Those Republicans who are voting for him primarily because he is neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama. For these people, policy is not particularly relevant to their vote, except insofar as the Democrats -- like the scorpion in the famous tale of the scorpion and the frog -- cannot help being what they are, hence supporting what they must support. Knocking down this or that policy of McCain's will not turn him into Hillary or Obama.
- Those Republicans, Independents, and Democrats who are voting for him because he is who he is -- the charismatic, feisty, war hero, loudmouthed "straight talker" they have loved for a decade or more. For these folks, policy is irrelevant, because they are voting for the man, not his policies. No matter whether his policy is right or wrong, whether he's consistent or vacillating, or even if he's hypocritical on an issue or two... none of that changes who he is or why they swoon in his presence (real or virtual). (This love is not unconditional; things can change it... but not specific issues or policies.)
So policy simply does not matter in this election. The tiny minority of GOP voters for whom policy wonkishness is a way of life (I count myself in that group) should be bloody grateful that McCain's policies do more or less line up with those of conservative governance at least 75% to 80% of the time... because he would be the favorite whether his agenda matched Gary Hart's or Ronald Reagan's.
Here's how Patrick Ruffini put it in a discussion of the vital quality, the sand, the bottom that Mitt Romney lacked:
What Romney didn’t account for is that it would take more than being a CPAC, or Agenda Conservative to win the nomination. Country Music Conservatives -- and frankly, most voters outside the Beltway swamp -- don’t listen to your words; they listen to your tone of voice as you’re delivering those words. Do you get angry when you should? What’s your sense of humor like? For social conservatives, are you grounded in faith? And ultimately, are you the real deal?
This has nothing to do with being right on issues. It has everything to do with being authentic.
John McCain is going to win (or already has won) the nomination because he is the most authentic of any of the GOP candidates who ran. And he will win the general election for just the same reason: The only Democrat who can match McCain's charisma is Barack Obama... and he's as phony as Tree-Dollar Bill (our former president).
In this case, the question that will be asked -- not only by NASCAR conservatives but also by Superbowl-watching liberals and truck-driving independents -- will be, "Are you actually saying anything?"
McCain is actually saying things; the voter will agree with some and disagree with others. But Obama is saying exactly nothing... because he cannot say anything substantive without ruining what small chance he has.
Barack Obama is what Shelby Steele calls a "bargainer." The category comes from Steele's newest book, a Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win -- which I haven't read. But Brother Paul explains Steele's theory on a nutshell:
Steele views Obama as the first black politician to ride the strategy of "bargaining" to great success. For Steele, bargaining is one of two approaches blacks have used as a "mask" in order to offset the power differential between blacks and whites....
Today the bargain that works is this: I will presume that you're not a racist and by loving me you'll show that my presumption is correct. Blacks who offer this bargain are betting on white decency, and whites love this....
Leading [black] politicians have adopted another mask, that of the "challenger." They presume that whites are racist until they prove otherwise by conferring tangible benefits on them. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are paradigm challengers. The challenger strategy works beautifully in an institutional setting -- say a university -- but less well on a mass scale. Still, black politicians often prefer this approach because not adopting it leads to suspicion among black leaders and their constituents. They fear that if whites are let off the hook too easily, black power will be diminished.
Paul continues boiling down Shelby Steele's theory, explaining why Obama must remain void of content...
Why, then, does Steele say that Obama "can't win"? He bases this view (of which he admits to being less certain now) on the premise that ultimately Americans won't elect as president someone they don't feel they know. This puts Obama in a dilemma. Americans can't know him as long as he wears a mask. But the moment he takes off the mask, he loses his magic.
Paul Mirengoff himself expresses reservations about the first part of that syllogism; he is not persuaded that Americans will refuse to vote for a man they don't know. But I have more faith in both the American people and Shelby Steele, and I think the point carries. (If I'm proven wrong, I will be gravely disappointed in three major ways.)
So let's put it all together:
- Jeanne Cumming sees the Democrats launching a series of attacks on the specific policies of John McCain. But McCain's voters aren't supporting him for policies; they support him either because they admire his character -- or because he's neither Hillary nor Barack.
- McCain's greatest assets are his charisma (as I noted earlier) and his authenticity (as Patrick Ruffini describes it); his specific policies are not the point.
- But the Democrats cannot attack him on that score because neither of the two Democratic candidates has anywhere near as much "authenticity" as McCain... and one of them hasn't even any charisma, either.
Which leads to one conclusion: The Democrats cannot bring McCain down, because they have no idea how to respond to a character-based campaign, and no weapons to fight one even if they could understand it. The only person who can bring down John McCain is -- John McCain. And so far, he has avoided making the kind of deal-killing mistake -- like getting caught in an Abramoff-like money scandal -- that would do it.
McCain is going to win the general election unless he makes a staggeringly stupid mistake that leaves a vile stain, not upon some policy he espouses, but upon his very soul.
Big Lizards Agrees With the WaPo Against a Border Security Measure!
Here's a stunner: I find myself opposing a particular border-control measure we've been using to try to nab terrorists... and on the same side as the Washington Post and other liberal Democrats. The lake of fire is almost ready for ice skating.
It appears that Customs officers in airports have been seizing laptops, cell phones, and other electronic equipment from airline passengers (including some American citizens), with little to no evidence of criminal or terrorist activity or intention. They sometimes hold the electronic devices for months, reading (and sharing?) sensitive or proprietary information from them, or sometimes even wiping them clean.
While I can certainly understand using such aggressive tactics when there is reason to suspect that the device in question contains terrorism-related material or child pornography, or if the owner is on an enhanced-scrutiny list; but if the Post can be believed, the tactic is being used much too cavalierly for people with Moslem-sounding names departing for or arriving from places of interest, such as Jordan, Pakistan... or London:
A few months earlier in the same airport, a tech engineer returning from a business trip to London objected when a federal agent asked him to type his password into his laptop computer. "This laptop doesn't belong to me," he remembers protesting. "It belongs to my company." Eventually, he agreed to log on and stood by as the officer copied the Web sites he had visited, said the engineer, a U.S. citizen who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of calling attention to himself.
Maria Udy, a marketing executive with a global travel management firm in Bethesda, said her company laptop was seized by a federal agent as she was flying from Dulles International Airport to London in December 2006. Udy, a British citizen, said the agent told her he had "a security concern" with her. "I was basically given the option of handing over my laptop or not getting on that flight," she said....
"I was assured that my laptop would be given back to me in 10 or 15 days," said Udy, who continues to fly into and out of the United States. She said the federal agent copied her log-on and password, and asked her to show him a recent document and how she gains access to Microsoft Word. She was asked to pull up her e-mail but could not because of lack of Internet access. With ACTE's help, she pressed for relief. More than a year later, Udy has received neither her laptop nor an explanation....
Kamran Habib, a software engineer with Cisco Systems, has had his laptop and cellphone searched three times in the past year. Once, in San Francisco, an officer "went through every number and text message on my cellphone and took out my SIM card in the back," said Habib, a permanent U.S. resident. "So now, every time I travel, I basically clean out my phone. It's better for me to keep my colleagues and friends safe than to get them on the list as well."
The feds argue that their authority to protect the border allows searches of electronic media without any suspicion at all, just as they can search physical containers:
The U.S. government has argued in a pending court case that its authority to protect the country's border extends to looking at information stored in electronic devices such as laptops without any suspicion of a crime. In border searches, it regards a laptop the same as a suitcase.
"It should not matter . . . whether documents and pictures are kept in 'hard copy' form in an executive's briefcase or stored digitally in a computer. The authority of customs officials to search the former should extend equally to searches of the latter," the government argued in the child pornography case being heard by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.
But to me, at least, the problem is not searching; if Customs was performing just a simple search, I doubt many would object. The real problem is twofold:
- The unreasonable failure to return property promptly when no terroristic materials or child pornography is found. Holding non-offending property for months, whether for spite or because the agency is so incompetent it doesn't get around to it in a timely manner, is not "searching;" it's confiscation. Customs has no authority to confiscate materials that are not illegal to pass through the border.
- Failure to safeguard the security of legal proprietary and confidential information. Any such material seized must be held in the strictest confidence while an evaluation is made of its legality. The evaluation should not be unreasonably delayed, and a system must be in place to assure the owners that their confidential or secret information will be safeguarded. Customs should not be allowed to routinely copy sensitive materials, then leave the copies lying around unprotected.
So far as I can tell (and admittedly, I'm basing this entirely on the Washington Post being truthful), Customs meets neither of these two requirements: The agency holds electronic devices for months without explanation; and if they have any system to protect the security of sensitive information on seized devices, they certainly haven't told anyone about it.
Mark Rasch, "a technology security expert with FTI Consulting and a former federal prosecutor," notes some of the dangers:
"Lawyers run the risk of exposing sensitive information about their client. Trade secrets can be exposed to customs agents with no limit on what they can do with it. Journalists can expose sources, all because they have the audacity to cross an invisible line."
The response by the spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Lynn Hollinger, does not exactly inspire confidence:
Hollinger said customs officers "are trained to protect confidential information."
While I'm not dogmatically opposed to racial profiling -- the Post reports that "Almost all [of two dozen cases] involved travelers of Muslim, Middle Eastern or South Asian background" -- when legal travelers with proper documentation, and especially U.S. citizens, are searched (whether physically or their electronic devices), the process should be made as painless as possible; security is vital, but so is liberty... we do need balance.
Instead, Customs appears to be going out of its way to assert its authority simply to seize anything they take a liking to, without regard to how much damage that does to innocent people, like Charlton Heston in Soylent Green. And they seem arrogantly unconcerned about other people's confidential material, as well.
I'm reminded (as was the Post reporter) of the original scope claimed by federal and state authorities for "asset forfeiture," the seizing of valuable property prior to trial, and often holding it indefinitely without even charging its owner. (The legal theory, which I believe most judges accepted, is that the inanimate property itself was being "charged with the crime," hence the owner need never be given any chance to defend his ownership at trial... which I always thought the apex of judicial activism.)
Such disproportionate and badly aimed "legal looting" was eventually overturned by the courts, after too many instances of entire buildings, boats, and rental property being seized by drug agents after some trivial amount of marijuana or other drugs were found on the premises, even when it was clearly without the knowledge or consent of the owner -- a renter grows a pot plant in his apartment, the entire apartment complex is seized; an illegal squatter shoots up in a commercial property, the entire industrial building is taken away from its owners; and my favorite: A single joint was found in the pocket of the abandoned coat belongint to a crewman who had jumped ship several ports earlier... and the feds attempted to seize the entire multi-million-dollar cargo ship. (I remember that specific federal looting was thrown out by the courts.)
I hope we won't have to wait for such court action -- which could take years -- for Customs to stop treating ordinary Americans like terrorists-in-waiting, from whom they can seize property, trade secrets, and contact information on the basis of a hunch. (Just a hunch of my own; has anybody raided the homes of any Customs agents, to see whether any of them have put those "seized" assets to personal use?)
The first border-related task of the new Republican president in 2009 should be to sort out our entire Customs and Border Patrol authorization, so that both private individuals and the agents themselves clearly understand what they can and cannot do, and under what circumstances. We need security; we need liberty; but there is no reason to believe the two are incompatible.
Date ►►► February 7, 2008
Give a Big Hand to Mitt!
I was just saying yesterday to Friend Lee that, since it was inevitable (for all practical purposes) that John McCain was to be the Republican nominee, I sincerely hoped that both Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee would bow out of the race ASAP... so that we could have months and months of a presumptive GOP nominee spending all his time and money bashing the Democrats -- while the two punch-drunk Democratic candidates spend those same months bashing each other.
(Friend Lee reminded me of the delightful spectacle of Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine whaling away at each other in a senseless, bloody battle, in the wonderful and obscure cult movie Emperor of the North -- a.k.a., Emperor of the North Pole.)
Then today, at CPAC -- and just as Rich Galen of Mullings fame predicted -- Mitt Romney called it a day, withdrew as a candidate, and wholeheartedly endorsed his former rival. That is what being a team player is all about.
"There stands a man."
Huckabee, of course, vows to fight on. I wouldn't be surprised if he refuses to support McCain even after McCain is formally nominated at the convention. (I would be surprised -- but not knocked off my pins -- if he runs as a third party candidate... possibly for some newly created Christian Independent Party.)
What a narcissist. There is no reason for Huckabee to stay in the race; he has no possibility being the nominee or even playing kingmaker at the convention. He will have no pull whatsoever... so why is he still monkeying about?
It's now time to begin talking about McCain's running mate... and the best suggestion I have heard yet comes from various sources: Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi.
Who is Haley Barbour?
- A rock-solid conservative;
- A wonderful orator and debater;
- Former chairman of the Republican Party, so he has friends everywhere in every sphere of the GOP;
- Supported by several prominent Democrats, including Mike Espy and Xavier Bishop;
- Won reelection in 2007 by 58% to 42% over John Eaves;
- A well-loved Southerner, so he can certainly help win the South -- even if the eventual Democratic nominee, bleeding and bedraggled -- and I won't take sides who it will be -- selects someone like Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL, 60%) as her running mate;
And perhaps most important, a governor whose performance during Hurricane Katrina belies the weepy claim by the gone and nearly forgotten Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana that failures by President Bush and FEMA caused all the death and destruction in her state, rather than her own incompetence and corruption.
Barbour's state was hit just as hard as Blanco's, and they received even less federal help; yet they have done a much better job of recovering; and Barbour's decisions spared many more lives than did Blanco's "deer in the headlights" indecision.
Haley Barbour would add needed conservative gravitas to McCain's campaign.
The new lieutenant governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, appears to be a conservative Republican; and he won election in 2007 (replacing the term-limited Amy Tuck) by 59%. I don't know exactly how Mississippi works, but I assume that Bryant would become the governor, either for the remainder of Barbour's term or else until some special election could be arranged, one that Bryant looks well poised to win. Thus, the state should stay firmly in GOP hands.
Another good suggestion is Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota; he would take the ticket in the other direction, of course; if McCain thinks his Democratic opponents guarantee him the South (as Friend Lee puts it), he might try to make a big play for those razor-close Midwestern and Pacific states -- Minnesota (3%), Wisconsin (0.4%), Pennsylvania (2%), Michigan (3%), and Oregon (4%) -- that went for John Kerry in 2004; and Ohio (2.5%), which narrowly went for Bush but turned sharply blue in 2006.
Tim Pawlenty widens McCain's campaign reach into states that haven't gone Republican recently; but I'm not sure whether Lt.Gov. Carol Molnau can hold the state for Republicans.
So things are looking up with Romney's withdrawal, which helps unify the party; and we have several good potential running mates for John McCain, when he gets around to making such decisions. All in all, a good if poignant day in Republican politics -- and very, very bad news for the Democrats.
Follow-Up On the Non-Wimpy GOP
We mentioned earlier today, in McCain Wimps Out - Except That He Really Didn't, that the Democrats had recklessly linked two completely different and diametrically opposed approaches in their putative "compromise" Senate economic-stimulus bill:
- Extending the tax rebates to disabled veterans and Social-Security recipients who don't pay taxes;
- Subsidizing home heating bills, extending unemployment compensation, and adding tax cuts for coal producers.
Now, some folks may agree with the second approach -- I don't -- but nobody can argue that the government paying for heating oil or making it easier for people to go longer without having to get a job is stimulatory; the first is neutral on the issue, and the latter is actually depressionary. (The coal subsidies were obviously just added to try to lure some Republicans from coal-producing states, such as Wyoming, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania -- or maybe because of extortion by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, 80%, who has a history of making such petulant demands.)
But the GOP held firm, refusing to go along, despite -- or perhaps because of -- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) personally armtwisting Republican senators to vote for the bill. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) waited at the airport, ready to cast a vote on the Republican side if it looked as if the Democrats would prevail, but otherwise unwilling to fall into the Democrats' badger trap.
There was never any danger; Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), who probably needed to vote for the bill because of the coal provision, was allowed to do so; six other RINOs (blue means up for reelection this year) -- Sens. Chuck Grassley (IA, 88%), Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%), Susan Collins (ME, 48%), Norm Coleman (MN, 68%), Pete Domenici (NM, 75%), Gordon Smith (OR, 72%) -- did so as well, probably because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) knew the GOP had enough votes. And Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC, 96%) voted with the Democrats, as well. I'm sure several of these dissenters would have been willing (if reluctant) to vote with the party, had the Democrats turned some other Republicans.
The Democrats' bill failed, as we told you earlier; and now comes word that the Democrats have thrown in the towel... they passed the extension to seniors and disabled veterans -- favored by Republicans -- as a stand-alone amendment to the bill. The bill itself will now pass in that form, be sent to the House, and quickly pass tonight:
Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed Thursday to add rebates for 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans to a House-passed economic aid package, ending a partisan stalemate over the plan.
The key breakthrough came when Democrats, under pressure from party colleagues in the House, agreed to drop their insistence on adding jobless benefits, heating aid for the poor and business subsidies, and said they would allow a vote on a plan that merely extends the tax rebates to Social Security retirees and disabled veterans.
I have a dream... actually, it's more of a prediction. Harry "Pinky" Reid has been the worst Senate majority leader of my lifetime (in the sense of "most incompetent"). He has led the Democrats into multiple failed attempts to surrender in the Iraq war, and continues to insist to this day -- despite the stunning turn-around last year -- that we have "already lost." His compulsive intransigence to President Bush's policies might be defensible if it were sustainable... that is, if Reid could actually stop those policies. But he has failed there as well. He even lost numerous votes on conservative judges that the Democrats despised, including two stellar Supreme Court justices.
On vote after vote, as today, he can't even find a legitimate compromise to advance Democratic policy by luring enough Republicans to break the filibuster. His whiny, reedy voice and limp-wristed fist-pumping serves only to make him the poster boy for Democratic fecklessness and weakess on the war, the economy, taxes, judges, and on core Democratic issues, such as socialized medicine and open borders.
I predict that if the Democrats do not make substantial electoral gains in the Senate in November, Harry Reid will be out as majority leader by January. This can be either bad or good for us: Bad if they elevate some doctrinaire liberal who is simply a better speaker and more inspiring to the Democratic troops; but good if they decide that enacting policy is more important than fighting repeated last stands to the bitter dead end, on issue after issue.
If they replace Reid with a majority leader who can actually compromise with the Republicans, instead of taking the attitude, "What's mine is mine, what's yours is negotiable"... then perhaps we can finally begin moving beyond this political civil war -- and move America forward instead.
Beldar the Fortunate
Again, I point you to a post by another; and this time, I won't even permit myself to chime in, having nothing to say that Beldar didn't already.
The post is titled "Are we at war? And what is the political consequence of that for conservatives in this election?", and I'll bet you imagine you know the witty answers to those two questions... but I suspect you're only half correct.
Read; it won't disappoint. (Hat tip to Patterico's.)
McCain Wimps Out - Except That He Really Didn't
I suspect the newsmeisters will have you believe that John McCain made a terrible miscalculation by not showing up to vote one way or the other on the Senate Democrats' "compromise" stimulus package; after all, that's the Hillary Clinton spin, and by now, we all know the provenance of the benightly news:
Republican presidential candidate John McCain skipped a difficult Senate vote Wednesday on whether to make 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans eligible for rebate checks as part of a proposed economic stimulus package.
The Arizona senator's decision to miss the vote appeared to come at the last minute, after his plane had landed at Dulles International Airport outside Washington just before the proceedings opened on the Senate floor.
But let me say this about that: I applaud McCain's absence; it makes me more, not less, confident that he can whup the Democrats.
The whole charade had one purpose in mind: To trap McCain and other Republicans into supporting the Democrats' budget-busting, non-stimulatory add-ons to the stimulus package. Their position is as it has always been... What's that? a crisis? Say, let's take advantage to cram our unpopular hidden agenda down everybody's throat! The Democrats are indeed the political profiteering party.
Reread the above description of the vote -- "whether to make 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans eligible for rebate checks" -- and compare it to the more, er, honest description a few grafs later in the same story:
Whichever way McCain may have voted, it would have been a difficult choice given his status as the Republican presidential front-runner.
Senate Democrats cleverly bundled the rebates for seniors and veterans, key voting blocs, with expanded unemployment benefits and home heating subsidies for the jobless and poor.
President Bush and Republican leaders, as well as conservatives McCain was scheduled to woo on Thursday, vehemently oppose the expanded benefits and subsidies.
That put McCain in a bad political spot.
Note that home heating subsidies have nothing whatsoever to do with stimulating the economy. And even more risibly, expanding unemployment benefits actually cuts against an economic resurgence, because it allows layabouts to loaf another six months before actually having to go out and get a job.
But when the Republicans defeated this poison-pill proposal (denying the Democrats the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster -- the de facto requirement set by the Democrats in the 108th Congress for moving any legislation -- look how the usual suspects portrayed them:
"By failing to stand up as the deciding vote, John McCain let our families down," said Clinton aide Phil Singer. "Tonight's events prove once again that we need a president who will be ready from Day One to act in the interests of middle-class families and turn our ailing economy around."
(Despite the fact that, as any economist will admit, the Democrats' proposal was not in the interests of "middle-class families," and would not have helped in any conceivable way to "turn our ailing economy around." But, you know, image is everything.)
So why do I cheer McCain for missing this "critical" vote? Because he quickly saw the trap -- and neatly sidestepped it. This declaws the Democratic pit-yorkies: "You cast an indefensible and heartless vote against the poorest Americans!" is a much more powerful attack than "You missed a vote." ("Sorry, dude, I was stuck at the airport.") Thus, McCain walks the line between conservative and moderate and avoids being drawn into a no-win mud-wrestling contest with a herd of -- Democrats.
That's actually pretty diplomatic, if you ask me. (And actually, by reading this site, you did indeed "ask me," didn't you? Let that be a lesson to you.)
If a president in waiting can't even sidestep an obvious badger trap set by that master of subtlety, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), how could anyone imagine he would be able to avoid the various pitfalls (and pratfalls) set for him by Vladimir Putin, Oogo Chavez, and José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero? Let alone Fouad Siniora, King Abdullah, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And in any event, I just love the image of the reedy majority leader crying "Curses, foiled again!" Then perhaps, like Rumplestiltskin (to whom he bears uncanny resemblance), Reid will stamp his foot so hard, it will open a crack in the Earth that will swallow him whole.
Date ►►► February 6, 2008
Wicked Watch of the West
Another Watcher post? Already?
Our bête noire, JoshuaPundit, came in first this week in the Council category. Which we really can't complain about, since we helped compel it there by voting it our Number 1:
- Energy Independence -- What It Am And What It Ain't, by Joshuapundit.
[At least our own post tied for Number 2.
We're number 2!
We're number 2! Wait, that didn't come out right...]
Freedom Fighter gives an excellent primer on the difficulties of going energy independent, finishing with a stirring call to dive into oil-from-coal and oil-from-shale production, along with many more fission power plants -- one hopes he means the newer designs, such as Pebble Bed Modular Reactors and Integral Fast Reactors.
The only point he didn't discuss is that we could greatly help the drive towards energy independence, without having to scrap our fuel-delivery infrastructure, by offering a massive X-prize -- say, a government contract for $1 billion worth of vehicles -- for the first company to create a commercially produceable car with a high-temperature ceramic engine that burns the gasoline (whether oil-based or artificial) at a much hotter temperature... say about 5,000° Fahrenheit.
The hotter you burn fuel, the more complete the combustion; hence the greater the mileage and the fewer pollutants out the tailpipe. (Smog comprises incompletely burned hydrocarbons that ought to be driving the power train instead.) Couple high-temperature burning with flywheel technology (to conserve some of the angular momentum of the wheels during braking), and the reduction in weight through scrapping the water pump and hose system and the oil pump and lubrication system, and we could see cars getting 80 to 100 mpg.
Our Number 2 was...
- Complicit, by Soccer Dad.
SoccerDad notes the sad irony of newspapers being accomplices beside the fact in the "Palestinians" (Hamas, actually) blowing holes through the security wall segregating Gaza from Egypt... given that Hamas, had they their own way, would surely dump freedom of the press along with every other freedom in a world of sharia.
This piece, written nearly a fortnight ago, is doubly ghoulish, given that the suicide bombers who killed a 73 year old woman in Dimona, Israel likely entered Israel by crossing the Sinai from Egypt, after escaping Gaza through the breech opened by Hamas. According to Fox News:
The Egyptian Police attempted to keep the escapees contained to Rafah, the town immediately on the Egyptian side of the border. They were unsuccessful. The Egyptians announced that they had picked up 17 Palestinian in various spots across the Sinai Peninsula, armed and intending to attack Israelis. Some were planning to attack Israeli tourists in the Sinai, others were intending to cross back into Israel and attack there.
While the Gaza Strip is separated from Israel by a fence, monitored with optics and patrolled by soldiers, Egypt is not. The border extending south from the Gaza Strip to the Red Sea is protected mostly by an open expanse of desert. There is some fencing but it’s not impassable. The first 30 miles of border, immediately south of the Gaza Strip, are patrolled by only eight soldiers at any given time.
So the New York Times, the Times of London, and other papers that cheered the "Palestinians" on -- "once more into the breach, dear friends!" -- were not only complicit in breaking the Israeli boycott intended to stop the Qassam rocket attacks on northern Israel; they may also have been complicit in one murder, eleven critical assaults, and God knows how much more death and mayhem, if other bombers manage to make it from Egypt into Israel.
I hope the journalists feel chagrin, but I suspect the more likely emotion is narcissistic self-righteousness.
Our Number 2 came in Number 1 this week; actually, it tied for first, but the Watcher selected it for the winner -- against our Number 1, which thus tied for Number 2 with two other Number 2s. Ya fallah?
- The Conclusion We Dare Not Face, by Dr. Sanity.
Dr. Sanity -- or Old Doc Electroshock, as I like to call her -- notes the consequences of entertaining the possibility that Islam might not actually be the "religion of peace;" and she asks whether we can face those consequences -- the decisions they require and the future world they imply. [A commenter swears that D.S. is a she, not a he; I have changed all pronouns accordingly.]
- Be a Victim! Or Else!, by Classical Values.
Eric examines the phenomenon of gay bashing by Moslem yutes... and thus falls down the rabbit hole of whether a society whose greatest virtue is tolerance can tolerate the intolerant.
The watchword is which word?
If you really want to read all the losers too (including Big Lizards), I supposed you could wend your way here.
But why would you?
Date ►►► February 5, 2008
Al-Qaeda "Movin' On Out?"
According to prepared testimony delivered by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- chaired, oxymoronically enough, by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IVth (D-WV, 60%) -- al-Qaeda has largely been thwarted in their attempts to launch attacks in Iraq; so they are focusing on conducting future operations from the "lawless" regions of Pakistan along the Afghanistan border. But they are still aggressively pursuing a strategy of carrying out major attack on the West, and have indeed tried several already (which we and our allies shut down):
Last summer, for example, with our allies, we unraveled terrorist plots linked to al-Qa’ida and its associates in Denmark and Germany.... The death last week of Abu Layth al-Libi, al-Qa'ida’s charismatic senior military commander and a key link between al-Qa’ida and its affiliates in North Africa, is the most serious blow to the group’s top leadership since the December 2005 death of then external operations chief Hamza Rabi’a.
Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) suffered major setbacks last year, although it still is capable of mounting lethal attacks. Hundreds of AQI leadership, operational, media, financial, logistical, weapons, and foreign fighter facilitator cadre have been killed or captured. With much of the Sunni population turning against AQI, its maneuver room and ability to operate have been severely constrained. AQI’s attack tempo, as measured by numbers of suicide attacks, had dropped by more than half by year’s end after approaching all time highs in early 2007. We see indications that al-Qa’ida’s global image is beginning to lose some of its luster; nonetheless, we still face multifaceted terrorist threats.
Unfortunately, they are also making progress towards once again being able to attack the United States directly:
Al-Qa’ida’s central leadership based in the border area of Pakistan is its most dangerous component. Last July, we published a National Intelligence Estimate titled, "The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland," which assessed that al-Qa’ida’s central leadership in the past two years has been able to regenerate the core operational capabilities needed to conduct attacks in the Homeland.
In particular, here are McConnell's concerns:
- That "Al-Qa’ida has been able to retain a safehaven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)." It's not as large or secure as the one that used to be in Afghanistan; but it can be used for training purposes and as a platform whence to stage attacks "in Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States."
- They have managed to maintain a cadre of somewhat skilled lieutenants and operations officers in the Pakistan border region.
- And they have managed to recruit a number of Westerners to their Pakistan safe haven to carry out major attacks on the West.
One very positive note from the DNI:
AQI tactics, tradecraft, and techniques are transmitted on the Internet, but AQI documents captured in Iraq suggest that fewer than 100 AQI terrorists have moved from Iraq to establish cells in other countries.
So the spirit is willing, but the investment of flesh is weak.
Also, interestingly enough, it appears that, like Dr. Frank-N-Furter, AQI's mission is a failure, their lifestyle's too extreme: Numerous religious leaders formerly associated with al-Qaeda have begun denouncing them and their violence (against Moslems, that is); and fewer unconnected terrorist groups and extremists see AQ, or especially AQI, as the model for their own hirabah (unholy war).
I think it increasingly clear that the current situation in Pakistan is unacceptable: Americans can go up to but not across the border between Afghanistan and Pakisan, while President Pervez Musharraf pledges to crack down on the militants in Waziristan and Balochistan and then breaks his pledge. (Whether out of mendacity or simple inability to make headway against the Taliban and al-Qaeda and their supporters is irrelevant.) We must either negotiate a new arrangement with Musharraf -- or else implement one in spite of him.
Later, speaking abour Iran's WMD programs, Mike McConnell clarifies some of the conclusions of the infamous National Intelligence Estimate that said Iran had stopped its nuclear program. What the NIE actually meant, says the Director of National Intelligence is:
- Iran stopped "warhead design and weaponization" and covert attempts to enrich uranium;
- They have not stopped declared programs to enrich uranium (perhaps even weaponizing it);
- And they have actually accelerated their ballistic-missile program, closing in on being able to fire a missile from Iran and hit targets in the United States mainland.
About the other elements of Iran's WMD program:
We know that Tehran had a chemical warfare program prior to 1997, when it declared elements of its program. We assess that Tehran maintains dual-use facilities intended to produce CW agent in times of need [sound familiar...? -DaH] and conducts research that may have offensive applications. We assess Iran maintains a capability to weaponize CW agents in a variety of delivery systems.
We assess that Iran has previously conducted offensive BW [biological warfare] agent research and development. Iran continues to seek dual-use technologies that could be used for biological warfare.
Finally, McConnell noted that, like Iraq, the Afghan army is growing slowly and becoming more and more effective; while the Afghan National Police has grown more quickly -- but "corruption, insufficient training and equipment, and absenteeism hamper their effectiveness."
McConnell concluded on a hopeful (if not Pollyannic) note:
I, my colleagues, and the Intelligence Community we represent are fully committed to arming our policymakers, warfighters, and law enforcement officers with the best intelligence and analytic insight we can. This is necessary to enable them to take the actions and make the decisions that will protect American lives and American interests, here and around the world.
Considering that the Senate I-Com, the very body that DNI Mike McConnell was addressing, now sports such stalwarts of the aggressive collection and distribution of intelligence as Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD, 100%), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, not yet rated), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Dianne "DiFi" Feinstein (D-CA, 90%) -- not to mention their Republican counterparts, including Sens. Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%), John Warner (VA, 64%) (for the rest of this year), and Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%) -- the idea that they will make any decision or take any actions at all about anything significant is charming... but about as realistic as the idea that Ron Paul would aggressively pursue the war against global hirabah.
A Man Who Can Get Things Done
Yeah, yeah, I know he's a Democrat... but this is one fantastic ad!
Date ►►► February 4, 2008
Guide to Über Tuesday for the Perplexed
I'll deal in depth only with the Republicans; the Democrats can go hang. I'm tired of looking up stuff, and I want to get this up before Über Tuesday's dead-dog party.
The Republican candidates each need at least 1,191 delegates to win the nomination. Currently (post-Maine):
- John McCain has 97, needs 1,094
- Mitt Romney has 92, needs 1,099
- Mike Huckabee has 29, needs 1,162
- Ron Paul has 6, needs a reality check
At stake on Über Tuesday for Republicans -- according to CNN -- are 1,020 delegates; but for me, the numbers don't quite add up (see below). I'll have to take their word for it. That means that no GOP candidate can end up with a majority of the delegates tomorrow, even if he were to win every possible delegate in every state. In theory, all four campaigns can stagger forward after tomorrow.
But in reality, unless Romney remains within striking distance of McCain, he will likely drop out within a week after Über Tuesday. (Rich Galen of Mullings fame predicts both Romney and Huckabee will drop out on Thursday.) Joke candidate Ron Paul has no intention of dropping out; he'll stay in the race until the cows come home to roost. Even after the convention, when the GOP nominee (who will not be Paul) is chosen, he'll probably find a friendly third party to nominate him, à la Ralph Nader.
There are 21 states participating in the Republican Über Tuesday contests (sayeth CNN and RCP); states in blue are caucuses; the rest (except for West Virginia) are primaries. West Virginia holds a "convention"... go figure:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticutt, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia (convention).
States where McCain leads:
(Name in parenthesis is currently in second place; number is the number of delegates at stake; number in parenthesis is the number of state delegates not decided by tomorrow's elections; boldface means a "winner take all" contest.)
- Alabama (Huckabee) 48 (-3);
- Arizona (Romney) 53 (-3);
- Connecticutt (Romney) 30 (-3);
- Illinois (Romney) 70 (-3, -10);
- Minnesota (Huckabee) 41 (-3);
- Missouri (Huckabee) 58;
- New Jersey (Romney) 52;
- New York (Romney) 101.
Total at stake: 453 - 25 = 428 delegates.
Most of these are big leads (double-digit); a couple of the leads are on the order of 5-6 points.
States where Romney leads:
(Name in parenthesis is currently in second place; number is the number of delegates at stake; number in parenthesis is the number of state delegates not decided by tomorrow's elections.)
- Colorado (McCain) 46 (-3);
- Massachusetts (McCain) 43 (-3).
Total at stake: 89 - 6 = 83 delegates.
States where McCain and Romney are tied within the margin of error:
(Number is the number of delegates at stake; number in parenthesis is the number of state delegates not decided by tomorrow's elections.)
- California 173 (-3);
- Georgia 72 (-3) (actually, Georgia is pretty much a three-way tie, as Huckabee is right on Romney's heels).
Total at stake: 245 - 6 = 239 delegates.
State where McCain and Huckabee are tied within the margin of error:
(Number is the number of delegates at stake.)
- Tennessee 55 (-3).
Total at stake: 55 - 3 = 52 delegates.
States where no polling is available through Real Clear Politics:
(See if you can guess what the numbers after each state represent...)
- Alaska 29 (-3);
- Arkansas 34 (-3);
- Delaware 18 (-3);
- Montana 25;
- North Dakota 26 (-3);
- Oklahoma 41 (-3);
- Utah 36;
- West Virginia 30 (-3, -9).
Total at stake: 239 - 27 = 212 delegates.
Total delegates = 1,081 - 67 = 1,014
As noted, something is funny about the delegate count: I get 1081 total delegates, minus 48 "unpledged GOP" (16 states each have 3 unpledged GOP delegate slots that are not determined by the primary or caucus), minus 10 unpledged statewide in Illinois, minus 9 delegates tied instead to a May 13 primary in West Virgina, actually seems to equal 1014 delegates at stake tomorrow. But CNN insists it's really 1020. I have no idea how to resolve this discrepency.
John Hinderaker over at Power Line predicts that John McCain will win between 201 and 360 delegates from the winner-take-all states; Romney is assured only Utah for 36 in this scenario. But I don't know where he gets those numbers: McCain is ahead by about 2-1 in Connecticutt, New York, and New Jersey; add in Arizona, and McCain already has 236 (230, not counting the unpledgeds), a lot more than John's floor of 201. I'm not sure what combination of states yields John's lowball prediction. (And according to RCP, all the winner-take-alls added together except for Utah yields a total of 337 for McCain -- or 328, not counting undeclareds not decided by tomorrow's contests -- not 360.)
In the proportionally allocated states, he predicts McCain takes 219, with 169 for Romney; and in the weirdo states that have caucuses, conventions (hello, West Virginia!), or for which there is inadequate polling data, he predicts McCain racks up 127 to Romney's 60. I'm not going to go through those individually, because some will go to Huckabee (John predicts 77), and it's impossible for me to guess how John allocated the states. I will note that he assumes a total of 1,048 delegates will be decided tomorrow, whereas CNN says only 1,020; if this be treason, then make the most of it.
Thus, John Hinderaker predicts a worst-case scenario on Wednesday of John McCain with 803 delegates, compared to Romney's 357.
(Actually, John says 339 for Romney; but he's taking his current delegate count from Hugh Hewitt's chart at the top of his blog, which shows Mitt Romney with 74 delegates. John hasn't yet noticed that a disspirited Hewitt has neglected to update the chart to include delegates from the Maine caucuses, which Romney won; Romney actually has 92 delegates, according to CNN.)
If we also correct for the total number of winner-take-all delegates according to RCP, I get a worst case here of 771 for McCain, 357 for Romney.
The best-case scenario, where the leaners among the winner-take-all states (Delaware, Missouri, and Montana -- should be 98 delegates, not 159) go to Romney, would have the Wednesday totals at 673 for McCain, 455 for Romney. Bear in mind that Romney is actually number three in Missouri; Huckabee is number two.
Realistically, the actual delegate count will probably be in between worst and best, somewhat weighted towards McCain.
There are 22 states participating in the Democratic Über Tuesday contests; states in blue are caucuses; the rest are primaries:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticutt, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah.
I'm not going to go through who's ahead in each state; it's far too much work, and they're much closer than the GOP candidates... so any prediction for the Democrats is more likely to explode on election day.
Expect John McCain to come out of Über Tuesday anywhere from a high of 771 to 357 ahead of Mitt Romney to a low of 673 to 455 ahead, with Mike Huckabee bringing up a very distant and dismal third. Note that, if John's macro prediction comes true, then even if Huckabee won absolutely no delegates tomorrow, and all 77 that John assigns him went to Romney instead -- then McCain would still be ahead of Romney, this time by anywhere from a high of 771 to 434 to a low of 673 to 532. So Huckabee or no Huckabee, McCain is going to have a strong lead in the delegate count after tomorrow's spate of 21 primary and caucus contests.
The only thing that might turn this around in the future is if Huckabee actually gets out of the race, and if his voters then mostly switch to Romney... which proposition is itself doubtful, unless Romney can find a way to appeal to the evangelical vote -- which so far he hasn't done.
Date ►►► February 3, 2008
Japan Looks to the Wrong America
For a long time, I've been wondering about the growing anti-American sentiment among Japanese conservatives. I can understand Japanese liberals not liking the sole remaining world super power; they think even Japan is too militaristic for simply refueling and resupplying American warships. But why Japanese conservatives?
Discounting those old (physically or mentally) right-wingers who have still not forgiven us for defeating Japan in the last war, Japanese conservatives are religious (Shinto or Buddhist), patriotic (for Japan), and believe in strong military. They have a lot in common with the American people. So why do they seem to have nothing but contempt for us?
Don't worry, this is not one of those “why do they hate us so” type of posts which ends by demanding that America change somehow to make everyone like us. In fact, I recently realized that the problem comes mostly from them, not us: They're simply looking at the wrong side of America.
There is a word in Japanese; a single word, "ohbei" (欧米), meaning the West. But it doesn't literally mean the West; the word actually means “Europe and America.” It's all pushed together into one word, like EuropeAndAmerica. Just like the word, Japanese really don't distinguish the two hemispheres of the West. Westerners are all "gaijin" (外人), meaning "white foreigners who believe in that strange religion called Christianity."
Oh yes they can.
The problem (you'll be shocked) is the Japanese Left. For decades, they have trotted out the word ohbei (EuropeAndAmerica) to refer to European liberal values as if they were holy writ. Ohbei is a magic word to them: “In ohbei, minority preferences are totally normal. We Japanese are so behind on this. We should immediately incorporate this policy!” I don’t know how many times I heard that when I was growing up in Japan.
I must say there are many things that Japan can learn from the United States. I don’t doubt for even a second that America has a superior quality that no other country possesses (American exceptionalism). However, whenever the Japanese Left brings up the ohbei values or policies, they're never talking about traditional American virtues. Rather, ohbei always means some already-failed socialist policy imported from Europe (or occasionally from the wilder ideas of the American Left -- which by and large come from Europe).
So far, the Left in Japan have forced the adoption of affirmative action, gender feminism, liberal sex education, shorter school hours, and so forth -- all with the expected disastrous results. Japanese students used routinely to score high in International math and science tests; now they're way behind China and Korea. Teenage pregnancy and crime rates are skyrocketing... all the joys and wonders that modern liberalism infallibly delivers!
And now, modern Japan, which has always been controlled by the Left, is seriously flirting with the idea of importing from the United Nations the notorious "Human Rights Commission," as found in Canada and England. You know the ones I mean: The Canadian one that is currently prosecuting Mark Steyn for daring to speak out against militant Islam (in a column in Macleans Magazine) and prosecuting Ezra Levant for daring to speak out against militant Islam (by republishing the Danish Mohammed cartoons); and the British HRC that caused that country to issue an arrest warrant for British blogger Paul Ray, a.k.a. "Lionheart," for, well, pretty much the same crime.
Does anyone detect a pattern here?
On top of this, the Japanese media are very liberally biased and lazy, even more so than here: Their "news" about the United States is generally a word for word translation of American major network news or the New York Times. And of course, that comfort women condemnation initiative that the Democrats pushed through Congress last year didn't help, either; Japanese conservatives were frothing at the mouth that "we" (EuropeAndAmerica) condemned Japan for making sex slaves out of Korean and Chinese (and Japanese!) women... but "we" didn't condemn China for its much more horrendous mass murders and violations of fundamental rights under Mao and his successors, nor North Korea for leaving its millions of citizens huddled in the dark and starving to death.
Don't get me wrong; the Japanese Left hates us, too. The United States is a symbol of military power; and Americans would be astonished how much the Left despises any military, even their own. But on the one hand, they criticize our "war-mongering" ways; while on the other, they worship "us" (EuropeAndAmerica) for our liberalism. Perfectly sensible, yes?
The problem is that every time Japanese conservatives turn around, they're confronted by these radical, new policies and values, which are utterly foreign to traditional Japanese religious and social values. They're shoved down conservatives' throats, and always in the name of ohbei. If that were happening here, wouldn’t we develop an ohbei allergy ourselves?
Oh, wait: It is. And we have!
Since Japanese in general cannot distinguish between Europe and the United States, nor between left-leaning and right-leaning Americans, they look at the narrow slice of the West that the Left presents them -- and they conclude the whole of Western civilization is one big, undifferentiated blob. They lump us up all together; and then they think “that's America,” since we're the largest and most powerful of all gaijin nations. (One Japanese blogger flatly stated that the United States is “too far to the left” for his liking; this from a country that refuses even to fight for its own territory when seized by South Korea!)
I don’t know if there is anything we Americans can do to change their minds. Our media is not helping, oddly enough. And if the next president is a Democrat, we're going to further isolate Japan from us; I can feel it in my bones.
This leads us to the Prime Directive of American foreign relations: Our rivals are never going to like us; they will always find reason to despise us, even if they must conflate us with France and Sweden to do so; therefore, America must cease trying to be liked -- and focus on being respected.
In my Japanese language blog, In the Strawberry Field, I do my darnedest to convince Japanese readers that we're not what they think we are, that we are ourselves and not Europe. Sadly, I seem to be flying solo.
How Romney Might Win (Inspired by Patrick Ruffini)
You all know I rarely do this, but this post by Patrick Ruffini on Hugh Hewitt's blog is so definitive, so beautifully argued, and so clear, that I simply have to point you at it and say "Read and educate yourselves."
(Blast. I knew I couldn't resist; I just have to talk about it myself. Never let the genius argue his own case, that's what I say; always engage in a little tomato-juicing myself! That's why we get the big buck, you know.)
Here it is on a nutshell (all emphasis my own; dainty Ruffini doesn't do italics or boldface):
There is a message in these returns to conservatives busy soldering together the coalition below decks: do not assume that just because they’re all pro-life, that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham speak for the social conservatives Romney needs next Tuesday. They don’t. Being pro-life and pro-marriage is not enough. To understand what Huckabee voters want, you need to actually appreciate what Mike Huckabee brings to the table, which is an emphasis on faith, undiluted. Many conservatives, particularly those around here, do not. While many of us agree on the social issues, the conservative establishment resented how he injected his religion into the campaign. Never have I seen conservatives so readily repeat the Barry Lynn/ACLU line on the “wall” between church and state....
Specifically, it seems to me that the conservative establishment's decision to go nuclear first on Huckabee (who never had a shot but speaks for voters we need in November) before McCain (who always had a shot but speaks mostly for himself) will rank as a pretty serious strategic blunder.
The take-away (as far as I'm concerned) is that, if Mitt Romney wants to be able to beat out McCain for the Huckabee vote when Huckabee drops out -- which is Romney's only strategy at this point -- then he had better begin campaigning vigorously on faith issues... something McCain is not particularly doing either, but doesn't need to do. That is, McCain can win a plurality of those Huckabee voters without specifically appealing to faith, while Romney can only win them if he really reaches out.
Focusing on economics is fine. But Romney also needs to focus on the bread and butter issues of faith: abortion, marriage, a religious civil society, revivalism.
My suggestion would be for him to play directly to the "sinner reformed," "prodigal son" impulse within the Christian community: For religious reasons, Christians tend to be very sympathetic to a narrative of the form, "I used to be benighted on this issue, but now I've seen the light" (Christianity being a very evangelical religion, unlike, say, Judaism.)
And Romney certainly fits that paradigm. He sincerely believes that he has "seen the light" on a number of issues where he used to be more liberal but is now more conservative; he's just been loathe to talk about it.
There is no lie here, no dissimulation: It's just a matter of Romney actually vocalizing in speeches what he has hinted in debates; of him changing the emphasis of his stump speech to encompass more than just a technocrat's analysis of the economy. We need to see the religious Mitt, not just the Beantown beancounter Mitt.
I would have Mitt Romney say something like this:
I have always personally opposed abortion and supported traditional marriage. But for a long time, I thought it wasn't something the government should mandate. I thought, Let people make up their own minds! I would rather they came to embrace life on their own, by their own consciences.
Boy, was I wrong. While I was governor of Massachusetts, I realized just how stacked the odds were against people of faith, against life, and against traditional marriage.
While I was waiting for people to make up their minds, preborn babies were dying in record numbers. While I confidently assumed that the people's firm support for traditional marriage actually counted for something in a democracy, the courts jumped in and threw out the eternal verities as too old fashioned.
Now they not only force abortion down voters' throats, they even ordered my state to start handing out marriage licenses not just to Bob and June, but to Bob and Jim! No vote, no referendum; the courts didn't care what the people believed. They only cared what their elite ideology told them was best for us.
Those sure aren't the kind of judges I would appoint.
But the liberal Democrats in Congress and the state legislatures are just as bad as the courts. I fought like hell against court-ordered gay marriage. I fought tooth and nail. But the Massachusetts political establishment, the Ted Kennedy machine, was too powerful even for the governor to buck. I only had the people on my side; they had the legislative rules committee.
Try as I did, and despite winning a vote for traditional marriage in the legislature, I just couldn't force the party bosses to send an amendment banning gay marriage to the people for a vote. The liberal elite are afraid of votes up there in New England, because they know what the majority of Americans think about their pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, atheist agenda.
I can't promise I'll win every battle; but I can promise I will fight every battle to keep America what she is: the most religious nation in the West. It's our most precious freedom, and it's why we're free in the first place.
I will fight like hell for traditional values -- for life, for marriage, and for the constitutional right to freely exercise our religion, no matter what the ACLU says. We may disagree on a lot of religious dogma... but I sure hope we agree on just how important these issues are, not just to conservatives, but to America and the world.
Simply put, if Mitt Romney doesn't make a play for Huckabee voters, then when Huckabee drops out of the race -- as I believe he finally will (perhaps after Über Tuesday) -- the plurality of his votes will go to McCain... not Romney.
It's time for Romney to throw away the green eyeshade and finally start showing some passion for something. Since nobody is going to follow him in a crusade for passionate economics, it's time to start talking about the other great passion in his life -- his religion. It sure as heck can't hurt to let people know there are some things that Romney believes deep in his heart that are more important than interest rates and tax policy and the other technowonkery he has pushed so far.
And it's also long past time for Romney to start praising McCain and Huckabee to the skies: "I think I would make a better president, but these guys are great choices as well!"
One of the three of them (actually, one of the two of them; Huckabee really isn't in the hunt anymore) is going to be the Republican nominee. He can't go into the race crippled by horrific attacks by his fellow Republicans (leave that to the Democrats).
I would also like to see a loud and enthusiastic promise by Mitt Romney that he will support to the hilt and campaign for whichever candidate finally wins the GOP nomination... and a challenge to all the other Republicans still in the race (including Ron Paul) to make the same pledge.
Date ►►► February 1, 2008
Still No Sign of Evidence
So in addition to two anonymous conservative lawyers telling John Fund that McCain said Alito "wore his conservatism on his sleeve," we now have two other anonymous conservative lawyers (who probably hate McCain anyway, as do most hard-core conservatives) saying roughly the same thing to Robert Novak.
Still, no one's willing to go public; nobody gives a direct quotation in context; and nobody has a transcript... meaning none of us can check it out for ourselves and see if we agree that's what McCainsaid and that's what he meant.
This isn't just hearsay... it's occult hearsay! "Hey, I heard some guy who wouldn't give his name say that Mitt Romney eats puppies and little children." "Oh, I heard some other guy, who also insists upon remaining anonymous, say something similar -- two anonymous sources means it's almost certainly true!"
And these are all attorneys finding themselves convinced by such unimpeachable evidence. How about applying some of those lawyerly skills to imagining how you would go about cross-examining Messrs. Fund and Novak about this "evidence." How many seconds would it take you to knock it down and stomp it to death?
Give us something we can actually use... something useful, like a transcript. Or a named witness. Or a direct quotation of McCain's full sentence. Something... anything. A hundred such unnamed sources with probable axes to grind will not convince me, despite my antipathy towards McCain. A thousand wouldn't.
This reminds me of a UFO nut calling into the Long John Neville show who demanded of guest host Fred Pohl "how much evidence does it take to convince you?" Pohl responded, "A million testimonials like those you have presented wouldn't do it... because you and I don't even agree what constitutes 'evidence.'"
Please give this some thought. It's a great temptation to believe every negative rumor about a guy you dislike... and for that very reason, you should be extra-specially skeptical of such "gifts from heaven." You may have mixed up the address of the sender.
Why Should We Care Whether Hillary or McCain Wins?
In this post, Patterico applauds Ann Coulter for saying that if John McCain is the nominee, she'll campaign for Hillary Clinton for president. Then Patterico concludes:
I won’t go so far as to say I’d campaign for Hillary. But, judges aside, why should I care?
Well, here's why. (This was originally a comment I wrote for a previous post of ours; I'm breaking it out here as a stand-alone post.)
You don't win by losing.
If John McCain is nominated and loses, the next Republican nominee in 2012 will likely be more liberal, not less. There is no "great conservative hope" waiting in the wings to sweep to victory four years later, as in 1980 (or to sweep to catastrophic defeat four years later, as in 1964).
In the meantime, we'll have eight years of President Obama or President Hillary... in which so much of what we consider America is destroyed (politically or literally) that what is left is simply not a country we can imagine. If we think that there is no difference between McCain and either of those two bozos, then we have let passion make a fool of us.
No one's personal conservative faction is going to get 100% of its agenda, because a large percent of Americans -- even a large percent of good Republican conservatives -- don't agree with it. The only way any faction could get 100% of its agenda is to seize power and impose the last 30% of it by force of arms.
We live in a small-d democracy (which includes constitutional republics), and other people do actually get to have a say in the national agenda. If we look back to the Reagan era, he got no more than 60%-65% of what he wanted... but it was the right 65%, a critical 65%... including the death of the Evil Empire and a drastic (and urgently needed) cut in taxes.
You all know I'm not particularly a fan of John McCain, and I didn't vote for him in the California primary. But even so:
- McCain supports the most important policy for our survival: War against global hirabah;
- He supports efforts to significantly cut spending, and especially to eliminate earmark corruption;
- He is pro-life;
- He supports lower taxes today, even if he voted against them in 2001 (probably out of vindictive pique against George Bush);
- He opposes same-sex marriage;
- He supports free-market health-insurance reform, not socialized medicine;
- He supports tort reform;
- He supports more drilling in America than we allow today, even if not as much as want to see;
- He supports the RKBA as a "fundamental, individual Constitutional right;"
- On space issues, he supports the return to the Moon and a manned Mars expedition.
On every single one of these vital issues, he is on the opposite side of both Obama and Clinton.
Even on the issues where he parts company with most conservatives -- campaign-finance "reform," border control, global warming, how to treat terrorist detainees -- he is nowhere near as far left as those other two: The Democrats want completely open borders; they want to cripple the economy to fight globaloney much more rapidly and thoroughly than he; they want us not to detain terrorists at all, unless we do so as purely civilian criminal matters (and not to fight or confront them militarily); and they want us to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when the intelligence community was not allowed to communicate with the law-enforcement community.
Remember Gorelick's Wall? Jamie Gorelick was elevated to Deputy Attorney General on Hillary's demand, not Bill's. What role would she have in a Hillary Clinton administration? Attorney General? Supreme Court justice?
Finally, if one's biggest concern is presidential temperment... well, Hillary Clinton has a worse rage problem and is more vindictive than McCain. And Barack Obama is less experienced, more feckless, and is much more sympathetic to our enemies.
Therefore, I consider it literally insane -- divorced from reality -- for conservatives like Ann Coulter to say that if McCain is nominated, they will support Hillary or Barack. Medved has taken to calling this "MDS," McCain Derangement Syndrom... and for once, I agree with the lout: If McCain is nominated, any conservative who either supports the Democrat or who loudly and petulantly sits out the election is barking mad.
Ronald Reagan wouldn't have done that. When he lost the nomination in 1976 to sitting president Gerald Ford -- he went out and campaigned for Ford. He didn't announce that he wasn't going to vote or that he would vote for Jimmy Carter.
I want conservatives to grow up: If McCain is the Republican nominee, for God's sake, they should all vote for -- and campaign for -- John McCain, flawed as he is... because he is a thousand times better than the Democratic alternatives (there are no Harry Trumans or Hubert Humphreys left in power in the Democratic Party). To the extent conservatives they whine that McCain will "split (or destroy) the party," what they mean is that they themselves threaten to abandon the party if they don't get their way on every issue.
I warned that if conservatives turned against the GOP-written immigration bill that gave them 80% of what they wanted, demanding all or nothing, then they would get nothing -- and the next bill would be written by a Democratic Congress. Well, it will be.
If conservatives today turn against the Republican nominee, whoever he is, and either take their ball and go home or turn their jerseys and play for the opposition, then the next election will be against a strong, ensconced Democratic incumbent... and we'll lose that one, too.
And in the meantime, all the gains the country has made against liberalism in the thirteen years since the 1994 elections will be reversed, and we'll be right back to the Bill Clinton era of 1993 and 1994... but without any Newt Gingrich to lead us out of the wilderness.
© 2005-2013 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved