Date ►►► June 30, 2008

Obama, On the Other Hand...

Hatched by Dafydd

Former General Weasley Clark, now a Barack H. Obama supporter, is skeptical of John S. McCain's pretensions to being the stuff that a good Commander in Chief is made of:

Underscoring during a national television appearance a position he has been expressing for several weeks, Clark said performing heroic military service is not a substitute for gaining command experience...

...Whereas Obama's command experience is unimpeach--

"In the matters of national security policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk," he said on CBS'"Face the Nation.""It's a matter of gauging your opponents and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions...

...Unlike Obama, who has been held accountable for his critical decisions on hundreds of occas--

"He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world, but he hasn't held executive responsibility," Clark said. "That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded - that wasn't a wartime squadron..."

...By contrast, the executive responsibility that Obama has exercised is so vast as to--

He's a great man and an honorable man. But having served as a fighter pilot -- and I know my experience as a company commander in Vietnam -- that doesn't prepare you to be commander in chief in terms of dealing with the national strategic issues that are involved...

...Now my man Barack H. Obama, contrariwise, has much greater experience dealing with the national strategic issues; after all, he's been in the United States Senate for three, almost four years now!

Barack H. Obama and his pony-pal, Weasley Clark: With fiends like these, who needs enemas?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 30, 2008, at the time of 6:26 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

So Why Do We Need Gitmo? Let Me Count the Ways...

Hatched by Sachi

When we capture prisoners of war (POWs), we don't imprison them for punishment; we take them out of commission "for the duration" of the war. That is why they shouldn't get a trial: They're not in the same category as regular "criminals," who can be released without too much damage if the government cannot amass enough evidence for a judge or jury to find them guilty.

POWs -- or in al-Qaeda's case, unlawful enemy combatants -- cannot be released as long as they're likely to attack us again; just like ordinary POWs, terrorists are not held in punishment... they're held to keep them from returning to the fight against us, or at least to be available for a prisoner swap, if the Commander in Chief decides that's in our best interest.

Now let's meet Abu Juheiman al-Kuwaiti, also known as Abdullah Salih al-Ajmi. (Ever notice how many Guantanamo Bay detainees have multiple aliases?) Al-Kuwaiti is a former guest of the Guantanamo Bay resort and gentlemen's club; he's also a former human being -- and newly annointed martyr. Al-Kuwaiti is one of the featured stars in this al-Qaeda promotional video. According to Bill Roggio, he pulled off a spectacular suicide bombing in Mosul last March:

Ajmi was released from Guantanamo Bay and was searching for "a way to reconnect with the jihad." He claimed he was tortured while at Guantanamo Bay.

Ajmi "is seemingly responsible for an earlier truck bombing at the Iraqi Army HQ in the Harmat neighborhood of Mosul on March 23, 2008," said Kazimi. The attack occurred at Combat Outpost Inman, an Iraqi Army base that served as the headquarters for the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division.

Thirteen Iraqi soldiers were killed and 42 were wounded after Ajmi drove an armored truck packed [with] an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 pounds of explosives through the gate of the outpost and detonated [himself] in a spot between the three main buildings of the compound. The blast destroyed the facades of the three buildings, including the building housing the battalion headquarters.

Get it? We had him, but we had to turn him loose because of earlier Court decisions. We let this man go because we couldn't prove, to the standard of a civilian court, that he was a "criminal."

He's not a criminal; he wanted to kill, not steal. But we set him free, and he rushed straight out and blew himself up... along with thirteen other people, and injuring an additional 42. As a direct result of an earlier Supreme-Court judgment (with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the swing vote), Ajmi was released back into the wild so he could kill again. (It could have been worse -- an amusement park or a mega-mall on Saturday afternoon.)

Although Ajmi is surely morally responsible for the thirteen Iraqi solders's death, I do not assign him total blame; he is a combatant, and this is what combatants do. But a significant part of the blame falls on the people who do not understand that this is a war, and a vicious war at that... the people who convince themselves that we're merely keeping carjackers and pickpockets in Gitmo, and by jingo, they should get their rights!

These are the people who demand that unlawful enemy combatants be granted the right to file a habeas corpus petition demanding the government show "probable cause" to think they've committed a "crime," just as if they were civilian criminal suspects: "Better a thousand guilty men go free than a single innocent man be wrongfully convicted!"

But those thousand "guilty men" who go free will not just steal a thousand big-screen TV sets: They will murder ten thousand innocent civilians. And there will be nothing left of the "suspects" but their cremains, assuming we could even sort out the mangled body and ashes left from the terrorist from that of his victims, nothing to try, nothing to find either guilty or not guilty. How clever and ideologically pure does that little saying sound now?

Why do people refuse to believe what our enemy says? Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah tell us constantly that they will kill us and our allies whenever they get a chance, as many as they can, as often as they can manage. If the entire world had a single throat, these are the people who would slit it for the sheer joy of killing everyone. If this is religion, it's more like the Aztecs than mainstream Islam.

So why does our military give a "chance" to terrorists who hunger for the Guiness world record for biggest single-incident slaughter of all time? They do because the courts have taken power, and the courts insist that everyone not provably guilty must be released immediately.

It's precisely because such dangerous human-sacrificers exist that Guantanamo Bay must stay in business. John S. McCain wants to close Gitmo; maybe he's right. The way the Court is running, it's no longer safe for us to hold any prisoner in a prison we control. But we need something like Guantanamo Bay, even if it's in Poland, run by the Polish army.

Five members of the Supreme Court plus all the Democrats in the world think that we can just fold Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh -- not to mention Osama bin Laden, when we finally pull him out of his spider hole -- into the general prison population and treat them like "any other criminal;" Barack H. Obama says he'll restore the old Clinton policy of responding to a terrorist strike by shooting off a volley of subpoenas and writs, as we treated John Gotti.

That's like saying we can treat a nuclear bomb, discovered in a terrorist cache found in Minneapolis or Dallas or Manhattan, as if it were a cherry bomb found in a teenager's desk drawer in Burbank.

We desperately need a prison of last resort, where we can store those people who should never, ever, ever be let out -- and to hell with their "rights."

But to hang onto them once we grab them, we also desperately need conservative replacements for Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the next two Supreme-Court justices who will retire. So vote for McCain! This is our one and only chance for many decades to create a Supreme Court that actually cares more about law-abiding Americans than about those who would murder by the millions, if they only could.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 30, 2008, at the time of 4:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 29, 2008

Olmert On a Nutshell: Yesterday's Dead Outweigh Tomorrow's Victims

Hatched by Dafydd

In a "prisoner" swap stunning in its pointlessness and inhumanity, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet have agreed to release several live terrorists -- including a notorious Lebanese killer of Jews, whose crimes include one of the most horrific murders of the long Palestinian war against Israel -- in exchange for the bodies of two dead Israeli soldiers:

Israel’s government voted on Sunday to trade one of the most notorious convicts in its prisons, a Lebanese murderer, for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers whose cross-border capture led to and partly motivated its month-long war with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.

After a wrenching national debate which served to drive hesitant officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, into accepting the deal, the cabinet voted 22 to 3 to trade the prisoner, Samir Kuntar, along with four other Lebanese, for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two Israeli soldiers....

Mr. Kuntar was part of a cell that in 1979 raided the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, shooting dead Danny Haran while his daughter Einat, 4, watched, then smashing the girl’s head, killing her as well. Mr. Haran’s wife, Smadar, hid with their 2-year-old daughter and accidentally suffocated her to death in an effort to stop her from crying out.

Thus, Olmert signals that he is willing to sacrifice future generations of Israeli Jews in order to comfort the families of the dead.

While I understand the anguish that must enshroud those families, as much as can a person who has not personally experienced such tragedy, I have enough clarity of mind to realize that, as important as it is to retrieve the remains for proper burial, it's far more important to protect future innocent lives.

Goldwasser and Regev were captured alive; the terrorists bestially butchered them, even while they continued negotiating with Israel for their "release." The negotiation by Hezbollah was a farce of utter mendacity, and Olmert now insures that this pattern will happen again and again: Terrorists now have a green light to kill their cake and sell it, too.

This deal is a perscription for disaster; make no mistake, by releasing Kuntar and the other Palestinian terrorists, Olmert has made the world a more dangerous place:

  • Olmert and his coalition have condemned an indeterminate number of innocent Israelis to death; Kuntar and his fellow butchers will see their release as a reward from Allah, and they will instantly dive into yet another murderous plot, and another and another.
  • The Olmert government has prolonged the war with Iran and its proxies; the release will embolden Hamas and Hezbollah, and through them Iran, giving them heart to redouble their efforts to "cancel" the "Zionist project."
  • The deal has handed a huge propaganda and morale coup to Hamas and Hezbollah, while endangering America and the West; the rest of the Moslem world will once again start to see radical Islamic terrorism as the "strong horse;" Israel will be weakened in the eyes of the world; it will be so much harder for the West to sustain the fight, knowing that we no longer have a reliable ally in Israel.
  • And Olmert and his cabinet have declared open season on capturing or kidnapping Israeli soldiers and civilians, even making bodysnatching into a viable Palestinian military strategy: The more dead Israelis Iran's puppets hold, the more of their most brutal and effective terrorist serial killers the Israelis will release. Hamas now understand that they can kill their own prisoner, Gilad Shalit, knowing his death will not diminish his value in trade.

Even the Israeli government seems to realize that this deal is a dreadful mistake that they will never be able to justify to Israelis:

“Despite all hesitations, after weighing the pros and the cons, I support the agreement,” Mr. Olmert was quoted by his spokesman as telling his cabinet at the start of the meeting. “Our initial theory was that the soldiers were alive... Now we know with certainty there is no chance that that is the case.” He added, “There will be much sadness in Israel, much humiliation considering the celebrations that will be held on the other side.”

So why did he accept it? Very simply, he hadn't even enough spine to stand up to the families of Goldwasser and Regev.

Olmert hadn't enough courage to look the families in the eye and say, "I feel your loss, as I feel the losses of all the men who died during the war in 2006. But we cannot jeopardize everything that Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev fought and died for. Of all people in the world, those two brave heroes would not have asked what you are asking, and they would never have accepted such a trade. I'm sorry."

The celebrations will be boisterous and sustained in Gaza City... and in Ramallah, Beirut, Damascus, and Tehran. Palestinians and Israelis alike will see this as capitulation by Israel. More attacks will follow, more rockets and greater destruction will rain down upon Sderot and other cities.

It's hard to imagine a stupider and more self-destructive strategy; if Iran threatens to desecrate and cremate the bodies of Israeli soldiers, will Olmert agree not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities? Is that all it takes to ensure a nuclear-armed Iran? If he has insufficient courage to say No to the Goldwasser and Regev families, has he even a prayer of standing up to Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Zahar, Bashar Assad, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Perhaps Ehud Olmert can make things better by proclaiming that by trading a half-dozen live terrorist murderers, hands still dripping blood, for two dead Israeli soldiers, he has secured "peace in our time." Though I doubt this peace will last as long as did the Munich Agreement of 1938.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 29, 2008, at the time of 4:54 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 27, 2008

Could Afghanistan Use a "Surge?"

Hatched by Dafydd

A new Pentagon report on the lack of progress in training up the Afghan army raises an important question; do we need to implement a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan? Many people glibly suggest just such a strategic change; but it's by no means certain it would work even if we tried it.

The Pentagon report was scathing about the lack of progress of the Afghan army:

The assessment was bluntly pessimistic as it described efforts to train the Army and police.

As of March, it said, just one Army battalion and a headquarters unit could operate independently, while 26 battalions, five brigade headquarters and two corps headquarters units could plan and execute counterinsurgency operations with the support of coalition forces.

In addition, as of the spring, the U.S. had provided only 44 percent of the nearly 2,400 trainers needed for the Afghan Army, and just 39 percent of the mentors for the Afghan police.

Development of the Afghan police is taking longer and has been hindered by "corruption, insufficient U.S. military trainers and advisers, and a lack of unity of effort within the international community," the report noted.

The recent deployment of 1,200 U.S. Marines to serve as trainers for the police has beefed up the totals, but when those troops leave in the fall, the need for 1,400 police mentors will remain.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates notes that a major motivator of the resurgence of the Taliban has been the steady loss of control of the Pakistan government by President Pervez Musharraf, in favor of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) of Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister, who favors negotiating with al-Qaeda and other insurgents, rather than suppressing them, which was Musharraf's policy:

A key to the deterioration there, he said, has been recent efforts by Pakistan to negotiate peace agreement with tribal leaders along the lawless border. Those talks, he said, took the pressure off insurgent groups and "they've therefore been more free to be able to cross the border and create problems for us."

The report concurs, calling the insurgents' safe havens in Pakistan's tribal areas along the border "the greatest challenge to long-term security" in Afghanistan.

So what about developing a COIN strategy for Afghanistan, similar to that which was so successful in Iraq? It may not be as easy to do as to say. For one major problem, the 32,000-troop strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) -- the NATO troops in Afghanistan -- currently has the lead for all combat and reconstruction in Afghanistan. The commander of the ISAF is, I believe, currently Gen. David D. McKiernan, USA; but the ISAF reports to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, in Belgium.

I don't think Gen. McKiernan's chain of command passes through CENTCOM; but the non-ISAF, non-NATO American forces there, as part of the continuing Operation Enduring Freedom, do report to CENTCOM -- which will mean reporting to Gen. David Petraeus, as soon as Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) finally gets around to allowing a confirmation vote. The 8,000 members of the OEF forces are responsible for anti-terrorist operations -- which sounds promising -- but also for training the Afghan army, which hasn't gone very well.

(I know it's confusing; just remember that there is a NATO-coalition -- that is led by the United States -- and there is a separate American-coalition; both these coalitions include many other countries.)

The biggest hurdle is that there would an inherent command conflict between the ISAF and OEF in the event of a COIN strategy: If we're really going to beef up the OEF in a significant way and use counterinsurgency strategy, a la Iraq, to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, that would completely nullify the transition of combat lead to NATO's ISAF.

The tempo of operations would shift away from NATO and back to the United States; and I guarantee the Europeans would scream bloody, blue murder -- echoed by the Democrats, who, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, still control Congress and congressional war-funding.

It would doubtless be much easier for Congress to justify a vote to withhold funding in Afghanistan because we're "screwing NATO" -- than to withhold funding in Iraq because we're winning. Bottom line: We need some Democratic Party support... which means that if there is any COIN program, it would have to be primarily led by the NATO-coalition, not the American-coalition.

But I don't know whether the NATO-coalition would agree to a COIN strategy, since that would involve increasing their troop commitments... though we might be able to gain their approval if we supplied virtually all the "surging" troops ourselves; which would probably be better anyway, because we could bring them all from CENTCOM.

But even so, it's not necessarily going to work as well in Afghanistan as it has in Iraq, for a very simple reason: For two major reasons, we are deprived of the deep well of resentment and hatred of the terrorists that benefitted us in Iraq:

  • Iraqi Sunni comprised very civilized tribes that had always enjoyed some autonomy, but who had been ruled with an iron fist for two or three years, by the likes of Musab Zarqawi and al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. That terrorist group committed such gruesome atrocities, wanton savagery, totalitarian religious dictatorship, and crimes against humanity, that many Sunni tribes were only too happy to rise up against them and go to war for their own liberation.

    Gen. Petraeus sent Col. David Kilcullen to many tribes, where the Australian counterinsurgency expert helped them set up "Salvation Councils" to ally with Coalition forces. Without those native counterinsurgents, we might not have won.

  • Iraqi Shia were (and are) spiritually led by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who guided them away from Iranian dominance so strongly that Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was finally compelled to go to war against the Shiite terrorists and Iranian proxies... primarily the Mahdi Militia, led by Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr. Again, without the enmity between Iraq and Iraq, Persia and Arabia, we might not have gained Shiite support... which was critical in making the counterinsurgency work.

Neither of these happy circumstances prevail in Afghanistan: The Taliban and al-Qaeda were kicked out in 2001, so it's been nearly seven years since anyone had to live under that rule. Out of sight, out of mind.

And there really is no bitter rivalry or jealousy between the tribes in the south and east, which span the border bewteen Afghanistan and Pakistan; the Taliban and al-Qaeda are still strong and growing stronger in the latter country, and that is the source of the continued insurgency in Afghanistan. The tribes on both sides the border speak the same languages, believe in the same sect of Islam, and see themselves politically as superceding the artificial border -- which was drawn by the United Kingdom in the 19th century -- in the superstate of "Pashtunistan."

I'm not saying that a counterinsurgency cannot work in Afghanistan, but it's going to look very, very different from the one that was so successful in Iraq. And it almost certainly would have to cover all of "Pashtunistan," including the part that lies in the geographical state of Pakistan. That's a very wobbly tightrope to walk, and I suspect it will have to wait until we have a new president.

Assuming, of course, that the new president is the old coot, not the callow youth.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 27, 2008, at the time of 7:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 26, 2008

The 2nd Amendment DOES NOT "Confer an Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms"

Hatched by Dafydd

But on the other hand, I must rise to dispute not only Erwin Chemerinsky (on the Hugh Hewitt Dean Barnett radio show today) and Barack H. Obama, but also John S. McCain, who issued a statement today that ends:

But today, the Supreme Court ended forever the specious argument that the Second Amendment did not confer an individual right to keep and bear arms.

I disagree; it's not specious (though the way the argument is used certainly is): It's actually perfectly true that "the Second Amendment did not confer an individual right to keep and bear arms."

Look at the wording of the Amendment (corrected to modernize punctuation):

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The operative clause (the clause that contains the subject and verb of the sentence) is in blue. Nowhere does the amendment say that it confers that right; "to confer" in this case means "to bestow," to grant or give. But the amendment speaks of the right as if it already existed, predating not only the amendment itself but the Constitution, the country, and indeed, every other constitution, charter, or country that has ever been. The amendment only states that the Constitution forbids whichever entites it controls from infringing on that pre-existing right.

Bearing in mind that I'm not a lawyer -- though I sometimes play sea-lawyer or Philadelphia lawyer on the web (as today!) -- it's my understanding that the Founders saw constitutionally protected rights falling into two main categories:

  • Those rights specifically created by the Constitution, such as the right to vote in federal elections and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances; these are rights that cannot exist absent not only a government but this particular government: You can't have a right to vote for your member of Congress if your country has only a king and his privy council.
  • Those rights that are fundamental to all people everywhere, and which fall within the "inalienable rights" described by the Jeffersonian phrase "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." These are fundamental rights that the Founders believed should be protected by every government -- which includes the states as well as the feds.

Thus it's perfectly proper to "incorporate" to the states those fundamental rights protected by the Constitution, while not incorporating the created rights. Despite the fact that the First Amendment begins "Congress shall make no law," I nevertheless agree with incorporating its fundamental protections to the states: the prohibition against establishing or prohibiting free exercise of religion, abridging freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or the right to peaceably assemble. I can see why the right to petition need not be incorporated, as that is a created right.

And yes, I am quite aware that individual states at the time the Constitution and the First Amendment were enacted had established state churches and did, in fact, prohibit free exercise of religion. Like the right to liberty versus the peculiar institution of slavery, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were ratified in an environment of essential contradiction. Those contradictions would eventually have to be resolved; this resolution can come from new amendments (such as the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth) or, post Marbury v. Madison, from the Supreme Court.

Today, I believe Americans, including judicial conservatives, would be utterly outraged if a state were to start jugging citizens for speaking out on issues, or rounding up Jews for heresy, or nullifying habeas corpus rights, so that the authorities could simply round up and incarcerate anybody they didn't like. We've long since completely accepted that not even the states can violate fundamental rights, at least of American citizens (most of us would extend that to any lawful resident of any nationality).

Deep down, we understand that our government did not give ("confer") those rights to us; we have them inherently and inalienably from our Creator, or even just as an inherent aspect of having consciousness and a conscience. The word "inalienable" means that fundamental rights cannot be taken or even given away. Even the mullahs of Iran cannot take away those rights; they can only violate them... and doing so constitutes a crime against humanity, making the mullocracy of Iran a criminal government.

(It's not necessarily our duty to enforce those rights; "we are champions of liberty everywhere, guardians only of our own.")

The way you determine which protected rights are fundamental is to ask whether its logically possible for the right to exist before the United States government was created.

Sidebar: "Logically impossible" means something that cannot even be conceived; the classic example is that it is logically impossible for God to create a zebra that is not created by God... it cannot exist even in theory. If you can actually conceive of it -- such as the moon smiling and laughing at us, or a mountain standing on its head -- then it's at least logically possible, even if it is physically impossible in reality.

It's obviously not logically possible to petition something, such as the United States government, that does not even exist; it's a silly exercise in semantics. Likewise, it's logically impossible to vote for your representatives before there is even a House of Representatives. Therefore, these are created rights, not fundamental rights.

By contrast, the right of freedom of speech was frequently discussed in the British Parliament long before we existed, and freedom of religion was argued for centuries, in many countries, before the 1780s. The fact that the concept of a right can be seriously discussed as policy means that it is not "logically impossible."

And it certainly is logically possible to envision a right to arms before the United States existed; arms existed, many countries allowed some or all of their subjects to be armed (such as England, where the stalwart yeomen were expected to take up arms to fend of foreign invasion; or Italy, where men and even women could carry swords and pistols to protect themselves). Therefore, by recognizing the right to keep and bear arms as a right and pledging to protect it from infringement, the Constitution clearly indicates that this is a fundamental right that was not "conferred" by the Constitution... no matter what Erwin Chemerinsky claims.

And I'm pretty sure the Founders would agree with me -- because all I'm doing is agreeing with them.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 26, 2008, at the time of 5:58 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

At Last... Court Rules Founders Meant What They Wrote In the 2nd Amendment

Hatched by Dafydd

The decision was just released literally a few minutes ago, so no details yet. But the majority opinion was, as rumored, written by Justice Antonin Scalia... and it begins with a definitive, unnuanced, categorical statement that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects a right to keep and bear arms held by every American... not just those connected in some nebulous way to a "militia," whatever that word means in this day and age. (I don't know if it's limited to citizens or extends to legal residents; and whether it only applies to legal adults or reaches into lower teen ages -- in 1791, those in the militia automatically included all males between 16 and 40-something.)

This is a stunning blow to the national gun-prohibitionist movement; it knocks away the prop on which every federal proposal to ban whole classes of gun is based: the idea that the amendment only protects the "right" (?) of states to keep and bear militias. It was always a foolish and mendacious interpretation; but until today, it was one that had resonated with some appellate courts. (I don't know if this ruling affects state laws; see below.)

Many circus courts that held the amendment applied only to members of the National Guard hung their robes on an equally stupid misreading of U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). In that bizarre case, Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged with transporting a short-barreled shotgun across state lines. The trial court found that the National Firearms Act -- the law they were accused of violating -- was unconstitutional because of the Second Amendment; the Supreme Court overturned that verdict.

The Court ruled, at core, that the amendment only protected possession of those weapons normally used in armies or militias. No evidence was presented that short-barreled shotguns were in common use among such bodies (though of course they were): The reason no evidence was presented, I believe, was that Miller's attorneys did not show up at the Supreme Court hearing -- as their client had inconveniently been murdered in prison while awaiting appeal.

The Court never reached the question of whether Miller was in any kind of militia; but that didn't stop numerous appellate courts from falsely claiming that the Court in Miller held that the amendment applies only to members of the "militia," which at that time had become the National Guard.

But today's ruling puts paid to that deliberate obfuscation; the only thing clear at this point is that the Court has definitively held that the amendment applies to everyone, not just those in one of the state National Guard units. But the major point I need answered is whether the Court has "incorporated" that protection to state laws, as it has with, e.g., most of the rights in the First and Fourth Amendments: What does the Court say about whether states are likewise forbidden from violating the right to keep and bear arms, regardless of what their state constitutions say (or don't say)?

Reaching that question was unnecessary in the Heller case, and I suspect they steered clear of such overreaching. But this ruling is certainly going to spark federal cases on precisely that question. The amendment does not even mention Congress, as many other rights in the Bill of Rights do; so I think there is at least a serious argument that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" would apply to states as well as the federal government.

That question, more than any other, will determine the scope of this ruling; it will surely be litigated over the next decade or so:

  • If federalism trumps the Second Amendment, then most gun bans nationwide will prevail;
  • But if the right trumps federalism, we'll see a wholesale striking-down of such bans nationwide.

But we're not going to know the answer to that question -- or even whether the Court addressed it (probably not) -- until much later today, after lawyer-bloggers like Patterico and the lads at Power Line (not to mention Eugene Volokh, Beldar, Hugh Hewitt, and that lot) have had a chance to digest at least a significant part of the Scalia majority decision itself.

Keep watching the skies!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 26, 2008, at the time of 8:01 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

An Immodest Proposition, or the Last Prejudice

Hatched by Dafydd

Today, Spain's parliament took a historic first step in righting a wrong that has persisted for decades. Nay, centuries. Nay, millennia. Nay, decamillennia. Nay, ever since the ancestors of homo sapiens (sapiens) first branched away from our hairy brothers and sisters, cruelly pushing them back into the primordial soup with all the generosity and altruism of Bill Clinton rifling the tin cup of a blind beggar.

But yesterday, at long last, the Socialist government of Spain broke the fur ceiling, granting full legal rights of life and liberty to apes:

Spain's parliament voiced its support on Wednesday for the rights of great apes to life and freedom in what will apparently be the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for non-humans.

Parliament's environmental committee approved resolutions urging Spain to comply with the Great Apes Project, devised by scientists and philosophers who say our closest genetic relatives deserve rights hitherto limited to humans.

Presumably, this would include habeas corpus.

Every since this blog was created, we have championed the rights of cerebrally challenged species to enjoy the same level of civilization to which we have become accustomed. While it may be true that apes cannot build buildings, design electrical power plants and canals, or mass-produce Priuses, it is no less true that we have only done so on the backs of other species.

Where would public transportation have been, without the hard-working horse? Which great scientific breakthroughs would have been hatched, absent the loyal dog? And what great monuments to modern architecture could we have built, were it not for the stalwart and sturdy rhinoceros?

"This is a historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defense of our evolutionary comrades, which will doubtless go down in the history of humanity," said Pedro Pozas, Spanish director of the Great Apes Project.

But as tremendous an ethical breakthrough as this was -- I believe I read that Barack H. Obama has already begun rehearsing his spontaneous support for the Project -- still, it doesn't go far enough. As it stands, Spain still does not extend full rights to our arboreal chums.

Protecting life and liberty is fine and good; but that still leaves our simian siblings at the mercy of the to-ing and fro-ing of politics, adrift in a sea of uncertainty, unable to affect the most basic parliamentary decisions that affect the quality of apish life. Like gay caballeros in the 1950s (or Sephardic Jews in the 1450s), even under the new law of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and fun-loving baboons still remain merely second-class citizens. It's a step, but still only a first step.

What is missing? What would these simians need to fully realize the glory of their being? Clearly, they lack what finally makes Spanish citizenship full and complete, besides a goodly supply of Amontillado: I can only be referring to the franchise: Spain must begin registering Great Apes as legal voters. (If I'm actually referring to something else, please let me know before I make a fool of myself.)

Now the fuse is lit; there is a new ministry in the Spanish government that compels just such a great (ape) leap forward:

Spain did not legalize divorce until the 1980s, but Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government has legalized gay marriage, reduced the influence of the Catholic Church in education and set up an Equality Ministry.

Full equality! I should think the new Equality Ministry will have an unenviable task justifying why gays, illegal immigrants, and even Catholics are allowed to vote for members of parliament; but that same right is brutally denied to primates (I mean the simian kind, not the Catholic heirarchy). This despite the well-accepted fact that baboons are evolutionary closer to members of the government than any other group of the electorate.

The joyous progression of multi-species, transcendental rights is inevitable, immutable:

  • Gay marriage leads directly to reducing the influence of the Church;
  • Reducing the influence of that reactionary body points like a laser beam to the understanding that there truly is no difference between animals and humans; if there is a soul, then a gorilla's is every bit as fine as Howard Dean's. Believing anything less would be discriminatory and unconscionable;
  • This non-specist consciousness inevitably begets a Ministry of Equality (and of Peace, Truth, and Love);
  • The "Equality Ministry" ineluctably leads to monkey manumission;
  • But to fully embrace such animal liberty, how can the Equality Ministry fail to offer full equality -- gibbon government, bonobo-ballots, and all?

Of course, the inability to read poses something of a challenge; but we long ago cast aside the outmoded, proto-fascist prejudice against illiterate or stupid voters. As Michelle Obama noted, those in power constantly try to set the bar higher and higher -- you can't vote unless you're rich, unless you can read, unless you're human -- for no reason than to keep themselves on top and everyone else thrashing about in the evolutionary muck.

Creative technology shows us the way around the problem of inability to understand any form of language: For example, neutral, unbiased members of Prime Minister Zapatero's Socialist government could put bits of banana or other yummies into the voting booth to lure the non-human constituent inside. As primates have very acute visual-recognition skills, the booth could contain fair likenesses of the heads of each party; whichever one the baboon or chimpanzee paws or kisses would indicate a vote for that slate.

The world's greatest and deepest international thinkers agree with Spain's political revelation:

Philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri founded the Great Ape Project in 1993, arguing that "non-human hominids" like chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and bonobos should enjoy the right to life, freedom and not to be tortured.

Peter Singer is an especially valuable charter member of the Project, for you certainly cannot dismiss him as "ideologically wedded" to the idea of rights. As an ethicist, he has proven his independence of thought by arguing that newborn babies do not yet have the right to life.

Singer writes that the babies' mothers or other proxies (such as university ethicists) should be allowed to retroactively abort them up to a year after birth. This supposed contradiction only lends credence to his current position, placing the rights of simians higher up the ethical food chain than the rights of year-old humans. After all, somebody must be on top; and what refreshing altruism that a expert on ethics is willing to allow another species to assume the apex of the pyramid! Kudos to the good professor. (I'm not sure, but I think "kudos" means a kind of shirt or walk-in closet, rather like a water fountain.)

But if we cannot draw a moral distinction between Man and Ape, how much more difficult is it to draw one between primates and other mammals? There is no logical reason to deny such vital voting rights to the rest of Gaea's creatures... even those without hands.

There is always a way: Dogs can bark their preferences; horses can stamp; porpoises can whistle; cats can stare blankly. And why should having breasts and giving birth to live young determine whether a living creature is to be allowed its inherent rights? Rights are universal... even under the current oppressive American regime, we extend them willy-nilly to bums on the street, unconvicted felons, game-show hosts, butchers, bakers, bloggers, terrorists and other rapscallions, oil executives, panderers, liars, drunkards, candlestick-makers, lawyers, and even actors.

Should we not demand even more democracy from the land of Don Quixote, paella, madeira (my dear), Generalissimo Francisco Franco, and flamenco? There should be no animal on the face of the earth -- except perhaps the snake, which has no legs and is inferior to the lizard -- that is denied the most fundamental right guaranteed by the European Constitution to all who creepeth or crawlith or swimeth or flyeth upon, under, within, or above the face of the earth. (I believe the exact formulation can be found in section 98, subsection 217, clause 84, enumeration 3, explanatory footnote 809 of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, in the footnote-continuation on the next page. But don't quote me.)

Civilization has not yet worked out a way for trees to signal their electoral choices, but Al Gore has recently joined the team, so there is hope for progress on that front. Still, that is an argument for another post.

Howsomever, with courage, vigor, and a genetic sense of what is too serious to be joked about, we will cross this penultimate hurdle... and stand at the threshold of the final interspecies barrier. What is the use of allowing animals to vote if they cannot likewise stand for election?

There will, there must, come a day when we can proudly rise and hail the new EU Minister of Forestry... the divine being, Ms. Koko.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 26, 2008, at the time of 5:34 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 25, 2008

Blackballing Charlie Black

Hatched by Dafydd

Both wings of the Democratic Party (the political wing and the elite media) have piled onto poor, old Charlie Black, a senior advisor to John S. McCain, for a comment of his. Yet nobody has the faintest idea how the exchange actually ensued, or whether Black was an idiot or was set up (after the fact).

Even so, and not surprisingly, a passel of crowing, self-righteous Republicans has loudly joined the scrum, eager to do as much damage to their own candidate as possible... a sadly typical manifestation of the Republican tendency towards self-immolation that we've seen in every election from 1988 onward. It seems we must always fight on two political fronts: against the Democratic nominee and against all Republicans who supported a different candidate to be the GOP nominee.

For the record, here is the entire "terrorist attack" exchange from Fortune Magazine that has caused all the ruckus. McCain is asked what will be America's biggest economic challenge during the next president's administration, and he answers, "Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we're in against radical Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another successful attack on the United States of America could have devastating consequences."

Not a bad answer; the attack on September 11th, 2001, was apocalyptic not only due to the loss of more than 3,000 innocent lives (counting those who died in the moment and those who died later), but even more via the crushing blow to the American economy it precipitated, which affected everyone, rich and poor alike. McCain answered Fortune's question exactly, despite the rather adolescent response of Editor at Large David Whitford:

Not America's dependence on foreign oil? Not climate change? Not the crushing cost of health care? Eventually McCain gets around to mentioning all three of those. But he starts by deftly turning the economy into a national security issue - and why not? On national security McCain wins. We saw how that might play out early in the campaign, when one good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world, probably saved McCain in New Hampshire, a state he had to win to save his candidacy - this according to McCain's chief strategist, Charlie Black. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.

Following which, the article simply moves on, making no further reference to Black's response; evidently, the supposely staggering nature of this allegedly shocking admission entirely escaped the notice of Mr. Whitford at the time.

As Fortune admits, it was they, not Black, who "raised the issue" of who would benefit from a terrorist attack on the American heartland. Black merely responded to the question.

And to what question, exactly, was Black responding? Fortune doesn't tell us, and there is evidently no transcript or video available. Perhaps it was super explicit: Mr. Black... if there were another 9/11, would that benefit Barack Obama or John McCain most? Yet on the basis of that single, flimsy piece of evidence, Republicans are willing (eager) to ascribe the basest and vilest motives to Black.

One prominent conservative blogger (much prominenter than we) goes so far as to sarcastically ask whether Black thinks that it would be even more advantageous if a terrorist attack slew Obama himself and all other Democratic candidates in some blue state... a smear I consider low enough to have been published by a Markos Moulitsas or a Juan Cole.

But what is so outré about his answer? If Whitford asked Obama's campaign mangler whether a sudden downturn in the economy would be good for his client, and if he answered honestly that it probably would, would anyone -- even Republicans -- be up in arms? Or would they simply agree?

For some reason, when a disaster or catastrophe occurs, Republicans (but not Democrats) grow suddenly reticent about noticing that it might have a political impact among all the other real-world effects it causes. Desite our evident foot-scuffing, red-faced embarassment at noticing such trivia in the midst of crisis, politics is an integral part of our lives... and the shifting sands of electoral fortune usually determine whether we respond to adversity with courage and vigor -- or whether we turn tail and run from the fight.

Take Hurricane Katrina. Even before it made landfall (at a greatly reduced category 3), Democrats were already on the air slamming Bush for his "non-response" (which was actually one of the fastest and most effective disaster responses in history, as we noted more than two years ago). Yet rather than fight back against the Democratic smear machine, Republicans lined up by the score to castigate, ream, and verbally defenstrate the president for his "pathetic," "incompetent" preformance. They cheered Democrats on as the latter singled out FEMA director Michael "Brownie" Brown and called him a clownish dullard who allowed hundreds of helpless old people to drown -- by not waving his hands and magically diverting the storm elsewhere.

Republicans have a terrible penchant for joining any hysterical lynch-mob attack on fellow Republicans: Perhaps to prove they're not really the heartless, unfeeling fiends that liberals portray them to be; more often to advance their sectarian civil war with other GOP blocs. But rather than engender respect from the Left for their principled nuance and unbiased fair-mindedness, they call only even more energetic contumely upon their heads.

We have a bad habit of playing dhimmi to the Democrats... and it's so ingrained that many conservatives cannot help themselves, even when they know the scam being run. They eat their own as inevitably as a dead frog leg twitches when you zap it with a few volts of electricity.

As here. There is nothing indefensible about what Black said; he spoke the truth: Another terrorist attack would focus voters' minds on national security, just as another Senate scandal would focus voters' minds on congressional corruption. Either might turn the election.

So let's cut the dramatics and stop pretending that politics doesn't matter, or that it should be "above the fray" of real-world battles and other incidents. Had the counterinsurgency gone ill, doed anyone think Democrats would have hesitated for a nanosecond to use that failure -- which could have led to the deaths of far more than 3,000 Americans -- to ride their way into la Casablanca?

Instead of trying to suck up to the Left by cannibalizing our own troops, why don't we point out the hypocrisy of a party whose motto is "the personal is political," and which has in very recent memory politicized the war, 9/11, various natural disasters, and the funeral of Sen. Paul Wellstone, whining that Charlie black is trying to "politicize" a presidential election.

Of course a terrorist attack would affect the vote. So would an assassination, the capture of bin Laden, an Iranian demonstration of a nuclear bomb, or an economic collapse (which the Democrats are assiduously trying to bring about, in contrast to Republicans, who are doing their best to prevent another 9/11). How could such earth-shattering events fail to influence the vote?

Instead, let's defend the importance of politics and the election. Let us note that Democrats seem more than eager to return to the halcyon days of Jimmy "Malaise" Carter and Walter "We Must Not Arm the Heavens" Mondale. And let's stick up for Charlie Black telling it as it is... something Democrats couldn't do if their reelection depended upon it.

And for God's sake, stop playing errand boy to Barack Obama. Let him pedal his own smears.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 25, 2008, at the time of 3:47 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 24, 2008

The Big Lizards "Name That Party" Drinking Game!

Hatched by Dafydd

Welcome, gentle readers. Here are the official rules to the new, fad drinking game of -- Name That Political Party.

Here are the rules:

  1. Find a story published by some member of the elite media (or wannabe-elite) about political corruption;
  2. If the first paragraph of the story reveals that the corrupt pol is a Republican, take a shot each and every time the story mentions that urgent fact;
  3. Contrariwise, if the first paragraph of the story does not say anything about the political party of the indicted, investigated, or indicted politician, take one shot for each and every paragraph that does not mention any political party;
  4. Finally, in the event of rule (3), where the story does not mention the political party of the elected official of interest, you must look him or her up by other means -- and if it turns out, by wild coincidence, that he or she is a Democrat, you must take two more shots.

Here is a sample, so you can see how the game is played...

The story in the Baltimore Sun (in the elite-wannabe category, I would say) is "Dixon gifts probed; Prosecutors look at mayor's ties to developer who got city breaks." It begins thus:

Prosecutors are investigating whether Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon received thousands of dollars in gifts -- including fur coats -- from a prominent developer whose projects benefited from tax breaks and zoning changes she supported as City Council president, a document obtained by The Sun shows.

We can now begin the game. Note that the first paragraph does not say "Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, a Republican;" thus we invoke rule 3, and you must drink a shot for the opening paragraph (running shot total: 1).

A little later in the article, we find this paragraph:

Dixon was also scheduled to meet with Lipscomb and Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Prince George's County Democrat who is now under federal investigation, in February 2004, according to the documents. They do not say what the meeting was about.

Although this says nothing about the political affiliation of Mayor Dixon herself, it does mention a political party; thus technically you do not have to take a shot for this paragraph... only for the intervening paragraphs from the beginning until this one (running shot total: 26). (If you're simultaneously playing the "Politicians With Doofus Names drinking game," add another shot for "Ulysses Currie" and increase all totals below by 1.)

There are no other mentions of political parties in the story, so just take a shot for each of the remaining paragraphs (running shot total: 32).

Finally, per rule 4, we turn to Wikipedia and look up the party of Ms. Dixon (final shot total: 34).

See? Another marvelous media method to get faced, courtesy the malevolent muttonheads at the MSM!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 24, 2008, at the time of 2:53 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 23, 2008

Obama Hints That "Somebody" Will Mention That "He's Black" - But Which Somebody?

Hatched by Dafydd

Everybody is reporting this little racist meme worm that slithered from the lips of Barack H. Obama on Friday:

We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?"

Hm... let's see if we can guess what Obama implies here: He darkly hints that John S. McCain, well-known racist and xenophobe -- just look how he's always attacking immigrants! -- will (not "might" but "will") base his campaign against Obama on reminding voters that Obama has "a funny name" (he's not one of us)... and is black.

Fortunately, Obama is "above black and white" and "beyond race."

So how long will it be before a series of thuggish, racist e-mails, street-mailings, and YouTubes crudely attacking Barack Obama really does materialize? My guess is that it will wait until the election itself looms; possibly one week beforehand, just like the DUI hit on George W. Bush in 2000.

Why wait? For a very good reason: The perpetrators of that series of attacks do not want there to be enough time to discover the actual source of the "attacks"... which will originate from some radical leftist group hoping for a "backlash" against McCain.

Obama as much as begs for a "false-flag" operation by his phraseology: "They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me." Translation: If you see any racist or xenophobic ads, you will know that they put them up. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain... blame McCain, blame McConnell, blame the racist, fascist Republicans!

I am about 70% convinced that somebody on the Left will attempt just such a dirty trick. If it happens, I only hope that McCain and the Republicans will (a) categorically denounce such attacks (that takes no courage at all); but also (b) have the guts to immediately raise the strong likelihood that the real author is an Obama supporter trying to smear McCain and the GOP.

I don't know if he will have the nerve; no GOP nominee in the last two decades would have done so: Republicans are too skittish about grabbing a live wire with their bare hands. Let's hope that McCain has learned enough from his rather eventful life to understand a critical fact: The charge of racism is so heinous, not even innocence is a defense.

The only defense is an immediate credible counter-accusation that if Democrats want to find the real racists, they should look in a mirror. After all, so far in this election cycle, the only candidate to raise the point of Obama's race has been -- Hillary Clinton, who noted (correctly) that the only reason Obama was ahead of her in the delegate count was his overwhelming support by black voters.

In fact, to even raise an unsupported, fabricated accusation of racism trivializes real racism -- and it hurts blacks; just as Tawana Brawley's and Crystal Gail Mangum's false charges of racism and rape trivialized both evils, thus hurting both blacks and women who have been vicimized by real racism or actual rape.

McCain's rapid-response team had better get those counter-accusation ads ready now, so he'll be prepared to hit back before the first slime has a chance to settle and change voters' perceptions.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 23, 2008, at the time of 4:06 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 22, 2008

Marriage Is a Slippery Slope

Hatched by Dave Ross

Since state supreme courts such as California’s and that of the Bay State, Massachusetts, have chosen to take upon themselves what ought to be the legislative function of deciding what is and what is not marriage, they should be prepared to take responsibility for opening up a can of worms that will reform society, possibly not for the better.

I’m not one who thinks that the world will end if men are allowed to marry other men, and women other women. But by stating that such a practice is “a right,” rather than leaving it up to increasingly liberal legislatures to legalize it, the courts leave little doubt that soon members of cultish offshoots of religions that have long since abandoned bigamy will take their place in line demanding a seat at the table of matrimony.

After all, the concept of monogamy is a relatively recent innovation among the Society of Man. The Bible speaks quite frequently of patriarchs, such as Abraham, who had several wives. In Muslim countries it is still widely accepted practice. If we cannot by statute establish that marriage is between a man and a woman, how can we deny those who say they have a lot of love to spread around many women?

And why we draw the line there? Pedophiles have for years demanded that the right to love those whom society deems “minors.” Although we may draw away in revulsion at such a thought, it becomes significantly harder to deny those rights, particularly if sought by consenting individuals. People such as Hillary Clinton have for a long time argued that children “have rights” over and above those of not being mistreated by their parents. What if a minor argues that he or she has a right to love an adult?

Why stop there? Many people love their pets far more than they care for most people. If they are consumed with “puppy love,” who are we as a society to deny them? Marriage is indeed becoming a slippery slope.

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, June 22, 2008, at the time of 10:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 20, 2008

Campaign Saturation Point: Can Barack H. Obama Buy the Presidency?

Hatched by Dafydd

Tom Bevan published a fascinating post questioning the conventional "wisdom" that Barack H. Obama is bound to win, because he will have a huge monetary advantage over John S. McCain in the general election:

But there's also the possibility that, as with the primaries, Obama's vulnerabilities as a candidate are significant enough that McCain (and perhaps more specifically a 527 group) won't need a ton of money to be competitive in some key battleground states.

If nothing else, the general election appears to be shaping up as an interesting test case in asymmetrical political warfare.

I sympathize with Bevan's position, of course, because I have been saying the same thing for some time. But it needs more fleshing out than Bevan gave it in his (too brief!) blogpost.

I emphatically believe that every campaign in every election generates a campaign saturation point (CSP), beyond which further campaigning -- ads on TV and radio, appearances on talk shows, billboards, posters, signs, rallies, debates, GOTV, and door-knocking electioneering -- diminish, rather that augment a candidate's electoral performance. This factor should be measured in campaign density, not duration: You don't want to stop campaigning two months before the election, but you might want to throttle back on your campaigning to avoid oversaturating the market (inundating voters).

Past that point, no amount of money a campaign has on hand will help... and it can hurt a candidate badly, since there is an almost irresistable impulse for a campaign to burn through every penny it raises... even if doing so hurts rather than helps. Thus, Obama's "advantage" over McCain in campaign cash won't be as big as the raw figures naively indicate... and may not exist at all, depending where Obama's CSP lands.

CSP is a very hard factor to measure, not least because the CSP depends upon several variables, including (a non-exhaustive list):

  • The intelligence of the campaign: A smart campaign has a higher CSP than a stupid one;
  • The importance of the underlying issues: If the contested issues impact the lives of ordinary voters, they will have a greater tolerance for the candidates campaigning on those issues;
  • The likability of the candidate himself: Voters will be more tolerant of a candidate they like than one they dislike;
  • Competing interests: If there are many other stories competing for voters' interests, they will be less tolerant of a candidate campaigning.

But no matter how smart a campaign is, how important the issues, how likeable the candidate, and how little else may be on TV or in the news, there is still a CSP beyond which more campaign intensity is counterproductive.

The concept of CSP is homologous to a similar phenomenon I learned about anent reconstruction money in areas devastated by war or natural disaster: You can only pump so much money into reconstruction, an amount determined by the available infrastructure: Beyond that, money is simply flushed away. In Iraq, for example, there are only so many people available at any one time, based on skill and security, to rebuild an electrical grid or sewer lines; even if you have more money in your pocket, it won't do any good to throw it around.

This point is easy to understand by a time-honored logical technique, reductio ad absurdum. (This is probably the most abused argument in the rhetorical lexicon; but I am a trained professional, so you can trust me to use it correctly, with aplomb.)

Consider this ridiculously extreme hypothetical scenario:

Imagine that you sit down to watch your favorite TV show... and each and every last commercial is an advert for a candidate -- the very candidate you most like. Every commercial -- back to back to back during the commercial breaks.

Assume they're all clever, all different, and you really like the guy. He or she is talking about issues dear to your heart; and frankly, there is nothing else happening in the world to compete for your political attention. In other words, a perfect test case.

But this barrage of ads goes on day after day, week after week, month after month: All you ever see on TV, hear on the radio, see on billboards, or read in the newspapers in between the actual programming or news stories are ads for your candidate.

It doesn't take much imagination to realize what a nightmare this would soon become. Your guy would start reminding you of Big Brother in Orwell's classic 1984. You start thinking of the Police song: Every breath you take, every move you make, he's watching you.

After a while, you would begin muting the sound and running out of the room when a new commercial came on. You would avert your eyes from his image on posters along the street or adverts in the newspaper. And I think we can all agree that the net effect would be that many erstwhile supporters would vote against him in the election -- out of sheer pique, if nothing else.

This isn't a formal proof, of course; that would require more quantification than is available. But it does strongly indicate that a CSP always exists -- at least in theory. The real question is whether it's ever reached in practice, under real-world limitations. (There! That's an example of a professional logician at work, using reductio properly. Aren't you relieved?)

I believe we're going to see a real-world test of this hypothesis. Barack H. Obama is almost certainly going to raise more money between now and November than he raised in the primary phase of the campaign, as many former Hillary Clinton supporters will now send money to Obama for the general campaign. Since he raised in excess of $275 million (!) for the primary, we can expect him to raise well over $300 million for the general. In addition, the DNC will raise some millions (despite having Howard Dean as chairman), and of course liberal 527 groups like MoveOn.org and other Soros-backed groups, NARAL, GLAAD and ACT-UP, the Kossacks, union-owned 527s, and such will have a field day.

At the end, it would not be surprising if Obama and allies spent half a billion dollars on his campaign.

No candidate in history has ever spent this much money in a presidential race, not even in constant dollars. This campaign is already unprecedented, and it's only going to push the record farther and farther as the months pass until November 4th.

By contrast, McCain -- who is accepting public financing -- will receive $84.1 million for his general election, and he cannot raise any private money to supplement that (barring minor amounts of private money raised to pay for "legal and accounting expenses associated with complying with the campaign finance law.")

Apart from that $84 million, McCain will benefit from soft money raised by the Republican National Committee and from whatever GOP 527 organizations can raise and spend on his behalf. Note that this limit has nothing to do with McCain-Feingold per se; this system has been in effect since passage of the 1971 Revenue Act, the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act, and the 1974 Amendments to the latter.

It's hard to imagine that McCain's campaign will have even as much as $200 million available for campaigning (which, until this year, would have been considered a lot of money). There is simpy no question that Team Obama will outspend Team McCain by about 2.5 to 1, and possibly by as much as 3:1.

It's clear that Democrats, both politicians and the media wing of the DNC, passionately believe that the staggering amount of cash available to Obama will, quite simply, allow him to buy the presidency. I suspect that deep down, even most Republican and conservative pols and pundits think this.

But I'm quite convinced -- in fact, let's call this a Lizardly prediction -- that far from a benefit, this will end up crossing far beyond the CSP, the campaign saturation point, and will actually impact Obama's campaign as a negative. Here's why:

  1. Right now, voters like Obama. But as candidates edge closer to their CSP, one of the first qualities to be affected is likability... voters battered by too much campaigning tend to resent and dislike the candidate who is pounding them with ads.
  2. The importance of the underlying issues will cut against Obama; he is on the wrong side of the energy issue (which is issue number one on voters' minds this year), the wrong side of the tax issue, and even (astonishingly enough) the wrong side of what to do going forward in Iraq: He's frantically dancing, trying to weasel his way out of his longstanding demand for immediate and unconditional withdrawl -- while most voters, even those who agree with Obama that the war was a mistake, nevertheless prefer victory to defeat.
  3. Obama has shown an astonishingly tin ear when it comes to the average American and what he thinks and wants; he makes gaffes all the time, the prototype being his assertion that people "cling" to guns and God because they're embittered and helpless. But the more money Obama has, the more access to the voters, the more those gaffes (which Obama often doesn't recognize until the inevitable negative reaction) will be projected across the nation.
  4. Too, candidates with Obama-sized egos tend to believe in their own genius; and the more successful they are, the more money they rake in, the more convinced they are that they know better than everybody else about everything else. Their handlers can no longer rein them in.

    (Think of the literary excesses of J.K. Rowling, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King: The bigger they got, the harder it became for editors to actually edit their books, which became bloated and spongy.)

    They descend into preening and gloating, or they make reckless attacks on their opponents. Often they wrest complete control of their campaigns away from the professionals -- the candidate becomes his own campaign mangler.

    If Obama enters this phase, as I think he very likely will, it will amplify point (3) above through a feedback loop: There will be fewer filters between Obama in the raw and the voters, and fewer people to tell him when he's gone off the deep end. Again.

  5. Obama's success is predicated upon a fundamentally false image: that he is a "different kind of candidate," "above politics," "beyond race," who represents "real change that we can believe in" -- indeed, practically a political messiah. But the more visibility he has, due to the sheer volume of adverts, events, and activists, the more scrutiny and skepticism he invites. At every slight misstep, the contrast between well-funded Obamania and the seemy underbelly of reality will raise the specter of hypocrisy -- a mortal political sin.

Obviously, a presidential nominee needs a certain level of money to run an effective campaign; he needs enough to pay for all the appurtenances of a modern campaign: staff, administration, transportation, lawyers, adverts, crowds of enthused acolytes, street fighters, and especially GOTV (get out the vote) efforts on election day itself. But John McCain's funding only seems scant by comparison with Barack Obama's; objectively, McCain will have plenty of cash to run a strong, effective campaign.

McCain will continue to give town-hall meetings (a very inexpensive and effective way to campaign, especially in swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and so forth). And he will continue to demand that Obama debate him in just such an unstructured format... which happens to be Obama's weakest suit. (He is best at set spiels on predetermined topics that Obama can memorize or read off the teleprompter -- in other words, exactly the "Lincoln-Douglas" format that Obama insists upon.)

Eventually, I believe Obama will have to agree to at least one or two televised, prime-time town-hall meetings, because those are the only ones where audience members really feel like they participated. When he does, the contrast between how good he is in set pieces versus how dreadful he is at town-hall meetings (and how good McCain is) will stand out all the greater because of campaign saturation: It will be something completely different voters can use to judge Obama.

For these reasons and too many others to squeeze into the tiny space available in this post, I believe that we are actually going to see a clean and clear demonstration of a candidate, Barack H. Obama, far exceeding his campaign saturation point... to his detriment and McCain's benefit. It's one of many reasons I see no reason to change my prediction that John McCain will be our next president.

I don't even believe it will be that close; I predict McCain will win by more than Bush did in 2004.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 20, 2008, at the time of 7:32 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 19, 2008

Oogo Fever: After Big Oil, Can Big Food and Big Gun Be Far Behind?

Hatched by Dafydd

Nothing much happened this week. Oh, yes, I almost forgot: A plurality of likely Democratic voters said the federal government should nationalize the entire oil industry. (By the end of next week, I expect George Will to join them, preening all the way.)

According to Rasmussen Reports:

A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 29% of voters favor nationalizing the oil industry. Just 47% are opposed and 24% are not sure.

The survey found that a plurality of Democrats (37%) believe the oil industry should be nationalized. Just 32% of voters in Barack Obama’s party disagree with that approach. Republicans oppose nationalizing the oil industry by a 66% to 16% margin [16% of Republicans think we should follow the lead of Oogo Chavez? Great leaping horny toads.] Unaffiliated voters are opposed by a 47% to 33% margin.

I blame public schools.

Meanwhile, marginal Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA, 85%) called for "socializing" the oil industry on a House panel in May:

John Hoffmeister from Shell Oil: I can guarantee to the American people because of the inaction of the United States Congress ever increasing prices unless the demand comes down and the five dollars will look like a very low price in the years to come if we are prohibited from finding new reserves and new opportunities to increase supplies.

Rep. Maxine Waters: And, guess what this liberal will be all about? This liberal will be about socializing... uh, will be about, basically taking over and the government running all of your companies.

Then last Monday, another Democrat in Congress, this time a much bigger fish, has joined the call... at least to nationalize the nation's oil refineries. From a video clip shown during the "all-star" panel on Special Report With Brit Hume last night:

REP. MAURICE HINCHEY, (D) NEW YORK: Do we own refineries? No. The oil companies own refineries. Should the people of the United States own refineries? Maybe so. Frankly, I think that's a good idea.

Just in case the above seems vague, here is Hinchey (D-NY, 100%), who sits on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies and the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, clarifying his position... this time on a video played on Neil Cavuto's show on Fox News:

If there’s any seriousness about what some of our Republican colleages are saying here in the House and elsewhere about improving the number of refineries, then maybe they’d be willing to have these refineries owned publicly, owned by the people of the United States, so that the people of the United States can determine how much of the product is refined and put out on the market. To me that sounds like a good idea.

The dirty, little secret is that Democrats really do believe that there's no connection between supply and price... because they sincerely believe in a secret oil-company Illuminati-like conspiracy to keep prices high. Thus, they "reason," it doesn't matter even if we triple or quadruple the world oil supply: Somehow, Big Oil will conspire to hide the oil and raise the price even more.

An article in yesterday's Investor's Business Daily makes the point:

Others have found a new culprit: speculation in oil markets.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a close ally of Obama, held an Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday into just that.

"Increasing evidence shows that the run-up in crude oil prices and gasoline is being driven by larger trader banks, pension and hedge funds. Speculation may have as much, if not more, to do with high gas prices than any Saudi sheik."

Well, yes: The oil futures market has a huge influence on the current price of oil and gasoline. But that doesn't mean it's all controlled via illegal manipulation by a cartel of speculators and oil companies... it just means that investors consider future supply when they decide how much they're willing to value a barrel of oil today.

When you combine a deeply conspiratorial mindset with a propensity to believe in State control over private control, it's no wonder that the Democratic mind tends to see Capitalism itself as a giant pyramid scheme: They don't trust markets, they don't trust the profit motive, they don't trust Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Food, Big Gun, or Big Garment. Heck, they don't even trust the very people they claim to speak for... which is why they must speak for them, of course.

Democrats as a collective (how apt) trust only one "big" on the planet: Big Government. What does that profound difference in worldview mean? Slither on to read more...

The further from the apex of power you look, the more blatant Democrats are about wanting a "progressivist" tyranny of the proletariat, guided by the invisible fist of the Party. Thus Maxine Waters, lower on the DNC totem pole, is willing to come out and say "This liberal will be about... basically taking over and the government running all of your companies;" but the much more powerful Maurice Hinchey only suggests nationalizing refineries, not the entire industry.

And even further down the progressivism food chain, 37% of Democratic voters answer Yes to the question, "Should the government nationalize all the oil companies and run them on a non-profit basis?", while they're evenly divided on the following question: "Suppose a major oil company discovered an alternative energy source that would dramatically reduce the price of gas and other energy sources. If that new energy source would make a lot of money for the oil company, should the company be allowed to keep those profits?"

They don't stop to ask themselves, if this "major oil company" isn't going to be allowed to keep the profits of their invention that would "dramatically reduce the price of gas and other energy sources," why would they bother inventing "an alternative energy source" in the first place?

When you begin shuffling down the Socialist superhighway, you are quickly faced by two reality-based questions that have bedeviled progressivists for more than a century:

  • If you remove the profit motive, with what incentive do you replace it? Why should people work hard if they won't personally benefit? We're not angels in the forms of proles.
  • Once you nationalize an industry, you also "own" the consequences: You can no longer blame the opposition, impersonal forces, or external enemies. What do you do if things get worse, not better?

To resolve the first question, many Democrats now call for a "Manhattan Project-like" crash program to completely substitute "alternative energy sources" for fossil fuels (geothermal cars, windmill-powered airplanes, whatever). They believe that virtually all great inventions and innovations come from government, not the private sector -- which merely hijacks what belongs to "the people" and exploits it to line their own pockets.

But the reality is that aside from very limited and special circumstances such as the pressures of world war, government almost never innovates anything anywhere. It can fund, it can organize, it can certainly help secure exploitation rights of the private developer. But it, itself, does little to bring new products onto the shelves.

Even enormously valuable federal projects, like the nuclear labs, NASA, and DARPA, generally work to demonstrate broad, fundamental engineering principles and concepts; they leave the process of actually making those concepts workable and bringing them to market to the private sector. (And even for basic research, private companies give the government stiff competition: Who has developed more useful inventions, DARPA or Bell Labs?)

The second question is more devastating to the progressivist theory: If the State "owns" energy produciton, in all senses of the verb, then when things begin going badly, everybody will necessarily blame the State. What does a progressivist lawmaker do then?

We see this Catch-22 playing out today: To placate the environmentalist lobby, Democrats have prevented us obtaining oil offshore, from shale, along the outer continental shelf (OCS), in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, and in ANWR. But now we have premium gas approaching $5 a gallon here in California.

For some unfathomable reason, voters are pointing the finger at the Democrats who actually caused the problem, rather than accepting the Democratic mantras that it's all the fault of the "failed policies of the Bush-McCain administration" and that "We can't drill our way out of an oil shortage."

Democrats are going to have to do something; something other than haul oil-company executives before congress and harangue them for three hours. But that "something" will probably be to double-down: They will pull drilling bills from the Congressional docket and not let them be voted; they will push an extension of the drilling ban through the House and will try to do so in the Senate (where Republicans will stop them by filibuster); and they will attach ludicrous environmentalist riders to bills that have nothing to do with energy or the economy.

Each of these somethings will be to the same effect: To drive up the price of gasoline higher and higher, because the anointed ones simply know better. They have the vision, and they deserve to rule.

Democrats clearly take their cue from the Marxist machinations of Venezuelan President Oogo Chavez, who nationalized the Venezuelan oil industry starting in May, 2006. So how well did that work out?

In fact, it appears to have been about as successful as Robert Mugabe nationalizing all the farmland in Zimbabwe (where in this case, "nationalizing" means butchering the white owners, their wives, and their children, seizing the land, and handing it over to tribal Mugabe supporters... remarkably similar, if rather more thuggish, than the mass land-snatch committed by the Sandinistas the last time they ran Nicaragua).

Chavez first ordered all oil companies operating in Venezuela to pay a huge chunk of their revenues to the government, unilaterally rewriting longstanding contracts... in the name of the People, naturally. Democrats defended this as "social justice;" real Americans saw it as State extortion.

When that didn't get Oogo enough cash, he went ahead and nationalized the entire industry... and then he fired all of the geologists, engineers, and other professionals at the State-run oil company, PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.), and replaced them with Oogo cronies:

The Venezuelan government claims that between 2006 and 2012 it will reinvest $76 billion of its earnings to increase production, but analysts canvassed by the three reporters who wrote the story think that the figure comes closer to between $2 and $5 billion a year--a drastic short-fall. Moreover, many of PDVSA's activities are now unrelated to oil--it has hatched subsidiaries to distribute powdered milk, or to mill corn, or even to build boats. (Anyone who knows Venezuela can imagine the lush opportunities this offers for illicit enrichment by the agency officials or the military who work with them.) Meanwhile, as oil production falters, the state company has decided to take on more employees. When Chavez took office PDVSA had 48,000 workers. It now has nearly 75,000, and the president-dictator has announced plans to hire an additional 30,000 by the end of next year. (One cannot help recalling the case of the Argentine YPF, which was the only oil company in the world that lost money in the go-go 1970s!)

This kind of crony capitalism is pushing Venezuela to the edge. Under these circumstances it won't take much of a decline in oil prices to destabilize Chavez's regime.

Meanwhile, Venezuela is experiencing a collapse of its (national) health-care industry to respond to epidemics of infectious disease, a collapse of its food industry, and a sweeping crisis of confidence by its people -- even the poor -- in the Venezuelan strongman:

But for each minor policy shift or good economic statistic from the government, Mr. Chávez has stirred deeper anxiety by intensifying threats to expand state control of the economy and society. For instance, Mr. Chávez warned Monday that he would nationalize large food distributors caught hoarding groceries.

Pedro E. Piñate, an agricultural consultant in the city of Maracay, said: “We live in two countries, one inhabited by officials who think they can alter reality by sending soldiers to intimidate citizens. The other country is where the rest of us live in fear of being killed or kidnapped or of our businesses being seized.”

But how can these trivial setbacks dampen the enthusiastic support of Democrats who still think that Fidel Castro is the savior of Cuba, the Sandinistas were a revolution of poets, and who still wear their faded, tie-dyed Che t-shirts? They are far more apt to follow Oogo even farther down that road, because the alternative is for Democrats to admit that they have been wrong all this time -- and to spit in the face of the special-interest lobbyists that maintain them in power. (That is, they would have to commit political suicide.)

The Great Dictator has now begun to nationalize other industries and threatens to nationalize the entire economy. He even tried to give himself full dictatorial powers last December, via a new constitution -- including the power to remain president-for-life. How long before Democrats seize upon a weak-tea version of that "solution" to the second problem?

All it requires is to identify some sector of the economy, no matter how small, which is not yet under direct control of progressives... and nationalize that, too. When that fails, find another. And another. And yet another. Thus they can stave off complete collapse until the current crop of Reids, Pelosis, Obamas, and Murthas retire.

But Democrats are unwise to rely upon the unwisdom and lack of intelligence of the people; the people have a refreshing tendency to be smarter than the Left thinks them. For example, Oogo himself was resoundingly defeated in his attempt to become the Supreme Tyrant of South America six months ago... and now, per the New York Times article above, there is for the first time in years a very strong political opposition building in Venezuela for the regional elections this November, in response to Oogo's overreaching.

And I believe we're going to see the same dynamic here as well: The overreach by Barack H. Obama and the Don't-Drill, Windfall, Nationalizing Surrendercrats is at least as egregious, relatively speaking, as that by Chavez: We expect more sanity from our leaders than they do in South America. (For example, Chavez was overwhelmingly elected in 1998 even though, just six years earlier, he had attempted to seize power in a coup d'état.)

I believe Obama's risible pandering to every nutty theme and meme of the New Left will finally drag him down, ensuring John McCain's election; and I believe the Democrats will not do anywhere near as well as they hope in the Congressional elections. They might even lose some seats, which could mean losing one or both houses of Congress.

I never bet against the wisdom of the American people; but Democrats stake their party's entire future doing just that every two years. They filled a gut-shot straight on the river in 2006, but the odds are against them doing it twice in a row.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 19, 2008, at the time of 6:16 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Pooh on the Presidency

Hatched by Dafydd

Note that one of the categories for this post is "Liberal Lunacy"... and in this case, I really do mean lunacy. As in mental derangement.

I know others have already discussed this. I tried to resist; really, I did. But in the end, I couldn't stop myself from looking at the train wreck. And now I must say something.

I think we all should.

America is poised (perhaps) to elect a man whose pick for National Security Advisor gets his national-security gestalt from -- yes, you already heard, so you know I'm not ribbing you -- from Winnie the Pooh.

There, I said it. I'm not proud, but I said it: The stuffed bear which doesn't actually exist (it's a fictional stuffed bear). Here's the full monty:

Richard Danzig, who served as Navy Secretary under President Clinton and is tipped to become National Security Adviser in an Obama White House, told a major foreign policy conference in Washington that the future of US strategy in the war on terrorism should follow a lesson from the pages of Winnie the Pooh, which can be shortened to: if it is causing you too much pain, try something else.

Mr Danzig told the Centre for New American Security: "Winnie the Pooh seems to me to be a fundamental text on national security...."

Mr Obama’s candidacy was given an early boost by his opposition to the Iraq war and he has repeatedly said the US needs to rethink its approach to the Middle East.

Mr Danzig spelt out the need to change by reading a paragraph from chapter one of the children’s classic, which says: "Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming down stairs. But sometimes he thinks there really is another way if only he could stop bumping a minute and think about it."

And this is from the senior national-security advisor to the Democratic nominee who just said:

"I refuse to be lectured on national security by people who are responsible for the most disastrous set of foreign policy decisions in the recent history of the United States," Obama said in opening remarks that in part referred to the Iraq war.

He was standing before 17 American flags and a sign that said "Judgment to Lead." He was surrounded by national security experts who had formerly served in Congress and the Clinton administration and will be advising his campaign -- an effort to bring foreign policy experience to a candidate who has served just three years in Congress.

"Oh bother," said Pooh; "Piglet's out stumping for votes."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 19, 2008, at the time of 4:55 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 18, 2008

A Snowball's Chance in Florida

Hatched by Dafydd

The snowball is rolling down the hill -- in the midst of summer heat! I refer to the snowball of finally, finally, lifting the moratorium on drilling for oil on the outer continental shelf (OCS). As it rolls, it picks up a lot of support... even a plurality of liberals now support lifting the ban. And for the very first time today, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has actually reversed his longstanding opposition:

Gov. Charlie Crist has dropped his long-standing support for the federal government's moratorium on offshore oil drilling and endorsed Sen. John McCain's proposal to let states decide.

The governor said he reversed his position because of rising fuel prices and states' rights. Crist is considered a possible running mate for McCain, the Republican presidential nominee.

"I mean, let's face it, the price of gas has gone through the roof, and Florida families are suffering," Crist said Tuesday. "And my heart bleeds for them."

[Note to Breitbart: In case you're heading down the same road as the Associated Press, fantasizing that you can unilaterally abrogate the "fair use" exemption to copyright and start charging bloggers for every quotation, the total number of words of yours quoted above is 84. Of course, 25 of those words were actually spoken by Gov. Crist, who presumably maintains copyright on them. But in any event, I will not pay you a dime.

Sue me. I'm itching for the fight.]

Setting aside the gag-worthy final five words in Crist's quotation (yeesh), this reversal makes it all the more difficult for Democrats to maintain their institutional opposition to producing any new energy anywhere in America, excepting whatever you can generated via windmill or by three donkeys marching in a circle connected to a generator. But in this case, their contrarian argument is so bizarre, that I doubt even they believe it:

Democrats also argued additional offshore drilling would not affect prices set on the world market.

"It would only increase oil companies' record-breaking profits," said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski. [115 words total, with 34 copyrighted by people who don't work for Breitbart.]

After this statement, the interview was suspended for several hours to allow Bubriski's nose to shrink back to its normal size.

If I understand the reasoning, all that new oil would increase oil companies' profits because they would refine it into gasoline and then sell it. But adding a huge bunch of new supply won't bring down prices, because the 110th Congress recently repealed the law of supply and demand.

Of course, not all is wine and Rosicrucians; RINO Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California still adamantly opposes lifting the ban. This is no surprise; in fact, I'm willing to bet $50 that Schwarzenegger will begin campaigning with Barack H. Obama before this campaign season ends. That is, unless he wants to sleep on the couch for the rest of his term.

But Schwarzenegger's opposition is meaningless, as the California legislature is so much in thrall to the Democratic Party that Cal-GOP essentially doesn't even exist. So even if we had the president of Exxon Mobil as governor, California would still never allow offshore drilling... that is, if it had any say in it. (See below.)

Florida is a much more important state in this regard, because it's actually in play -- both for the policy and the election. The Florida state legislature has a heavy Republican majority in both houses: 77 to 43 (64% to 36%) in the Florida House of Representatives, and 26 to 14 (65% to 35%) in the Florida Senate. (Which makes it all the weirder that the aptly named SCOFLA, the Supreme Court of Florida, is so much in the tank for Democrats, as we saw in 2000.)

For that reason, I think it very likely that if the federal Congress ever lifts the ban on OCS drilling, Florida will vote to authorize it; and now we know that Gov. Crist will not veto that legislation. This is vital, because Florida sits on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Mexico, which is a prime target for oil drilling -- not just on the OCS but in the middle of the Gulf as well.

The other states that border the Gulf, working westward, are Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and of course Texas, which forms the western edge of the Gulf. AL, MS, and LA all have state legislatures more or less dominated by Democrats (though I believe the Mississippi state senate has a narrow GOP majority); while in TX, the Republicans have control. But even in the Democratic legislatures between Texas and Florida, there is no guaranteed opposition to drilling: A lot of royalties and jobs are generated by oil leases, and those states are perennially in economic trouble.

Finally, I still have this general quibble: If the territorial waters of the United States extend only 12 miles out -- far short of the OCS -- then why should states be able to claim exclusive authority to allow or ban drilling far beyond those limits? The U.N. concept of an "exclusive economic zone" (EEZ), which extends 200 miles beyond a nation's shores, explicitly refers to national economic sovereignty, not state control.

I frankly believe that Congress should simply order all parts of the OCS that are within the EEZ of the U.S.A. opened up to leases by oil companies for exploration and exploitation; and to hell with what individual states like California want. This is a national issue (actually a national-security issue), and we've kowtowed to them for too long.

That is, when they opposed drilling; when they support drilling, we've run roughshod over their opinions -- and thereby hangs the tail. The current ban itself proves that Congress has the final authority; after all, if they can constitutionally ban drilling over any objections of the states, then they likewise have the opposite power to allow drilling over any such objections.

But in any event, allowing Florida and Texas -- and possibly Alabama, Mississipi, and Louisiana -- to choose to allow drilling for oil in the OCS and in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico is a huge, huge step in the right direction.

But of course, the Democrats in Congress cannot possibly vote to lift the ban... because their environmentalist masters will beat them black and green with a rolled up copy of the Good Earth Catalog. So once again, Democrats will stand athwart the economy yelling "stop!"

And that will give Republicans the ultimate wedge issue to peel off a lot of Independent and even moderate Democrat voters in November. Pay little attention to the polls today; this argument will begin to resonate after the GOP has been pounding on it for a couple of months. The time to see whether this is having any effect will be about the end of August... that's when we'll see whether 2008 will be the "perfect storm" for Democrats (as political "pundants" have been saying for two years), or else a shocking win for Republicans.

As always, I never bet against the collective wisdom of the American people; so my money is on the GOP, no matter what Scott Rasmussen says today.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 18, 2008, at the time of 6:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The American Military: Threat... or Menace?

Hatched by Dafydd

An illuminating argument has erupted between Democratic (de facto) nominee, Barack H. Obama, and Republican (de facto) nominee, John S. McCain. Simply put, Obama said in an interview that we should go back to the Bill Clinton policy of only going after terrorists in the courts, with writs and subpoenas, and not by force and violence; McCain said this was naive, that we had already tried this approach -- and it brought us 9/11; and Obama has ripped him for engaging in the "politics of fear."

Fear. This reminds me... in a BBS discussion I was just involved in, one very leftist participant sneered something (I don't rememeber the precise wording) to the effect that, "I'm not afraid of old men in turbans living in caves," and accused me of being a frightened, sniveling coward.

I asked him whether he had ever wondered why they're now living in caves, instead of Afghan training camps and Iraqi palaces... but he didn't respond, of course; having run rings around me logically, he had already moved on.

The answer should be clear with a little thought: Because military action by President George W. Bush drove them out of those camps and palaces, harried them up and down the land, until finally the only place they could find to hide -- was in a hole, whence they can no longer direct terrorist campaigns against the United States or our allies.

Keep this in mind as you read the following:

At issue were Obama's comments Monday in an interview with ABC News. Obama was asked how he could be sure the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies are not crucial to protecting U.S. citizens.

Obama said the government can crack down on terrorists "within the constraints of our Constitution." He mentioned the indefinite detention of Guantanamo Bay detainees, contrasting their treatment with the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

"And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo," Obama said. "What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks - for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center - we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

"And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, 'Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims....

"We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws," Obama said.

What conclusions can we draw from this unguarded admission by Sen. Obama?

  • Obama as much as admits that under his presidency, America will no longer go after terrorists militarily, but only through the courts.
  • He thinks that 1990s policy worked out much better than the current one. Evidently, he is completely ignorant of the numerous terrorist attacks on United States interests during that period... and he has even forgotten 9/11 itself.

(Or perhaps Obama thinks that 9/11 only happened because terrorists thought Bush was weak; had Algore been president, they would have been quaking in their boots so that they would never have attacked us! But that's a bit hard to swallow, considering how comfortable they had become with the Clinton policy -- which allowed for one major terrorist strike against the Great Satan every 2-3 years.)

  • As well, Obama has never even heard of any of the terrorist prosecutions conducted by the Bush administration -- including those of "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla, "failed shoe-bomber" Richard Reid, and "twentieth hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui

John McCain finds the Obama/Clinton/Carter "law enforcement" policy dangerously naive and unworkable:

The McCain campaign responded with a call in which McCain's senior foreign policy adviser Randy Schuenemann said, "Once again we have seen that Senator Obama is a perfect manifestation of a September 10th mindset. He brings the attitude, the failures of judgment, the weakness and the misunderstanding of the nature of our adversaries, and the dangers posed by them to a series of policy positions."

He added, "I have no doubt that we will hear in the course of the day that the Obama campaign will say we're practicing the, quote, politics of fear, and the reality is what Senator Obama's statement reflects last night is that he's advocating a policy of delusion that ignores what happened in the failed approach of the 1990's which allowed al Qaeda to thrive and prosper unmolested and that policy clearly made America less safe and more vulnerable."

For this attitude -- treating mass Islamist terrorism as war, not a criminal conspiracy -- Obama accuses McCain of just reiterating the "failed policies" of President Bush; failed presidential nominee John Kerry charges McCain with "defending a policy that is indefensible;" and Bush hater and presumed National Security Advisor under the Obama administration, Richard Clarke, called McCain's anti-terrorism policy the "big lie technique." Clarke thus directly compares John McCain to Josef Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

Obama continued his tirade:

"These are the same guys who helped engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could have pinned down the people who actually committed 9/11," Obama said on his campaign plane.

Presumably, Obama was referring to how some of the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing were prosecuted during the Clinton administration... but was not referring to, or even recalling, the utter failure ever to arrest anybody for any of the other mass Islamist terrorist attacks against the United States during the 1990s and into 2000.

It is true that some terrorists were prosecuted under Clinton; but in fact, Obama appears completely ignorant of the fact that far more terrorists have been criminally prosecuted -- in civilian courts -- during the Bush administration than during Clinton's tenure. The three high-profile cases mentioned above, Padilla, Reed, and Moussasoui, are just the tip of the ice cube.

In fact, according to a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) out of Syracuse University, there have been 579 terrorism prosecutions from September 11th, 2001, through August, 2006, or 116 per year... compared to only 115 in the previous five years under Bill Clinton, or 23 per year. The rate of criminal-court terrorist prosecutions more than quintupled under Bush from what it was under Clinton.

Sure, maybe Clinton didn't go after the terrorists by force of arms; but don't forget, he didn't prosecute them, either! Does Obama really want to go back to the that failed policy?

Even more important, there are far more failed terrorist prosecutions than there are successful ones. The TRAC study, released in 2006, found that only 1% of defendants actually convicted in terrorism cases received sentences of 20 years or longer; and more than half of convicted defendants received only time already served -- or no prison time at all.

And this doesn't even include terrorists who cannot be tried because, as an integral part of the attack, they killed themselves: Not a single person who carried out the actual hijackings on September 11th, 2001, was ever tried, because all 19 of them died in the bestial orgy of murder.

Why are criminal prosecutions so dicey? The point is that the government's most important task is to prevent terrorist attacks... not sit around, wait for them to happen, and then prosecute the perpetrators (those who happen to survive). Thus lawn-forcement officers try to arrest the terrorists before they commit the attack; and this necessarily weakens the legal case. From the International Herald Tribune:

"There are many flaws in the report," said Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra. "It is irresponsible to attempt to measure success in the war on terror without the necessary details about the government's strategy and tactics."

For instance, Sierra said, prison sentences are "not the proper measure of the success of the department's overall counterterrorism efforts. The primary goal ... is to detect, disrupt and deter terrorist activities."

Because prosecutors try to charge potential terrorists before they act, they often allege fraud, false statements or immigration violations that carry lesser penalties than the offenses that could be charged after an attack, Sierra said. This "allows us to engage the enemy earlier than if we waited for them to act first."

But wait; maybe it's just the Bush administration that incompetently handles terrorism cases. Perhaps the Clinton administration was just much better at it. But that's not what the evidence appears to show:

TRAC totaled the cases that prosecutors labeled as terrorism or antiterrorism no matter what charge was brought. It found only 14 prosecutions in fiscal 2000. That rose to 57 in fiscal 2001, which ended three weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks [and which included the last four months of the Clinton administration]. The figure then soared to 355 in fiscal 2002. But by fiscal 2005 it dropped to 46. And in the first eight months of fiscal 2006, through last May, there were only 19 such prosecutions.

Even in FY 2006, the year in which the IHT sniffs that the Bush administration failed to prosecute enough terrorist cases, there were more prosecutions in the first eight months than in all of FY 2000.

But surely such prosecutions are the best method of preventing terrorist attacks... right? Hardly. During the last administration, there were several major Islamist terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda and affiliates: The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993; the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996; the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and the USS Cole bombing in 2000. In addition, you have to count 9/11 itself in 2001, because the Bush administration had not yet shifted from the Clinton-era "law enforcement" response to terrorism to the more robust policy of military interdiction and of law enforcement driven by intelligence gathering (such collaborations were forbidden by "Gorelick's Wall" until after 9/11).

After we did shift strategy, however, from December 2001 to today, there have been exactly zero successful Islamist terrorist attacks on us, except for attacks on our military in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of "asymmetrical combat operations" in those wars. From five major successful attacks by radical Islamist terrorists to none at all... that's a pretty good argument for the McCain approach, rather than the Obama approach.

And here is yet another: Yesterday in the U.K., the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ordered the Ministry of Justice to release on bail Abu Qatada, the highest ranking al-Qaeda affiliate they currently hold -- and a direct clerical counsel to Osama bin Laden himself.

So why are they releasing him? As near as I can make out, Qatada was being held on an immigration charge:

  • He is a Jordanian, and he was tried and convicted in absentia (twice!) in a Jordanian court for "conspiracy to carry out bomb attacks on two hotels in Amman in 1998, and providing finance and advice for a series of bomb attacks in Jordan planned to coincide with the Millennium."
  • But because he had these two convictions pending, which presumably could result in a sentence of death in Jordan, he could not be deported back to that country... because the U.K. refuses to recognize the validity of executions.
  • Therefore, reasoned the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, since he could not be deported, that meant the entire immigration case against him collapsed.
  • Therefore, he could not be held indefinitely without a criminal charge.
  • But the moment Qatada was charged with a regular civilian crime, the judges told the Ministry that they had to offer Abu Qatada bail;

It seems that in the U.K., this is an even more fundamental right than here. For one difference, we do not set bail for a prisoner deemed a flight risk; and evidently, the U.K. does.

Therefore, Qatada walks tomorrow. I wonder how long it will be before he is spirited out the U.K. by his al-Qaeda friends? But in any event, that is another reason why America is much better off treating mortal combat as "warfare," rather than a mere "crime" that needs to be investigated, and a flurry of papers that need to fly out in response to the next 9/11.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 18, 2008, at the time of 4:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 16, 2008

McCain Energy Heads-Up: End Moratorium on Offshore Drilling (Details Tuesday)

Hatched by Dafydd

Today, John McCain gave a small preview of his major energy speech tomorrow:

Sen. John McCain said Monday the federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling should be lifted, and individual states given the right to pursue energy exploration in waters near their own coasts.

With gasoline prices rising and the United States chronically dependent on foreign oil, the Republican presidential contender said his proposal would "be very helpful in the short term resolving our energy crisis."

McCain also suggested giving the states incentives, including a greater share of royalties paid by companies that drill for oil, as an incentive to permit exploration.

Asked how far offshore states should be given control of drilling rights, he said that was a matter for negotiation.

He offered no other details for his proposal, which he is expected to describe more fully on Tuesday in an energy speech.

It's not clear yet (tomorrow, I hope) whether McCain distinguishes between drilling "offshore," which he wants to be up to the individual states, and drilling on the outer continental shelf (50 to 200 miles offshore, over the horizon several times over). The idea that individual states can prevent drilling 50 miles offshore, far beyond the territorial waters of the United States (12 nautical miles), is insane. It's within our 200 NM exclusive economic zone; but, per the 1982 Law of the Sea treaty, the EEZ applies to countries, not individual states. Leaving that up to the states is like allowing them to set their own customs and immigration policy.

Astonishingly enough -- and I know you're all going to be stunned to read this -- Barack H. Obama likes the current moratorium and wants it to remain in place in perpetuity. He reverently intoned, via spokesman, the enviro-hippie mantra of Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%):

McCain's presidential rival, Sen. Barack Obama, opposes an end to the moratorium, a spokesman said. Hari Sevugan said McCain's "plan to simply drill our way out of our energy crisis is the same misguided approach backed by President Bush that has failed our families for too long and only serves to benefit the big oil companies."

Generic "progressive" Democrats, such as Obama, think it the peak of absurdity to "drill our way out of the energy crisis," and they lose no opportunity to tell us unsophisticated rubes how impossible that is. The preferred plan of the anointed is to tax and conserve our way out of the energy crisis. (Rumors abound that Obama will shortly release a new plan urging the developing world to diet its way out of the world hunger crisis.)

Of course, one reason that Bush's plan for resolving the energy crisis -- more drilling and refining -- has utterly failed... is that the Democrats have repeatedly blocked it from being implemented:

  • Bush says, "we need to drill for more American oil to keep the cost down, and so that we don't have to buy billions of barrels from the Middle East and Venezuela;"
  • Democrats vote against it in lockstep, preventing it from going into effect;
  • Then they hoot that the Bush plan has "failed" -- after all, see how expensive gasoline is now?

This is worse than liberal logic... it's teen logic: Your sixteen year old son Barry gets a ticket for drag racing in the street, so you ground him; he can't drive the car for a month. Later, you spot him driving around. His argument? "You said I couldn't drive our car... you never said I couldn't drive Tony's car!"

If we let Barry get away with that, his next example of teen logic will be a real whopper... maybe yanking all the troops out of Iraq on the grounds that "we can't get in the middle of a civil war." By the time you point out that even the Associated Press admits -- very reluctantly, and with a million caveats -- that there is no civil war, and Iraq is calmer and less violent than it has been for years -- the damage is done, and Barry has already moved on to bigger, faster cars to menace more and more innocent bystanders: staggering tax increases, setting all the terrorist detainees free, inviting Iran and Syria into Iraq to take control, opening up legal marriage to any group of people of any size or gender.

It's about time we put our feet down (monkey with the plural of that expression all you want, you know what I mean). It's time to call the Democrats on their risible claim that gasoline scarcity cannot be remedied by producing more gasoline, but only by overtaxing gasoline instead.

Some political policies are so stupid and self destructive, they literally rise to the level of being anti-American.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 16, 2008, at the time of 3:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Obama Campaign More or Less Concedes Ohio and Florida to McCain

Hatched by Dafydd

In a telling and fairly stunning series of conversations, Barack H. Obama's campaign mangler, David Plouffe, has been telling "donors and former supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton" that Obama can win without siezing either Ohio or Florida from the Republicans. Their new strategy hinges on capturing Virginia (13 electoral votes) or Georgia (15):

"You have a lot of ways to get to 270," Plouffe said. "Our goal is not to be reliant on one state on November 4th."

Plouffe has been pitching such a new approach to the electoral map in calls and meetings, according to several people who discussed the conversations on the condition of anonymity because they were meant to be private. Plouffe confirmed the descriptions in the interview.

Plouffe and his aides are weighing where to contest, and where chances are too slim to marshal a large effort. A win in Virginia (13 electoral votes) or Georgia (15 votes) could give Obama a shot if he, like Kerry, loses Ohio or Florida.

In 2004, George W. Bush beat John Kerry by 34 electoral votes (286 to 252); so Obama would have to flip at least 18 electoral votes to win cleanly, 270 to 268. If he flips exactly 17, the race goes to the House of Representatives -- which votes by delegation, one vote per state; Republicans currently control 21 state delegations, the Democrats control 27, and 2 are split; Obama would be almost certain to win if the candidates tie 269-269. Therefore, Obama must win a net 17 electoral votes worth of states that George W. Bush won in 2004 to take the election.

Flipping either Florida or Ohio would do the trick, but only if John McCain is unable to capture any of the states that went to John Kerry in 2004 -- a very big "if." Plouffe, however, appears to be skeptical that either of those states will flip: He calls them "competitive," but plans for victory without them -- a dead giveaway. As well, there really are several "blue" states ripe for the picking by McCain:

The presumed Democratic nominee's electoral math counts on holding onto the states Kerry won, among them Michigan (17 electoral votes), where Obama campaigns on Monday and Tuesday. Plouffe said most of the Kerry states should be reliable for Obama, but three currently look relatively competitive with Republican rival John McCain - Pennsylvania [21], Michigan and particularly New Hampshire [4].

Neither Virginia nor Georgia by itself would do the trick for Obama, since he needs to flip 17. Indeed, Plouffe is also eyeballing Colorado (9), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), Montana (3), Alaska (3), and North Dakota (3). But if McCain is running well in the center, these states will be very hard to steal from the GOP.

If McCain flips either Michigan (which went for Kerry by a scant 4%) or Pennsylvania (for Kerry by 2.5%), the race is probably over: Obama would have to flip Virginia, Georgia, and several other states -- a very unlikely scenario.

In his Southern strategy, Plouffe is relying on turning out new black voters to knock off one or more Dixie states:

The key, Plouffe told supporters, will be to register new black voters and new young voters in Virginia.

Likewise, Georgia has many unregistered black voters who could turn out in record numbers to support the first major-party nominee who is black, he argued. Plouffe said the campaign also will keep an eye on Mississippi and Louisiana as the race moves into the fall to see if new black voters could put them within reach.

But of course, the very quality of the nominee that would make him attractive to black voters in the South -- being an ultra-liberal senator who uses his race as a major campaign draw -- makes him correspondingly unattractive to white Southern voters, who will remember his deep connections to Jeremiah Wright and other black activist, anti-white demagogues.

All in all, I believe McCain has many more paths to victory than does Obama; and I also believe that if John McCain will finally take off the gloves and start fighting Obama in the center, this will not even be a close race:

  • McCain can make an excellent start by aggressively pushing to drill for oil everywhere that he has not already taken off the table -- which only includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the actual coastal waters of states that reject drilling.

    That still leaves the outer continental shelf on both oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, the Bakken shale-oil formation, and other shale-oil sites. He can also push for liquification of coal, natural gas, and continue his quest for more gasoline refineries and nuclear power plants... "Drill here, drill now, pay less." Surveys show that Americans now strongly favor drilling, drilling, and more drilling;

  • He can aggressively pursue a constitutional amendment to undo the horrible Supreme-Court decision last week in Boumediene and dare Obama and the Democrats to oppose it: "Obama and his Democratic friends think foreign terrorists fighting America deserve more rights than our own soldiers," he can argue;
  • He can hammer Obama on the staggering taxes he plans to raise, on Obama's complete indifference to gasoline prices, his refusal to visit Iraq or meet with Gen. Petraeus before yanking the troops out, his wildly liberal stances on abortion, same-sex marriage, and guns, and his complete ignorance of how most people in the United States live and worship;
  • And he can tie Obama more directly to the latter's prediction that the counterinsurgency strategy would be a complete failure and disaster: If we had followed Obama's strategy, we would have withdrawn from Iraq in defeat. Fortunately, we followed McCain's judgment... and we have pretty much won, with some mopping up left to do.

David Plouffe is right, but not quite the way he imagines, when he says:

"You have a lot of ways to get to 270," Plouffe said. "Our goal is not to be reliant on one state on November 4th."

If McCain gets ahead of the power curve on the issues listed above, I believe this will be a 9-point election... and we won't have to worry about this or that little state: McCain will take many states that Kerry held last election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 16, 2008, at the time of 3:34 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 15, 2008

More Boumediene Bothers and Bewilderments...

Hatched by Dafydd

Those ghastly Tribunals...

Here's a thought that should bring you up short:

Military tribunals are fair for American servicemen being courtmartialed; but foreign terrorists deserve better.

As Beldar wrote:

These commenters [on Beldar Blog] seem to be unaware that, in direct response to earlier suggestions from the Supreme Court, a bipartisan majority of Congress carefully crafted a system that balanced national security concerns against the need to provide fair, just hearings for these detainees. By no means did Congress rubber-stamp what the Bush-43 Administration suggested.

The resulting system closely resembled, and explicitly drew heavily from, the legal system already in place via the Uniform Code of Military Justice for our own servicemen and -women who are accused of crimes. The resulting statutes thus represented the will of the people as expressed through both of the elected branches of government, which -- not coincidentally -- are also the two branches of government given substantial responsibility by the Constitution with the declaring and conduct of war.

Beldar refers to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which created a set of procedures for a fair hearing for each and every detainee in the Guantanamo Bay military prison; it provided for legal representation for every detainee, rules of evidence, and a standard of probable cause to hold the captured enemy combatant "for the duration."

That is what five justices of the Supreme Court -- the four ultra-liberals plus Anthony Kennedy -- ruled "unconstitutional"... for foreign terrorists captured on foreign soil during a war, that is. But the same procedure is evidently perfectly constitutional when it's merely our own soldiers, airmen, seamen, and Marines on trial.

Goose, no gander...

Why are the Democrats uniformly cheering and lauding this decision, which seemingly ties the hands of the president and Congress for all time... even during a Democratic administration? Don't they expect to win big in November?

Yes they do, but...

Democrats applaud Boumediene because they know that only Republican administrations will obey it. Democratic presidents will completely ignore the ruling -- and they'll get away with it using the argument attributed to Andrew Jackson: "The Court has made its decision; now let's see them enforce it."

I cannot imagine any other reason -- except a case of Bush Derangement Syndrome so overpowering that it even drives out their own self-interest -- why Democrats would be so united in applauding this wretched opinion, which is likely the worst Supreme Court decision of my lifetime.

Two, four, six, eight...

Finally, I wonder why Republicans and John McCain haven't jumped on a slogan as simple and obvious as this for the election:

Republicans say that foreign terrorists attacking our country have no rights. Democrats say they have more rights than American servicemen. You choose.

I think that succinctly sums up the difference between the two parties... don't you?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 15, 2008, at the time of 8:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 13, 2008

The Outlaw Bikers

Hatched by Dave Ross

I edit a small community newspaper in rural San Diego County called The Roadrunner, and last weekend my community had an experience the likes of which I don’t remember in my 30 years in the field.

We were “occupied” territory. Over the weekend the outlaw biker gang the Mongols, 500 or so of them, roared through on their way to the La Jolla Indian Reservation, to a small campground along the San Luis Rey River, for a “retreat.”

The Mongols have been designated an “outlaw” group by the California Attorney General’s office. There are actually four “outlaw” motorcycle gangs so identified by the FBI, and they are the Pagans, Hells Angels, Outlaws MC, and Bandidos. All are called “outlaw” because their primary source of funding is selling drugs, trafficking stolen goods and extortion. Their status is such that they can be prosecuted under the racketeering statutes (i.e. RICO).

They have nothing to do with respectable groups of people who get together to ride their Harleys for recreation and whose one “outlaw” characteristic may be that they like to play Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” loudly on the stereo when they ride.

Nice people. But I suppose even bad guys deserve to get away from it all and get back to nature occasionally. Hence the retreat.

I think the Mongols is a particularly appropriate name for an outlaw gang since in many ways, the modern motorcycle gang is rather like the migratory bands of old, such as the Bedouins of the Arab deserts or, if you will, the Mongols. Like sharks, they live to move. If they have their way they would never stay in one place for very long.

Way up at the top of this article I said that for a weekend we were “occupied” territory. I don’t mean by the Mongols. I mean by the police, who deployed hundreds of officers in a degree of force that I didn’t see even at the height of the wildfires last October.

I believe that one reason for the overwhelming show of force that this visit was met with was because there were rumors that the Hell’s Angels, another outlaw biker gang, were planning to visit the same area, although not the same campground.

The Mongols have an ongoing blood feud with the Hell’s Angels. In 2002 they clashed in Laughlin, Nevada. Guns blazed. Blood flowed. Worse -- because it happened in a casino -- the flow of money stopped for several hours.

The focus of law enforcment’s efforts was along State Highway 76, which runs from Oceanside to Lake Henshaw, particularly along perhaps 20 miles between Interstate 15 and Lake Henshaw. Along this strip of road things were, to put it mildly, a little unreal.

I was out on that highway quite a bit during the weekend. I saw patrols of Sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers in convoys of six squad cars apiece, moving up and down the highway. If the Mongols remind me of the nomads of old, these folks reminded me of the cavalry patrols of the Old West.

In addition to the patrols shuttling back and forth along the length of the highway, the police were also stationed at strategic intersections, with only a mile or two intervals between them. Here groups of cops, often outfitted in SWAT gear, with automatic rifles at the ready, giving everyone the eye as they drove by.

Living in Iraq must be like that.

I asked the Sheriff’s lieutenant in charge how many deputies were deployed. He declined to answer, saying that he didn’t want to reveal the details of the deployment in case he needed to do it again.

I had a photographer out that weekend too. He visited the Indian reservation where he ran into one or two of the outlaw bikers. They treated him with respect, but asked that he not take their photos.

The deputies were a little less polite, for whatever reason, and also in the majority of cases didn’t want their pictures taken. But they were on high alert, I suppose, so being polite was probably not part of the job. However, in my opinion, it is when tension is at its height, and the pressure is on, that we need to keep a watch on the watchers. In a free society that includes being allowed to take pictures.

I was never stopped as I went about my business that weekend, but quite a few people were, mostly, it seemed motorcyclists, although a heavily bearded friend of mine who is a wood sculptor and wears blue jean overalls and drives a beat up pickup truck was also stopped, or so I’m told.

There are a lot of eccentric people who live in San Diego’s Backcountry. If you stop them all you will create a bit of a traffic bottleneck. Fortunately the police didn’t stop them all.

The news was that after all that, there was no news to speak of. I’m not one who faulted the police for overreacting. I think they did exactly the right thing. But it did give me a creepy feeling to get a taste, and not a sweet one, of what it is like to live under occupation. A police state, even for the best of reasons -- and aren’t the reasons always the best? -- is not a pretty thing.

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, June 13, 2008, at the time of 9:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lizards Propose U.S. Constitutional Amendment

Hatched by Dafydd

I rarely support proposed federal constitutional amendments; most offer permanent solutions to transient problems, threatening to lock in today's compromise for all time. For exampe, I reluctantly supported the Equal Rights Amendment -- twenty years ago, as a young man; but I don't think I would today, because it is clear that the problems it was designed to resolve have been handled legislatively, and there is no chance that could ever be reversed by judicial fiat.

But yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush was so devastating in its effects, so unprecedented in its legal claims, and frankly, so mad in its hubris -- an undisguised power grab by the unelected branch of government over the warmaking power of the democratic branches -- that I honestly believe we must pass a constitutional amendment to undo the damage and restore sanity.

I am under no illusions that such an amendment will pass easily or quickly; but as a secondary point, if we word it carefully enough and limit it to just what we need, it will also serve as a potent campaign weapon against Democrats who refuse to support it.

Finally, it deals with an issue of such fundamental importance that it does indeed rise to the level of the Constitution of the United States... for it defines just who is covered by said Constitution.

Here is our first crack at wording such an amendment:

This Constitution extends to all persons subject to the actual sovereign authority of the United States of America.

Our objects are threefold:

  • The amendment must be brief and precise. The more complex an amendment is, the more leeway anti-American justices and judges have to find loopholes. This amendment is but eighteen words and doesn't even need an "enactment" clause, since all it does is define to whom the rest of the Constitution applies. Think how the framers inadvertently helped gun prohibitionists by prepending "a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state" to the Second Amendment.
  • The amendment must be clear to anyone who reads it, even non-lawyers (such as myself). We only have a hope of passing this if every man and woman, and even children above the age of thirteen or fourteen, understands exactly what it would do -- and why it's vital.
  • The amendment must be clean. It cannot include hidden or unanticipated wiles; we cannot give the Democrats (and RINOs) any excuse or justification to hide behind as they vote against this amendment. We want a clean choice: Either you believe our Constitution extends protection to aliens living abroad -- or you believe it extends only to the soverign territory of the United States.

For an example of the last, it cannot say "extends to all citizens subject to," because that would mean that all immigrants, even legal immigrants, suddenly lose all constitutional protections. In fact, it cannot even say "all legal residents subject to;" although many people wish they could strip illegal aliens of all constitutional rights (no protection from search and seizure, no requirement to give them a fair trial before imprisoning them for crimes, etc.), such a provision would make it easy for Democrats (and many Republicans) to defeat it.

Worse, it would flip the political effect around to destroy any chance of the GOP picking up seats and trying again in the 111th Congress: Such underhanded and dirty pool would anger even many Americans who oppose legalizing illegal immigrants, and the growing Hispanic vote would become like the black vote: a Democratic plantation.

As I say over and over, I am not a lawyer. This wording may well run afoul of elements of constitutional law. However, a lot of lawyers read Big Lizards, and I especially invite them to comment on the wording and how it could be improved.

After a few days and any corrections that seem better to me, I plan to send this to every Republican senator and congressman, urging them to make it a part of the national GOP campaign for the November elections. I believe such an amendment, coupled with the campaign they're already running to "drill here, drill now, pay less," will give us an unprecedented and unexpected opportunity to reverse the trend of the 2006 elections and actually pick up seats -- perhaps even taking back the Congress. That is tough but doable, if we can change the climate to one that is just as toxic to Democrats, who are suddenly seen as anti-American, as it currently is to Republicans.

For God's sake, for a million practical, legal, and sovereignty reasons, we cannot let this insanity stand. Five people on that Court need a swift and strong kick in the robes from the American people.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 13, 2008, at the time of 2:19 PM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 12, 2008

Supreme Court Gitmo Case: Sen. Joe Biden Is Right!

Hatched by Dafydd

(We pause a moment while readers locate their jaws, rolling around somewhere on the floor, before continuing...)

Yes, I completely agree with Sen. Joe Biden's (D-DE, 75%) commentary on the Boumediene v. Bush Supreme Court decision released today... actually, with part of Biden's commentary. Well, to be perfectly blunt, I agree 100% with the last two sentences of Biden's statement:

As we look forward, we must take stock that this decision was five Justices to four. If one more Justice in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Alito is appointed to the Court, decisions such as this will likely come out the other way.”

Yes sir. One more justice. Contrarywise, if one more justice in the mold of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer is appointed to the Court, decisions such as this will likely become commonplace.

Many conservatives wish someone less friendly to illegal immigrants had won the GOP nomination. They could never quite settle on who they wanted; nevertheless, many now threaten to sit out the election, forcing an Obama victory, in order to teach the rest of us a good, hard lesson -- bow to their wishes, even when they themselves can't decide what those wishes are.

I would like to address those conservatives directly: You have now seen what radical judges can do and how devastating that can be to the national security of the United States. You may very well see, in the next administration -- particularly if those "sitting out" get their way -- the federal courts order the release of top al-Qaeda terrorists back into the wild.

Five justices voted in the majority in Boumediene:

  • John Paul Stevens is 88 years old; he was nominated by the unelected and very liberal Republican Gerald R. Ford. I cannot prove this, but I strongly suspect that Ford, like other liberals (Republicans and Democrats), believed in an activist judiciary, given his generally liberal politics;
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75; she was nominated by President Bill Clinton;
  • Anthony Kennedy is 71; is the only justice in the majority nominated by a conservative president, Ronald Reagan;
  • Stephen Breyer is 69; he was nominated by President Bill Clinton;
  • David Souter is 68; he was nominated by liberal Republican George H.W. Bush.

Note I listed them in order of age. Think about this: Nobody lives (or serves) forever; and it's hardly a revelation that the older a justice is, the more likely he or she is to leave the Court -- vertically or horizontally -- through simple old age.

All five justices in the majority are senior citizens; three are in their seventies or eighties (Stevens is getting close to his nineties). By contrast, three of the four dissenters is in his fifties; only Antonin Scalia is in his seventies. But there is a very good chance that the next president will replace at least one, probably two, maybe even three justices... mostly liberal judicial activists. It will be an extraordinary opportunity to shape the Court for literally decades to come... and one conservatives will only get if John McCain beats Barack H. Obama in the elections on November 4th.

Nominating Kennedy is probably the worst decision Reagan made while in office -- definitely worse than Iran-Contra. Nevertheless, Kennedy is a "swing" vote on the Court, often siding with the conservative side. Sadly, he chose this case as one where he would swing back to the left. Kennedy is a classic case of a justice who "grew" (became more liberal) in office.

Not so David Souter, who was known to be quite liberal -- and a judicial activist -- even before his appointment; he was championed by the liberal New Hampshire Republican Sen. Warren Rudman and the even more liberal former New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu, who had become George H.W. Bush's Chief of Staff. Bush-41 might have been rolled, but it wouldn't have taken much rolling.

By contrast, those dissenting justices who voted against the Boumediene decision were (also in order of age):

  • Antonin Scalia is 72; he was nominated to the Court by Ronald Reagan;
  • Clarence Thomas is 59; he was nominated to the Court by George H.W. Bush (somewhat redeeming Bush-41's appointment of David Souter);
  • Samuel Alito is 58; he was nominated by George W. Bush (Bush-43);
  • John Roberts is 53; he was nominated to the bench by George W. Bush (Bush-43).

All four of these justices were nominated by Republicans; by contrast, both justices nominated by Democrat Clinton voted to give -- not "recognize," but give for the very first time in our history -- habeas corpus rights to enemy combatants captured and detained abroad.

Three of the four dissenters were nominated by presidents who openly and proudly supported judicial restraint. In very stark contrast, three of the five in the majority were nominated by presidents who actively supported judicial activism; one was nominated by a president who appears to have had no opinion on judicial activism vs. restraint; and only one was nominated by a president who supported judicial restraint (and that one, Anthony Kennedy, is the least ideologically liberal of the majority).

Clearly, what matters most to the direction taken by the Supreme Court is which president nominates the justices: Liberal presidents invariably nominate judicial activists to the bench; conservative presidents generally nominate judicial conservatives to the bench. But some conservatives still want to sit out this election -- to teach us a good, hard lesson.

Finally, of the two nominees for president today, we have this:

John McCain has pledged to nominate justices in the mold of John Roberts and Samuel Alito and has praised Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. McCain has condemned the Boumediene decision:

These are unlawful combatants, they’re not American citizens, and I think that we should pay attention to Justice Roberts’s [dissenting] opinion in this decision. But it is a decision the Supreme Court had made, and now we need to move forward.

In extremely stark contrast, Barack H. Obama has pledged to nominate justices in the mold of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- the two most ideological, doctrinaire leftist, and judicially activist justices on the Court. In addition, Obama has widely and categorically praised the Boumediene decision today (same NYT article linked above):

Today's Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court's decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo - yet another failed policy supported by John McCain. This is an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.

There is virtually no question but that McCain would nominate justices who would have ruled against Boumediene, while Obama would nominate justices who would rule for the terrorist detainees having full-blown trials in civilian criminal courts... with the full panoply of rights previously extended only to persons residing under American sovereignty.

What does this mean in practice?

  • Barack H. Obama wants every enemy combatant captured on the battlefield to be allowed to have an attorney of his choosing, even if he chooses an al-Qaeda lawyer... or else the enemy combatant must immediately be released upon the decision of the first District Court judge (or the next, or the next) who hears his habeas petition.
  • Obama wants every enemy combatant captured on the battlefield to have the right to demand all intelligence information, no matter how heavily classified, be handed over to his attorneys... or else the enemy combatant must immediately be released.
  • Obama wants the terrorist attorneys of every enemy combatant captured on the battlefield to have the right to endlessly subpoena military commanders up to and including Gen. David Petraeus, commander of CENTCOM, forcing these commanders to drop everything and return to America to testify in the habeas hearing... or else the enemy combatant must immediately be released.
  • Obama wants endless appeals and reappeals of any decision that goes against any enemy combatant captured on the battlefield... appeals over and over of the same issues, whenever the terrorist attorney can find yet another friendly federal judge. (Think that won't happen? Think of what happens whenever a death-row murderer gets close to his execution date. Imagine mass candlelight vigils led by prominent Democratic politicians demanding the release of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Abu Zubaydah.)

And if Obama is elected president, with this Congress or the next likely one, he will have the power to get everything he wants.

But some conservatives still want to sit out this election. To teach us a good, hard lesson: Bow to our wishes, or like Samson, we will pull the temple of America down upon all our heads.

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

-- Oliver Cromwell, Letter to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1650

If one more Justice in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Alito is appointed to the Court, decisions such as this will likely come out the other way.

-- Joseph Robinette Biden, jr., unintentional truth blurted out in response to the Boumediene decision, 2008

Think. Please. Think.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 12, 2008, at the time of 6:04 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 11, 2008

Latest and Lamest Attack on McCain

Hatched by Dafydd

Politico reports that Democrats, in a coordinated attack, are once again attacking McCain -- based upon a tendentious, and deliberate misunderstanding of McCain's clear words. It is, without question, the lamest attack yet. (It would have been second lamest, except that no Democratic heavy-hitter jumped aboard the attack that McCain couldn't be president because he was born in the Canal Zone... where his active-duty American naval-officer father was stationed.)

Really? The lamest? See for yourself; here is what McCain said during a television appearance:

The exchange that has Democrats licking their chops began when co-host Matt Lauer asked about the surge strategy in Iraq: “If it's working Senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?”

McCain replied: “No, but that's not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw; we will be able to withdraw. General [David] Petraeus is going to tell us in July when he thinks we are.

“But the key to it is that we don't want any more Americans in harm's way. That way, they will be safe, and serve our country and come home with honor and victory, not in defeat, which is what Senator Obama's proposal would have done. I’m proud of them. And they're doing a great job. And we are succeeding and it's fascinating that Senator Obama still doesn't realize that.”

Without reading the rest of the article just yet, see if you can guess how Democrats from Susan Rice (the anti-Israel foreign-policy advisor to Barack H. Obama) to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 90%) to Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) have conspired to attack McCain on this answer. I'll bet you can't; it's too stupid to be believed.

All right, time's up; here they go again:

The Obama campaign and Democratic leaders accused Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) of being confused and heartless after he told NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday that it’s “not too important” when U.S. troops return from Iraq.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said on a quickly organized Obama conference call that McCain’s comment was “unbelievably out of touch with the needs and concerns of most Americans,” saying that to families of troops in harm’s way, “To them, it's the most important thing in the world....”

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was first out of the gate with a statement, calling McCain’s comment “a crystal clear indicator that he just doesn’t get the grave national-security consequences of staying the course. … We need a smart change in strategy to make America more secure, not a commitment to indefinitely keep our troops in an intractable civil war.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said McCain had “displayed a fundamental misunderstanding about the situation in Iraq, our strained military, and American troops and their families.”

This, of course, is exactly the same misreading Democrats used before when they pretended that John McCain said he would be fine with the Iraq war raging for a hundred years... when in fact he said he would be fine with us having troops in Iraq for a hundred years, if they were not being attacked and were not suffering any casualties. Then -- as now -- he made his meaning clear by invoking our decades-long troop deployments in Germany, Japan, and South Korea... in none of which places are we suffering casualties or coming under attack (barring the occasional terrorist attack that can occur anywhere).

Democrats might have claimed an ignorant misunderstanding the first time; but having had their misapprehension corrected once, the innocent excuse that they 'misunderstood' cannot be resurrected. This is enemy action: The Democrats know darned well that McCain meant (then and now) that it doesn't matter whether we withdraw troops from Iraq if our victory results in a lack of casualties; he was not saying that it was "not too important" to a particular soldier's family when he, specifically, comes home.

To illustrate the preposterousness of the Democrat's intentional misreading, I say: "It doesn't matter how many hours a day the factory operates, so long as it meets its goals without overtaxing its labor pool." The Democrat responds, "that's crazy! It makes all the difference in the world whether some poor woman's husband works eight hours a day or 24 hours a day!"

I know what's next: McCain will say "Good morning;" and the nearest Democratic talking head will jump on a table and scream, "How can that heartless bastard think it's good for soldiers' families to live in mourning for a loved one?"

I wonder if individual Democrats ever react to their leaders' antics by feeling a bit queasy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 11, 2008, at the time of 6:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Patterico Wants Us to Know that BO Sucks

Hatched by Dafydd

And he tells us why BO sucks in this post.

I'm not exactly a computer weenie, and I must confess I don't understand what this is all about. All I know is that Patterico seems obsessed with having as many blogs as possible link to that post above so he can, I dunno, rule Google or somesuch.

But I try to live by the Code of the Woosters, the first rule of which is "never let a pal down."

So here you go, P.; we can all agree now that we don't like BO because BO stinks. Or sucks, whatever.

(Patterico, do you still have trackbacks enabled? Because I can't find the trackback URL anymore.)

P.S. As of this moment, there are 56 comments about why BO Sucks! I skimmed down to the bottom, and somehow the conversation has morphed into a pompous discussion of war crimes and misdemeanors.

Don't ask.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 11, 2008, at the time of 3:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Eat Here and Get Gas: Blunt Talk On Gasoline Prices

Hatched by Dafydd

John Hinderaker at my favorite blog has a thought-provoking post up:

Republican whip Roy Blunt put together this chart showing the practical effects of Democratic vs. Republican policies on the price of gasoline at the pump...

Here is the accompanying graphic:



Gas price chart

Blunt's gas price chart (under Democratic and Republican policies)

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO, 96%) appends the method he used to arrive at these figures:

Methodology: Retail gasoline prices are the result of literally hundreds of factors including crude oil supply, global demand, refinery capacity, regulation, taxes, weather, the value of the dollar, etc. Therefore it is impossible to say with certainty what one individual action will do to the overall price. However, based on what we know about the impact of crude oil supply and prices it is possible to develop some potential ranges of impact on gasoline prices for certain policy changes. For example, using the methodology employed by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats that suspending shipments into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (between 40-77,000 barrels of oil a day) would reduce gas prices by at least 5 cents, bringing ANWR online (at least one million barrels of oil a day) could impact gasoline prices by between 70 cents and $1.60.

Blunt is correct; if you use the minimum of each of the ranges in the chart above, you do indeed get a reduction in gasoline prices of $1.98 per gallon, dropping the price of (regular, unleaded) gasoline down to $2.06.

But here is the coolest part... if you use the maximum savings instead, then implementing all the energy-producing measures that the GOP wants would mean that the oil companies will end up paying us 74¢ per gallon to accept the gas! Yes sir, the cost savings would be $4.78 per gallon, dropping the cost of a gallon of (regular, unleaded) down to <$0.74> -- that's negative seventy-four cents.

Let's all bloat up with free gas!

Seriously, I'm sure the Republican measures would drop the cost of gasoline markedly; among other effects not factored in here, it would cause the world oil market price to drop, as global supply would significantly increase... and it would allow us to compete with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela to sell oil to China and India.

The price would assuredly plummet; I'm just not prepared to argue that it would drop the price below zero.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 11, 2008, at the time of 1:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 10, 2008

What Was George W. Bush's Worst Mistake?

Hatched by Dafydd

He never answers such questions (rightly so), but I will. In retrospect, I believe Douglas Feith has perfectly encapsulated it in this passage from p. 228 of War and Decision (the hardcover edition):

In its review of such prewar intelligence failures, the Silverman-Robb Commission criticized the CIA, and the intelligence community in general, for flawed tradecraft. Those failings raise the question of whether policy officials were skeptical enough about the intelligence -- whether we challenged the CIA vigorously enough -- and if not, why not. The errors created an enormous credibility problem for the United States, because Administration officials, for reasons we'll explore further, chose to make the stockpiles -- and the intelligence about the stockpiles -- part of the case for war.

The decision to feature the CIA's badly crafted assessments of Iraqi WMD stockpiles this way was unfortunate, because the existence of those stockpiles was not a cornerstone of our rationale for going to war. But the differences between the actual strategic rationale for the action against Saddam and the public presentation were not lies or misrepresentations. They reflected mistakes in judgment about how best to focus the presentation both at the United Nations (whose support we sought for resolutions approving action against Saddam) and to the American people. By presenting the case for the war poorly, the Administration hurt more than its own credibility; it jeopardized the success of the war effort itself.

This error by the Administration was more than a mere public relations problem. When leaders decide that war is necessary, communicating their reasoning -- showing "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind," as Thomas Jefferson put it -- is a critical element of strategy and statecraft. The Administration's public statements were the basis on which the American people and their representatives in Congress supported the war. The flaws in that presentation inevitably affect the public's willingness to continue to support the war, at times when patience is required and confidence in victory is shaken.

This is true anent the war in particular; but even more generally, the only absolutely miserable element of Bush's presidency has been his inability to communicate. If Ronald Reagan was "the Great Communicator," George W. Bush has proved to be "the Great Miscommunicator."

This has negatively impacted every aspect of his presidency:

  • Foreign policy -- even now, he has still not explained his extraordinary success in getting Libya to give up its nuclear program, gaining the cooperation of scores of countries in the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis, and of course prosecuting that war and its campaigns themselves;
  • Economic policy -- the inability to explain to the American people why we must privatize Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, the inability to defend his own necessary tax cuts, and the inability to explain why free-trade agreements are a long-term good to everyone, even those in states hit hard by foreign competition, has eroded our economic position almost beyond repair -- and certainly beyond the repair of this president;
  • Energy policy -- the inability to explain to Congress the absolute necessity of exploiting our own vast energy resources, as well as those on the outer continental shelf, has crippled the country... although we have staggeringly large reserves of oil, coal, and natural gas -- not to mention nuclear power generation -- we're pouring hundreds of billions of petrodollars every year into the pockets of men who support terrorist attacks against us and our allies;
  • The federal judiciary -- the administration's inability to explain to the people the distinction between judicial activism ("legislating from the bench") and judicial restraint, and why the former will wind up killing us all, has resulted in a brazen power-grab by the judiciary that will haunt us for decades to come;
  • Even disaster relief -- the federal response to Hurricane Katrina was most probably the best, the most effectively, and unquestionably the fastest in American history... yet Bush and his inability to communicate his own successes has allowed the Left to slander it as the worst, most inept, and slowest in history.

The ability of the president to communicate -- to his own party, to Congress, to the courts at trial, and to the American voter himself -- turns out to be the single most critical ability he must have. If the president is weak on policy, he has advisors who can help him out. If he is irresolute, his spine can be stiffened by appealing to pride and ego. If he has a vile temper, his aides can sit on his head until it cools.

But if he cannot explain what the hell he's doing, then it doesn't matter how good his policies are or how steadfast and courageous he may be... he is going to lose the confidence of the people, and that will be his destruction. He doesn't become powerless; the vast resources and authorities of the presidency itself see to that. But without the ability to explain, enlist support, keep spirits bright until victory, and finally persuade even naysayers to his side, he cannot do his job the way it should be done.

Don't make the liberal mistake of confusing communication skills with soaring oratory: Given a choice between a person whose rhetoric floats with angels, but who cannot think of a single thing to say, and a person who knows what to say and how to say it, but whose delivery is leaden, I have faith that the American people will select and follow the latter -- as they did in 1952 and 1956, 1968, 1972, 1988, 2000, and 2004.

(In all the other post-WWII presidential elections save one, the conditions did not apply: In 1948, neither Truman nor Dewey could think of anything particularly important to say; in 1960, Kennedy had both delivery and substance; in 1964, both Goldwater and Johnson had substance; in 1976, neither Ford nor Carter had either quality; in 1980 and 1984, Reagan dominated Carter and Mondale on both qualities; and in 1996, Clinton and Dole were equally subtance-challenged. Only in 1992 did style, Clinton, win out over substance, Bush-41, in a big way; and the personal betrayal by Bush of his own promise was an extenuating circumstance.)

Therefore, I'm not worried about the 2008 election: Obama has great delivery -- but that's all he is, a "delivery man": He delivers the package on time but has no idea what's inside.

McCain is not electrifying... but people remember what he says afterwards, for good or ill; he takes positions and defends them, even when we dislike them; he has thought deeply about the great issues of the day and has defensible policies on them all, even if I often disagree with him -- e.g., on campaign finance reform and on drilling in ANWR.

But the Bush administration has been a grand demonstration that communications skills are vital to a successful presidency. If only we could have married the policy-making ability of George W. Bush to Roosevelt's ability to communicate to the average Jane and Joe (and the average Rep. or Sen. Jones)... we would have had a "Ronald Reagan" of the twenty-first century!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 10, 2008, at the time of 12:59 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 9, 2008

Medved Runs False-Flag Operation...

Hatched by Dafydd

I almost got snookered by Michael Medved today.

He had a guest, a mathematician named David Berlinski, who was flogging a new book titled the Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. It sounded pretty interesting: Berlinski argues that science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, which of course is a theme I have pounded on for many years now.

I was right in the middle of making an order through Amazon.com when Berlinski started speaking. He sounded plausible enough -- and I'm so much of a pushover when it comes to buying new books -- that I simply added the book to my currently open order.

But something stuck in my craw; I thought sure I had heard Berlinski's name before. So I looked him up in Wikipedia... and lo! Medved had failed to disclose a material fact about the author: David Berlinski is an evolution-denier and vocal advocate for so-called "intelligent design." He is even a member of the Discovery Institute!

Didn't Michael Medved think it relevant, in a book discussing science, faith, and atheism, to mention that his guest had a dog in that fight?

In a fit of pique at having been hornswoggled like that, I quickly deleted the Berlinski book and closed my Amazon order. But I also continued listening to see whether Medved would ever mention this fairly substantive and critical fact.

He never did during the entire interview, unless perhaps during the last five minutes (I received a phone call, so I cannot vouch for that final segment). The closest Medved came was late in the interview, when he gave an outro, just before a commercial break, saying that Berlinski had been in a movie about scientists who are "persecuted" when they "dare to challenge scientific fundamentalism." By that point, I already knew Berlinski's dirty, little secret; but had I not looked him up, I doubt I would have guessed from this capsule description.

In the next segment, Medved made clear that the movie in question was (you guessed it) Expelled, written by Ben Stein, Kevin Miller, and Walt Ruloff and narrated by Stein; I think I would have had an inkling by that point... but even then, Medved did not flatly admit that Berlinski was an IDist; he kept that up his sleeve. And Berlinski himself said nothing about it, either.

We have already dealt with Expelled in a two-post review/response; no need to explain again why I consider ID just the latest incarnation of Creationism:

I certainly do not argue that proponents of Intelligent Design should be dismissed out of hand when they opine on the question of faith and science. But it's rather sharp practice to conceal from listeners a salient fact about a guest that directly speaks to his credibility on the subject.

I recall an analogous incident from the sorry history of the Los Angeles Dog Trainer Times -- the newspaper Patterico loves so well; Friend Lee's calls this one of the "three strikes" that caused him to cancel his subscription in 1999 (I had canceled mine years earlier). When David S. Landes published the Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor, the Times selected a historian named Eric Hobsbawm to review this obviously free-market take on economics. Hobsbawm utterly trashed the book, the author, anyone fool enough to read it even on loan from the library, and in general, the entire school of economics that could produce such twaddle.

In the little blurb at the bottom of the review, the Times wrote, "Eric Hobsbawm is Professor Emeritus at the New School for Social Research in the Political Science department," or somesuch (despite the quotation marks, I don't actually have the review before me; this is from the collective memory of Friend Lee and me).

They could have added a longer description but chose not to:

Hobsbawm is a lifelong member of the Communist Party: He joined the Socialist Schoolboys, a junior branch of the German Communist Party, in Berlin in 1931, when he was 14; and the Party itself in England in 1936, when he was 19. He remained in the Party even through the Hitler-Stalin pact. He was a Stalinist who supported the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 (unlike his fellow British Communists, most of whom quit the party over it). And he was a frequent contributer to the Daily Worker and to the magazine Marxism Today until it ceased publication in 1991.

Some observers outside the Times might consider this relevant to the credibility of a reviewer who attacks a book on economics that is consciously styled after the writings of Adam Smith. And by the same coin, some of us consider it relevant that the guy who wrote the book about the intersection between faith and science is a Creationist. (However, so far as I can tell, Professor Berlinski was never a member of the Socialist Schoolboys.)

Color me annoyed -- but unsurprised.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 9, 2008, at the time of 7:19 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 8, 2008

Jimmy Obama, Meet Barack Carter

Hatched by Dafydd

Thanks to long-time caller, first-time listener KarmiCommunist -- wait, I think I mean long-time reader and commenter -- we have a thought-provoking window into the heart of Barack H. Obama. Who would have guessed that he turns out to loath the military and dismiss the necessity of defense?

On Friday, the Investor's Business Daily published an editorial that recalled this pledge that Obama made, way back before the Iowa caucus propelled him into the front ranks of the Democratic nomination army... and began the long, slow, humiliating collapse of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Before reading further, please watch this video; it's about a minute and a half long:

 

 

Here is how the IBD responds:

The Obamatons of the mainstream media have failed to report one of the most chilling campaign promises thus far uttered by the presumptive Democrat nominee for president.

He made it before the Iowa caucus to a left-wing pacifist group that seeks to reallocate defense dollars to welfare programs. The lobbying group, Caucus for Priorities, was so impressed by Obama's anti-military offering that it steered its 10,000 devotees his way.

In a 132-word videotaped pledge (still viewable on YouTube [but maybe not for long! -- the Mgt.]), Obama agreed to hollow out the U.S. military by slashing both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The scope of his planned defense cuts, combined with his angry tone, is breathtaking. He sounds as if the military is the enemy, not the bad guys it's fighting.

In the speech, Obama pledged to...

  • Slash "tens of billions of dollars" of "wasteful" defense spending;
  • Eliminate "investments in unproven [!] missile defense systems;"
  • Set a "goal" of "a world without nuclear weapons." He promises to first cease all development of nuclear weapons in this country, and then to go to Russia, hat in hand, to beg them to follow suit (presumably without preconditions). A strong bargaining position, Mr. O!

    Will he also then go to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il, Hu Jintao -- or even our nuclear-armed allies? Or does this unilateral disarmament apply only to the United States?

  • He also wants a "global ban" on fissile materials. I wonder what President Obama will accept as evidence of such destruction... the Supreme Leader of Iran's absolute oral assurance?

I actually know somebody who works on ballistic missile defense (BMD); and I can tell you, without revealing any classified information, that missile defense is not only proven, it has already been implemented on many Navy cruisers and destroyers, and even on ships in the navies of our allies, such as Japan. Does President Obama plan to order all those ships to drydock to have their BMD and Aegis systems ripped out with a clawhammer?

Channeling Jimmy Carter's vice president, Obama made a solemn promise to the Caucus for Priorities -- which the Communist magazine the Nation awarded the title, "Most Valuable Progressive Activist Group of 2007," according to the Caucus' website. Obama swore, "I will not weaponize space." I guess by "space," he means he will remove all those weapons we have in Earth orbit.

Is Obama using cocaine again? There are no orbital weapons. We have done hardly any work outside the laboratory -- decades ago -- on orbital weapons.

I can only conclude that Barack H. Obama is so clueless, he thinks that our current BMD programs include orbital nukes. It's a sobering thought that the man who is only a vote away from becoming the Commander in Chief could display such an astonishing ignorance about basic defense policies that are not even classified.

Our Aegis systems (to defend against short-range missiles) and BMD systems (to defend against longer-range missiles, including ballistic missiles) comprise completely conventional missiles, not nuclear: SM-2 (Standard Missile) for Aegis, SM-3 for BMD. They're fired from ships floating (we hope) on the sea, not from Imperial Star Destoyers in deep space, as Obama evidently fantasizes.

If they "weaponize" anything, it's the ocean... on which, I am reliably informed, there may already have been some weapons, even before we deployed Aegis.

I hate to judge before all the facts are in, but it appears the Democrats have nominated Chance the gardener to be president.

Barack "Chance" Obama ends his spiel saying that his sole priority will be "protecting the American people." Unless, of course, such protection requires a weapons system to which he has taken a dislike (that would be all of them, it appears).

The IBD editorial ends its own, more considered offering with this chilling reminder:

Like the Ben & Jerry's crowd that supports him, Obama believes "real" national security is "humanitarian foreign aid" -- essentially using our troops as international meals-on-wheels in Africa.

We've been down that road before, too, in Somalia and elsewhere. Thanks, but we don't need a third Clinton, or a second Carter, term.

Or even a first Walter Mondale term.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 8, 2008, at the time of 1:09 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 7, 2008

We Are Living "Atlas Shrugged"

Hatched by Dave Ross

Last October, the 50th anniversary of the monumental novel by Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, was celebrated by freedom-loving people all over the world.

This life-changing book, second only to the Bible in its influence on 20th Century Americans, was a quasi science fiction that predicted what would happen if the people who actually create things, the inventors, industrialists, the entrepreneurs, drop out of society and left the world to the people who think that the most noble job is to “serve mankind” rather than make money, be happy and live one’s life to the fullest. Predictably, the world grinds to a halt.

I have a friend, who is a specialist in the life of George Orwell and his equally groundbreaking work, who has said for years that Orwell’s predictions about Big Brother are all coming true.

I think it is just as demonstrable that Rand’s dystopian vision of government bureaucrats running peoples’ lives and ruining the economy is coming true -- and the worst is yet to come.

Barack Obama, giving commencement speeches, sneers at graduates whose vision is to own their home or business. Instead he exhorts them to do something about global warming or other manufactured crises of the left.

“You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should by,” he said about a week ago, as if this were an ignoble pursuit.

He would prefer this:

But I hope you don’t. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, though you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all those who helped you get here, though you do have that debt.

“It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because thinking only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs, betrays a poverty of ambition. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential and discover the role you’ll play in writing the next great chapter in America’s story.

That interpretation of the promise of America might be a surprise to the people who actually did build the country. You know, those who hitched their wagons to oxen, not ideology. That’s how this country was built. Obama might know that if he had ever actually created a job, instead of attacking those who have.

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, June 7, 2008, at the time of 8:05 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 6, 2008

"What's Bad for General Motors Is Good for the DNC!"

Hatched by Dafydd

Over at Real Clear Politics, Tom Bevan speaks for nearly all pundits, spread across three parties unto the tenth generation, when he writes:

Of course, the worse the economy gets, the better it is politically for Obama...

This is Conventional Wisdom 101. But why? What is the connection?

CW 102 explains CW 101 by postulating the following syllogism:

  1. Economy heads south;
  2. Voters decide to blame the "party in charge" and punish them at the polls;
  3. The elite media always declare that the party in charge is the Republican Party;
  4. Thus, the voters will inevitably punish the GOP (and the country) in November by voting Democratic. It's elementary!

The truly sad thing is that Democrats actually do believe this; they believe what's bad for America is good for them, because they can play "pin the blame on the elephant" and parlay some terrible catastrophe -- an earthquake, an act of terrorism, an economic challenge -- into furthering their congressional careers.

But there's something kind of weird about this syllogism... for some odd reason, whenever anything bad happens that (we are told) will earn the ire of the electorate against the party in charge -- it always seems to turn out that the responsible party is the Republican Party.

Today the voters will blame the GOP because, while Democrats control Congress, a Republican sits in the White House. But conversely, back in the 1990s, the voters blamed the GOP... after all, while a Democrat sat in the White House, it was the Republicans who controlled Congress!

I understand why the elite media would always blame Republicans for anything bad; they're knee-jerk New Left liberals who vote 93% for Democrats.

I even understand why commentators on the right so often assume voters will blame the Republicans: First, they see all the other pundits around them blaming Republicans, and if they did the opposite, they would experience cognitive dissonance; second, Republicans by their very natures tend to be dour and pessimistic... so much so that they, themselves, reflexively assume that everything that can go wrong will... and even things that can't go wrong will find a way to do so anyway.

You just watch: The closer we slide to the election, the more depressed and apocalyptic will be the Republican and conservative columnists, talking heads, and bloggers, no matter what the facts on the ground may be; the perennial pundits' pessimism and pity parade will once again take over Fox News Channel, the WSJ and the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard and the National Review, and virtually the entire dextrosphere.

In terms of Republican Party temperment (as opposed to policy), Ronald Reagan is the exception; Richard "They're coming to take me away, ha ha!" Nixon is more the rule.

But understanding a bizarre psychological syndrome of conspiracy and defeat is not the same as believing it. Here's a new syllogism that begins from my own core political belief:

  1. Contrary to what the Left thinks, ordinary voters are not utter fools;
  2. If the economy goes south, they will want to punish the predators and incompetents who caused it to go south;
  3. Whichever party is best able to make a logical and rational argument that the economic problems are caused by the policies of the other guys will be rewarded at the polls;
  4. The biggest economic problem today is the ludicrously high cost of fuel, which is driving up the price of virtually everything else;
  5. The primary cause of that high cost is legislation preventing us from exploiting our own energy resources;
  6. The party responsible for that legislation is the Democratic Party, not the GOP;
  7. Thus if John McCain will actually articulate that argument and run on policies that would significantly increase our energy production -- something that Barack H. Obama will not, cannot do -- McCain has a very good shot at actually being rewarded by voters in November;
  8. Even better, if the GOP across the board were to run on that platform in congressional, gubernatorial, and other races, it might mitigate by future-policy promises the "bad branding" that threatens to decimate Republicans once again, as it did in 2006.

The only really big "ifs" in this syllogism, I believe, are the last two points, (7) and (8). So far, neither the presumptive Republican nominee nor Republicans running for reelection has embraced the stark difference between the two parties: In general, the GOP defines success through growth and expansion -- while Democrats define their success through contraction, contrition, and condemnation of everything American.

But right now, McCain is still stuck on globaloney hysteria, while Republican congressmen running for reelection stand on the brink of accepting the Devil's bargain that the California GOP bought into long ago: Accepting permanent minority status in exchange for perpetual reelection. This is the basest of bargains: GOP incrumbents get their perks, and we get punked.

You can't recapture Congress by graciously conceding defeat -- months before the election!

Boldness is what we need now: Instead of accepting our political dhimmitude at the hands of Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%, not counting missed votes), we must risk everything on a real campaign to take back the Congress.

The GOP needs a new national strategy, similar in some ways to the Contract With America in 1994; but that contract was entirely procedural and inside-baseball. What we need today is a substantive national strategy.

Obama has his "American Moment" speech; fine. But for those of us who want America to last more than a moment, let's have a strategy based around the theme, Vote For an American Future:

1 - Vote for American energy for America and our friends

America is an energy nation: We use a lot, but we have a lot more reserves than we're allowed by law to tap.

We need to drill for oil everywhere on American territory where oil is to be found, as well as in international waters; but we'll use American high-technology to drill in an environmentally safe and sound way.. Produce energy for America, while preserving nature's beauty for all Americans.

With oil above $130 per barrel and people feeling the pinch everywhere, we no longer have the luxury of leaving our oil fields and natural gas mines unexplored and untapped. We must drill in the Bakken oil formation, off the two coasts, in ANWR, in the Gulf of Mexico, in international waters in the Caribbean and elsewhere. We mine oil shale and extract the oil. We mine for natural gas. We begin building smaller nuclear reactors using the safest of modern designs... and the federal government should insure them.

2 - Vote for an economy of wealth, not illth

A simple rule that applies universally: You cannot tax yourself into prosperity. We need some form of taxation to pay for things we need; but we don't need taxes to "level the playing field" by crippling successful people so that life's losers don't feel so bad.

Unless we make the tax cuts permanent, they'll expire (the Democrats forced that poison pill on us)... resulting in the largest tax increase in American history. But we need to go farther: We need to eliminate the alternative minimum tax altogether, cut the capital-gains tax to zero, and shift to a "fair tax" flat tax.

And we "pay for" these tax cuts, not with more tax increases, but by actually cutting spending -- reducing entitlements (see 4 below) and trimming unnecessary government departments and agencies -- and by growing the economy, letting Americans keep, spend, and invest more of what they earn.

3 - Vote for security, not surrender

We stand at a tipping point of history: We have it in our power to destroy the Iran/al-Qaeda axis and secure not just America but the West for decades. But we need to mobilize more than just our military, brilliant as it is. This existential struggle cannot be won by bullets and bombs alone.

We need to bring together defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and the ideology of freedom in this world-wide conflict. Americans instinctively distrust "nation building;" but that makes us ideal stewards to help failed states in the "non-integrated gap" to rebuild their own nations -- with our support and know-how.

We must completely rebuild our intelligence agencies from the ground up. They have failed terribly in recent years, but not because of the men and women who work tirelessly to get inside our enemies' heads. They failed because we're asking our intelligence agencies to do things they were never designed to do; they were birthed during the great wars of the twentieth century and raised during the cold war... but this is the twenty-first century, and we're fighting an enemy we've never faced before: A world-wide death cult that wants to destroy the entire modern world and drag us all back to the seventh century.

We fight on behalf of modernity -- so we need modern, up to date, redesigned, and reenergized intelligence agencies to be our eyes and ears.

Finally, the enemy has an ideology of repression, human sacrifice, and slavery. It sounds horrible to us; but to Muslim subjects living under totalitarian tyrants, peasant tribesmen whose world is a nightmare, the promise that, if they'll slaughter the innocent in this world, they'll gain paradise in the next must sound like a bargain.

You can't fight something with nothing: We need to create an ideological counterinsurgency to fight the war of ideas with the Iran/al-Qaeda axis. We need to spread the ideology of freedom, hope, security, stability, and the rights of the individual across the hellholes of the Earth. We must give potential terrorist recruits alternatives to that dreadful path, if we're ever going to be safe ourselves.

4 - Vote for the ownership society

So-called "entitlements" are bleeding us dry. Out of the $3 trillion budget, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security alone account for nearly 50% of spending. This is completely unsustainable; either we find a long-term solution to out of control entitlement programs, or else we give up on America.

The problem is right in the name: "Entitlement" programs are services and money that we've told citizens they're "entitled" to extract from the government, no matter how fiscally catastrophic that is. The amount we pay each recipient increases by more than inflation every year, while the number of recipients grow as we all live longer, due to better medical care, and lead healthier lives. Add those together, and you have a prescription for disaster.

Like the intelligence agencies, entitlement programs were created during a very different era, when people didn't live much past 65. Senior citizens, the disabled, and the poor had very real problems that were going unaddressed; and these three programs and similar ones were created by Democratic Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson out of compassion. But their compassion turned out to be based on extremely bad economics.

We don't live there anymore... so we need a new paradigm to solve the old problems. The solution is to shift retirement planning and health care for the elderly, disabled, and poor from a "hand-out" mentality to an "ownership" mentality: Turn benefits into investments, and let the very people who need them control them.

This saves money two ways: First, when you're living on other people's money, it's easy to slip into the trap of "the sky's the limit;" but when you own your own programs, you have an incentive to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse. Second, owning your own retirement program is more economical in the long run for exactly the same reason that owning your own home is more economical than renting all your life: It's an asset that appreciates.

It would save big money for the country, too. The government invests today's Social Security so badly, it barely earns interest at all; that's because the feds want to be able to loot the money at a moment's notice, so it can't be tied up in anything high-yielding.

The government must pay for every dime of retirement out of current receipts. But in an ownership society, Social Security is like a government-guaranteed 401K that earns most or even all of its own expenditures by interest paid.

So your kids (and grandkids) won't be breaking their backs supporting you; with the same SSI tax you pay now, you'll have an account that could well earn more money per year than you take out of it. Thus, no matter how long you and your spouse live, you won't run out of money... and you can even leave it to your kids as a nest egg.

5 - Vote for Capitalism, not crony liberalism and corruption

Earmarks are the corruption of ruling elite; they're personal budget items stuffed into legislation in the dead of night, often without any other senator or representative even seeing them. They pour money into the pockets of special interests, to the tune of hundreds of thousands, millions, and sometimes even tens of millions of dollars.

The recipient then kicks back some of that money to the reelection campaign of the member who pushed through the earmark. Earmarks as close as you can get to out and out bribery without being arrested.

The Republican Party has tried time and again to get the rest of Congress to eliminate earmarks altogether, but the Democrats won't do it. John McCain has refused to insert earmarks into legislation for many years now -- and his constituents know that and respect him for his principled stand.

But America simply cannot wallow in quasi-legal corruption. It brings our entire government into disrepute. Neither Republicans nor Democrats can resist the temptation to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars for a twine museum or cookbook library in their home districts... or even giving public money to local churches, including the Rev. Michael Pfleger's church in Chicago.

Earmarks to a politician are like whiskey to an alcoholic: He can't have "just one drink." The only solution is that we must do away with earmarks, root and branch. Every expenditure in a piece of legislation must go through the regular process, with all senators and representatives getting a chance to vote up or down.

When no member of Congress has the power to sneak your tax money to his own favorite business (the one that supports his reelection most heavily); when you can look on the internet and find where every dollar of your tax money went; then the citizens can regain control of their government once more.

E pluribus unum

Democrats have controlled Congress for the past two years, and they had significant veto power even before the 2006 elections. The president is not a dictator; he can only sign the bills he's sent... he can't simply make up legislation and put it into effect by decree. There is no reason to assume from the outset that everybody in America thinks every bad thing that happens is all Bush's fault -- or that every Republican running is a Bush "mini-me." Voters are not stupid; they're you and me and that feller behind the tree.

Politically, an economic downturn is going to hurt whichever party is perceived as not having a clue how to grow the economy again. The only plan the Democrats have for growing the economy is to tax us all to death.

It shouldn't be too hard to show voters that we Republicans have a better plan than "taxicide." But we have to be unified. I want to see the party develop some sort of "Vote for an American Future" contract with voters: This is what we stand for; this is where we're miles ahead of the Democrats; this is what we will do if elected. Then each GOP candidate should flesh out what exactly these points mean in terms that resonate with his own constituents.

If we do that, we'll very quickly "rebrand" the Republican Party... and we might lose hardly any seats at all.

Heck, we could conceivably even gain seats; it wouldn't take much to flip either the House or Senate back to GOP control. But if Republicans stubbornly refuse to unite; if they don't support the Republican nominee for president; if they try to run as "diet liberals," then we're going to get kicked in the stomach by Jubilation T. Jackass.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 6, 2008, at the time of 6:39 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 5, 2008

Headscarf Rights and Turkish Delights

Hatched by Dafydd

This case is fascinating, pitting individual religious rights against Turkey's constitutional guarantee of a secular government... and I believe the minority Left's zeal for the latter critically endangers the former. From the New York Times via Reuters:

Turkey's ruling AK party appeared to move a step closer to being shut down on Thursday when the Constitutional Court overturned a reform that would have allowed women to wear Islamic headscarves in universities.

The headscarf amendment plays a central role in a separate, crucial case that seeks to outlaw the AK Party for anti-secular activities, and ban 71 members, including the prime minister and president, from belonging to a political party for five years.

On the one hand, we have the obvious religious-liberty problem of Turkish women not being allowed to wear a religious headscarf at university. But on the other hand, the headscarf is a symbol of Islamism, and the most characteristic tenet of Islamism throughout the Moslem world is that governments should be run by sharia (religious) law, not democratic law.

On the third hand, the AK (Justice and Development) Party won a solid majority of the seats in the Grand National Assembly -- 341 out of 550 (62%)... which is just shy of the 67% needed to push through legislation (and their own candidate for president) over the objection of the center-left coalition led by the socialist-democratic Republican People's Party (CHP).

And on the fourth hand, despite AKP's Islamist roots, they have so far shown remarkable restraint and have not tried anything overtly anti-democratic. They are center-right on most political issues, yet they have the full support of the Euro-elites -- Turkey desperately wants to be admitted to the European Union -- because, say EU officials, AKP and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former mayor of Istanbul, support "such fundamental freedoms as the freedom of expression, the freedom of religion."

Background check

The AKP was founded in 2001; although many members came from a religious (some conservative, some Islamist) background, the party has steadfastly maintained that it is a secular party. Indeed, party leaders pushed several positions that seem incompatible with a desire to impose sharia law, such as joining the EU, supporting religious freedom and tolerance, and even supporting the American invasion of Iraq in 2003: The party leaders approved us sending our troops into northern Iraq via Turkey; but after the AKP leaders mishandled the vote in the Assembly, a rebellion by AKP backbenchers joined with the leftist CHP, giving them just enough votes to withdraw transit approval, forcing us eventually to send the 4th Infantry Division all the way around to southern Iraq.

(According to Douglas Feith's excellent doorstop War and Decision, pp. 394-396, Gen. Tommy Franks deliberately left the 4ID floating on ships in the Mediterranean, in a largely successful effort to confuse Saddam Hussein into thinking either (a) we wouldn't invade until they eventually left the Med and headed through the Suez Canal to Kuwait, or (b) that we might still invade through Turkey; so the denial wasn't catastrophic... though it did mean that none of the fighting occurred north of Baghdad, in the "Sunni triangle," leaving Sunni insurgents unscathed and uncowed.)

They have had a lot of success on the Turkish economy, continuing the efforts of the previous government to shift it from "command" to free market; for example, inflation dropped to 6% in January of this year. This may sound high to us; but in 1993, inflation in Turkey hit a peak of 73%.

I believe AKP is currently allied with the conservative, right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is also not an Islamist party (certainly not since it was refounded in 1983, following the 1980 army coup d'état).

Each of these undertakings makes it less likely in my estimation that either the AKP or the MHP wants to overthrow the secular, democratic government of Turkey and impose sharia. Nevertheless, the headscarf issue still roils the country: Headscarves for women -- along with other religious clothing banned since the 1980 coup -- are seen as a symbol of creeping Islamism... and secularism is very deeply embedded in Turkey. It was one of the founding principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the Republic of Turkey out of the wreckage of empire in 1923, seven years after the Ottomans were defeated and overthrown in World War I.

The dilemma

There is no question that a lot of Turks want to do away with the secular government and impose a theocracy. But "a lot" is still a very small minority; the very fact mentioned above, the depth of belief in a secular government in Turkish culture, makes Turkey a very unlikely place for an al-Qaeda revolution.

Yet Islamism is surely growing in Turkey, and many citizens are very uneasy seeing the trappings of a very intolerant branch of Islam. No major party has so far called for a ban on Islamism itself... just the outward manifestations, which many see as needlessly provocative; so some might argue that the headscarf ban does not violate freedom of conscience. Indeed, a court in the European Union ruled in 2005 on this very point, finding that the headscarf ban did not violate the right of Turkish women to education and was not discriminatory:

According to the court's ruling, which is final, the headscarf ban is based on the Turkish constitution's principles of secularism and equality.

In a society where men and women are equal, it said, a ban on religious attire such as the headscarf was justified on university premises.

"The court did not lose sight of the fact that there were extremist political movements in Turkey which sought to impose on society as a whole their religious symbols and conception of a society founded on religious precepts," the court's ruling added.

But I think the ruling is a shuck and jive: The EU may like the Justice and Development Party, which wants to overturn the ban; but I believe the Europeans much prefer cultural secularism and the leftists, led by the CHP. The decision is so freakish that it can only be political.

The camel's nose

But the key to the strife, I believe, is that the Turkish Left, smarting from their election loss last year, was trying to get AKP banned and its leaders suppressed even before the majority party decided to pass an amendment protecting the rights of religious Moslem women to attend university. From the Times story linked above:

The headscarf amendment plays a central role in a separate, crucial case that seeks to outlaw the AK Party for anti-secular activities, and ban 71 members, including the prime minister and president, from belonging to a political party for five years.

"This guarantees the closure of the party. I don't think we can talk of any calm before full chaos," said Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University....

A powerful elite of military, judicial and academic officials regard themselves as the custodians of secularism and the army, with public support, edged a party from power as recently as 1997 on accusations of Islamist activity.

In AK, however, the secularist elite faces a party with a large parliamentary majority and a highly popular leader.

Senior AK Party members told Reuters recently the party has started to believe it would be closed down and Erdogan banned from belonging to a political party for five years.

The closure case is expected to take months to conclude.

Secularists, who until recently controlled key state institutions, are now accused by some of using the judiciary to hit back at an increasingly prosperous and assertive religious middle class that forms the bedrock of support for the AK Party.

"These guys are playing their last card and they won't take any chances. They can't do a coup d'etat any more like in 1960, 1971 or 1980," Aktar said.

As our own bitter experience shows, once CHP gets a taste for rule by judicial fiat, biting off one limb of actual liberty, they will never be satisfied with "just a little." Like the crocodile chasing Captain Hook, they'll pursue liberty relentlessly with prandial intent, desperate to gobble up the rest and rule in classic liberal-fascist fashion.

Let freedom reign

The problem in Turkey is not Islamism but socialism... or more accurately, liberal fascism: Socialist parties like CHP have a kneejerk reaction to the terrible crime that the late, great Timothy Leary used to call "Injudicious use of the First Amendment." When a liberal fascist decides that people are "misusing" liberty to make the "wrong" choices, his first impulse is to restrict those choices -- for everyone.

If there were an actual religious civil war raging in Turkey, with Islamists seizing bases and safe zones whence to launch attacks on the teetering secular government, I could see banning the open display of the flags and symbols of Turkey's enemy. But this does not describe the current climate.

While some women may be intimidated into wearing the headscarf, they have a very powerful source to appeal to: The courts clearly have no tolerance for such intolerance; Turkey isn't Malaysia, and sharia courts do not take precedence over the government courts. I don't see a crisis perilous enough to warrant such a flagrant violation of freedom of religion as forcing the religious to choose between worshipping as their faith demands -- and obtaining higher education.

Indeed, the very amendment that the AKP passed, the one that was just overturned by the Constitutional Court, read only thus: "No one can be deprived of (his or her) right to higher education." Thus, the Turkish Constitutional Court is now on record saying that religious Moslem women can be deprived of their right to higher education, if leftists find the sight of such women offensive.

Once again, I am awed by the genius of our own Founding Fathers. Rather than seeking security by banning dangerous religions, dangerous speech, or dangerous thought, they believed that liberty was the great bulwark against extremism.

Instead of banning headscarves -- and the political parties that leftists cannot defeat in the voting booth -- Turkey would be much better served by a "First Amendment" that not only protected the free exercise of religion but also prohibited government establishment of an official religion or sect. Courts that are secular enough today to overturn as innocuous a statement as that above about the "right to higher education" would certainly overturn any attempt by any party to incorporate religion into Turkish law.

Then private citizens could wear whatever religious clothing they chose, but they could not use sharia-courts to impose such demands upon others.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 5, 2008, at the time of 11:38 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 4, 2008

Talking Islam 3.5: Response to Thomas Joscelyn (and Wolf Howling)

Hatched by Dafydd

The proprietor of Wolf Howling ("GW") left a cryptic comment on Big Lizards wondering whether I would like to respond to his post... in which he critiques both a Big Lizards post and (wait for it) the response to that post on the Weekly Standard website.

Needless to say, I had no idea the Weekly Standard had done such a thing. But it made some sense, as my earlier post had attacked a small section of a book review by Thomas Joscelyn of that revered magazine. For some unfathomable reason, he chose to respond there, where he has an audience of tens of thousands, rather than commenting on our rather obscure blog with its audience of tens of hundreds.

I was going to respond to Joscelyn first, as befitting his august personage; but after reading the relevant post at Wolf Howling -- Much Lizardly Ado About . . . A Little Something -- I realize that GW's point is a necessary precursor to my response to TJ: It gives me the nudge to expand upon what I meant by an "ideological counterinsurgency" -- that it's not merely some minor linguistic changes suggested by a couple of memos, useful though they may be, but a much larger enterprise that will require total committment by our government and many other allied governments.

But every journey starts with a single crawl... and it's self-defeating to hoot and jeer at the crawler because he didn't start with a sprint.

So let's start with Wolf Howling. Here, on a nutshell, is Mr. Howling's critique of (what he believes to be) my position:

Dafydd is right, we absolutely need an ideological counterinsurgency. Defeating al Qaeda physically and stopping Iran’s deadly meddling throughout the Middle East are only treating the symptoms. Both could go away tomorrow, yet our nation will still not be safe from terrorism in the long run at the hands of radical Islamists. That is because the ideology underlying "radical Islam" is what has to be countered. And on that issue, we have failed utterly because have never defined "radical Islam...."

Understand that among those who favor Dafydd’s approach are most of the Wahhabi / Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the U.S. Those organizations have spared no expense and no effort to get the U.S. to stop making a connection between Islam, terrorism and jihadism. I fully realize this is not what Dafydd is advocating, but the danger of only going forward on the semantics is that you obfuscate the true nature of the problem and allow the Wahhabists and Salafists off the hook. Their goal is simple -- they want to metasticize in the West without challenge. Without the first step of utter and absolute clarity about the Wahhabi / Salafi / Khomeini sources of Islamic terrorism, mere semantic changes will only further obfuscate the issues -- with a net gain to the Salafists.

My only response to this is that, when I said the semantic changes out of DHS and the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) were a good first step, I meant a good first step for them: That is, I'm glad they have finally realized that an ideological counterinsurgency is just as important for winning the Long War as a military counterinsurgency... both are necessary, urgent, and long overdue.

On the larger issue, I agree with Wolf Howling completely; these linguistic changes cannot be the sum total of the ideological counterinsurgency, and I certainly never meant to imply that they should. He's also right that if they become the entirety, if we fail to confront directly the terrorists' arguments that Islam demands (their understanding of) jihad, then we're in for several very grim decades indeed, with no guarantee that we will win.

But I don't for one moment believe that even the State Department thinks that these minor (but helpful) semantic changes fulfill our duty to respond to the ideology of death. I'm sure they understand we need more... but I'm not at all sure they're on board the full campaign I (and probably you) envision -- and that is definitely a problem.

I believe we need to undertake a full-scale propaganda campaign:

  1. We -- by we, I mean everybody who opposes the radical militant Islamists -- must clearly identify the schools, both physical facilities and schools of thought, that teach/preach the radical interpretations of Islam that theologically underpin the Islamic death cults;
  2. We must counter those schools and their arguments with alternative interpretations that are just as theologically sound... which means, I am convinced, working with Islamic scholars and clerics who have already been doing this for many years, including (a non-exhaustive list):

    • The "Quietist" school of Shiism, whose spiritual leader at the moment is Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf;
    • The Indonesian Sunni organization Nahdlatul Ulama -- the largest Moslem organization in the world with perhaps as many as 40 million members -- which is headed by Abdurrahman Wahid, a.k.a. Gus Dur;
    • And the Turks, who are currently opening schools around the world that are teaching a non-violent (or at least much less violent) sect of Islam to counter the influence of the Salafist/Wahhabist schools financed and run by radical Saudi clerics.

    They have far more credibilty than we; but we must be careful not to buddy up to them too closely, lest we create an obvious line of attack against them by our enemies. Nobody trusts a sock puppet (except maybe Glenn Greenwald).

  3. And most important, we must get both State and Defense on board with the program... and also Congress. I'm afraid this will be the hardest task, but it's vital if we're to present a unified front against the enemy. About the only hope would be if the Senate would confirm a "John Bolton"-like nominee as Secretary of State, one who could actually clean house in that wretched, out of control bureaucracy, whose Statethink has swallowed up my second favorite gal, Condoleezza Rice.

(Note that the memos also caution against using the word "Islamist" because it's too easily confused with "Islam," especially by listeners whose native language is not English. But I'm addressing an English-speaking audience of above-average intelligence here, so I'm not going to avoid the term.)

I certainly never meant the linguistic changes to be the entirety of our ideological counterinsurgency; but I do welcome them as an indication that both DHS and State are finally, belatedly, realizing that we desperately need a propaganda offensive (and that there is nothing inherently offensive about propaganda) -- one that is always truthful, because a lie discovered is catastrophic; always respectful of contrary opinion, because a challenge unanswered is a challenger unpersuaded; and relentlessly pro-American and pro-West, because we should never pay for the privilege of being smeared. (I wish VOA followed this rule!)

They see the need for a propaganda offensive; I don't think they're ready yet for the propaganda offensive that we actually need. Just as Moslems can change, so too can bureaucrats.

But it won't be easy, because one characteristic of the West is the reflexive self-destructive tendencies of large portions of it... mainly the Democratic Left, which includes many elements within America and our government. The last time the Democratic Left was solidly behind America was during World War II... when we were allied with the Soviet Union. Most European countries will not follow us down the road of a pro-West propaganda blitz; they're too busy gnashing their teeth about the failings of Capitalism, democracy, and liberty to notice that we're in an existential war with Islamic death cults that want to obliterate us -- and raise in our place a world-wide sharia-state.

So we'll have to go it more or less alone; the U.K. might help, and we'll get sporadic aid from this or that European country that happens to be somewhat more conservative at the moment (France, perhaps, or Italy now that Berlusconi is back; maybe Germany). What we really need is a president who is a hugely effective communicator, and who is on board for the propaganda campaign.

I'm not sure that John McCain is up to the task; but after Barack H. Obama's liberal-fascist moment yesterday after the last primaries, I doubt he's even sure which side he's on.

Regardless, the last thing in the world we should do is heap scorn and mockery on the heads of those professionals at the Department of Homeland Security or the National Counter Terrorism Center who are actually trying to get the ball rolling on such a project. And that segue brings me to the response by Thomas Joscelyn to our Big Lizards post...

Joscelyn was evidently -- annoyed? ticked off? incensed? -- perturbed by our post here, where I rhetorically took him to the woodshed for, in my opinion, unfairly attacking civil servants who were "finally doing something right on the urgent task of confronting the terrorist ideology," as I put it in our first post on this subject. He defended himself hotly in a post on his Weekly Standard blog yesterday.

(Since I cannot imagine that he ordinarily reads Big Lizards, I presume someone sent him a link.)

Mixed messages

Let's get one point out of the way immediately. Joscelyn wrote:

First, he claims that I misrepresent this January 2008 memo from the Department of Homeland Security. He says that I "never actually read the memo itself" and that the term "'jihadist' was not banned"; instead "the memo suggests caution." Here is what I actually wrote: "Just as Willful Blindness was released, the State Department and other agencies published an edict banning the use of the word 'jihadist' (as well as similar terms) from the government's lexicon."

And here's the problem: I never referred to this DHS memo Dafydd cites either directly or indirectly in this sentence or anywhere else in my review. (And, by the way, I actually had read this DHS memo, which is logically and factually flawed in many ways.) I was referring to an even more recent memo accepted by the State Department, which endorsed the ban--that's right, ban--of the use of terms like jihadist.

I accept the correction; I was wrong to leap to the conclusion that he was responding to the memo from the Department of Homeland Security we already linked in previous posts, when in fact he was responding to a memo written by the Extremist Messaging Branch at the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), and released through the State Department. I apologize to Mr. Joscelyn, and I have corrected our earlier post to take this into account.

However, the NCTC memo makes exactly the same argument as the DHS memo as to why we should use certain words and not use others. This is the argument that Joscelyn fails to engage, and indeed does not appear even to understand. Thus, all of my points still apply with minimal modification.

And as to this supposed "ban," he is correct that the NCTC memo says, "Never use the terms 'jihadist' or 'mujahideen' in conversation to describe the terrorists," which sounds pretty emphatic.

But not so fast; on the very first page, that same memo says this:

The following set of suggestions regarding appropriate language for use in conversations with target audiences was developed by the Extremist Messaging Branch of the National Counterterrorism Center [NCTC] and vetted by the interagency "Themes and Messages" editorial board at the CTCC. This advice is not binding and is for use with our audiences. It does not affect other areas such as policy papers, research analysis, scholarly writing, etc. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness among communicators of the language issues that may enhance or detract from successhl engagement.

Joscelyn writes, "Sounds like a ban to me;" I say, sounds like a non-binding suggestion.

The blunting of the snark

The next matter appears trivial, but in fact, it cuts right to the problem I have with Joscelyn's response to the memo(s) -- and with the responses of Bruce Thornton at the National Review and Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch. Joscelyn tries to score a "touch" against me, but in fact reveals that he simply doesn't get my point:

Second, Dafydd apparently believes that we should call this conflict the "war against global caliphism," or some such. He uses the phrase repeatedly. (Ironically, the web link to his posts on the "war against global caliphism" contains the phrase "war on global jihadism)." [Not ironic; easily explained by the time evolution of that category title. See below.] In that case, he should not be too fond of the NCTC memo, which was approved by State and other agencies, either. For example, the NCTC memo notes:

Avoid the term "caliphate," which has positive connotations for Muslims, to describe the goal of al-Qaida and associated groups. The best description of what they really want to create is a "global totalitarian state."

Will Dafydd submit to the NCTC's will, and avoid using the phrase "war against global caliphism"?

I feel such a temptation to say, "well there's yer problem right there!" (I never resist temptation.)

Yes, I have been using the phrase "war against global caliphism." Up until about a year ago (June 29th, 2007), I used "war against global jihad." But that month, I read articles by Col. David Kilcullen, then the senior counterinsurgency advisor to Gen. David Petraeus (then commander of MNF-I) and by Jim Guirard (following up on the Kilcullen article), both on Small Wars Journal; together, they called for "a [new] lexicon to better describe the threat" America and the West face from militant Islamist terrorists and what the DHS memo suggests we call Islamic "death cultists."

I saw where Giurard was heading with this and thought it an excellent idea. So as a first cut at not using bin Laden's vocabulary to describe bin Laden, I changed our category title from "war against global jihad."

Nota bene: Changing the title only changes the title; it doesn't automatically go through thousands of blog posts changing any earlier reference to "global jihadism"... which is why Joscelyn found earlier posts that contained that phrase.

He thought this anomalous somehow, as if it would have been more proper for me to scrub the site of all evidence of my evolving thinking. That's not how we work here at Big Lizards; we believe in transparency... when we change our minds, we don't make stealth corrections: I actually blogged about making this change before I did it.

I hope this clears up the supposed "irony" that puzzled Joscelyn.

I first changed the category title to "war against global hirabah," (unholy war); then I decided that was was too obscure: Calling them "hirabis" was akin to calling them "disestablishmentarians" or "vampires;" you can't just say it, you have to take ten minutes explaining.

I was still looking for a pithy but entirely accurate and truthful phrase to describe who -- and what -- we were fighting. I settled (with misgivings) on the "war against global caliphism." I figured the most salient feature of the revolutionary, radical enemy I was trying to name was that he wanted to overthrow all existing order, particularly democracies where people could choose their own lives, and impose a world caliphate. But I've never truly been satisfied with that term either.

But the point is that I'm not encased in amber; I'm not eternally wedded to any particular term -- nor should any of us be, including Thomas Joscelyn: We should use whatever term best describes the enemy, without adding to the neurolinguistic problem by using his own, self-congratulatory vision of himself as a "holy warrior" (mujahideen) fighting a "holy war" (jihad) against the Great Satan (us).

Far from being "not... too fond of the NCTC memo" because it suggests not using caliphate, I appreciate the guidance by actual experts (as should Joscelyn); I didn't know that it was also flattering to the terrorists; now that I do, I'll stop using that, too.

It has nothing to do with "submit[ing] to the NCTC's will;" submission is the hallmark of Islam, not Americanism. (In fact, I believe the very word "Islam" translates to submission.) But as a patriotic American -- and out of pure self-interest as a person who really prefers living in a free democracy than a sharia state -- I will freely choose to use a better term, as soon as I can think of one. (And when I do, you'll still be able to find earlier posts that use the old phrase. C'est la guerre.)

But I cannot imagine Joscelyn switching for any reason. He and many other conservatives are locked in embrace with whatever terminology they first learned; they act exasperated, even infuriated, when told they should change it, no matter how good the reason.

I believe Joscelyn objects to the memos not because the suggestions they made were inherently bad; rather, his main objection is having to switch at all! That would explain why he never articulated any actual argument against the terms themselves: His core objection is that they're not the ones he's always used (or at least used for so many years).

This may well be the defining difference between us: He wants to continue using the familiar term he's comfortable with, whereas I want to use what works best today, in this conflict. Even if that means change.

Jihad or not jihad, that is the question

And that brings us to Joscelyn's non-response, where he doesn't engage the root of my first post:

Third, and most importantly, "jihadist" and similar terms are appropriate. The government's argument to the contrary is simply wrong. For example, the authors of the NCTC memo argue that using "jihadis" to describe our enemies "unintentionally legitimizes their action." Dafydd picks up on this argument (via the DHS memo I didn't cite [which is also made by the NCTC memo Joscelyn did cite]) when he writes that calling our enemies jihadis is not a smart move "because it confers upon the militant Islamists exactly the legitimacy they crave."

This is wrong for too many reasons to list here. [Oh please, give it a stab, Mr. J.] U.S. policymakers are not granting unintentional legitimacy to the terrorists by calling them jihadis. The jihadis already have legitimacy in the eyes of many because their actions are explicitly endorsed by leading Islamic clerics. [Parenthetical comments and emphasis added.]

All right; "in the eyes of many." But what about the millions of other "manys" who do not look to radical Islamic clerics (leading or not) for moral guidance on jihad? What about those sitting on the fence, with their mugs on one side and their wumps on the other, unsure what to think? They may notice that the terrorists always seem to have their theological enablers (Zawahiri, Khomeini, Sadr), but they also their opponents -- who are also respected clerics. So who's right?

Linguistical tactics can certainly change the dynamic of a debate; but they only have a determinative effect on a small subset of listeners. Most people have already made up their minds, and they only listen to confirm what they already believe. But there are always those who really aren't sure, and they can be won over by the right word -- or lost by the wrong.

That subset may be critical, depending on how near a philosophical tipping point we are. Anent Iraq, for example, it didn't take many passive supporters to create the ratline of safe houses and supplies, informants and intelligencers, that the terrorist groups needed to operate. Consequently, it didn't take a large conversion to flip al-Qaeda or Iranian hegemony into American victory.

In Anbar, Baghdad, Baqouba, Diyala, and other Iraqi provinces in late 2007-early 2008, we contacted Sunni "Salvation Councils," connected them to each other, and supported them in an uprising against al-Qaeda: We turned enough Sunni Iraqis that AQI finally collapsed into ruin. Later, we did the same with the Shia in Basra and the Sadr City slums of Baghdad City, and the Iran-backed militias in Iraq are steadily losing ground as well. We're well on our way to complete victory in Iraq, what Osama bin Laden called the central front in the war between al-Qaeda and the West.

We didn't do this by a mass conversion of radicals to mainstream Islam; the Sunni and Shia are likely just as religiously Islamic as they ever were. Rather, this fight was fought on the definitions: They had to convince themselves that the terrorists were not fighting on the side of God but on the side of their own ambition, or on the side of external, power-mad nations like Iran.

Again, such a paradigm change doesn't occur as a mass movement; it begins with a small cadre of respected insiders, who then, over the space of time, persuade their tribes and their coreligionists. But we may have helped them along by not undercutting them, by not routinely calling their al-Qaeda enemies "holy warriors" fighting a "holy war" against the Great Satan, thus contradicting what tribal leaders and members of the Salvation Councils were arguing.

If changing our lexicon, as Col. Kilcullen and Jim Guirard suggest, can help turn a small cadre away from the terrorists and towards us, help even a little, then why try to laugh it off the stage?

To attack the linguistic approach of the DHS and the NCTC, Joscelyn needs to demonstrate (not simply assert) one of three conditions:

  • That the new approach will have little good effect. But if it will do no harm, either, why not do it -- along with other things?
  • That it may have a good effect; but there is something better we can do, which will have a much greater good effect, yet is fundamentally incompatible with the linguistic approach. If this is his argument, then what is this "something better," and why is it incompatible with the memos? Joscelyn is mum on both these questions.
  • Finally, he can argue that the government's approach will actually have a negative effect. But if that's his argument, shouldn't he be prepared to explain exactly what that bad effect is? Again, he enunicates no downside to this approach.

Those are the only rhetorical options; all else is mishnah.

Now getting back to Wolf Howling's point, I certainly agree that the linguistic changes suggested by the memos are not enough to qualify as an ideological counterinsurgency.

Heck, they're not even enough to fully meet Col. Kilcullen's call for a "new lexicon." He was primarily talking about a new way for our military to approach the sort of counterinsurgencies we're fighting against ideological Islamic terrorist groups... for example, Kilcullen objects that the phrase "major combat operations" -- or as the doctrine was actually termed, Phase III Decisive Operations -- "actively hinders innovative thought" by misleading commanders into thinking that the tank, artillery, and massive infantry actions of early 2003 would literally be "decisive;" when in fact, as Kilcullen puts it, the most critical phase would actually be the post-conflict nation-building and counterinsurgency.

Kilcullen's new lexicon would go far beyond what the memos suggest; but it surely encompasses such a minor linguistic change as well.

Hearts, minds, and stomachs

Joscelyn argues that "many" Moslems have already made up their minds that terrorism against the West is holy war. This is certainly true... but it's also a non-sequitur, since nobody has ever argued that there is not a large group of Islamic clerical terrorist enablers. Even the militant Islamists and terrorist collaborators in CAIR admit that much!

But does Joscelyn accept, even now, that there are many Moslem mugwumps? That for many of them, "jihad" and "mujahideen" are entirely positive terms that help legitimize the death cultists and human sacrificers?

If he doesn't accept this premise, then does he believe there are no undecideds? Does he dispute that for these undecideds, words like "jihad" and "mujahideen" have mostly positive connotations -- as they do for most Moslems, according to the DHS memo (which Joscelyn has also read)?

Or does he believe -- most likely, I think -- that nothing we say or do can possibly have any effect on these undecideds; that they pay attention only to Moslem clerics? If so, then I wish he would straightforwardly make that argument... because I simply don't buy it as is.

We have always insisted that a critical element of warfare is to win the "hearts and minds" of those on the enemy side who are not totally committed to his cause; that tactic presupposes that such persuasion is at least possible.

It seems to have been possible among some Germans in Nazi Germany, among some citizens of Warsaw Pact nations, and among many North Vietnamese: In all of those conflicts, we had many allies within the enemy ranks, just as they had a number of their own allies within ours.

Are Moslems uniquely immune to the lure of such Western -- and not necessarily anti-Islamic -- concepts as democracy, security, and tolerance of individual opinion? I don't believe this, and I'm sure that Thomas Joscelyn doesn't either. But if we agree that such propaganda is sometimes effective, and that there is no inherent reason why that general rule wouldn't apply within the Islamic world... then why not try using it?

What can we possibly lose by refusing to call terrorist butchers and their depraved human sacrifices "holy?" Why should we continue to provide four-part harmony to their self-serving song of themselves? If Joscelyn will answer that question, I promise to ponder his argument deeply (as deep as I'm capable of being).

The only remaining question is whether we have the will -- the stomach -- to inaugurate an all-out propaganda campaign to win whatever hearts and minds we can, hoping they will form the nucleus of the only real, long-term solution to our problem: an Islamic Enlightenment, similar to what Christianity went through in the eighteenth century.

Bottom line

I cede Joscelyn his first point, that he was thinking of a different memo (NCTC's) -- whose argument was nevertheless identical to several decimal points to the one I thought he meant (DHS's).

On his second point, he is correct that I have changed my own use of language as I read new arguments why our lexicon matters; but the reason is not that I obey orders and "submit" to the will of my masters, but rather that I don't consider some phrase I'm currently using to be an "eternal verity" that can never change. I always consider the opinion of those more expert than I that there may be better terminology to use... and so should everyone, including Mr. Joscelyn.

Rhetoric should be a movable verity, one that changes as circumstances change... yet always strives toward the ultimate goal.

But Thomas Joscelyn loses the most important point by default: There is no reason to mock these memos as mere semantics -- when semantics can have such a large impact on a small but critically placed group of Moslem mugwumps. The linguistic change may do some good; it fits in well with what a recognized military expert on the pointy end has suggested; the changes were designed by other recognized experts within the government bureaucracy; and not even Thomas Joscelyn has articulated any bad effects such a change would cause... other than repeating his mantra that we have "fail[ed] to name the enemy" because we use a different name than the familiar, comfortable one Thomas Joscelyn prefers.

Color me unrepentant, unregenerate, and uncowed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 4, 2008, at the time of 5:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 3, 2008

Talking Islam 3: the "Jihad" Watchdog

Hatched by Dafydd

Frequent commenter Wtanksleyjr challenged me to respond to this blogpost by Robert Spencer. Spencer attacks a State Department memo -- actually prepared by the Extremist Messaging Branch at the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) and released through the State Department -- that urges the U.S. government to change the lexicon by which it refers to militant Islamists and terrorists.

In fact, Spencer does not respond to the memo itself, which he neither links nor quotes. He responds only to the Times op-ed by P. W. Singer of the liberal Brookings Institution and Elina Noor of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Malaysia, and what the op-ed says about the memo. But his attack is no more effective than earlier attacks on the earlier DHS memo with which we've already dealt....

Our previous posts on this issue are:

Spencer is often cited as an authority on Islam, but he is actually just a pundit like the rest of us. (If you want an actual Islamic scholar, try Bernard Lewis.) He writes columns for some magazines -- and several of them are quite good. This isn't meant as a fisking of Spencer, whose heart is in the right place. Alas, I just don't think his rhetorical abilities are up to the task.

Spencer has very rigid, unchangeable views on Islam... which he sees (surprise) as rigid and unchangeable. Reading the Truth About Muhammad, Spencer's best known book, Sachi found numerous examples of verses that Spencer insisted could only possibly be read one way, as commanding eternal war against the infidel; yet she, herself thought of several contrary yet equally apropos ways to read the same verses. She was not impressed by his critical thinking.

And neither have I been, when I've read his articles... even when I agree with him, as with his attacks on Iran appeasers and on Rep. Keith Ellison (D-CAIR, 100%). Alas, this piece is no exception.

At first, I thought Spencer was going to give us a different argument:

At issue here is whether it is propagandistic, and playing into the hands of the enemy, to call Osama bin Laden and others like him "jihadists," or whether it is merely descriptive to do so -- in which case avoiding doing so would be playing into the hands of the enemy, for if we cannot name the enemy correctly, we certainly cannot defeat him.

This sounds like he correctly understands that the point of the memo is not to assuage the hurt feelings of the terrorists in the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), but rather to deny a propaganda victory to the terrorists. But reading further, he switches to making exactly the same mistake as the other conservatives who have attacked that memo (or in Spencer's case, a New York Times op-ed on the memo in place of the memo itself):

Here is the fundamental assumption of the new State Department guidelines, as well as of Singer and Noor: that the jihadists are twisting the meaning of jihad within Islam, appropriating for their own purposes what is in traditional Islam a spiritual struggle or a struggle for justice. Singer and Noor appear unaware that the term jihad fi sabeel Allah in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition refers specifically to warfare. They also probably do not realize that in Islamic theology justice is equated with Sharia, such that an "external fight for justice" is a fight to impose Islamic law, with its denial of the freedom of conscience and institutionalized discrimination against women and non-Muslims.

No, no, no! Nobody I have read -- including liberals Singer and Noor -- argues that the word "jihad" cannot mean armed conflict to advance justice and godliness; this is the mother of all straw men in this debate. This is the "bad meme" I referred to in Talking Islam 2.

The underlying assumption behind the memo is that language influences how people think; this is a core conclusion of neurolingistics. If we agree publicly with al-Qaeda that what they're actually doing -- bombing their way across the ummah -- constitutes "armed conflict to advance justice and godliness," then we have lost the propaganda campaign.

Let's take a cleaner example: We all know what Hezbollah is; it's a bloodthirsty death cult that butchers people by the thousands, without regard to race, religion, or even creed... just anybody that the Iranian political leaders tell them to bomb, shoot, or otherwise slay.

But what do they call themselves? Hezbollah literally translates as "army of God." Every time we say Hezbollah this or Hezbollah that, linguistically, we're agreeing with the gangsters that they're God's holy army on earth.

If instead we relentlessly and mercilessly called them "Iran's mercenaries," "Iran's gangsters," or "Iran's enforcers" -- which, by the way, is much more accurate and (Spencer's term) "descriptive" than calling them the army of God -- we use linguistics to drive home the point, to anyone who hears or reads what we say, that they're not a "holy force" trying to unify the ummah behind the true Islam, but rather just a brutal and thuggish army-without-uniforms that does the bidding of whoever currently runs Iran... whether that's Ali Khamenei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or perhaps tomorrow, Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi.

Whether such neugolinguistic tactics work, they certainly cannot hurt. And it's hardly "PC" to refuse to call these terrorists the "army of God" and instead call them "Iran's enforcers."

In his blogpost, Spencer writes:

Al-Qaeda and other contemporary jihadists did not originate this definition of jihad from Ibn Arafa, a scholar of the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, who explains that jihad is "fighting by a Muslim against a kaafir [unbeliever] (who does not have a treaty with the Muslims) to make the word of Allah the highest."

But that begs the question, for this is not what al-Qaeda is doing. They're not trying to "make the word of Allah the highest;" they're trying to make the word of Osama bin Laden (or perhaps his spritual mentor, Ayman Zawahiri) the highest. Most of their energy is spent in murdering "fellow" Moslems with whom they disagree over politics. At best, they're sectarian killers trying to assassinate their way into control of the ummah. How is it "PC" to consistently and relentlessly point this out -- and to deny them their preferred, self-congratulatory term for themselves?

The problem with Robert Spencer is that he is utterly locked into the belief that we are basically at war with Islam itself; that Islam is irredeemably evil; that the Koran can only be read to authorize -- nay, command! -- eternal, bloody war against the West. He insists that Islam must change; but the change he appears to envision is not an Islamic enlightenment but a mass Islamic conversion... which I think he knows isn't going to happen.

Spencer simply does not believe that contemporary Moslems will ever turn against this so-called "jihad." How, then, does he explain the fact that many Moslem nations and the largest of the Moslem religious organizations disagree with him? Simple: He doesn't.

For Spencer's point to carry, he must deny that this is so:

  • He cannot admit, for example, that Turkey is a functioning democracy that has not attacked its neighbors (or the West) since the the Ottoman Empire fell and, a few years later, the Republic of Turkey was created.
  • He must pretend that Iraq can never be a functioning democracy that supports the West (despite the fact that it already is).
  • He must insist that he knows more about the Koran than Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Abdurrahman Wahid, a.k.a. Gus Dur, and any other Islamic scholar or cleric who comes out foursquare against what Spencer calles "jihadism"; either that, or else he must accuse everybody who has ever reported on any of these "mainstream," nonviolent Moslems of lying and fabricating quotations to make them look good.

Spencer is an absolutist -- which means that it's impossible to disagree with him unless you're either a fool, an appeaser... or a "jihadist" yourself. He often doesn't even understand the arguments arrayed against his position; and he sometimes replaces them with superficially similar arguments he has already rejected.

For example, I have long derided the term "Islamofascist," or the even stupider term of Michael Medved, "Islamo-Nazi." Spencer later published an article that attacked my position (not because of me; I doubt he's ever even heard of Dafydd ab Hugh or Big Lizards... but others have objected as well); you can find it here.

Now there have been historical examples of Islamic forms of fascism; the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, as well as the political philosophy of Gamal Abdel Nasser, president-for-life of Egypt from 1954-1970. But the term is not used that precisely; in fact, it's flung willy nilly at any Islamic group that practices terror, whether they're religious or socialist, pan-Islamic or only pan-Arabic, a putative "jihadist" group or a revolutionary group. The phrase Islamofascist is therefore utterly useless, because it has no set meaning other than "I don't like you."

Here is Spencer defending the term "Islamo-Fascism" as its used, without even looking into the different kinds of groups that acquire the epithet:

First things first: "Islamo-Fascism" has connections to fascism, as Christopher Hitchens has pointed out, because “both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind.” Both are nostalgic for past glory, obsessed with real and imagined humiliations and thirsty for revenge, filled with anti-Semitism, and committed to sexual repression and its subordination of the female.

Hitchens is a great guy in some ways; but as a critical thinker, he leaves much to be desired. He opposes Islamist terrorism -- but he equally opposes Capitalism (Hitchens is a proud socialist). These similarities exist... but few besides Robert Spencer would use the Hitchens equation as the definition of fascism. Spencer continues:

There is nothing artful or contrived in the term “Islamo-Fascism.” It is derived from history itself. Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood (from which today’s radical Muslim groups descend) was, after all, an open admirer and supporter of Adolf Hitler -- as was the principal theorist of the modern jihad, Sayyid Qutb. During World War II, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, cousin of Yasir Arafat and spiritual godfather of Palestinian nationalism, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, pronounced his pro-Nazi sympathies openly and proudly. In May 1941, he issued a fatwa calling upon the Germans to bomb Tel Aviv, and in November 1941 traveled to Berlin and met with Hitler. He implored the Nazi dictator to help implement a Final Solution in the Middle East. Then he went to the Balkans, where he spearheaded the creation of Muslim units of the Waffen SS.

Does it occur to Spencer that this is nothing but an alliance for common cause? Hitler wanted to obliterate Judaism; Islamic radical militants want to obliterate Judaism. But that does not mean that Islamic terrorism is best described as "Naziism." For one major difference, very few Islamic terrorist groups are avowedly atheist. (And even fewer worship the Germanic pagan god Wotan.)

But such public German paganism (and private atheism) were just as central to Naziism as was Jew hatred. And of course, Italian fascism had nothing to do with race-based Jew hatred... at least not until it was taken over by the Nazis, relegating the founder of fascism, Benito Mussolini, to the status of sidekick.

Finally, Spencer gives us yet another definition of Islamofascism:

In terms of the specific terrorist groups and entities mentioned in the MSA packet, all of them -- along with many others -- have indeed made clear that they wish to destroy the United States and dominate the world under an oppressive caliphate – that is, a unified Islamic state ruled by Islamic Sharia law

Rule by theocracy under the supposed direct word of God... how is this the least bit like actual fascism? Is Spencer saying that any empire that sought to "dominate the world" was fascist? Alexander, Caesar, the British Empire -- was Napoleon a fascist? If so, then that word no longer has any meaning.

What Spencer has done here is replace the initial argument -- that we shouldn't use the term "Islamofascism" because it's a poorly defined and misleading neologism -- with a much easier, straw-man argument: That we shouldn't use the term because it's insulting to peace-loving "jihadis." The second argument can be knocked down by simply showing that militant Islamism is, well, militant; while that may be a necessary condition to being "fascist," it's by no means sufficient. And the term fails the other required test... showing that fascism is the correct brand of militarism to use as an analogy to militant Islamism.

This technique is classical Spencerism.

My argument against the term Islamofascism is twofold: First, the second part of the term, "fascism," is so powerful linguistically that it utterly overshadows the first part, "Islam;" yet the most salient fact about militant Islamism is its Islamic character and pretensions... not any putative connection to the economic theories of Mussolini (or Hitler, for that matter).

Second, associating contemporary Islamic death cults with the Fascists or the Nazis fails to note how incredibly primitive and reactionary the former are... fascism and Naziism are twentieth-century heresies of modernity; but radical militant Islamism utterly rejects modernity and civilization, urgently demanding a retreat to the barbaric absolute monarchy of the dawn of the seventh century in the Middle East. "Sharia" terrorists don't even rise to the civilizational level of Nazis.

Fascists would consider such a position even lower on the evolutionary scale than "capitalist imperialism." Calling such human-sacrificing throwbacks "Islamofascists" is like dubbing some aggressive, stone-age warrior-tribe in Melanesia "cannibal-fascists."

Spencer never addresses either of these two points; instead, he fixates on the idea that it's not politically correct and might insult Islamic terrorists... a pair of straw men easily brushed aside with a minimum of intellectual effort.

Back to the core argument. What Spencer does not appear to understand is that religions really do change; but they change internally when their earlier paradigm ceases to work. We have good evidence that Islam hit that point of non-viability in its present form some time ago; Bernard Lewis wrote an entire book analyzing that historical fact: What Went Wrong? There is some evidence that the current (ca. 1920s) so-called pan-Islamic reactionary caliphist movements (as well as the more modernist, socialist movements of, e.g., Nasser of Egypt) are floundering attempts to respond to that failure.

(The collapse is manifest even from within Islam: They have only to compare the economic state of the ummah to that of the West. Why would Allah permit such destitution and backwardness, unless they were doing something wrong?)

So Islam is poised to change. And the only change that will stick is one that is more successful than the current paradigm. But that cannot be one that locks them into perpetual warfare with an enemy that is bigger, richer, and more powerful... and which would crush the ummah like a grape in any direct confrontation.

Most Moslems today do not materially participate in this putative "jihad;" even Spencer agrees. He argues that a majority are either passive supporters or apathetic. But even there, he relies upon polls of dubious authenticity or accuracy; we have no idea how many Moslem respondents honestly believe what they say in such polls, vice how many answer a certain way because they think they're supposed to do.

That polling effect arises even here; we often see polling that is much more PC than the actual vote. In a poll, the respondent is actually talking to a person he imagines might disapprove of his opinion; so he says what he thinks the pollster wants to hear. But later, when he is alone in the voting booth, he is free to vote his actual belief.

That is one of several reasons why I do not believe polling that says some enormous percent of Moslems support "jihad." Another reason, as even Spencer agrees, is that respondents may be thinking of jihad in its "spiritual improvement" sense. A third is that the poll itself is usually conducted by "stringers," who (a) may be agents of jihadist groups (and may let the respondents know what will happen if they answer wrong), or (b) may simply get bored, stop knocking on doors, and just make up the numbers.

And a fourth reason for polling skepticism is that pollsters often ask questions that would cause even me to sound like a "jihadist," such as asking whether a suicide bombing is "ever" justified. Anyone who has the least bit of historical knowledge -- and I proudly admit that "the least bit of historical knowledge" is exactly what I have -- remembers that Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in Adolf Hitler's briefing room in the Führerbunker. As it happens, von Stauffenberg left before the explosion; but had he stayed to ensure that Hitler actually died -- thus making it more likely the plot would have succeeded -- wouldn't that suicide bombing still be "justified?"

I would have to answer "Yes," which means the poll would have marked me down as a jihadist!

Instead of fixating on hard-to-interpret polling, look at what happens when we make secret contact with people who actually live under the control of al-Qaeda or the Taliban or Shiite militias... and we offer our help to free themselves: A huge percentage take us up on the offer and fight for freedom. That sure doesn't sound like people who cheer on al-Qaeda.

According to Spencer, however, none of this is happening. From his blogpost:

It consequently may seem wise for us to try to impugn that legitimacy [of being on God's side] by calling them other names, but then we must ask ourselves: which authority carries more weight for a pious Muslim -- an Islamic scholar renowned for centuries, or the non-Muslim American government?

According to Spencer's theory, Moslems will believe Islamic scholars rather than the non-Moslem American government.

According to the eyewitness accounts of our soldiers in Iraq, Moslems threw in with the non-Moslem American government and actually went to war against al-Qaeda, against Muqtada Sadr, and against the theological teachings of Iranian scholars in Qom.

Which source I should believe?

As Robert Anton Wilson used to say, "convictions make convicts." Spencer's convictions cause him to turn his back on the evidence of his own eyes:

If Muslims really reject the worldview propagated by Al-Qaeda, they can show it best not by getting huffy about Western nomenclature, but by actually fighting against the jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism in their communities. Where is this happening?

In Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Indonesia, in Turkey, in Somalia, and elsewhere. There are many places where Moslems are actually bearing arms against al-Qaeda.

Where in the world are mosques preaching against Osama's Islam, and presenting a viable Islamic alternative that advocates peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims as equals on an indefinite basis? Why, nowhere.

In Indonesia (Nahdlatul Ulama), in Iraq (the "Quietist" school of Sistani), in Turkey (where their madrassim teach exactly that -- and they're exporting that alternative to Wahhabism/Salafism around the world).

Do I think Robert Spencer has never seen or heard of any of this? No, it's impossible, given his interests. Therefore, he must simply reject it all out of hand, because it violates what he "knows" must be true. How is this any different from what Thomas Sowell calls the vision of the anointed?

I understand that many people revere Spencer for (this should make you cringe) speaking truth to power. And I don't deny that he is courageous in sticking to his principles. But I cannot be impressed by Robert Spencer's analytic ability: He begins with his conclusion and reasons backwards... as do most people.

To impress me, however, a person must rise above that average level of mentation and show me that he can break free of his own preconvictions. I want to see an example where Spencer arrives at a conclusion he never expected, merely because that's where the evidence leads. That would make me sit up and take notice.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 3, 2008, at the time of 8:36 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Date ►►► June 2, 2008

Obamanomics 101

Hatched by Dafydd

When the Democrats seized Congress in 2006, they promised, among the many promises they made -- among the seemingly millions of promises they made -- to move immediately to solve "global warming" (they hadn't yet gotten the memo about calling it "global climate change," so as to include global warming, global cooling, and global unusual stability). They swore they would reduce America's "carbon footprint." They vowed to cure the Earth's "fever" by any means necessary (a progressive term of art that means "no matter what you great unwashed, with your false consciousness, may think you want").

After two years of concerted action to surrender in Iraq, they have now turned to this particular promise. They have decided that the time for talk is over, and what we need now is action, action, action! Today, the Democrats in the Senate, having trampled underfoot a more moderate climate plan supported by John McCain and the Senate Republicans ("false consciousness!"), introduced their own draconian vision.

It demands a 67% reduction of CO2 emissions by the year 2050, along with (I know you're shocked to read this) a massive, massive tax to create a gargantuan new carbon-regulatory system:

The proposal would cap carbon dioxide releases at 2005 levels by 2012. Additional reductions would follow annually so that by 2050, total U.S. greenhouse emissions would be about one-third of current levels.

The bill would create a pollution allowance trading system. That would generate billions of dollars a year to help people offset expected higher energy costs, promote low-carbon energy alternatives and help industries deal with the transition. Part of the $6.7 trillion projected to be collected from the allowances over 40 years would go toward $800 billion in tax breaks to offset people's higher energy costs.

These reductions "will not only enable us to avoid the ravages of unchecked global warming, but will create millions of new jobs," contends Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

But this bill is only a pale shadow of what we will have if Barack H. Obama is elected; no piker he, Obama has proposed, as part of his own energy policy, a scheme to reduce carbon emissions by 80% over the next 41 years. This would not just cripple the economy; achieving such a cut in so little time would require us to paraplegicize our economy. (I don't care if there's no such word; there ought to be.) As Sen. O. puts it on his campaign web site:

Well, I don't believe that climate change is just an issue that's convenient to bring up during a campaign. I believe it's one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.

(I wondered whether Obama considers Islamic terrorism another of the "greatest moral challenges" of our generation; but I can't tell, because, so far as I can tell, he doesn't actually mention terrorism or al-Qaeda on his website. But there's no search function either, so I can't be certain.)

Welcome to Obamanomics: You may think that you don't want to go back to the 1940s level of energy use, but that's just pesky, old false consciousness again. Just ask Barack; he'll tell you what to think. (If you don't understand what I mean, please buy and read Jonah Goldberg's tour de force, Liberal Fascism.)

But the Democrats have discovered, to their shock and anguish, that voters might actually be more concerned about their own bank accounts than the American carbon footprint. Not only that, but Republican senators and President Bush are not the irrelevancies that Democrats, in their hubris, imagine them. For now it appears nearly certain that this bill is D.O.A.... at least for this session:

With gasoline at $4 per gallon and home heating and cooling costs soaring, it is getting harder to sell a bill that would transform the country's energy industries and - as critics will argue - cause energy prices to rise even more....

The debate on global warming is viewed as a watershed in climate change politics. Yet both sides acknowledge the prospects for passage are slim this election year.

Several GOP senators are promising a filibuster; the bill's supporters are expressing doubt they can find the 60 votes to overcome the delaying tactic. [Not to mention having to find 67 votes to override a promised presidential veto.]

The problem, of course, is in the economic details hinted at by the quotation above; can any sane, sober person read the following without lurching back a bit and saying, "What the -- ?"

The bill would create a pollution allowance trading system. That would generate billions of dollars a year to help people offset expected higher energy costs, promote low-carbon energy alternatives and help industries deal with the transition. Part of the $6.7 trillion projected to be collected from the allowances over 40 years would go toward $800 billion in tax breaks to offset people's higher energy costs.

For the innumerate, a trillion is a thousand billion; so $6.7 trillion is the same as $6,700 billion. Divided by 41 years (2009 through 2050) gives us an annual collection of "allowances" (that is, a tax on businesses and on energy sales) of $163.4 billion per year... and even that assumes that the Democrats didn't lowball their own estimate; if it's business as usual, their own internal figures probably show twice that big a tax -- $326.8 billion per year -- which will also certainly be written in such a way that it grows much faster than inflation (every tax seems to do that).

By way of contrast, the estimated expenses of Medicare Part D -- the Medicare prescription-drug benefit enacted in 2003 -- which has elicited screams of anguish not only from conservatives but even many moderates of both parties -- is a mere $36 billion per year. This brand new, carbon-rationing bureaucracy will be more than 4.5 times as large as Medicare Part D, even by the Democrats' own tendentious estimate. Under the more realistic speculation, it will be nine times as big.

But wait, not all of that $6.7 trillion dollars collected will be kept by the federal government! Heaven forbid we accuse "progressives" of wanting to tax us into oblivion: They pledge to give us "tax breaks" of $800 billion. As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 80% -- actually 89%, if we don't count her two skipped votes last year) said, that will "enable us to avoid the ravages of unchecked global warming [and] create millions of new jobs" to boot.

Sorry, more math (arithmetic, actually): They squeeze $163.4 billion per year out of businesses -- who will pass the bill along to their customers (that's you!), of course, since the alternative is to go bankrupt; but then the same new bureaucracy will kick back $19.5 billion per year to favored clients. This will, of course, create "millions of new jobs."

Of course, they would never do this via earmarks to special interests, for Obama is an honorable man. So are Democrats all, all honorable men. And women.

(As a complete non-sequitur, did you all know that Obama earmarked $100,000 for a certain Catholic priest who has been much discussed in the news recently? According to the New York Times, "Typical of Mr. Obama’s earmarks was a $100,000 grant for a youth center at a Catholic church run by the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a controversial priest who was one of the few South Side clergymen to back Mr. Obama against Mr. Rush." I'm not sure what made me think of this...)

So by all means, rejectionist Republicans: Go ahead and boycott the election, allowing Barack H. Obama to become president by default. I'm sure our nation will be able to weather:

  • Declaring defeat and running home from Iraq;
  • Coffee klatches with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (and his sock-puppet, Bashar Assad), Kim Jong-Il, Raul Castro, and Oogo Chavez -- all without any preconditions;
  • The total government takeover of the health-care industry;
  • A complete and mercilessly enforced ban on drilling for oil anywhere that isn't already tapped out, coupled with an energy policy that jacks gasoline prices up to $7 a gallon -- but which subsidizes windmills;
  • A federal bench, including the Supreme Court, packed with lifetime appointments of clones of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, whom Obama himself said were his favorite justices and the model of his future appointments;
  • Same-sex marriage nationwide, imposed by those judges;
  • And staggering tax increases on everyone, not only via repealing the Bush tax cuts but also by raising capital-gains tax and business taxes.

Would we really easily survive as a world superpower with such radical U-turns in our national policy -- all at the same time? Would we then just pick ourselves up and elect Pat Buchanan or Tom Tancredo, and all would be right with the world?

Some appear to believe so. But for the rest of us, I think it's time not just to vote for John McCain ourselves, but for each of us to resolve to get our posteriors out into the streets and work for victory.

Remember, in war and politics, you don't win by losing... you win by winning. So unless you really, really like subsisting on yams and tofu, sweltering in the summer and freezing in winter, never going anywhere beyond walking distance, and living from welfare check to welfare check, it's time to get busy and make sure this particular liberal fascist from Chicago never has occasion to move his offices a mile west, across the National Mall to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 2, 2008, at the time of 9:14 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

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