Date ►►► June 29, 2010
But I Reiterate... Obamic Options 006½
I just read this Paul-post on Power Line -- noting that Bill Clinton has sensed the blood in the water surrounding President Barack H. Obama, and like a shark, appears to be circling, circling, waiting for the inevitable.
With that image in mind, I should like to direct your attention to a Big Lizards post of last Christmas, another in my nearly forgotten "Obamic Options" series, in which I made the following prediction:
So what does this chain of reasoning portend? This: I predict that, if the Obamacle ponders the race of 2012 and sees a strong Republican contender and only luckwarm support for himself, he will try to cut a deal with the U.N.; current Secretary General Nanki-Poo would retire with all honors... then the General Assembly offers Obama the job.
...But do read the whole thing; you likely skimmed it -- or skipped it -- the first time. Yes, you. You know you did... fess up!
(Just giving myself an even greater chance of being hailed as one of the greater prophets in a year and a half. Or else being laughed out of the dextrosphere as an arrogant buffoon... I've heard it so often.)
The Other Brown Note
Can anybody explain to me why the lads at Power Line seem so anxious to re-foist ultra-liberal, former Gov. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown back upon the long-suffering subjects of the People's Democratic Republic of California?
Power Line has been running a nasty, anti-Meg Whitman, pro-Brown advert in its top ad spot for a couple of decades now. It's really starting to bite, like a burr in my britches. (And now I see the Googleads banner is running a pro-Barbara Boxer, anti-Carly Fiorina ad as well!)
And I thought we were friends...
Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. Chicago incorporated the individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment (from D.C. v. Heller) to the states under the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (By and large; actually, I understand that Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion cited the "privileges and immunities" clause of the same amendment, instead.)
So now we know that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, inhering in every citizen, not solely in National Guard units, as anti-gun radicals have proclaimed for decades. And we also know that our right to keep and bear is not only enforced in federal jurisdiction but is a universal right, protected in all fifty states as well. (It may not be protected in President Barack H. Obama's seven fantasy campaign states.) But one vital question remains unanswered: What level of scrutiny should be applied to gun-control laws?
Several standards are available, from the tightest -- strict scrutiny -- to the weakest, the rational-basis standard. If the Court decides that the proper level is strict scrutiny, then few gun restrictions will stand; most would be struck down when they fail to meet the standard usually reserved for racial-preference laws and Facebook posts by Sarah Palin.
On the other hand, if the Court settles on the rational-basis standard, then every gun-control law short of outright confiscation or prohibition of owning or carrying a firearm would pass constitutional muster -- waiting periods, proficiency tests, restrictions on purchasing more than one gun in a given period, and so forth. So long as the state could muster some argument beyond raw emotion, and the restriction did not result in a de facto banning, it would likely be allowed.
But most probable in my mind -- remember, I'm not a lawyer, and I don't even play one online -- Is that the Court enunciates a scrutiny standard somewhere between the poles... if for no other reason as a lure to attract Anthony Kennedy, the swingin' justice.
Last night I had the strangest dream...
- Some bright-eyed intern at the Second Amendment Foundation notices that the constitutional clause in question protects not only the right to keep arms, but also to bear them.
- Foundation lawyers look for a person with clean hands, who can be a test case. He applies for a concealed-carry license but is rejected, clearly out of animus against guns (and against Supreme Court justices who believe self-defense is desirable).
- When the case finally works its way through the system, Kennedy (or his swingin' replacement) sides with the good guys; the Court rules that all states must have some system in place to allow sober, responsible, adult citizens to carry "arms," including firearms.
- The Court lays down the rules this time: States can be constitutionally compliant in one of two ways: either by creating a legitimate CCW permit process, or else by removing the necessity for any kind of permit at all to carry concealed.
If the state wants to control who carries concealed at all, it must offer permits on a "shall issue" basis... meaning any adult who applies automatically receives a CCW permit unless the state can show a clear and convincing reason to reject a specific applicant -- he is a minor, a convicted felon, insane, drug addicted or alcoholic, or is currently under a restraining order.
But wait -- I believe there is an excellent chance that courts will, in fact, require concealed carry be available to all Americans, with a small number of exceptions. Even the weakest level of scrutiny for gun-control laws, "rational basis," still requires that the basis for the gun restriction be, well, rational. Irrational fear of guns, or "hoplophobia," as some call it, will no longer be sufficient reason for a gun restriction, even the restriction on concealed carry; every law and regulation will have to prove it's at least rational... in other words, that there is some good evidence somewhere that such a regulation will make society safer.
Even the rational-basis standard opens all laws prohibiting concealed carry without a permit, where permits are virtually never granted, to rational, scientific evidence, presented in federal court, showing that widespread concealed carry doesn't increase crime or violence -- it reduces it significantly, even substantially. The evidence is overwhelming among criminologists; and even if some jurisdictions will stubbornly refuse even to look at the evidence, other judges elsewhere will, however reluctantly, follow where the evidence leads.
Already 40 states (including the second- and fourth-largest), comprising well over half the American population, have either shall-issue CCW permit laws or else don't require a permit to carry a concealed weapon. As more and more currently anti-gun jurisdictions are forced by federal judges to join the crowd; as we amass a Mount Everest of evidence all pointing in the same direction, it will become virtually impossible for a state attorney general in, say, California, to argue that the state should continue denying CCW permits to its citizens. The argument would have to take the form of asserting that, while the rest of the country may be capable of handling firearms responsibly, citizens of the Golden State are uniquely irresponsible, violent, and inept.
Even Hollywood liberals may take umbrage at such a claim.
When you're on a roll
Of course, in the much more likely case that the standard of scrutiny for gun-control laws lands somewhere in between rational basis and strict scrutiny, the push towards a nationwide right to carry a concealed weapon would be even stronger, and the scientific evidence even more determinative. I predict that within five or six years, every law-abiding, sane, responsible adult in the country will be entitled as a matter of law to obtain a concealed-carry permit... and that crime will plummet as a result.
Think about it -- it's not that big a stretch from where we are today to where I hope we'll be then, and the road is clear of most of the obstructions of the last two decades; even most liberals have more or less surrendered on this issue, leaving Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 95%) as perhaps the last, lonely defender of disarming Americans. It's hardly even a challenge anymore.
Even so, it would still be worth the price of admission just to see Schumer's head spin like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist!
Date ►►► June 28, 2010
No Light Bulb at the End of the Tunnel
The Obamunists in Congress and in the administration are still on track to effectively ban all incandescent light bulbs by 2014, in yet another self-congratulatory scheme to stave off global warming.
Think I'm joshing?
Press coverage has described federal law on incandescents as a "ban," although this is not strictly true. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 raised efficiency standards for "general service" incandescent lamps, the light bulb known to millions. The targets will take full effect in 2014.
However, these standards are high enough that incandescents used today -- which basically resemble the one designed by Thomas Edison in 1879 and perfected by General Electric in 1906 -- won't make the grade.
The U.S. phaseout parallels efforts in other wealthy countries, as well as some developing countries, to reduce incandescent use or ban them outright.
Ultimately, those politicos that Jonah Goldberg calls "liberal fascists," who have exiled God and worship health care and environmentalism in His place, want to force us all to use those God-awful compact fluorescent bulbs.
I suppose some like them, but I despise them:
- They flicker.
- They produce an audible buzz (at least, I can hear it).
- If you drop them, they have enough mercury that you should probably call a HazMat team and evacuate.
- A 150-watt equivalent costs about $13-$15, compared to $6-$7 for a regular incandescent or $9-$10 for a halogen.
- But worst of all, they produce a sallow, sickly light that makes food look spoiled and people look jaundiced.
Fluorescents make me feel physically ill; the flickering plus the color give me headaches and nausea. But I suppose that won't bother President Barack H. Obama; I should simply turn to the government "option" to prescribe Motrin and anti-emetics.
We still have a chance to overturn this policy; there are two elections before the final rules go into effect, and one of them can remove the Incandescer-in-Chief himself. For right now, halogen bulbs -- which are modified, more efficient incandescents and don't have the problems enumerated above -- can still meet the new standards; but those standards will continue to tighten until nothing but fluorescents will ever pass:
Paul Simonetti, a spokesman for Philips, said its "Halogena" has been out for a few years; it is about a third more efficient than standard bulbs and costs about $4. But when standards are raised in 2014, he said, Halogena won't have much time left.
"The halogen, which is a good replacement right now, actually would not meet the standard in 2020," he said. "The long-term solutions are in LEDs. That's what we see."
Now, I would love to be able to buy LED bulbs that have the same light output as 100-watt (1250 to 1600 lumens) and 150-watt (2000 lumens) bulbs; they don't flicker, they last far longer than any other kind of bulb, they don't buzz, they contain no poisons (at least not in significant quantities), they're even cooler than fluorescents, and they can be tuned to any color spectrum desired.
But at the moment, this is a typical Obamic fantasy solution: First, you can't even buy LED lights brighter than the equivalent of 60 watts... and even that is even more hideously expensive than fluorescents -- the cheapest I've seen them is still in excess of $40 a throw. (That's for a bulb that illuminates in all directions, like a normal, Edison-style, incandescent. Directed-beam bulbs are cheaper, but they're more like flashlights.)
The limitation derives from the technology: All manufacturers can presently do to make an LED brighter is to pack a bunch of them in a globe-shaped lump.
They need to be able to make each individual LED significantly brighter in order actually to compete with incandescents. Either that, or get the government to make incandescents even more overpriced than LEDs by taxing the heck out of them, or simply banning them outright. This is, not surprisingly, the tack the Obama administration has chosen to sail.
I am optimistic that the technology curve will eventually bring LED prices down as demand increases, triggering a huge increase in production; but I don't believe LEDs, compact fluorescents, or halogens will ever be as cheap, bulb for bulb, as ordinary incandescents. It must be said, though, that over the long haul, all three are more cost-effective, given their longer lifespans (assuming you don't accidentally damage or destroy them).
However, I am not at all optimistic that LEDs with the lumens I demand for lighting in my house (we like it bright, b'dad!) will be available before the bulb-grabbers take away my incandescents.
In this sense, the Obamunists are consistent: When they ban some technology for the sin of being insufficiently "green," they never worry whether a replacement is available; it's enough that some technology exists, at least in theory, that will eventually be just as good -- under the most optimistic possible fairyland scenarios. Thus, they want to ban fossil fuels and nuclear power now, on the supposition that sometime in the distant future, technology elves will invent ludicrously efficient solar cells and windmills to replace today's power plants.
Alas, this means that we're in for a number of years in which incandescents are already banned, but LEDs not yet ready for prime time. I think I must begin hoarding halogens; maybe I can stockpile enough to last me through the seven lean years.
I'm most irritated by the ease with which societal planners declare themselves to be seers and oracles (or Obamacles, in this case). This is my stock in trade; believe me, there's more to being a "futurist" than watching Captain Eo a couple hundred times at Disneyland. You actually have to, you know, think about the future and how you can bring it about in the real world, step by step, taking all constraints of cost, availability, and opportunity into account, and understanding that you can no more command scientific innovation to adhere to a timetable than King Canute could order the tides in and out.
Lennon-ism notwithstanding, it's not enough simply to "imagine" a world of unicorns and free lunches.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► June 24, 2010
Salt of the Earth: One Size Fits None
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC -- "Prevention" is evidently an afterthought) released a study today announcing the horrible truth: nearly 70% of Americans eat more salt than the CDC recommends:
Health officials currently say no adult should eat more than a teaspoon of salt each day. They go on to advise that 70 percent of adults - including people with high blood pressure, all African-Americans and everyone over 40 - should actually limit their salt intake to a more restrictive two-thirds of a teaspoon.
Sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, which is major cause of heart disease and stroke. Salt - or sodium chloride - is the main source of sodium for most people.
I smell the distinct burnt-almond odor of question begging. Let's grant that the study is accurate that 70% of Americans eat more than a teaspoon, or 2,300 mg, of sodium per day (that figure is recommended for healthy non-blacks aged 2 to 39), or 1,500 mg for those with high blood pressure (essential hypertension), blacks, and for anyone 40 and over. I promise I believe them! That's a miniscule quantity of salt; I certainly eat far more.
But so what? There are more important questions:
- How did the CDC settle on those particular numerical targets?
- Why on earth would the targets be the same for everyone in the same demographic? Doesn't individual health -- one's own blood pressure, for example, and medical history -- along with genetics have something to do with how much salt one should eat?
You can look high and low in the AP story and find no response, nor even evidence of curiousity about either question; reporter Mike Stobbe simply accepts the statements as if brought down from Mt. Sinai. Still puzzled, I Googled around to find the government's own report on this vital issue. I finally unearthed a document titled Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). On page 40 (page 51 of the pdf), we find this wildly illuminating explanation:
Reducing salt intake is one of several ways that people may lower their blood pressure. The relationship between salt intake and blood pressure is direct and progressive without an apparent threshold. On average, the higher a person’s salt intake, the higher the blood pressure. Reducing blood pressure, ideally to the normal range, reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, and kidney disease.
If you're reducing blood pressure "ideally to the normal range," it must have been higher than normal to begin with. But what about those Americans whose pressure is already normal?
If we take the HHS guidelines at face value, we must believe that, for those of us who eat a high-salt diet but nevertheless have completely normal blood pressure, cutting our salt intake down to HHS's recommendation would leave us with abnormally low blood pressure, causing enervation, dizziness, and fainting spells.
Is that what they mean when they say high-salt diets raise blood pressure for everyone? Then it's a good thing I eat so much salt!
Of course, the reality is that the HHS claim is complete baloney: I have in the past deliberately cut down salt (including not eating processed foods at all) for a couple of months; and I have gone through periods of eating much higher levels of salt than today; yet in all cases, my blood pressure remained just about the same and always normal. Perhaps HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius can give me a call and explain this anomaly.
Oh well, back to the -- salt mines. Here's the CDC's reaction to the 2005 HHS recommendations:
In 2005--2006, an estimated 29% of U.S. adults had hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure), and another 28% had prehypertension (1). Hypertension increases the risk for heart disease and stroke (2), the first and third leading causes of death in the United States (3). Greater consumption of sodium can increase the risk for hypertension (4). The main source of sodium in food is salt (sodium chloride [NaCl]); uniodized salt is 40% sodium by weight. In 2005--2006, the estimated average intake of sodium among persons in the United States aged >2 years was 3,436 mg/day (5). In 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended that adults in the United States should consume no more than 2,300 mg/day of sodium (equal to approximately 1 tsp of salt), but those in specific groups (i.e., all persons with hypertension, all middle-aged and older adults, and all blacks) should consume no more than 1,500 mg/day of sodium (6).
Notice the weasel-words in the essential link above: Eating more salt "can" "increase the risk" (a double qualifier!) of high blood pressure. Where does that come from, and exactly what does the science say?
Note the highlighted point refers to note (4) in the CDC paper; this leads us to a publication dubbed (take a deep breath) the Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate (2005), which is published by the "Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes (the DRI Committee) of the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, The National Academies, in collaboration with Health Canada. This study was requested by the Federal Steering Committee for Dietary Reference Intakes, which is coordinated by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with Health Canada."
Ah, back to the good old HHS again. The discussion of salt (sodium and potassium) begins on page 269; on page 270, we find the following curious discrepency:
Because of insufficient data from dose-response trials, an Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) could not be established, and thus a Recommended Dietary Allowance could not be derived. Hence, an Adequate Intake (AI) is provided.
The AI for sodium is set for young adults at 1.5 g (65 mmol)/day (3.8 g of sodium chloride) to ensure that the overall diet provides an adequate intake of other important nutrients and to cover sodium sweat losses in unacclimatized individuals who are exposed to high temperatures or who become physically active as recommended in other dietary reference intakes (DRI) reports. This AI does not apply to individuals who lose large volumes of sodium in sweat, such as competitive athletes and workers exposed to extreme heat stress (e.g., foundry workers and fire fighters). The AI for sodium for older adults and the elderly is somewhat less, based on lower energy intakes, and is set at 1.3 g (55 mmol)/day for men and women 50 through 70 years of age, and at 1.2 g (50 mmol)/day for those 71 years of age and older.
Wait... if they cannot come up with a Recommended Dietary Allowance -- then how did they come up with a Recommended Dietary Allowance of 2,300 mg? What's the relationship to the Adequate Intake (AI) number?
Amazingly enough, the number listed here as the AI, or adequate daily intake, of sodium is 1.5g... or to put it in slightly different units, 1,500 mg. Yet this is the identical number now offered by the CDC as the maximum daily intake of sodium for anyone over the age of 40. In other words, the maximum sodium they want you to eat is the bare minimum to avoid getting sick!
The page continues:
The major adverse effect of increased sodium chloride intake is elevated blood pressure, which has been shown to be an etiologically related risk factor for cardiovascular and renal diseases. On average, blood pressure rises progressively with increased sodium chloride intake. The dose-dependent rise in blood pressure appears to occur throughout the spectrum of sodium intake. However, the relationship is nonlinear in that the blood pressure response to changes in sodium intake is greater at sodium intakes below 2.3 g (100 mmol)/day than above this level.
In other words, sodium is not damaging in and of itself, but by and large only in its relation to higher blood pressure. This is important; take a mental note.
(Also, once a patient is above the CDC recommended maximum of 2,300 mg, increased sodium intake doesn't raise blood pressure as much as is does between the minimum and the maximum recommended daily intake.)
On the next page, we finally discover whence came the maximum-intake number for younger, non-black, non-hypertensive adults:
The adverse effects of higher levels of sodium intake on blood pressure provide the scientific rationale for setting the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). Because the relationship between sodium intake and blood pressure is progressive and continuous without an apparent threshold, it is difficult to precisely set a UL, especially because other environmental factors (weight, exercise, potassium intake, dietary pattern, and alcohol intake) and genetic factors also affect blood pressure. For adults, a UL of 2.3 g (100 mmol)/day is set.
On an (unsalted) nutshell, they're saying that the effect of salt on blood pressure is a continuum, without any sharp dividing line between a healthy and an unhealthy amount. Therefore, the sharp dividing line is set to 2.3 g, or 2,300 mg per day, by administrative fiat.
Alert readers can be excused for sudden confusion: If the nutritionists admit they cannot find a rigid line between "tolerable" and (one presumes) intolerable levels of sodium -- then how can they draw one at 2,300 mg/day? Why there, exactly? The conundrum is easily explained:
In dose-response trials, this level was commonly the next level above the AI that was tested.
And there you have it! The origin of the 2,300 mg/day Tolerable Upper Intake Level of sodium is simply that it was the next highest number that the labs generally tested in clinical trials. Had the next number tested been 2,100 or 2,600 or 3,000, instead of 2,300, then the Standing Committee would have set that number as the Tolerable Upper Intake Level.
To be perfectly blunt, the number 2,300 mg/day -- for younger, non-black adults who don't have hypertension -- is completely arbitrary. It's just an artifact of the testing procedure. The Standing Committee needed some number larger than bare survival-minimum, and 2,300 mg happened to be the next highest number most labs tested.
For those of us over 40, or black, or with high blood pressure, the recommended maximum isn't arbitrary; but it is miserly; it's just the minimum level to avoid the unpleasant effects caused by too little sodium: "Concerns have been raised that a low level of sodium intake adversely affects blood lipids, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease risk."
Thus are great nonsense pronouncements perpetrated upon the people by the federal guardians of all wisdom, the technocrats. "Healthy people mustn't eat more than a miniscule amount of salt, because unhealthy people can't!"
This reminds me of schools that ban peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches for all kids because some kids are allergic to peanuts. (Nowadays, even some airlines ban plastic packages of peanuts; a few fliers might be allergic, and in a fit of amnesia, they might wolf down a package or two before remembering. You never know!)
The publication mentions but ignores a slew of caveats about individuals:
This AI does not apply to individuals who lose large volumes of sodium in sweat, such as competitive athletes and workers exposed to extreme heat stress (e.g., foundry workers and fire fighters)....
Genetic factors also influence the blood pressure response to sodium chloride. There is considerable evidence that salt sensitivity is modifiable. The rise in blood pressure from increased sodium chloride intake is blunted in the setting of a diet that is high in potassium or that is low in fat, and rich in minerals; nonetheless, a dose-response relationship between sodium intake and blood pressure still persists....
Salt sensitivity differs among subgroups of the population and among individuals within a subgroup. The term “salt sensitive blood pressure” applies to those individuals or subgroups who experience the greatest change in blood pressure from a given change in salt intake—that is, the greatest reduction in blood pressure when salt intake is reduced.
That is, different people have different levels of blood-pressure reaction to sodium. Who'd'a thunk it?
So I ask again: Why should individuals who are not hypertensive worry about their high-salt diets? Why should the CDC set a single, "one size fits all" number that even the nutritionists -- upon whom the CDC relies -- admit is completely arbitrary and artifactual?
Worse, why should the feds start regulating salt use on the basis of such airy-fairy handwaving? Make no mistake, regulation is coming: It will begin with the feds ordering processed-foods manufacturers to use less salt; but in the end, if the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate exhaling as a "pollutant," what's to stop the FDA from regulating salt as a "poison?"
How long will it be before the FDA orders salt off grocery shelves and begins requiring us to buy it from a pharmacist -- with a doctor's prescription?
Tyranny begins when the State seizes monopoly access to a nutrient vital to life, whether carbon dioxide or sodium chloride. Mohandas Gandhi understood that much; he considered the colonial British monopoly on salt (!) to be a supreme act of oppression of the Indian people.
I'm tempted to demand the dismantling of the EPA, the FDA, and the CDC altogether; but that's pointless: It will never happen because too many Americans think that without the "invisible foot" of the federal government, we would all die tomorrow. But at the very least, the popular front for individual liberty that is fighting to hard to reduce government spending should be able to push Republicans and some Democrats into making defense of individual dietary liberty a part of their 2010 campaigns.
The assault on salt is just one more mouthful to swallow on the road to serfdom.
Date ►►► June 23, 2010
McChrystal Out, Petraeus In: Color Me Surprised But Not Shattered
In the end, it appears that the wounded vanity of the notoriously thin-skinned Barack H. Obama won out over continuity and steadfastness in wartime: Obama sacked Gen. Stanley McChrystal over snarky remarks the latter and his aides made to a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine.
Obama said bluntly that Gen. Stanley McChrystal's scornful remarks about administration officials represent conduct that "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system."
How exactly McChrystal "undermined the civilian control of the military" went unexplained. It did, however, prick the ego of the president, which is lèse déité, a greater sin than merely threatening rule of law in the United States.
But at least the likewise notoriously anti-victory president didn't use the opportunity to install a pet commander to declare defeat and go home -- as Obama himself tried to do anent Iraq when he was a (very) lowly senator. In fact, he decided to stick with a man previously confirmed in a higher position... McChrystal's direct boss, Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of Central Command.
(Amusingly, Obama was probably forced to tap Petraeus by the necessity of avoiding yet another confirmation fight in the Senate... one where the even more anti-victory Senate Democratic caucus could have destroyed our counterinsurgency [COIN] operation in Afghanistan merely by voting down all successors who might continue it.)
Although Petraeus must give up command of CENTCOM, and he does have to be confirmed by the Senate in his new, lower position, voting him down is really not an option: If Senate Democrats reject him now, after previously approving him for the higher job, the deliberate attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Afghanistan would be too brazen for the Left to possibly Blame It on Bush ™. Just as Obama was forced to name Petraeus, so too are the Senate Democrats forced to confirm him, and quickly.
No word yet on who Obama might name to take the reins at CENTCOM. This is still a threat to the mission, if he names someone who will undercut Petraeus and COIN.
Gen. Petraeus clearly intends to continue the offensive (against the Taliban, I mean, not against the president). He is certainly the most experienced COIN commander in the world right now, having pulled the mutton out of the burka in Iraq; on a purely military front, this may improve chances that we'll win in Afghanistan, too -- possibly in the 91st minute, after a heartstopping stalemate: David Petraeus is probably better trusted by the troops than was Stanley McChrystal, and is likely better able to explain to them why the emphasis in a countersurgency is on protecting the lives of civilian natives, not American military forces.
Thinking ahead -- far past the victory in Afghanistan, which I believe is well within our grasp, if we can be steadfast -- I have a remarkable scenario I would love to see play out. I doubt it will, but it's such a beautiful reverie I cannot resist:
- Petraeus takes charge and turns the Afghanistan campaign around, as he did before in Iraq.
- By mid-2011, things are going so well in Afghanistan that Petraeus is able to buy more time before the withdrawal. The withdrawal thus starts at the end of 2011, rather than July.
- Shortly thereafter, Gen. Petraeus retires from the Army.
- And in February of 2012, he announces that he is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States -- on the strength of back-to-back victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his (by then) thirty-seven years experience as an "administrative manager" of one of the largest organizations in the United States, with more than a million active duty, Reserve, and Guard personnel.
So far, David Petraeus has resisted the blandishments of many to run for office; but I can dream, can't I?
If he did run against the Obamunist, the contrast in competence alone, let alone Americanism, might blow Obama right out of the race: President B.O. might declare, "My job here is done," and wangle appointment as Secretary General of the U.N. -- which he could portray as a promotion. (We all know that the job of President of the United States is just too small for the One We Have Been Waiting For.) Seriously, Obama might prefer MovingOn under his own steam to a humiliating defeat at the polls.
In any event, considering the personalities in motion on this self-inflicted scandal (self-inflicted by both parties!), this is probably the best result that could have prevailed.
Paul Mirengoff at Power Line notes the "arms-length disdain" exhibited by President Barack H. Obama towards America-loving soon-to-be-former President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia; my friend predicts that Obama will be just as frigid towards Uribe's America-loving successor, Juan Manuel Santos.
(I call Mr. Mirengoff my friend because I once had lunch with him. I recall he spent the entire meal scowling at me, clearly trying, and failing, to place exactly who I was and why I was eating up his food and his time. He was gracious, however... though I had the distinct sensation of being underdressed. Or completely undressed, as in the stereotypical nightmare. This, by the way, is my usual experience when meeting the rich and celebrated: "Uh... Dafydd ab-Who?")
Paul connects this Obamic disdain -- of Uribe and Santos, not of the Lizard -- with the general ambivalence at best, loathing at worst that the Obamunist feels towards any country that has the bad taste to ally with the United States:
As far as I can see, there is only one thing that unites Britain, Israel, India, and Colombia (along with certain former Soviet bloc counties like Poland towards which Obama has also demonstrated ambivalence) - their friendship with the United States. Thus, I think we should presume that Obama's contemptuous approach to these countries is a reflection of his profound misgivings about his own country. To him, it may well seem that any nation seeking close ties with an entity as deeply flawed as the United States is not worthy of respect.
This surreal syllogism strikes me as classical Marxism, an obvious reformulation of the very words of Marx himself -- that is, Groucho Marx, who is reputed to have said, "I would never join any club that would stoop so low as to invite me as a member."
You heard it here first: evidence that President B.O. really is a Marxist! (And doubtless a Lennonist as well.)
The Most Unpardonable Sin: Lèse Déité - Instant Update!
(Update: See below.)
Lèse majesté, pardon my French, is "an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign." In the Obamacle's case, one supposes the more appropriate crime would be lèse déité, or "insulting the local demigod."
Today's example (subscription to the Wall Street Journal Online possibly required):
U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal faced a barrage of criticism -- and little public support -- from top aides to President Barack Obama and senior politicians for reportedly mocking Vice President Joe Biden and others in a magazine article, casting doubt over future of the top commander in the Afghan war.
Mr. Obama summoned Gen. McChrystal to the White House from Kabul because of the article, an eight-page profile in Rolling Stone magazine titled "The Runaway General." It portrays Gen. McChrystal, the commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, and his staff as rogues with little regard for Washington officials, including Mr. Obama.
If one can believe the reactions by various stuffed shirts, the vice president, the Secretary of Defense, Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, and the Stuffed Shirt in Chief himself are all furious about tiny little digs uttered by McChrystal or even by his aides... such as quipping about Vice President Joe Biden, "who's that?" (Well, who is that?)
The WSJ makes clear the problem is not any policy difference between Barack H. Obama and Gen. McChrystal -- apart from that whole, you know, "victory" thing. It appears to be just petty ubrage that the general "poked a finger in the zoo, punctured all the ballyhoo," as the poet said. The Journal contrasts this micro "scandal" with the interview in Esquire that got George W. Bush to fire Adm. William Fallon from his position as Commander of Central Command in 2008:
In the Esquire piece, however, Adm. Fallon appeared to directly contradict White House policy on Iran and other parts of the Middle East. The Rolling Stone article makes no such allegation, but rather is full of jokey put-downs of important Washington players.
Lèse majesté, lèse déité.
Capital punishment -- or even corporal -- being already ruled off the table, the next most likely response for his infuriated Holiness would be to fire Gen. McChrystal. Yes, right in the middle of the Afghan campaign, and damned to the consequences. But what difference does it make? President Barack H. Obama shows every intention of "presid[ing] over America's second lost war" anyway, as the editorial board of the Washington Times put it.
However, I don't think the president will fire McChrystal: It would be too humiliating to oust the man he only "inst" a few months ago.
Be that as it falls out, all the players are dancing around the dead horse in the punchbowl; there is a much more serious conundrum that rightly should engage President B.O. much more than whether somebody made mock of him: Some of our evidently troops believe the Afghanistan rules of engagement (ROEs) are so restrictive, they're hurting the war effort:
As levels of violence in Afghanistan climb, there is a palpable and building sense of unease among troops surrounding one of the most confounding questions about how to wage the war: when and how lethal force should be used.
On the other hand, the counterinsurgency doctrine promulgated by McChrystal and his immediate boss, Gen. David Petraeus, calls for just such tight ROEs, because the entire strategy depends upon winning the "hearts and minds" of Afghans. Or to put it another way, we can only win the war against the insurgency by winning the propaganda war at the same time. In Iraq, for example, we didn't win by shipping ten thousand tanks into the Land of Two Rivers and refighting the North Africa campaign; we won it by persuading Sunni tribal leaders to abandon support of al-Qaeda in Iraq and shift to our side:
Since last year, the counterinsurgency doctrine championed by those now leading the campaign has assumed an almost unchallenged supremacy in the ranks of the American military’s career officers. The doctrine, which has been supported by both the Bush and Obama administrations, rests on core assumptions, including that using lethal force against an insurgency intermingled with a civilian population is often counterproductive....
“Winning hearts and minds in COIN is a coldblooded thing,” General McChrystal was quoted as telling an upset American soldier in the Rolling Stone profile that has landed him in trouble. “The Russians killed 1 million Afghans, and that didn’t work.” COIN is the often used abbreviation for counterinsurgency.
The rules have shifted risks from Afghan civilians to Western combatants. They have earned praise in many circles, hailed as a much needed corrective to looser practices that since 2001 killed or maimed many Afghan civilians and undermined support for the American-led war.
But the new rules have also come with costs, including a perception now frequently heard among troops that the effort to limit risks to civilians has swung too far, and endangers the lives of Afghan and Western soldiers caught in firefights with insurgents who need not observe any rules at all.
Like Hugh Hewitt, I tend to side with Petraeus and McChrystal, even against the NCOs and low-level officers: Those at the pointy end of the stick do the real fighting, but they often can't see the big picture. I note that Petraeus scored a tremendous victory in Iraq by following his own understanding of COIN, ignoring the well-meant advice both from those above and those below him.
But at the very least, we need more instruction in the basics of COIN for the troops, so they know why they risk their own lives and their fellow troopers'... so they understand the theory and how well it worked in the real-world crucible of Iraq. As Sachi said last night, "the purpose of the Army is not to protect the lives of soldiers; it is to complete the mission."
It would also help if we didn't have a Cowerer in Chief who sees any minor setback not as part of the vicissitudes of war but as an unmistakable augury that it's time to declare defeat and go home.
Having an unconventional commander lead troops in a counterintuitive counterinsurgency is hard enough, without having to serve under a feckless civilian government comprising anti-war, anti-American academics with visions of Schlessinger, jr. dancing in their heads. Behind the snarky comments, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his aides may have hoped the message sent would be received: War is not a timed event.
Date ►►► June 22, 2010
So Comfortable in Corruption, They Needn't Even Dissemble
The brazenness of Democrats is sometimes breathtaking:
Defense contractors who openly discussed a suspected pay-to-play scheme in e-mails released by congressional ethics investigators had ties to a powerful lobbying firm and won millions of dollars in federal earmarks after contributing to the campaign of an Indiana congressman.
Democratic Rep. Peter J. Visclosky requested a $2.5 million federal earmark for Nevada-based defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) five days after a March 2007 fundraiser for which the company's owners and its political action committee contributed $18,800 to the congressman's campaign.
Similarly, Mr. Visclosky requested $2.5 million for defense firm 21st Century Systems -- five days after its employees ponied up $17,050 for the same fundraiser. The firm's chief executive was awarded an "honorary seat" next to Mr. Visclosky at that fundraiser.
In both cases, company executives wrote e-mails linking campaign donations to earmarks Mr. Visclosky secured or special access to the congressman, a congressional ethics board concluded.
Sometimes you look at them in wonder; sometimes you just... look.
The players in the two vignettes above were all clients of Washington lobbying firm PMA Group; and Rep. Visclosky (D-IN, 90%) sits on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, along with Rep. James P. Moran (D-VA, 85%) and formerly with Rep. John Murtha (D-Pushing up daisies) -- both of whom also evidently played for pay with PMA:
All three members of the powerful subcommittee that doles out millions of dollars annually in Pentagon appropriations received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from PMA employees and the firm's clients who wanted earmarks -- often within mere days of each other.
PMA, which earned more than $16.4 million in 2007 specializing in defense earmarks for clients, was one of the 10 top-grossing lobbying firms in Washington before it imploded. Federal agents raided it and owner Paul Magliocchetti's home in November 2008.
This squalid tale of quasi-legal bribery would be uninteresting except for one aspect: The sad fact that the participants on both sides the transaction felt so secure from investigation, castigation, or even prosecution that they made no slightest attempt to hide their crimes. Everything was seemingly done right out in the open:
- The corporate bribers wrote e-mails carefully enumerating how much they were paying Visclosky, et al, and what earmarks they expected in return.
- They even put the details into an official corporate document -- again without the slightest fear of trouble or sense of the enormity of their actions.
- And Visclosky, one of the alleged bribees, didn't even try to conceal the link between money received and ears requested: In numerous instances, he put in the earmark request to the subcommittee less than a week after the fundraiser! He barely waited long enough to count the campaign cash and get it into the bank.
The Office of Congressional Ethics was created by Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) in 2008 as a board of non-congressmen citizens who investigate ethics charges; if it finds substantiation, it's empowered to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee, the only congressional body that has actual jurisdiction over congressmen under House rules. So what happened in 2009, when the OCE did exactly that?
I bet you'll never be able to guess:
The eight-member OCE Board of Directors referred the findings on Mr. Visclosky to the House ethics committee, saying they found "probable cause" to believe he solicited or received contributions in exchange for earmarks.
The OCE, which does not have jurisdiction over events prior to March 2008, included in its report the SNC e-mails from 2007 as "evidence that PMA clients seeking earmarks from Representative Visclosky linked contributions to his campaign to specific legislative acts."
But in February, the ethics committee cleared Mr. Visclosky, Mr. Murtha, Mr. Moran and four other members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, saying it "found no evidence" they or their staffs were "directly or indirectly engaged in seeking contributions in return for earmarks."
The only reason the investigation continues is that the OCE, piqued at being made laughingstocks by the "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history," unanimously referred the entire mess to the FBI, which has continued the investigation... at least until Attorney General Eric Holder realizes the danger and pulls a "Black Panther" on them.
For some reason, these top Democrats all casually assumed that they would be immune to ethical rules and even federal criminal prosecution for bribery and corruption; for some reason, they believed that when push-me came to pull-you, Squeaker Pelosi would not allow her top lieutenants on Appropriations to be held accountable for their follies and foibles.
For some completely unfathomable reason, this belief in ethical invulnerability turned out to be correct, at least so far. It's a mystery!
The leftstream media is clearly uninterested in telling the story that the Democrats, far from being the paladins of virtue they consistently pretend, are far more corrupt than the Republicans they replaced... if for no other reason than the very normality of corruption in the party on the left.
To paraphrase Churchill, the Left swims in seas of corruption so dense, it crushes their very souls. Bribery and extortion is the rule, not the exception; and nobody fears consequences, worries about exposure, or so much as considers morality, no more than does a "soldier" in a Mafia family: They have mastered Chicago rules.
Even voters seem to accept Democratic corruption as so humdrum, it only becomes an issue when Republicans stand accused as well.
But this year above all others may be the one in which the American voter rediscovers not only fiscal frugality but ethical commandments. The Great Earmark Revolt, which we have chronicled in a series of posts from 2006 to this year, is one example; here are most of those posts, I believe:
- The Missing Earpiece
- Has Nancy Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Ears?
- The Democrats Are All Ears
- Earmarks? No No... Phonemarks!
- They're All Ears... Again
- The Power of the Big Idea: O'Billery Reduced to "Me Too!"
- Traders to the Cause - Republicans Are All Ears
America has been blessed by -- and sometimes suffered under -- moral crusades many times in the past, from the founding of the nation, through the anti-slavery movement, the temperence movement, the legal prudery movement, the civil-rights movement, and of course more religious revivalist movements than you can shake a crucifix at. Perhaps our "popular front" against overspending can find space for a moral crusade for clean government, as well.
This is the year; today is the day; now is the time to actually create -- for real, this time -- that "most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." So far, alas, it remains yet another broken promise, like global warming and a sequel to the Incredibles.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► June 21, 2010
Don't Throw Us into That Breyer Patch!
Today, John Roberts and the Supremes upheld a Bush-era, post-9/11 law prohibiting aiding terrorist groups with any kind of "material support" -- including training and even purely verbal "expert advice or assistance":
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 decision, said the law’s prohibition of providing some types of intangible assistance to groups the State Department says engage in terrorism did not violate the First Amendment.
All the legal beagles will no doubt opine, offering much more authoritative analyses than mere reptiles can produce. But there are a couple oblique angles to this story that are right down our lizard holes.
First, the decision contained an unexpected (and unremarked) boot-to-the-head of Elena Kagan, President Barak H. Obama's second Supreme Court nominee (the first was Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- who of course dissented, voting to allow peaceniks to give as much verbal aid and comfort to the enemy as they wish).
First, let's watch the New York Times carry water:
The decision was a victory for Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who argued the case in February and whose confirmation hearings for a seat on the court are scheduled to start next week.
And now, the rest of the story:
But Chief Justice Roberts said the government had advanced a position that was too extreme and did not take adequate account of the free speech interests at stake.
“The government is wrong,” the chief justice wrote, “that the only thing actually at issue in this litigation is conduct” and not speech protected by the First Amendment protection. But he went on to say the government’s interest in combating terrorism was enough to overcome that protection.
In other words, the Obamunist nominated a woman to the Supreme Court who did not even recognize what was implicitly understood by all nine sitting justices, including Obama's first nominee to the Court: That there is a freedom-of-speech element to this case.
The only disagreement among the judges and justices who have heard the case is whether national security trumps freedom of speech in this case -- not whether freedom of speech even exists! It's a very telling lapse in judgment on Kagan's part.
The second misaligned angle is also telling; it "tells" of the nigh-irrepressible ability on the part of liberal-activist judges, like Justice Stephen Breyer, to flip principle on its head in order to achieve a desired outcome.
Perennial hand-wringing, ultra-liberal Justice Breyer was one of the three dissenters to this decision (the others being Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg). In fact, Breyer was so consumed by his disgust that he pointedly read his dissent aloud from the bench:
Justice Stephen G. Breyer took the unusual step of summarizing his dissent from the bench. He said the majority had drawn a false analogy between the two kinds of assistance.
“Money given for a charitable purpose might free up other money used to buy arms,” Justice Breyer said from the bench. But the same cannot be said, he went on, “where teaching human rights law is involved.”
To summarize, Breyer believes that freedom of speech is so vital, so central to what it means to be American, that it must prevail -- even when that speech is intended to help our terrorist enemies, to train them to gain power advantages with words, advantages they later can exploit as a launching pad for violence. (For example, American leftists "peacefully" arguing on behalf of Hamas at the U.N. or the World Court to force Israel to loosen the Gaza blockade, while secretly hoping Hamas can then more easily sneak Scud missiles into Gaza and fire them at Tel Aviv.)
You just can't hold down that freedom of speech! Everybody has it, everyone should be allowed to express it, whenever and wherever.
Oh, wait -- unless the expresser happens to be a corporation and the expression happens to be "electioneering communications"... that is, a corporation's political freedom of speech ends thirty days before a primary election and sixty days before a general election. Those time windows constitute "no electioneering zones" -- for corporations and unions. And Justice Breyer enthusiastically favors cutting off freedom of speech during those windows: In 2003, he joined the opinion by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in McConnell v. F.E.C., 540 U.S. 93 (2003), upholding the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, a.k.a. "McCain-Feingold."
Not only did Breyer support that ban, he also joined Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent this year from Citizens United v F.E.C., 558 U.S. 50 (2010); the Stevens dissent included language specifically bemoaning the fact that the Court had finally struck down the grotesque prohibition on corporate-funded adverts within those time windows.
(Note that Stevens, however, is not two-faced here: He opposes corporate speech before elections, but he also opposes speech by terrorist groupies on the Left.)
So let's sort out Breyer's patch of intellectual real estate:
- Helping terrorist organizations enlarge their power by verbal means, thus freeing up resources to use in terrorist attacks and other crimes... that's Breyer-approved freedom of speech!
- A private oil company airing an advertisement this October against some incrumbent Democrat who is pushing to permanently ban all offshore drilling... in the Breyer patch, that's criminal behavior!
The cream of left-liberal jurisprudence thus runs the gamut from one Obama Court nominee who can't even see a freedom of speech issue that's standing up and barking for her attention; a sitting justice who sees nothing but freedom of speech, and for whom national-security issues are completely invisible; and a third liberal appointee who supports freedom of speech whenever it helps the Left -- but who manifests acute MEGO syndrome when it does not.
Just so you know.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► June 20, 2010
Obamic Shocker of the Day: U.S. Ships Sent Through Suez Canal, Evidently to Aid Israel Against Iranian Flotilla
Egypt has allowed a mini-fleet of twelve warships -- eleven American and one Israeli -- to pass south through the Suez Canal, transitioning from the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. The fleet includes the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz class supercarrier with 90 aircraft, both fixed-wing and helos.
The Suez Canal cuts through Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea
The only viable route for the Iranian flotilla is down the Persian Gulf, southwest around Oman and Yemen, up the Red Sea, and north through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean; thus the U.S./Israel fleet is forward-positioning itself in between the Iranian ships and the canal:
International agreements require Egypt to keep the Suez open even for warships, but the armada, led by the USS Truman with 5,000 sailors and marines, was the largest in years. Egypt closed the canal to fishing and other boats as the armada moved through the strategic passageway that connects the Red and Mediterranean Seas.
Despite Egypt’s reported refusal to block the canal to Iranian boats, the clearance for the American-Israeli fleet may be a warning to Iran it may face military opposition if the Iranian Red Crescent ship continues on course to Gaza.
I'm somewhat amazed that Barack H. Obama has evidently decided to side with the Israelis against the Iranians; but certainly it's a welcome shift. Although a shooting war is unlikely, the Israeli and American ships could board the Iranian vessels and search them. One hopes that this time, they won't bring paintball guns to a bludgeon fight.
In another strike obviously orchestrated by Iran, one or two Lebanese vessels have set out to attempt to break the Israeli blockade; the ships are doubtless controlled by Hezbollah, Iran's pet terrorist organization that also infests Syria, and through them Lebanon -- though of course Lebanon denies there are any Hezbollah aboard:
Israel has warned U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that Israel will use force, if necessary, to stop the boats, one of which is carrying approximately 70 women passengers and crew organized by Hizbullah support Samar al-Hajj. Her husband is one of several jailed suspects involved in the assassination for former Lebanese anti-Syrian Prime Rafik Hariri.
Hizbullah has denied it is connected with the Lebanese flotilla, but it has been reported that Al Hajj met with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah last month.
As Matt Drudge likes to say, "developing..."
The Most Loathsome Thing
Even as a teenager, I spent too much of time trying to understand why I despise and hate liberals -- though I share some of their beliefs and reject some beliefs of conservatives (which is why I'm not a conservative). In recent years, I've been narrowing down why I instinctively recoil from liberals but not from conservatives, who I rather like. I think I can express my loathing in a single word, albeit with a little subsequent explanation: It's liberal smugness.
I don't mind arrogance per se. Arrogance can spur the arrogant into Herculean effort and Achillean boldness, as they struggle to prove they really are superior to others. The superiority becomes self-fulfilling; arrogance can lead to astonishing scientific breakthroughs, brilliant works of art, and stunning military victories.
Nor do I have a problem with a sincere search for profundity; I engage in that myself (along with arrogance!) virtually every day. But the key word is "sincere": One must be ruthless in rejecting the easy answer, the glib aphorism; the profound can only be uncovered by sweating out the real, no matter how difficult to understand. And one must accept that the final revelation is that there is no final revelation: There is no "theory of everything," there's always more to learn and a better understanding just around the next corner. No loitering!
But what grinds my teeth on edge is smugness -- here defined as "arrogance without effort." Smugness leads to pedestrian profundity, the quotidian "revelation" that is in fact utterly trite. Smugness leads to condescension towards anyone unevolved enough not to share the "vision" that Thomas Sowell discussed in (what else?) the Vision of the Anointed. (Think of Hillary Clinton, Anita Dunn, and Rahm Emanuel. Or the Obamacle Himself, for that matter.)
This is contemporary liberalism in a nuthouse: arrogant, intellectually lazy, gullible to every crackpot "revelation" that fits the Vision, condescending, appealing to self-authority, and smug, smug, smug. See, it's not the beliefs and tropes of liberalism that make my flesh crawl... it's the sense of entitlement, the assumption of received profundity without struggle. Liberals are philosophical coupon-clippers, sitting on their assets and making tedious, tendentious pronoucements.
(There are a few holdout paleo-liberals, defined simply by, e.g., Harry Truman, Hubert Humphrey, and even Sen. Joe Lieberman. I do not abhor these "liberals;" I can get along with them very well. But they are dinosaurs, rapidly approaching utter extinction. They have been evolutionarily overwhelmed by the rise of Homo liberalis superioris.)
With all my years as a wordsmith, I cannot find the perfect phrase to express how I despise contemporary liberals: There is always yet one more lump of anti-liberal bile just around the next corner, too.
Date ►►► June 18, 2010
Shouldn't Slovenia Have Been Cautioned...
...for having 12 players on the field?
I refer of course to the eleven Slovenian members -- plus the Malian referee, Koman Coulibaly, who called back America's third (and winning) goal on an imaginary foul.
Date ►►► June 17, 2010
You Splashed Incompetence All Over My Corruption!
It's hard to imagine any federal action in the Gulf that more stupidly self-destructive than what just happened off Louisiana, according to this ABC news story:
BP Oil Spill: Against Gov. Jindal's Wishes, Crude-Sucking Barges Stopped by Coast Guard
Eight days ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered barges to begin vacuuming crude oil out of his state's oil-soaked waters. Today, against the governor's wishes, those barges sat idle, even as more oil flowed toward the Louisiana shore.
"It's the most frustrating thing," the Republican governor said today in Buras, La. "Literally, yesterday morning we found out that they were halting all of these barges."
The barges were, by all accounts, doing an excellent job sucking up the oil off the Louisiana coast. True, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal had to order them out himself -- just as he had to order the berms be constructed to keep the bulk of the oil away -- since the federal response is still a bit tepid, to put it mildly (and "incomprehensible," to put it accurately; incomprehensible to the point of inducing paranoid suspicions that Barack H. Obama plots to punish the Gulf states for not having voted for him in 2008).
But what earthly reason could the U.S. Coast Guard have for shutting down the operation? Isn't it still true that, as Gen. George S. Patton famously remarked, "A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week?"
Ah, but the the USCG had an urgent reason to send the barges back to port, a reason so compelling there simply was nothing else they could do:
"We are all in this together. The enemy is the oil," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer.
But the Coast Guard ordered the stoppage because of reasons that Jindal found frustrating. The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.
Surely you can see that the Coast Guard's hands were tied. Think of the catastrophe that could have ensued, had they waited one more day before ordering the barges back to port, so the Coast Guard could send a plane to the people they were trying to contact -- and inquire of them, tête-à-tête, how many life jackets they carried.
Well you squeezed corruption into my incompetence!
But is it mere incompetence? Sure there's a healthy dollop of it; but I firmly believe that at core, we'd find what really drives this harassment and non-response from the feds is not rank stupidity but a relentless and bitter turf war between different branches of the government (Congress, the courts, and the administration), and even between distinct agencies and departments of the same administrative branch. Utterly corrupted by power, the federal officials are less interested in stopping the gusher and cleaning up the Gulf than they are in "empire building" within the Obama administration:
Fifty-nine days [!] into the crisis, it still can be tough to figure out who is in charge in Louisiana, and the problem appears to be the same in other Gulf Coast states....
[Alabama Gov. Bob Riley] said the problem is there's still no single person giving a "yes" or "no." While the Gulf Coast governors have developed plans with the Coast Guard's command center in the Gulf, things begin to shift when other agencies start weighing in, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"It's like this huge committee down there," Riley said, "and every decision that we try to implement, any one person on that committee has absolute veto power."
I don't blame the agencies; they take their cue from the Ward Boss in Chief: President B.O. is far more consumed by legal liability, looking tough, discovering whose "ass" to kick, how best to use the spill to tilt at windmills *, and how to blame it all on George W. Bush † -- than he is in helping solve the problem. Team Obama simply don't want to let this greatest of all environmental crises go to (political) waste. There must be some way to spin the spill for electoral gain!
Boys, boys, you're both right: It's two colossal presidential failures in one!
After a lengthy bargaining session between Gov. Jindal and the Coast Guard, the latter finally agreed to allow the barges back on the Gulf today. But they lost 24 hours of oil-scooping, all because of internecine warfare among the carpetbaggers of Washington D.C. And don't think that Americans will remain blissfully ignorant of the feds' priority list. It's in the same class (or classlessness) as members of Congress who attach ludicrous, corrupt earmarks to emergency troop-funding legislation. If they're not ashamed of what they're doing, why do they always do it in the dead of night?
* From the president's remarks in the Oval Office:
The transition away from fossil fuels is going to take some time, but over the last year and a half, we’ve already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry. As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels.
† "...and how to blame it all on George W. Bush." Which the Obamunist himself has already done! Viz.:
One place we’ve already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service. Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility -- a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves. At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.
When Ken Salazar became my Secretary of the Interior, one of his very first acts was to clean up the worst of the corruption at this agency.
See? It's that "Republican culture of corruption" again, led by the Commander-in-Thief himself: Bush personally caused the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to blow up.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► June 16, 2010
Prop. 8 Ate Prop
A funny thing happened on the way to the newsstand: The New York Times -- a.k.a., "America's newpaper of wreckage," whose slogan is, "All the news we see fit to print!" -- published a news article about closing arguments in the federal lawsuit to overturn California's Proposition 8, enshrining traditional marriage in the state constitution... and the newspaper actually forgot to include the usual flimsy mask of "even-handedness," the prop they customarily use to disguise the fact that they have but a single (left) leg to stand on.
In fact, they forgot there was another side to the issue at all, at all. It must be read to be believed.
Generally, as the paper hopes to appear slightly less biased than San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the writer interviews a couple of sources on the opposite side of a liberal shibboleth like same-sex marriage (SSM). However reluctant and half-hearted such "balance" may be, the editors nevertheless feel a faint obligation to act as something other than a paid shill for the Democratic Party and the hard Left. Or at least to leave that impression.
I have long suspected that such tepid gestures of recognition -- like a little kid told he must kiss Great-Aunt Gruesome -- are rarely found in the original version of the story as it comes from the putative reporter, but are added later, a line here, a word there, by the editorial staff as a sop to the 50% of the country that leans more right than left. (Rather like the disclaimers, read at lightning speed and complete incoherence, at the end of a used-car radio commercial.)
Now at last, I think we have some proof; because in this case, somebody omitted that final pre-publication step. Read the so-called "news" article linked above. Remember, this is not an opinion piece; it masquerades as straight reporting, no pun intended. In the piece, the Times turns its celebratory spotlight on the following burning issues:
- The heroic pro-SSM protesters with their omnipresent pre-printed signs;
- The tear-jerker plaintiffs -- "All we’ve asked the court to do is make sure that we’re protected under our Constitution, like every other American!"
- The powerhouse attorneys on the side of America, the People, Decency, Gaea, and L*O*V*E -- the pro-SSM crowd hired both David Boies and Ted Olson, the two attorneys who represented Algore and George W. Bush respectively in the former's attempt to sue his way into the White House;
- The "several dozen questions" asked by the judge, especially "about the supposed harm of allowing same-sex marriages as well as the government’s interest in forbidding them;"
(Do we start to get the feeling that in this trial, there is no defendant? That the case comprises two brave, loving, gay couples, their attorneys, and the judge -- all facing off against an empty table?)
The fact that today's arguments take place on a lucky and auspicious date: the second anniversary of the California Supreme Court's decision striking down Proposition 22, the previous version of Prop. 8 -- "when hundreds of same-sex couples were married in California at the start of a five-month period when such unions were legal in the state."Proposition 8 ended those marriages, though the California Supreme Court ruled in May 2009 that the 18,000 or so marriages performed in the five-month period were still valid.
Those big conservative bullies!
- And... oh, wait; we almost forgot: The defendants' attorneys made a couple of points, but they were really stupid, so let's not get into it.
There is literally only a single sentence in the entire piece that even so much as mentions that there is another side in this lawsuit; that defendants' table isn't utterly empty. Read slowly; if you blink, you'll miss it:
Arguments in the trial -- presided over by Judge Vaughn R. Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco -- began in early January, and included two weeks of evidence and testimony by advocates for same-sex marriage. The defense offered a much more limited testimony, with two witnesses arguing -- among other points -- that same-sex marriage damages traditional marriage as an institution and that special judicial protections were unnecessary for gay people.
There you go! Other than that squib, there's nothing in the story to indicate that there even is another side; one presumes that to the editorial board of the New York Times, this is literally true: It's not that the pro-traditional marriage arguments are unpersuasive, illogical, or even disingenuous; rather, pro-traditional marriage arguments simply do not exist -- just as there is no argument for repealing the law of gravity or demanding that light propagate at twice the speed of light.
My guess is that Times editors cannot see liberal bias for the same reason that fish cannot see water. And like an aquarium of talking fish-heads, if you take these "journalists" out of their liberal ecosphere, they will flop about desperately until they suffocate to death.
So here's my slogan: Save a forest -- bankrupt the Times!
Date ►►► June 15, 2010
I must admit, this creative solution to an electoral dilemma in Port Chester, NY, strikes me as quite intriguing. Ordinarily, I don't like voting gimmicks; they're generally just special pleading accompanied by "affirmative action" under another name. But this system appears to be designed specifically to avoid racial preferences.
First, the problem:
Although the village of about 30,000 residents is nearly half Hispanic, no Latino had ever been elected to any of the six trustee seats, which until now were chosen in a conventional at-large election. Most voters were white, and white candidates always won.
Federal Judge Stephen Robinson, nominated by George W. Bush and confirmed in 2003, found the current situation to be in violation of the Voting Rights Act; something had to be done.
Of course, the best solution to this problem is to encourage Hispanics to turn out in greater numbers; and let's take it as given that various groups, both within and without the Hispanic community, tried to do so -- yet failed to budge the meter. Now, the normal tack taken in this liberal age would be to change the voting to district by district, then gerrymander one or two of them so that a Hispanic trustee was guaranteed. Indeed, Robinson considered that suggestion and rejected it.
But here is what he did decide instead:
[Judge Robinson] approved a remedy suggested by village officials: a system called cumulative voting, in which residents get six votes each to apportion as they wish among the candidates. He rejected a government proposal to break the village into six districts, including one that took in heavily Hispanic areas.
Let me explain, since it seems a bit confusing at first. Under the old rules, there were six seats and some number of candidates, larger than six. Each voter could cast one vote for up to six different people, and the top six vote-getters were elected.
For sake of clarity, let's change the situation from one of race, which carries too much emotional baggage, to one of party affiliation. Let's assume a hypothetical in which the voting pool comprises 10,000 people, 5,500 of them Democrats and 4,500 Republicans. And let's further assume that for each of the six seats, one Democrat and one Republican runs. Finally, we assume that 90% of Democrats will vote for the Democrat in any contest, while 90% of the Republicans will vote for the Republican.
In each of the six races, the Democrat will get 5,400 votes, while the Republican gets 4,600. That is, despite a 55-45 split among voters -- which, if carried onto the Board of Trustees, would yield 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans -- the actual result is 6 Democrats and 0 Republicans; the Democrats overpower the Republicans on each and every seat.
But under a cumulative-voting system, each voter gets six votes, which he can cast any way he wants -- including all six for the same candidate. Note that every voter, without exception, gets six votes to cast any way he or she desires... not just the minority.
(Giving extra votes just to the minority is the sort of system championed by Lani Guinier, Bill Clinton's nominee to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division; which is why she was forced to withdraw a month after being nominated.)
Under the system Judge Robinson ordered, in our hypothetical example, the Republicans can focus like a laser beam on, say, only two of the six GOP candidates, Ron Nahasapeemapetilon and Nancy Ginsburg: Each Republican voter casts three votes to Nahasapeemapetilon and the other three to Ginsburg.
Assuming the Democrats don't try to vote defensively but instead vote as normal, then Nahasapeemapetilon and Ginsburg will each be elected with more than 12,000 votes; and the Board of Trustees will have four Democrats and two Republicans... which is certainly more representative than six and zip.
The scheme relies upon the strong probability that getting at least a couple minority candidates elected will be more important to minority voters than blocking them would be to the majority; minority voters are more likely to concentrate their votes than majority voters.
Thus even in the real world, where an election will always see both minority defections and some members who cannot bring themselves to throw four of their six candidates under the wolves, the odds are still pretty good that both Nahasapeemapetilon and Ginsburg will be elected.
Or in the case at hand, that a couple of Hispanics will, in fact, be elected to the BoT. Yet no racial or ideological group is being singled out for special preferences; in theory, the majority could focus their own votes to keep both of the two (or three) "focus" minorities off the board; it's just very unlikely to happen for the reason above.
I haven't studied this fully, and I'd like to see some real-world examples; but it is at the least an interesting example of sideways thinking, which I always admire even on those occasions where I oppose the sideways thought itself.
Date ►►► June 14, 2010
The Ignoble Savage: Administration Zeroes Out Return to Moon
I've always considered a presidential administration's commitment to manned space exploration an excellent barometer of its belief in the grandeur of Western civilization; its belief in America's future and exceptional greatness; and its understanding of what Konstantin Tsiolkovsky meant when he said that, "a planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever." Simply put, an administration that believes in manned space exploration -- believes in Mankind.
So it's hardly a surprise that Barack H. Obama is in the process of killing the Constellation program proposed by (of course) President George W. Bush to return human beings, Americans, to the Moon, this time to stay; to explore lunar science and geology, investigate the origins of our solar system, and exploit the vast mineralogical, energy, and environmental resources found on our nearest neighboring planet.
And it's even less of a surprise that they're doing it in a backhanded way, in violation of an act that Obama himself is about to sign into law -- while mockingly flouting it:
Constellation aimed to build upon what was arguably America’s greatest technological achievement, the first lunar landing of 1969, by launching new expeditions to the Moon and to Mars and worlds beyond. Mr Obama proposed in February that it should be scrapped because it was “over budget, behind schedule and lacking in innovation”, but he has met opposition in Congress, which has yet to approve his plan.The head of Nasa, Major-General Charlie Bolden -- an Obama appointee -- has now written to aerospace contractors telling them to cut back immediately on Constellation-related projects costing almost $1 billion (£690 million), to comply with regulations requiring them to budget for possible contract termination costs.
The move has been branded a “disingenuous legal manoeuvre” and referred to Nasa’s inspector-general for investigation. “It’s bordering on arrogance by the Administration to boldly and brazenly go forward with this approach. It shows a blatant disregard for Congress,” said the Republican Congressman Rob Bishop, of Utah, whose constituency stands to lose thousands of jobs. Two weeks ago the Senate passed legislation that compels Nasa to continue work on Constellation unless Congress directs otherwise. That legislation is due to be signed into law by Mr Obama this month while Congress continues its deliberations over his proposal to cancel the current space space progamme.
Why is Obama doing this? What is his goal? I believe the Times of London has hit upon the answer without even realizing it, as the answer controverts the received narrative of the Obamacle:
Distinguished space veterans, including the first and last men to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, have complained that the abandonment of Constellation will set America’s space capabilities on a “downhill slide to mediocrity”. They say that, while Mr Obama has outlined a vision for Nasa that includes sending people to Mars at some point, it lacks a concise plan for developing the rockets and spacecraft to get them there.
“The Administration has no planning, no programme and no idea -- they’d just have these things happen mysteriously,” Mr Bishop said. “Rockets aren’t something that Wal-Mart puts on its shelves. You have to have a plan for how you get from A to B, and Obama has just said we’ll work it as we go along and maybe some day we’ll end up on an asteroid or the Moon or somewhere. The bottom line is, those ‘maybes’ will never happen.”
In my estimation, the simple, obvious explanation is correct: Obama does not believe America is in any way "exceptional"... nor even that it should be. He believes Americans (not citizens of the world, as he is) are arrogant and imperialistic "little people" who need reining in. This can only happen under a strong central government headed by (who else?) the Philosopher King.
Americans' ambitions are too grandiose and range too widely; we need to humble ourselves. Fly to the Moon? Land humans -- Americans, yet! -- on Mars? How dare we!
This is hubris of the highest order. The president must show the whip hand every now and then in his job of Shepherd in Chief to keep his flock tame and hobbled. Baa, baa, baa.
In Mark Steyn's genius takedown of the Obamunist -- the best anyone has ever penned, says I -- he commits a nigh-Twainian epigram:
It is hard to imagine Mr. Obama wandering along to watch a Memorial Day or Fourth of July parade until the job required him to do so. That's not to say he's un-American or anti-American, but merely that he's beyond all that. Way beyond. He's the first president to give off the pronounced whiff that he's condescending to the job - that it's really too small for him and he's just killing time until something more commensurate with his stature comes along.
At the end, Steyn fingers Obama as the current leader of "a cult of radical, grandiose narcissism;" but the writer need only source "the One We Have Been Waiting For" himself to prove his claim.
A legendary and probably apocryphal tall tale has it that an ancient emperor tried to obliterate all documents that mention a national history predating himself, in the hope that future generations would believe he personally created civilization, culture, and perhaps the very world. It may be truer today than in any ancient realm, for I believe Barack H. Obama would prefer the future historians take literally his messianic claim that:
[G]enerations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth. This was the moment -- this was the time -- when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.
There we have it: A grandiose narcissist who sees himself as simply too big for America's britches must be horrified by a program of manned space exploration, the consequences of which threaten to overwhelm his own meagre achievements, assuming one can find any, in a Noachian deluge of science, technology, and future shock. Indeed, if we indeed returned to the Moon on a permanent basis, using that as a stepping stone to Mars and the rest of the solar system, then that would likely be the only thing anyone would remember, "generations from now," about the administration of Barack Obama. Only our next faltering steps into the universe beyond; all else would be sucked down the memory hole, along with yesterday's horoscope.
How could a creature like Obama possibly live with such a rival without scratching her eyes out?
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► June 11, 2010
Sixteen Year Old Would-Be World Circumnavigator Found - Alive, Well, and Still Afloat
According to AP, Abby Sunderland, the sixteen year old girl who was bidding to become the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat, has been spotted and contacted by an Airbus A330. They spoke to her via radio, and she is okay; her boat is upright and still afloat:
A family spokesman says searchers have contacted a 16-year-old Southern California girl who was feared lost at sea and she is alive and well.
William Bennett with "Team Abby" said Thursday that searchers aboard an Airbus A330 spotted her boat in an upright position and made contact with her via radio. Bennett said Sunderland said she was doing fine and had plenty of food.
He says a fishing vessel is en route to pick her up.
Skipper Abby Sunderland
Her last previous contact with her family was approximately 7:00 am Thursday (EDT). She reported severe swells and bad weather; she activated two emergency beacons, then... silence. For nearly 17 hours, many thought she might have been lost at sea.
The rescue will end her sailing challenge this time; I suspect she won't be able to mount another expedition in time to break the record. Had she succeeded, she would have wrested the title away from -- her older brother, Zac Sunderland. He succeeded in 2008-9 (the trip took thirteen months), finishing after turning seventeen.
Date ►►► June 10, 2010
Things Better Left Unannounced
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued an announcement yesterday:
Public support for the war in Afghanistan will evaporate unless the nations leading the fight against insurgents can show by the end of this year that the eight-year war is not locked in stalemate, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday.
"All of us, for our publics, are going to have to show by the end of the year that our strategy is on the track, making some headway," Mr. Gates said ahead of meetings with NATO allies long weary of the war.
Let me understand: Robert Gates has just publicly informed the world -- including the Taliban and al-Qaeda, assuming they listen to the news -- just how long our enemies must hold out and make it appear we're not doing well, before the American people will turn against the war, forcing us to withdraw prematurely and in defeat.
Announced it. For the world press to repeat ad nauseum.
What could possibly go wrong? ™
Now, there's no denying this is a true statement; since the current Commander in Chief took over, things have not been going very well:
Support for the Afghanistan war is dropping in the United States after a period of relatively strong approval for the war and the retooled strategy Mr. Obama announced last year. He followed the announcement with a surge of 30,000 U.S. forces intended to seize momentum from the revived Taliban insurgency.
The U.S. and its allies, fighting alongside Afghan soldiers, do have the upper hand in many parts of the country. But crucial areas remain under the Taliban thumb, with little sign the allies are making headway in persuading local people to throw off the insurgents and align with the central government in Kabul.
But not every true statement must be trumpeted from the highest battlement; some truths are better left unannounced.
Say what you will about the communication skills of George W. Bush and his administration, at least nobody every accused them of blabbing important secrets to the world. Not even Gates himself, back when he had Bush as his boss, found occasion to let slip information that can only help the terrorists.
But Barack H. Obama, by contrast, seems bound and determined to reveal anything and everything that might embarass America and hurt the war effort. It's as if...
- He suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and simply cannot stop himself; or,
- He actually wants to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, perhaps hoping to blame the loss on "the previous administration's rush to war in Afghanistan."
If it's (2), that dog won't fly. When the starting pitcher leaves the game with a big lead, but the relief pitcher turns it into a substantial defeat, I think most folks know who should be charged with the loss.
The propensity towards poor impulse control and babbling trickles down from the fish-head itself to the rest of the cabinet, including Gates 2.0. How long it will be before some secretary, the Vice President, or even the Obamacle himself will call a press conference to solemnly declare, à la Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), that "this war is lost?"
Our next president may have to spend his or her entire first term doing nothing but "damage control" with a planet-sized pooper scooper, cleaning up the Augean mess created by the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Two recent killings of Mexicans by American Border-Patrol agents have roiled the relationship between Mexico and the United States. The first occurred on May 28th, when illegal immigrant Anastasio Hernandez began fighting with U.S. Border Patrol agents; one of the agents used a stun gun on Hernandez, and the 42 year old man -- who had illegally resided here and migrated back and forth across the border for 28 years -- died from the electrical discharge.
Then on Monday, a 14 or 15 year old "youth," Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereka, illegally attempted to enter the United States. When the Border Patrol arrived, Huereka fled back across the border -- whence he began pelting the agents on the American side with rocks, attempting to prevent them from arresting other illegals who were still north of the Rio Grande. When Huereka ignored several orders to stop throwing rocks, an agent returned fire, fatally shooting the youth.
The shooting drew Mexican soldiers to the scene. In apparent retaliation, they pointed their rifles at the agents on the American side of the Rio Grande, threatening to kill them; the agents were forced to withdraw.
The Mexican government claims Huereka was killed on the Mexican side by a Border-Patrol agent who crossed the dry Rio Grande to murder the boy, driven by "racism" inculcated by passage of the Arizona illegal-immigration law:
Chihuahua state Gov. Jose Reyes Baeza blamed the two killings on racism fueled by Arizona's law.
"We believe that this killing, the second in recent days in the border between the two countries, is due to xenophobia and racism, derived from the approval of Arizona's anti-immigration law," Reyes said.
The evidence cited by Mexico in support of the claim that the agent crossed into Mexico to kill Huereka is a .40 calliber shell casing, which Mexican officials claim was found on the south side of the river. But videotape taken by the Border Patrol (and a copy given to Mexican authorities) appears to show that the agent never crossed into Mexico... and also apparently shows Mexican soldiers crossing to the American side, picking something up -- a shell casing, perhaps? -- then returning to Mexico:
A U.S. official close to the investigation told the AP that authorities have a video showing that the Border Patrol agent did not cross into Mexico. In fact, the official said, the video shows what appear to be members of Mexican law enforcement crossing onto the U.S. side, picking something up and returning to Mexico. The official was not cleared to speak about the video and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
The agents said they acted in self-defense, shooting at the rock throwers; assaults by Mexican nationals on U.S. Border Patrol agents rose dramatically over the past seven months. But Mexican authorities "ridicule" that defense:
T.J. Bonner, president of the union representing Border Patrol agents, said rock throwing aimed at Border Patrol agents is common and capable of causing serious injury.
"It is a deadly force encounter, one that justifies the use of deadly force," Bonner said.
Mexicans ridiculed that stance.
"Let's say that Anastasio and Sergio Adrian attacked the border agents, one with his fists and the other with rocks," columnist Manuel Jauregui wrote in the newspaper Reforma. "Does that mean that killing them was the only valid option?"
Mexican officials deny that throwing stones constitutes assault with a deadly weapon; try telling that to teenaged girls who have the misfortune to be caught on unauthorized dates in Saudi Arabia, or whose Moslem fathers think they have dishonored the family in some obscure fashion.
Date ►►► June 9, 2010
President Mugwump Speaks Out
President Barack H. Obama has discovered yet another way to vote "present."
Speaking to wimpy Palestinian loser Mahmoud Abbas at the White House -- Yassir Arafat being unavailable due to continuing death -- Obama addressed the "raid" on the Turkish flotilla (a.k.a., enforcement of the three year old, perfectly legal blockade of Gaza). The Obamacle managed neither to oppose the blockade, nor support it; nor defend it, nor condemn it; nor find an alternative -- nor admit that no alternative exists, neither. But he hath spake nonetheless, and threatens to speak again:
President Barack Obama called the increasingly tense environment in the Mideast "unsustainable" Wednesday and said Israel needs a "better approach" in blockaded Gaza that would satisfy security and humanitarian needs.
Turning his attention to the troubled region as he welcomed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to the White House for talks, Obama also predicted "real progress" in coming months in U.S. efforts to nudge the Israelis and Palestinians toward direct peace talks [I'm sure AP really meant "nudzh," instead]....
Without joining international calls for Israel to end the embargo, Obama suggested a "new conceptual framework" to the blockade to ensure that both Israel's security requirements and the Gaza people's needs are met. He said he would discuss the idea with U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East....
"It seems to me that we should be able to take what has been a tragedy and turn it into an opportunity to create a situation where lives in Gaza are actually directly improved," Obama told reporters brought into the Oval Office at the conclusion of the meeting....
Obama said the flotilla raid was a "tragedy" and that it's important "that we get all the facts."
"What we also know is that the situation in Gaza is unsustainable," Obama said as Abbas sat alongside him in the Oval Office.
Asked whether Abbas asked him to take a tougher stance on the flotilla raid, Obama said he and Abbas spent most of their meeting time discussing how to solve "the problem" in Gaza....
"Both sides have to create an environment, a climate that will be conducive to an actual breakthrough," Obama said, adding that means the Israelis must curb settlement construction in disputed areas and the Palestinians must make progress toward security, among other issues.
If some reader can make fish nor tails out of this Nostradamian oracle, please enlighten us in the comments! All I can glean is that trying to get a consistent, sensible foreign policy out of the man is like pounding Jell-O down a rathole.
(I'd say it was time for the president to fish or get off the pot; but whenever the Obamacle does slip up and get specific, he turns into the Obamunist.)
He does have one concrete policy, however -- his universal solvent for any problem, big or small:
Obama also announced that the U.S. was sending an additional $400 million in aid to Gaza.
I'm sure foolproof security measures are in place to ensure that Hamas won't use our foreign aid to buy guns instead of butter. I don't know why Obama felt compelled to announce his terrorist-stimulus package while standing arm in arm with Mahmoud Abbas, of all people; the latter has as much control over Gaza as I have over the Pope's prandial leanings. It would make more sense for Barack Obama to announce the half-billion dollar gift to Hamas while bowing to that other Mahmoud over there.
Howbeit, in response to international pressure, Israel has agreed to loosen the blockade somewhat, for which the Obama administration will shortly claim credit: Israel will now allow importation of potato chips, cookies, candy, halvah, pork rinds (maybe not), cheeseballs, and other junk food. Perhaps there's something to those "war crimes" charges after all. (What, no Spam?)
I love this last skosh of Solomonic wisdom from the writer, Darlene Superville (I can only guess that all of her blue tops are emblazened with big, red-and-yellow Ds):
U.S.-Israeli relations were tested earlier this year when Israel announced plans for additional settlements in a part of Jerusalem considered by Palestinians as a potential capital of a new Palestinian state. The announcement came as Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel preparing for dinner with Netanyahu, in an incident that turned out to be a major embarrassment for the Israeli leader.
Three thoughts immediately spring forth like Athena from Zeus' brow:
- Capital of Israel: Jerusalem. Capital of Palestine: East Jerusalem. What could possibly go wrong?
- The new housing in East Jerusalem is erected entirely within Jewish, not Moslem neighborhoods. One must conclude, therefore, that the reason the Palestinians demand an end to housing construction and dismantling of existing "settlements" -- a.k.a., condos in Israel's capital -- is that they intend their eventual state of "Palestine" to be Judenrein, as Gaza is today.
- Who else besides me is intrigued enough to ask, what exactly did Joe Biden do at that dinner that proved such a "major embarassment?" The possibilities are literally limitless!
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► June 7, 2010
Bring It On, Mullah-Boy
Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards are ready to provide a military escort to cargo ships trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday.
"Iran's Revolutionary Guards naval forces are fully prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities," Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's representative inside the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency.
John Hinderaker noted that, "[t]he prospect of a Revolutionary Guards escort tells you all you need to know about the "peace and freedom convoys." But I think we can go farther than that: If the Iranian Revolutionary Guard navy carries through on its threat, it would be the most catastrophic military blunder in the Middle East since Saddam Hussein's defiance.
At the moment, the Islamists in Turkey and Iran are squeezing some bad PR out of Israel by encouraging terrorists and their allies to send "peaceful" convoys of "peace activists" to break the Gaza blockade... in reality, to provoke some intemperate Israeli response to add another whiney complaint to the EU/U.N. grievance parade. It annoys Israel and could lead to some serious problems if, for example, Egypt decides to lift its side of the blockade along the Egypt-Gaza border.
But the bad PR depends upon the half-believable fantasty that Israel uses "disproportionate force" in attacking pacifist priests, politicians, and imams. While the videotape of the enforcement of the blockade belies this fiction, the left-stream media can always ignore the feed and tendentiously redefine reality:
Last Monday Israeli troops killed nine activists on board one ship in a convoy trying to deliver aid to Gaza, sparking international outrage, especially in Muslim countries.
But if the Iranian navy itself tries to run the blockade, guns blazing and missiles flying, that turns the entire world-view upside-down: No longer will it be a case of Israel the bully slaughtering a bunch of non-violent "peace activists;" now it will clearly be a brazen military attack by Iran upon another country, hundreds of miles away. Not even the Times could spin that as Israel again responding with "disproportionate force!"
But that's not all; consider the assault itself. Iran's last significant military encounter was the Iran-Iraq war -- which ended in stalemate a generation ago. Millions were immolated in both Iran and Iraq to no strategic purpose whatsoever; both countries still struggle to recover. Since 1988, Iran's primary military activity has been infiltration of the Qods Force here and there (mostly in Iraq) and financing terrorism by Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and of course Hezbollah.
Contrariwise, Israel has fought actual wars several times since then, primarily in Lebanon and Gaza; that's a lot of recent combat experience. Too, Israel's economy is in better shape than Iran's, which is almost entirely state-run.
I'm fairly certain that in a real shooting war so close to Israel, the Israeli navy and air force would swiftly send the Iranian fleet to Ali Jones' locker.
Such a defeat would shatter Iran's claim to be the "strong horse" in the Middle East. If the world gets a lucky break, the international embarassment of the almighty ayatollahs might foment uprisings against them, perhaps even the overthrow of the "revolutionary," theocratic government -- a faint hope, I'll grant, but pleasant to contemplate.
And the likely scenario just keeps getting better and better: In addition to the humiliation of Iran, Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's hand would be dramatically strengthened at home and abroad:
- A direct attack by Iran upon the Israeli fleet would drive even the putative peaceniks in Israel to support Likud's strong defense policy, and away from the usual paeans for the "peace process." Support for the Israeli Labor and Kadima parties would plummet, and Likud might control the Knesset for a generation.
- Supporters of the Palestinians, the Islamist Turks, and Iran would be emasculated, either by the attack itself -- proving that the "peace activists" were either dupes or the original aggressors -- or at the very least by the mortifying defeat of the Revolutionary Guard fleet at the hands of a bunch of Israelis. The strong horse/weak horse dynamic of Arabia and Persia would drive them to pull back in disarray, curbing imperial dreams for a long time.
I believe war between Israel and Iran is inevitable anyway; it's best to bring it on now, prematurely for the Iranians, rather than hold off and wait until Iran's economy improves and it becomes a full-fledged nuclear power.
So go ahead, Mullah-Boy; send your fleet to try to crack the Israeli blockade. It would be the best possible move you could make... for Israel, the United States, and the rest of the West, that is.
Date ►►► June 4, 2010
Charlie Crist's "Maverick" Campaign Now Run By... the Democrats?
No, this is not a rib. (Why do I keep feeling the need to reassure readers that this isn't a late April Fool's Day joke?)
According to the New York Post, for what it's worth, the ObaMachine appears to have dumped the actual Democrat in the U.S. Senate race in Florida, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL, 95%), throwing its considerable weight behind "independent," "post-partisan" former RINO Charlie Crist instead, the sitting governor of that same state:
The decision will be widely viewed as a slap at Democratic frontrunner Rep. Kendrick Meek, who is trailing badly in the polls and many Democrats believe is hopeless for winning in November.
Making it all the more ominous for Meek is that SKDKnickerbocker is helmed by Anita Dunn, who most recently served as senior advisor to President Obama and is one of the administration's most valued political operators outside the White House.
Of course, for this to happen, two events must have occured sub-rosa:
- President Barack H. Obama must at least indirectly have ordered his old cohort Anita "I ♥ Mao" Dunn to assume command, through her lieutenant, Josh Isay.
- Gov. Crist would have to have willingly handed his campaign over to the Obamunists.
(It would help Crist's chances if Meek would just "go away." Look for a bright future at the Department of Health and Human Services or the Social Security Administration to be dangled before the congressman's eyes.)
The actual "lead media consultant" to Crist will be Josh Isay, former top strategist for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (another party-switcher, this time from Democrat to Republican for the purpose of dodging a tough Democratic primary).
Politico has a bit more on the firm, SKDKnicerbocker::
The release also notes the firm, which includes former NY Post reporter Stefan Friedman, labor and lobbyist powerhouse Jennifer Cunningham and is partnered with Bill Knapp and Anita Dunn in Washington, has worked on the last four Democratic presidential nominees' campaigns.
Isay was also chief-of-staff to Sen. Charles Schumer and managed his successful 1998 campaign. Most recently, he worked on Bloomberg's last two mayoral efforts, and also helped guide Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman to victory running as an independent - an effort that became something of a test case for success.
This story is for all those who actually believed that Gov. Charlie Crist was going to be independent, as opposed to a Democrat shill hoping to derail the freight train of the actual Republican, erstwhile Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, State Rep. Marco Rubio. Now the shill has elbowed out the other Democrat, displacing him in the family pecking order. Heh.
Perhaps it would be instructive to check out Real Clear Politics' poll posting for the race. RCP shows three "current" polls for the threesome between Rubio, Crist, and Meek; but the bottom one from Mason-Dixon is a month old. In fact, it was taken less than a week after Crist made the dramatic announcement that he was going to pull out of the GOP primary and run as an Independent instead. That makes it obsolete and tainted; adios, Mr. Mason and Mr. Dixon!
Tossing that one out, we have a Rasmussen poll from May 16th that shows Rubio ahead by 8 points at 39%, Crist second with 31, and Meek a distant third with 18 (recall that Rasmussen polls likely voters, not all registered voters). The remaining poll is from the St. Petersburg Times, 5/14 to 5/18: Crist leads with 30%, Rubio second with 27, and Meek last with 15. The average of the two polls has Rubio at 33.0%, Crist at 30.5, and Meek with 16.5.
So once again, the Democratic plan of abandoning Meek and jumping ship to Crist seems like the opportunistic path of least principle.
In the end, it won't matter; Rubio is actually much farther ahead than the polls show. As many electoral analysts have pointed out, when the "incumbent" -- or in this case, the better-known candidate, Charlie Crist, the state's sitting governor -- is mired below the 50% mark, then typically, on election day, nearly all the undecideds will vote for the challenger.
Rubio is going to win this race; Meek will limp along with his minor career; and Charlie Crist will be consigned to the Island of the Tiresome, where he and Arlen Specter can play Diplomacy through all eternity, never to be heard from again.
Mexico Opens Faux ID Supermarket in California, Claims Sanctuary in Church
No, this is not a rib.
It appears that the Mexican government opened a storefront in the resort island of Catalina -- as in "twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waitin' for me" -- where they have been distributing "matricular consular identification cards" to Mexican nationals illegally in California:
The Mexican consular office in Los Angeles issued a flier, a copy of which was obtained by The Examiner, listing the Catalina Island Country Club as the location of its satellite office. It invites Mexicans to visit the office to obtain the identification, called matricular cards, by appointment.
What the heck is a matricular consular identification card? I'll let Sara A. Carter of the Washington Examiner explain:
The matricular consular identification card, is issued by the Mexican government to Mexican nationals residing outside the country, regardless of immigration status. The purpose is to provide identification for opening bank accounts and obtaining other services. But the cards are usually used to skirt U.S. immigration laws, since Mexicans in the country legally have documents proving that status, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
In 2004 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI officials called the card an unreliable form of identification. The agency said that Mexico lacks a centralized database for them, which could lead to forgery, duplication, and other forms of abuse.
Since Catalina Island is technically still part of California (we tried but failed to give it away to Aruba), there is ordinarily no border security or checkpoint or search or ID check when one travels there; if the passenger doesn't want to produce ID for a plane flight, he can fly there in his own plane or ask a friend to fly him. He can take a ferry, or a pleasant glass-bottomed boat ride. For that matter, he can sail his own sailboat, motor his own motorboat, or swim. It's a resort island, easy to travel to.
I seem to have drifted from my point, which is that any Mexican illegal immigrant can motivate himself to Catalina, head to the Catalina Island Country Club, and get what looks like a legal, legitimate resident's ID... but is in fact worth exactly nothing, as Mexico has no serious controls over who gets them, or how many duplicates of each card exist in the hands of other people -- including drug smugglers and potential terrorists.
For that matter, since there is no internal Border Patrol traveling from one American state to another, any illegal anywhere in the U.S. can drive to California (carefully skirting the Grand Canyon state), ferry to Catalina, and get his "ID card."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apparantly wanted to shut down this Mexican-government operation; however, Mexico has requested that it forbear:
Officers with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said their agency was asked by Mexican officials not to enforce U.S. immigration laws on the island while the cards were being issued.
"It amazes me every time that the Mexican government has the gall to tell us what to do," said an ICE official, who asked not to be named. "More surprisingly is how many times we stand by and let them. This is just an example of one of hundreds of requests we've had to deal with."
But in a late-breaking addendum, Mexico appears to be nervous about its chances; so it has shifted the location of the fraudulent ID handout operation away from the Catalina Island Country Club... into St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, also on Catalina.
It appears that Mexico lied to the country club, telling the club that it only wanted to set-up a "multi-cultural celebration;" when the country-club management discovered it was an ID shop instead, it rejected Mexico's request. But now, having shifted operations to a church, Mexico is trying to rely upon the same anti-border-enforcement "movement" that has led many cities in the United States to declare themselves "sanctuary cities" and order their police forces not to cooperate with ICE:
Mexican government officials have moved their satellite consular office from the Catalina Island Country Club to a Catholic Church -- citing protection under the Vienna Convention [the what?] -- after it was discovered that they did not have the appropriate paperwork to issue the island’s illegal immigrants identification cards.
I have no idea what "Vienna Convention" Ms. Carter means; I contacted her, but she did not respond by the time this post went to phosphor. So far as I know, there is no convention to which we are signatories that allows issuance of fraudulent IDs to illegal immigrants, so long as it's done on church property. (I have no way of knowing if Carter accurately reported what the government of Mexico argued; I wish she had responded.)
But I find the entire situation illuminating, to say the least. Mexico President Felipe Calderón just returned from the United States, where he chastised America for allowing Arizona to pass a law enforcing existing immigration law. In fact, California's own very, very moderate Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has grown in office (or perhaps in marriage), made it clear he likewise opposes Arizona's immigration law; and of course, several cities in California, including the enormity of Los Angeles, have voted to "boycott" Arizona, whatever that means.
Mexico cheerfully displayed its gratitude for such support: It picked the Golden State for its newest fake-ID boiler-room operation. With friends like these, who needs enemas?
As most of you know (and are infuriated by), I completely support comprehensive immigration reform... though I add the bizarre twist that it should include actual reform of the legal immigration system. I believe that a huge percent of illegals are only illegal because our system is arbitrary, unpredictable, and unjust.
But that does not compel me to support illegal immigration -- or "migration," as Mexico chillingly calls it, bringing to mind the mass movements of entire populations. Nor does my support for reform of legal immigration lead to support for a foreign government deliberately and with malice aforethought aiding and abetting the use of fraudulent IDs (even "matricular consular identification cards") to facilitate illegals hiding in the United States -- and even making it easier to obtain government subsidies and handouts, whether from hick towns too dumb to realize matricular cards are not actually valid IDs, or from putative "sanctuary cities" who know exactly what they're doing: conspiring with a foreign power to commit a felony against the United States.
ICE should round up some Israeli commandos and paintball guns and launch an immediate raid on the fake-ID supermarket, even if that means having to batter their way into a Catholic church. Or a mosque, if that's the next spot Mr. Calderón picks for his ongoing RICO operation.
Date ►►► June 2, 2010
497 Days Into the Glorious Revolution...
...Yet America is still held hostage by the wicked tyrant; the unreconstructed, right-wing oppressor; the election-stealing, egg-sucking, blood-for-oiler. All badness in the United States can still be laid at the feet of this evil-doer:
- The failing economy
- The flailing presidency
- The ailing diplomacy
- The bailing overseas contingency
And now -- even the fraying co-residency of two great icons, who between them have saved the world countless times while also creating the internet:
Family friend Sally Quinn told CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson that Gore winning the popular vote for president but losing the electoral vote may have done the marriage irreparable harm.
"He's obviously suffered a lot," Quinn said. "He'll never get over that and neither will she."
So as intelligent, decent folk suspected all along, the separation and upcoming divorce of "Dour" Al Gore and his rodentine wife "Chipper" Tipper is George W. Bush's fault. Finally, everything makes sense; it's pre-emptive payback for Gore's subsequent work circumnavigating the globe a dozen times preaching against wasteful energy use.
Gol-darn that Shrub. Just -- just darn him! Has he, at last, no decency? Oh, the humanity. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, and watch your parking meters.
Date ►►► June 1, 2010
The Shape of Stings to Come
AP just can't bring itself to refer to either Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization. It's an open question, mustn't prejudge!
The strongest that the Associated Press can muster is to refer to Hamas "militants" and "fighters" from PIJ. And of course, the "news" agency uncritically repeats claims by Islamist Moslem nations and traditional Israel-haters in France that the Israelis violated "international law" with their "massacre" of innocents in the flotilla of "peace activists":
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [of Turkey], an outspoken critic of Israel, told lawmakers Tuesday that the Israeli raid was an attack "on international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace."
"This bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse," he said, demanding that Israel immediately halt its "inhumane" blockade of Gaza.
Turkey demanded that the U.S. condemn the raid. The White House has reacted cautiously, calling for disclosure of all the facts.
Timidly would be the better word.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn the unspecified "use of force" and violent "acts;" the United States has veto authority within the Security Council, but the Barack H. Obama administration refused to exercise that right, instead pushing only for a wishy-washy, "on the one hand, on the other hand" statement that found guilt without deciding which side was guilty, or in what proportions:
“The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza,” the statement said, adding that the 15-member body “in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss” of lives.
The wording seemed designed to dilute demands for condemnation exclusively of Israel, which argues that its soldiers acted in self-defense in response to violent resistance to their interception of the vessels from passengers on board.
Unwilling to let the crisis go to waste, the Security Council also demanded -- with American acquiescence, probably passive -- that Israel essentially lift the blockade and allow the "sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza":
“The Security Council requests the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel,” the United Nations statement said, calling for “a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”
It also said the situation in Gaza, under blockade by Israel, was “not sustainable” and called for a “sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza, as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.”
On the broader Palestinian-Israeli confrontation, the Security Council renewed calls for a two-state solution and voiced concern that the raid on the flotilla took place while United States-sponsored so-called “proximity talks” were under way.
Presumably, the Israelis should allow any number of ships to pass directly to Gaza "unimpeded" for however long it takes for our "proximity talks" to bring about the desired "two-state solution." That is, so long as the Palestinians remain intransigent, Israel should not be allowed to defend itself; as soon as the Palestinians come to their senses and stop trying to exterminate all Jews, then Israel will be allowed to enforce its (then-unnecessary) blockade.
It's a position that makes perfect sense in the Era of Obamunism!
Two significant events occurred today: First, Egypt unexpectedly decided to lift its own land blockade of the border crossings between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, at least for a few days, allowing virtually unfettered movement of men and materials back and forth; there is no indication the Egyptian security officials are even making sure Iranian missiles are kept out of Gaza. They claim this is for humanitarian purposes, but I think it clear it's really designed to punish Israel.
Second, the peace activists of the religion of peace sent out another boat to try to run the blockade. Their plan should be clear by now:
- Three or four more "unarmed" vessels full of peaceniks (recreationally chanting "kill the Jews") will assail the blockade.
- Each attempt will provoke more "violence," other "massacres," more "raids." (And since when does enforcing a publicly announced blockade constitute a raid?)
- Every such use of "disproportionate force" will ratchet up world demand for an end to the blockade.
- Eventually (this part is mere wishful thinking on the part of Hamas and its sponsor, Iran -- I hope!) Israel will be forced by mounting world fury to withdraw its sea-based defense.
- Once that happens -- the next humanitarian aid ship to Gaza will transport thousands of advanced Scud missiles, the same type that Iran and Syria have been openly shipping to Hezbollah in recent months.
- Then all of Israel, including every major Israeli city, will fall within range of Hezbollah or Hamas missile attacks.
The U.N. should be pleased if Israel no longer commands disproportionate force but is matched by exterminationist terrorist organizations -- pardon me, I meant "militant" groups of "fighters." The endless series of complaints against Israel will have achieved their ultimate aim; when the inevitable, Iran-led, fourth holy war begins, no country will dare stand up for the Jews... lest Iran decide to seal off the Strait of Hormuz, blockading much of the world's oil.
Say -- perhaps StratFor's traditional conclusion that "doom is nigh" will turn out to be accurate after all!
Thank goodness we have such a strong Commander in Chief, such a great admirer of Israel; otherwise, we might have to worry that America may no longer exercise its veto authority in the UNSC to protect the Jewish state -- and might even join the world-wide movement to force Israel into a suicide-pact "peace treaty" with next-door neighbors who want nothing more than the obliteration of world Jewry and will not even take the most basic step of renouncing terrorism and jihad against Israel. We might pressure our beleagured, erstwhile ally into the existential error of "a treaty at any cost."
But I'm sure we can rely upon the strength of character and excellent primal instincts of President Barack Hussein Obama II to rescue us from such a fate. He saved us from health care, didn't he?
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
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