Category ►►► Blogomania
January 16, 2013
Thee Derangers ave Smell Czech
The opening paragraph of Rich Galen's latest issue of his cyberzine, Mullings:
The conventional wisdom among the geniuses who are paid to tell us what to think about and how to think about it has been that the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre had lost his mind when he proclaimed, after the tragedy in Connecticut, that the way to stop a bad guy with a guy is with a good guy with a gun.
Honestly, Mr. Mullings, I'm quite certain that the NRA has no policy position whatsoever on the subject of same-sex dating!
The trouble with spellcheck arrives when you misspell a word by using another existing word; thin theirs nod mulch spiel chalk cane dew two alp ewe wreck hover!
(Of course, guy the time you read this, Rich will probably have corrected it -- by a human hand, brain, and highball.)
October 23, 2012
Best -- Headline -- Ever!
(Or at least, ever in this election cycle: Let's not be too lexiphanic -- just moderately lexiphanic.)
Via Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller, captioning the pettiness and small-ball into which the Obama campaign has sunk:
July 3, 2012
The Lizards Present Korso!
As you have no doubt noticed -- and if you haven't, you aren't in the habit of reading bylines, you bestial excuses for civilized human beings -- we have added a second blogger on Big Lizards. (Or rather, a fourth blogger, though the other two are less concrete and more ethereal and mercurial, not to say theoretical and conjectural.)
He goes by the obviously feigned name of Korso, and here (he insists) is his curriculum vitae, which he concocted himself -- thus certain to be energetically inflated and heavily edited; the warts and felonies skillfully airbrushed out, while superlative manifestations are projected with an incisive eye towards misdirection; full of vague and sly insinuation yoked to overt confabulation; and not to completely exclude the compounding of a fistful of outright hoaxes, flimflam, rodomontade, baroque filligree and fooferaw, lovingly applied mendacity, byzantine babble, and hastily concealed sleight of lip. Take it all with a fistful of sodium chloride, if not sodium pentothal...
I better make this something that can't be used against me in a court of law, so here goes:
Like the other Big Lizards, Korso is a science-fiction writer of impeccable (though some would say ill) repute. His first novel Hammerjack was published by Bantam Spectra in 2004, followed a year later by the sequel Prodigal. Though they didn't win any awards, they brought joy to dozens of readers worldwide, proving that "Big in Japan" truly is a relative concept.
In 2010, Korso published "Revenant," a novella included in the Star Trek anthology Seven Deadly Sins -- thus fulfilling a decades-long quest to put his own stamp on the Trek universe.
In between the occasional book, Korso works as an information systems geek and makes his home in the balmy state of Florida with his beautiful wife and two amazing kids.
...And if you believe all that, you're doubtless exactly the sort who reads and actually believes the byline!
Nota Bene: As with the primary Lizard, this new Lizard is also not a pseudonym of Peter David.
June 10, 2012
Okay, So I Piously Observed the Day of Blogger Silence in Protest
of the Judicial Censorship of Aaron Walker by Judge Vaguely...
Or two days silence, actually; I think nearly three, to be vaguely exact.
Alas, since I generally go several days without blogging anymore, nobody even noticed.
Virtue had better be its own reward, because I sure don't see much profit to it in this vale of tears...!
December 31, 2011
My Biggest Blogging Mistake of 2011,
viz the Trend Pioneered at Patterico's Pantaloons
Over at my erstwhile blog -- I mean the blog at which I used to guest blog, erstwhilishly -- the mononymous Karl has invented a wonderful new means of self-criticism: He urges all bloggers and mainscream journalists to "audit their own work":
I think it is a healthy development that more bloggers are taking the slow news period at year’s end to audit their own work. It is a practice that ought to be adopted more by those in the establishment media who are actually paid for the opinions and predictions. Thus, it seemed only fair that I promote the trend by auditing my own 2011 blogging.
After laying the ground rules, Karl's post rises in crimson crescendo to the climax, where Karl finally reveals "My biggest blogging error in 2011." ("My" in this case means his, Karl's; Karl makes no attempt to elucidate my, Dafydd's, biggest blogging error.) He concludes:
In sum, my biggest blogging error in 2011 was failing to recognize how easy it is to make the basic mistakes of punditry -- straight-line projections and letting one's personal preference color one's analysis -- even when consciously trying to avoid them. These are lessons establishment pundits could take to heart without auditing their work each year -- but it helps.
I think this a wonderful trend or fashion, and I will do my gol-durndest to support it. Thus, taking a deep breath, here it is -- my pledge to you, gentle readers.
I hereby vow, without misdirection, non-sequitur, or weasely equivocation, that I shall follow the progress of Karl, as he audits his own posts in search of the worst, with great and abiding interest.
There! Never let it be said that an ab Hugh was incapable of introspection -- anent other people's gaffes. (Or would that be extrospection?)
July 13, 2010
WSJ Notices BL
Despite my voluminous vanity and enormous ego, which rival the gas giants for sheer, monstrous size, I nevertheless recognize that I am but a blogger: I see a vast distinction between what I do and what a real professional journalist does, however few of those are left, and however few of those left are right. I even understand the yawning chasm between blogger commentary -- and paid commentary at a real news outlet.
Thus I am grateful and more than a little gobsmacked to see the Wall Street Journal, in the person of columnist James Taranto, in his Best of the Web Today piece titled "It's Duck Season!", actually quote from and link to a piece of Big Lizards. (I'm doubly pleased to be in the WSJ -- associated with Bugs and Daffy! No jokes about the latter's name, please...)
Taranto quotes from my analysis of the Byrd option [subscription to the WSJ may be required]; and funnily enough, he arrives at the same conclusion as I: That even if the Democrats try to push Obamunism through in a "Lame Donkey" session, it likely will fail in the Senate... because too many Senators are up for reelection in 2012 and would probably be gunshy about spitting in voters' faces so brazenly. Though I wish he had more widely spread my own name for the attempt -- I really like the term, Lame-Donkey Congress.
Oddly, the link doesn't seem to have increased today's hits; but one can't have everything. (Or perhaps one can -- but would one really want it?)
July 8, 2010
Oh for Pete's Sake
Now Power Line is running a banner advertisement equating Sarah Palin and -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Don't let Sarah and Mahmoud dictate our energy future, screams the advert atop one of the premier conservative blogs; it's time for a strong clean energy and climate plan.
In God's name, who is running Power Line's ad sales? Doesn't any of the three proprietors pay attention to the vile, liberal inuendos and scurrilous attacks appearing on the blog?
I would never accept an ad trashing Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina, or hawking Jerry Brown for re-governor, or linking Sarah Palin and the Tyrant of Teheran... not even for the "worthy cause" of promoting global-warming hysteria.
Scott -- Paul -- John... wake up! You have allowed BlogAds and GoogleAds to seize control of your blog and turn it into a liberal campaign "bot." You have let them make fools of you.
I beg you to please retake control of your adspace! The adverts undo virtually every good thing wrought by your excellent posts.
March 26, 2010
Every Crowd Has Its Silver Lionizing
In the midst of the eldritch, trancendental, Lovecraftian horror of ObamaCare being foisted upon us by a monomaniacal "Democratic" Congress, some pearls of great price have been unearthed as unearned grace. One such is the best column by Dennis Prager I've read in a half-dozen years or more. Bookends:
A terrible thing happened to America on Sunday, March 21, 2010.
The country took its biggest step ever down a road diametrically opposed to its original intent of keeping the state small so that the individual can be free and great.
Therefore, in this unprecedented crisis of values, this is what needs to be done....
7. Acknowledge that we are in a non-violent civil war.
I write the words "civil war" with an ache in my heart. But we are in one.
Thank God this civil war is non-violent. But the fact is that the left and the rest of the country share almost no values. The American value system and the leftist value system are irreconcilable. If the left wins, America's values lose. If American values prevail, the left loses.
After Sunday's vote, for the first time in American history, one could no longer confidently believe that the American system will prevail. And if we don't fight for it, we don't deserve it.
Dennis, who I've met many times but who wouldn't know me from Adam Ant (or Adam Schiff), succinctly presents seven positive steps we can (must!) undertake in response to this, if not unprecedented then at least obnoxious and infuriating infringement of our sacred liberties. An E-ticket ride, no bout adout it.
Then there is this impactful drawing together of many threads anent "political violence," defined in this limited case as "Democratic whinery about controlling only 99% of government power, instead of the 112% they expect and demand to control."
Offered for your approval, Wolf Howling's recent post on political violins -- sorry, violence -- allegedly directed against alleged Democrats. Here is Mr. Howling's back-of-the-thumbnail summation of the current state of play:
[The Left is] now making a concerted effort, helped by an equally "progressive" MSM, to portray that there is some new level of violence, racism and homophobia in America, and further, that this violence, racism and homophobia is synonymous with the Tea Party movement who protested Obamacare at the capitol over the weekend. There is no doubt that this is a collateral attack on all of those who protest the passage of Obamacare and an attempt to delegitimize them. It is also just so incredibly hypocritical as to be jaw dropping.
Just reading these two internicine intercourses back to back should buoy the spirits and calm fears better than trancendental meditation, chocolate, or a stiff belt of Tullamore Dew. So do be a do-bee, and read them both to their utmost.
Consider this a Big Lizards PSA.
February 15, 2010
Excellent Post by Wolfie; Required Reading
I so rarely do this that many readers will not recall the last time; I don't!
Please click here and read a powerful post by GW at Wolf Howling; I cannot praise it highly enough. (Ignore the tyops; the content is vital.) In a very few words, GW identifies the problem with Salafi/Wahhabi Islam, limns the essential difference between that branch of Islam and other branches, and succinctly suggests what we need to do about it.
Get ye hence and read, cowboy, read!
December 7, 2009
After a hiatus of approximately 237 years, I have put a post up at Patterico's Pontifications, where I got my start blogging back when the rocks were still cooling. You can read it here.
I'm too pressed for time to tell you what it's all about. Suffice to say that it relates to racism, paleoconservatism, communism (with a lowercase c), brainwashing, and McCain -- but not that McCain.
For the full poop, follow the link, you lazy jackanapes!
September 1, 2009
Epiphany at Last
I just realized that Paul Mirengoff, born in 1949, is the oldest member of Power Line; John Hinderaker was born in 1950, while Scott Johnson is the baby, hatched in 1951.
But on the other hand, Paul didn't actually join Power Line until August 20th, 2002 -- more than three months after its debut on May 5th. Until then, Power Line comprised only Hinderaker and Johnson. Thus, in a different sense, Paul is the youngest member of that blog.
...So it's official: Paul "Deacon" Mirengoff is the Ringo Starr of Power Line.
Scott "Big Johnson" Trunk would of course be the George Harrison; and I can't say whether John "Hindrocket" Hinderaker would be the John or the Paul.
I was sometimes called the "fifth Power Liner," but I was never actually a member, of course... simply viewed with alarm by one and all. Thus, I can only be the Yoko Ono of Power Line.
Hrm, maybe I should never have brought up this sordid subject in the first place...
July 6, 2009
Our Take on That Whole Big Sarah Palin Thing with Ace of Spades and Ed Morrissey, as Filtered Through Our Man Karl
Karl -- that Hot Air guy who sometimes throws a crumb or two to Patterico (and never even once to me, the villain!) -- reposted on Patterico's Pontifications what he had already reposted on Hot Air (with some commentary in the identical posts): Ace of Spades' comment in one of the threads of his own blog, this post written by guest blogger "Russ from Winterset" in response to earlier posts by Ace Himself, viz., here (complete with "flaming death" animation) and here... and I'll lay you 8 to 5 you have no idea what I just wrote, and I couldn't possibly repeat it anyway.
But you have the gist, I think: Ace said something critical about Sarah Palin after she announced she was resigning the governship of Alaska (effective July 26th); he was a bit roughed up by the commenters, and he took umbrage, striking back in comment number 324.
The best place to read Ace's response and Karl's commentary is at the Patterico link above; I don't want to shovel any more readership to those fat cat, capitalist, imperialist running dogs at Hot Air, where all the posters get paid a six-figure salary, and to which they won't even invite me. I would be so happy to belly up to the trough. What's wrong with a lizard among the piggies? Is it some commentary about me being somewhat vertically challenged?
And I'm sorry about that "running dog" crack. It will never happen again, especially if I'm invited.
I seem to have gotten a bit off track. My point was this: I actually troubled to read all the way through the comment stream at Patterico's (up through comment 58, the last one at the time I read); and I did not see a single comment that was "over the top," abusive, Ace- or Ed-hating (the captain has also be rather critical of Palin's move), or in any other way inappropriate as commentary on what was unquestionably harsh criticism of the soon-to-be erstwhile governor.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the calm and measured tone... as I suspect was Karl; judging from his final remark in the post, he expected the same vitriol on Patterico's he alleges occurred on Ace of Spades and Hot Air. (I didn't read the 758 comments on the former or the 664 comments on the latter -- and certainly not the literally thousands on the Ed Morrissey post at Hot Air -- so I cannot characterize them from personal observation.)
This leads me to regurgitate one of my infamous Lizardian Maxims: You buttered your bread, now sleep in it. From what I've read, Ace can be very aggressive in his blogpostings, sometimes even resorting to the sort of obscenity-laced tirades I expect more from lefty bloggers -- and writers on mainstream, left-leaning publications; and Keith Olbermann -- than from the Right.
I'm not knocking that style; it's no more valid or invalid than any other. And the comparison above is not to content; on that score, Ace has every lefty blogger in Niven's known universe beat hands down. I'm only talking about the style, which isn't my cuppa.
It attracts a certain kind of commenter, and it sets a certain tone, both of which (in my opinion) generate precisely the kind of magma-spewing verbal assaults that Karl tells us occurred on Ace of Spades, leading to comment 324.
As a counterexample, I cite the civil and civilized conversation in the comments to Karl's reposting on Patterico's Pontifications. Patterico himself occasionally goes off the rails, railing at, e.g., Andrew Sullivan or Tom Boggioni (whoever he was); but it's not often. His normal mode is much more analytical, if perhaps not as contemplative as those by his guest bloggers Karl and "Jack Dunphy," or as reportorial as those by his other guest blogger, the divine Ms. DRJ. (I could also cite another blog I know well, the acme of measured, logical, soft-spoken, sagacious commentary across the entire blogosphere; but modesty forbids.)
Of course, this thesis of mine breaks down a bit in the case of Ed Morrissey, as he too is the epitome of measured, soft-spoken, etc. But has case is exceptional, mere fallout via guilt by association at Hot Air and spillover from the content-similarity between what Ed and Ace said. Leaving that oddity aside (and as always, taking as gospel Karl's and Patterico's characterization of the verbal gobsmacking of Morrissey), the response here and on PP is worlds apart from the response at Hot Air and Ace of Spades.
That yawning chasm of invective cannot be explained by reference to "Palinistas" vs. "Frumquats." It can only be explained, it seems to me, by the equally vast distinction between the audiences at PP (and BL) and those at Ace and Hot Air. The latter sites appeal to mass numbers of readers far beyond even Patterico's meagre imagining: 68,000 per day at Ace and 620,000 per day (!) at Hot Air, vice a mere 8,000 a day at Patterico's... and, ah, a little bit less than that at Big Lizards. (All right, about 90% less.) The only way to get those kinds of numbers is, to put it brutally, to toss a lot of red meat -- hot, visceral posts in primary colors, with little shading or pedantry.
Ace is a milblogger, so this kind of thing comes naturally to him; and Hot Air was founded by Our Dearest Michelle -- who comes from the world of television news and news analysis, where numbers are measured by the million: A profession that rates the popularity of its practitioners every week can never wallow in contemplative commentary, not if it wants to survive.
I do believe that this entire imbroglio is not really about David Frum's anti-Palin animus being absurdly exaggerated (which it is), nor about the admittedly Pavlovian response of Palin's fan base (in which Sachi and I number; I'm getting her Sarah Palin glasses for our anniversary). Rather, it's really all about the different approaches, target audiences, and founding examples set by different blogs... and it's why, even with the microbial page-view numbers a blog like this one generates, compared to the beluga whale-sized numbers of Ace of Spades (and the Jupiterian numbers racked up by Hot Air), Big Lizards will never be driven from the blogosphere.
Those who read us are evidently not fully satisfied by the larger blogs -- else they wouldn't bother. Like a microcosm of the free market itself, "buyers" of blogposts will seek out specific "sellers," even if there are many other sellers peddling similar, but not identical, products. This is the essence of freedom, of Capitalism -- and the polar opposite of the top-down, one size fits all approach not only of big government, but of Big Energy, Big Health Care, Big Automotive, Big Food, Big Computer, and all the other industries that superficially seem to be dominated by a few Brobdingnagian players... who even so, never can quite eradicate their Lilliputian competitors.
Let a thousand flowers bloom, and long may the market reign!
May 11, 2009
Does Dick Cheney (or Someone on His Staff) Read Big Lizards?
I would be thrilled to discover such a connection to the Dick and powerful. Yet something I just read on my favorite blog -- Power Line, not Big Lizards! -- truly makes me wonder...
In a recent Johnblog, Mr. Hinderaker quoted an interview with former Vice President Cheney on Debase the Nation:
It was a time of great concern, and we put in place some very good policies, and they worked, for eight years. Now we have an administration that's come to power that has been critical of the programs, but not only that, there's been talk about prosecuting the lawyers in the Justice Department who gave us the opinions that we operated in accordance with, or referring them to the Bar Association for disbarment or sanctions of some kind, or possibly cooperating with foreign governments that are interested in trying to prosecute American officials, those same officials who were responsible for defending this nation for the last eight years.
I purse my lips and suck on my teeth. Where did Dick Cheney get that last point? I don't recall him mentioning it before now.
That casually creepy bombshell -- Attorney General Eric Holder suggesting that "the United States could cooperate with a foreign court's investigation of Bush administration officials" -- came from a couple of paragraphs buried in an obscure AP article discussing a press conference that Holder held, which was mostly devoted to his efforts to bribe our allies to accept a handful of released detainees from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.
So far as I know, until I posted about it, nobody else had picked up on Holder's rather shocking trial balloon. When I posted it, I e-mailed some other (bigger, importanter) blogs, and a couple of them linked us and mentioned the quote; Power Line and Captain Ed at Hot Air spring to mind.
Of course, it's possible that someone in Cheney's office read the Power Line or Captain Ed post; but even so, that would still make me feel good: As long as word gets out -- Holder hinting that he might help a Spanish court, which has granted itself "universal jurisdiction," prosecute American officials for implementing policy that is perfectly legal under American law -- I don't care who gets the credit. (Pfui, who am I fooling? Of course I care; I just care a great deal more that the scandal does actually get out!)
The third possibility is that someone in Cheney's office read the same story I did, but it just took eleven days to percolate up to the former veep himself. But that strikes me as implausible: I say, it must ultimately have come from Big Lizards, because it would be so wonderful if it ultimately came from Big Lizards! There, you can't get any more conclusive than that.
So nobody tell me that all my years of blogging have been in vain. It may be true -- but for God's sake, don't nobody tell me!
May 7, 2009
Jew Hatred and Other EuroLeft In-Jokes
I cannot more strongly urge everyone to read Mark Steyn's piece Israel Today, the West Tomorrow. A few snippets:
"Israel is unfashionable," a Continental foreign minister said to me a decade back. "But maybe Israel will change, and then fashions will change." Fashions do change. But however Israel changes, this fashion won’t. The shift of most (non-American) Western opinion against the Jewish state that began in the 1970s was, as my Continental politician had it, simply a reflection of casting: Israel was no longer the underdog but the overdog, and why would that appeal to a post-war polytechnic Euro Left unburdened by Holocaust guilt?
Fair enough. Fashions change. But the new Judenhass is not a fashion, simply a stark reality that will metastasize in the years ahead and leave Israel isolated in the international "community" in ways that will make the first decade of this century seem like the good old days.
The problem is not simply European boredom with Holocaust haranguing but a combination of three trends:
- The demographic expansion of the Arab and Moslem populations, coupled with the decline of the population of (Old World) Christendom. (Christendom is expanding in Latin America, Asia, and Africa; but so far, they have not entered the lists in the battle of civilizations.)
- The aggressive expansion of radical, militant Islamism -- whether of the Salafist, Wahhabist Sunni variety or the Iranian-controlled Qom Shia flavor: Recently, both strains of terrorism-wielding militancy have allied in a war against the "Dar al-Harb," or "House of War" (also called Dar al-Garb, House of the West)... meaning any country that is not run as a sharia state; Shiite Iran now controls Sunni Hamas, for an example of such ecumenicalism.
- The recent suicidal alliance between the atheist, intellectual Left and radical Islamism: The former seem to believe that they can temporarily team up with the Moslem militants to overthrow democracy, Capitalism, and Christendom (and Judaism); then they'll quickly brush the mullahs and caliphs aside, so that the New Marxism -- that is, liberal fascism -- can reign supreme.
The reality of point 3 above, of course, is that the opposite will happen: It is the Islamists who will fall upon their secularist "allies" and rend them to pieces, leaving only the former to reign over the ruins. The Left, especially the EuroLeft, whose "intellectual" ideology still rules the roost over Chinese and Latin American strains, is in fact intellectually bankrupt and enervated. All the passion, energy, and revolutionary fervor comes from the Moslem militants (hence the name).
Back to Steyn... who is, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, the actual subject of this post...
Brussels has a Socialist mayor, which isn’t that surprising, but he presides over a caucus a majority of whose members are Muslim, which might yet surprise those who think we’re dealing with some slow, gradual, way-off-in-the-future process here. But so goes Christendom at the dawn of the third millennium: the ruling party of the capital city of the European Union is mostly Muslim.
I find this astonishing; not because I was unaware of the trend, but just as Steyn anticipates, because I had no idea we were so far along the trendline. This goes beyond "disturbing" to "time to push the Panic Button." But there's more to come:
One Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, a group wearing "BOYCOTT ISRAEL" T-shirts entered a French branch of Carrefour, the world’s largest supermarket chain, and announced themselves. They then systematically advanced down every aisle examining every product, seizing all the items made in Israel and piling them into carts to take away and destroy. Judging from the video they made, the protesters were mostly Muslim immigrants and a few French leftists. But more relevant was the passivity of everyone else in the store, both staff and shoppers, all of whom stood idly by as private property was ransacked and smashed, and many of whom when invited to comment expressed support for the destruction. "South Africa started to shake once all countries started to boycott their products," one elderly lady customer said. "So what you’re doing, I find it good."
Others may find Germany in the ‘30s the more instructive comparison. "It isn’t silent majorities that drive things, but vocal minorities," the Canadian public intellectual George Jonas recently wrote. "Don’t count heads; count decibels. All entities -- the United States, the Western world, the Arab street -- have prevailing moods, and it’s prevailing moods that define aggregates at any given time." Last December, in a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing power and wealth, Pakistani terrorists nevertheless found time to divert one-fifth of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building. If this was a territorial dispute over Kashmir, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Because Pakistani Islam has been in effect Arabized. Demographically, in Europe and elsewhere, Islam has the numbers. But ideologically, radical Islam has the decibels -- in Turkey, in the Balkans, in Western Europe.
How long before Europe's liberal-fascist rulers seize upon such "boycotts" as government policy, to placate (appease) the rampaging "Asian youths" in their cities -- and to distract the rest of their population away from the EuroLeft's own abysmal economic, social, and police failures? How long before the "boycott" extends from Israel to "unregistered Israeli agents"... that is, Jews? Please pardon me if I don't have much faith in the ability (or willingness) of leftist intellectuals to take the high road, and not blame some convenient minority group for all of the Left's incompetencies.
(Note the sarcasm-quotes around boycott. A real boycott is voluntary: Charles Parnell did not force anyone to shun landlord Charles C. Boycott. But these Carrefour rioters, which is what they actually are, prevent other people from buying Israeli products.)
I think I can only quote one more passage and remain within the "fair use" exemption to copyright infringement, so I shall choose carefully. Consider this; Steyn postulates :
So it will go. British, European, and even American troops will withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a bomb will go off in Madrid or Hamburg or Manchester, and there will be nothing left to blame except Israeli "disproportion." For the remnants of European Jewry, the already discernible migration of French Jews to Quebec, Florida, and elsewhere will accelerate. There are about 150,000 Jews in London today -- it’s the thirteenth biggest Jewish city in the world. But there are approximately one million Muslims. The highest number of Jews is found in the 50-54 age group; the highest number of Muslims are found in the four-years-and-under category. By 2025, there will be Jews in Israel, and Jews in America, but not in many other places. Even as the legitimacy of a Jewish state is rejected, the Jewish diaspora -- the Jewish presence in the wider world -- will shrivel.
And then, to modify Richard Ingrams, who will dare not to damn Israel? There’ll still be a Holocaust Memorial Day, mainly for the pleasures it affords to chastise the new Nazis. As Anthony Lipmann, the Anglican son of an Auschwitz survivor, wrote in 2005: “When on 27 January I take my mother’s arm -- tattoo number A-25466 -- I will think not just of the crematoria and the cattle trucks but of Darfur, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Jenin, Fallujah.” Jenin?
Jenin, you will all recall, is the fake massacre that many accused Israeli forces (without a shred of evidence) of committing in April 2002, during an incursion into the West Bank called Operation Defensive Shield. Despite wild allegations that Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers wantonly slaughtered civilians and machine-gunned prisoners, bulldozed houses and entire apartment buildings with families inside, and tied Palestinians to the front of Israeli tanks as human shields (!), subsequent investigations by the United Nations and even Israel-hating Amnesty International debunked all the claims except two:
- There was indeed a battle in Jenin; but it was between the IDF on the one hand and Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Yassir Arafat's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades on the other. Nearly everyone killed on both sides during the Battle of Jenin (and in the larger operation) was an armed soldier or militant.
- When Israel took control of Jenin, they followed their longstanding and pretty effective policy of bulldozing houses of the families of suicide bombers -- but specifically, only those houses that had been granted to those families by the PLO or Fatah or Hamas (depending on the era) as a reward for the suicide bombing (eras may go and come, but Jew hatred abides).
Palestinian "leaders" hope to encourage even more suicide bombings, as sons kill themselves so that their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters can live in a nice house that otherwise the bomber could never afford. By bulldozing such houses, Israel removes that incentive. Amnesty International, however, considers any bulldozing of "civilian" housing to be a "war crime," no matter the provenance of said house.
War crime it may be, in the technical sense. But to lump Jenin in with the real genocides in Darfur and Rwanda is utter madness, especially for a man whose mother is a Jewish Holocaust survivor. Perhaps when the sharia court comes to hang Mr. Lippman, he will lend them the rope, in an effort to show his "interfaith multiculturalism."
Israel is vitally important to the West not only because it's the Jewish homeland, not only because it's one of only two democracies in the Middle East (the other being the rather recently democratized nation of Iraq), but because Israel is a bellwether, the "canary in a coal mine" that previews what is to come for the rest of the non-Moslem world. As Israel goes, so goeth Dar al-Harb.
Israel is going -- going under for the second time, though not yet the third. An increasing portion of the world sees Israel as the greatest threat to world peace... not because anyone expects Israel to attack Antwerp or Brussels, but rather because the very existence of Israel so enrages Dar al-Islam (the "House of Peace") that they can think of nothing but war and bloody human sacrifice.
The non-American world (plus the Barack H. Obama administration) thinks of Israel as a threat to world peace because of how Moslems insist upon reacting to Israel: "Look what you made me do!"
And they see world peace arising from Israel's suicide as an act of spiritual propitiation, rendering it consistent for militant Moslems to allow everyone else to live in relative peace, as dhimmi, second-class citizens in a sharia state. Thus, secular leftists around the globe argue, we bring about world peace by joining in violent attacks upon the only peaceful culture in the most violent part of the world.
Welcome to the monkey house.
April 7, 2009
Rich Lowry Agrees With the Lizards!
Both pieces were driven by the extraordinarily naive and childish position enunciated Sunday by President Barack H. Obama -- that if we entirely eliminate our nuclear arsenal, Iran and North Korea will surely follow suit. (Neither piece was inspired by the other. It's just another case of "two thoughts with but a single mind between them," or however that old saw goes.)
Rich has one great line that I wish I'd thought to write:
If we had zero weapons, there would be even more of a premium on other states’ acquiring nukes, for purposes of protection, power-projection, and prestige.
That just about sums up why the utopian position of unilateral nuclear disarmament is hopelessly, well, utopian; strength leads to respect, weakness only invites attack: If you would have peace, prepare yourself for war.
March 18, 2009
Patterico and His %&$*#! Hypotheticals
For the last few decades, Patterico has been posting hypothetical examinations of manners and meanings on his excellent blog, Patterico's Pontifications. The exercise began with the Rush Limbaugh pseudocontroversy (ginned up by the Left, thankyouverymuch), in which Limbaugh said that he hoped Barack Obama would fail.
I think most folks agreed (as eventually Limbaugh clarified) that he meant that he hoped that Obama's socialist policies would fail, or be perceived as failing, to rescue the economy... because if they were perceived as having saved us, then socialism would become irresistable. Limbaugh believes it's better for the country if the policies clearly and unambiguously fail, even if that means misery for some people who lose their jobs or take a major hit in their retirement income, because the consequences of a wave of leftism and socialism washing away the world's only capitalist republic are so much more dire.
But the discussion on PP has ranged far afield from that beginning; and in the most recent batch of hypotheticals, Patterico specifically tries to disentangle the questions from the Limbaugh controversy. He begins by saying:
This post is not about Rush Limbaugh. But it is about manners, political correctness, and the reactions of the audience to speech and actions.
...And ends thus:
Please, try not to bring up Rush Limbaugh in your answers. That controversy got me thinking about these questions, but at this point it’s a distraction because everyone’s view is set and nobody’s mind can be changed. The broader issues come up time and again and are worth discussion.
Pat wants us to post comments on his site; but he gets so many that anything I said would be lost in the shuffle -- as were the comments I gave in the previous round. So I'll post my thoughts here, where they may still get lost in the shuffle, but where my pagecount will benefit from readers wandering about trying to find their way back home.
1) Do you believe that speakers should ever change the way they present their message based on the anticipated reasonable reactions of their target audience?
If you answer yes, it is possible to generalize as to how speakers should make such decisions?
Yes and no.
2) Do you think society should ever disapprove of someone’s speech (or 3. "acts") in part based on the concept that the speaker knew his words would generate a bad/counterproductive reaction from others?
If you answer yes, can you think of examples? And at what point is it unfair for society to exhibit such disapproval?
Questions (2) and (3) are identical except that the former covers "speech," while the latter covers "acts."
Yes, speech or "speech" -- the latter including actions that the courts would call "speech" but which are nonverbal, such as nude protests -- is subject to social response like everything else; a sign referring to our former president as "BusHitler" and a riot and firebombing of synogogues are examples where society should disapprove of the methods used by speakers to protest George W. Bush's policies and by activists to express hatred of Israel.
I don't think it's ever "unfair" for ordinary people to disapprove of either a message or a way to deliver that message. What's unfair about it? If I have the right to protest your policies, haven't you the right to protest my protestations? But a way of expressing your disapproval of my protestations can, of course, be terribly unfair -- shooting me, for example, or getting hold of my credit-card numbers and publishing them.
It's never unfair to disapprove of me, but it may be unfair to use a particular tactic to disapprove of me, if you can follow that tortured syntax. And this leads us nicely into question (4), the question I really wanted to answer; I only answered the others because it wouldn't be fair to Patterico to ignore them:
4) Do you think political correctness and good manners are the same or different? If different, then in what way? What distinguishes one from the other?
Yes, Virginia, political correctness and simple manners are two different axes on the classic, old "four-box matrix" so beloved by academe. And yes, Maryland, it's not difficult at all to distinguish them.
Manners govern how we demonstrate respect for other people and their opinions, beliefs, and ideology; manners are procedural, governing how one comports oneself in public; they say nothing about the substance of your argument. For example:
- Don't interrupt;
- Don't filibuster;
- Don't insult or belittle;
- Don't question a disputant's honor;
- Don't threaten;
- Don't disrupt the discussion by introducing externalities, either verbal (confusing non-sequiturs) or physical (an overpowering perfume or a distracting and irritating noise), and so forth.
(Obviously, these rules apply to ordinary civilized conversations, discussions, debates -- not, e.g., to interrogating a detainee in Gitmo.)
Note that none of these rules requires the mannered man to renounce his own position. But that is precisely what political correctness demands: To be politically correct, you must support the positions of a particular ideology, usually leftism; you must submerge your own contrary ideas and embrace those of your identification group:
- Capitalism is heartless; we need government bureaucrats to regulate it so that the right people win.
- Unions are good and vital and must be promoted even at the expense of the secret ballot.
- Women are oppressed; men are pigs.
- Whites have been holding blacks down in America for 300 years, and it's time we turned the tables. We need affirmative action, permanent racial voting-rights laws, and race-proportionate representation in Congress.
- America is the most racist, sexist, homophobic country on Earth, and we should change to be more like Sweden.
- Israel is the most racist, sexist, homophobic country on Earth -- even more than America! -- and we should support the Palestinians... who, after all, have actually lived there for hundreds of years, unlike the Jews, who never existed in the Middle East until 1948.
- War is evil. All war is evil. There is no good reason ever to fight. Protecting your freedom is not worth the loss of a single life. Protecting the victim's life does not justify taking a murderer's life, because all human (and sometimes animal) life is infinitely -- hence equally -- valuable. [No, ethicists have never even heard of the Cantorian heirarchy of differenent infinities.]
...And on and on.
Political correctness is substantive and says nothing about how one proceeds to defend the politically correct position: Whether you defend affirmative action with quiet, respectful discussion or by beating your opponent over the head with your protest sign, that doesn't make affirmative action any more or less politically correct; it's inherently politically correct, whether you're polite or rude about it.
You need not be politically correct to be well mannered. It's quite possible to be polite while retaining and defending your positions. Likewise, you can be politically correct while still being a boorish bastard.
Summing up, then, political correctness requires the substance of your argument to conform to the mold, while manners speak only to the process by which you argue your case -- whatever it is.
Does that make sense?
March 7, 2009
I'll Take Both A and B, Patterico
Patterico draws a parallel between the two statements -- not difficult, since Stranahan cooperated by deliberately crafting his to reflect Limbaugh's -- and our friend Patterico appears to believe he has scored a point by noting that both have the same structure (which was Stranahan's point anyway). Here's Patterico:
If I were a liberal, and if Stranahan had had a major national platform where the entire country was discussing his views, I’d want to tell him to find a different way to say what he said. Do you think it would help Democrat politicians to spend days answering questions like: “Do you also want the Iraq war to fail, like Lee Stranahan?” -- and have to spend time explaining to people that Stranahan didn’t really want soldiers to die? I’d tell Stranahan: You want to say you opposed Bush’s policies, great. Stop saying it in a way that makes it sound like you wanted troops to die. Yes, I know you don’t mean that. People will still think you do -- and frankly, you weren’t all that clear about saying you didn’t. You said it, but the implications of what you said could suggest to some that you might not have meant it....
Rush has had a major national platform where the entire country was discussing his views. As a result, I wish he’d find a different way to say what he said. I say to him: If you want to say you oppose Obama’s policies, great. Stop saying it in a way that makes it sound like you want Americans out of work. Yes, I know you don’t mean that. People will still think you do -- and frankly, you weren’t all that clear about saying you didn’t.
Anyone who bristles at hearing the phrase “You’re damn right I wanted the Iraq war to fail.” -- or who can imagine other Americans bristling at that line -- should understand what I’m saying.
I have a very different reaction than Patterico, however: I am offended by neither statement; neither makes me "bristle." I take each as a pronouncement of the core position of its speaker:
- Rush Limbaugh wants Barack H. Obama's leftist revolution in America to fail utterly, even if that means many thousands of Americans are temporarily hurt economically; Limbaugh hopes and believes this will make America stronger, so that America will become once more the "shining city on a hill" that Ronald Reagan dubbed us, spreading American-style republicanism across the globe.
- Stranahan wants America's military opposition to the militant Islamism of the Iran/al-Qaeda axis to fail utterly, even if that means many thousands of American soldiers are killed permanently; Stranahan hopes and believes this will make America weaker and more like a European country, so that internationalism will reign supreme and we have one-world government in the model of the United Nations.
What demarcates these polar-opposite worldviews is not the structure of their presentation but the substance of their philosophies; I ringingly endorse Limbaugh's and resoundingly reject Stranahan's.
I share Limbaugh's statement that he hopes Obama fails in his quest to remake America into a socialist state and remake the American citizen into the New Soviet Man... and I reject Stranahan's statement that he hopes the Iraq war fails to stop the tide of militant, fundamentalist Islamism, "jihadism," and terrorism from washing across the entire world, making America an international laughingstock and making it easier for his god, Barack Obama, to utterly transform us into antiAmerica.
I make no apology for being a partisan in that philosophical, political, and military conflict; and I'm astonished that Patterico doesn't see that we can defend Limbaugh's statement on its merits, and attack Stranahan's on its -- using as controversial language as we want -- without offending middle America or being in the least hypocritical: The two philosophies are substantively worlds apart, which is far more important to ordinary people than Stranahan's tendentiously crafted structural similarity.
January 22, 2009
Dear John Hinderaker;
You close your otherwise excellent blogpost on the Obamic executive orders today with the following:
Today's executive order can charitably be described as meaningless, but it illuminates the least attractive side of Barack Obama: his tendency to combine self-righteousness with lack of seriousness.
Now, you're a real lawyer, while I only occasionally play sea-lawyer in the blogosphere; I am not even up to the level of an egg on legal matters; yet still, if the New York Times is accurate that the executive order says that the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility “shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order" -- then doesn't the order mean that, notwithstanding whether or not the administration has figured out what to do with the terrorist detainees, if the order is not countermanded by a later order, by congressional legislation, or by judicial decision, Gitmo must close as of January 22nd, 2010?
Even if that means transferring the detainees into civilian prisons or even just dumping them onto the streets of some city in the United States?
I don't understand how an executive order signed by the president can legally be ignored by the federal agencies and departments that run the facility. Please help me out!
October 29, 2008
I'm Thinking of a Global Search and Replace...
...To change every instance of the word "illuminati" in the comments to "aluminum nutty."
What do y'all think?
October 27, 2008
In Memoriam: Dean Barnett (1967-2008)
Alas, Dean Barnett died today from complications due to his cystic fibrosis.
Objectively, I didn't really know him that well; I carried on a few e-mail conversations with him about various matters, both when he was at Soxblog and at his later gigs at Hugh Hewitt's blog and Weekly Standard. But for some reason, subjectively, I always thought of him as a friend. I was very much engaged in his final struggle, and his death has affected me much more than the deaths of occasional relatives to whom I was, in theory, closer.
I'm not unique; I think that was just Dean's way. I strongly suspect he made nearly everyone feel like his friend, even those who only "knew" him from his stints guest hosting for Hugh Hewitt's radio show.
I will certainly miss him; but again, I know I'm not alone.
Requiescat in pace, Dean.
October 24, 2008
Patterico's Pontifications - Possibly "Hijacked"
My pal and erstwhile blogboss Pat Frey has discovered that his domain registrar, 1&1 -- evidently a German company, "1und1" -- is now auctioning his longtime domain name for Patterico's Pontifications, patterico.com... despite the fact that he renewed his registration before expiry:
The company “1&1″ has allowed my domain, patterico.com, to be hijacked.
Look up at the address bar. This is still the Patterico site -- but I no longer have the patterico.com domain -- even though I renewed it before the expiration date. My domain registrar has apparently seen fit to sell the domain out from under me despite my having taken timely steps to renew it.
If they can do this to me, they can do it to you. They can do it to anyone.
I have spent the past couple of days trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they’re now selling it off, so it’s clear they’ve been lying to me.
For the nonce, his URL will be http://patterico.net/ -- dot-net instead of dot-com. But you can also still get there via the raw internet address, http://220.127.116.11/ (at the moment, the raw IA redirects to the new .net URL).
He's also seeking lawyers who are competent at web-based litigation.
Let's keep our eyes crossed that this is just some dreadful mistake on 1&1's part, or else that their hijacking can be aborted (whichever turns out to be accurate), and that Patterico's Pontifications may once again return to the patterico.com domain we've all come to know and lob.
October 23, 2008
If You're Having Trouble Finding Patterico's Pontifications...
Pat suggests you use the raw internet address instead of the domain name:
That should get you there.
Pat won't tell us why his domain name suddenly shunts you to something called "Sedo Domain Parking;" however, my ace sources tell me it all started with an unfortunate series of events -- involving credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities -- that left the Los Angeles
Dog Trainer Times the sole proprietor of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). But my follies and foibles are hardly the issue here, are they? One would hardly expect my serotonin levels to be within my direct mental control, would one?
(Actually, they are; don't ask, and I won't tell.)
June 11, 2008
Patterico Wants Us to Know that BO Sucks
And he tells us why BO sucks in this post.
I'm not exactly a computer weenie, and I must confess I don't understand what this is all about. All I know is that Patterico seems obsessed with having as many blogs as possible link to that post above so he can, I dunno, rule Google or somesuch.
But I try to live by the Code of the Woosters, the first rule of which is "never let a pal down."
So here you go, P.; we can all agree now that we don't like BO because BO stinks. Or sucks, whatever.
(Patterico, do you still have trackbacks enabled? Because I can't find the trackback URL anymore.)
P.S. As of this moment, there are 56 comments about why BO Sucks! I skimmed down to the bottom, and somehow the conversation has morphed into a pompous discussion of war crimes and misdemeanors.
April 16, 2008
Responding to Comments on "Move 'Em Out - Lock 'Em Up"
Every so often, I start writing a comment, and it -- well, it just gets away from me. In this case, I believe what I wrote is different enough from the original post by Sachi that it makes sense simply to publish it here as a new post.
In this case, I will omit (as I generally do) specific names of those to whom I respond. You can find them out readily enough by just going to the original and reading the comments, looking for the quoted phrases.
The thesis of Move 'Em Out - Lock 'Em Up was the brutality of Red China even today, and especially in response to having won the 2008 Olympics. Sachi listed a number of examples of such oppression. A commenter responded:
Granting you all your points, won't you agree that the Communists built a China the Chinese people can be proud of? A China entirely different from the one that existed 70 years ago? A world economic and military power? A country which will not be conquered by a neighbor one-twentieth its size? Which will not have its face pushed into the mud by the French, the British or the Dutch for the benefit of their trading companies? Which will no longer be vulnerable to becoming a nation of opium addicts at the point of a gun? Which will not see the beheadings of 100,000 of its civilians in just one city by an occupying army?
This entire list of achievements of the Communist Party in China could equally well be said about the achievements of the Communist Party in Russia or the Nazi Party in Germany. The only thing the commenter missed praising them for is making the trains run on time.
These are simply elements of modernity; to ascribe them to Communism is to imply that the modern world can be entered only through the door of totalitarianism... which is nonsense, obviously, as modernity was invented by liberal democracies when socialism did not yet even exist.
I seem to be defending communism which is the last thing I want to do. But Hong Kong or Taiwan do not approach China's majesty in today's world.
Then why do it? By "majesty," all one means is a massive conscript army and a bunch of nuclear missiles -- that China simply stole from the West, just like the Soviets.
What other "majesty" could one be talking about? The majesty of gigantic, tomb-like public buildings? The majesty of pollution so great, it dries up rivers and kills people in foreign lands, due to food exports?
I expect that in one more generation China will be a much more free and open society and substantially, if not perfectly, democratic.
But the most likely way that this would happen is as a result of a catastrophic collapse of the entire vicious system, leading to mass starvation, epidemic disease, and the death of Chinese culture -- not to mention hundreds of millions of individuals. What a joyous future to look forward to!
NB: I originally wrote that "the commenter later explains" the above; the commenter now says that was not how he or she meant it; so I have changed the wording to the version above.
And even then, it may not work; such collapse is generally followed by tyranny, not liberty. And we have never before had to deal with a failed state of that size -- and with such an arsenal of nuclear missiles, biological, and chemical weapons, and with literally millions of conscripts with AK-47s, who would of course become mercenaries to feed themselves, killing being all the trade they know. How can anyone contemplate such a future so calmly?
Instead of watching from the sidelines as such apocalypse unfolds, then blaming the pre-modern occupied peoples for a flaw that is a fundamental part of the modernist conquering culture instead, why not work to avert such a hell on earth in the first place -- by doing everything possible to force the Communists from power in favor of those promoting liberty, individualism, and Capitalism?
China would just as readily have entered modernity -- which is all that the entire list above entails, anyway -- had Chiang Kai-Shek won that war, instead of Mao Tse-Tung. Taiwan did it, without Communism.
We are all aware that fascist and Communist movements are essentially modernist; but they are also essentially illiberal, undemocratic, contra-economic, non-integrating, brutal, murderous, expansionist, utterly unconcerned with the fate of individuals (only the State, the hive-collective) -- and they are fundamentally evil.
I marvel that some don't understand this; it should be imprinted on our social DNA.
Socialism is not the only way to enter the modern world; in fact, it's one of the worst ways, because by the very nature of such movements, they freeze at the moment of modernity at which they were born and never grow beyond that.
Red China does not innovate. It does not grow, except by imposing an early 20th-century worldview on those elements of the countryside that are still pre-modern; this will get you a high growth rate -- but a very low ceiling beyond which you cannot grow. (It also gets you poisoned water, poisoned food, and poisoned air when you combine stolen 20th-century manufacturing with a 19th-century attitude towards pollution.)
Without freedom and individualism, Communist China is forever cut off from entering the post-modern world; it will never rise beyond the level achieved by the Soviet Union. It's only still in existence because it steals innovations from the West.
And it's soul-killing, just as every other Communist utopian "movement," from the USSR to North Korea to Cuba to Venezuela.
I find it surreal that a post-modern person in 2008 -- writing on a post-modern, fundamentally individualist invention like a PC! -- can enthuse so ecstatically about the grand, new socialism of a century ago.
That was basically my previous points, i.e. that China was selected by the IOC to hold the 2008 Olympics, and talk of a boycott immediately started. Now, with the Olympics almost ready to start, the anti-China frenzy is running overtime…in High Gear.
Politics need to stay out of the Olympics, and make no mistake; this anti-China frenzy is supported by political agendas from many sources and sides. So much for the "Olympic Spirit".
Except that the selection of the PRC by the International Olympic Committee was itself utterly political.
They were in no way ready to host an Olympic games, just as they were not in the least ready for WTO membership. The thoroughly political (and utopian) idea was that by giving them the benefits of post-modern society, they would somehow "see the light" and enter the twenty-first century themselves.
Instead, they act like the host of the 1936 Olympics -- and their trade policy more or less mimics that of the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle Cruise tonight.
As you [Sachi] have stated, this anti-China agenda started "years before the recent Tibetan problems began", and has forced China to respond.
Sachi never said the Chinese Communist Party was "forced... to respond." That's the argument of the oppressor on a nutshell... "Look what you made me do!"
The anti-Stalin agenda forced him to murder millions of people and throw an even larger number into the gulag. The anti-Khmer Rouge agenda forced Pol Pot to butcher "intellectuals" who were literate, or who knew another language, or who wore glasses.
Or for that matter, the anti-imperialis agenda forced the British Empire to make Hong Kong residents buy opium at gunpoint... it's an all-purpose justification for oppression.
My God; do people even even listen to what they are forced to say, just to excuse Red China's brutality? This one is particularly ripe. The commenter began by quoting from George Friedman at StratFor:
If China were to withdraw from Tibet, and there were no military hindrance to population movement, Beijing fears this population could migrate into Tibet. If there were such a migration, Tibet could turn into an extension of India and, over time, become a potential beachhead for Indian power. If that were to happen, India’s strategic frontier would directly abut Sichuan and Yunnan -- the Chinese heartland.
Yes; if one's goal is imperialist Chinese hegemony over the entire world, I can see why this would be an impediment to liberating Tibet. I'm sure Islamic caliphists feel the same pressure.
India is a capitalist democracy. Shouldn't we want a liberal democracy to abut the border of Red China? I understand why Communist dictatorship would fear democracy... but why do some commenters on this post?
The Chinese regard [the Dalai Lama] as an Indian puppet… their view is that the Indians could shut the Dalai Lama down if they wanted to, and that they don’t signals Indian complicity...
Yes -- Indian "complicity" in freedom of religion, a crime in China.
China won the 2008 Olympics…other countries were upset (in some cases upset that they didn’t win it). China has come a long way since the cold war, and that change was reflected in their winning of the 2008 Olympics.
I never cease to be amazed by the knots defenders of Red China will tie themselves into to try to make their case: Now they argue that we only support freedom of religion, speech, and the press in China because... we're in a snit that we didn't win the 2008 Olympics?
What does the StratFor argument demonstrate? That Red China is afraid to allow liberty in Tibet -- or indeed across its heartland -- because liberty threatens the despotic reign of the Chinese Communist Party. (Which is all that Friedman was saying, not that we in the West should applaud and support such imperialist thinking.)
There was a time when Americans and other Westerners would consider that a reason to support those calling for liberty... not a sufficient reason to imprison and execute them. I weep for America.
Rather than dig in one's heels to defend the monstrous crimes of the ChiComs, which surely must make China-defenders squirm -- and rather than blithely accept a future of unutterable misery, primitivism, and a mass die-off of literally hundreds of millions of people, as some appear to believe inevitable -- why not work to bring freedom, liberty, democracy, individualism, Judeo-Christian religion, and real Capitalism to China... and save that country from its hellish, 60-year nightmare?
That would be the right thing to do. What's more important, that is the American thing to do.
April 15, 2008
Move 'Em Out - Lock 'Em Up
I've been reading comments on my last entry, and I realized that many American readers are unaware of the atrocities committed by China against the Tibetan people in the last month. For that matter, many readers don't know that the Chinese government has been "cracking down" on Chinese dissidents, Christians, Buhddists, bookstore owners, unlicensed pamphleteers -- and even forcibly removing ordinary citizens and demolishing their homes, without compensation, just because they were in the way of new Olympic-related development. And all in the name of renewal for the 2008 summer Olympics.
Shortly after Beijing was selected in 2001 by the International Olympic Committee -- years before the recent Tibetan problems began -- there was already talk of a boycott in the Japanese-language conservative blogsphere. By now, readers must have seen the "Boycott Beijing" logo of Reporters Without Borders:
Boycott Beijing 2008 logo
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization advocating freedom of the press, has been running a boycott campaign for more than a year now.
Anti-Chinese sentiment is very strong among the Japanese right-wing; many believe fascist Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s actually "rescued" the latter from a state of primitive feudalism, "modernizing" them into the twentieth century. Sound familiar? Although that is a very tendentious reading of history, the antipathy of the Japanese Right towards Communist (or fascist) China today is completely supportable: Whatever some may say, the government is unquestionably evil.
Before I go on, I should tell you a bit about me: I am a naturalized American citizen, but I was born and raised in Japan during the cold war. I have always hated Soviet Communism with a passion, as well as its Chinese cousin. I despise the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as well as the Cambodian and Vietnamese revolutionary Marxist/Maoist movements.
It shouldn't be necessary to tell you that I do not hate the Chinese people. I have many Chinese friends, such as Mr. Ching; and they hate Communist China more than you can imagine. I am furious at Mao and his successors for what they did to their own people, as well as to others, including Tibetans, Mongolians, and other minor local tribes.
So let me tell you what the ChiComs -- I'm proud to use that word -- have been doing to "prepare" for the Olympics; you may not be quite so quick to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The Communist government has been forcibly removing residents unfortunate enough to live on future Olympic sites. Since government-owned construction developers do not sufficiently compensate evicted residents (sometimes not at all), many refuse to move. So what happens? This is what happens.
Olympic renewal = peasant removal
I found a version of the original article in Japanese; here is my translated summary:
Last November, a married Beijing farm couple, who were protesting the destruction of their home of 30 years, attempted suicide when construction workers tried to remove them by force. Their house was located on the site where the Communists plan to build an expensive condominium for Olympic use. Construction workers had just dug a ditch around the couple's house, totally isolating it.
On November 29th, security guards hired by the construction company cordoned off the area and ordered the couple -- 殷永利, 53 and his wife 廬桂敏, 50 -- to leave. They climbed onto their roof and refused to move. When the workers forcibly tried to get them down, the couple swallowed pesticide. They were immediately carried to a nearby hospital, but the husband is in critical condition. Later that day, their house was completely demolished with everything still inside it.
This is hardly an isolated case. This type of forced eviction has been going on for years:
The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) handed China one of its not-so-prestigious "Housing Rights Violator Awards" in 2005. The Centre's executive director Scott Leckie stated, "The Beijing government has admitted [to] a minimum of 400,000 people [being] moved to create space to build various Olympic venues...."COHER also reports the "800 year old Jiaodoku neighbourhood was flattened in July 2003, destroying over 2,000 households, to make way for Olympics-related construction."
Like the couple above, many citizens who lost their homes resorted to suicide as a form of protest:
Another widely reported protest occurred on October 1, 2003. Beijing resident Ye Guoqiang jumped from the Jinshui Bridge in an attempted suicide to protest how the Chinese government forcefully evicted him from his home to make way for Olympic construction. He survived the fall but was jailed for illegally demonstrating. Apparently Guoqiang was not alone; in November of 2003, over 1,200 Beijing residents signed a petition on the Internet in support of his actions. Seven other protesters were charged with causing social unrest in October 2003, and two more protesters were detained. In 2004, another protestor, Ye Guozhu was detained "and sentenced to four years' imprisonment for protesting against the razing of his home and two of his restaurants." Daily protests against demolition and eviction occurred in Tiananmen Square and the Zhongnanhai Compound from September to December of 2004.
Crackdown on dissidents
Gearing up for the Olympics, China's repression of journalists -- and of many other professions that might offer visiting foreigners a glimpse of China contrary to the government-mandated image -- has gone into full throttle:
"There has been a renewed crackdown on journalists and internet users in the past year -- a fact that makes government commitments to 'complete media freedom' ring hollow," said Catherine Baber. "The current state of affairs runs counter to the most basic interpretation of the 'Olympic spirit' with the 'preservation of human dignity' at its heart...."
As well as carrying out forced evictions from Olympic related sites, Beijing city authorities have decided that in order to clean up the city's image in the run-up to the Olympics, targets of 're-education through labour' -- imprisonment without charge -- should to be expanded to include 'unlawful advertising or leafleting, unlicensed taxis, unlicensed businesses, vagrancy and begging'.
Religious persecution in China is infamous; but it has accelerated in recent years, according to the February 7th, 2008 issue of Christian Post:
China stepped up its crackdown on Christians last year compared to 2006, with an overall increase in reported persecutions of believers, according to the China Aid annual report released Wednesday.
There were a total of 60 cases of known house church persecutions by the government covering 18 provinces and one municipality in 2007, up from 46 cases in 2006, according to the report. The number of people persecuted was 788, up from 665 the previous year, and the number of people arrested and detained increased 6.6 percent, from 650 to 693.
The number of people sentenced or imprisoned decreased slightly from 17 in 2006 to 16 people in 2007....
Besides targeting house church leaders, China focused on disrupting Christian activities occurring in urban areas. Over half of the reported persecution cases occurred in urban areas, accounting for 58.3 percent of the 60 cases. The number of people persecuted in urban areas was 599, which is 76 percent of the total number of those persecuted.
The Chinese government also targeted Christian publications, with seven cases related to the operation, printing, transportation and distribution of Christian literatures.
Here's one amazing bit of news, unknown to those Americans who haven't paid much attention to China in recent years:
A notable case is that of Christian businessman and well-known house church leader Zhou Heng, who was formally arrested on Aug. 31, 2007, for receiving 3 tons of Bibles.
Zhou is the manager of a registered bookstore [!] that sells some Christian books published legally and officially inside China. He was detained when he went to pick up three tons of Bibles at a bus station. The Bibles were reportedly donated by South Korean churches and intended for local believers free of charge. But the government only allows officially sanctioned (state) churches to print and distribute a limited number of Bibles each year.
It is reported that Zhou was beaten in prison severely by inmates and prison guards.
Court officials, after investigating Zhou’s case, returned it to Public Security Bureau (PSB), ruling insufficient grounds for prosecution, according to the latest update. The PSB has neither sentenced nor released Zhou, who remains in detention.
Olympic Tibetan-baiting competition
China controls speech and access to the press; it controls all aspects of politics; it controls sports, and virtually every profession must be licensed and strictly regulated; even bookstores must be registered, and the owners can be arrested for selling unapproved Bibles. The Party controls the religion of their subjects -- and of course, even the number of children families can bear. Chinese are arrested without charge, held for indeterminate sentences, and beaten; they have no recourse at law against the will of the Party.
But thank goodness they're not "totalitarian."
In this context, it is undestandable that the Chinese Communist Party, facing unprecedented foreign-press scrutiny because of the Olympics, would decided to teach Tibetans a lesson in blind obedience, to crack down on whomever may have even thought about conducting an unlawful assembly -- of course, all assemblies are unlawful, unless they have government approval -- or otherwise embarassing the government, say by receiving unlicensed Bibles. But how would the Chinese leadership justify brutalizing people who are known for nonviolence?
In my estimation, the most obvious play would be first to stage a "violent riot" or two in Tibet, led by supposed Buddhist monks... and even one or two violent incidents in foreign countries, supposedly carried out by supporters of Tibetan independence. This would give the elite new media around the world the impression that Tibetans are the real problem, not their Chinese occupiers, oppressers, brutalizers. "They" (those protesting enslavement) are the ones disrupting the Olympics -- not those enslaving them!
How is this any different than saying the civil unrest in America in the late 1950s and early 60s was all the fault of those blacks who didn't know their place -- not those white politicians who enacted Jim Crow laws in the first place?
Judging from some of the comments we received, I must say this Chinese propaganda has worked very well indeed.
February 26, 2008
Zero Plus Zero Degrees of Separation!
Michelle Malkin was looking about for a new blogger to replace the outgoing Bryan Preston, whose new gig is to produce Laura Ingraham (in a Carpathian laboratory during a thunderstorm). Our dearest Michelle finally settled on "Captain" Ed Morrissey, formerly of Captain's Quarters.
He's probably getting more money than he squoze from the advertisers on his site; but from what he said on Huge Hewgitt today, I think the main attraction is that he doesn't have to provide anything but content now... ODM has minions who handle the scutwork of keeping a blog up and running (upgrading the software, running down problems, rebuilding the entire blog when necessary, tweaking the templates, scrounging for ads, reading every comment to make sure nothing libelous or that violates national security or copyright is posted in a comment, and so forth).
But I was suddenly struck by the fact that this new powerhouse of a blog -- Hot Quarters? the Captain's Air? -- is now run by not one but two people who have had me as a guest blogger!
So I'm thinking: If our dearest Michelle decides to expand and add one more permanent blogger...
Would I do it, if she ever offered? Well, it would depend. I would probably have to stop blogging on Big Lizards, as Ed has stopped blogging on Captain's Trousers. But on the other hand, presumably, the compensation would be serious money. On the third hand, I actually like much of the "scutwork," as I called it; in particular, I like reading all the comments myself. (I don't often respond, because I see the comments section as your section, gentle readers.)
On the fifth hand, I would be playing second fiddle; what if Michelle suddenly decided to spit me out like a mouthful of overripe squid? On the sixth hand, it could be a springboard to actual publication in actual political magazines -- then I could dump her like a helmet full of pickled ferrets.
Of course, on the seventh hand, neither the captain nor our dearest Michelle has shown any inclination to hire me for anything that would involve money; I suspect the only short list I was on was the list of short bloggers. So this is all just pie in the fly speculation.
But what the heck -- it gave us all another useless blogpost to fritter away the empty hours; so it fulfilled some practical function, at least.
February 11, 2008
At Long Last, Patterico Posts Something Interesting!
Ever since a particular guest blogger moved on to greener and more reptilian pastures, Patterico's Pontifications just hasn't been the same. But there are still flashes of brilliance that recall those glory days of 2005.
Patterico -- I like to call the wife of the Mozart-loving Patterico "Patterica," but he still hasn't figured out why -- finds frequent occasion to point to some goofball blogger named SEK (no, it's not Samuel Edward Konkin the IIIrd, blogging from behind the veil). Grand Master P. seems to think SEK is hilarious (which he probably pronounces George-Will fashion: HIGH-larious); in fact, SEK is about as funny as Al Franken with dyspepsia.
But this -- this -- is funny as all get out. (What does that mean? "As funny as all get out." "Shut the front door!" "What, after the horse has already escaped?" I don't get it.)
And I rib you not, this yolk actually came from Patterico himself. I don't know what came over him; he's not generally known as the Uncle Miltie of the blogosphere. For one thing, Patterico invariably ends every joke he tells with the same punchline ("Is that all you do? Bird impressions?"), no matter what joke he started off telling: "A drunk, a cripple, two Jews, and an ex-Secretary of the Interior went into a bar, and the cripple said -- is that all you do? Bird impressions?"
But somehow, Patterico channeled the disembodied spirit of Jackie Mason this time. Which must have come as a terrible shock to Mr. Mason, who is still sucking air.
Look, first you have to read that thing I linked just above, even though it comes later; Patterico has written a blogpost to the extracting standards of the Los Angeles Times... following the rules they do, rather than the rules they say.
Next, read this explanation, which he posted a minute earlier, for some obscure reason known only to God, Patterico, and Brother Theodore -- and two of them are dead. He (Patterico, not God) explains exactly where he got each particular rule he uses to smear honey on Tim Rutten and bury him in a fire-ant hill (a giggle that Patterico learnt during his two years in seminary school back in Vermont, 1973).
Here is a single, brief snippet from the explanation, just for flavor:
[I]n his latest column, Rutten erroneously claims that, at the beginning of Bush’s presidency, Cheney and his allies “arrived packing heavy artillery” and executed a “coup d’etat.”
Here, I am using the L.A. Times-approved technique of taking a metaphor and pretending that it is an erroneous statement. Rutten does say in his column that, at the outset of Bush’s presidency, “Cheney, his staff and his allies arrived packing heavy artillery in the form of the unitary executive theory.” The “packing heavy artillery” bit was a metaphor. You know, kind of like when Bush, speaking about Iraq, said: “Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.” That was a metaphor too -- but the paper felt justified in calling it an “erroneous” statement.
If they can take Bush’s metaphors and call them mistakes, why, I can do it to Tim Rutten. Is that all you do? Bird impressions?
The pair of posts were simply highlarious. I laughed until I stopped! And so will you, if you give them half a chance (i.e., read with your right hand covering you left eye).
I reckon some things will ever change. Thank God.
February 7, 2008
Beldar the Fortunate
Again, I point you to a post by another; and this time, I won't even permit myself to chime in, having nothing to say that Beldar didn't already.
The post is titled "Are we at war? And what is the political consequence of that for conservatives in this election?", and I'll bet you imagine you know the witty answers to those two questions... but I suspect you're only half correct.
Read; it won't disappoint. (Hat tip to Patterico's.)
February 3, 2008
How Romney Might Win (Inspired by Patrick Ruffini)
You all know I rarely do this, but this post by Patrick Ruffini on Hugh Hewitt's blog is so definitive, so beautifully argued, and so clear, that I simply have to point you at it and say "Read and educate yourselves."
(Blast. I knew I couldn't resist; I just have to talk about it myself. Never let the genius argue his own case, that's what I say; always engage in a little tomato-juicing myself! That's why we get the big buck, you know.)
Here it is on a nutshell (all emphasis my own; dainty Ruffini doesn't do italics or boldface):
There is a message in these returns to conservatives busy soldering together the coalition below decks: do not assume that just because they’re all pro-life, that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham speak for the social conservatives Romney needs next Tuesday. They don’t. Being pro-life and pro-marriage is not enough. To understand what Huckabee voters want, you need to actually appreciate what Mike Huckabee brings to the table, which is an emphasis on faith, undiluted. Many conservatives, particularly those around here, do not. While many of us agree on the social issues, the conservative establishment resented how he injected his religion into the campaign. Never have I seen conservatives so readily repeat the Barry Lynn/ACLU line on the “wall” between church and state....
Specifically, it seems to me that the conservative establishment's decision to go nuclear first on Huckabee (who never had a shot but speaks for voters we need in November) before McCain (who always had a shot but speaks mostly for himself) will rank as a pretty serious strategic blunder.
The take-away (as far as I'm concerned) is that, if Mitt Romney wants to be able to beat out McCain for the Huckabee vote when Huckabee drops out -- which is Romney's only strategy at this point -- then he had better begin campaigning vigorously on faith issues... something McCain is not particularly doing either, but doesn't need to do. That is, McCain can win a plurality of those Huckabee voters without specifically appealing to faith, while Romney can only win them if he really reaches out.
Focusing on economics is fine. But Romney also needs to focus on the bread and butter issues of faith: abortion, marriage, a religious civil society, revivalism.
My suggestion would be for him to play directly to the "sinner reformed," "prodigal son" impulse within the Christian community: For religious reasons, Christians tend to be very sympathetic to a narrative of the form, "I used to be benighted on this issue, but now I've seen the light" (Christianity being a very evangelical religion, unlike, say, Judaism.)
And Romney certainly fits that paradigm. He sincerely believes that he has "seen the light" on a number of issues where he used to be more liberal but is now more conservative; he's just been loathe to talk about it.
There is no lie here, no dissimulation: It's just a matter of Romney actually vocalizing in speeches what he has hinted in debates; of him changing the emphasis of his stump speech to encompass more than just a technocrat's analysis of the economy. We need to see the religious Mitt, not just the Beantown beancounter Mitt.
I would have Mitt Romney say something like this:
I have always personally opposed abortion and supported traditional marriage. But for a long time, I thought it wasn't something the government should mandate. I thought, Let people make up their own minds! I would rather they came to embrace life on their own, by their own consciences.
Boy, was I wrong. While I was governor of Massachusetts, I realized just how stacked the odds were against people of faith, against life, and against traditional marriage.
While I was waiting for people to make up their minds, preborn babies were dying in record numbers. While I confidently assumed that the people's firm support for traditional marriage actually counted for something in a democracy, the courts jumped in and threw out the eternal verities as too old fashioned.
Now they not only force abortion down voters' throats, they even ordered my state to start handing out marriage licenses not just to Bob and June, but to Bob and Jim! No vote, no referendum; the courts didn't care what the people believed. They only cared what their elite ideology told them was best for us.
Those sure aren't the kind of judges I would appoint.
But the liberal Democrats in Congress and the state legislatures are just as bad as the courts. I fought like hell against court-ordered gay marriage. I fought tooth and nail. But the Massachusetts political establishment, the Ted Kennedy machine, was too powerful even for the governor to buck. I only had the people on my side; they had the legislative rules committee.
Try as I did, and despite winning a vote for traditional marriage in the legislature, I just couldn't force the party bosses to send an amendment banning gay marriage to the people for a vote. The liberal elite are afraid of votes up there in New England, because they know what the majority of Americans think about their pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, atheist agenda.
I can't promise I'll win every battle; but I can promise I will fight every battle to keep America what she is: the most religious nation in the West. It's our most precious freedom, and it's why we're free in the first place.
I will fight like hell for traditional values -- for life, for marriage, and for the constitutional right to freely exercise our religion, no matter what the ACLU says. We may disagree on a lot of religious dogma... but I sure hope we agree on just how important these issues are, not just to conservatives, but to America and the world.
Simply put, if Mitt Romney doesn't make a play for Huckabee voters, then when Huckabee drops out of the race -- as I believe he finally will (perhaps after Über Tuesday) -- the plurality of his votes will go to McCain... not Romney.
It's time for Romney to throw away the green eyeshade and finally start showing some passion for something. Since nobody is going to follow him in a crusade for passionate economics, it's time to start talking about the other great passion in his life -- his religion. It sure as heck can't hurt to let people know there are some things that Romney believes deep in his heart that are more important than interest rates and tax policy and the other technowonkery he has pushed so far.
And it's also long past time for Romney to start praising McCain and Huckabee to the skies: "I think I would make a better president, but these guys are great choices as well!"
One of the three of them (actually, one of the two of them; Huckabee really isn't in the hunt anymore) is going to be the Republican nominee. He can't go into the race crippled by horrific attacks by his fellow Republicans (leave that to the Democrats).
I would also like to see a loud and enthusiastic promise by Mitt Romney that he will support to the hilt and campaign for whichever candidate finally wins the GOP nomination... and a challenge to all the other Republicans still in the race (including Ron Paul) to make the same pledge.
January 14, 2008
Elitism In the Dextrosphere
Paul Mirengoff closed a post today with some help from John Hinderacker:
Whelan advises Greenhouse: "It’s well past time for you to come clean. Remember, it’s always the coverup that kills you". But maybe not, if you're writing for "arguably the most elite audience in the nation."
JOHN adds: For what it's worth, I suspect that we write for "the most elite audience in the nation." Certainly, by any objective measure, an audience that is more "elite" than that of the Times.
John, I have to tell you that's nonsense on stilts, and you know it. Clearly Big Lizards is far more "elite" than either the Times or Power Line: Why, you chaps routinely pull in excess of 70,000 page views per day, while we average only 1/35th of that at 2,000 page views per day.
As the major elements of elitism clearly include exclusivity, you're simply out of the running. Big Lizards is the most exclusive, hence most elitist of the trio.
We're number one!
We're number one!
Whoops, I just realized there are a heck of a lot of blogs that don't receive anywhere near 2,000 page views, either; ergo, they're even more exclusive than we.
We're number 4,666,908!
Now that I think about it, I'd rather we were a little less elite -- and a whole lot more "hoi polloi." Thar's gold in them thar masses.
November 29, 2007
JoshuaPundit Sounds the Horn...
Wall fails to tumble; film at 11:00.
I can understand JoshuaPundit devoting an entire, long blogpost to arguing with a recent Big Lizards post; the only wonder is that more bloggers don't do it! After all, if our actual impact on the 'sphere matched our colossal ego, why, the whole wide web would be bristling with pro- and con-lizardly bloguations.
What's a bit puzzling is that he would choose to nominate that particular post for the Watcher's Council award. I think it a bit odd, considering how many of his points against us are not simply wrong but so easily proven wrong by past posting. Seems like such a waste.
After all, regardless of my irritation whenever he goes on a tear after George W. Bush and American foreign policy for being insufficiently pro-Israel and anti-Arab, in fact, I am perfectly capable of voting for JoshuaPundit's posts in first place... even when I'm the only one to do so.
Back to the blog-bate. Let's start with JP's basic, flawed premise... that I think Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is morally wrong, and that's why they should give them up. Says he:
If the Arabs made the choice to attack and lost some territory as a result, it's hardly an injustice or an `occupation'.
But I've never said there was anything wrong with Israel occuping those territories. It's perfectly fine with me. "Occupation" is descriptive, not disparaging.
True, Israeli Jews have no "claim on history" for those territories... but neither do Arab Moslems. I don't support the very idea of historical land claims; I believe land ownership is decided by possession, defense, and development.
Israel possesses those territories now; it has successfully defended them from all comers; and it developed them far beyond what the Arabs ever did (which was, as JP points out, virtually nothing). Ergo, those territories belong, morally and politically, to Israel, to do with as they please.
I suggest they let them go -- not because the world, the Arabs, the Arab-Palestinians, or U.N. Secretary General Nanki-Poo have any say in the matter, but because it's in Israel's best interest to rid themselves of such pestiferous hellholes.
In the same piece in which I recommended pulling out of Gaza and the West Bank (this is more than two years ago, back when I was a guest blogger on Captain's Quarters), I also recommended treating any further aggression from either place -- under Arab rule -- as one would treat similar military attack from Syria, Egypt, Iran, or any other country: With overwhelming retaliation.
In fact, I predicted that's what Israel would do after Hamas took over and launched an attack. I was right on 2/3rds of that prediction: Hamas took over; they, in concert with Hezbollah, launched an attack; but Israel fought a lousy, half-hearted war and -- while they didn't lose, exactly, they certainly didn't win, exactly, either. (In my defense, I had no idea Ariel Sharon would go and have a stroke, leaving a buffoon like Ehud Olmert in charge.)
I can only quote Larry Niven again: "Not responsible for advice not taken."
Somehow, this doesn't seem to jibe with JoshuaPundit's analysis of my psyche:
The main premise of people like Big Lizards is that appeasement of the Arabs and enfranchising the Palestinians will lead to peace in the region. The sad reality is that the Arabs are mainly concerned with weakening Israel so as to speed its demise...and what's more, they've never made a secret of it.
I blink and wonder if we have a deranged, blogospheric identity-thief slithering around using the name Bum Gizzards or somesuch.
But no; the most likely explanation is that, like many who take an extreme position, JoshuaPundit simply cannot imagine a person disagreeing with him -- unless that person is a mendacious villain or the dupe of mendacious villains. It never occurs to him that I may have a unique position on the Israeli-"Palestinian" situation, one that doesn't fit into the standard range somewhere between that of Mier Kahane and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Had Israel chosen to formally annex Gaza and the West Bank, then ethnically cleanse all the Arabs out and encourage Israeli Jews to flood the lands... I would have had no problem with that. That, at least, would have been a workable solution. But given the fecklessness of what they have done (or rather, failed to do), it's completely unworkable to maintain an occupation of a hostile population with access to outside agencies who can arm them... as the Brits discovered to their chagrin in India and elsewhere. Since there is now no option of annexation and repopulation, best let them go -- but defend the bloody borders a hell of lot better than we've seen so far.
Another major faux pas was committed by "Freedom Fighter" (aside from his studied refusal to use my name, Dafydd ab Hugh, despite the fact that it's easily discoverable from (a) reading the top and bottom byline on every post, and (b) clicking the "Who are these 'Big Lizards' guys anyway?" link found in the right sidebar of every page on Big Lizards). Steadily, and throughout, FF mistakenly assumes that I also want Israel to give up East Jerusalem:
This blogger [he means us] goes on and makes the point that Israel never annexed Judea, Samaria or East Jerusalem and therefore has no claim. He's incorrect when it comes to East Jerusalem....
Well, that blogger is incorrect when he claims I said Israel has no claim on East Jerusalem. The full annexation of East Jerusalem would not only be the most easily justifiable annexation Israel could make, I actually think it would be a good idea. It would make it clear to the world that Jerusalem would never be divided, nor would ever become the capital of a second Palestinian state.
But he keeps throwing East Jerusalem into the mix, perhaps to make us look like Israel-haters or even worse... Mearsheimerites; e.g.:
He then further states that Jews were never a majority of the population in Judea, Samaria or East Jerusalem and that these areas always had a majority Arab population....
As we never said a word about East Jerusalem (or West, South, or North Jerusalem; read our post), this seems a bit thick. I have no idea where he got such a notion; I certainly never said any such a thing; nor do I believe it. And not only do I think Israel should annex East Jerusalem, I also totally opposed the withdrawal from the Lebanon security zone north of the border... and I still think it was a bad idea. And Israel should hang onto the Golan Heights until the cows come home to roost.
(That grinding noise you hear is the sound of Freedom Fighter's head spinning around like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist, as he tries to squeeze the Lizardly white paper on Israel into the narrow confines of his imaginative suitcase.)
Of course, none of JoshuaPundit's claims about my ignorance of Israel's history are accurate; but that's just my assertion... I can't prove it. Though I'm sure I've made references here and there through the years that would demonstrate at least a grasp of the main points -- for example, that Jews had purchased a lot of land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem prior to the establishment of the modern nation of Israel... which Freedom Fighter seems to believe is news to me.
Then there are some claims of his that are simply tedious in their attempt to divert the debate from what we actually wrote to a cockamamie caricature of what we wrote. For one example (among many), we published the following:
As you may have guessed by now, "Freedom Fighter" at JP is one of those Israel boosters (I don't know where he posts from, here or there) who is so wrought up in the battle that he considers George W. Bush -- the most pro-Israeli president America has ever had -- to be Israel's enemy.
JP seizes upon one line there and twists it to make us sound like Borat-style "throw the Jew down the well" antisemites:
Big Lizards starts out by referring to me as `one of those Israel boosters' and wonders whether I'm posting `from here ( meaning the US) or there'(meaning Israel). I hate to disillusion anyone, but this site does not originate from Mossad headquarters, and there's no `dual loyalty' or question of my patriotism involved here.
Freedom Fighter... just as a frolic, perhaps you could try -- taking me literally? Dude, there is nothing on your blog indicating your nationality or where you post from. Perhaps if I read every post assiduously, I would spot something... but for all I know, you could be the heir to the principality of Monaco and posting from your winter castle in the island of Fernando Póo (now called Bioko Equatorial Guinea). You have a Blogger blog; you don't seem to list your real name anywhere (or perhaps I just haven't found it); I don't recall you mentioning identifying information in any of the posts of yours I've read.
The only clue I see is that your main banner includes an American bald eagle nibbling on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ear... but that might just be political commentary -- a Swiftian "modest proposal" for simultaneously ridding the world of its number-one terrorist and also providing a meal for an endangered species.
Regardless of one's position on the disposition of the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip -- or as Freedom Fighter would say, Judea, Samaria, and, ah, the Gaza Strip, I guess -- the central analogy of the JoshuaPundit post, that Gaza and the West Bank are to Israel as California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are to the United States, is inappropriate and silly. The distinctions far overwhelm any superficial similarities.
The most basic one is easy to spot: The United States does not rule over any hostile populace. No seething, terrorist populations that hate us with a passion. No territories held by force, when the majority living there would rather die to kill an American than live with the thought that we live as well.
In reality, the Palestinian-flavored Arabs hate Jews and love death more than they love life, even the lives of their children. And that's not my prejudice talking... they proudly announce it themselves.
Americans are sensitive plants. The moment there is any hint of disharmony among even 30% of the population of some territory we frequent, we immediately saddle the campfire, pee on the horses, and up stakes for warmer climes. We know when we're not wanted! The only exceptions I can think of are Afghanistan, Iraq, and of course, the Civil War... though the first two are short-term fights that we'll soon win, ending with far less than the magic 30% figure; and in the last, there was a moral principle involved: abolishing slavery.
One cannot find 30% of the population in the four American border states demanding to be returned to Mexico. One cannot fine 3%. One cannot even find 0.03%. In fact, not even 0.03% of the Hispanic population of those states. The entire membership of MeCHA that really wants those states to be swallowed up by Mexico as the state of "Aztlan" would probably fit into the Whiskey A-Go-Go nightclub.
While in the Israeli-occupied territories, the percent of the population that wants to be free of Israel and judenrein is, oh, about 100%. That's a pretty significant distinction between the analogy and the analogized!
That was the point of our earlier post; I have no idea what was the point of Freedom Fighter's post, other than a cri de cœur arising from generalized angst. But what the heck; read what we wrote, then read the JoshuaPundit post, and form your own opinion which of us is more convincing.
I'm all eyes...
September 13, 2007
Two Left Iraq
It is, one presumes, just a coincidence; but two familiar Iraqi bloggers both left Iraq within the last few days. Although they lived thousands of miles away, we've come to know them very well... one as a respected thinker and member of the most well-known families of Iraqi bloggers in the dextrosphere; the other as an anti-American hack who bemoans the fall of Saddam Hussein, and is very likely the daughter of a former high-ranking Baathist.
Let's take the last first...
A blogger who has been known to us only as "Riverbend," but whom we Lizards disaffectionately refer to "Rubberband," decided to high-tail it out of Iraq back in April. However, after announcing her intention, she exprienced a series of delays due to curfews and the untimely death of her driver's brother. But a few days ago, Rubberband and her parents and a couple of other familiy members finally found their chance to leave Iraq, and good riddance. Surprise, surprise, their destination was Syria, where they are now ex-pats (along with many and many another Baathist exile).
It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.
The day Rubberband and her family were packing the car, another Iraqi left Iraq. His name is Omar, and he is one of the three brothers who started a blog called Iraq the Model. Rather than congenial Syria, Omar's destination was New York City, where he is now a student. In fact his brother Ali -- who left Iraq the Model couple of years ago to start his own blog -- was already in the US, also going to college:
Just two days ago I arrived in New York City and for the coming two years I will be studying international affairs at Columbia University [Isaac Asimov's old alma mater -- DaH], hopefully by the end of that I will get the master's degree I want!
So far I'm still in the process of settling in and figuring out what I need to do in order to actually start my studies. However posting on this blog will continue and a new post will be coming tomorrow if not tonight.
And by the way, in case some of Ali's old readers are wondering where he is and like to contact him, he's going to college at Stony Brooks [sic] in Long Island [Omar means Ali is at the State University of New York at Stony Brook].
Omar talked about coming to America a few weeks ago. He told us about a horrible traveling experience he had when he went to Jordan to obtain an American visa. According to Omar, Jordan is treating Iraqis really badly.
This is hardly surprising, as the last thing in the world Jordan wants or needs is a flood of Iraqi refugees... particularly given that Saddam Hussein transplanted a number of terrorist-supporting Palestinians into Iraq (displacing the Marsh Arabs on land that used to be, and is slowly being reclaimed by, the Great Salt Marsh) -- and I suspect most Jordanians believe there are already more than enough Palestinians in Jordan. But back to Omar's tale:
[R]ecently our Jordanian brothers came up with a truly outrageous practice of discrimination against Iraqis. All disembarking Iraqi passengers now are taken to special passport counters in a hall separated from the rest of airport facilities regardless of the origin of their flights or the airlines they came aboard. Attached to this hall is what Iraqis call “the prison”.
In case you haven’t heard, Iraqi refugees stopped going to Jordan long time ago now because they know they would be turned away...
The most painful scene was of families of four being torn apart; half of the family would be allowed to enter Jordan while the other half would be rejected and ordered to go back. Many preferred to go home together over being separated like this.
One scene like this nearly turned to a tragedy when an old lady suddenly collapsed on the floor from a case of heart attack from all the stress she suffered that day. If not for the good Iraqi doctor among us, she would have died waiting for the medics to arrive.
Miss Rubberband's family knew of the Jordanian situation; that's one of the reasons they decided to go to Syria. (Another reason, of course, is the willingness of Syria to enroll former Baathists in the only other Baathist regime in the world.)
As far as I know, Rubberband and Omar's family both lived in Baghdad. Both are Sunnis... but what a difference between them! Look at the lives they are leading: When I read Iraq the Model, I always feel optimistic even in the hardest time. But Rubberband makes me feel only bitterness and depression. It is hard to believe they both live in the same city (but then, so do Charles Krauthammer and Chuck Schumer).
But of course, the former represents the Sunnis who did not believe themselves superior to the Shia and Kurds and who were not the elect of Saddam; while the latter is of the class that lorded it over everyone else. It's not suprising that Rubberband would be so bitter against America and the Iraqi Shia; she had such a cushy life until that terrible day.
I wish both families good luck. I hope Omar and Ali will be able to come back soon, armed with the knowledge that will help lead their country into the Functioning Core. And I hope Rubberband sees what is happening in Syria and comes to her senses.
I'm pretty sure I'll bat .500 on those two well-wishes.
June 22, 2007
Bride of Picking a Blog Feud - Power Line
Constituting my second attempt to get myself drummed out of the blogle corps and to have my epaulets painfully ripped off...
My favorite blogger (John Hinderaker) at my favorite blogsite (Power Line) just "penned" (all right, keyed, phosphored, whatever) a post taking the Bush administration to task for releasing a study by the Council of Economic Advisors of the economic effect of immigrants on the United States, which they found to be strongly positive; John's complaint is that it didn't specifically break out the effect of illegal immigrants from those of legal immigrants.
His underlying (unstated) thesis appears to be that, since illegal immigrants are probably a net negative, we shouldn't pass the immigration bill:
My biggest concern about allowing millions of illegal immigrants to remain in this country, while permitting many more to enter via a guest worker program--or further illegality, which, having been forgiven once again, will no doubt be encouraged--is its impact on the wages of relatively unskilled American labor.
Please pardon my puzzlement, but isn't this a raging non-sequitur? Nothing facially in the immigration bill would increase illegal immigration, or even increase it relative to legal immigration. John makes an attempt to find a logical connection; but he relies upon a logical fallacy called "begging the question," or assuming that which was to be proved: "further illegality, which, having been forgiven once again, will no doubt be encouraged."
No doubt? I find a great deal of doubt.
I have never once seen any study that showed that the 1986 amnesty (which really was an amnesty, unlike this bill) actually caused illegal immigration to increase. Yes, we estimate many more illegal immigrants here today than in 1986; but "post hoc ergo propter hoc" is another logical fallacy. There are many explanations that have not yet been addressed or filtered out:
- Attempted legal immigration has risen dramatically, perhaps due to increased instability following the collapse of the Soviet empire; that alone may explain a good portion of the increase in illegal immigration, as more people rejected may decide to come anyway.
- The strength of the American economy relative to the rest of the world -- the "world income gap" -- soared during the the last 20 years, due mostly to the dawn of the computer age, which benefited us far more than Europe or the Third World. A greater economic gap between, say, Latin America and the United States, coupled with an overall immigration quota that did not keep up with demand, would of course lead to more illegal immigration.
- Immigration laws (de jure or de facto) may have become more arbitrary and less predictable, leading to more immigrants choosing to jump the border.
- We may well have massively underestimated the number of illegals here in 1986; the census did not specifically try to count illegals until 2000. Where did the 3-4 million estimate then come from? Where does the 12 million estimate now come from?
No research has ever been done, so far as I know, to determine whether post-1986 illegals have ever even heard of the 1986 amnesty. If they don't know about it, how could it have impacted their decision to sneak into the country?
Another point that John fails to address: The most important (in my opinion) element of the current immigration bill changes our legal immigration policy to favor the well-trained, highly educated, and more assimilable immigrants at the expense of the lower-tier immigrants and their extended families. For the very first time ever, the United States would pick and choose immigrants based upon the likelihood that they will contribute to America.
John quotes the study he attacks to show a huge difference between the economic impact of such high-value immigrants (HVIs) and the unskilled laborers (ULs) who are favored under the current system:
Conflating these two groups is completely pointless. No one has ever doubted that Ph.D.s in math, biology and physics contribute to our economy. The report acknowledges this obvious fact. For example, with respect to the impact of immigration on government finance:From this long-run point of view, the NRC [National Research Council] study estimated that immigrants (including their descendants) would have a positive fiscal impact--a present discounted value of $80,000 per immigrant on average in their baseline model (in 1996 dollars). The surplus is larger for high-skilled immigrants ($198,000) and slightly negative for those with less than a high school degree (-$13,000).
This creates a strong prima facie case that the benefit to our economy from legally bringing in a greater percentage of HVIs than ULs would far outweigh the disadvantage of an increased population of illegals, who most likely would be primarily ULs. The argument depends critically upon the exact number of "extra" HVIs and ULs, which nobody claims to know at this time.
But the system set in place by the immigration bill is also much more flexible than the current system: Because the new system would award points for various characteristics of potential immigrants, it would be easy enough to adjust the points to favor HVIs more, thus encouraging more of them to immigrate here.
Much of John's negative assessment seems to center on the "guest worker" program, which would bring about 200,000 mostly ULs into the United States each year on a three-year rolling basis -- thus 600,000 total, with complete turnover every 3 years:
My biggest concern about allowing millions of illegal immigrants to remain in this country, while permitting many more to enter via a guest worker program--or further illegality, which, having been forgiven once again, will no doubt be encouraged--is its impact on the wages of relatively unskilled American labor. The CAE report acknowledges the legitimacy of this issue:Fully 90% of US native-born workers are estimated to have gained from immigration. ***
[B]ased on Chart one [the chart reproduced above], one might expect the remaining least-skilled natives to face labor market competition from immigrants. Evidence on this issue is mixed. Studies often find small negative effects of immigration on the wages of low-skilled natives, and even the comparatively large estimate reported in Borjas (2003) is under 10% for immigration over a 20 year period.
This sounds disturbingly as if John argues that we should not allow immigrants to work at low-paid jobs in order to protect the native-born ULs who currently work in those jobs. This sounds an awful lot like labor protectionism, à la Pat Buchanan... which in other contexts John vehemently opposes. I don't think he has carefully thought through this argument.
In any event, the final sentence of the paragraph that John quotes above is relevant and extremely important, and John should not have omitted it:
The difficulties faced by high school dropouts are a serious policy concern, but it is safe to conclude that immigration is not a central cause of those difficulties, nor is reducing immigration a well-targeted way to help these low-wage natives.
There are many legitimate reasons why someone could oppose this immigration bill, including:
- A strong desire not to reward people who broke the law;
- The belief that the punishment is too slight;
- Suspicion that the immigration security enhancements won't be fully implemented or won't work as well as anticipated.
But unless this study is completely wrong -- which one economist argues; I'll deal with the suspect Borjas objection in the next post -- the argument from economics is a lousy reason to oppose this bill; national economics actually supports some form of comprehensive immigration reform.
June 21, 2007
Picking a Blog Feud - Real Clear Politics
John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics published a post today analyzing the fallout from the potential presidential campaign by former RINO, now IINO Michael Bloomberg, multibillionaire Mayor of New York City. His basic question was who would be hurt worse by such a run: Democrats or Republicans.
I agree with his broad conclusion -- that it hurts the former more in nearly all cases -- and disagree with his thought that under the circumstance of a Mitt Romney - John Edwards tussle, Bloomberg would hurt Romney more; but I'm mainly interested in one nugget that John tossed rather nonchalantly upon the table:
What makes this more intriguing is that the likelihood of Bloomberg getting in is inversely related to the strength of the eventual major-party nominees. A Romney-Edwards general election would be Bloomberg's best hope and in the unlikely event they are both the nominees I think a Bloomberg run becomes a near certainty, with a Bloomberg presidency a possibility.
If John means a Bloomberg win is a "possibility" in the narrowest logical sense -- for example, Bloomberg would win if uncontrovertible evidence emerged one week before the election that both Mr. Romney and Mr. Edwards were on Osama bin Laden's payroll as sleeper agents -- then I have no problem with this paragraph. But if, as I believe likely, John meant that there were reasonably plausible circumstances in which Bloomberg would win the race, then I think John is dreaming (a nightmare, I will assume).
There are only two ways to win the presidency (since Bloomberg won't be running as anyone's running mate):
- By amassing a majority of electoral votes;
- Or in the event that nobody does, by gaining an absolute majority (26) of state delegations in the House of Representatives.
(2) is politically impossible; no state delegation except perhaps New York would vote for the independent, as they are all controlled by either Democrats or Republicans (mostly Republicans), and Bloomberg does not have any national following anyway.
So let's concentrate on states that Bloomberg could plausibly win in the general election. First of all, he must win Republican states to win the presidency: Since the Republican won the last two presidential elections, Bloomberg cannot win with only Democratic states, not even if he gets all of them.
Second, Bloomberg will not get all of the Democratic states, because many of them (big states) are very liberal and will certainly vote for a liberal Democrat over a moderate whatchamacallit: California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts alone account for 119 electoral votes, or 47% (!) of John Kerry's 252 votes; and they all went for the Democrat by more than ten points.
So the question reduces to this: How many Republican states can Bloomberg plausibly win? It must be quite a few, to make up for the liberal Democratic states he will assuredly lose. And here is the big problem: There were very few "purple" states in either 2000 or 2004. Defining a purple state as one where the spread between Bush and Kerry was 5% or less, Kerry took six purple states for 69 electoral votes, and Bush took another six for 73 electoral votes. Even if Bloomberg took them all -- itself very unlikely -- that's only 142 electoral votes, just slightly over half of what he would need.
In other words, to have any possibility of winning, Moderate Mike would have to take a number of conservative states away from the conservative Republican nominee and/or a number of liberal states away from the liberal Democratic nominee. How is that supposed to happen? Does Texas decide that Mitt Romney is too conservative, so they vote instead for that guy from New York City?
In the general election, I doubt that even New York state would vote for Bloomberg; though if he were very popular, he might split the Democratic vote there between himself and the actual nominee, handing the state to the Republicans (30% of the Democratic vote going to Bloomberg would do it, if the Republicans held their own). I doubt it would happen, however; New York liberals are not utter fools.
So respectfully, I think John's final, almost parenthetical comment -- that "a Bloomberg presidency [is] a possibility" -- is a load of peanut butter waffles.
June 20, 2007
Dividing and Conquering, or Dancing With the Devil?
Two posts over on my favorite blog, Power Line -- one by Scott Johnson, the other by Paul Mirengoff -- appear to be at war with each other.
In the first, Brothers Grim at Foggy Bottom, Scott links to an article by Eli Lake at the New York Sun. Lake reports that the Bush administration is at least mulling the prospect of opening more direct relations with the Muslim Brotherhood -- "the party that founded modern political Islam," as Lake puts it, and the umbrella organization to many Islamist organizations.
The hope is that, if (a big if) the Muslim Brotherhood -- or a significant element thereof -- can be convinced that violence, murder, terrorism, and the mass slaughter of fellow Moslems is counterproductive (if not morally wrong, which may be a stretch for them), then they could serve as a counterideology, which we desperately need, to al-Qaeda, Hamas, EIJ, and other terrorist groups that more or less spun off from the Brotherhood. (Even a Shiite terror ogranization, such as Hezbollah, could be hurt by such a turn, as a "quietist" version of the Muslim Brotherhood would surely increase the appeal of Najaf Quietism itself in Iraq and even Iran, as a counterweight to Khomeini-ism.)
Scott does not offer a direct attack on the idea, but he seems to weigh in against such a move, quoting from a skeptic but not from anyone actually defending the idea. The very title of Scott's post, while a nice pun, also clearly implies that he thinks such a strategy is a fairy tale.
But just four posts later on the same page, Paul offers his own thoughts in Some Sunni Tribes Turn Against al-Qaeda in Baghdad:
Even the MSM has reported, however grudgingly, our military's success resulting from having enlisted Sunni tribes in the fight against al Qaeda in Anbar province. Attacks there have decreased by 60 percent and al Qaeda is on the run.
Now we are having some success in persuading Sunni tribes to help us against al Qaeda in Baghdad. USA Today reports that more than ten such tribes have signed on. Some of them have members who previously have fought alongside al Qaeda. As Lt. Col. Rick Welch explains, this means "they know where they live... who they are... [and] how they operate."
This tactic is working extremely well in Iraq, as Big Lizards has reported a number of times. A strong case can be made that a similar approach can work internationally... and that clearly is what President Bush has in mind for serious consideration; he has not yet made a final decision.
We've often said in other contexts that "you can't beat something with nothing." This is particularly true when fighting an ideology-based threat such as global jihadism: Its power comes from strong, principled, religious belief; those who sign aboard are looking to live their faith more fully than possible in the typical Arab or Moslem cult-of-personality dictatorship.
In Iraq, for example, many are moved by the thought of self-rule and modernity; but for those who are not, for those who crave a deeper spiritual life, it's useless to say "don't follow radical, militant Islam -- follow democracy instead!" It is far more effective to give these people an intense and all-encompassing religious option that emphatically rejects murder, violence, and coercion... such as the Quietism of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Shia or the Indonesian Sunni Islamist anti-terrorist group Nahdatul Ulama (NU), which has a membership in the tens of millions.
Can the Muslim Brotherhood become such a force? That is, one presumes, just what the administration is exploring, inviting two Islamic scholars on opposite sides of the question to the White House for discussion and debate -- which, by the way, is a technique Ronald Reagan often used to try to understand a contentious issue.
Certainly, there is no question that members of the Brotherhood have engaged in terrorism in the past, and the Brotherhood has spun off several horrific terrorist groups (including Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman Zawahiri of later al-Qaeda fame, and Hamas). One can argue that the Brotherhood radicalizes some people who then split away and form Islamist groups more radical than the Brotherhood.
But it's also true that the organization has denounced many terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda. The Brotherhood supports the idea of sharia law and a world-wide caliphate; but if we could appeal to elements within the organization that reject violent coercion as the path to that caliphate, we might have a serious line of attack in the propaganda war for the ummah... a vital front we have by and large neglected, ignored, even actively shunned so far.
I don't know if the Muslim Brotherhood will turn out to be the proper vehicle for such a front; they may, in the end, prove too radical, too devoted to Islamic rule to balk at the mass killing of innocents. But without exploring the idea in depth, we won't know whether such an alliance would divide and conquer our jihadist enemies -- or fool us into dancing with the Devil, giving aid and comfort (and some cheap laughs) to those very same enemies.
Still, I enthusiastically applaud such "sideways thinking" outside the normal channels of the D.C. political ideological complex, which currently offers only three paths forward, none of them very promising:
- The "Realism" of Kissinger and Scowcroft, which cuddles up to Arab strongmen to maintain order and security;
- Incessant military intervention in every potentially troublous Moslem country;
- Or cowardly and foolhardy retreat to "Fortress America" to contemplate domestic policy and our navels.
I won't say there's "no harm" in investigating this front, because we could be sucked into doing the wrong thing. But I do argue there is a powerful upside that we can no longer afford to overlook. So as Ronald Reagan's mother (he assured us) used to tell him while pushing him around in his pram, "trust but verify."
May 29, 2007
Nowadays, it seems that whenever President Bush says or does anything, conservatives hunt like crazy for the most disreputable, disloyal, and cowardly possible interpretation -- then cling to it like a sick kitten to a warm brick, even when perfectly reasonable (and much more likely) interpretations are available.
Each excursion into spurious accusation becomes more "evidence" to buttress the next, until they build a gigantic "indictment mountain" of tapioca, which they treat like Mount Rushmore. Every absurd attack makes the next, equally absurd attack easier to hurl: Today, even a single word in a notoriously left-leaning newspaper is enough evidence to prove another Bush betrayal. Hey, where there's smoke...
This must be a relative of the normal Bush Derangement Syndrome, or BDS, suffered by lefties; Bush Betrayal Syndrome (BBS), perhaps. It is rapidly becoming an epidemic among American conservatives...
Rich in Iran-y
Case in point: Scott Johnson, writing on my favorite blog Power Line, sees the complete collapse and betrayal of the Bush administration position on one member of the Axis of Evil, Iran:
The Bush administration appears to me to have thrown [away] its stated policy for dealing with Iran in favor of beseeching the mullahs for "a decent interval" in which to withdraw American troops.... [To avoid confusion, let me note that Scott's term "decent interval" quotes Henry Kissinger, not President Bush or US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.]
Perhaps yesteday's meeting is to be followed by one in which we ask the mullahs politely to give up their beloved nuclear program....
I would love to know what the Bush administration has in mind for the mullahs' nuclear program. My guess is runs more along the lines of a whimper than a bang.
Scott bases this entire impeachment of the president's policy upon a single source -- in fact, a single line -- or rather, a single word in a single line of a single source... and that source is the Boston Globe. Here is the evidence of betrayal:
In the highest-level public talks between the United States and Iran in nearly 30 years, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker yesterday reached out to his Iranian counterpart for help in improving Iraqi security and asked that Iran stop supplying arms to Iraqi militia groups.
Note that this is not a quotation; it's is a characterization offered by the Globe reporter, Farah Stockman; based upon other articles of hers I skimmed, she seems to have the political viewpoint typically associated with that far-left newspaper. Yet this one word is the only one that could possibly give rise to Scott's own characterization of the exchange as "beseeching." Scott continues:
Is a story like the Boston Globe's account of yesterday's meeting between Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart to be taken at face value? The Globe reports that Crocker asked that Iran stop supplying arms to Iraqi militia groups. I trust that Crocker remembered to say "please."
Alas, Scott never answered his own question... and of course, the answer is No, a political characterization by the Boston Globe which just happens to fit perfectly with the Democratic agenda of making Bush look feckless and cowardly is not to be "taken at face value;" just as I wouldn't take at face value the declaration by an ardent Evangelical Christian that Mormonism is a cult.
But this accusation of pending betrayal against Bush is even more puzzling; further down on the very same page, the very same exchange is characterized very differently:
On the American side, Crocker reiterated the US demand that the Qods Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, stop funneling weapons to Sunni insurgent groups and extremist Shi'ite militias, particularly factions of Madhi Army, which is loosely controlled by radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
US officials previously had been reluctant to make the claim that Iran supports Sunni as well as Shi'ite insurgents. But yesterday Crocker said he made the case forcefully.
Isn't demanding that Iran stop fueling the terrorists (on both sides) and stop killing Americans exactly what we want our ambassador to do? This seems a far cry from merely "asking" them to give us a Kissingerian "decent interval" in which to surrender. Why is Scott so angry?
But BBS appears to be a much larger problem than just this possible instance would imply:
A mighty hot wind
Conservatives now regularly refer to the "complete collapse" of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.
This has been a Democratic talking point since before the hurricane even struck. It was fueled by monstrously misleading media messaging during the crisis -- crazy talk of dead bodies stacked like cordwood in the Superdome's freezer, of cannibalism, of roving rape gangs, of rescue workers being shot at, and of as many as 10,000 people drowned because of "Brownie's incompetence," referring to former Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response Michael D. Brown.
We thoroughly debunked this Democratic fairy tale in 13 Ghosts. But that hasn't stopped a number of conservatives I've read recently from slapping it onto the gooey mountain of "Bush betrayal."
Miers-ed in betrayal
When President Bush nominated Harriett Miers to the Supreme Court, to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, conservatives went from "we don't know enough about her" to "she's a stealth liberal activist that Bush is sneaking onto the Court to undo the Reagan revolution" in about 2.4 seconds.
It was a perfectly legitimate point to say that Miers didn't have enough of a track record for us to be sure she would practice judicial restraint. Even Hugh Hewitt, who, alone among conservatives, defended her nomination, admitted that he was troubled by her lack of a paper trail.
But that is a far cry from the increasingly bizarre and unsourced accusations that she was a closet fan of expanding affirmative action, that she would "absolutely" vote to expand abortion, and that her main function was to overturn the Patriot Act. When I pointed out that Bush said he knew her well and she was a conservative, rather than partially exonerate Miers -- the response was to push Bush into the same quagmire... it proved he was the Great Betrayer!
The nomination was revealed to be part of Bush's secret plan to betray conservatism.
Bush is selling our ports to al-Qaeda!
The administration approved a deal for Dubai Ports World, an international port-management company headquartered in the United Arab Emirate nation of Dubai, to purchase the company that was managing cargo operations at most large American ports. Initially, the sale didn't even rise to the level of direct presidential decision-making.
The hue and cry from the Right was immediate and almost hysterical. At first, and for some time before it was finally debunked, conservative commentators and bloggers charged that Bush was "handing over port security" to the A-rabs. Once it was finally made clear this affected only cargo handling, not cargo inspections or any other aspect of port security -- and it only changed the managers, not the actual workers (who would remain American dockwallopers) -- then the same voices beavered away finding some obscure reason why this really was a terrible betrayal of American national security anyway. (The conclusion remained the same; they just jacked it up and ran a whole new structure of fact beneath it.)
Honestly, it seemed to me that proving another "Bush betrayal" had become more important to the disputants than than the truth: Evidence that the deal would not affect security at all was rejected out of hand, while even the faintest rumor that Dubai Ports World was infiltrated by al-Qaeda was cited with the same confidence that one might say the Taliban was infiltrated by al-Qaeda.
The rallying cry became 'American ports must be controlled by Americans, not by foreigners.' Lost in the cacophany was the fact that no American port-management company was big enough to take on the job... and also that the company that had been running port ops earlier, the company bought out by Dubai Ports World, was the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O)... chartered in Great Britain, not the United States.
Bush had to be guilty of yet another ludicrously "betrayal" (the most urgent task): this time, that he wanted to turn American ports over to jihadists.
The United States Attorney betrayal
Conservatives have searched high and low for occult signs of "Bush betrayal" in the case of the "fired" U.S. Attorneys (none was fired; the administration chose not to renew their contracts when they ran out).
At the beginning, the dextrosphere rightly noted that there was nothing illegal about the firing; and that the miscommunication by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his staff, while irritating, was also not a deliberate attempt to mislead Congress.
But the longer Sen. Pat Leahy's (D-VT, 95%) Judiciary Committee hearings pounded on Gonzales and on Pat McNulty, Monica Goodling, et al, and the more the elite media gleefully covered the fishing expedition (which has caught so few fish, they're already digging into the Spamwiches they brought along) -- the more conservatives, smelling blood in the water, turned on Gonzales and Bush.
Now we have the odd spectacle of conservatives using liberal code words to indict Gonzales and the president without actually having to produce evidence of wrongdoing: They say the "timing" of this or that non-renewal of contract was "suspicious," then cast a significant look, as if to say 'if you know what I mean, and I think you do.'
Thus again, conservatives, acting on a strange agenda of their own, lend gravitas and support to the wildest liberal charges against the Republican president. (How long until conservatives begin decrying the "stolen election" of 2000?)
The obsession with finding some way to declare that Bush is the Great Betrayer has hit its apocalyptic apogee -- so far! -- in the response by the Right to the immigration bill. There are certainly elements of the compromise that could be changed for the better; but good heavens, conservatives have accused Bush of everything from wanting "completely open borders" to plotting to merge the United States, Canada, and Mexico into some fantasy nightmare called "the North American Union" (whose currency, tied to the peso, of course, would be the "amero").
The most common wild exaggeration is to say that the bill contains "no border security provisions whatsoever;" this utterly discounts the triggers, including the fence, the doubling of the Border Patrol, the tamper-resistant SSN card, and the increase (by orders of magnitude) of employer penalties for hiring illegals... none of which evidently counts. Some of those who oppose any comprehensive bill whatsoever argue that these programs would be good; but it is a "fact" that they will never be implemented. Bush plots not to enforce them, allowing "a hundred million" illegals to swarm in for "amnesty."
The word "amnesty" itself is conveniently redefined to include a plea bargain with a legal penalty -- while still retaining the frisson of the original meaning of forgiveness without any penalty. Argument by redefinition is a tactic pioneered by leftists, who routinely say, for example, that we have "murdered" 30,000 civilians in Iraq... redefining "murdering civilians" to mean "undertaking an invasion to which terrorists respond by killing civilians."
Just a few moments ago, Carol Platt Liebau, sitting in for Hugh Hewitt, accused Bush of saying that anyone who opposed the bill doesn't "want to do what's right for America." Translation: Bush has become as great a betrayer as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, %), to whom she explicitly compared the president.
Perhaps she didn't read very far into the AP story before her blood began to boil and her vision clouded up; what the president actually said was this:
"Those determined to find fault with this bill will always be able to look at a narrow slice of it and find something they don't like," the president said. "If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it.
"You can use it to frighten people," Bush said. "Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all."
One may agree or disagree with the compromise bill; but there is no question that the subject of the paragraph is "those determined to find fault with this bill," not everyone who doesn't accept it or is skeptical that it can succeed. Plenty of people oppose this particular bill but are willing to consider other realistic solutions, rather than making demands they know are impossible. They are not included among those who "don't want to do what's right for America," according to President Bush.
He attacks those for whom no bill is acceptable -- other than pure enforcement and deportation, which they know very well will never pass Congress. He castigates people who want to see any regularization plan crash and burn, even if it takes the entire Republican Party with it, leaving the Democrats with total power. "At least then," such bitter-enders say, "we'll know who to blame when the country is destroyed!"
Feeding the energy creature
This is not simply a distasteful and vulgar repudiation of a man who has done, on the whole, a very good job making very tough decisions in response to a terrible national threat. It is also a tragic example of political self-euthanasia.
Conservatives appear determined, if unknowingly so, to put the GOP out of the Democrats' misery: They act as if they can surgically destroy George W. Bush and the "neocons" (however they define them), while leaving the rest of the Republican Party intact. In fact, they seem to believe that once they thrash the president to death, the country will rally behind a "true conservative."
I'm not sure who they have in mind, and I don't think they know, either. The only option offered is to exhume Ronald Reagan.
"Politics is the art of the possible" -- a saying often attributed to Otto von Bismark, though I doubt he ever actually said it. If one rejects that, one is left saying that politics should include elements that are impossible... which, by definition, is impossible. For whatever reason (and I think it likely that BBS played a great role), we lost the 2006 elections; Democrats captured both the House and Senate, albeit narrowly.
But however narrow their majority, they still control both the committees and the agenda; and they can stop cold any of the GOP's remaining agenda items... unless Republicans stick together and peel off a few Democrats. Republicans alone, without a single Democratic defection, can prevent Congress from enacting a Democratic agenda: But they must rely upon a presidential veto (from the man they are determined to call the Great Betrayer); and again, they must stand firm and united, retaining even the votes of moderate Republicans, who are easily disgusted by the disloyalty of their fellow party members.
We court catastrophe when we join the Democratic dogpile atop the president; and we make fools of ourselves when we imagine we can isolate the damage just to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, without having it slop over onto the 2008 Republican nominee for president and Republicans running for election or reelection to the Congress. You don't win a fight by clubbing your own head.
It is time for conservatives to focus on the areas where they agree with the fellow Republican in the White House, and on areas where a change can make a compromise bill better, yet not act as a poison pill to kill it altogether. I beseech you, in the bowels of Oliver Cromwell, to leave the Bush bashing to the professionals in the other party.
Unless, that is, conservatives actually crave the freedom from responsibility of the New Deal era!
May 22, 2007
Speaking of tsunamis, I want to draw everyone's attention to a cool, new feature on RealClearPolitics: RealClearBlogs.
(And I'm not just touting it because they linked us over the weekend. Well... not just because.)
Every day, they link to blogposts in three categories:
- Debates & Discussions
- Featured Blog Posts
- State & Local Blog Coverage
The first is the most interesting offering, for Jeff Pyatt... he runs RealClearBlogs, I think; either that or the Krispy Kreme in beautiful downtown Burbank; Jeff Pyatt pairs off bloggers who are
fighting with -- pounding on -- snarling at -- brawling between -- kicking the -- engaging in civilized and refined debate about serious topics of the day, utilizing logical arguments that typically depend upon lead pipes, saps, poleaxes, stilettos, bowling balls, Samuel Colt's revolving pistol, brass knucks, brass bands, brass monkeys, nuclear hand grenades (50-foot throwing range, 5-mile blast radius), broadswords, hand and a half swords, rapiers, smallswords, running sores, ruining Soros, rotten eggs, rotten tomatoes, written puns, pans, pots and kettles -- especially those, both in basic black -- and once in a blue moon (does anybody besides me know what that actually means, without looking it up?) once in a blue moon, an actual rhetorical point.
It's a lot of fun; and hey -- nothin' beats fun! (Well, what does?) And yesterday, they even linked an anti-atheist column by none other than Chuck Norris... yes, that Chuck Norris, the guy I took karate from in 1960-mumble something. Parts II and III of III (I didn't see part I).
Here are some important fun facts about Chuck Norris.
So put on your manly gown, gird your loins, and pull up your socks... it's time to rock off to RealClearBlogs!
(Oh... and a "blue moon" is when two full moons appear in a single month, or else four in a quarter -- and it's the third moon of four that's the "blue" one. I knew there was a reason to read Moon and Stars and Stuff, the long-running astrology column by the incomparable science-fiction author and fantasist Fritz Leiber.)
May 11, 2007
The "Surge" - Which Hasn't Actually Started Yet - Is Petering Out!
The rush to despair really gets my goat... forcing me, once again, to criticize my all-time favorite blog.
Paul Mirengoff on Power Line wrote a post today fretting that "the surge" (as he insists upon calling it) may be "too little too late." Here is the excerpt in which he defends this military analysis:
It is true that the surge is not complete. But it sounds like the additional forces will concentrate on the outskirts of Baghdad. Though it's possible that progress there will bring benefits to Baghdad, it seems at least as likely that what we're seeing now in Baghdad is roughly what we will get during the remainder of the year.
Where to begin? Oh, I know where...
The urge to "surge"
First, the term "surge" is both misleading and unfortunate. I think it comes from the Iraq Study Group's final report, where they wrote (page 50):
Because of the importance of Iraq to our regional security goals and to our ongoing fight against al Qaeda, we considered proposals to make a substantial increase (100,000 to 200,000) in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. We rejected this course because we do not believe that the needed levels are available for a sustained deployment. Further, adding more American troops could conceivably worsen those aspects of the security problem that are fed by the view that the U.S. presence is intended to be a long-term “occupation.” We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective.
I don't know where they got it; some chowderhead in the Pentagon, most likely. But applying this term to Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy is like calling the Battle of the Philippines in World War II a kafuffle: It's non-descriptive, pejorative, and dismissive.
I really wish both those in the news media and secondary sources like bloggers would stop describing our complete change of strategy as a "surge." A surge would mean just squirting a few more troops into the existing strategy.
Instead, we have fundamentally changed everything about our approach to Iraq. It's time to move on from any initial misconceptions we had in 2006 to what we now understand (if we've kept up with our Big Lizards reading) was the complete replacement of a failed "attrition" strategy to a new strategy of counterinsurgency -- which has been effective in similar situations in the past (e.g., Algeria and Vietnam) -- coupled with replacing the entire top leadership of the war, from the commander of MNF-I (Gen. George Casey) to the commander of CENTCOM (Gen. John Abizaid) to the Secretary of Defense himself (Don Rumsfeld).
Those positions are now held by Gen. David Petraeus (commander MNF-I), Adm. William Fallon (commander CENTCOM), and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. I'm not sure whether Fallon was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, but both Petraeus and Gates were.
It may or may not work, but it stands a tremendously greater chance than would a mere "surge;" and it was a monumental about-face by the Bush administration. (Thus proving that the president does indeed listen to criticism and take it seriously.)
Once upon a time...
My next point of demur is this sentence from Paul's post: "It is true that the surge is not complete."
Yes, that is correct. But it's roughly like saying "it is true that the 2008 campaign is not complete"... it has barely even begun!
We discussed this point back in April, more than two weeks ago; according to Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, former professor of military history at the the United States Military Academy of West Point and one of the actual creators of the strategy, the "heavy lifting" of the counterinsurgency has not even begun yet. It's scheduled for "late May or June." All we have done so far is prepare the battlefield for counterinsurgency:
Most of the military operations of recent months have been laying the groundwork for clear-and-hold operations that will be the centerpiece of the new plan. Coalition and Iraqi forces have targeted al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent cells in Baghdad, in their bases around the capital, and in Anbar, Salahaddin, and Diyala provinces. They have established positions throughout Baghdad and swept a number of neighborhoods in a preliminary fashion. They have begun placing concrete barriers around problematic neighborhoods to restrict access and change traffic flow to support future operations. Targeted raids have removed a number of key leaders from the Shiite militias as well, reducing the effectiveness of Sadr's organization, which was already harmed by his hasty departure for Iran early this year....
Major clear-and-hold operations are scheduled to begin in late May or June, and will take weeks to complete, area by area. After that, it may be many more weeks before their success at establishing security can be judged.
In fact, we just conducted a successful series of raids in Baghdad and north of the capital against al-Qaeda car-bomb "factories." Naturally, the headline of the news story is that two car bombs exploded at checkpoints on bridges in Baghdad today... the underlying message from AP being, see? All for nought... nothing has changed!
I think this is the message Paul is channeling. But at least in this story, it's absurd: the car bombs detonated today were obviously not assembled today; they were, in fact, products from some days ago of exactly the sort of "factories" that we smashed in the raids today.
Clearly a raid cannot unmake a VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) that was already assembled and distributed to suicide bombers; the object is to make future VBIEDs harder and harder to manufacture. But again, this is all preliminary to the actual counterinsurgency strategy.
Preassessing the assessment
For that reason, it is quite frankly absurd to make the prediction Paul made: "It seems at least as likely that what we're seeing now in Baghdad is roughly what we will get during the remainder of the year."
Since we have not actually started the counterinsurgency yet, upon what does Paul base that prediction? He has no data whatsoever of the effect of a strategy which is still in its preliminary, "laying the groundwork" phase.
I almost get the feeling that Paul can't understand why we keep monkeying around with all these preliminary, preparatory operations; why haven't we started the counterinsurgency yet? Why didn't the first new combat brigade to arrive just jump right into it?
Imagine a massive fire at a chemical factory. The initial fire station's trucks arrive. What is the first thing they do?
My many years of research on fire-suppression techniques -- religiously watching every episode of Emergency! when I was a kid -- tell me that upon arrival, Capt. Stanley is certainly not going to immediately order, "All right, everybody, run into the burning building! Don't stop, don't look around, don't make any preparations... just run into the friggin' building!"
This is silly. Before sending anybody into a conflagration, the fire department must carry out a lot of preparations:
- They must find a hydrant, since the tanks in the engine itself won't be enough;
- Locate where the fire actually is (there may be more than one flamepoint);
- Locate critical areas (like petrochemical storage tanks) that they must, at all costs, keep the fire away from;
- Determine what chemicals are burning and whether an evacuation of nearby residences is needed;
- Determine whether anybody is trapped inside and needs immediate rescue;
- Communicate their assessment to the other engine companies arriving and with the fire chief, if he's on his way;
- Start wetting areas to keep the fire from spreading;
- Start wetting down possible entrances, so the firemen don't have to literally run through a hundred yards of burning chemicals;
- And of course, don oxygen tanks and other protective gear.
I'm sure I've missed a number of other steps; but the point stands: You don't simply dart, pell-mell, into a structure fire... there are a number of critical prepatatory tasks to perform first.
To use another analogy that a lawyer would certainly understand, you don't go directly from signing up a client to trying the case in court; you must plan a legal defense or prosecution like a military campaign... and there are a great many preliminary steps to take, from interrogatories to locating witnesses to subpoenaing documents to prepping witnesses to deposing witnesses, and so forth, right up to voir dire -- all before you give your opening statement.
And in each example, during that preparation time, someone not intimately familiar with the process might complain that nothing is getting accomlished:
Look, the fire still rages, and not a single fireman has even entered the building yet!
Judging from what's happened so far, it seems at least as likely that what we're seeing now in the burning chemical factory is roughly what we will get during the remainder of the day. It's too little too late!
So when should we assess the success?
Let's take Gen. Petraeus at his word when he says that we won't have a clear idea how well the counterinsurgency is working until September, when next the Bush administration returns to Congress for future funding. At that point, the general has promised to return to Congress himself to testify about the strategy: how well it's doing and what we can do to make it succeed even better -- or, if the news is bad, what we can do to extract ourselves with as little damage as possible.
Making offhand predictions today based upon a strategy that has not yet begun is silly; but worse, it's self-destructive and may even become (if the most radical Democrats have their way) a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I can understand why Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) would do such a thing: It's good for their political prospects in 2008 -- or so they imagine (though I think they're horribly mistaken about that).
But it's difficult to explain why patriotic, America-loving, conservative bloggers follow the lead of the Washington Post's "analysis of the situation on the ground," which appears to be Paul's primary source. For heaven's sake, we know the Post has made itself the enemy of the Bush administration, and in particular, of the war in Iraq; should we listen to "helpful" analysis and advice from those who desperately want to see us fail?
Would Paul Mirengoff accept campaign advice for Republicans -- from Paul Begala and James Carville?
I have the terrible feeling that what we're seeing is a "surge" of traditional -- and unseemly -- Republican despair. The danger is that the Republican anchor of despair has enormous weight, and it can sink a ship of state as thoroughly as the Democratic anchor of defeatism.
May 8, 2007
Put Money In the Lizards' Pockets - for Free!
Henry Copeland of BlogAds is running some sort of reader survey. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but there's some free money in it for Big Lizards; and by God and my left knee, we're going to find it.
First, he says we should toss in the following link to the survey: Put tens of thousands of dollars into our pockets without you spending a dime! (Confession: That wasn't Hank's suggested wording. I had one of my very infrequent attacks of whimsy.)
Note: This is not a pyramid scheme. Or if it is, it's very cleverly disguised.
Next, we're supposed to "encourage" readers to click on the thing and take the survey. Bruno Tolioni will visit you shortly and dance at you until you relent.
I haven't see the survey yet; I'm sure the questions are nosy and intrusive, like how many times you sneeze during the day (requires an accurate record) and the volume of pizza sauce in milliliters you consume each fortnight... or maybe not; what do I know?
Here's an example of the BlogAdders' wild sense of humor:
Extra cheering helps get more results. But please warn readers that the survey is long, BUT they can bail anytime after the first page [too many buts in this sentence]. (Once they hit drinks questions, they're almost home and deserve a drink.)
Make of it what you will; everybody must believe in something. I believe I'll have another grog.
They do warn this survey is longish; but I won't know exactly how long until I take it myself. And then, I'm sure my own experience won't help you much, since I regularly answer all survey questions with random mouse twitches. (I think it's a nervous condition; it's a wonder it doesn't stop me from typing.)
So let me put this up, take the survey, and then I'll add an update giving my lap time down to the microsecond.
Update: The survey took me exactly 22:00.000002 by my stopwatch. Your mileage may vary, but probably not by more than 1.8 seconds.
Tally ho. Yoinks.
May 2, 2007
We Win, They Lose Inc.
Patrick Ruffini has a cool new site called We Win, They Lose. (The line is taken from Ronald Reagan's well-known description of his basic strategy for dealing with the Soviets.)
He has a petition up that I just signed, and I think you all should, too. So there.
Ruffini graciously allows us bloggers to embed the petition in our own blogs. Everyone who signs through Big Lizards earns us "credit," though I'm not sure towards what; I'm hoping there's a free lunch at Souplantation in here somewhere, but it might just be towards getting a little silver star on my permanent record.
In any event, here you go:
So sign away, and be sure to include your blog URL, if you have a blog. If you don't, then use this one, which I randomly pulled out of a hat: http://biglizards.net/blog.
(I'm not exactly sure when I took to carrying around the Big Lizards URL in my hat, but now I'm glad I did.)
March 26, 2007
The Worst Political Advice Tom Bevan Has Ever Offered...
Bob Novak reports today that a good source told him "the president never will ask Gonzales to resign."
If that's true, Gonzales should do the president a favor and submit his resignation. Staying on is only going to be a further drag and distraction for the administration. It may be unpalatable to some Republicans for a Bush cabinet member to "sacrifice" himself to the blood-thirsty Democrats. But, quite frankly, they didn't take Gonzales' scalp as much as he gave it to them by bungling the matter and then not being fully candid about his role.
Yeah. That would sure help matters. Here are the two possible Democratic responses to a Gonzales resignation:
They might take the gesture as reaching out, hands across the aisle, a heartfelt attempt by President Bush to be more bipartisan.
Accordingly, the Democrats would drop their demand to coerce testimony from Karl Rove and Harriet Miers (and their deputies), scale back the investigations of the Bush administration, drop talk of impeaching Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney... and in general, start acting like a responsible opposition party.
They would work together with the administration to resolve the nation's problems and win the war in Iraq.
Or they might seize upon the sacrifice as the admission of abject surrender -- and go on a bloodthirsty spree that would reenact the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572. The streets of D.C. would run red with the blood of Bushies.
Nobody that Bush nominated to replace Gonzales would even be given a confirmation hearing, let alone a vote.
Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer would instruct the president that he is to name David Boies as the new Attorney General, and the new White House Counsel will be David Iglesias; Erwin Chemerinsky is to be named Special Counsel to investigate the Bush administration for everything.
Bush would spend the remaining year-plus of his administration in misery and isolation, vainly staving off indictments, impeachments, and imprisonments.
I wonder which road the Democrats would follow?
To paraphrase a popular country song, I know what Tom was feeling, but what was he thinking?
March 13, 2007
So -- I'm not making this up -- here is Dean Barnett:
In a blog post a week or so ago, Dinesh D’Souza promised to expose the “massive ignorance” of the legion of critics who had the audacity to criticize his latest book, “The Enemy at Home.” To that end, Dinesh is publishing an extensive four-piece ignorance-exposing extravaganza on National Review’s site this week....
In case, for whatever reason, you want to track this controversy from its roots, here’s my review of “The Enemy at Home” in which I unwittingly revealed my massive ignorance. Whoops!
Bah. Euphemisms... always euphemisms.
March 12, 2007
Beldar vs. Dafydd Under the Big Top
Beldar has kindly responded to my post, Begging the Biggie, with his own -- which is even longer than mine!
Even the title has a lot of heft: Fitzgerald, Libby, and the roles of, and viewing windows for, big lizards (be they mere prosecutors, Special Counsel, or Independent Counsel Godzillas) in the legal-political jungle -- whew! But it's definitely worth reading, as it frames the debate nicely.
Simply put, it boils down to this: Which is more important -- that all the privacy rights and defendant's rights of those examined in the course of the Fitzgerald investigation be protected... or that the integrity and honor of the United States government (USG) and the country itself be defended and questions resolved?
Being only moderately concerned about privacy rights under any circumstances, and especially where government officials are involved, I opt for the latter. Let me explain, please...
The Plame Name Blame Game began as a two-pronged assault upon the integrity of the USG and the honor of the country itself:
- Lyin' Joe Wilson claimed that Bush defrauded us into war in his 2003 State of the Union address and other speeches by making a false claim about Iraq, Niger, and Uranium ore, or "yellowcake."
- Wilson and the elite media claimed that the administration subsequently used the power of the USG to silence Wilson by "outing" his CIA-employed wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, though a series of orchestrated leaks to the media.
In December of 2003, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, then the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, was named Special Counsel to investigate whether there was any crime in the revelation that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. (Fitzgerald was fresh off a corruption investigation of Republican Gov. George Ryan that netted 40 indictments, including that of Ryan himself, who was convicted of 18 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud, extortion, bribery, and suchlike.)
There were two reasons for the appointment of a Special Counsel, one micro and the other macro:
- Micro: Fitzgerald was obviously appointed to uphold the law, to investigate crimes, to prosecute plaintiffs if necessary and prudent, and to gain convictions where they were guilty. Call this the legal quest.
- Macro: But, like all cases where a Special or Independent Counsel is brought in, there was a political side as well. As the integrity and honor of the United States and the USG had been questioned (by Democrats, for the most part), both Democrats and Republicans wanted those questions answered, either to restore the good name of the country (for the former), or to demonstrate that it had never been besmirched in the first place (for the latter). This is the quest for cosmic justice.
(The terms micro and macro relate to the focus: Micro is focused upon the particulars of this investigation; macro looks at the integrity of the government as a whole.)
Both of these purposes (or principles) are vital; but they can sometimes clash. And under the cosmic view of justice, whenever two principles clash, we must resolve that dichotomy by deciding which is more important.
While I'm certain that both Beldar and Patterico see both principles as important, I believe, based upon their writings, that they see (1) as more so -- perhaps because it's more tangible. Too, as lawyers, they have devoted their lives to upholding the law, and it would not be hard to see each case as a synecdoche of Law itself. This is what I meant by "thinking like a lawyer."
(To be fair, if they didn't think as lawyers, they wouldn't be anywhere near as good at their jobs as they clearly are!)
I, however, see the opposite: While both micro and macro are very important, I see (2) as more so... precisely because it's less tangible; that is, less "concrete-bound," as Ayn Rand might say, if she were still among us the living, I mean... less tied to the specific facts of one specific instance. The United States as a country and America as a culture can more easily survive injustices in individual cases than they can the cosmic injustice of losing national honor and governmental integrity, so that Americans cease to believe in America.
The proof is that we've all seen injustice in the courtroom many times: the O.J. case, the retrials of the police who were acquitted of beating Rodney King, the McMartin and other "pre-school molestation" cases, the Red-Light Bandit trial and execution, the "Lindbergh baby kidnapping" trial of Bruno Hauptman, the repeated prosecutions of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle based upon nothing, and the trial of Dr. Samuel Mudd for treating the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth... these all popped into my head with two minutes thought.
Yet none of these egregious examples of injustice has shaken the widespread belief among the mainstream within the United States that if the cops arrest you, you'll get a fair trial. Everyone knows that sometimes it doesn't work right; but we also know it usually does, and it works better than any other system.
Injustice anent the macro principle, however, is a different story.
At any moment, government -- every government -- hangs by a thread. Sometimes the thread is like a hair, even gossamer; other times, in other places, it's more like a steel cable. But government in general always depends upon people choosing to obey the orders of those empowered (de jure or de facto) to issue orders... what Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci calls hegemony, or as I put it, "perceived fitness to rule."
Congress passes a law and the president signs it. A court issues a decision sending a man to prison or making one person pay "compensation" to another. The IRS audits a taxpayer and orders him to pay $2000 in back taxes. A state agency declares some geographic area a historic site, with heavy restrictions on building. A city council sets zoning laws the prohibit commercial businesses in some neighborhood.
Each of these is an order; each is backed by the threat of force, but it rarely comes to that. Instead, people generally obey the order simply because they perceive the entity that made it is "fit to rule," legitimate and authoritative -- even when the obeyer disagrees with the decision.
But even the phrase "backed by the threat of force" requires sufficient hegemony that the police or the Army will obey the orders of the government official: If Geoge W. Bush were to order the U.S. Marines to arrest Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama, I guarantee you they would not obey that order. (In fact, the Marines who received it would testify against Bush at the impeachment trial in the Senate.)
Similarly, if Bush ordered the Marines to shift from one city in Iraq to another, they would obey; but if Hillary gave the same order, they would not. These refusals occur because Bush has hegemony as president (Commander in Chief) over the Marines; while Hillary, a mere senator, does not. But even Bush's hegemony is limited; there are legal and illegal orders, and the troops generally will not obey an obviously illegal order -- such as arresting the Democratic candidates for president.
There is, however, another way that hegemony can be lost: when those required to obey cease to recognize the moral authority and legitimacy of the people authorized to issue orders. This occurred, e.g., in the Soviet Union in August of 1991, when large portions of the Mighty Red Army refused to obey orders issuing from the Kremlin... because they knew that Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party, had been seized by several generals and hardline Party members in a coup d'état.
Instead, most of the command structure within Russia itself shifted allegiance to Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia: The army, the police, even the people themselves lost faith in the larger government of the USSR... so they simply ceased to pay attention to their agents and orders.
A bad leader, a corrupt leader, or even too weak of a leader will cause far more damage, of a far more permanent nature, to the country than even the most bizarre and unjust courtroom outcome... because in a very tangible sense, the vast majority of the country identifies far more with the Executive and even the Legislative branches of government than the Judicial -- which is seen as an afterthought. To paraphrase the old bank commercial, the Judiciary is the branch you don't have to think about. It doesn't "represent the country" the way the president does, or to a lesser extent Congress.
There you have it. I know Patterico and Beldar -- and every other lawyer -- won't like it; but I think few would argue the point. They may opine that it should represent America more than any other branch of the USG, or at least just as much. But it simply doesn't, and nothing at all to be done about that.
So back to my dissent from Beldar's post. Beldar is focused almost entirely upon the integrity of the judicial process itself, from the very beginning of the investigation (the FBI interviews) right up through the grand jury testimony, the indictment, and the trial. And he is assuredly correct that, were Fitzgerald forced to answer the questions I posed in the previous post, some elements of judicial integrity would be compromised.
At the very least, workproduct that cops and prosecutors had every reason to expect would remain private would suddenly become public... at least to members of Congress, but probably even to the American people. At worst, the rights of the accused (Lewis Libby) and even those investigated but not accused (Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage, Bob Novak, etc.) would be infringed.
Libby might have a harder time getting a fair hearing in the appellate courts or the Supreme Court. Those not charged might still have somewhat damning facts come out that they would prefer remain hidden.
But no right is absolute, and no decision is taken in a vacuum. There are other rights here, not the least of which is freedom of speech. Properly understood, this right has two parts: the least important is the right to speak; far more important is the right to hear.
The American people have the right to hear whether or not their government is corrupt; if it is corrupt, but they are never told because the Special Counsel will not spill what he found out, how are the people ever to correct it and restore integrity, honor, and hegemony?
Too, anyone who enters into government service necessarily forfeits some of his rights. Not perhaps in a legal sense, but certainly in a de facto sense: notice that virtually every president (and presidential nominee) makes his income-tax return public, for example; when was the last time anybody reading this post did the same?
Public servants also de facto give up much of their First Amendment rights... there are certain things you simply cannot say when you're a senator, or even the Junior Assistant Deputy Secretary of State for International Curling Competitions. Not if you want to keep your job. As Superchicken used to say to his assistant Fred, "you knew the job was dangerous when you took it."
And another of those infringements is the loss of much of one's right to privacy -- and Libby, Rove, Cheney, and everyone else in the administration knew the job entailed this when they took it. (Cluck!)
Libby, et al, simply have less of an expectation of privacy than does Dafydd or Beldar. In fact, even Patterico has a less robust set of rights than we, because the need for integrity and perceived integrity of the public sector is so much greater than among private citizens.
(The importance of hegemony also explains why killing a cop or the governor is so much greater an offense than killing a banker or a bus driver: To allow a banger to kill a cop is to allow him to tear up the Constitution and stamp on the pieces. It is and should be "special circumstances" all by itself.)
Not only does the silence of the Counsels infringe a very important national right, it's also very dangerous: The United States of America is fundamentally built upon a foundation of transparency and speech. It's always best to know the worst, no matter how bad, because at least that will tell you what didn't happen.
When all the people hear are the dire accusations, the hysterical claims, the alarums and excursions offstage, they envision a problem tremendously worse than it actually is... and, as with the similar case of the Iraq War, they can lose all faith in the USG based upon inuendo and overreaction. And that would be a calamity, for without faith, any government is nothing but a collection of loudmouthed head-butters and buttheads.
Each baseless accusation and fabricated outrage is a lit match thrown into a gasoline-soaked house; the truth about what Patrick J. Fitzgerald found -- and what he didn't find -- is a firehose of water: It may itself cause damage, but it will be dramatically less than the damage caused by withholding it.
Finally, Beldar may be correct that that the law prevents Fitzgerald from answering any of the questions I pose. He's a lawyer, I'm not (though I do play a "sea-lawyer" in the blogosphere). But if that is true, then the law stands in the way of justice and must be changed.
We used to have such a law, the Independent Counsel statute. Beldar disliked it and is glad that it's gone; but I think what we have now is actually worse... we have unresolved accusation and eroding integrity. If letting the Independent Counsel statute expire and setting up a Special Counsel "in but not of" the Justice Department was supposed to de-politicize the process, it has failed spectacularly.
We are much better off, and it's more in keeping with America's national character, to turn on the firehose of information let it spray where it will. A biased Counsel can write a biased report; but on the other hand, we've also seen what a biased D.A. can do in Austin, Texas or Durham, North Carolina with just a pocketful of subpoenas.
Corrupt people can corrupt any process; so the fact that a process might be corrupted is not a valid argument for dropping it. Everything is a trade-off; we must weigh the bad versus the good... and as a general rule, except under extraordinary circumstances, I favor greater disclosure over greater secrecy.
I think the United States should -- and does -- agree with me. Change the law, if necessary -- but turn on that blasted hose!
March 10, 2007
Boy, You People Could Be Editors for the New York Times!
I wrote a piece that I meant to title "Despite Libby's Guilt, Prosecution Was Outrageous;" but I accidentally titled it instead Despite Fitzgerald's Guilt, Prosecution Was Outrageous... and nobody noticed!
At least, nobody who noticed bothered mentioning it in a comment... and it got quite a few comments (nine, which is pretty good for Big Lizards). Yeesh.
I have corrected the title, no thanks to you lot. Next time, be more on the ball. Let's try and stay ahead of the power curve here. You're falling down on the job. You screwed the pooch. It's all your fault for not telling me.
Ho! Heads up there for next time, there's a good fellow.
(The Department of Good Excuses would have put this post up yesterday, but traffic was very heavy on the 405, and there's a war on.)
SiteMeter Question for Tech-Heads
SiteMeter is working fine on Big Lizards; but Sachi has her own Japanese blog, In the Strawberry Field (it's all in Japanese)... and for some reason, her SiteMeter counter abruptly stopped a few days ago and hasn't registered a single hit since then.
We can't figure out what's wrong: none of the templates were changed at all, nor was the SiteMeter script call on the templates. I checked, and it's the correct script call. I tried rebuilding her blog, but that didn't restart the meter (not that I thought it would).
I sent a couple of e-mails to David Smith, who runs SiteMeter; but I haven't heard back from him. Can anybody suggest something else I can do? Is there a better way to get in touch with Smith besides sending an e-mail via his Sitemeter address? Does any of you know him personally?
It wouldn't be a big deal, except we're about to try to get some advertising for Sachi's site... and of course, nobody is going to advertise on a site that is getting "zero" hits every day! (In fact, it should be getting around 300-400 per day; that's what it was doing before suddenly dying.)
March 8, 2007
In Stardom, Patterico Forgets the Little People
...And in the blogosphere, there is nobody littler than Big Lizards!
Once again, Patterico has overlooked this, ah, cozy little blog: Ever since he started regularly hitting 8,000+ visitors per day, he never calls, he never writes. Would it kill him to link every now and then?
Especially right here, when he quotes Mr. trial-lawyer-not-a-litigator Beldar and Mr. I-write-for-National-Review Andrew McCarthy, on why Scooter Libby really was guilty. Then Patterico starts kvetching about the "typical" Republican bloggers:
I regret to say that Beldar’s and McCarthy’s opinions appear to be rare among Republicans. More typical is this screed by Dean Barnett at Hewitt’s site (h/t DRJ), which careens wildly from acknowledgements that Libby is guilty to pronouncements that Fitzgerald was a wild prosecutor, out of control.
Mr. big-shot prosecutor. Mr. 8,000 hits. What is Big Lizards, chopped liver? What about this screed right here, from yesterday: Why Was Libby Convicted? Probably Because He's Guilty. Published two hours before Patterico's post. Two hours! He had plenty of time to notice us, if he weren't so busy with his army of 8,000.
With my gastritis, he has to give me more tsouris? (I have this pain -- never mind, from such pain, you shouldn't know.)
He doesn't notice when we agree; he doesn't notice when we differ. Here, Patterico wrote Coulter Screams for Attention, Again -- Losing Whatever Supporters She Still Had:
I have criticized Ann Coulter countless times on this site. (For some examples, see here, here, here, here, and here.) [What, I should link every one of his posts?] I have taken a lot of flak from many of my commenters for this.
But this time, I think even her past supporters will agree that she’s gone too far.
Then he quotes from a bunch of bloggers who agree with him, including Confederate Yankee, Bob Owens. He's, what, same size we are? Couple inches shorter?
Him Patterico quotes. Him Patterico makes much of. Him Patterico puts his arm around, hail fellow well met. Such a mensch! Let me just cut off my arms and legs and throw myself off a bridge (or have somebody throw me off, I guess, since I wouldn't have any arms or legs left to do it myself).
Does Patterico even mention our lousy defense of poor Ann? (It's a great defense.) Don't make me have a heart attack; from him, I could starve!
Doesn't the k'nocker have any respect for his elders? I'm old enough to be Patterico's -- older brother. Oy.
Never mind me, I'll just sit here in the dark with no advertising.
March 3, 2007
Mooching For Free Legal Advice
I'm entirely serious here. A bizarre situation has arisen, and I'd like to have some vague idea where we stand. It's nothing as complex as a lawsuit, or anything; and I'm loathe to pay an attorney hundreds of dollars for an opinion, when the total amount involved is so much less.
Here is basic conundrum...
My wife and I own a condo. In that condo, we have cable TV, as do most folks in the building; but some residents have DirectTV satellite TV, complete with small dish antennas on the roof.
The homeowner's association (hereafter HOA) has gotten a bee in its collective bonnet about those antennae on the roof; they forbade any further such, claiming it could "cause damage" to the roof -- though they haven't explained exactly how, or even whether there already has been damage or whether it's entirely hypothetical at this point.
But all of a sudden, they have this plan: they want to put one big dish antenna on the roof, and have everybody tap into that. All well and good, except -- DirectTV won't do that unless every single unit in the building (80 of them) signs up.
So now the HOA is trying to pass a resolution at the next business meeting formally accepting that offer... after which they will rip all the cable access out of the walls, and nobody will be able to have cable anymore; it will be satellite or nothing (we get virtually no reception without cable or satellite).
Now this would hit us very hard, because we have cable internet access: if forced to switch to satellite, several extreme annoyances would ensue:
- We would have to change our e-mail addresses, which means notifying scores of entities (human and corporate) that communicate with us that way;
- We would have to make do with much slower internet access: we currently have 5MBps download and 512KB up; for the same price in satellite, we would get about 768KBps down. The best we can get is 1.5, which is a lot more expensive for a third the speed;
- We currently rent our DVR; under DirectTV, we would have to buy it for about $250 net (and it would only work on DirectTV... so if we moved and got cable, we couldn't use it).
- And anybody who has taken advantage of our cable system for his phone service -- which the cable company has been pushing lately -- would also have to change his phone number, I suppose. Fortunately, we didn't go with that... but I'm sure others did.
All in all, we really, really don't want to switch from cable to satellite... but I'm very concerned that a bunch of homeowners who only have basic cable will vote for satellite, because it's marginally cheaper for that low level of service.
So my question is, does the HOA really have the authority to make this decision, to cut off cable and tell everybody to switch to satellite instead, no matter what that does to our internet access? Is there anything we can do about it, other than just hope they lose the vote?
I'd love to hear from any lawyers out there who have any experience at all in this. If the advice is "get a lawyer," perhaps you could also indicate the best way to select one... given that I have no experience with getting one.
February 14, 2007
I'm about as far from being a cynic as it's possible to be and still remain on the planet (Earth to Dennis Kucinich...) I am an extreme optimist; I believe our future is always brighter than our past; I refuse ever to admit defeat, not even when confronted with a setback.
Yet I'm also realistic about human beings and what they're capable of doing, the bad along with the good. In particular, I appear to be a lot more realistic -- read "skeptical" -- about particular kinds of claims than a couple of lawyer friends for whom I have tremendous respect... yet who seem oddly credulous when confronted with specific shaky evidence that calls into question their own ideas.
Let's be clear: I'm saying that when confronted with evidence against their earlier ideas, my friends are a bit too quick to give in, to say they were wrong, than they ought to be. To me, this looks like a lack of confidence in oneself that bespeaks an admirable humility, but may still be counterproductive to a search for the truth.
What (and whom) am I talking about? I refer to Patterico of Patterico's Pontifications and John Hinderaker of Power Line, two of my very favorite bloggers on two of my very favorite blogsites. If you're intrigued, slither on...
Let's start with Patterico, since his case is the clearest -- and the least important in the grand scheme of things, relating only to the execrable Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwen of Shakespeare's Sister -- neither of whom contributes much if anything to the national discourse.
Patterico is appalled that apparently, both Marcotte and McEwen actually resigned because they received (they say) "threats" and "ugly e-mails and comments." I use the word "apparently" accurately, because in fact, we have no evidence whatsoever that they really received anything, or at least not the e-mails seemingly quoted at Firedoglake.
Lefties and liberals make almost a religious fetish out of claiming to have received death threats. They use the claim as a truncheon to attack anyone who disputes any portion of what they argue: 'here's some of the mail I recieved from the Rethuglican hate machine -- now whose side are you on?' The idea, dim as it is, is to contrast the bile the Left spews out with the even more wretched and revolting vile supposedly spewed out by their enemies on the Right, a sort of tu quoque. (That's a fancy French term for "you too!" as in, "you're just the same, only worse.")
The important point is that only the logical argument made against them is known to be real; the threats are never proven -- and could easily be made up. Thus, they shift attention away from a real argument, which they cannot answer, to a fanciful threat, to which they can wax indignant, show brave defiance, and can use to wrench public opinion onto their side.
In this case, Patterico accepts as gospel, never even questioning the veracity, the claim that those "threats" were in fact sent to the bloggers, and were sent by right-wingers. Has he seen the original e-mails? I doubt it; he points to a post at Firedoglake that seemingly quotes a few.
But again, the word "seemingly" means what it means: all we get is a blockquote that could have come from anywhere. For example, I recently received an e-mail that said the following:
Dafydd, you're the most brilliant human being who ever lived; you're much smarter than Einstein, wiser than Solomon, and you bestride the world like a colossus. Your novels are immortal, and will eventually be studied in English Lit classes alongside such other luminaries as Shakespeare and J.K. Rowling. You have changed my own life for the better: I was a career criminal until I read Arthur War Lord and Far Beyond the Wave; now I have repented and devoted my life to charity and public service. God bless you!
Perhaps you doubt I actually received such an e-mail. I give you my word as a gentleman that I did: I just received it today. In fact, about thirty seconds ago... when I sent it to myself.
However, you now have exactly as much evidence I received that e-mail as you do that the gals received obscene e-threats... that is, none at all.
Patterico is a compassionate man, and he has a deep sense of justice. These very virtues, however, can be twisted by lefty orcs in their endless, narcissistic quest to aggrandize themselves with ersatz martyrdom.
In his day job, I'm convinced Patterico would dig deeper, would demand to see the originals, would demand sworn testimony -- and would ultimately argue that an anonymous "confession" (or even one attributed to "Joe Smith of St. Louis") is no evidence at all. Heck, it could have been written by the defendant and mailed to himself, just like my hagiographic e-mail above!
I followed Patterico's link to Firedoglake, but I found the "e-mails" were simply typed or pasted into the post; the only thing supposedly proving their authenticity was that they were in blockquotes.
He linked to another blog; I followed that too, and it was the same. Nobody even troubled to post the complete headers, by which persons smarter than I can at least see where the e-mail originated. They didn't even post the return e-address of the e-mailer... and I cannot imagine any court holding that a woman has to respect the privacy right of someone threatening to rape her. (What is the e-mailer going to do -- sue her for revealing his e-mail address?)
And even if we accepted that somebody sent such e-mails... they're so convenient to the Grand Central Liberal Narrative (we are the anointed, we have the vision, anyone who opposes us is a monster who must be destroyed) that it seems very likely to me they got some friend to send the e-mails, just so they could post them on the blog.
There is no indication any of this was turned over to the authorities. No indication that any legal steps at all were taken. For heaven's sake, this could easily fall under Secret Service jurisdiction, as Marcotte and McEwen could argue that they were being threatened in their capacity as campaign officials for John Edwards, presidential candidate.
Yet the kind heart of Patterico simply melted at the idea of these poor women being threatened in such a vile way, and I'm afraid his natural and vocational skepticism flew right out the window. What is most remarkable is that this post of Patterico's follows directly after two other excellent posts -- which exposed another liberal blogger, one with posting privileges on the Liberal Avenger website, as having fabricated sexual content in the (non-sexual) comment of a conservative reader!
The reader posted an innocuous comment at the LA website, arguing against abortion; then somebody with the privilege to edit comments on that site (we don't know exactly who) inserted a three-paragraph, graphic, first-person account of incest -- as if the commenter himself had written it.
Thus, immediately after Patterico had not one but two incisive, lawyerly posts -- each demonstrating that some left-wing blogger fabricated evidence to make it appear that those on the right were sex-crazed loons -- the same Patterico uncritically accepts the claims of even more left-wing bloggers: that sex-crazed loons on the right sent threatening e-mails to Marcotte and McEwen.
I don't get it.
Maybe someone did; it's not impossible. Maybe no one did: that's just as likely. The putative "evidence" they supply certainly doesn't tell us one way or another. And given the demonstrated penchant on the part of both women to invent straw-man attacks, demonize Republicans and the religious, and the unhealthy fascination of both women with the sexual organs... I'm simply not willing to extend them the same benefit of the doubt I give, e.g., Michelle Malkin.
(Malkin also claims to have received obscene, threatening e-mails from lefties; but in Malkin's case, since she has shown herself throughout her career to be sane, rational, and honest, even when we disagree, I believe her.)
The other case involves John Hinderaker... another first-rate lawyer who is ordinarily a very "Missourian" Minnesotan, demanding that those making a claim show us the evidence. John's instance of being what I would characterize as insufficiently skeptical is more subtle; and I must confess, John is clearly in the majority and I the minority.
Here is what John wrote today that so caught my eye; John is speaking about a new Zawahiri audiotape making the rounds:
The audio goes on at considerable length, and much of it is formulaic. But there is also some interesting stuff. As has been noted by others, Zawahiri never mentions Osama bin Laden, and at one point he says that "We have pledged allegiance to the Commander of the Believers, Mulla Muhammad Umar, who is an Afghan." One could infer that bin Laden may be dead, or incapacitated, or perhaps discredited, e.g. because he has given up the fight and is concentrating solely on staying alive. As one who believed for two years that bin Laden was most likely dead--until he came out with his pre-election video in 2004--I'm not jumping to any conclusions. But the facts are suggestive.
As I said, the great majority of people believes that Osama bin Laden is alive and well, living in Waziristan (or Afghanistan, Iran, or Kashmir). I am in a tiny minority that is still skeptical about that claim. Prior to the December, 2001 bombing at Tora Bora during the Afghanistan war, bin Laden issued a constant stream of videos and even met with reporters and others live; but since then, we have heard only audiotapes allegedly from him -- with one exception.
That exception is the very videotape that John referred to... and thereby hangs a tail.
Some politicians are thought to employ voice doubles who give some of their radio speeches for them or handle some of their phone calls. The most famous example is Winston Churchill, who (many claim, though there is no definitive proof) was often so busy running the war that he couldn't take the time -- and certainly not the risk -- to travel to a radio station to give his speeches. He supposedly used impersonator Norman Shelly to repeat some of his parliamentary speeches on radio.
I suspect that many terrorists do the same thing, mostly for security reasons. But that creates a problem later when trying to authenticate some speech (this may even be another reason terrorists would use such voice doubles): the only way to authenticate an audiotape is to compare it to previous "known" voice samples of the speaker. But if some of the earlier supposed control recordings are in fact of the voice double -- then if you get another audiotape from that same double, you can find many earlier tapes that perfectly match the voice on the new one.
The new tape will likely be authenticated, and the CIA will simply gloss over as peculiar the fact that it doesn't match some other earlier tapes.
I strongly suspect this scenario describes what has been happening with Osama bin Laden, and my reason is the lack of any personal contact between bin Laden and any unbiased third party since 2001, coupled with only a single supposedly post-2001 videotape. It would be safe enough to find an American reporter who was anti-Bush enough to keep his mouth shut about where he met bin Laden. Alternatively, if bin Laden were alive and reasonably well, they could meet somewhere that bin Laden never otherwise goes... so even if the reporter did let the beans out of the bag, it wouldn't help locate bin Laden.
Finally, they could just set up a video link over the Internet and allow reporters to ask him questions.
All right, so it's downright peculiar that a garrulous, egocentric lecturer would turn suddenly shy right around the time people think he was killed. But what about that 2004 videotape? Why doesn't that convince me, as it has clearly convinced John?
Its uniqueness, for one: If he can make one, then he can make two; if two, then why not twenty? If he cannot even make a second... then I question whether he could even make the first.
So how was this videotape authenticated? The usual three ways:
- It's very hard (not impossible) to fake a video image; the person talking sure looks like bin Laden -- and indeed, even I agree that it's a video of Osama bin Laden... though it looks old and oddly faded;
- The audio matches previous audio declared to be authentic bin Laden (but see above);
- Finally, the speaker mentioned some recent events, proving that -- unlike other supposed bin Laden videos -- this one actually post-dated 2001.
But there is a serious hole in this evidentiary chain: even if the videotape is really bin Laden, and even if the audio refers to recent (2004) events -- how do we know that the audio matches the video? Well, there is a very easy way to find out, but which I have never heard the CIA having undertaken:
- Strip the audio track from the videotape;
- Find some Arabic-speaking deaf people who are qualified lip readers;
- Show them the video only... and ask them to make written transcripts of what bin Laden's lips are actually saying;
- Compare those transcripts to transcripts of the audio and see whether they actually match.
This could be done in one day, and if there were a match, it would completely squelch the idea of a voice double: it's too much to ask that you could find a voice double who was also a perfect visual match for Osama bin Laden.
But -- and this is why I suspect the CIA has not done this -- suppose there were significant mismatches in the two transcripts... and in particular, if all the contemporary references were found only in the audio and none in the video. What would that tell us?
It would be near conclusive proof that bin Laden was dead, or else so mentally or physically incapacitated that he could not even so much as make a videotaped speech. That would be a remarkable turn of events... and it would fit perfectly with what John Hinderaker noted: Ayman Zawahiri, bin Laden's "Number Two," calling on the faithful to follow Mullah Omar, not Osama bin Laden.
In John's case, I think he finds it disquieting being the lone dissenter; I know from personal experience that one begins to feel that "fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong." But of course they can; there are probably fifty million Americans who believe that flying saucers have landed in the United States sometime within the past 70 years. I know there are more than fifty million Americans who believe in ghosts, ESP, and who believe that we can double tax revenues by doubling tax rates.
Being in a minority, even a minority of one, doesn't mean you're wrong; but it does mean you're very likely to doubt yourself... it's just human nature. But what do we really have anent the aliveness of bin Laden? We have a mountain of evidence tending to indicate that he is dead (or as good as dead) -- and in the other pan, we have this one videotape that may or may not prove he was alive in 2004.
If alive and reasonably well, he could easily prove it; he and al-Qaeda have every incentive to do so -- which is why they keep trying to prove it by weird "proxy" evidence. But they haven't done any of the most obvious things to prove it once and for all.
So until I see better evidence than one dubious videotape, I will not throw out every other piece of evidence that points towards him being dead or completely incapacitated. At the very least, let's not only "authenticate" the audio but also show that the audio matches the video of bin Laden's lips as he speaks. It's not that hard to check.
I understand why John, who was as vocal as I saying he thought Osama bin Laden was dead, now doesn't want to go out on a limb after the videotape. I think it's the "once bitten, twice shy" syndrome, rather than a rational examination of the preponderance of the evidence. That is, I think John is now credulously accepting the conventional wisdom because it's just too painful to be a lone rebel.
But that isn't a good reason. John really is smarter than those metaphorical "fifty million Frenchmen," and he shouldn't let their intellectual limitations determine his position on any issue at all.
Credulity: it's a killer. It's a killer because there is no end of people willing, even eager, to play upon the credulity that everybody, even the most confirmed skeptic, cannot help but have.
Because I know I am as credulous as the next guy, I make a point of rethinking everything I think I know, as often as I can. I am almost obsessive about epistemology, the philosophy of "how we know what we know." I always want to know the provenance of supposed evidence... who said it, how was it propagated, what is the likelihood that it was altered in transmission (for example, when somebody paraphrases what somebody else said). And I always ask, "what other reasonable interpretations or conclusions can we draw from the same set of observations?"
When I do, I'm often surprised at how much "evidence" I, myself have accepted on faith... faith that may very well be misplaced. In my own case, I can rely upon my own ego, whose size approximates that of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. But such monstrous vanity as I boast can be very difficult for ordinary, humble, decent, intelligent guys like Patterico and John Hinderaker to emulate... which is probably a good thing.
But it does lead to difficulty when dealing with the comic-book supervillains we find on the Left. (All right, time for me to stop monologuing!)
February 13, 2007
Democrats and the Media: The "Big Tet" Party
In this AP story, the big-box media tries valiantly to enlist Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) into the anti-war camp. How? By twisting out of context his recent comment fearing another "Tet Offensive," this time in Iraq:
Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said Monday he fears an offensive by Iraqi insurgents similar to the Tet offensive by the Viet Cong that sent U.S. casualties soaring in Vietnam nearly 40 years ago....
In the GOP presidential field, McCain is one of the strongest proponents of President Bush's plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by some 21,500.
"By the way, a lot of us are also very concerned about the possibility of a, quote, 'Tet Offensive.' You know, some large-scale tact [sic; I'm sure he actually said "attack"] that could then switch American public opinion the way that the Tet Offensive did," the Arizona senator said.
Great Scott! Even the "strongest proponent" of the strategic change of course in Iraq is worried about a Tet Offensive. But, uh, what's a Tet Offensive anyway, Bob?
The Associated Press helpfully explains what McCain must have meant:
Tet, a massive invasion in 1968 of South Vietnam by Communist North Vietnamese, inflicted enormous losses on U.S. and South Vietnamese troops and is regarded as a point where public sentiment turned sharply against the war.
Well... yes. But there seems to be something missing from that thumbnail description...!
In the real world, the Tet Offensive was a military disaster -- for the Vietcong and the NVA. While we (Americans and South Vietnamese) lost maybe 4,500 soldiers during that two-month offensive, the enemy lost about ten times that number... as many as 45,000.
The Vietcong (who the NVA used as cannon-fodder) were devastated; never again were they to be a significant factor in the war. They Communists did not end up holding even a single yard of the territory they grabbed; everything was seized back from the North Vietnamese by the American and ARVN counteroffensive.
However, here comes what Larry Elderberry always calls "the big but": Tet was a public relations bonanza for the Communists, largely because the elite media simply decided, in a "conspiracy of shared interest," to pretend that it was a tremendous military victory for the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong... and an unmitigated defeat for America.
"Uncle" Walter Cronkite led the way with his despicable, lying broadcasts from Vietnam:
Probably the most well-known example of an anti-war statement in the press is Walter Cronkite's special report on the war of February 27, 1968. After touring the ruined streets and battlefields of the Tet Offensive and interviewing discouraged soldiers and officers in the field, he directly criticized the military leadership and the Johnson administration: "We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest cloud." He concluded by saying that the U.S. was "mired in a stalemate" and called for a negotiated end to the conflict.
Whether one believes that the press accounts drove down public support for the war or not, clearly a huge number of Vietnam veterans believe it... and in particular, we know that John McCain believes it, because he has said so:
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: So it's not the same but what is a parallel there are a couple. One, the reason why the Tet offensive was a military failure for the North Vietnamese but a psychological tremendous victory is because of the expectations the American people had about Vietnam. They were told the light was at the end of the tunnel and it wasn't there.
Which brings us back to McCain's statement. In light of this history lesson, McCain's meaning is clear: he fears that the enemy will attack, will ultimately be defeated -- but that the anti-war press will portray victory as defeat, just as they did after Tet. McCain is clearly not worried that a massive attack by the jihadists (either Shiite or Sunni) will "inflict enormous losses on U.S.... troops."
No matter what AP wishes he meant.
February 8, 2007
Great News for GOP: "Pandagon" Dragon Not Fired After All!
With an abrupt burst of partisan pugnaciousness, John Edwards has decided to give his stamp of approval to a pair of obscene, anti-Catholic hatemongers as his official campaign bloggers, even as he says he was "offended" by their anti-Church diatribes.
Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwen of Shakespeare's Sister both have a history of hysterical "Christofascist" bashing, generally using four-letter words and not particularly distinguishing between extremist and mainstream Christians (especially Catholics -- their joint bête noir). Yesterday, the word on the street was that Edwards was dropping them; but today, he reversed course and said they will stay:
"I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word," Edwards said.
So when Marcotte wrote this:
Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?
A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.
...It was just in a spirit of friendly joshing; she had no intention of maligning anyone's faith. Just as when she uses the term "godbag," coined by somebody named "Twisty." Marcotte lovingly quotes (but does not link) "Twisty's" derivation of this word:
A godbag, if you will permit me the impropriety of quoting from my own rather extensive body of work on the subject, is “a bag full of hate and self-loathing wearing stage makeup that makes it look like a televangelist.” The suffix “-bag” alludes, not to a douche or to a woman whose countenance does not conform to patriarchal beauty standards, but to a “sack” or other sort of carryall.
Well, we're certainly reassured that "godbag" is not derived from "douchbag," though this entire post is Marcotte's paean to the latter as a generic term for what she also calls "anti-feminists" -- which evidently means anyone, male or female, who doesn't support the entire panoply of NOW and NARAL positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, the radical gay agenda, the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, contraception, and the Republican Party.
And the following is simply meant as a friendly but tough-love encouragement to the Church to be more compassionate towards those women who want abortions, no matter how late in the pregnancy:
And, needless to say, the Catholic church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics.
And this bit here is just sober analysis of the Democrats' inability to pick up any substantial numbers of believing Christians in the 2006 election -- for which Marcotte appears grateful:
It’s tempting to believe that all the Democrats need to do is pander shamelessly about god and Jesus in order to wow over some evangelicals that currently vote Republican. I think it’s easy for us to believe this because when we look at the Shrub blather on about god and Jeebus [sic], we know he’s full of ****. Sure, he may believe he’s a Christian, but his faith is obviously shallow. But a certain segment of fundies eat it up, so it’s easy to believe that if we started pandering, they’d eat that up too. [Obscenity censored. -- the Mgt.]
But we’ve got it backwards. Bush doesn’t pander to the Bible thumpers to attract their votes so much as to give them something to reassure themselves that the issues that they’re voting on are the correct ones for Christians. He’s telling them what they want to hear, which is that they can still feel like good Christians while supporting war-mongering, poverty-punishing Republicans. There’s a subtle but crucial difference here. The thumpers already have the desire to vote based on homophobia or sexism or racism, and Bush just gives them the excuse. They don’t need god-pandering from the Democrats, because they didn’t want to vote for them anway.
(For those who don't know, "Jeebus" is the derisive, anti-Christian, nutroots term for Jesus, intending to make Jesus Christ sound like Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel from the Simpsons... which, incidentally, is pretty much how people in Pandagon's and Shakespeare's Sister's camp view anyone who believes in either Jesus or God.
But Marcotte is an honorable woman; so are they all, all honorable women. And certainly, she would never malign anyone's faith in Jeebus!
McEwen isn't quite so virulent (or amusing) as Marcotte, but she has her days; this was posted on April 2nd, 2005 -- the day Pope John Paul II died:
Today, President Bush called the Pope a “champion of human dignity,” and if you were poor, suffering under Soviet tyranny in Eastern Europe, or facing the death penalty, you’d probably agree. But if you were gay, or a victim of a priest who sexually assaulted you, or a woman who wanted to be a good Catholic and leave an unhappy marriage or have a career that wasn’t interrupted repeatedly by childbirth, or a priest wrestling with celibacy, or a pregnant victim of rape or incest, you’d probably disagree, because the Pope didn’t particularly care about your dignity, your needs, or the realities of your life. The same, of course, can be said for Bush—and then some—so it’s no wonder he views the Pope that way.
Bashing the pope isn't the same as bashing the Church, but it comes uncomfortably close... particularly since, in this case, McEwen wasn't bashing John Paul for falling short of Church doctrine but instead for following Church doctrine on homosexuality, divorce, birth control, priestly celebacy, and abortion.
The only legitimate charge she levels, in the sense that a believing Catholic would mean by "legitimate," is that Pope John Paul II did not do enough about priests who had sex with parishoners: in the huge majority of cases, we mean normal, consentual gay sex with teenaged (and often adult) males, though of course there were also out-and-out child molesters among the priesthood, such as John Geoghan and the Irish priest cases: Brendan Smyth, Jim Grennan, and Sean Fortune. (However, the evidence indicates no greater percent of Catholic priests who are child molesters than one finds among Protestant ministers, rabbis, imams, or secular school teachers.)
But even here, the accusation that John Paul "didn't particularly care" about such sexual assaults as Geoghan perpetrated is rather bizarre; at worst, one could say that John Paul was insufficiently proactive in rooting out such priests. But the "dance of the molesters," shunting pedophile priests from one parish to another, was decided at a much lower level than the Holy See. Throwing this wad of offal at John Paul's head -- the very day he died -- betokens more than a casual level of Church hatred.
The bloggers, however, had inarguable refutations of any such inferences, as quoted in the Fox News piece above:
"It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way," McEwen's statement said.
Marcotte's statement said her writings on religion on her blog, Pandagon, are generally satirical criticisms of public policies and politics.
"My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics," Marcotte said. "Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact."
Well, all right then! After all, who wouldn't be satisfied by an I'm sorry if you were too stupid to understand what I was trying to say apology?
Candidate Edwards assures us (in a written statement, taking no questions, having already gone to the mattresses) that he doesn't share these sentiments:
"The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwen's posts personally offended me," Edwards' statement read. "It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor or anything else."
But of course, he hired them after they made those posts; and he rehired them after those posts were specifically brought to his attention. So it's safe to say, at the very least, that Edwards has no problem with those posts being part of the public face of the John Edwards presidential campaign.
The most interesting question to me is whether even now, Former Sen. John Edwards has troubled to read the entire history of posts these two have made bashing Catholics, Cristofascists, Jeebus-worshippers, godbags, douchebags, and the other endearing terms they collective have for those who believe in God. Is he clueless? Did he dismiss the allegations out of hand as "swift-boating" and not even bother perusing Pandagon or Shakespeare's Sister? Does he simply not care what godbags think or how they might vote?
Did he read this one, for example?
I suspect Pope Ratz will give into the urge eventually to come out and say there’s no limbo and unbaptized babies go straight to hell. He can’t help it; he’s just a dictator like that. Hey, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, the Pope’s gotta tell women who give birth to stillborns that their babies are cast into Satan’s maw. The alternative is to let Catholic women who get abortions feel that it’ll all work out in the end, which is just not doable, due to that Jesus-like compassion the Pope is so fond of. Still, it’s going to be bad PR for the church, so you can sort of see why the Pope is dragging ass.
Or worse -- does Edwards believe that most Americans actually agree with these anti-Catholic, anti-Christian sentiments? Does Edwards think that rehiring -- or at least unfiring -- Marcotte and McEwen will gain him brownie points with the American voter? Hey, he's standing up for their constitutional right to free speech -- and their constitutional right to have that speech amplified by a Democratic presidential campaign.
For that matter, an awful lot of voters would be utterly appalled by the sheer rate of vulgarities and obscenities per minute spewed by both these bloggers -- behavior that may be common (or at least tolerated) in the blogosphere (not everywhere in the 'sphere, however), or among some subcultures in America, but which is certainly not commonplace among middle-income, white-collar Americans of all races, religions, and both genders... who make up the bulk of the American electorate.
I certainly don't know how the Edwardses speak at home, but perhaps John Edwards is blissfully unaware that most of us don't use the f-bomb as a placeholding grunt; we use "um" or "er," not m**********r.
There are times I almost begin to believe that the reality-based community is somewhat unreal in its perceptions of real America.
Hysterically Funny; Very Obscene
I really enjoyed these e-mails from "Amanda Marcotte" (should that be "Amanda Huginkiss?") to "John Edwards," courtesy -- if that's the word I want -- Iowahawk.
(For those who don't place the name, Marcotte -- one of the über-left bloggers at Pandagon -- was hired by the Edwards campaign to be one of their official bloggers... until they found out how obscene and anti-Catholic she really was. Then they fired her. Now the nutroots is going ape. Ring a bell?)
I got the link from Patterico, so blame Texas!
CAUTION: If you want to quote from any of these fakey e-mails in a comment here, please make liberal use of the asterisk (unless you really enjoy seeing your deathless prose sent straight to Coventry).
So beware: obscenities and disgusting sexual situations stopping just short of coprophilia. But very funny.
January 23, 2007
Upgraded to Movable Type 3.34...
Sorry for the light posting, but it took a while to upgrade to MT 3.34.
Part of the problem was that we use an alternate edit_entry template developed by Dan Wolfgang; it gives us a huge number of editing buttons, so we don't have to keep typing HTML code. Alas, the template was written for MT 3.2... and under MT 3.3, it has a slight difficulty: you can't save posts!
Obviously, this is a drawback when trying to write and publish blog posts. It took me a bit to discover a workaround: if you click Preview, you can save the post from that screen. I just sent e-mail to Wolfgang, asking if he is going to update the template for MT 3.3; but I haven't heard back from him yet, of course (not everybody spends all day hovering over the keyboard, waiting for e-mail).
In any event, with the workaround, we can now start publishing again. Working on a fat, new post right now...
January 2, 2007
TSA TLC: the Devil Is In the Details
Several conservative commentators, notably Michelle Malkin channeling Andrew McCarthy and Andrew McCarthy in the raw, are incensed that the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is sponsoring "sensitivity training" for its airport employees, training them in what to expect from Moslem travelers during the Hajj (which this year corresponds to the Christmas and New Year's holiday season; the Islamic calendars, all eight of them, are lunar based, causing the exact date of the Hajj to shift from year to year).
The Hajj is a religious pilgrimage that Moslems are required to perform at least once in their lives to Mecca and sometimes Medina as well. Typically, they will pray very frequently all during the pilgrimage, may seem subdued and act oddly, and will likely return from the Hajj with a jar full of holy water from the Zamzam Well in Mecca, near the Kaaba. During the Hajj, pilgrims are required to dress in the ihram, a special type of robe.
Each of these things -- intense praying, an odd, nervous or subdued appearance, traditional Arab dress, and carrying vials of liquid -- would ordinarily raise the TSA's suspicion level; all together might set off a red alert, if they did not understand about the Hajj.
And of course, there is always the danger that jihadis might take advantage of the Hajj to hide among batches of pilgrims and commit a terrorist act; so TSA employees must be trained how to spot differences between pilgrims and terrorists that are more subtle than differences between ordinary Moslems (not on pilgrimage) and terrorists. There are many reasons why such cultural-awareness training is vital for the TSA.
Alas, none of this appears in Michelle Malkin's post; here is how she puts it:
Monday morning blood-boiler: Bush kowtows to CAIR
Andy McCarthy rightly excoriates the dhimmis in the Bush administration for pandering to CAIR. [There follows a lengthy quotation from McCarthy.]
Here is a sample from the McCarthy column on NRO; note the enraged language McCarthy uses, bordering on the hysterical:
As if snuggling up to CAIR, coercing our law-enforcement and intelligence professionals to endure CAIR’s Islamic “sensitivity training,” and inviting CAIR to weigh in on our nation’s foreign policy were not enough, we now have a Bush-administration agency publishing an unedited CAIR press release on publicly subsidized, official government Internet space....
This is naked proselytism on behalf of an Islamic interest group [!]. Americans will no doubt be thrilled to learn, through TSA’s good offices, about CAIR’s delight that our travel-safety agency “has provided special training about Islamic traditions related to the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, to some 45,000 airport security officers[,]” and that this “cultural sensitivity training includes details about the timing of Hajj travel, about items pilgrims may be carrying and about Islamic prayers that may be observed by security personnel.”
Actually, yes; I am "thrilled" to learn this, though I must confess it's hardly a surprise. Because what the TSA boorishly calls "sensitivity training" in its joint press release with CAIR is more accurately termed "awareness training." There is nothing in the release, nor in the original article it's based upon, that sounds like actual sensitivity training... nothing about not using certain terms because they might upset Moslems, for example, and nothing about allowing Moslems to do things disallowed to others.
Rather, it appears to be just "cultural awareness," and it has been going on for years. In other words, since we know that many thousands of Moslems are going to travel in groups -- praying all the way -- during the Hajj, and that they're likely to bring jars of Zamzam holy water back with them, it behooves us to warn the TSA ahead of time what to look for and how to distinguish such pilgrims from groups like the "Flying Imams," who are either Islamist agents provocateurs or even actual, real terrorists.
For the same reason, when the Million Man March is coming to town, the cops train their officers in what to expect, what to look out for, and what to avoid doing to prevent rioting. It's simply the smart thing to do... as McCarthy would realize, if he weren't so intent upon chest-thumping and spewing BDS from the right.
The devil, as always, is in the details. If the TSA were to hire CAIR itself, for example, to teach these cultural-awareness classes, that would be a serious problem; CAIR is unquestionably a terrorist-supporting organization with deep ties to actual jihadist groups. But there simply is no evidence that CAIR had anything to do either with the policy being adopted or in designing the training. CAIR only shows up in the TSA's press release.
McCarthy's TSA link is in the press-release section of the website; it's clearly a joint press release between TSA and CAIR (CAIR's press release was on December 27th, the TSA's one day later). Like it or not, and in spite of (or because of) the fact that CAIR has many deep and integral connections to terrorist organizations, CAIR is the most powerful Moslem spokesgroup in the United States, eclipsing the Muslim Brotherhood's American branch, the Muslim American Society. It's not evidence of "dhimmitude," as Michelle puts it, for the TSA to collaborate on a press release... it's evidence that you cannot dismiss such a powerful organization just because it's also unsavory; you must take it into account, even if that means holding your nose as you do so.
In the original article from the State Department's USINFO website (linked above), predating both press releases, CAIR is not even mentioned; there is no evidence that CAIR supplies or is involved in the training:
[TSA spokesman Darrin] Kayser said cultural awareness has been an integral part of TSA training since the agency assumed responsibility for managing airport security after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He said the hajj briefings were essentially “refresher training” and a chance to alert officers that a larger number of Muslim travelers will be passing through the airports during this season. He said the TSA had a particular interest in performing the training this year, as the hajj corresponds with the busy Christmas-New Year holiday travel season.
(USINFO is brought to us courtesy of the State Department's "Bureau of International Information Programs.")
There simply is nothing in either the TSA's cultural awareness or its joint press release with CAIR that constitutes any evidence of "kowtowing" or "dhimmitude" on the part of the Bush administration.
But wait, that's not the end of it; there actually is something sinister... but it emanates from the State Department, the most rogue, out of control agency of the government, and the department that most firmly rejects the idea of the "unitary executive." The Department of State has had its own foreign and domestic policy throughout the Bush administration... first under Colin Powell (who encouraged them), but now even under Condoleezza Rice, who seems genuinely to want to reform them but hasn't yet succeeded.
What is far more disturbing is the next paragraph of the USINFO story, which shows that not only State but also the new Department of Homeland Security itself are still behind the power curve when it comes to the danger we face from jihadi terrorism (the story still has nothing to do with CAIR, however). The provenance of DHS makes it clear that, like the CIA, DHS is a child of the State Department... not of the Defense Department; that is the great flaw that renders both CIA and DHS less than useful in the War on Jihadism:
The training comes just one month after Department of Homeland Security personnel came under criticism for removing six imams from a domestic flight for what one passenger considered suspicious behavior. (See related article.)
In the "related article," also published by the State Department, a spokesman for DHS weighs in on the "flying imams" incident:
According to press reports, a passenger aboard a US Airways flight told a flight attendant that the six men were engaged in suspicious behavior and security personnel subsequently removed those six men from the flight. The men were questioned by the FBI and Secret Service, and then were released, according to press reports....
“Ultimately, it seems that the information had led to a misjudgment, but we’re not going to be critical of that judgment,” [Homeland Security press secretary Russ Knocke] said.
This story dates from November 22nd, 2006, or one day after the incident. Yet even the day before -- the very day it happened -- the Minneapolis Star Tribune had reported that it was not just "one passenger" but multiple "witnesses" who complained about the imams' behavior. The Strib also noted the business with the seatbelt extenders (handy weapons) that were requested, even though the imams didn't need them -- and didn't use them, laying them by their seats instead. (Via Power Line, which has been all over this story like honey on Pooh.)
By the next day (the day of the story on USINFO), the New York Times published a story on the incident that included this (again via Power Line, November 22nd):
Witnesses, including a number of passengers and US Airways employees, said they heard some of the men making anti-American remarks and chanting “Allah,” first as they boarded the plane and then when led off, Mr. Hogan said.
(This was also the first appearance of discussion about the peculiar seating arrangement the imams took, though it was not reported until days later that they were deliberately emulating the seating pattern used by the 9/11 hijackers.)
Here is the point: what in the wide, wide world of sports was DHS doing minimizing the imams' behavior by flatly stating that only "one passenger" had complained, when the MSM were already reporting that there were far more witnesses? And where did DHS get off, concluding -- just one day after the incident -- that removing the imams was a "misjudgment?"
In fact, subsequent revelations make it very clear (and even what was known at the time raised the strong possiblity) that it was excellent judgment, that the imams were clearly and intentionally trying to provoke an incident... probably to set themselves up for a fat lawsuit that CAIR would push through the courts, to scoop up millions of dollars in "damages;" but also to gain a federal court ruling setting Moslems up as a "privileged class," exempted from the behavioral profiling that is routinely applied to every other airline passenger.
There is nothing wrong (other than the goofy name) with giving "sensitivity training" -- awareness training -- to TSA employees about the Hajj. But there is everything in the world wrong with the Department of Homeland Security running interference for Islamists, backed by CAIR and by new Rep. Keith Ellison ("CAIR's congressman"), deliberately creating a security breach for purposes of using the federal courts to weaken American homeland security. The purpose of DHS is to preserve domestic security, not help our enemies endanger it.
I wish those jumping on the TSA for its awareness training had noticed this point instead; it's liable to have far more of a real-world impact and calls for a thorough housecleaning in the agency most involved with protecting the American homeland.
December 15, 2006
An Immoral Proposal
I hope by now everybody has seen this post on the Daily Kos:
Greg Sargent has a problem with Eason Jordan going to Iraq with Michelle Malkin. I think it's a splendid idea. So long as they leave the Green Zone, and without security detail that puts a single US soldier in harm's way. I mean, things are so splendid and it's just like Philly and there's all those great new schools! They'll be perfectly safe, I'm sure.
I regret that we Republicans cannot be as tolerant of diverse viewpoints and take such concern for innocent human life as does Markos Moulitsas Zúniga. As always, a class act; a true gentleman. He wears a suit.
December 13, 2006
Jefferson Would Be Ticked...
...And he's a bad-ass you don't want to mess with: he was 6'3" at a time when the average height of a man was closer to 5'3"; that would be rather like being 6'10" today -- and he was no wimp, either.
There is a phrase that grates on my eye every time I read it... and that seems to be quite a lot anymore.
The most recent use was by Dean Barnett, an intelligent guy, even by my exalted standards, whose blogposts on Hugh Hewitt's blog I normally read with pleasure. But in the midst of one of Dean's infamous Q&A posts, he wrote the following (the boldface and numbering are Dean's):
11) So, the big question: Can the Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis live peacefully alongside each other?
It depends on how fundamentalist and radicalized each sect in Iraq is. We know each sect has its elements that are bent on violence. The question is whether these elements are fringe groups or the mainstream. If they’re fringe groups, they can be destroyed and peace could break out. If they’re the mainstream, there’s no hope.
12) So what if they’re the mainstream? Then what?
Then the country has to be broken up, with the Sunnis getting a piece and the Shiites getting a piece and the Kurds holding onto their piece.
13) That’s disappointing. It doesn’t quite match the original vision of an Islamic Jeffersonian democracy that swirled about our heads three years ago, does it?
Radical Shiites and radical Sunnis have as much interest in living in a Jeffersonian Democracy as the typical American has living under Sharia. The quicker we come to peace with that fact, the better.
The question is, can any of you figure out what particular phrase leapt out at me as something that makes me want to go to Dean's house and run my fingernails across his chalkboard, so he understands how I feel?
And guess what? I'm going to be a total jagoff -- and not tell you the answer until you click the "Slither On" button. Hah. (But please take some time first, and get your guess firmly in mind.)
I suspect all but three of our regular commenters (you know who you are!) will have correctly picked out the phrase "Jeffersonian Democracy" as the offender. It's just about the biggest straw-man argument lobbed against Bush's Iraq policy, used only by right-wingers and libertarians who want to heap scorn upon the very idea that non-Europeans could possibly have a functioning democracy... and I sincerely believe it to be racist in its very essence.
First, nobody has ever used that phrase except those who oppose the very idea of trying to plant a democracy in the Middle East; I support the policy of Iraqi democracy... but try searching on "Jeffersonian" on Big Lizards and see how many times the phrase "Jeffersonian democracy" is used: until this post, the score was 0.
Second, nobody in the Bush administration has ever said he expected to see a Jeffersonian (that is, "perfect") democracy in Iraq. All any supporter of the policy has ever said is that a democracy could be set up there -- and it's obvious from context that the example they had in mind was the democracy (and it is one) in Turkey, another Islamic country.
Turkey is not a nice place (by European standards); it's violent; there are clashes between ethnic groups that result in dead pickles. There is terrorism. There are Islamists, and in fact they won the last elections.
But it is, by Allah, a functioning, secure, and honest democracy. For eight decades, they've had civil rights; they've had real elections; and they've generally abided by the results, even when the ruling party is ousted... even in spite of at least four coups d'état: in each case, after a few years, the ruling military relinquished control to civilian authorities again (most recently following the Islamist victory in 1996).
In Turkey, the army frequently acts as a "moderator," preventing any swings too far to left or right: when they intervene, it's generally to oust an extremist government in favor of moderation. I fully expect the American-trained New Iraqi Army to serve the same function, preventing either a Muqtada Sadr or a Musab Zarqawi coming to power.
Despite such military intervention, to quote that bastion of 100% perfect -- dare I say Jeffersonian? -- information, Wikipedia:
Turkey is a democratic, secular, constitutional republic whose political system was established in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the OIC, the OECD and the OSCE, a member state of the Council of Europe since 1949 and of the NATO since 1952, and is currently in accession negotiations with the European Union, being an associate member since 1964. [I excised all the footnotes: they looked silly, and I wasn't about to insert seven links into one paragraph.]
I agree that Iraq started off on the wrong foot by adopting a European-style parliamentary system, rather than becoming a constitutional republic like the United States; but with as many parties as they have (dozens), it was probably the only system that would get a majority of Iraqis to support it. Nevertheless, three elections later, it's frankly ridiculous to argue that democracy isn't "working" in Iraq.
It's violent and bloody; but so was Greece during their civil war from 1946 to 1949, during which they finally crushed the Communist insurgency. The Britannica says that more than 50,000 combatants were killed during those three years, plus many tens of thousands of non-combatants who got in the way -- and that may not even count those who died in the first phase, 1942-1944, during which the right-wing socialists (quasi-Fascists) fought the left-wing socialists (Communists) to see who would lead the resistance to Nazi occupation of Greece. (Hugh Hewitt was just talking about it on his show today, which sparked my curiosity, causing me to look it up.)
That is, more Greeks were butchered during that war than all but the most hysterical estimates of Iraqis killed since the liberation. Yet nobody today says that Greeks are incapable of governing as a democracy.
And certainly, many times more Americans died during our Civil War -- more than 800,000 -- than in Iraq; more even as a percent of our population then. Yet nobody would dare claim we were not a democracy in 1864, even in spite of the suspension of habeus corpus: for Abraham Lincoln had to stand for re-election right in the middle of the campaign... and he had to run against his former top general, George McClellan, whom he had dismissed for inaction!
Finally, the Iraqi democracy has shown a remarkable resilience: despite horrific attacks, deformations, and a campaign of mindless murder that beggars the imagination, not one single party has broken away from parliament and declared the democracy experiment dead. They're still plugging away. Even the attempt to oust Nouri al-Maliki is being conducted according to the Iraqi constitution: the SCIRI, the Kurds, the Sunni, and the seculars are trying to vote down Maliki's government with a "no confidence" referendum.
Thus, Dean Barnett's sarcasm notwithstanding, the Iraq democracy is faring far better than the pessimists (like Barnett) could have imagined. Iraq is not even in a civil war; yet Barnett has the bizarre idea that a functioning democracy somehow doesn't count if there are a lot of deaths... but only when we're talking about non-Europeans. When countries whose citizens are of European extraction experience years of violent bloodshed, we still allow them to be called democracies -- whether it's Greece, the United States, or Northern Ireland.
I suspect that Dean is not even aware of his double standard; he's a nice guy, with his head well-screwed-on anent other topics. But he just reacts viscerally (via the reptilian part of his brain) to the very idea of democracy in an Arab country.
I can't really fault Dean; my friend and worth co-conspirator Brad Linaweaver is exactly the same way: he understands and agrees that the "Realist" school of propping up a "friendly" dictator doesn't work and probably never did work well... but still he cannot wrap his brain around the idea that non-Europeans are advanced enough to create a functioning, stable democracy. (For some reason, Japanese and Koreans count as Europeans in this game.)
In Brad's case, he's more straightforward. Alas, Dean Barnett reacts by setting the bar impossible high: for God's sake, not even the United States is a "Jeffersonian democracy!"
So anyway, the next time you see that phrase... just bear in mind that it's a shibboleth of conservatives that serves no purpose but to mock the idea that Arabs can form a democracy -- and it's illogical, counter-empirical, and darned offensive.
December 4, 2006
Where Have All the BlogAds Gone?
This post is mostly for the bloggers out there. Big Lizards, which has gotten new BlogAds submissions multiple times a month for the last year or so, has not gotten a new one since October 24th. In addition, BlogAds are still running that expired weeks ago. (The ads actually exist on BlogAds' server; so somebody is not removing the expired ads.)
I notice the same thing appears to be happening on other blogs, even those that are significantly bigger than BL; I've communicated with a few (they can out themselves if they like, but I won't out them) who report the same phenomenon. I e-mailed Henry Copeland some days ago, but I've received no reply.
Does anybody out there know what's going on? We're suddenly not making any revenue here at all. (The cost of maintaining this blog is trivial, as I do all the work myself, so we only need pay for the host server; but I still want my ad revenue, gosh darn it!)
If anyone has a clue what has happened to BlogAds and Mr. C., please comment here.
November 27, 2006
Gates of Mire
The rap against Secretary-designate of Defense Robert Gates, former Director of Central Intelligence -- mostly from the conservative blogosphere -- is that he is too close to former Secretaries of State James "Mr. Realism" Baker and Dr. Henry "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger. Viz.:
The Pentagon is drafting its own recommendations for how to win in Iraq. Its goal is to provide the administration with a counterproposal in the event the Baker group's report is unsatisfactory. But the Pentagon's effort may face a serious complication in the form of the nomination of Robert Gates, who has been working with Baker, to head the Defense Department....
No wonder, then, that the Baker group seems poised to recommend that we enlist Syria and Iran to pacify Iraq. If Baker was willing to have Saddam do it, then why not Syria and Iraq?
So it goes. But these speculations are all fairy castles built on clouds; nobody has found any writings, talkings, or previous actions of Robert Gates that would imply that President Bush brought him aboard so he could order CENTCOM to surrender to the Iranians. And in fact, in a lengthy discussion of Gates by Michael Barone (hat tip to Power Line, of all places!) in his US News & World Report column, the noble Barone throws cold water on the fevered speculation:
The picture I get of Robert Gates from his book is that of a careful analyst, one who sees American foreign policy as generally and rightly characterized by continuity but one who sees the need for bold changes in response to rapid changes in the world -- and doesn't look for answers from the government bureaucracies. He is very much aware that we have dangerous enemies in the world, and he was willing over many years to confront them and try to check their advance.
Gates pal R. Emmett Tyrrell, jr., Lord Protector of the Washington Times, also pronounces the doomsaying "wild speculation":
Now in comes Bob Gates, and as is the custom in this town there is wild speculation. He is George Bush I's guy. He is James Baker's guy. He is the CIA's guy. He is coming in from the presidency of Texas A & M to pull the plug on our involvement in Iraq. Actually, he is George Bush II's appointee. And though I shall only mildly speculate, I suspect he will do as his boss tells him. That seems to mean he will apply a fresh set of eyes to Iraq.
But back to Baron Barone. Barone answers a number of the fantasized criticisms of Gates, who has not even been barbecued by the senatorial chefs yet, as a defeatist, a captive of the bureaucracy, an unreal Realist, a State-Department lackey, and as spineless. Just as with Harriet Miers, in about 60 seconds, we went from "I don't know enough about him" to "he's an agent of the Democrats sent to the Pentagon to declare defeat in Iraq and redeploy to Okinawa with Jack Murtha."
But the portrait Barone paints -- mostly from reading Gates' book, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War -- is of a career bureaucrat who nevertheless doesn't look to the bureaucracies for policy, who prefers continuity but is also willing and able to turn 90 degrees in response to changing facts on the ground, and who has often advocated forceful confrontation and going in hard. This is a very different picture than we have seen.
Some examples; Barone on Gates' flexibility and distrust of the very bureaucracies he rose through:
Yet Gates also discusses times in which policy had to change course sharply in response to rapid changes in the world, notably during the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. Interestingly, this career government bureaucrat did not find the government bureaucracies of much use in coming up with new ideas. Instead, his impulse was to create small committees of political appointees. In July 1989, he sent [former President George H.W.] Bush a memo citing developments in the Soviet Union and concluding that "we should not be confident of Gorbachev remaining in power."
As Gates recounts in his book: "Bush agreed to the contingency planning I had first considered in the spring, and in September 1989, I asked Condi Rice to gather a group of people and in very great secrecy begin this work. When I met with her to explain the task, I told her that I thought the planning was very important because the situation in the Soviet Union could go bad in a hurry, and the U.S. government was on 'autopilot' when it came to thinking about such dramatic developments.
And here is Gates himself, from his book (as quoted by Barone), on the need for forceful confrontation of the Soviets in Nicaragua:
"By the end of 1984, I concluded that we were kidding ourselves if we thought the contras might win. I wrote [CIA Director William] Casey on December 14, and began by saying, 'The contras can't overthrow the Sandinista regime.' I continued that we were muddling along in Nicaragua with a halfhearted policy because of the lack of agreement within the administration and with Congress on our real objectives. I urged moving to an overt policy including withdrawal of diplomatic recognition; providing open military assistance and funds for a government-in-exile; imposing economic sanctions, perhaps including a quarantine; and using air strikes to destroy Nicaragua's military buildup -- no invasion but no more Soviet/Cuban military deliveries. I concluded, 'Relying on and supporting the contras as our only action may actually hasten the ultimate, unfortunate outcome.'"
Once again, I think a lot of folks in the blogosphere are, as Mark Twain put it in Life On the Mississippi (1850), getting "such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."
Can't we better restrain ourselves -- this time -- and at least wait for the confirmation hearings before shaking our heads "more in sorrow than in anger" at all the horrible things we imagine he might do?
November 5, 2006
Big Lizards Makes a Stealth Correction!
...Can anybody find it?
The same correction was made in two posts. Start digging!
(Friend Lee, who caught the error, is of course ineligible. And remember, this is a correction, not a contest. So please -- no wagering.)
If you think you know, post the initial letters of the corrected copy (either the error or the correction) in a comment. After a bit, I'll drop some hints. Unless everybody gets it right away, in which case I'll berate you all for not pointing it out, you rotten apples.
October 30, 2006
Time Flies When Killing Nothing But Innocent Bystanders
By now, everybody and his unkie's monkle knows about the Lancet survey that purports to show that the Iraq invasion has killed about 655,000 extra Iraqis -- nearly all of them innocent.
Actually, since the Lancet's survey only went through July 2006, and assuming the rate is unabated, a total of more than 704,000 "extra deaths" should have occurred by now, the end of October 2006. I shall accordingly use this figure hence.
They arrived at this figure by interviewing a small number of grieving survivors (2,000 households) and asking them, offhand, how many members of their family have been killed by the wicked infidels (actually, they asked how many had died since the invasion; I doubt the significance escaped the respondents' notice).
Then they projected this figure throughout the entire population of Iraq to get a figure that is about 14 times the (likely inflated) "maximum" figure on Iraq Body Count, 49,760, and more than 20 times the more commonly accepted figure of 35,000.
Oddly enough, however, they must not be burying their dead, because mortuary records don't show anywhere near that many burials over the last 43 months, a fact at which even the Lancet hints.
Amazingly enough, it appears that half of all extended families in Iraq have lost someone -- assuming no overlap at all: I assumed that an extended family in Iraq would consist of a mother and father, an average of three kids, an average of three living grandparents (recall that grandparents in such a society could easily be in their late thirties or early forties), an average of five living aunts and uncles, who between them would have produced about eight cousins.
I'm probably underestimating much of this -- which would mean even more families would have to have lost members to evil, wicked Coalition soldiers, in order to arrive at Lancet's (reprojected) 704,000 figure. If there is overlap, that would increase the number of families that would have had deaths: each death would kill a father, an uncle, and a cousin, of three different households, perhaps.
To put it another way, if this guess were true, the war would have considerably more than doubled the national annual death rate of Iraq (5.37 per 1,000 per year), according to the latest figures from the CIA's World Factbook (or even 5.5, as Lancet calculates it).
What would it have taken to produce such a staggeringly huge death rate? The Belmont Club can help with that; they note that the Israelis bombed the heck out of Lebanon for 34 days, and only managed to kill 1,300 Lebanese (all of them innocent, once again; it's remarkable how luckless the innocent are in these Moslem countries, while the guilty seem to lead charmed lives... perhaps somebody down there likes them).
Whenever I see numbers, I have to whip out my calculator and play. It's a nasty habit, I know; but I'm too old a dog to change Spot now.
The Lebanese death rate works out to about 38 per day -- and that's with heavy, continuous bombing, shelling, and massive, daily assaults. Let's assume that same rate of death in Iraq; how long would it take to kill 704,000 people? A simple division: it would take 18,526 days, or approximately 50 years and 9 months.
Hm. Well, that doesn't quite work out, does it!
On the other hand, we have a lot more soldiers in Iraq than the Israelis had in Lebanon... so let's look at it the other direction: assume that we have killed 704,000 people in Iraq since the invasion, which began on March 19th, 2003; what is the daily rate of killing we would have to be seeing? (Lancet concluded that 601,000 of the 655,000 deaths were violent; projected forward, that would mean 646,000 of the 704,000.)
Again, it's a simple calculation, complicated only because we must first figure out how many days it's been: from invasion to March 19th, 2006 is 1,096 days (because 2004 was a leap year), plus 225 days since then, for a grand total of 1,321 days.
704,000 divided by 1,321 equals 533 innocent civilians dying each and every day, Sundays and holidays included. (Actually, since this is an Islamic country, we would expect to see more deaths during the Sabbath -- which is actually Friday, not Sunday -- and during holiday periods, like Ramadan.) If we restrict it to violent deaths, that's 487 violent deaths per day.
There was a lull from the end of major combat operations, May 1st, 2003, until the insurgency and terrorist activity really started to uptick, say about April 4th, 2004 with First Fallujah. But on the other hand, we would assume a very much increased daily rate during the month of MCO; even if they don't quite balance, it probably doesn't change much... we can assume the daily rate after the insurgency and terrorism started to be somewhere between 550 and 650 extra deaths per day.
I doubt even the wildest-eyed anti-war fanatic sincerely believes that all the reporters, non-governmental organizations, government departments, and the other medical researchers in Iraq (who actually check physical evidence, rather than relying upon surveys) could possibly have missed an additional 500 civilians dying per day, 460 of them killed violently -- and nearly all by Coalition forces, if you can believe the Iraqi respondents. But of course, figures don't lie!
The researchers assure us that asking Iraqi respondents how many have died is perfectly sound methodology. They don't need to look at death certificates, hospital records, or mortuary records; first, those hard data may be unavailable... and second, they don't yield a high enough number of extra deaths:
When death certificates were not available, there were good reasons, say the authors. "We think it is unlikely that deaths were falsely recorded. Interviewers also believed that in the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths," they write.
Fabricating deaths simply isn't done in Iraqi culture... quick, somebody, alert the Green Helmet Guy!
But I still want to know where the weekly quota of 3,731 bodies is being stashed; I should think that by now, every graveyard in the country would have been filled up, and the bodies would have to be packed into warehouses (refrigerated, one hopes) until the country can decide where to put them. Sort of like nuclear waste, I reckon.
If somebody can show me a photograph of a warehouse with bodies stacked like cordwood, or else dozens of mass graves dug post-Saddam, then I will believe it. Until then, I'm afraid I'm going to have to maintain a bit of skepticism about the Lancet's figure. It's conceivable that their methods are unsound.
So how does this relate to the election, as the category list indicates? Well, just an example of the goofy results that you can get from a poll when you deliberately disconnect it from any external, reality-based cross-checking.
October 20, 2006
"Flip Flopping" to "Stay the Course"
Patterico updated his post about Jonah Goldberg's column to note my response to it here. More or less, Patterico and I agree to disagree on the necessity of the Iraq War... but I did want to get at one point that seems important to clarify.
In this course of his update, Patterico says this:
I think Dafydd and I would probably agree that failing in Iraq badly hurts our military credibility. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he might well use that as an argument to stay the course. I think it’s an argument not to invade a country without a compelling enough reason, which I believe (again with the benefit of hindsight) that we did not have.
He's right that that's what I would say; but what would I mean? For that matter, what do I ever mean, if anything? Nothing, that's what! So 23 skiddoo!
First, I completely agree with Patterico that we must never "invade a country without a compelling enough reason." Where we differ is the definition of "compelling enough."
But more to the issue, what does "stay the course" mean? Let's start by getting rid of the straw ham: what does the phrase not mean? It does not mean you must rigidly maintain identical tactics throughout the war, never changing your orders even in response to an evolving enemy. Knock that off the table right now.
In fact, while Bush says "stay the course," his generals frequently switch tactics and even general strategy (or strategery, if you prefer): we run a riverine campaign; we fight along the borders; we attack in the provinces; we go door to door in Baghdad. Some campaigns are successful, others (such as the current Together Forward in Baghdad) are less so and need to be revamped.
But we're constantly changing; and in fact, such fluidity is precisely the point over which Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Shinseki fell out: the Secretary of Defense wanted a faster, more mobile, more responsive, and more flexible military with a smaller footprint. Gen. Shinseki wanted to stick with the Powell Doctrine, which was essentially how we fought Vietnam, Korea, World War II, and the Civil War under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
I liken the phrase "stay the course" to sailing a tall ship. If the wind is at your back, you can sail more or less straight towards your goal. But if you're sailing against the wind -- as we are in Iraq, with such a difficult but vital task ahead of us -- you must tack.
I know next to nothing about sailboats; so why did I even bring them up? God only knows. But what I do understand is that, when trying to sail against the wind, you must tack: you sail somewhat off your course to port, still making headway but also getting farther away from the straightline plot; and then, at some point, you come about and sail somewhat off the course, but this time to starboard. Thus, you zig-zag back and forth like a sewing machine, never actually sailing directly towards your goal (which would be impossible), but always moving towards it nonetheless.
To a person without any understanding of navigation, however, it can look like you just can't make up your mind which way to go: you keep swerving back and forth and back again! You're obviously lost, adrift, asea. And nobody likes you.
But if you keep at it long enough, you will suddenly discover that you've come down where you meant to be. And the passengers will be flabbergasted, because you spent the entire trip sailing in the wrong direction.
I think that is what's happening in Iraq right now: we appear to be sailing in the wrong direction, inconstant, hysterically swerving from left to right to left. But in reality, we know exactly where we're going, and we're just trying to find the right heading at any given moment to make way.
So with that caveat and under that definition, yes, I would agree with Patterico that failing in Iraq (which I don't think we're doing) would hurt our credibilty, and it would hurt the general war against terrorism more directly, too. And I would indeed cite that as an argument to "stay the course."
October 19, 2006
Jonah and the Wail: the Virtue of Ignorance
This is one of those rare moments when I must vehemently disagree with Patterico, one of the people who got me into blogging in the first place (quite literally: Patterico's Pontificaitons was the first of two sites that allowed me on as a guest blogger). He gives a one-handed round of applause to neocon columnist Jonah Goldberg -- who now reverses himself, arguing that going into Iraq was "a mistake."
Interestingly, Goldberg, and by extension Patterico, make a pretty big whopper of a mistake themselves.
Here is Goldberg, as linked by Patterico:
I must confess that one of the things that made me reluctant to conclude that the Iraq war was a mistake was my general distaste for the shabbiness of the arguments on the antiwar side.
But that's no excuse. Truth is truth. And the Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq in 2003.
Oh, I quite agree: if Congress had known in 2002 that Iraq was only twenty minutes to midnight, instead of two minutes to midnight, it would have punted on the invasion. Congress would instead have settled upon a really, really, really strong letter to Saddam, asking him to be nicer.
But that's not the definition of a mistake, Jonah Goldberg notwithstanding. After all, had Congress known just how bad the Civil War would get, with 600,000 dead Americans and a nation ravaged by all four horsemen of the Apocalypse, it's very likely they never would have voted to go to war; they would have accepted the secession of the Confederate States of America instead.
I do not believe it was a mistake for the Union to fight the Civil War. So thank God they didn't know what was going to happen.
Suppose we'd had perfect knowledge of what would transpire in Iraq, and therefore, as we all (Jonah, Patterico, and I) conclude, we did not invade Iraq. What would have happened then? This is the question that neither Goldberg nor Patterico essay to answer... but I will.
- The Iraq sanctions regime would have collapsed.
This was already well on its way, as the sanctions were routinely circumvented and outright violated by European powers, even while the U.N.-mandated regime was still in place. Doesn't anybody remember that this was exactly what the Oil for Food scandal was all about?
European nations were already applying heavy pressure on the U.N. to drop the sanctions, which were "killing millions of Iraqi children" (remember? doesn't anybody remember?) Even Charles Duelfer of the Iraq Survey Group agrees that the sanctions were likely going away very quickly, certainly de facto and likely de jure as well:
Saddam was surprised by the swiftness of Iraq’s defeat. The quick end to Saddam’s Regime brought a similarly rapid end to its pursuit of sanctions relief, a goal it had been palpably close to achieving.
With increasingly shrill and bizarre claims of the death and destruction caused by sanctions, and the hundreds of oil deals Saddam cut with various countries that would only be implemented once sanctions were lifted, pressure to do so would have been irresistable.
And even if we used our veto power to keep them on the books, that is the only place they would exist: in the real world, sanctions only work when other countries cooperate. Europe had long ceased cooperating.
- When sanctions did collapse -- even if simply de facto, by rampant cheating and by European "inspectors" turning a blind eye -- Saddam was set to resume WMD development, using the knowledge, personnel, and WMD programs he had carefully retained from 1991 to 2003.
The ISG says this, too:
The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities. Several senior officials also either inferred or heard Saddam say that he reserved the right to resume WMD research after sanctions.
I think, after the revelations of Oil for Fraud, few reading this post think it at all farfetched that sanctions were already on life support and would have died entirely... probably in months, not years; and that when they did, Saddam Hussein had no intention of turning over a new leaf and becoming a peaceful member of the community of nations.
- Having once lifted sanctions, it would be politically impossible to reinstate them -- as France and Russia both have veto power as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council;
Does the picture become clear? It's true that we almost certainly would not have invaded Iraq had we "known then what we know now" about the cost in blood and treasure... and that failure would have been a dreadful mistake of historic proportions -- far worse, in retrospect, than the decision not to oust Hussein in 1991, following the Gulf War.
- There is very strong evidence of an increasing tempo of cooperation between Hussein and al-Qaeda, as well as cooperation with more traditional terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Evidence even from the 9/11 Commission (which admitted a few connections), but much more elsewhere, including here, for example.
- Saddam Hussein would have recreated his chemical and biological weapons, but this time attaching them to longer-range missiles that could strike any country in the Middle East.
- He probably would not have been able to develop working nukes on his own; but he could eventually have bought them from North Korea or perhaps Pakistan;
- He would have become the dominant player in the the region, and would very likely have funneled WMD to terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, with the international reach to strike in the United States.
- We would have had an American intifada -- and our response to further WMD attacks within our own country would have been a draconian clampdown on civil liberties here that would truly undercut the Constitution... unlike the minor and trivial "infringements" of the USA Patriot Act.
It amazes me that neither Goldberg nor Patterico even considers the question of what would have happened had we not invaded Iraq in March of 2003. Both buy into the idea that, if we would have made a different decision then, knowing how hard it would be, that the other decision would necessarily be better than the one we made.
We stumbled into the Iraq War by our own ignorance: but this was another one of those astonishingly fortuitous accidents that lead people like Michael Medved to believe that God directly intervenes in human affairs. While I wouldn't go that far, I will say this, echoing what I said above about the Civil War:
Thank God we didn't know in 2002 what we know now about the Iraq War! The "rational" response to that knowledge would have been a catastrophe for American security... and indeed for the entire war against jihad.
October 13, 2006
On Provoking Ponderous Ponderings of Pyongyang and Palestine
Paul Mirengoff of Power Line has a great post up, "On Talking With the Enemy." Paul takes up the question of whether "I believe in talking to your enemies," as James A. Baker III, co-chair of the newly formed Iraq Study Group, likes to say, is a workable policy -- or just a mindless liberal slogan. Sorry for the redundancy. Paul's conclusion:
We should, of course, make an effort to find out the real views of our enemies. And if those views indicate the possibility of negotiations that hold a reasonable promise of a beneficial outcome for us, we ordinarily should hold such negotiations. But it's pointless at best, and dangerous at worst, to hold publicized negotiations when we know that the enemy's bottom line is one that we cannot accept. Indeed, while critics of the Bush administration like to remind us that we talked with the "evil empire" Soviet Union, we actually learned through bitter experience to avoid holding major summit-style talks unless there was reason to believe they would succeed in advancing our interests.
Paul considers this point in the context of the bilateral talks with North Korea that many Democrats, including Republican Baker, demand the Bush administration undertake, hoping for the same wonderful outcome we had when the Clinton-Carter team agreed upon the Agreed Framework (hence the name) with Kim Jong-Il in 1994. The net effect of the Agreed Framework, along with South Korea's Sunshine Policy of "engaging" North Korea, was described in the Washington Times by Dr. Yearn Hong Choi (and quoted in yet another Power Line post) thus:
North Korea kidnapped South Korean fishermen from the open sea and Japanese citizens from the seashore of Japan, and bombed a South Korean plane. The DPRK sold opium and produced counterfeit U.S. dollars. It has been starving its own people. But it has produced nuclear bomb(s) and long-distance missiles in order to threaten South Korea, Japan and the United States....
The appeasement policy and Sunshine policy just helped the North Korean dictator sustain his power, rather than have his country go bankrupt.
I really like Paul's criterion: no negotiations with the enemy if his bottom line is utterly unacceptable. It leads to quick resolution of a lot of thorny issues. Here's one:
- The bottom-line position of both ruling Hamas and opposition Fatah in the Palestinian Authority is the destruction of Israel and expulsion of the Jews;
- This is clearly unacceptable to Israel and to the United States;
- Therefore, negotiations between Israel and the PA, or between the United States and the PA, are utterly pointless and should be broken off.
I have long agreed with the Power Line crew that President Bush's "Roadmap to Peace" is a farce, his worst foreign-policy program... and not coincidentally, completely at odds with his stance on all other terrorist organizations, including, oddly enough, Iran's proxy, Hezbollah: Bush does not demand Israel commence negotiations with Hassan Nasrallah on how much of northern Israel should be ceded to Hezbollah.
What could change the climate on negotiations with the PA? Only a change in their bottom line. If something forces the PA to drop the idea that they will ever be able to destroy Israel -- perhaps a horrific war, such as the civil war now looming in Gaza -- and they truly accept the inevitability of a two-state solution, then and only then would negotiations be feasible.
But you cannot negotiate your way to useful negotiations. You cannot negotiate your enemy's unacceptable bottom line into being acceptable, thus permitting negotiations. They have to change the goals first; and they will certainly need an external event to do so.
Until then, let the Palestinians stew in their own juices.
September 3, 2006
Paul Mirengoff Clarifies and Extends His Remarks
Perhaps my lapse (if any) was less in my logic than in the clarity of my writing. I did not mean to suggest that Olmert could not have bungled even if Hezbollah got much the worse of things, but rather that he may not have bungled under that scenario....
In essence, I'm saying that if Hezbollah didn't suffer a defeat, then Olmert clearly bungled, and bungled monumentally. If Hezbollah suffered a defeat to the point that it will not attack Israel again, then the issue with respect to Olmert becomes more complicated, such that one at least "can defend" the approach he took.
I so much appreciate it when a thinker clarifies his remarks, because (like Dennis Prager) I'm much more interested in clarity than agreement. Though in this case, in the clearer version of Paul's argument, I think it's not only logical and accurate but a thought-provoking point: is it possible that Olmert realized that even the seemingly half-hearted version of a war that he conducted was enough to thrash Hezbollah? That he didn't need to do any more, so why risk more Israeli lives?
I don't really think so, because I don't think Olmert is that bright. Intelligent people like Paul Mirengoff sometimes tend to implicitly assume others are as smart as they, attributing deeper thinking to a political gefilte fish like Olmert than Olmert is capable of achieving -- the polar opposite of what Democrats to do George W. Bush.
(In my own case, I'm saved from this sin by regarding most mere mortals with the amused contempt that is a natural byproduct of me having an ego the size of the Greater Magellanic Cloud.)
Paul is unquestionably correct that it could be true, and also that it deserves consideration; I like this version much better than what I mistakenly read into the earlier. But upon reflection, the degree of perspicacity such a balancing act would require of Ehud Olmert is prohibitively high, I think.
I did not, by the way, say that Israel could have "obliterated" Hezbollah, and I don't believe they could have; I said this:
What it really means is that Hezbollah was stronger than we thought but weaker than we feared. It certainly doesn't meant that, with more effort and brainpower on Israel's part, Hezbollah couldn't have been wiped out. In fact, recognition, however delayed, of Hezbollah's true weakness should fuel the idea that, if Israel had just tried a little harder, it could have obliterated that awful terrorist group.
That is, seeing Hezbollah's weakness makes it somewhat more likely in my mind that they could have been wiped out, root and branch; but that's up from a very low percentage to a moderately low percentage.
I think it probable that, with somewhat more effort, Hezbollah could have been driven out of Lebanon and back up into Syria -- which would have been a Godsend to Israel, a far better result than what Olmert at least appears to have achieved.
And one I still think will happen; I'm a "Round Two"-er: I believe the dynamics are such that another go between Israel and Hezbollah is almost inevitable. Note that Olmert still (rightly) refuses to withdraw the IDF, refuses to lift the blockade, refuses to act as if it never happened. He realizes that if he were to acquiesce to allowing Hezbollah to stay in south Lebanon with its weaponry, and to be rearmed by Iran and Syria, he may as well sign the withdrawal orders -- and then resign as prime minister, getting out before folks can find a rail, a goose, and some tar.
So yes, it's an intriguing suggestion -- Ehud Olmert as Cesare Borgia. And I must confess the suggestion must be confronted and seriously considered. But doing so, I think the evidence indicates he was just being feckless -- and that Hezbollah was just weaker than we were afraid it might be.
It's like finding out that David was really aiming at Goliath's gonads, but he missed... and just happened to hit Goliath's head, his Achilles heel. Turns out David was just a lucky putz -- but Goliath is still room temperature.
August 28, 2006
Jury Nullification Or Nullifying the Jury?
Patterico has an interesting challenge on his site, which he calls a "Question for Those Who Support Jury Nullification." He notes that jurors are required to raise their hands and swear to the following oath, under penalty of perjury, before they can begin hearing a case (here in California, at least; I'm not sure that the wording is exactly the same in other states or venues):
Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will well and truly try the case now pending before this court, and a true verdict render according only to the evidence presented to you and to the instructions of the court? [Emphasis in Patterico's original]
Patterico is a deputy district attorney in California, and he is, not surprisingly, very much against the concept of "jury nullification," by which jurors -- even though they believe that good evidence was presented that the defendant did indeed commit the actions that are illegal -- nevertheless vote to acquit... on the basis that the law itself is wrong or is wrongly applied.
(That is what ordinary, intelligent, well-read people understand by the term "jury nullification;" and that is the definition I use throughout.)
An example would be a person who passionately believes that medical marijuana use should not be illegal; so even though he believes that the defendant did actually purchase the weed, he votes not guilty -- because he believes the defendant did so to relieve his nausea while undergoing chemotherapy. (We're assuming this is in a state where such use of marijuana is against the law; I don't want to get into the situation in California, where state and federal law often collide.)
Patterico enunciates this ringing challenge:
To supporters of jury nullification: would you violate your oath to follow the law, given under penalty of perjury, in order to bend the law to your own personal conception of “justice” in a particular case?
If so, what makes you different from a rogue cop who lies about probable cause in order to convict a guilty criminal?....
Would you take the oath, or not? Would you faithfully apply it, or not?
To answer directly, I would take the oath, and I would have every intention of faithfully applying it; but if a situation arose where, in my best judgment, obeying the instructions of the court would directly subvert the dictates of justice and truth, then I would resolve that conflict in favor of the latter... and I would violate my oath on grounds that, when one party has breached an essential element of a contract -- in this case, the social contract -- the other is not obliged to remain faithful to his own side of the agreement. (If Hezbollah refuses to disarm, as they agreed to do, then Israeli is not obliged to withdraw, though they agree to do so.)
I myself do support jury nullification -- in concept; I certainly don't support every case where somebody invokes it. So I think it fair to say that this post is directed to me, among others... and that I should respond and defend my beliefs. So here goes.
The law is a ass, a idiot
We are talking, recall, about a fascinating discussion sparked by Patterico on his site, which you can find here.
There is a bad tendency among nearly all lawyers I know to mistake the law for the more abstract justice or even truth. Good attorneys like Patterico try hard not to let themselves fall into this trap; still, it permeates legal thinking, and I conclude it's almost impossible to fully overcome. I'm sure it's subtextually taught in law school -- I doubt any law school suggests lawyers should evaluate the law and decide whether it serves valid ends before embracing it.
But clearly non-lawyers understand, and nearly all lawyers would agree, if you put it to them so bluntly, that the law is not an end to itself; rather, its purpose, from the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, is to "establish justice" and "ensure domestic tranquility."
Most of us also realize that Jefferson was not wrong when he wrote, in another of our "organic documents," the Declaration of Independence, that "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
(And taking into consideration the purpose and provenance of that document, no serious person would argue that Jefferson only meant legal means of abolishing a form of government!)
The Devil, of course, is in the details. (And wears Armani, not Prada; but that's a different argument.) Jefferson seems to have been a perpetual revolutionary, and of course you cannot construct a society based upon a violent revolution every twenty years; neither, however, can you make a society on the basis of stasis, where you support it no matter what it does or how far it drifts from its philosophical underpinnings. Each man and woman makes this decision every day, when he chooses to obey or ignore specific laws of the land. The speed limits, for example.
There is a legal adage that "hard cases make bad law." But hard cases must still be dealt with; they cannot be wished away. So let's dive into an example or two and ask, in each instance, what you -- and Patterico -- would do.
Situation: the court's instructions are flagrantly against the law.
Suppose you were a juror in a trial of a man accused of robbing a liquor store at gunpoint. You have listened to the evidence, and you believe he was probably the culprit, but you have doubts that you consider reasonable... maybe it was somebody else.
But then, when the judge gives you instructions, he tells you that you must convict if you believe the defendant guilty by a preponderence of the evidence; that if you think it more likely than not that he did it, you must convict.
Now, you know -- and certainly Patterico would know -- that this is completely wrong! You cannot vote to convict if you have a reasonable doubt, merely because you think the defendant is "probably guilty." So what do you do?
You already took the oath, having no idea that this would come up; so "would you faithfully apply it, or not?" Would Patterico?
You have two options: you can faithfully apply your oath, find the man guilty, and hope to heck that his lawyer is able to get the verdict overturned in the appellate courts. But what if the instruction itself resulted from some collusion between the prosecutor, the judge, and the defense lawyer? What if the defendant is obviously ignorant of his rights? What if nobody bothers appealing, for whatever reason, and the verdict stands, sending the poor schnook to prison for eight years -- or longer, if this is a third strike?
Can you, in good conscience, vote against justice, hoping that somebody else will come along and clean up the mess?
I, myself, would vote not guilty; if asked why I voted not guilty, I would refuse to answer... it may be courageous to stand up to such injustice, but it's grandstanding (and senseless immolation) to spit defiance into the face of the judge.
Situation: the unjust law
In a horrible twist of fate, the Democrats seize back both houses of Congress, and in 2008, Hillary becomes president. There is another terrorist attack in September, 2009; and the Democrats, following the precedent set by their Dear Leader in 1942, enact a series of laws restricting all persons of Arab descent or who are Moslems from assembling in public places or failing to register their whereabouts with the federal government. This law is applied even to American citizens.
Challenges are working their way through the courts; but for some reason, several have already been decided in favor of the Democratic position. You're called to jury duty, and during voir dire, you realize the nature of the case will involve enforcing those laws: "would you take the oath, or not?" Would Patterico?
If you do not, you will be replaced by someone who will, of course. This relieves you of direct personal responsibility in this instance... but it certainly doesn't relieve you of what you see (I would hope!) as the moral duty to fight such outrageous injustice.
Scamping jury duty by refusing the oath -- assuming it doesn't become such a mass protest that it moves mountains (as few do) -- merely means injustice will continue, administered by jurors who either don't care about justice or else agree that all "A-rabs" and "Mohammedans" are wicked and should be jailed on general principles: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," as Edmund Burke is supposed by some to have said.
I myself would take the oath, even knowing there was a good chance that I would eventually be forced to break it; I do not believe that moral judgment can be dodged, but must be embraced when demanded.
Let's suppose you took the oath. You find yourself sitting on a jury trying a defendant, Achmed Mohammed, who has no history of any criminal or violent acts. He is accused of nothing more than using a false name, calling himself Allan Michaels and denying that his parents came from Saudi Arabia in 1958... such behavior being a flagrant violation of the Emergency Arab Isolation and Moslem Suppression Act of 2009.
The charge is conclusively proven; his fingerprints clearly show that he served in the US Marine Corps in Iraq under the name SSgt. Achmed Mohammed, where he earned a minor medal and a Purple Heart. The judge instructs you that if you believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Allan Michaels is really Achmed Mohammed, you must convict. And there is that pesky oath you took to render verdict according to "the instructions of the court."
"Would you faithfully apply it, or not?" Would Patterico? I would not; again, I would break my oath, on the moral grounds that the justice system to which I swore it broke its own unspoken but nevertheless welll-understood oath to operate in a manner consistent with justice.
Situation: the just law applied unjustly
You're asked to serve on a case where a felon was found carrying a concealed weapon. Since you're not a gun-rights absolutist (you don't believe felons have a general right to carry concealed firearms), you agree to serve and you take the oath. Nothing in voir dire makes you at all suspicious.
But as the trial progresses, you discover that the felon is a nineteen year old girl who was convicted of credit-card fraud a year earlier... probably because her then-boyfriend talked her into it. After her conviction, which resulted in her serving a year in prison, she broke up with the boyfriend; and from all the evidence, it appears she reformed herself. She had not been arrested or even suspected in any subsequent crimes, and she pled guilty to the original charge and cooperated fully -- including giving a complete statement to the cops against her ex-boyfriend, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued.
But once she got out of the slam, the boyfriend, who was never apprehended, began stalking her. He repeatedly told her he would kill her. (Yes, I know; you're way ahead of me.) She went to the cops, but they told her that they were already doing everything they could to find the boyfriend; he is an elusive blackguard, and they couldn't guarantee they would catch him anytime soon. (We even assume the cops are entirely sympathetic and really are doing everything humanly possible.)
She moves, and he finds her again. She applies for the right to own and carry a firearm, but it's denied because she is a convicted felon. But she obtains a gun illegally and carries anyway. That crime comes to light because... one dark night, when she's coming home from night school, where she studies underwater welding, the boyfriend roars up in a car with a couple of his cronies and tries to kidnap her. She draws on him, shoots him, and kills him; the other thugs drive away, promptly crash the car into the front door of a police station, and are all arrested.
The girl is not charged with murder, homicide, or even ADW, because the cops thoroughly accept her explanation that she acted in self-defense. However, this being Los Angeles, she is nevertheless arrested for being a felon in possession of a gun and carrying a concealed gun without a concealed-carry permit. The case lands in your lap, as a juror.
Ample evidence is presented that she really did try to do everything legal a reasonable person would think to do before resorting to arming herself. She was terrified; she knew he would try to kill her to prevent her testifying against him... and she was right! He did exactly what she thought he would.
You took an oath to decide per the instructions of the court; the evidence is clear that she is a felon, that she obtained the gun illegally, and that she had no CCW permit. But the evidence is also clear that she had no mal intent (other than to violate those two laws); and you know that the penalty for those crimes would be many more years in prison. Maybe the judge would take pity on her; but maybe he wouldn't. How do you know? Maybe, unbeknownst to you, he's nicknamed "Hangin' Judge Harry" by his colleagues.
So... "would you faithfully apply [the oath you took], or not?" Would Patterico?
My answer is the same as in the other two cases: there is no question in my mind -- it's not even close -- that the law was never meant for a situation like this; I would be utterly compelled to violate my oath under moral law.
The slippery slope
The typical argument against jury nullification is that it creates a slippery slope: soon everyone is just picking and choosing which cases to convict and which to acquit on the basis of psychotic ideas of "justice" or even irrelevant biases. Once people get the idea that they can rewrite the law in the jury room, no one will be safe from runaway juries.
And indeed, there have been such "runaway" juries. Some maintain that the O.J. Simpson jury engaged in it by acquitting "the Juice" despite a mountain of evidence. (I don't believe that's true of most of them; I think they didn't believe the charge because of pre-existing prejudices -- so they violated their oaths for a different reason.) Let's suppose that this is true, that at least one juror believed Simpson did kill Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, but he voted to acquit because he believed that "the Man" was always sticking it to the brothers, and it was morally right, and would lead to racial equality, for one of the brothers to stick it back to the Man by acquitting Simpson.
Others point to juries in the Jim Crow South that routinely acquitted white defendants who lynched blacks and Jews; it is not even arguable that such juries didn't exist -- the evidence is overwhelming.
Does this then invalidate the concept of jury nullification? No, because abusing a right does not make the right itself an abuse.
How many people have abused freedom of speech and of the press to pass classified secrets to our enemies via the New York Times and Washington Post? How many people have abused the right to keep and bear arms in order to murder their wives? We do not throw out these babies because they are sometimes surrounded by foetid bathwater.
Let me quote from a fellow I'm reading right now, Francis S. Collins, author of the Language of God (and the head of the Human Genome Project). Speaking about the "slippery slope" arguement in a very different context, Collins wrote:
While there is clear danger in unrestrained forms of "liberal" theology that eviscerates the real truths of faith, mature observers are used to living on slipper slopes and deciding where to place a sensible stopping point.
Similarly, we do not see a wave of such jury nullification for tendentious or idiosyncratic reasons. We do not see tax resisters routinely acquitted, even though we all hate paying taxes. We don't see racists acquitted, even though we all have some sort of irrational prejudice. We do not even see a wave of hung juries in drug-possession cases. The huge majority of people on most juries is content to accept the law as elucidated by the judge in his instructions. It's a rare reaction -- whether done properly, or even done wrong-headedly.
The Framers of the Constitution demanded that final judgment be in the hands of a jury, if the defendant or prosecutor wants it so; this is because, in the end, we have government by the consent of the governed, and civilian juries are the most direct way to test that in individual cases. This is the "golden thread" that connects the American judicial system to the centuries of English common law from which it arose.
We cannot abandon the role of the jury as the last bastion of common-law justice in criminal cases simply because a few pathetic people are incapable of distinguishing between moral necessessity and personal preference or prejudice; we must govern society by our rules, not by theirs.
This also answers Patterico's question about the rogue cop: I want the police to have some discretion in deciding whether to arrest someone who is clearly guilty of a technical violation; and I want prosecutors to have discretion in deciding who to prosecute, and who to let off. I demand they have such authority, despite the fact that some cops let their friends off, and some prosecutors decide what cases to pursue because of personal bias or ambition.
Without the human element, even betimes in defiance of mechanical judgments of guilt or innocence, "justice" becomes a soulless, heartless, senseless steamroller, crushing the individual between the asphalt of necessity and the steel of the Law.
I do not want trial by foolish consistency; I do not want to be tried by computer. I want a judge to be able to hear a jury say "guilty," and to respond, "that's ridiculous; I'm overruling that verdict and finding him not guilty."
And likewise, I want the jury itself to be able to reject what would be a preposterous result and find a defendant not guilty, even when a computer with no higher moral sense would insist he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
August 18, 2006
Threat, or Menace, Part Deux
So Scott Johnson finally dropped the other slipper in his continuing bad analogy comparing the US-brokered, UN-supported ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah to the 1938 Munich agreement, brokered by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, among others. In our last episode, Scott stated that the Munich agreement resulted in a delay of World War II by about a year -- during which time, Scott asserted, Germany got stronger relative to the UK -- hence, it was a terrible agreement from Britain's perspective:
Like the UN resolution, the Munich Agreement assured that war, when it came, would be on terms more favorable to the fascists than they otherwise would have been.
At the end of the post, he added an update, in which a historian, John Steele Gordon, countered that the RAF had dramatically increased its strength relative to the German Luftwaffe... thus, that there is a good argument, at least, that the Munich agreement was actually good for Britain:
But had the Battle of Britain been fought in the summer of 1939 instead of a year later, those few to whom so much is owed would not have been able to save the many.
(Gordon refers, of course, to Winston Churchill's famous aphorism about the Royal Air Force: "Never have so many owed so much to so few".)
Now, this seemed a rather damning claim; if true, it completely undercuts Scott's analogy. But this was Scott's response to this point:
The first point I leave to pursue another day.
I suggested in my previous post that surely that other day had better be soon; I don't imagine that Scott was responding to me -- I highly doubt he reads Big Lizards! -- but evidently, sundry other readers responded via e-mail, rather than a blog entry, and Scott has realized he needs to address the argument directly.
Well... more or less. He still talks around the core question, which is (if you haven't forgotten in all the excitement) whether the 1938 Munich agreement was good or bad for the civilized world.
"Common sense" says it was bad; but common sense is what tells us that the world is flat, so it doesn't have much of a track record. We need some uncommon sense, which is another word for actual analysis. This he attempts to provide by a series of quotations, largely unanalyzed themselves (except by their selection).
From a biography of Churchill by William Manchester, Scott notes that, while it's true that the RAF increased from five to 47 squadrons during that time, and also dramatically increased its anti-aircraft batteries, the ground and naval forces remained static. In fact, Chamberlain refused to increase the army budget from 1938-1939, nor did he order a military draft; quoting Manchester, Scott writes:
In every other category--artillery, tanks, and equipped divisions--Nazi gains were overwhelming...The number of Nazi divisions jumped from seven to fifty-one...
But of course, as we all know from history, Germany never invaded the British Isles -- precisely because they could never win the air war against the RAF, and likely for that reason, could never win the sea battle against the Royal Navy. A reasonable person might conclude that Chamberlain deliberately chose a strategy of interdicting the Nazis before they landed, rather than a strategy where:
[W]e shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills....
Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems to have worked -- provided Chamberlain was ousted (forced to resign) in May of 1940, on the eve of Germany's Netherlands campaign, to be replaced by Churchill... an almost miraculous turn of events in Great Britain. (Perhaps that was part of Chamberlain's grand strategy!)
Still, many people believe that Hitler might have been more stoppable if the eventual Allies had been able to launch a massive assault in mid-1938 or early-1939; but there's really no way they could have done that. France's army, thought to be the most powerful in Europe, turned out to be made of papier-mâché; had Great Britain relied upon their historical allies, the French, to keep their backs while they charged into the valley of death, the Brits might have found themselves "Paris"-ed.
Scott quotes also from Winston Churchill's own account of that period, the Gathering Storm, in service of the point that Chamberlain should have considered what might happen to France and Czechoslovakia, not merely what happened to Great Britain -- mostly, I think Scott means, because after falling, they could not help fight the Nazis:
The subjugation of Czechosloviakia robbed the Allies of the Czech Army of twenty-one regular divisions, fifteen or sixteen second-line divisions already mobilised, and also their mountain fortress line which, in the days of Munich, had required the deployment of thirty German divisions, or the main strength of the mobile and fully trained German Army.... We certainly suffered a loss through the fall of Czechoslovakia equivalent to some thirty-five divisions. Besides this the Skoda Works, the second most important arsenal in Central Europe, was made to change sides adversely....
Even more disastrous was the alteration in the relative strength of the French and German Armies. With every month that passed, from 1938 onwards the German Army was not only increased in numbers and formations, and in the accumulation of reserves, but in quality and maturity....
Far be it from me to argue with Winston Churchill, my favorite hero of World War II. But -- well, what at the odds that, absent the Munich agreement, the Nazis would have decided not to attack Czechoslovakia? And had they attacked, does any historian argue that they would have lost and been sent reeling backwards by the Czechs and Slovaks?
Clearly, whatever state the Allied armies were in at the time of the Munich agreement, they would have been in the same state during a Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in the alternative history we postulate, since that invasion would probably have happened within weeks of an Allied refusal at Munich. And having watched the reduction of Czechoslovakia -- and the certainty that the Nazis would have treated that country the way Rome treated Carthage -- does anybody believe this would have stiffened the French spines, causing them to have more courage?
In my completely untrained and uninformed opinion, the French collapsed in 44 days not because they didn't have a big enough army, but because they didn't have a big enough will to fight. There is no reason to believe that their already shaky intestinal fortitude would have been increased by watching a horrific, bloody, futile defense of Czechoslovakia.
Finally, Scott quotes from Telford Taylor's Munich: The Price of Peace:
[O]ne can safely say that that the possibility of establishing an allied front in France that would hold would have been far better than it was when the war actually began--both because France and especially Britain would have had more time to strengthen the front, and because Germany could not have denuded her eastern frontiers and concentrated virtually all her forces in the west, as she was able to do after the Nazi-Soviet pact and the destruction of Poland.
But what makes Taylor think that if the war had come a year sooner, the Hitler-Stalin Pact, and the accompanying dismemberment of Finland, Poland, Romania, and the Baltics, wouldn't also have come a year sooner? Does he even address that question?
Taylor appears, in this passage, to think of the Pact as if it were an uncontrollable and external force of nature, like a volcanic eruption or a solar flare. But in reality, it was Stalin's attempt to forestall war with the Nazis either forever, if Hitler had kept his part of it, or at least until the Red Army could be strengthened enough to be up to the fight, in Uncle Joe's opinion. If open war with the USSR had loomed earlier than it did, doesn't it make sense that Stalin would have agreed to a Pact then?
It was certainly in Hitler's best interest to secure his eastern border before embarking upon a war in the West; and Stalin surely had no great reason to love the Allies any more than he loved the Nazis... less, in fact, as National Socialism was less intrinsically antithetical to Soviet Communism than was Western capitalism. (Hitler railed against Communism -- but he railed just as much against capitalism. Of course, his hatred of the Jews overmatched both, but that's irrelevant to this specific point.)
Thus, as always happens in alternative history, we're left with a hundred question marks for every exclamation point. Even Scott admits as such:
The variables that must be taken into account of course make it difficult to reach any conclusion with absolute certainty.
Truer words are rarely spoken... and now I find that the analogy between the Munich agreement and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, the Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire agreement, is not so "atrocious" afterall, for they share a critical element: in neither case do we have enough information now to say whether it was good or bad for the civilized world.
August 17, 2006
U.N. Ceasefire Agreement - Threat, or Menace?
In a very puzzling passage from yet another Scott Johnson post comparing the Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire agreement to Neville Chamberlain's Munich Agreement ("Peace in our time!"), we find the following exchange:
Like the UN resolution, the Munich Agreement assured that war, when it came, would be on terms more favorable to the fascists than they otherwise would have been.
Historian John Steele Gordon (who Scott quotes in an update):
First, Munich, signed September 30th, gave Britain eleven months to rearm before war broke out, which it did with increasing vigor, as Chamberlain greatly accelerated rearmament immediately after Munich. The Royal Air Force was relatively stronger vis-a-vis the Luftwaffe in September, 1939, than in September, 1938. It was still miserably weak, to be sure. But had the Battle of Britain been fought in the summer of 1939 instead of a year later, those few to whom so much is owed would not have been able to save the many.
The first point I leave to pursue another day.
But great Scot, Scott, doesn't this completely blow your analogy out of the water? If in fact the Munich Agreement meant that the war, when it came, was actually fought on terms more favorable to the RAF than the Luftwaffe, and if you're correct that Munich is analogous to the current ceasefire agreement, then....
Well, perhaps "another day" should come pretty darned quick, if it's to save your argument from complete collapse!
August 4, 2006
Not As Sagergacious As He Thinks
Is anyone else getting as tired of Ryan Sager at Real Clear Politics Blog as I?
I don't mind his libertarianism; I'm a libertarian myself (though I don't have the brazenness to lecture conservatives on how they should define their movement).
Nor am I particularly bothered by his relentless and pugnacious Giuliani boosterism and babbittry: although I don't particularly share Rudy Giuliani's smug satisfaction with liberal bromides on abortion, same-sex marriage, and many other issues; and though I would prefer either George Allen or Mitt Romney to Giuliani; still, I think he did a fairly good job as mayor of New York City, on the whole... and I would have no difficulty voting for Rudolph Giuliani for president, were he the Republican nominee.
What I find incomprehensible about Ryan Sager is the double standard he employs anent Giuliani and George W. Bush, screaming for attention in this most recent piece on RCP.
Sager takes the side of E.J. Dionne, who pronounced "the end of the Right" (or at least conservatism) yet again in a new column, also posted on Real Clear Politics: Ryan overlooks anticonservative tendencies in his beloved Giuliani (and Reagan -- see below) that he denounces when they crop up as forced compromises between Bush and the more liberal Republicans in the Senate.
Even Sager notes that Dionne has written this column before (I think "incessantly" is the word required here):
E.J. Dionne may have a special affinity for declaring various ends to conservatism. But that doesn't mean he's wrong.
Then Sager continues on to agree with many of Dionne's examples of where "conservatism" has gone wrong -- laying the blame squarely on Sager's usual whipping boy, George W. Bush... who (by a strange coincidence) is also the favorite bugaboo of "movement" libertarians from Virginia Postrel, et al, of Reason Magazine; to the LP under the bumptious and odious influence (I wouldn't say leadership) of L. Neil Smith; to the growling Buckleyites left lurking in the House; to the Randroids:
Under George W. Bush, conservatism has ceased to mean much of anything at all. It's not about small government, it's not about fiscal discipline, it's not about states' rights, it's not even about competent war leadership....
How has Bush led us to such incoherence? Andrew Busch, author of Reagan's Victory: The Presidential Election of 1980 and the Rise of the Right, put it well in an op-ed on OpinionJournal earlier this week: "Mr. Bush has neglected the critical task--carried out by Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich--of advancing a public argument that connects his otherwise disparate policy decisions to a broader philosophical framework. He has failed to articulate the philosophical argument for limited government that once defined the Republican Party."
Here Sager -- along with Busch -- falls into the insidious trap of misunderestimating George W. Bush: because Bush has a more low-key style than did Ronald Reagan and doesn't give speeches ringing with references to "a shining city on a hill" or stirring pronouncements that Mr. Gorbachev should throw open those gates and tear down that wall, many who were first brought to some inkling of conservatism by Reagan (or Goldwater) assume that Bush is an inarticulate Alley Oop.
But in fact, Bush has grasped the essential fact that eludes many self-described libertarians (including Buckley himself recently): that safeguarding the country is at the core of preserving any rights or liberties at all. And that "limited government" means a very different thing when a country is in a state of open war than when it's in a state of (presumed) peace.
At this, Bush has made an amirable and eloquent case indeed. Sager errs to think that Reagan would have fought this war differently; I have faith that the Gipper would actually have been able to distinguish between strategies that work well against international Communism, which is a Western heresy, and those that must be pursued when the enemy is fanatical Islam, whether the radical Shiite or Sunni Islamists who want to destroy all modernity and replace it with a 7th-century theocracy, and who consider death a promotion (as somebody said, danged if I can remember who) -- or the openly fascistic, more or less secular Islamic tyrannies like the Baath Party.
Sager seems to have forgotten the entire decade of the 1980s if he thinks Bush compares unfavorably to Reagan on economic policies. As Fred Barnes so ably demonstrated in a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, reposted on Yahoo for the benefit of those who don't subscribe:
But it's also on the spending issue that the Reagan myth--Reagan as the relentless swashbuckler against spending--is most pronounced. He won an estimated $35 billion in spending cuts in 1981, his first year in office. After that, spending soared, so much so that his budget director David Stockman, who found himself on the losing end of spending arguments, wrote a White House memoir with the subtitle, "Why the Reagan Revolution Failed."
With Reagan in the White House, spending reached 23.5 percent of
GDP in 1984, the peak year of the military buildup. Under Mr. Bush, the top spending year is 2005 at 20.1 percent of GDP, though it is expected to rise as high as 20.7 percent this year, driven upward by
Iraq and hurricane relief.
In fact, Barnes' entire piece, which Sager must have read, is almost a point-for-point refutation of Sager's thesis; yet he makes not a single reference to it! Not even to respond to Barnes' arguments.
Honestly, Sager's vein of Bush-is-anathema-to-conservatism ore is pretty much played out. He is not helping the Republicans for either 2006 or 2008 by trying to drive away their support. I know that libertarians like to pretend there is no difference between the "Republicrats" and the "Democans," but every single thing he lambastes Bush for doing (or not doing) would be a thousand times worse under a Democratic president and Congress.
And virtually the entirety of Sager's list (Busch's list, actually) of conservative actions that could rescue the party at, Sager believes, the minor cost of sacrificing George W. Bush, is in fact already being vigorously pursued by that same President Bus,h with the sole exception of "holding the fiscal line on both taxes and spending." Bush has done the former admirably; and even with the latter, it was in fact the GOP caucus in Congress that has gone on a spending spree like Imelda Marcos at a Versace's Shoe-Mart, not Bush. And in all the most egregious cases, there were more than enough votes to override any presidential veto of some spending "compromise" legislation, rendering such a veto useless.
- Just like Reagan, Bush has chosen to ramp up the military in response to a frightening military threat, and to worry about paying that particular piper later.
- Just like Reagan, Bush cut taxes dramatically; and he has held the line even better than his 1980s predecessor.
- Just like Reagan, Bush has "re-energizing a public philosophy of constitutionalism and limited government" by appointing John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
- Unlike Reagan, Bush has maintained the GOP majority in both houses throughout his administration, except for a two-year period of nominal Democratic control of the Senate due to Jumpin' Jim Jeffords turning his coat.
- Unlike Reagan, who famously cheered on the anti-abortion forces while never actually doing anything to help them, Bush has pushed many policies of "measured cultural traditionalism," on embryonic stem-cell research, on parental-notification before abortion, on partial-birth abortion, on faith-based initiatives, and against same-sex marriage.
So please, somebody who knows him tell Ryan Sager, before he attacks Bush again tomorrow -- that he should consider the alternative.
And he should remember his history: those who cannot remember Georges Santayana are comdemned to repeat him.
July 17, 2006
The Word On the "Street"
From Dafydd: N.Z. Bear, he of the Truth-Laid Bear fame, has a marvelous aggregator page of bloggers from all across the Middle East, plus some important and powerful bloggers right here in the United States -- movers and shakers, opinion-mongers, and "pundants" (such as Big Lizards): Crisis In the Middle East. This page is a must-view.
For many years now, Moslem dictators have used the same old trick: whenever their domestic policies hit a wall, they turn around and point a finger at the nearest Jew.
"It is not the time to squabble amongst Moslems. We need to unite against the Israeli aggression. We need to mobilize for freedom. We need to focus on defense." Never mind the economy is in a shambles due to the corruption, incompetence, and stupid policies of the Arab leadership. A quarter of their citizens unemployed and starving, bandits and police working hand in hand intimidating citizens to extort money and favors. That's not the issue; that’s not important. The urgent task is to defeat the Zionist Jews.
The tactic has worked for decades; it still does, to a certain degree. But, more and more Moslems across the world are getting weary of this same old excuse.
They hardly ever see any Jews; how could the Jews be responsible for their misery? They don’t even know what Israelis do, except fight against Palestinians, which concerns nobody. Nobody likes, respects, or cares about the Palestinians as anything other than a political stick to bash the "Zionist entity."
But even the Moslems who are critical of the Israeli “occupation” have strong words for the Palestinians. After all, Israel had, until quite recently, already left Gaza. The most obvious and immediate effect of the twin attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah was to bring the Jews back!
Saudi columnist Yusuf Nasir Al-Suweidan made a prediction on June 25, 2006. At that time, Israelis had not yet invaded Gaza; but he correctly prophecied that Hamas' attack on Israeli would bring about a far worse situation for Palestinians than the status quo... because, he said, this time Israel would not “react like 'harmless lambs.'”
[T]his time, a new reality will be created in the Gaza Strip in which all talk about 'back to square one' will be nothing but wild optimism -- since the [situation] will regress [far beyond that], to a level where it is possible to talk of a plan of deportation [of Palestinians] and demographic change in Gaza, and this [plan] might even be implemented soon. This will turn the Palestinian dream of an independent state into a thing of the past....
The main mistake lies in the fact that the Palestinian organizations did not respond correctly to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza... and its consequences. Instead of beating their swords into plowshares, pens, and other things that are needed for the development of Palestinian society -- in terms of the economy, society, culture, and so on -- most of them read the developments incorrectly and immaturely. This was exploited by the terrorist networks, that are funded and run by the regimes of the ayatollahs in Tehran and the Ba'th [party] in Syria, and [people] have been taken in by delusions and empty slogans like 'liberation from the river to the sea' [that are heard] among the poor, hungry, and desperate Palestinian masses. At present, what [these masses] need most is food, medicines, clothing, and other essentials _ not explosive belts, car bombs, and the slogan, "Congratulations, oh Martyr, the black-eyed virgin awaits you."
Attacks from Hamas against Israel are nothing new. However illogical, we cannot expect too much from Hamas. But what about the attack from Hezbollah? Israel left Lebanon in the year 2000. Since then, all has been quiet on the northern front. Why should Hezbollah arouse Israel now?
In Lebanon, after Syrian forces left, the power of Hezbollah began to weaken. The pressure to disarm the Hezbollah military wing gets stronger every day. Hezbollah was desperate to do something; they needed to divert the Lebanese citizens attention to somewhere else. But where? Why, the Jews, of course. They had to show the Lebanese that they still "needed" Syrian troops to protect from "Israeli aggression."
But, for some odd reason, this time, the Lebanese are not buying it. As their houses are being bombed, they are not necessarily blaming Israel; as Dafydd said, the public opinion of the Arab and Persian Moslems is up for grabs.
A Lebanese blogger, Fouad, has this to say.
We are ALL guilty. ALL OF US. Emergency hiwar watani session??? I am not sure if I should laugh or puke my guts out on the table. Let it be known to all. We are scared, our lives are on the line, our country is history, but it's all our fault. Each and every one of us. These are the people we elected, these are the people we let freely thrive in their little haven of hatred and murderous ideals, and this is us, scared and incapacitated, failing but to point fingers and complain. Well let me tell you this folks, we pulled our pants down and stuck our naked asses out, and now that we're ******, we really don't have jack **** to complain about.
Now, don’t get me wrong; as Fouad says, "there is no love lost between the lebanese people and the israeli leadership." Fouad and others have plenty to say about Israel’s aggression.
Under the circumstance, I cannot blame them. However, a blogger like Fouad correctly realizes it's Hezbollah who brought this to Lebanon. Israel is simply reacting to terrorist incursion.
Another Lebanese blogger Bob says:
And tomorrow when I will see the destroyed bridge linking my home town of Saida to Beirut, I will only say from the bottom of my heart: Enough! Enough wars, death and destruction! Curse you Hezbollah to hell and back! For all this destruction, for all this death! No it is not Israel fault; it is your own. Curse you!
Even though Hezbollah is hiding among the Lebanese, it is Iran -- and it's client state Syria -- which is behind the attacks. I wish Israel could bypass Lebanon and attack Syria directly. What do Syrian bloggers think of this?
Ammar Abdulhamid, who is Syrian but now lives in Maryland with his wife, has this to say:
[T]he national discourse and the constant calls for mobilization against a declared enemy were at best a diversionary measure meant to postpone any serious consideration of our developmental problems and our ruling regimes’ corruption and inherent authoritarian predilections.
For this reason, I never really believed in the conflict against Israel….
[T]he issue ahead of us if that of Hezbollah and Hamas being wielded as instruments of provocation by Syria and Iran to stir up another national liberation conflict and mobilize us all for the march to hell, with many of us applauding all the way.
All wishful thinking aside, I just don’t think that Israel is going to lose this round, and I think that the going-ons in Lebanon are only a prelude for the eventual and now inevitable confrontation with Syria, with all sorts of disastrous implications and consequences for our people.
I don't think Hamas or Hezbollah -- let alone Syria and Iran -- ever considered the "disastrous implications and consequences" of their acts of war against Israel. They only wanted to remind people of the Jewish threat and convince them they still needed the terrorist armies to protect them from Israel.
Instead, they brought the fury of Israel down upon them like fiery manna from Sheol. This was not in their plan; in fact, they are stunned by Israeli's reaction:
Hezbollah was surprised by Israel's response.
When they dreamed up this plan in January, they thought the Israelis would respond as usual: bomb a few Hezbollah positions on the border, and perhaps attack Palestinian militant camps. They were not expecting the attack to occur at this fragile time with the Palestinians.
Instead, the Israelis massively destroyed Lebanese infrastructure. Bridges throughout South Lebanon have been destroyed. Almost the entire South is without power.
If Hezbollah looked at reality instead of believing their own propaganda, they could have guessed this was going to happen... especialy after they saw what was already going on in Gaza at the precise moment they attacked Israel and kidnapped two soldiers.
True story: when Dafydd and I hiked in Yosemite, we were told not to cook near the camp ground. The smell, the rangers said, will attract bears. Despite all the warnings, some retardo decided to cook a whole mess of sausages on a grill he set up -- right next to his tent, right near our own tent (in Camp Curry).
That night, two black bears came roaring down to the camp ground and scared the heck out of the campers (we were already leaving that night for the Wawona Lodge). Fortunately no human was hurt; but one bear had to be shot by the "danger rangers."
Sure, the bears were the critters directly threatening our lives. But ultimately, the guy who cooked food and drew them down from the mountains should be held more responsible than the bears. The bears were just being bears; this dull-witted chef was being a dangerous fool.
Will the people in the Middle East ever hold their leadership responsible? Will they ever understand who lured the bears into camp? The jury is still out. But at least this time, the opinion of the infamous "Arab street" is up for grabs.
July 5, 2006
So What's the Deal With the New Townhall.com Blogs?
Today, when I type in http://www.hughhewitt.com/, that URL is now just a "parked domain" pointing at http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/ instead. Hugh is evidently a partner in the new Townhall.com reintroduction.
But what does that mean? Hugh writes,
Attract. Inform. Activate. Motivate.
That's the purpose of the new Townhall.com, and I hope the launch will inspire you to begin blogging today, or if you have been blogging, to move your blog to the Townhall platform where we believe your traffic will increase substantially given the nature of the more than a million users Townhall.com already has.
I'm still confused, however: what is the incentive for someone moving his blog to Townhall.com? I clicked on the advert in the (gigantic) sidebar that reads "Create Your Own Blog," and it's less than informative, telling us only the following:
Start Blogging In 3 Easy Steps!
1. Name Your Blog
2. Choose a Template
3. Determine Your Blog Settings
This tells me exactly nothing, other than that the copywriter overcapitalizes and loves exclamation points. For example, here are some questions I still have:
- Townhall.com may have "more than a million users," but evidently what they don't have is SiteMeter, or any other independent traffic monitor... so it's a bit hard to tell whether traffic goes up or goes down when a blog moves there.
Granted such a blog ends up with more readers; but how much of the ad revenue does the blogger keep, if any? I presume Hugh gets a lot; but then, he's an actual partner, not just a random blogger.
Do the Townhall.com bloggers get readers but no money? Or do they get significant money? Nowhere on the site does it tell us; the site map currently has nothing on it but a list of the bloggers on the site. What's the business plan?
- If a blog already has a distinct style, such as (ahem) Big Lizards, would the owner really have to dump the style his readers have come to know and loathe, just in order to -- I mean know and love, just in order to get it on Townhall.com?
For those bloggers who already have a somewhat successful site, by the curiously low standards readers of Big Lizards have come to expect, can it be simply "mirrored" on Townhall?
That way, the reader could access one version by going to www.BlogMonkier.townhall.com, and see the site in one of Townhall's templates; or he could go to www.BlogMoniker.com directly to see the site in its pristine originality. Or does the agreement require that all other mirrors or versions of the site be terminated?
- How much control over the HTML code would a Townhall blogger have? (My off-the-thumbnail guess is "none whatsoever.")
Does anybody out there have an inkling of the answers to these questions? If so, will he tell us himself, or do we have to wait to hear the dirty version from Eric Lichtblau?
July 4, 2006
Sullivan's Travails and the "One Percent Solution"
A wonderful Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Professor Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, discusses the current state of knowledge about global warming -- whoops, global climate change.
Actually, I should write "the current state of ignorance and confusion," because Lindzen's conclusion is that we really know next to nothing about what really causes the observed global climate change over the last several hundred million years (hat tip to Ryan Sager at Real Clear Politics blog):
First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists--especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a "moral" crusade.
Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce--if we're lucky.
Reading this op-ed, Andrew Sullivan finds himself in agreement... but rather than retracting his claws, Sullivan slashes out even more desperately in support of the "do something!" argument. He resurrects an argument used by the Jesuits in centuries past to extort belief by twisting logic:
Accrding to Ron Suskind, Dick Cheney's "one percent doctrine" means that if there's a one percent chance that a terrorist could have access to a WMD, we must act as if it were a certainty - because the outcome, however unlikely, would be too disastrous to risk. On global warming, Gore expresses a not-too-dissimilar equation: if there's a small chance that human behavior could lead to environmental catastrophe, we should act as if it were a certainty - because waiting too long is too big a risk to take....
A prudent attempt to rein in carbon dioxide emissions seems a no-brainer to me. A dollar rise in the gas tax would be the most effective way to achieve this.
Logicians of the Society of Jesus used to argue that, since perpetual damnation is an infinite catastrophe for a soul, then if there is even the slightest chance that Christianity is right -- even a 0.000000000000001% chance -- multiplying this miniscule chance by the infinity of damnation still means one had better believe... because "infinitely bad" times any finite percentage, no matter how small, is still "infinitely bad."
The response, of course, is that the same argument holds for Judaism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism: in each case, the consequence of non-belief, if one of them happens to be true, is infinitely bad; therefore, no matter how slight a possibility that each is true, one should believe it anyway. This sets up a bit of a quandry, since one must simultaneously believe both Judaism and also Philistine paganism, both Christianity and pre-Christian Roman Mithraism, as well as Shintoism, Tao, Hinduism, Anton Szandor LeVey's Church of Satan, and Scientology. (Well, maybe not Scientology.)
In Sullivan's case, however, the whole argument falls apart. This is because Sullivan -- who really ought to know his Jesuitical logic better, being a Roman Catholic -- does not claim that global warming leads to infinite bad. However, a moment's review makes clear that it's the very property that Sullivan's argument lacks -- the infinity of the bad result -- which makes the argument.
If the badness of global climate change is not literally infinite, then:
- Sullivan must actually calculate the probability that global climate change is primarily human driven (he can substitute his "1%" guesstimate here);
- Then multiply his 1% by the probability that a $1/gallon tax on gasoline will produce such a change in the amount of driving that it will actually significantly affect the amount of carbon entering our atmosphere;
- Times the probability that such a reduction in carbon dioxide will actually measurably reduce global temperature;
- Then calculate the probability of various negative effects from whatever measures we take to combat global warming;
- Finally, compare these two probabilities to see whether massive efforts to combat global warming (including another big tax on gasoline, which primarily hurts the working poor and citizens of western states) are more likely to do good or ill to America.
(Cheney's argument is more robust, because going after terrorists is sound policy, even if they turn out not to have WMD; while punishing those who live in the western United States or who must drive to work for a living is bad policy on its face... which means it must have a dramatically good counterbalance to make it worthwhile.)
I'm not sure where Sullivan thought he was going with this; but wherever it was, he didn't arrive.
June 19, 2006
HTML "Quick Keys"
Are you guys able to see the HTML "quick keys" I added to the comment text box, both in the original permalink page and even in the comment preview page -- which last was a real bear?
Nobody has mentioned them, and I suddenly had the horrible suspicion that I was the only one who could see them!
Are they there for you? If not, what browser are you using? I tested it on Netscape 6 and 7, IE 6, and Firefox. I didn't bother testing it on Opera, because I have so many problems with that browser that I gave up on trying to design the blog to be Opera-friendly.
April 3, 2006
Paean to Power Line
John Hinderaker's got another great post up on my fave blog. This has some of his best writing since he recast Bush's defense of the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program ("if al-Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why").
He's on about the new Paul Verhoeven movie, Basic Instinct 2, which is tanking like Soviet iron: the powerhouse BI2 simply owns the number 10 slot on its opening weekend. When Verhoeven saw the numbers, his response was to blame America's puritanical values for his woes:
"Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States," said the Dutch native. "Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends."
Yeah, that's why there are so few Christians in the world today:
World Religions By Population (from Wikipedia)
John finds this explanation a bit thick:
Apart from the obvious humor value, here are two more or less serious observations: One, what gives with people who say American culture is "Puritanical"? Are they writing from prisons in Albania where they've been confined since 1956? Do they not own computers with internet connections? Do they avert their eyes when they go past magazine racks in airports? Don't they have cable TV?
I love the smell of sarcasm in the morning! This is really good stuff... anybody who walks through this country with his eyes open has probably noticed that sex sells, and there's an awful lot of out there selling every minute of every day. What has Verhoeven been smoking? (Oops, nevermind that last one... "forget it, Jake; it's Hollywood.")
Hollywood also explains the "why" of Verhoeven's absurd claim, according to John:
Here's another theory: maybe Hollywood is indeed so depraved that the normal American culture, sex-drenched though it may be, looks Puritanical by contrast. Scary, if true.
Two: the film directors quoted in this story are presumably not idiots, yet they say things--it's the Bush adminstration's fault when sexy movies fail, since sex has been "banned"--that are obviously stupid. Why? Perhaps because in their world, equally stupid attacks on President Bush are not unusual. Several prominent Hollywood figures have recently suggested that Bush orchestrated the September 11 attacks. Blaming the President for everything from global warming to terrorism is, I think, commonplace in film-industry circles. So maybe it made sense for them to think that they could blame President Bush for the fact that people aren't flocking to see Basic Instinct 2 without getting laughed at. [Emphasis added]
If anyone has ever wondered why I say Power Line is what got me interested in blogging... now you know.
March 1, 2006
Help Send This Kid to BlogAds Camp!
Henry Copeland runs BlogAds, which compiles "adstrips" like those things you see off to the right of this page. Not the Google ads, which are run by Google, oddly enough, but the ads at the top of our right-column sidebar.
He'd like to know who the heck you are. If you haven't already filled this out somewhere else, please take a minute and do it now... it's free! (And of course, blogs aren't free, and BlogAds help defray the costs.)
On Question 23 -- "Referring blog" -- be sure to enter Big Lizards. Like, tuh. You'll get a little commercial at the end, but it won't kill you. And if you're a retailer, you should lizard-leap to advertise your products through BlogAds, and you should specially select Big Lizards as one of the carriers! You can get there directly by clicking on Feed the Greed of the Lizard.
In fact, even if you've already filled it out on Hugh Hewitt or Michelle Malkin or somewhere else, just fill it out again using the names of relatives and fake people. I don't know if Hammerin' Hank counts responses, but if he does, we don't want him to think that Big Lizards is a cesspool of indolence and penury, do we?
Henry says that you can see the results of previous surveys here (2004) and here (2005). But why would you? Who cares about the past? The past may be prologue, but we're at least into Act II by now. But if you're interested, go ahead and click... I won't tell.
Thanks! Buy war bonds! Don't bother seeing Brokeback Mountain!
February 8, 2006
Captain Ed has a truly excellent piece up right now, certainly one of the best he's written. He discusses the Coretta Scott King funeral and what Jimmy Carter and the Rev. Joseph Lowery did to it; Ed makes an excellent point about the distinction between politics and partisanship:
However, the difference is the partisanship on display, mostly by Jimmy Carter and Reverend Lowery. Politics and partisanship are two different things, although some apparently cannot divorce one from the other. It is entirely possible to have a political event and handle it on a non-partisan basis. Bush attended the funeral, as one CQ commenter stated, as the representative of the nation. That was a moment for all to come together to honor Mrs. King and her achievements, all of which are political, and by avoiding partisanship make them a gift to all Americans.
Instead, Rev. Lowery decided to make snide jokes about WMD, and Carter made barely-veiled allusions to the NSA program he opposes.
Do read the whole thing; it's quite a profitable use of your time.
I met Mrs. King briefly in 1987, when I turned out for a march against the Klan in Cumming, GA (Forsyth County)... along with 20,000 other people. If you're interested, read on.
On January 17th, two days before MLK Day that year, a small group of civil-rights marchers -- maybe a hundred? -- marched through the town; this was a town where, in 1912, all the black residents had literally been driven out, and it had remained an almost all-white county ever since.
The marchers were led by Rev. Hosea Williams, but they were unable to finish the march because they were attacked by hundreds of Klansmen and other white supremacists, who threw bricks and bottles at them, breaking up the march.
Williams immediately began to plan a "return to Forsyth" march for the next Saturday, the 24th; it was widely publicized, and my then girlfriend Sue and I decided to go. It was a bit dicey, because I was still in the Navy at the time, and we weren't supposed to be more than fifty miles from the base unless we were on leave. (I also decided to march in uniform -- which was likewise forbidden!)
I found a description of the march, from a Supreme Court case ( FORSYTH COUNTY v. NATIONALIST MOVEMENT, 505 U.S. 123 ) that grew out of the confrontation:
Petitioner Forsyth County is a primarily rural Georgia county approximately 30 miles northeast of Atlanta. It has [505 U.S. 123, 125] had a troubled racial history. In 1912, in one month, its entire African-American population, over 1,000 citizens, was driven systematically from the county in the wake of the rape and murder of a white woman and the lynching of her accused assailant. 1 Seventy-five years later, in 1987, the county population remained 99% white. 2
Spurred by this history, Hosea Williams, an Atlanta city councilman and civil rights personality, proposed a Forsyth County "March Against Fear and Intimidation" for January 17, 1987. Approximately 90 civil rights demonstrators attempted to parade in Cumming, the county seat. The marchers were met by members of the Forsyth County Defense League (an independent affiliate of respondent, The Nationalist Movement), of the Ku Klux Klan, and other Cumming residents. In all, some 400 counterdemonstrators lined the parade route, shouting racial slurs. Eventually, the counterdemonstrators, dramatically outnumbering police officers, forced the parade to a premature halt by throwing rocks and beer bottles.
Williams planned a return march the following weekend. It developed into the largest civil rights demonstration in the South since the 1960's. On January 24, approximately 20,000 marchers joined civil rights leaders, United States Senators, presidential candidates, and an Assistant United States Attorney General in a parade and rally. 3 The 1,000 counterdemonstrators on the parade route were contained [505 U.S. 123, 126] by more than 3,000 state and local police and National Guardsmen. Although there was sporadic rockthrowing and 60 counterdemonstrators were arrested, the parade was not interrupted.
Sue and I drove to Atlanta from Florida, then took a bus for two or three hours to Cumming. It didn't seem that cold, but there was still snow on the ground. We all formed up into a huge line and marched down the street for a mile or so.
We ended at the town square, where Coretta Scott King showed up, sucking all the energy away from Williams. Williams didn't seem to mind; he gave a great talk, of which I heard about every third word (the speakers were inadequate for the job)... but what I heard, I liked. Unlike the Coretta Scott King funeral -- I haven't forgotten the topic -- Williams' speech was not at all partisan: anybody who wasn't a racist could applaud it wholeheartedly.
After he talked, a line formed of people who wanted to shake his hand and say hello, and Mrs. King was right next to him. Sue and I waited through the line; when I got up there, I asked Williams what he'd said in one of the paragraphs of the speech: he was able to repeat it immediately, leading me to believe it was a speech he gave often.
Then I also shook hands with Mrs. King, after which Sue and I threw snowballs around for a while (not at Mrs. King or Rev. Williams). The dirty, white stuff on the ground held more glamor for me, a kid from Los Angeles, than for Sue, who grew up in Waukegan, IL (the most famous residents of which are Jack Benny and Ray Bradbury, with lesser light Kim Stanley Robinson, another SF writer, hailing from there as well; if Ray and Stan ever met, the resulting particle-antiparticle explosion would probably level the place).
Then we got back on the bus and returned to the car, and our eventual drive home to Pensacola.
I'd much rather have seen a gathering and memorial like that one for Mrs. King's funeral; I don't recall her being as viciously partisan as Jimmy Carter, not even while Ronald Reagan was president.
January 28, 2006
Patterico Channels Big Lizards!
In this passionate and snarly post, Patterico rightly takes the L.A. Slimes to task for being unwilling to bring itself to call Hamas a terrorist organization (though they seem to have no trouble calling the Bush administration one).
Of course, Pat is right; he is nearly always right, excepting only when he disagrees with Big Lizards. But in this case, he may have taken his agreement with us too far -- actually manifesting symptoms of our own ridiculous affectation of bolding lots of phrases in order to emphasize the important bits, as if the esteemed readers were too dense to get them on their own.
Compare this passage of Patterico, for example, to virtually any Big Lizards post:
It is, quite simply, a murderous, terrorist organization. That’s not all it is, of course. It is also a selfless creator of hospitals and schools — just like that other selfless creator of hospitals and schools, Al Qaeda. But its creation of hospitals and schools doesn’t change the fact that it is a terrorist organization.
A news organization that can’t admit this — such your newspaper, Michael — has a real credibility problem. To call this “picking at minor issues of syntax and diction” is to trivialize a very serious complaint about the paper’s willingness to speak simple truths.
Kim Jong Il is evil. Hamas is a terrorist organization. If you can’t bring yourselves to acknowledge and articulate such obvious facts, how can you expect anyone rational to trust you?
Or even this:
Let’s say, hypothetically, that I were to write the following:Although Adolf Hitler has been branded by the Allies as a racist who has ordered massive genocide, he built autobahns, liked dogs, and was a vegetarian.
Big Lizards' insistance upon liberal use of boldface, or "paint," as we say in the business (and by "the business," I of course mean the industry), which most readers confidently cite as a sign of senile dementia on the part of the reptillian authors, has now infected what was once one of the highest regarded rocks of the blogosphere. Even worse than when Patterico allows the Mad Mollusk to guest post.
(In fact, Patterico does have a long history of bad taste in guest posters; we understand he used to allow some brain-shrivled Welshman to post on his site under the improbable nom de plume of "Dafydd ab Hugh.")
We worry that Patterico may begin to pick up some of our other nasty habits; soon we may find him dropping rocks and tree stumps on cars from a freeway overpass -- lying curled in an opium den on Los Angeles Street, visions of candied gallstones dancing in his head -- raising yak -- heading for Skid Row dressed as a lamp-post, waiting for a bum, and belting out a couple of choruses of "There's no business like show business like no business I know!"
If he continues emulating Big Lizards, he may soon quit his job and go to work as a male model, invest in Beano futures, regurgitate worms into the mouths of his children, vote for Hillary Swank, and attend random funerals in the Greater Los Angeles area wearing coral-pink cowboy boots, Groucho glasses, and a glow-in-the-dark "Disco Bigfoot" tie.
It's time for Patterico to take himself in hand. There is only one Big Lizards. Actually, there must be at least two, since the name is plural... but you know what I mean. Unless he's come to demonstrate his prowess on the 20-foot alpenhorn, he is better off eschewing the demented annoyances of Blog Lizards and working on some demented annoyances of his own. We have the patent on paint!
January 10, 2006
An Early Contender For Best Quote of the Year - Update and Bump
UPDATED -- see below.
I know, I know; some of you may think January 3rd is a smidge too early to be nominating anyone for Best Quote of the Year -- particularly for a quotation from two days ago, on New Year's Day! But I cannot resist... especially as the candidate is one of my three favorite bloggers on my favorite blog, Power Line (the title refers to a different Power Line post).
In the course of a post on President Bush's defense of the NSA intercept program, John Hinderaker typed the pithiest summing-up I've yet read of all the arguments in favor of the program from a policy perspective, which also happens to be the most unanswerable argument on this subject from anyone, in the blogosphere or in the government itself. The Bush administration is nuts if they don't work this line into every speech by the president over the next eleven months:
When asked what Bush has to say to those who are concerned about their civil liberties, he responded along the lines of, "If al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why. I think that's reasonable."
Modest John will likely argue that he was only quoting Bush; but his own words show that not to be true. He wrote that Bush said something "along the lines of" that quote. I would have to say that the brilliance of the quotation belongs to John, not to the president.
So keep this one in mind, folks, in case someone braces you a year from now to ask for recommendations for some Webbie-like award, in the category Pithiest Pronouncement.
UPDATE January 10th, 2006: Thanks to Bill Faith in the comments of a different post, we now have the Bush original... and as I remembered, John's version is pithier and sharper.
Here is George Bush's actual quotation "from a Q&A session after he visited Brook Army Medical
Center on January 1st," according to Mr. Faith: "Ed, I can say that if somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why."
And now John's version: "If al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why."
So the honor is still to Mr. Hinderaker.
The New York Times Needs to Read Power Line
The New York Times today reports that the interrogation of Judge Samuel Alito today focused on a formerly obscure concurrance by a Supreme Court justice in 1952... in a case that has already been thoroughly analyzed, in far greater depth, by the tribunes at Power Line.
(Haven't we been down this road before? It's like déjà vu all over again!)
The case they refer to is Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company v. Sawyer 343 U.S. 579 (1952), and Paul Mirengoff at Power Line first discussed it back in late December, anent the NSA intercept program that has just been outed by anonymous "officials." Paul only laid out the basics of the particular concurrance by Justice Robert H. Jackson that is now, more than two weeks later, the "focus of [the] hearings" into Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.
On New Year's Day, John Hinderaker took a whack at the Jackson formulation in a much longer piece.
The basics of the case -- and why lefties think it applies to President Bush and the NSA intercepts -- are quickly recounted in the Times piece:
The 1952 opinion, a concurrence by Justice Robert H. Jackson, rejected President Harry S. Truman's assertion that he had the constitutional power to seize the nation's steel mills to aid the war effort in Korea. Whether and how Justice Jackson's analysis should apply to broadly similar recent assertions by the Bush administration, notably concerning its domestic surveillance program, will plainly be a central theme when questioning of Judge Alito begins Tuesday morning....
In 1952, the Supreme Court faced a set of clashing interests in the Youngstown case broadly similar to those in the current surveillance controversy. That April, President Truman seized the nation's steel mills to prevent an expected labor strike, saying that national security during the Korean War required uninterrupted access to steel.
In June 1952, in a 6-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court rejected the various legal rationales offered by the Truman administration for the seizures. Many of those rationales have echoes in the justifications offered by the Bush administration for its detention of enemy combatants, harsh interrogations and domestic surveillance without court approval.
"Echoes in the justifications..." wait, what did the Court actually decide in the Youngstown case?
Writing for the court, Justice Hugo L. Black said the president's power was extensive but not unlimited.
"Even though 'theater of war' be an expanding concept," Justice Black wrote, "we cannot with faithfulness to our constitutional system hold that the commander in chief of the armed forces has the ultimate power as such to take possession of private property in order to keep labor disputes from stopping production. This is a job for the nation's lawmakers, not for its military authorities."
Ah, of course: seizing private property to prevent a strike. Yes, I can see how that's "broadly similar" to the National Security Agency intercepting phone calls from al-Qaeda to their agents in the United States. And I can definitely hear those "echoes in the justifications" offered by President Bush why he should be able to hold enemy combatants in military detention.
To its credit, the Times does admit that the "broadly similar" facts seem oddly dissimilar:
There are, of course, obvious differences between the Youngstown case and recent efforts to combat terrorism. The seizure of the steel mills, for instance, was a wholly domestic matter. The surveillance program, by contrast, monitors international communications between the United States and other nations.
Um, yeah. Also, Truman tried to seize the steel mills in order to prevent a strike that he thought might interfere with the war -- whereas the NSA intercepts are direct warmaking actions to gather enemy intelligence: as Hinderaker said earlier (more or less paraphrasing the president), "If al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why."
Justice Jackson's concurring opinion set up a formulation for the strength of a president's power:
1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate....
2. When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain....
3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter.
(The Left claims, of course, that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) forbids any "wiretapping" without a warrant -- but see below -- and that therefore, the president's power is Type III: "incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress," thus "at its lowest ebb.")
"It is not entirely clear why Justice Jackson's concurrence has had such a lasting impact," disingenuously muses the Times; for it is completely obvious why: because that concurring opinion is all that the Democrats have to throw against the commander in chief's obvious Article II power to fight wars. Therefore, they're going to keep waving it as a bloody shirt to urge on the masses.
Returning to Hinderaker's post on Justice Jackson's concurring opinion and its possible application to the NSA case, John begins his analysis so:
In my opinion, reliance on this analysis by critics of the NSA programs is misplaced, for several reasons.
The reasons he cites are quite persuasive:
- It was a concurring opinion that no other justice joined.
- The decision in Youngstown was a no-brainer: "if a President's constitutional powers allowed him to formulate and carry out domestic policy, including the seizure of private property, by executive order, then the President really would be a dictator," sayeth Brother John.
- The argument turned more on the president's charge to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" than his powers as commander in chief.
- It isn't clear that Jackson's discussion and his three-scenario formulation were ever meant to apply to the president's war-fighting powers: "Jackson lays out his three categories before he specifically addresses any of the executive's Article II powers, then begins by talking about the President's exercise of 'the executive Power.'"
- The Court rejected the claim that Truman's powers as commander in chief allowed him to seize the steel mills on the grounds that that was a purely domestic action -- but the NSA intercepts are of foreign-originating calls and e-mails.
Even Justice Jackson himself appears to agree with Hinderaker on that last point. As John quotes from Jackson's opinion...
(Note: for reasons known only to themselves and perhaps God, the fine fellows at Power Line have taken to using three asterisks [ *** ] instead of the normal ellipsis [ ... ] to indicate words clipped out. They don't mean such passages are attended by three footnotes!)
There are indications that the Constitution did not contemplate that the title Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy will constitute him also Commander in Chief of the country, its industries and its inhabitants.***That military powers of the Commander in Chief were not to supersede representative government of internal affairs seems obvious from the Constitution and from elementary American history.***
We should not use this occasion to circumscribe, much less to contract, the lawful role of the President as Commander in Chief. I should indulge the widest latitude of interpretation to sustain his exclusive function to command the instruments of national force, at least when turned against the outside world for the security of our society. But, when it is turned inward, not because of rebellion but because of a lawful economic struggle between industry and labor, it should have no such indulgence.
Finally, one last comment. The Times article concludes with a backhanded legal opinion on FISA that appears, facially, to be utterly false:
The third category is where the president takes action at odds with the will of Congress. A 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, appears to require court approval before monitoring of the sort the administration has acknowledged.
In fact, it says no such thing, as John pointed out in yet another Power Line post (I feel so inadequate):
UPDATE: If the program is as the President described it, and the interceptions are carried out overseas, then it is outside the scope of FISA. See the definition of "electronic surveillance" to which that statute applies, 50 U.S.C. Sec. 1801(f):
John then lists the four-part definition of "electronic surveillance," as used by FISA, no part of which appears to apply to the NSA intercepts, assuming we have been given correct information by the White House. The "electronic surveillance" that has been "acknowledged" by the Bush administration does not, thus, "require court approval" or warrant of any kind.
So the entire New York Times take on the NSA intercepts is wrong on its face, and needn't even reach the question of whether an act of Congress (such as FISA) can override the president's residual, plenary powers as defined in Article II of the Constitution.
January 9, 2006
Even Right-Wingers Have a Lot of Catching Up to Do
I was listening to Michael Medved opining on the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito, and I finally just had to turn it off. After perhaps the fifth or sixth time that a caller complained about Alito's decision in this or that particular case -- straight off Chuck Schumer's talking pionts -- and Medved had to respond "I don't know the specifics about that particular case, but....", I realized that Medved is so far behind the times on Alito that he could not effectively argue the case for confirmation.
The maddening thing is that every case cited as an example of Alito's treachery to the Constitution has already been thoroughly dissected, debated, and debunked in the blogosphere -- but Medved seems completely unaware of that. The last caller I listened to raised the case where the Left claims that after the cops "strip searched a ten year old girl," Judge Alito cheered them on, applauding them for brutalizing a child. What a thug he must be!
But this myth was long ago put under the spotlight here in the 'sphere. The first analysis I read was by John Hinderaker at Power Line back on Halloween; then Patterico also analyzed the same case, Doe v. Groody.
The case before Alito had nothing to do with the policy of strip searching anyone, including children; had the warrant explicitly said the cops could do so, nobody would have disputed that the search was valid. The sole question before the Third Circus Court, on which Judge Alito then sat, was whether the police were acting in the reasonable belief that the warrant they received gave them the power to order that search (by a police matron, of course), and therefore whether a lawsuit against them should be dismissed.
Two judges on the court held that it was not reasonable to believe the warrant authorized that; Alito dissented. But even in his dissent, he expressed great reluctance over the policy, while admitting it was likely necessary, so long as drug dealers use children to hide drugs:
I share the majority’s visceral dislike of the intrusive search of John Doe’s young daughter, but it is a sad fact that drug dealers sometimes use children to carry out their business and to avoid prosecution. I know of no legal principle that bars an officer from searching a child (in a proper manner) if a warrant has been issued and the warrant is not illegal on its face. Because the warrant in this case authorized the searches that are challenged – and because a reasonable officer, in any event, certainly could have thought that the warrant conferred such authority – I would reverse.
As it happens, Hindrocket concluded that the warrant did, indeed authorize such a search, and therefore the officers should not have been subject to a lawsuit; while Patterico concluded that the warrant did not authorize that search, but that the officers reasonably believed that it did, and therefore should not be subject to a lawsuit. I am sure that other attorneys in the blogosphere probably believed that the officers' actions were unreasonable; a Google search would likely turn some up.
But the point is that clearly it never so much as occurred to Michael Medved, who is an attorney himself, to look to blogs for analysis of the major cases used against Alito by the Schumerites: Doe v. Groody; Alito's dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where he voted to uphold a law requiring spousal notification before an abortion; and the other cases cited by opponents of Alito's confirmation -- for example, as detailed in Wikipedia, whose list appears to have been taken directly from People for the American Way's analysis (PAW is a great proxy for the liberal position on most issues; the ACLU is good specifically to find out what liberals are saying on legal questions).
Many of these decisions have already been analyzed by attorneys and con-law specialists in the blogosphere... but Medved appears completely unaware of this treasure-trove of deep and detailed discussions. One would imagine that, while preparing for an hour-long segment on Alito's confirmation on his top-rated radio show, he would take at least a cursory glance at previous writings on the small number of cases cited to attack Alito.
One would be wrong.
As a talk-radio host (with his own website) and an attorney, the obvious thing for Medved to do would be to spend some time and identify five or six blogs blogs authored by lawyers and legal scholars he could turn to; these blogs would give him a quick start to analysis of legal controversies, and he could take it from there, doing his own analysis and drawing his own conclusions. Heck, I'm not even a lawyer, and I can cite six such blogs right off the bat: Power Line, Patterico's Pontifications, BeldarBlog (possibly defunct; no posts since last October 19th), the Volokh Conspiracy, Hugh Hewitt, and SCSU Scholars.
Sadly, not even the new-media Right has fully internalized the existence of blogs and how that changes communications in the twenty-first century.
December 13, 2005
Donner und Blogzen
Not being in the habit of perusing Forbes Magazine, I missed Daniel Lyons' hit piece on blogs and blogging when it first appeared a month ago. I read it today while waiting in the doctor's office... which was appropriate, as reading it gave me an enormous pain in the tuchas.
(Oddly enough, you can either pay $2.00 in order to buy it from Forbes, or else you can get it for free -- from Forbes. Go figure.)
Much of this tedious and lengthy cri de coeur focuses on the use or misuse of blogs to call attention to product defects, real or imagined. Lyons releases so much angst into the troposphere, it's a wonder Mohamed ElBaradei doesn't come poking around with a Geiger Counter.
I'm truly uninterested in whether Gregory Halpern and his Circle Group Holdings were given the full Inspector-Javert treatment by "Nick Tracy," a.k.a. Timothy Miles; I'm not about to latch hold of that tar baby. And frankly, considering how much money I lost on the collapse of Red Hat, my interest in Linux -- Lyons' other major bugaboo -- is somewhere south of my interest in Madagascarene entomology. So I toss out some 93% of the Forbes piece.
But what is left -- Lyons' scribblings about blogs in general (and political blogs in particular) -- is so outlandish that I simply have to perform an intervention, if only to help Mr. Lyons find himself.
The first step is to recognize that he has a problem with blogs. They infuriate him. The very pages shake with rage. Start by considering some of his language:
Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective....
[Blogs] are the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns....
"Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality," says Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek....
[They contain little but] Vitriolic "content" [puzzling use of scare quotes there, Mr. L.; what do you think is contained within blogs if not content? -- the Mgt.]
You get the flavor. Lyons clearly wishes Congress or somebody would simply outlaw blogging... an interesting merging of visceral hatred and financial interest, as he is an editor of sorts at a mainstream magazine that could easily be hurt by too much blogging going on.
But for an editor with (one presumes) at least as much access to recent news as a well-read high-school student, Lyons shows a remarkable aptitude for completely missing some very public mea culpas from the MSM recently. Here, for example, is his take on the Eason Jordan mess:
In [a previous] case the bloggers slinked away. In the case of a CNN executive they didn't stop until they had claimed a casualty. Eason Jordan, chief news executive at CNN, noted at an off-the-record conference in January that journalists had been killed by U.S. troops. He used a touchy word:"targeted." A blogger present, Rony Abovitz, ignored the off-the-record ground rule and posted an account. Other bloggers soon piled on. One created a site solely devoted to the topic, easongate.com.
Jordan instantly and repeatedly denied the assertions, but the blog hordes kept wailing away. Jordan resigned in February, engulfed by a concocted controversy. Blogger Michelle Malkin crowed online, praising nine other bloggers and "legions of smaller" ones in the hunt. She wrote that the mainstream media "calls it a lynch mob. I call it a truth squad" and included a warning:"Cue the Carpenters music: ‘We've OnlyJust Begun.'"
It's hard to believe that an average American over the age of thirty with some acquaintance with literacy could be unaware that:
- The conference was not "off the record," despite subsequent self-serving claims to that effect; many other speeches from Davos were reported upon and described in some detail... and in fact that very panel was actually videotaped. One suspects that it was "off the record" only until the World Economic Forum could rush the videotapes into commercial distribution. (What Lyons actually means is that there is a rule codified in the bylaws of the Amalgamated Union of Pronouncers, Pundits, and Poseurs to sit upon any statements a fellow member utters that would, if revealed, tend to hold him up to deserved ridicule.)
- Among the witnesses were Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), who were both utterly appalled by the freaky claim.
- Eason Jordan had made the same bizarre claim at other events -- all in foreign lands (he was simply obeying that famous exhortation, "politics begins at the water's edge").
- Even Jordan himself was forced to admit he had no evidence that any journalists were deliberately "targeted" by American soldiers; he "backpedaled" from that remark -- yet he had made exactly the same charge earlier, and his successor heading CNN International, Chris Cramer, had made virtually the same charges as well -- also unsubstantiated; the problem at CNN is institutional.
- In fact, that was why Jordan was forced to resign: not because a few bloggers or even the Divine Mrs. M. fell upon him with torches and pitchforks, but because he vilely slandered our soldiers to curry favor with the anti-American foreign press, because he led a solidly anti-American International division at CNN that routinely slanted the news against the United States (remember Eason Jordan's admission that had pimped for Saddam Hussein before the ouster?) -- and because he got caught at it.
Well! Quite a panoply of error in just two paragraphs. Mr. Lyons must have been working nights!
I especially adore the idea that public pronouncements by a public figure at a public conference (the World Economic Forum) in the very public city of Davos, Switzerland, should have been considered "off the record." What happens in Davos stays in Davos, I suppose. But if a person wants his comments to be off the record, he has the obligation not to use them to push a controversial political opinion or agenda.
Misusing the embargo like that negates it, and the speaker forfeits any moral right not to be quoted. Else, every time Howard Dean gave a fundraising speech, he could insist that the event be "off the record" and prevent anyone from reporting on whatever psychotic charge he made during the course of it.
As to Lyons' claim that "Jordan instantly and repeatedly denied the assertions," how about some eyewitness testimony?
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who attended the World Economic Forum panel at which Jordan spoke, recalled yesterday that Jordan said he knew of 12 journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq. At first, said Frank, "it sounded like he was saying it was official military policy to take out journalists." But Jordan later "modified" his remarks to say some U.S. soldiers did this "maybe knowing they were killing journalists, out of anger. . . . [sic] He did say he was talking about cases of deliberate killing," Frank said....
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who was in the audience, "was outraged by the comments," said his spokesman, Marvin Fast. "Senator Dodd is tremendously proud of the sacrifice and service of our American military personnel."
It seems that Mr. Lyons has the same relation to truth that Superman has to kryptonite.
But the Forbes hysteria finally reaches Plan 9 From Outer Space levels when Lyons turns his giddy gaze upon what we all know and love as "Rathergate." The single paragraph (Dan Rather is only half as important as Eason Jordan?) performs a literary medical miracle, transplanting a lump of incompatible foreign "context" into the middle of a j'accuse originally directed at leftist bloggers -- making it appear as though the patient were castigating himself for some despicable slander... and the "patient" in this case is John Hinderaker of Power Line!
Even some bloggers see the harm they can pose. "Some people in the blogosphere are too smug about free speech. They'll say it's okay if people get slandered or if people make up fake stuff because in the end the truth wins out," says John Hinderaker, a lawyer in Minneapolis, Minn. who helps run a right-wing blog, Power Line, which hounded CNN's Jordan and CBS anchor Dan Rather. "But I don't think that excuses it."
Anyone reading this graf would immediately conclude that Hinderaker was expressing remorse for his relentless hounding of those two luminaries -- perhaps even begging clemency from Gov. Pawlenty in an effort to avoid the needle reserved for all bloggers with a larger readership than has Daniel Lyons. The "slandered" and "make up false stuff" terms, fired at those who were trying to "out" a Bush cabinet member who was openly gay and claim he was a gay prostitute, is here conscripted into unwilling service as some perverse act of self-loathing, whereby Hinderaker is made to say that Power Line's articles on the Bill Burkett documents that brought down Dan Rather were lies and falsehoods. The Biblically named Daniel Lyons bears false witness in the most blatant imaginable way.
Does he actually believe that we've all forgotten that the Rathergate documents were proven rank and foolish forgeries, which even CBS no longer disputes, even though it doesn't admit? Yet it appears as if all of the snakes and ladders of Rathergate bypassed the Lyons den entirely. One pictures him poring over Mary Mapes' new tome saying "yeah, baby!" and "right on!" every few lines (until irate passengers chuck him off the Greyhound).
Every few years, a self-styled expert in darn near everything, a shootist armed with Microsoft Word instead of bullets, imagines he will really make a critical name for himself by bumping off some literary genre with his stylistic six-guns. About twenty-five years ago, it was the Atlantic Monthly bashing what they thought of as "sci fi" with all the frustrated intensity (and literary street cred) of a toddler with poor eye-hand coordination toppling over his own imperfectly balanced letter-block castle. A few decades before that, pseudointellectuals were denouncing adventure writers such as Rafael Sabatini and Samuel Shellabarger as degraders of literature. So it goes.
And last month came Daniel Lyons' turn to play the oafish toddler in a cowboy suit, a pair of popgun gats in hand. I don't know what compels people to expostulate upon subjects that elude them -- and not even to pick the brains of someone who has some. But Lyons isn't the first, and God knows he won't be the last of the noisy ride of ghost-writers on the sly (riding snide-saddle, of course). He isn't even a memorable water-carrier, like "Smiley" Burnette or "Gabby" Hayes.
The blogosphere will survive him, I suspect. But will Lyons survive the blogosphere?
November 28, 2005
Something seems to have snapped in Patterico's brain. In his quixotic quest to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, just to make the point that any yotz can "achieve" such an honor, Patterico now wants people to "Google-bomb" his name (Patterico), linked to the Nobel Peace Prize committee URL -- which is http://nobelprize.org/peace/nobelpeacecenter/index.html.
P.S. Can someone explain to me what a "Google-bomb" is, and why Patterico would make such a weird request?
America As Networked Anti-State
This analysis by Wretchard of the Belmont Club is absolutely riveting. He argues that post-national criminal and terrorist cells are actually the first truly 21st-century form of warfare; and that they are badly undermatched by the classic nation-state, such as those found in Europe, or the superstate that many Europeans want to create. He continues on to contrast these approaches with that of the United States:
But most States are an anti-network; in fact the ultimate hive, where drones swarm in vast pyramids around a Dear Leader, a Great Helmsman or a Driver of the Locomotive of History. And if the United States has one advantage over other states in an age of network warfare, it is because in some respects America is an anti-state; ideally, though not always in practice, a framework within which individuals can thrive. In this respect America was conceptually at variance with the scheme of Westphalia whose key precept was state sovereignty: in America sovereignty was useful mainly to allow the growth of individual freedom. For years European intellectuals have secretly suspected America of really being a religion masquerading as a country. And if that is true the First Republic is ironically well adapted to meet the Jihad on the intellectual battlefields of the 21st century.
The key challenge is whether America, in the sense of a shared idea, can be expansive enough to permit subordinate threads which can truly "take on a life of their own", and so become agile enough to engage the Jihadis at the lowest level. We are some of us familiar with the idea of multithreaded applications which can leave the main program and be re-entrant at an indeterminate point. Max Boot had hoped in 2003 that decentralized decision making would be part of the "new American way of war", multithreading within a larger architecture. Yet no sooner had those tendencies appeared when they were reined in by an American Left determined to impose all the blessings of the bureaucratic state upon networked warfare: oversight, endless hearings, legalisms -- the clanking apparatus of the unitary Sovereign -- to 'aid' in the pursuit of nimble bands of modern Mongols contemptuous of boundaries.
If technology has undermined the bureaucratic state, then the intellectual heirs of Westphalia, with their visions of supranational institutions will have truly confused the problem for the solution. In the face of increasing attacks by networks of criminals and terrorists, their answer will be bigger, more international bureaucracies. The United Nations will become the smallest unit capable of fighting modern terrorism. And some would call that good.
I even sampled a few of the comments. Belmont-Club comments always intimidate and dishearten me: he posts only three or four times a week -- but each post gets sixty, eighty, a hundred and twenty comments or more! The comments to this one are almost as fascinating as Wretchard's discussion itself.
Read it and weep (as I did) for our own pitiful efforts at blogging...
November 19, 2005
If True, So What?
Liberal Avenger has a thesis that the brilliant and beauteous (my adjectives, not LA's) Michelle Malkin's blogposts are actually collaborations with her husband Jesse, some even (he suspects) written entirely by Jesse. (This post, and the one by Auguste discussed below, were posted in early April of this year.)
I have no clue whether this is true... but let's assume it for sake of argument. My question is "so what?"
Another blogger on LA, Auguste, anticipates this response in a subsequent post; but his or her reasons are weak and depend upon a critical point: the idea that blogging is fundamentally the same as journalism, hence should be held to journalistic standards. (Auguste is hardly disinterested, operating the blog Malkin-Watch in addition to group blogging on the Liberal Avenger.)
I would argue, contrariwise, that blogging is much closer to fiction writing than journalism. As a novelist myself, I do not see this as pejorative but descriptive (sort of like "in God we trust", eh?)
The distinction is important, because in journalism, what matters most is veracity, accuracy, and authority. Well, what used to matter most and should still matter today. But what matters most in fiction is entertainment (at least in my biased opinion); to the extent that character, complexity, literary landscaping, wordsmithing, and creativity matter in literature, they matter because thinking persons (my own audience) find such traits entertaining and are less entertained by mindless, derivative trash, à la the last seventeen or eighteen Anne Rice vampire novels.
This is not to say that blogposts are fiction, only that the appropriate standard for both is the same. Indeed, I struggle to make mine nonfiction; but I also attempt, at least, to make them entertaining!
On those occasions where Michelle Malkin (or Captain Ed Morrissey, or the Power Line gents) conducts original research, interviews sources, and breaks news stories, she is not blogging; she is rather engaging in open-source journalism -- and publishing it on what otherwise is a blog.
So my premise is that blogging falls under the same literary rules as fiction, not the distinct rules of professional journalism -- whether heirarchical or open-source. But what are these standards anyway?
From the basic premise that the primary duty of fiction is to entertain the reader, we infer several corollaries; I will list those that dispute Auguste's post from the Liberal Avenger:
- It's the lying
In the fiction standard, truth clearly does not mean the exact recitation of events that actually occurred, since that would mean all fiction was a lie -- which renders the term meaningless in that context. Rather, truth is the honest exploration of process. A fictionalize account of a romance, for example, is "honest" or "true to life" if it accurately depicts how two people might fall in love, showing all the pitfalls and bad mistakes as well as the beauty and terror... in other words, if the reader gets the feeling he is reading about real people in real situations.
In this sense, the byline is part of the product. Arthur Conan Doyle is not being dishonest when he pretends that the Sherlock Holmes tales were actually written by Dr. John Watson instead, because Conan Doyle writes as much like the character "Watson" would as one could possibly do; Watson is, if anything, even more alive than Holmes, because we see his thinking process so much more clearly.
Thus, even if Liberal Avenger's supposition is correct, and "Michelle Malkin" is a persona (like "Enya") rather than an individual blogger, so much the better! Because the posts come across as written by a single integrated human being. If two people are writing them, they're darned good at it.
- It's the scandal
Michelle has always been very hot on the idea that blogs are home to better reporting than the mainstream media. Well, one of Rick Bragg's biggest transgressions was allowing others to write stories under his byline. If Michelle were to admit that "Michelle Malkin" is a generic byline for both herself and Jesse, then fine. Except, of course...
This is pretzel logic. Michelle Malkin did not say "blogs must be held to journalistic standards." She doesn't demand they have editors separate and distinct from the authors, for example, nor that they adhere to "two-source" rules and suchlike. Thus, Rick Bragg's "transgression" is a non-sequitur. Literature abounds with supposedly single-author books that are in fact collaborations, and they cause no scandal at all.
- It's the persona
A quick glance through Technorati reveals, if one didn't know already, that Michelle is something of a right-wing darling.... It seems more than possible that Jesse Malkin, as a white male producing anti-immigrant, racially focused writings, would only ever be a face in the crowd.
For this to violate standards of literature, this "persona" would have to contradict Michelle Malkin's own, true personality, character, and beliefs... like if I were to ghost-write a hagiography of John Kerry simply because I was paid to do so.
But anybody who has seen Michelle on any of her numerous excursions on Fox News Channel (usually Hannity and Colmes) knows in his gut that those really are her opinions, beliefs, and passions. She could not possibly argue them as effectively in the heat of battle if she were simply parroting her husband -- which is, let's be honest, what Liberal Avenger is really saying in the first post: he is implying that a simple Joisey goil couldn't possibly be such an excellent writer or make such devastating critiques... so it must really be the man in her life.
This strikes me as a decidedly illiberal sentiment, but that is not the point. I think that if pressed, even Liberal Avenger would have to agree that the evidence indicates this "persona" matches Michelle Malkin's known "self," and we dispense with this argument.
- It's the questions it raises
The question to which Auguste refers is one of propriety of interests. Auguste quotes LA:
Has "Michelle" ever blogged or written about topics related to what Jesse was working on for the government at the think tank while Jesse was still connected with the think tank in any way?
But that is not the question: if Liberal Avenger or Auguste wants to charge Jesse Malkin with revealing any proprietary information covered under classification or a non-disclosure agreement, he needs to come right out and say so -- and produce some evidence. My wife, Sachi, works for an employer who has proprietary information; yet she is perfectly free to blog about all sorts of "topics related to" her area of expertise... there are only certain, specific things she must avoid revealing.
Journalists should steer clear of subjects with which they are too intimately involved, as dispassionate reporting is (supposed to be) the sine qua non of good journalism. But contrast a newspaper article with such great works of literary fiction as Ralph Ellison's the Invisible Man and Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Would anyone deny that the intense personal experience the authors had in these precise areas -- Ellison was, indeed, an erudite black man living in New York City in the 1940s, and Heller absolutely did fly 60 combat missions as the bombardier in a B-25 flying out of Corsica -- contributed to, rather than detracted from, their works?
The point is made: the crabs and snivels by which Auguste attempts to indict Michelle Malkin for the crime of being half of an unannounced collaboration (whether she is "guilty" or not is another question) have a common error... assuming that the proper standard to judge blogging is the journalistic standard of either a newspaper of high repute, such as the Washington Times, or even a squalid piece of yellow journalism, such as the New York Times.
But the correct standard to use is that of literature, rather than newspaper writing; and without addressing how Michelle Malkin and/or husband Jesse stack up on the scale that runs from a Joseph Conrad at the top to an Edward Bulwer-Lytton at the bottom, clearly the question of whether her husband also writes under the name "Michelle Malkin" is a non-issue.
That "question" is in fact completely irrelevant to the only urgent query: does "Michelle Malkin" write well? To which each reader may craft his own answer, in blissful ignorance of the exact composition of the author.
November 17, 2005
Help Send a Kid to Camp -- Camp Baghdad!
The brilliant Bill Roggio (the Fourth Rail), so full of bonhomie and bullroar, is bouncing off to Baghdad to blog the battles in just one week... but he's still $3500 short of the necessary. He needs some donations.
So consider this a bleg for Bill. If you have a spare hundred rolling around in uncollected change beneath the cushions of your couch, or even just twenty bucks stuffed in your penny loafers, send it to Bill. You can use PayPal or make other arrangements via e-mail with Bill.
Come on, muchachos, give it up to send Old Bill to Eye-Rack. He does scary things like this so that you don't have to!
October 24, 2005
I Support the Miers Nomination
All right, I suppose I don't mind joining the bear's newest blog survey. Here you go:
I support the Miers nomination.
...With caveats and pending her performance in the hearing. Actually, the real reason I'm participating is that I'm vey curious to see whether her confirmation hearing changes any minds -- and in which direction! I hope NZBear has the wisdom to rerun his scavenger-bot after the hearing is over and see how things have shifted, one way or another. If at all.
So here's my vote, and we'll see what happens.
(Note, this post took six minutes from soup to baklava... but that doesn't quite break my speed record for putting up a post!)
October 13, 2005
Dawn Breaks Over Iraq - Photos
Black Five has incredible photos of operation River Gate.
We previously blogged about the overall Anbar Campaign here.
Always My Hero, Cap
Despite the idiotic response from the White House prior to this telecon, I'm inclined to support Miers. I don't believe she'll be a disaster, and I think she'll at least improve on O'Connor. I also don't believe she'll get pushed around, but I have to be honest and say I get that impression more from what Hugh Hewitt and Beldar have argued and presented than anything the White House has bothered to do on their own behalf. I've come to the conclusion that spanking Miers over the clumsiness and incompentence of the White House doesn't make a lot of sense.
-- is about the best summary of how I feel that anyone has yet posted, including myself. Thanks, Captain Ed!
October 2, 2005
Three Minor Conveniences
It suddenly occurs to me that readers here may not be aware of some of the conveniences I built into Big Lizards (mostly because of my own irritation at the inconveniences I found in other blogs). Let me mention three and a half of them.
First, if you're like me, you try to read blogs in chronological order of posting. When I go to Power Line, Captain's Quarters, or Patterico's Pontifications in the afternoon, the first thing I do is scroll downward until I see the last post I read the previous day. The post directly above that is, of course, the first post I haven't read yet.
I scroll to the top of that post, then read it all the way to its bottom. But now, to read the next post, I must scroll up again to the top of the post I just read, then past it to the top of the next post above it. That's the part I find irritating: staring at the screen while I scroll often gives me a headache, which doesn't improve my mood, already grouchy from having just awakened.
Big Lizards Convenience Number One: On this blog, you may have noticed that at the bottom of every post (except the top one, of course) is a link titled "Lizard-leap to the head of the next scroll, o wise!" If you click that link, you will magically be transported to the top of the post right above the post you just finished reading... that is, the link skips all that scrolling, letting you read the next post immediately, shortening the time you're forced to spend on this furshlugginer blog.
Had anybody noticed this before? I don't think I've seen it in any other blog, but it's really easy to do in Movable Type. I had to ask someone who knew what he was doing to tell me how to do it; but the actual coding was easy. It's probably equally easy in other blogging software.
I wish all blogs would put such a button in. I hate scrolling.
The next one is so simple, I'm amazed nobody else seems to do it. Maybe people get annoyed by it; I don't know.
When I first start reading a blogpost on a multi-author blog (like this one, or like Power Line), I like to know right away who wrote the particular post. It annoys me when the name isn't right there at the top -- as it isn't on Power Line. Now, I know those three chaps' writing styles, so I can usually figure out who wrote a particular post after a paragraph or two. But not always; and I hate scrolling down to the bottom to find out, then scrolling back up to the top to commence reading (see above).
But on the other hand, if a post is long, and if the name of the author is up at the top near the title, it's not uncommon that the substance of the post drives) the author's name out of my miniscule, reptillian brain (about the size of a grain of rice) by the time I finish reading. Then I have to scroll up to the top to remind myself who wrote it. (As you've probably deduced by now, I'm annoyed by far too many little, petty things.)
Big Lizards Convenience Number Two: On this blog, therefore, the author's name is both at the top and the bottom. Simplicity itself. It's not because we're egoists -- though I don't deny the charge -- but for convenience's sake.
Finally, try this experiment on Captain's Quarters: go to the blog; slide the slidebar about two-thirds down; scroll down until you can see the bottom of a post. Note the permalink and what it says: it tells you the time of posting, called the "timestamp."
All right, Mr. or Ms. Smarty Pants... now tell me what date that post was put up! Uh-huh; you have to (sigh) scroll up -- and up -- and up, and up, and up until you finally get to a date header: September 30th, when I tried it just now. Yeesh!
Big Lizards Convenience Number Three: The permalink for every post on Big Lizards shows both the timestamp and the datestamp. Now, if you read a post here about a fast-breaking story, and the post seems hopelessly out of date, you can look at the permalink and say "oh, for Pete's sake, these scaley idiots wrote this two days ago!" Then you can roll your eyes in exasperation at lizardly laggardliness.
(A convenience I tossed in that doesn't really merit its own number is that all the categories attached to a post are listed and linked right beneath the post title; so if you're interested in the subject, and you want to search for other posts that might discuss that same subject, you can just click on one or more of the listed categories and be taken to that category's archive.)
Since I do all the XHTML programming on this site myself (being a skinflint), if any of you has a suggestion for other conveniences, please let me know in the comments. If it seems useful, and if I can figure out how to do it, I'll give it a shot.
September 17, 2005
High Friends In Places
Oops, I think that should be Places In High Friends. Something.
This is astonishing: Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters and John Hinderaker at Power Line were kind enough to debut me to the world... and (I'm not kidding, I checked my watch) within 45 minutes of these announcements, 350 visitors and about 900 page views had appeared on the site... and three comments!
And they're mine, all mine. Take that, Capitan Monastario!
Mostly just kind souls wishing me God speed, for which I'm profoundly grateful -- and very unaccustomedly humbled -- but it's still mind-boggling how efficient the blogosphere is as an engine of communication and interaction.
I have to go to bed now; it's 07:11, and I haven't slept yet. Thanks again, everyone, and I hope I post well enough to continue attracting so many readers.
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