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June 30, 2005

Why We Fight

To continue with the interview referred to in Barry's post below, THIS is what I wanted to hear the President say on Tuesday night:

PRESIDENT BUSH: So we made a decision to protect ourselves and remove Saddam Hussein. The jihadists made a decision to come into Iraq to fight us. For a reason. They know that if we're successful in Iraq, like we were in Afghanistan, that it'll be a serious blow to their ideology. General (John) Abizaid (Commander of US forces in the Middle East) told me something very early in this campaign I thought was very interesting. Very capable man. He's a Arab-American who I find to be a man of great depth and understanding. When we win in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's a beginning of the end. Talking about the war on terror. If we don't win here, it's the beginning of the beginning. And that's how I view it.

Better late than never.


Normally I don't link to stuff that Glenn's already posted, figuring it's just kind of redundant. Sometimes, however, I just can't resist. This is just classic.

The following sentence is from a London Times interview with President Bush.

In person Mr Bush is so far removed from the caricature of the dim, war-mongering Texas cowboy of global popular repute that it shakes one's faith in the reliability of the modern media.

Presidential Speech 06-28-05

Anyone else disappointed with President Bush's speech from this past Tuesday evening?

I was expecting something more than a vague rehash of what has been said before.

No Black Box Required

Well what do you know, it turns out that there was some vote fraud in the last election afterall:

All five defendants in the vote fraud trial in East St. Louis were convicted by a jury today after five and a half hours of deliberations.

Charles Powell Jr., the head of the city's Democratic Party, three precinct committeemen and an election worker had been accused of buying votes to get prominent Democrats elected in the Nov. 2 election.

Also convicted were Democratic precinct committee members Thomas, 31, and Jesse Lewis, 56, and City Hall worker Yvette Johnson, 46. Kelvin Ellis, the city's former director of regulatory affairs, along with Thomas, Lewis and Johnson also were convicted of one count apiece of election fraud for allegedly paying at least one person to vote -- or offering to do so.

I'm sure the left side of the blogisphere will be all over this, just as they were with the recent Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain.

More Kyoto hypocrisy

Ever wonder why Bush single-handedly gets all the "blame" for rejecting the Kyoto accords, even when the U.S. Senate had rejected them with a vote of 95 to zilch during the Clinton Administration? Yeah, I kind of don't get that either.

But the hypocrisy doesn't end there, I'm afraid.

Considering Europeans' contempt for the United States and George Bush for not embracing the Kyoto Protocol, you'd expect that they would have made major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions -- the purpose of Kyoto. Well, not exactly. From 1990 (Kyoto's base year for measuring changes) to 2002, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, increased 16.4 percent, reports the International Energy Agency. The U.S. increase was 16.7 percent, and most of Europe hasn't done much better.

Here are some IEA estimates of the increases: France, 6.9 percent; Italy, 8.3 percent; Greece, 28.2 percent; Ireland, 40.3 percent; the Netherlands, 13.2 percent; Portugal, 59 percent; Spain, 46.9 percent. It's true that Germany (down 13.3 percent) and Britain (a 5.5 percent decline) have made big reductions. But their cuts had nothing to do with Kyoto. After reunification in 1990, Germany closed many inefficient coal-fired plants in eastern Germany; that was a huge one-time saving. In Britain, the government had earlier decided to shift electric utilities from coal (high CO2 emissions) to plentiful natural gas (lower CO2 emissions).

On their present courses, many European countries will miss their Kyoto targets for 2008-2012. To reduce emissions significantly, Europeans would have to suppress driving and electricity use; that would depress economic growth and fan popular discontent. It won't happen. Political leaders everywhere deplore global warming -- and then do little. Except for Eastern European nations, where dirty factories have been shuttered, few countries have cut emissions. Since 1990 Canada's emissions are up 23.6 percent; Japan's, 18.9 percent.

We shouldn't be surprised. The whole Kyoto process was a classic exercise in Clinton-era symbolism over substance. But your lip, appear concerned, but don't actually, you know, do anything. Even proponents of Kyoto admit that meeting the Kyoto targets will have little effect even if fully implemented (which of course they won't be), saving us a mere 0.15°C by 2100.

Yet if Kyoto fails to save the planet, there's no doubt that it will be entirely Smirky McHitlerChimp's doing. Nevermind that the European nations who preen and posture the most are failing abysmally to reach their targets, and nevermind that even if fully implemented, the Kyoto controls would amount to a drop in the bucket anyway. It's all Bush's fault.

So perhaps it's time for this administration to learn a lesson in pragmatic politics. Perhaps Bush should just sign the damn thing. He could do it in the Rose Garden, with representatives from the Sierra Club and Greenpeace looking on. He could speak grimly and earnestly about the future of our planet, and the legacy we leave behind for our children and grandchildren. Perhaps he could even cry.

Then, as soon as the last dolphin-hugger is escorted off the East Lawn, he could promptly get down to the business of ignoring it, like our more enlightened friends on the continent have done. But it wouldn't matter! He will have demonstrated that he "cares," and that he's a member of the "global community," not some renegade maverick isolationist cowboy.

Evidently that's more than enough to satisfy the Western Left. Pat them on their little heads, tell them you care deeply, and then ignore them. (Why they allow themselves to be condescended to in that way is another question, but one they will have to answer for themselves.) It works for Europe, it works for Democratic U.S. presidents, so Bush might as well put it to work for himself.

They've already got one

It's called "France."

Islamic states want permanent seat on UN Security Council

Foreign ministers of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) opened a meeting with a call for a Muslim permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

OIC secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu urged a greater role for Muslim countries in world affairs and demanded a "permanent representation for the Islamic world on the UN Security Council".

"The Islamic world, which represents one fifth of total mankind, cannot remain excluded from the activities of the Security Council which assumes a fundamental role in keeping security and peace in the world," he said Tuesday.

Let's pretend for two seconds that this proposal isn't patently ludicrous on its face. If we were to oblige the OIC, shouldn't we also offer a permanent UNSC seat to the Jewish nations, i.e., Israel? Somehow I doubt our Muslim friends would find that acceptable. Let's assume the Christian and Buddhist nations are already well represented. So how about a Hindu seat? A Shinto seat? Hell, how about Scientology?

Go too far down this road and you've made an utter, PC mockery of the ideal the U.N. is meant to represent.

Hm, on second thought, I guess there's really nothing to lose....

June 29, 2005

Bush Cracks Down on WMD Proliferators

Executive Order: Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and Their Supporters

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, in order to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency described and declared in Executive Order 12938 of November 14, 1994, regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them, and the measures imposed by that order, as expanded by Executive Order 13094 of July 28, 1998, hereby order:

Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:

(i) the persons listed in the Annex to this order;

(ii) any foreign person determined by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, and other relevant agencies, to have engaged, or attempted to engage, in activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a risk of materially contributing to, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery (including missiles capable of delivering such weapons), including any efforts to manufacture, acquire, possess, develop, transport, transfer or use such items, by any person or foreign country of proliferation concern;

(iii) any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and other relevant agencies, to have provided, or attempted to provide, financial, material, technological or other support for, or goods or services in support of, any activity or transaction described in paragraph (a)(ii) of this section, or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and

(iv) any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and other relevant agencies, to be owned or controlled by, or acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(b) Any transaction or dealing by a United States person or within the United States in property or interests in property blocked pursuant to this order is prohibited, including, but not limited to, (i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order, and (ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

(c) Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(d) Any conspiracy formed to violate the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.


Rhodesia redux?

The Scotsman is reporting that the UK may be in secret talks aimed at taking back Zimbabwe.

BRITISH government diplomats have held secret talks in Zimbabwe aimed at persuading Robert Mugabe to hand over power and return his devastated nation to the Commonwealth, it was claimed last night.

Senior sources in London and Zimbabwe told Scotland on Sunday that the dictator's closest allies have been pressing the British government to relax its stance against Mugabe in advance of an attempted breakthrough in the stalemate at the G8 summit in Scotland this week.

And they claimed that Foreign Office diplomats have already travelled to Zimbabwe to begin clandestine negotiations with representatives of the hated dictator's regime, with a view to returning the nation to the Commonwealth, three years after it was suspended.

Fascinating stuff. And check out this paragraph:

Details of the mounting diplomatic offensive emerged as international opposition to Mugabe's regime reached its highest level for several months - principally over a "slum clearance" programme that has left hundreds of thousands of his poorest citizens homeless.

Perhaps this move could set the precedent for returning the United States to the Crown after the Kelo v. New London ruling.

June 28, 2005

You Knew This Was Coming

The "Lost Liberty Hotel" has a nice ring to it.

Press Release For Release Monday, June 27 to New Hampshire media For Release Tuesday, June 28 to all other media

Weare, New Hampshire (PRWEB) Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Cafe" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

Clements' plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors and draw up architectural plans. These plans would then be used to raise investment capital for the project. Clements hopes that regular customers of the hotel might include supporters of the Institute For Justice and participants in the Free State Project among others.

June 27, 2005

Who are these people?

The people who refer to Justice Anthony Kennedy as a "libertarian," I mean? (emphasis mine)

Asked how he had become a conservative, he said: "That's not a term I usually use for myself. People say I'm a libertarian. I don't really know what that means."

Ya don't say! Neither, I would submit, do the people who call you that.

Well, at least it's over

The most depressing Supreme Court term in recent memory, that is.

I can't say I'm disappointed with the Ten Commandments decision, although you've got to admire the chutzpah of a court that bans courhouse displays of the Ten Commandments from within a courthouse that displays the Ten Commandments. Oh well, no one ever accused them of lacking chutzpah, and I guess I should be content for any victory I get from this dismal court.

The Grokster case was depressing for me, however. I really didn't expect to win this one, but the fact that it was unanimous doesn't offer me much of anything in the way of consolation. The thing is, I had expected the Grokster case to be the most disappointing ruling on the docket. Needless to say, I didn't see Kelo coming down the pike. I guess file sharing sort of pales, doesn't it.

God, please do something about this honorable court.

Weird painting

Okay, I know the quality here isn't great, but I took this picture with my cell phone. Does it remind anyone else of Paul Wolfowitz or is it just me?

Anyway, I've got an all-day, off-site meeting this morning, so expect blogging to be light. Still, I have this ominous feeling I might be back later this afternoon with more god-awful news from the Supreme Court. Let's hope I'm wrong.

June 24, 2005

A Heartfelt Liberal Response

I finally found a sincere liberal response to yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain. Of course, I had to wade into the putrid sewage that is the Democratic Underground in order to find it:

"I've seen a lot of things go wrong in this country in my life, but for some idealistic reason I though our last best hope was the Supreme Court. I even thought I knew who the "good guys" and the "bad guys" were. But today, my world turned upside down. This supreme court ruling on private property leaves me wondering what the hell America stand for anymore.

I don't expect a lot of responses to this post. But if you do bother to read it, please read this and think about what it means:

The New London neighborhood that will be swept away includes Victorian-era houses and small businesses that in some instances have been owned by several generations of families. Among the New London residents in the case is a couple in their 80s who have lived in the same home for more than 50 years.

Eighty years old. Fifty years of paying property taxes, making a home, and being in a community. Gone. I'm crying now, because America is dead to me today.

And this ruling was the opinion of Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer? Excuse me? Will someone please tell me where to direct my rage?"

That last line confirms my theory of why the left-side of the blogisphere has pretty much ignored the story.

And by the way, I agree with SlipperySlope. We should all be crying. This ruling weakens one of the fundamental principles that this country was founded upon.

The liberal blogosphere, 6/24/05

"I don't CARE what the Supreme Court decided!! That's not what's important right now!! What's important is that Karl Rove said that liberals have 'stinky feet!' And the f*cker must be made to APLOGIZE, goddammit!! Or better yet, resign!!

"I mean, what the hell, just because Howard Dean slanders and vilifies Republicans every five minutes and never apologizes doesn't give Turd Blossom the right to...

"Hey wait a second, what's that bulldozer doing outside my door? What? 'Eminent' what? No I'm sorry, you can't build a combination Starbuck's/sushi bar where my house is, you ugly fascist! I'm still using it. What? What Supreme Court decision? Hey, turn me loose! Do you work for Chimpy McHitlerSmirk? Take those handcuffs off! I swear to God, I'll sue!!..."

The silence is deafening

This is truly astonishing. It's one day after the most universally reviled SCOTUS verdict in recent memory, essentially rescinding property rights, and the left-half of the blogosphere is still AWOL. They will no doubt teach this case in history classes years from now, but many liberals are silent because they can't figure out how to blame it on Bush.

Neither Kos nor Josh Marshall nor Oliver Willis would seem to have heard the news yet, because they're all still talking about Karl Rove. It's as if the decision never happened.

Atrios at least acknowledged the ruling, and even put forth an extremely tepid and incomprehensible defense of it, although I confess it eludes me. He seems to be saying, "Yes, it's a bad decision, but it's a good thing the conservative side didn't win, because that would be, well, bad." I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that seems to be the gist of it. No arguments, no reasoning, he's just glad the "conservatives" didn't win. By all means, better for the government to seize your home and hand it over to Wal-Mart than to hand the Republicans a political victory.

And our friend Jill at least had a novel excuse for not discussing it: because my guest blogger asked her to. Still, that's more than we've heard from most port-side bloggers so far.

What bugs liberals most about this case is that it validates conservative fears of activist courts utterly run amok (which the Schiavo case did not do, by the way.) They realize this, yet are unable to defend this egregious ruling on its merits, and are struck dumb and impotent as a result.

Contrary to what many readers have suggested in comments and e-mail, I do not assume that a Bush nominee to the Court will automatically improve the situation. Granted, all four dissenters were appointed by Republican presidents, but so were three of the five in the majority (Ford, Reagan and Bush.) To get an originalist or a strict constructionalist on the high court, being a Republican nominee may be a necessary condition, but is by no means a sufficient one.

That's one reason I want to jettison this unofficial moratorium on "litmus tests." The next judicial nominee to appear before the Senate needs to be grilled on the Kelo case and grilled hard. If that comprises a litmus test, then so be it.

The fight for future judicial nominees just became more important than I could have imagined even a month or two ago. We have to hold our president's feet to the fire to nominate true strict constructionists, and we have to apply as much political pressure as necessary to get them through the Senate.

Strict constructionists can deliver disappointing decisions too, of course, but at least you always know what you're getting -- someone who interprets the letter of the law in a very narrow fashion. If you don't like the verdicts, then change the law. But this kind of unrestrained activism should alarm everyone.

UPDATE: Today's editorial in the New York Times actually defends this abomination, under the headline "The Limits of Property Rights."

Get the subtext here? The Supreme Court majority was all about reasonable "limits," and if you balk at the notion that your home, which you worked for your entire life, can be taken away so that some luxury high-rise can be built, then you're some kind of crazed absolutist.

June 23, 2005

Well, this sucks...

The Supreme Court has just upheld an egregious expansion of what can be considered "eminent domain" takings.

Such property seizures in the past have had to be justified by a "public use" requirement. Now, apparently, anything that might augment tax revenues qualifies as "public use" -- in other words, practically anything at all.

I wonder whether the liberals who always raise the specter of the erosion of our rights under a "conservative" Supreme Court will still feel the same way when their houses have been bulldozed to make room for a strip mall.

Dissenting in the 5-4 split were Justices O'Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas.

Cool North Korean video

I still like "America, Fuck Yeah!" better, but this video, via Dean Esmay, is oddly compelling.

Not panicking yet, but...

The House approved the flag desecration amendment with eight votes to spare. Its fate in the Senate is less clear, but it looks like it's going to be a squeaker either way.

I guess one senator we can count on to oppose this amendment is Hillary Clinton. Did you read her statement on the matter? It was a miasma of classic, Clintonian triangulation. Initially, she insisted she was still undecided on the matter, but finally said that, while she supported federal anti-flag-burning legislation, she opposed writing it into the Constitution.

Oh well, why not? She and her husband have had a lot of success with that formula over the years, and that's one more formula for success than most Democrats have these days. Well, however tortured her logic, I'm glad she's taken the side she has.

Last thoughts on Dick Durbin

All right, this is the last thing I'll say about it, I swear. I'm still reading posts by infuriated and disheartened Democrats who ludicrously insist that this is precisely why their party always loses -- because Democrats always apologize, and Republicans never do.

A question for these people: Remember Trent Lott? He apologized until he was blue in the face. He even went on BET for an embarrassing bow and scrape session, and he still lost his leadership position.

What's the real difference here? What is the real lesson to be divined? In the case of Trent Lott, it was conservative bloggers and pundits who were clamoring for his head, and that's what made the difference. You want to learn how to be a more effective party? The lesson here is not "Don't apologize!" It's "Purge your party of its extremism."

Clinton understood this, but the lesson was promptly forgotten by your party as soon as he left office. Until you guys rediscover it, America will continue under one-party rule, and believe me, I am only marginally happier about that than you are.

June 22, 2005

New Gitmo poll

According to a new Rasmussen poll, 20% of Americans think the detainees at Gitmo are treated unfairly, while a total of 70% think they are treated "about right," or "better than they deserve."

This is appalling, people. I am outraged that such a large percentage of our country is so willing to turn its back on all the ideals and principles that made America great. It's truly sickening.

Ah well, at least there's the other 70 percent.

Weeping Senators, Part II

I've been following CRB's advice and not watching C-SPAN, so you'll have to help me out here. Is it true that Dick Durbin actually turned on the water works during his "apology?" If so, why? Is he weeping at the enormity of his blunder? The content of the apology itself doesn't seem to say so. Is he crying because he got caught? Because he thinks it will make him seem more "sincere?"

I don't know about you guys, but I've had about enough of the Senate floor turning into a goddamn blubberfest. For the love of God, people, pull yourselves together! Look, I'm not completely a cold-hearted bastard, but it's not like you're talking about how stem cells are needed to help people like your little nephew Billy, who's suffering from some dreadful, fatal disease that modern science lacks a treatment for. You're talking about a U.N. ambassador, for Christ's sake! Or the fact that a terrorist had to listen to Christina Aguilera! Good God, men, get it together! What are the terrorists going to think when they see our nation's leaders on Al Jazeera every night, mewling like jilted schoolgirls?

And for those of you who think I'm being too tough here, I will leave you with the immortal words of Jack Handy: "It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man."

Memo to Dick Durbin

Michael Graham offers a primer on apologies and how to make them. It appears the senator from Illinois could use the help.

1--You have to believe you've done something wrong, not just that someone else thinks you were wrong.

2--You have to apologize for what you did, not what other people think of what you did.

3--You have to acknowledge your bad behavior, not speculate about how others might view your behavior.

Dick Durbin's "apology" fails all of these tests. All he had to say was "I was wrong to compare our soldiers to Nazis. That's not true, I know it, and I shouldn't have said it. I'm sorry." How hard is that? Instead, we got this:

"Some may believe my remarks crossed the line....I'm also sorry if anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military."

That's it? "IF I said something" and "SOME may believe?" Dick, what do YOU believe? That's the only relevant question. Why not Al Qaeda saying "IF we blew somebody up, and if any of those people didn't deserve it, then we apologize?" "Some say that crashing airplanes into office buildings is a bad thing, and we regret offending them."

Moonbat meltdown

Quick, without peeking, would anyone care to hazard a guess as to what drove this particular DU poster to the very abyss of despair?

But, you know, right now, I just give the hell up. I give up. There's nothing that's ever going to hold for the Democrats, and for whatever reason, this fuck in the White House is always going to get his way.

So, we might as well just all bend over like every goddamned Democrat in the House and Senate, grab our ankles, and learn to love it. Because that's all we're going to get, and now, with this latest apostasy, perhaps that's all we deserve.

I've gone beyond enraged. I just fucking give up.

Right now, I'm just glad we live not very far from the Pentagon and White House. When the Big One hits us, we'll never even know it, but at least it'll take out these ratbastards of this so-called administration. That's worth my dying for.

Did Congress just vote to make Bush "Dictator for Life?" Did Supreme Court Justices Ginsberg and Breyer just pledge to always vote however Clarence Thomas wants them to? Did the Democratic Caucus in the Senate suddenly say, "You know what? You guys were right about the filibuster! We'll never do it again?"

No, it was none of those. This poster is wallowing in the slough of despond because Dick Durbin grudgingly offered a half-assed apology for likening American soldiers to Nazis and the Khmer Rouge. Evidently that's grievous enough an offense to elicit terminal despair in this poor schlub.

It looks like he's not alone, either. Sadly, that's where a significant portion of the Democratic Party is these days.

June 21, 2005

Stay The Course

A sign of hope that all is not lost in Iraq or the war on terror:

NY Times

Late Sunday night, American marines watching the skyline from their second-story perch in an abandoned house here saw a curious thing: in the distance, mortar and gunfire popped, but the volleys did not seem to be aimed at them.

In the dark, one spoke in hushed code words on a radio, and after a minute found the answer.

"Red on red," he said, using a military term for enemy-on-enemy fire.

Marines patrolling this desert region near the Syrian border have for months been seeing a strange new trend in the already complex Iraqi insurgency. Insurgents, they say, have been fighting each other in towns along the Euphrates from Husayba, on the border, to Qaim, farther west. The observations offer a new clue in the hidden world of the insurgency and suggest that there may have been, as American commanders suggest, a split between Islamic militants and local rebels.

A United Nations official who served in Iraq last year and who consulted widely with militant groups said in a telephone interview that there has been a split for some time.

"There is a rift," said the official, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the talks he had held. "I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the Jihadists grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians."

The nationalist insurgent groups, "are giving a lot of signals implying that there should be a settlement with the Americans," while the Jihadists have a purely ideological agenda, he added.

Hoo boy!

No more Wal-Mart blogging for me! From now on I'm sticking to less controversial topics, like Iraq. The comments and the e-mail are still coming in, and much of it is... not nice.

Another reason to forswear Wal-Mart blogging is that I agree with some of what the anti-Wal-Mart crowd says. All I really meant to do was observe what I perceived as a thread of cultural elitism in Wal-Mart bashing these days. Beyond that, I'm something of an agnostic in the whole debate, given my own mixed feelings on the matter.

Adopt a Chinese blog

Sorry I've been so quiet today, but it's an extremely busy day. I just wanted to break radio silence to say that I think this is a terrific idea, and I'm hereby making this site's bandwidth available to host a Chinese blog. If anyone needs a host, please contact me at barry@cynicalnation.com.

June 20, 2005

I Really Shouldn't Watch C-SPAN

I just finished watching the minority party once again defeat the nomination of John Bolton to be the UN Ambassador by blocking cloture. That's 30 minutes I will never get back. 30 minutes for 92 Senators to get their fat asses up out of their chairs and walk 10 feet forward to vote Yea or No. And the other 8 apparently couldn't be bothered.

I really shouldn't watch C-SPAN.

Did I mention how one by one they drifted forward, making sure to preen for the camera for a few minutes while pretending to have something more important to discuss with their colleagues? Or how the Senate president looks like a beaten dog? How is it that with a 5 vote majority, the GOP can't get anything meaningful accomplished?

I really shouldn't watch C-SPAN.

It never used to be this way. Abraham Lincoln said that our government is a government "of the people, by the people, for the people". And we believed it. Until we could watch the spectacle for ourselves on cable TV.

I really shouldn't watch C-SPAN.

John Bolton should already be the UN Ambassador. He should already be on the job, speaking the blunt truth and forcing reform on that necessary institution. I hope that President Bush bypasses this nonsense and makes Bolton a recess appointment. That way, when Bolton is successful, not one of those arrogant 100 "public servants" will be able to claim any credit.

The Agitator on Wal-Mart

I think he has a point.

It sure is thoughtful of lefty activists to work so hard to keep Wal-Mart out of urban areas. We can't have this corporate behemoth exploiting low-income folks with jobs that wouldn't otherwise exist, and by selling them good stuff at low prices.

The horror.

Better people who are well-employed decide for the urban poor that they don't need those jobs. And that they should be shopping at more tasteful stores, anyway.

I think that maybe -- just maybe -- anti-Wal Mart sentiment has more to do with an aversion to the white, rural ethnology the store sometimes represents than its labor practices. We can't have our Ethiopian restuarants and esoteric bookstores blighted by NASCAR culture.

"Jesus H., J.P.! Check out the rack on that one!!"

No, this post doesn't have anything to do with Clinton or the pope. I just liked the picture.

And sorry about the caption. If any of you can do better, knock yourselves out.

June 19, 2005

Was Max Cleland busy or something?

Some lefty bloggers are all in a dither at this photo of Representative John Conyers attempting to hand-deliver a letter a petition or some damn thing to the president yesterday.

Does this seem familiar? One wonders why they didn't roll Max Cleland back out for delivery boy duty. I guess they figured the spectacle of the White House turning away a black guy would have more impact than some old dude in a wheelchair.

I've got to ask. Have these people never heard of FedEx? Why the need for this staged melodrama? It isn't all that effective. A few hyperpartisan bloggers tried to gin up enough manufactured outrage to dedicate a post to it, but that's about it.

Is anyone actually surprised to learn that the White House doesn't simply let any random, unannounced person wander in off the street to bring stuff in any hour of the day? Of course not. Conyers knew he would get turned away, and would have been pissed off if he hadn't. Staged political melodrama isn't very effective without a martyr, preferably a minority or an ex-soldier with missing limbs.

Oh well, at least when Congressman Conyers is engaged in this kind of theatrical nonsense, it means he's not off hosting anti-Semitic extremists at the DNC, holding idiotic mock impeachment hearings or drafting Koranic desecration laws.

This guy should know...

...the difference between Gitmo and the gulag. But then again, so should Amnesty International, given its history. This piece, written by former Soviet dissident and political prisoner Pavel Litvinov, recounts a recent phone conversation he'd had with an AI staffer regarding the whole "gulag" comparison.

Several days ago I received a telephone call from an old friend who is a longtime Amnesty International staffer. He asked me whether I, as a former Soviet "prisoner of conscience" adopted by Amnesty, would support the statement by Amnesty's executive director, Irene Khan, that the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is the "gulag of our time."

"Don't you think that there's an enormous difference?" I asked him.

"Sure," he said, "but after all, it attracts attention to the problem of Guantanamo detainees."

Here at least is some hope that AI recognizes the statement as willful hyperbole. Litinov continues...

There is ample reason for Amnesty to be critical of certain U.S. actions. But by using hyperbole and muddling the difference between repressive regimes and the imperfections of democracy, Amnesty's spokesmen put its authority at risk. U.S. human rights violations seem almost trifling in comparison with those committed by Cuba, South Korea, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
Words are important. When Amnesty spokesmen use the word "gulag" to describe U.S. human rights violations, they allow the Bush administration to dismiss justified criticism and undermine Amnesty's credibility. Amnesty International is too valuable to let it be hijacked by politically biased leaders.

He's right. Here's a man who understands better than anyone the important function that Amnesty International can continue to serve, so long as its effectiveness isn't allowed to erode in a tide of partisan, left-wing politics.

June 18, 2005

Father's Day memories, 2005

My father grew up in a small North Carolina mill town called Cornelius. My grandmother continued to live there in that little white plank house until she moved to Phoenix when I was in high school. Every house in her neighborhood looked the same, and the same skeleton key opened every front door on the block.

We'd visit once or twice a year, but I'd quickly get bored during these visits. It was completely unlike visiting my maternal grandmother in Charlotte. There was nothing to do in Cornelius except to sit on the front porch swing and listed to the old folks talk. Now, of course, I'd give a thousand dollars to go back to that same porch swing and drift off to sleep to the sound of the creaky old swing chains and my grandmother's even, droning voice, repeating the same old stories and tales. But what can I say in my defense? I was ten.

I think my grandmother was well aware that these visits were tough for me, and she kept a special drawer in her dresser, the bottom one, full of an assortment of small toys and games that were mine to play with whenever I'd visit.

I remember sitting in front of that drawer one Sunday afternoon realizing I'd played with everything in there at least a dozen times and was desperately looking for something new. I didn't find it, of course, but what I did find was something very, very old, so old that I'd ignored it up until now. It was an old leather drawstring bag filled with glass marbles. I'd seen marbles before, of course, and even had a few back home, but I was never really sure what you were supposed to do with them.

My dad walked into the room at that moment and sat down beside me. I can't say why he chose that particular moment -- maybe he'd heard a heavy sigh or two of boredom, or perhaps the distinctive clinking and rattling sounds of a full marble bag, or perhaps it was simply dumb luck.

"That's my old marble bag," he said. "Want to play a game of marbles?" I confessed that I didn't know how, and his reaction seemed one born of horror. "That's unacceptable," he said, standing abruptly. "Come on, let's go. Bring those."

I followed him out the door and up the street, and when we arrived at the old grammar school he'd attended as a boy, I still wasn't sure where we were going, because in all the years we'd been visiting Grandma, I had never once seen his old school house. It felt odd to be there. I knew, of course, that my father had once been a kid and attended school himself, but I knew it only a very abstract sense. To actually be there, and see it with my own eyes was... strange. "This spot looks good," he said, standing in a rust-colored patch of hard, dust-covered earth. He grabbed a nearby twig and drew a large circle in the dust.

At that point I realized we had an audience. The older kid could have easily been Opie Taylor with a crew cut. He and his younger, tow-headed brother stood there watching us in nearly identical t-shirts and shorts. I felt for a moment as if I'd truly stepped into a time machine. These did not look like the kids I knew back home, and I could have easily imagined them right here, forty years earlier, shooting marbles with my dad on this very playground. "Whatcha doin'?" Opie finally asked.

"We're shooting marbles," my father answered, dumping the contents of the marble sack on the ground.

"I think I've heard of this game," Opie said. "Isn't that where you try to knock the other guy's marble out of the circle? Or something?"

"This is really sad," my father sighed. "You kids these days don't even know how to play marbles. All right, get down here. All three of you."

He patiently explained not only the rules, but the culture. How certain marbles were prized more than others, and some were "lucky" and some were "shooters" and all manner of rules and customs which I'm ashamed to say I forgot in fairly short order once this crash course was complete.

But for this one day, for this one golden, summer Sunday afternoon, the four of us knelt in the ochre dust of that ancient playground... and shot marbles. We played game after game while the shadows lengthened and the light faded. We played until my grandmother called us home for supper, just as I imagine she must have done in the old days.

It's funny what you remember as you get older. It's funny why you remember the things you do. I hadn't thought of this marble game in years, if not decades. I can't tell you what suddenly made me remember it now, on this particular Father's Day weekend.

I only know that I miss you, Dad. And I wish we could be remembering it together.

Happy Father's Day, everyone.

Kudos for Dr. Dean

As regular readers know, I've been picking on Howard Dean a lot lately, so it's only fair to give him props when he does something like this.

A handful of people at Democratic National Headquarters distributed material critical of Israel during a public forum questioning the Bush administration's Iraq policy, drawing an angry response and charges of anti-Semitism from party chairman Howard Dean on Friday.

"We disavow the anti-Semitic literature, and the Democratic National Committee stands in absolute disagreement with and condemns the allegations," Dean said in a statement posted on the DNC Web site.
One witness, former intelligence analyst Ray McGovern, told Conyers and other House Democrats that the war was part of an effort to allow the United States and Israel to "dominate that part of the world," a statement Dean also condemned.

"As for any inferences that the United States went to war so Israel could 'dominate' the Middle East or that Israel was in any way behind the horrific September 11th attacks on America, let me say unequivocally that such statements are nothing but vile, anti-Semitic rhetoric," Dean said.

Well done. Howard Dean's job, in part, is to broaden the appeal of the Democratic Party. Keeping left-wing extremists at a safe distance is a necessary component of that strategy.

June 17, 2005

The House means business...

...when it comes to the U.N.

Culminating years of frustration with the performance and behavior of the
United Nations, the House voted Friday to slash U.S. contributions to the world body if it does not substantially change the way it operates.

The 221-184 vote, which came despite a Bush administration warning that such a move could actually sabotage reform efforts, was a strong signal from Congress that a policy of persuasion wasn't enough to straighten out the U.N.

"We have had enough waivers, enough resolutions, enough statements," said House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the author of the legislation. "It's time we had some teeth in reform."

The usual suspects, of course, are predictably indignant.

Here's something I don't understand about liberals. Off the record, many of them will acknowledge when pressed that yes, the U.N. has a lot of problems and yes, it would be nice if they'd straighten themselves out.

They'll admit it needs reforming in the abstract, but they'll oppose any actual attempt to effect real reform. They invariably oppose anyone like John Bolton because he might actually, you know, say something about the U.N.'s problems, and Kofi Annan might overhear and get his feelings hurt. Similarly, they oppose any kind of incentive (such as this House bill) to help prod the U.N. along.

So what do they want to do, exactly? If it's not okay to send blunt-spoken reformers and it's not okay to use any kind of pressure, how should we help transform the world body into what it aspires to be, as opposed to the hive of scum and villainy it is?

Don't like our ideas? Fine, let's hear yours. Otherwise, well, if you aren't willing to lead or follow, then kindly get out of the way.

Nader's N-bomb

All right, Ralph Nader used a certain n-word that you're not really supposed to use. (By the way, thank you Judge Lance Ito, for giving us the term "n-word," making us all feel like we're back in kindergarten. "Teacher! Teacher! Billy said the n-word!" Thank you so much.) Anyway, Al Sharpton and others aren't happy about it.

But so what? Ralph Nader said something stupid. Stop the presses.

What I found most interesting was a Sharpton quote midway through the article.

"If Ed Koch had said what Ralph Nader said, we'd be marching," Sharpton noted. "This [scolding] doesn't rise to the level of a march. It rises to the level of a wrist slap."

Fascinating, right? I guess we've long known there were two completely different sets of rules on racial sensitivity issues: one for liberals and another for everyone else (Think of Robert Byrd's nationally televised "white niggers" remark and try to imagine the fallout had it been uttered by Trent Lott, for example.) But it's not often that you see someone like Sharpton so glibly acknowledge it.

Oh, and I also thought this bit was funny:

Yesterday, Nader told me he was using the word in the same spirit as the Black Panthers of the 1960s - "as a word of defiance."

But Sharpton retorted: "He's not a Black Panther."


Iraq timetable

Can we all at least agree that setting arbitrary dates for troop withdrawals is a bad idea? Setting a fixed date would merely say to the insurgents, "Just hang in there for n more months and the country's all yours."

Now I'm not saying Congress doesn't have a vested interest (or even a duty) to ask what we're hoping to accomplish by our continued presence there; they do. In that spirit, I think it would be much more effective and politically viable to create a condition-based exit plan rather than a date-based plan.

Congress and/or the White House could set forth our ultimate goals for the region, and what criteria should be met before withdrawal in

  • the ideal case
  • the target case, and
  • the minimally acceptable case

Such a document, if it contained sufficient detail, would be helpful in maintaining focus and measuring our progress. Circling a date on the calendar, by contrast, is not only pointless posturing -- it's dangerous.

It's Friday

I was going to do some pet blogging, but I think instead I'll point you here, where Victor Davis Hanson, travelling in Europe, opens a Marshall Plan-sized can of whoop-ass on the Western Left.

Our own fundamentalist Left is in lockstep with Wahhabist reductionism -- in its similar instinctive distrust of Western culture. Both blame the United States and excuse culpability on the part of Islamists. The more left-wing the Westerner, the more tolerant he is of right-wing Islamic extremism; the more liberal the Arab, the more likely he is to agree with conservative Westerners about the real source of Middle Eastern pathology.

The constant? A global distrust of Western-style liberalism and preference for deductive absolutism. So burn down a mosque in Zimbabwe, murder innocent Palestinians in Bethlehem in 2002, arrest Christians in Saudi Arabia, or slaughter Africans in Dafur, and both the Western Left and the Middle East's hard Right won't say a word. No such violence resonates with America's diverse critics as much as a false story of a flushed Koran -- precisely because the gripe is not about the lives of real people, but the psychological hurts, angst, and warped ideology of those who in their various ways don't like the United States.

I will pass over quickly the day's other sorry stories, but they were equally revealing. From Karachi, we learn that Pakistani Shiite Muslims burned down a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. You see, a Sunni suicide bomber had just blown up 19 Pakistani Shia. In reaction to that attack, the Shiite mob went out and killed six employees of a business owned and operated by a Pakistani Muslim. Follow the logic of the Middle East: When you are angry at your own for their murdering, and are too weak or terrified to do anything about it, go out and destroy anything remotely American-affiliated.

I read most of these news accounts last week while sitting in a Starbucks (Dunkin' Donuts next door) on the eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate in the former Communist sector of Berlin -- watching a parade of protestors damn the militarism of the United States (a.k.a. "Top Gun") while a nearby TV blared accounts of a recent German mystery on state-run television, whose subtext was that the United States intelligence planned September 11 and blamed it on the poor jihadists.

So there we have a snapshot of 60 years of American efforts to rid Germany of Hitler, pour in Marshall Plan money, keep 300 Soviet divisions out of Germany, and convince skeptical British, French, and Russians to support reunification: In response, welcome in American popular culture as you damn the United States in the conveniently abstract.

A war that cannot be won entirely on the battlefield most certainly can be lost entirely off it -- especially when an ailing Western liberal society is harder on its own democratic culture than it is on fascist Islamic fundamentalism.

June 16, 2005

Donut Democrats

Until recently, I'd been fairly skeptical about this meme that the Democratic Party had lost its center. Today's Wall Street Journal, however, makes a pretty compelling case.

[T]he party of FDR and JFK no longer seems to have a moderate wing; they have become doughnut Democrats with no middle. This point is best exemplified by the utter collapse of Democrats in the South. In 1980 there were 20 mostly conservative Democrats in the Senate; now there are four, and even they are endangered.

  • With the notable exception of Joe Lieberman, there are virtually no Scoop Jackson defense hawks remaining in a party that has made Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo its main policy touchstones for the war on terror.

  • The party that voted en masse for income and capital gains tax cuts under JFK now has but one message on taxes: Raise them.

  • On trade, the Democrats who delivered 102 House votes for Nafta and Bill Clinton in 1994 will, at last count, provide all of five House votes for the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

  • The Clinton Democrats helped enact the most momentous social policy legislation of the past generation: welfare reform. Now Democrats conspire every day to gut work-for-welfare requirements and prevent the renewal of welfare reform by Congress.

  • Above all, there's the know-nothing-ism on Social Security. The Democrats in unison proclaim that Mr. Bush is advancing a risky right-wing scheme to destroy Social Security by creating private investment accounts for workers.

But wait. How dangerous can this idea really be? After all, only a few years ago there was a long and esteemed list of elected Democratic leaders who endorsed personal accounts. John Breaux. Chuck Robb. Bob Kerrey. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Charles Stenholm. Tim Penny. Today in the entire United States Congress there is exactly one Democrat, Allen Boyd of Florida, who has endorsed personal accounts, and he has been shunned for his apostasy.

In 2000 Senator Moynihan declared that a personal thrift savings plan for Social Security would allow hourly wage earners to "retire not just with a pension but with wealth. And the doorman will have a half million dollars, not just the people in the duplexes." Share the wealth. What could be a more traditional Rooseveltian idea than that?

Mr. Bush has spent the past six months reaching out on Social Security to centrist Democrats, only to discover that there aren't any. At his own political peril, he proposed a means-testing plan that would trim future benefits for wealthier seniors in order to improve the solvency of the program. But again he found no takers.

And to what obstructionist end? Even if Democrats succeed in stopping Mr. Bush's plan, FDR's legacy that they say they are trying to protect is every day getting closer to $10 trillion of unpayable debts. As for political strategy, Democrats seem to believe that just saying no will help them gain House and Senate seats in 2006. Perhaps. But Tom Daschle's early retirement testifies that it is also a high-risk strategy that cost them seats in both 2002 and 2004. Mr. Bush retains the bully pulpit to frame issues as Election Day approaches.

Now I'm aware that many will claim the Republicans have also been taken over by crazed, right-wing radicals, but for me it's not that simple. No doubt, the GOP has more than its share of problems. But is it merely that they're too "conservative?" On social issues, yes, but there's much more to it than that. To my mind, they're not nearly conservative enough when it comes to fiscal policy, regulatory policy, judicial restraint and immigration.

Downing Street Memo: So what, Part II

Tim Cavanaugh says it better than I did. Basically, he's underwhelmed. Contrary to popular belief, he says, the Downing Street Memo "establishes" nothing. Rather,

...[i]t presents hearsay evidence from a British politician. Outside of Tom Sneddon, it's hard to imagine the prosecutor who would consider this to be incontrovertible evidence. (Not that that's stopping believers from considering it exactly that.) In some of the less-frequently cited portions of the DSM, we find other UK officials qualifying these assertions ("It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind..." -- my italics), hedging bets ("No decisions had been taken...") and seemingly contradicting the above paraphrase ("The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced it was a winning strategy").
Now we have another opinion supporting the little-known theory that Condoleezza Rice was impatient with United Nations and the novel argument that administration officials didn't think through the post-war consequences. It is now more clear than ever that by mid-July of 2002 President George W. Bush was going to invade Iraq. But wasn't it clear before 9/11 that Bush was going to invade Iraq? Wasn't it clear before he was inaugurated that Bush was going to invade Iraq? The left understands all this and believes it's a scandal, or should be. The majority of American voters understand it too, and they re-elected Bush handily and have yet to turn solidly against the war in Iraq.

It was elegant timing that another of history's droppings -- the revelation that Mark Felt was "Deep Throat" -- splattered into the middle of the DSM controversy. This relic of the pre-Reagan, pre-Clinton era when, it's now clear, politicians simply didn't understand how much they could get away with, gave perfect shape to the left's quaint faith in Gnostic wisdom. If the common people only understood -- if they would just attend to our media, read our books, empurple over our pet outrages -- surely the scales would fall from their eyes. But to respect the much-lauded American People as sentient actors, you have to give them credit for being able to act with malice aforethought. Most Americans already know what's in the Downing Street Memo. They knew it before the memo was even published. And they don't care.
The Downing Street Memo is here. It couldn't be starved to death by media inattention. It couldn't be smothered under a manure of Brangelina and Runaway Brides. It's escaped into the open -- to die of natural causes.

Engel vs. fake rubber schlongs

Congressman Eliot Engel wants to ban fake rubber penises with urine inside. Now you might not agree with his attack on creative entrepreneurialism, but you've got to admire his style in doing it.

"What is the purpose of having steroid bans if a person who takes steroids can just use the Whizzinator to cover it up?" he said.

"The Whizzinator comes in natural, lifelike skin tones and is undetectable, foolproof and reusable.... I'm from New York, I can keep a straight face about anything.... OK, I'm smiling."

Thursday's Lileks-esque artwork

June 15, 2005

I never thought I'd see this day...

...but apparently PBS is taking steps to remedy its flagrantly liberal bias.

Yes, this was almost certainly a consequence of Congress's threat to remove federal funding. But Congress should by no means relent now. Don't lose sight of the goal, guys. The appropriate level of federal funding for PBS is zero, notwithstanding the bias of the editorial content.

Hey, we won one!

The House has made up for the Senate's flag desecration nonsense by actually doing something useful. I'm hearing now that Ron Paul's bill to prevent a U.N. tax from being levied on American citizens has just passed.

Nice work, guys. I also understand that Paul's resolution to withdraw from the U.N. is up next. Cynical Nation isn't getting its hopes up for this one, but one can always dream. Even if it gets rejected (which of course it will) the vote count could be very interesting. Believe it or not, it's got four cosponsors. They are

  • Rep Duncan, John J., Jr. [TN-2]
  • Rep Foxx, Virginia [NC-5]
  • Rep Johnson, Sam [TX-3]
  • Rep Miller, Jeff [FL-1]

Far out.

EU constitution post-mortem

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the constitution's chief architect, blames Chirac for its failure. Why? Well, it seems Chirac made the tactical blunder of, you know, letting the voters actually see the document.

A crucial turning point for the fate of the constitution in France came last March, Mr. Giscard d'Estaing said, when he phoned Mr. Chirac to warn him not to send the entire three-part, 448-article document to every French voter. The third and longest part consisted only of complicated treaties that have already been in force for years.

He said Mr. Chirac refused, citing legal reasons. "I said, 'Don't do it, don't do it,' " Mr. Giscard d'Estaing said. "It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text."

As a friend of mine would say, I have no words.

But it does bring to mind an illuminating conversation I had with a Dutch girl a dozen years ago. We were both living in Paris at the time, and everyone's attention was focused on the upcoming French referendum on the Maastricht Treaty. The Treaty was approved in a squeaker, but with the polls showing a tight race, the EU crowd was sweating it leading into the election. Clearly peeved at the thought that the whole brilliant, enlightened enterprise might unravel at the hands of the great unwashed, she said, "I hope the Dutch aren't stupid enough to have a referendum."

Can't you just imagine what wonderful things the European bureaucrats could bring to pass if they weren't burdened with annoying little concepts like "democracy" and "consent of the governed?" My friend was probably correct to fear Dutch skepticism, however. Holland thoroughly trounced the EU Constitution, by a much wider margin than the French.

In some ways, the Dutch vote strikes me as more significant than the French vote. Smaller countries like the Netherlands are beginning to learn that they'll always be second-tier members of a bloated, pan-national super-bureaucracy, which will exist the way France and Germany want it to, or not at all. Let's just say I'm not overly optimistic about the EU's long-term prospects.

Flag-burning redux

It's revival time for this grand perennial political theater, as the Senate prepares to vote on a constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration.

Yes, this is silly, and I don't think I even need to explain why. But remember, the more time Congress spends on this kind of grand nonsense, the less opportunity they have to wreak actual mischief. Besides, we should be thankful it's not a "Koranic desecration" amendment being considered.

UPDATE: Hat tip goes to Fred. (Actually, I read about this first on Democratic Underground, but I'd much rather give the credit to you anyway.)

BTW, here's my favorite paragraph from the USAToday article (emphasis mine):

Scenes of foreigners burning American flags may be common on TV, but such desecration is rare in this country. The Citizens Flag Alliance, an advocacy group that supports a constitutional amendment, reports a decline in flag desecration incidents, with only one this year.

Yeah. Sounds like a real pressing issue to me.

June 14, 2005

Corzine-Forrester: a bold prediction

A recent poll shows New Jersey Senator John Corzine in a closer-than-expected race for the governor's mansion. He now leads Republican Doug Forrester by a margin of 43 to 33.

On its surface that lead looks pretty comfortable, but there are several factors which should give the Corzine team pause.

  1. His support is under the critical 50% mark, a bad sign for a quasi-incumbent.
  2. His lead was 23 points as recently as May.
  3. Forrester led Corzine 35 to 29 among independents.
  4. A number of respondents said they "favored another candidate." It's not clear who they favored, but it's very likely one of Forrester's primary foes, since Corzine was essentially unopposed in the Democratic primary. This could represent a small group of GOP-leaning independents.

It's still too early to put any money on it, but I would like to make my official prediction of the outcome right now: New Jersey's next governor will be a rich white guy.

(I apologize to my non-Jersey readers for this brief digression into the local politics of my recently adopted home state.)

Senate apologizes

The U.S. Senate has apologized for failing to pass anti-lynching laws in the past. Well, good for them I guess.

Senators repeatedly blocked anti-lynching legislation from being approved by Congress.

Nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced, three of which made it past the lower House of Representatives between 1920 and 1940.

But despite the support of seven US presidents, the Senate stopped any of them becoming law.

Even though the article never explicitly mentions the f-word, it's obvious what's going on here. The lynching statutes were repeatedly thwarted by filibuster, the very parliamentary maneuver we were just told by liberals safeguards the very bedrock of our democracy.

Sorry, just thought that was worth a mention.

At least it's an encouraging trend to have the Senate actually apologize for something. Perhaps we'll see more of it in the future. God knows they have a lot to be sorry about.

UPDATE: It's nice to see the Senate taking responsibility as a continuing body, but I can think of one guy for whom the apology was personal.

Stem cell progress

Stem cell researchers have managed to fully mature brain cells in a laboratory, potentially paving the way for treatment of epilepsy, Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.

Oh yeah, and this happened in America. With adult stem cells.

Just to be clear, I support embryonic stem cell research, but this article is important in that it belies two common, partisan myths: First, that adult stem cells aren't worth crap, and second, that America is so woefully behind in this field that they're essentially out of the game.

In short, this is good news all the way around, and should be celebrated by everyone.

June 13, 2005


Memo to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi: You might want to hold off on finalizing those impeachment papers long enough to take a look at a certain briefing memo from Tony Blair's cabinet, dated July 2002. No, not that memo, this one (emphasis mine):

A memorandum written by Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet office in late July 2002 explicitly states that the Bush administration had made "no political decisions" to invade Iraq, but that American military planning for the possibility was advanced.
The publication of the memorandum is significant because a previously leaked document, now known as the Downing Street Memo, appeared to suggest that a decision to go to war may have been made that summer. In Washington last week, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair denied that they made any decision in 2002, and suggested that the memorandum was being misinterpreted.

"No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all," Mr. Blair said, adding that "no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me."

The memo also observes that the U.S. had done little in the way of post-war planning at the time the memo was penned, although more work was done in this regard during the following eight months that led up to the conflict.

No doubt, the ABB crowd will be able to find fodder for the grist mill in this document as well (to mix a metaphor), but it does seem to undercut what we were told was the most damning aspect of the DSM -- that the decision to go to war was already a done deal by mid-summer.





</Drudge mode off>

Downing Street Memo: So what?

This friggin' memo is practically all I hear about or read about from the Bush-hating left these days. They can scarcely conceal their glee at what many of them believe to be the long sought-after "smoking gun" that will finally topple this president.

Read the lefty bloggers who write on the topic. It doesn't take much reading between the lines to hear the high fives going round amongst the Kos diarists, amidst choruses of "We got you now, you smirking Texas chimp!!" This single document has even prompted Ralph Nader (ludicrously) to call for Bush's impeachment.

What's less clear is exactly why they're so excited. At the end of the day, the document is nothing more than an aide's impressions of what he believed was the mindset of certain Bush administration officials during the leadup to the war. And not only is it opinion and conjecture, but it's not even new opinion or conjecture. Rather, it's the same-ole same-ole we've been hearing from Bush critics for years -- without any supporting evidence to back it up: planning for post-war Iraq was inadequate (like we need some British functionary to tell us that,) war was a foregone conclusion, and intelligence was cherry-picked to support it. Stale inferences and assertions unaccompanied by supporting evidence is hardly the recipe for a "smoking gun," and I'm frankly unimpressed.

That being said, I do believe there's a very good chance that the DSM is true, in that the impressions of the memo's author, subjective and unsubstantiated or not, are largely correct.

But again my response is: "So what?"

Let's imagine President Bush giving the following talk to his national security staff in 2002:

Ladies and gentlemen, I have come to the conclusion that the U.S. and its allies must act to end the rule of Saddam Hussein, and do so by military force if necessary.

As you know, regime change in Iraq has been our nation's official policy since 1998. Further, I'm aware that some among you have advocated regime change from the beginning of this administration. I say to you now that recent events in the world have brought a new urgency to this matter.

In a post-9/11 world, we no longer have the luxury to abide a tyrant, a sworn enemy of the United States, with a history of aggression against his neighbors, committing acts of genocide against his own people, the production and use of weapons of mass destruction, the flouting of international law, and support and harboring of terrorist groups and individuals.

Saddam must be removed from power. I charge all of you and your respective staffs to compile the best possible case we can for regime change, both for the American public as well as the global community. Get started.

Not difficult to imagine, right? Indeed, I think it's a fairly accurate portrayal of Administration thinking at the time.

And you know what? Hooray for Bush and Blair. If a generation from now we find that we have failed -- that the Middle East remains a cesspool of despotism and terror -- then it will not be because free men did not try to make it otherwise.

Meanwhile, if the Bush-haters still want to find a smoking gun, they'd best keep looking.

A terrible bill, but few complain

Outrageous and idiotic bills are always being introduced into Congress, but many of the more egregious ones sink without a trace. Let's hope that's the case with H.R. 1528.

Nominally aimed at "protecting children" from drug-related activities, this bill seems to call for (among other things) a minimum two-year sentence for anyone who fails to report certain drug-related crimes to the authorities.


SEC. 425. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person who witnesses or learns of a violation of sections 416(b)(2), 417, 418, 419, 420, 424, or 426 to fail to report the offense to law enforcement officials within 24 hours of witnessing or learning of the violation and thereafter provide full assistance in the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of the person violating paragraph (a).

(b) Any person who violates subsection (a) of this section shall be sentenced to not less than two years or more than 10 years. If the person who witnesses or learns of the violation is the parent or guardian, or otherwise responsible for the care or supervision of the person under the age of 18 or the incompetent person, such person shall be sentenced to not less than three years or more than 20 years.'

Cool, huh? What disturbs me most about this bill is how little discussion I've heard of it. Where are all the liberals and civil libertarians who are always squawking about the Patriot Act? It's okay to give someone a five-year prison sentence for passing a joint, but God forbid we look at what magazines a terrorist subscribes to.

It's amazing what the drug warriors get away with. Perhaps we should adopt a tactical shift in the war on terror. Maybe it's time pursue al Qaeda for their connections to the global drug trade. Then we could use the most draconian measures imaginable in pursuing and apprehending them, and we'd never have to hear a peep from the peanut gallery.

June 10, 2005

Interesting point

James Taranto explains how Democrats ensured Bill Pryor's confirmation by filibustering him.

[H]is vote was pretty close: 53-45 (two senators missed the vote). Three Republicans (Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee and Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe) voted against his confirmation; two Democrats (Nebraska's Ben Nelson and Colorado's Ken Salazar) voted in favor.

What if the Democrats had allowed Pryor's nomination to come up for a vote back in 2003 rather than filibustering him? Back then there were only 51 Republicans; with three dissenters there would have been only 48 GOP votes in his favor, two short of the 50 (plus the vice president) needed to confirm. Without two Democratic votes, Pryor would have been rejected.

Salazar wasn't in the Senate yet, but Zell Miller still was, and he was a reliable vote for the president's judicial nominees. That means that if the Democrats had prevailed upon Ben Nelson to cast a party-line vote, or had persuaded one more Republican to jump ship, they would have been able to block Pryor's nomination. It is possible that by filibustering him, they ended up assuring his confirmation.

Ha ha. </Nelson Munz>

Dean gaffes archive

Are you like me? Do you have difficulty keeping track of all of Howard Dean's seemingly endless series gaffes and indiscretions? Of course you do! So do what I did, and bookmark Lily and Vance's very helpful compendium.

I have too much money

Or more precisely, too many different kinds of money. That's why I reached into my change bowl for what I thought was 70 cents, and realized I was 20 cents short when I got where I was going.

See, money is too hard to tell apart these days. It used to be that I could recognize the patterns of all the coins immediately, without even trying, because I was intimately familiar with them. A quarter was always the big chunky coin with the bad-ass eagle on the back and someone who looked like my grandma on front. (Yeah, there was a brief period in 1976 when the eagle was replaced by the shot-up marching band, but you don't see those too much anymore.)

Now there are umpteen-jillion different quarter backs (or however many states there are) and that just confuses things. Sure, I thought the state quarters program was cool, and I collected them when they first came out until I got bored somewhere around Missouri. I probably won't make it to those big square states.

But still, it was easy enough, because any chunky coin with an unfamiliar design on its back is a quarter, right? Not anymore. What I grabbed by mistake yesterday was the new Lousiana Purchase nickel (not to be confused with the new Gay Jefferson nickel.) They're also bringing back the buffalo and some thing with trees.

When the first changes in appearance came around, I figured we were probably due for an overhaul, but isn't this a bit much? Do we really need quarters and nickels to have completely unpredictable designs simultaneously? And do we really need a new 20 dollar bill every 3 weeks? Is it just me? Am I just being crotchety?

June 09, 2005

This pisses me off

Some Congressional asshat from Texas has introduced a bill designed to prevent local governments from setting up WiFi hotspots. It's supposedly "unfair competition," or some damn thing.

Small-government conservatives (before they became an endangered species) were routinely labeled "pro-business" in years past, when what they really were was simply "anti-regulation." Because of the tenor of the times, however, regulation in those days was more likely to try to rein in corporate excess than to protect corporate profits. Hence libertarians were often perceived as loving "big business."

How times have changed. Modern technology and a new political climate have resolved sharp differences between two different camps that had been papered over until recently. On the one hand, there are limited-government conservatives and libertarians who chafe at unnecessary government intrusion in the commercial sphere, regardless of whom it benefits. On the other side are "conservatives" like Congressman Sessions here, to whom corporate profit is more important than restraining government meddling. This latter group is sadly similar to the pernicious stereotype that many liberals have applied to all conservatives in the past.

Count me among the former group. The only problem is, I'm afraid there may be more of them than there are of us.

Fortunately, as with much congressional hi-tech stupidity, technology will likely render this bill moot even if it should become law. Haven't they ever heard of Starbuck's?

(Hat tip: Jill)

June 08, 2005

More on Dean

Howard's base, of course, is rallying to defend his most recent lapse of political common sense, but some Democrats are taking a more sober view. This time, believe it's Susan Estrich.

... it should come as no surprise to experienced Dean watchers to hear him say that most Republicans have never earned an honest living. This is what it means not to be ready for primetime. You make the sort of statements that are sure to get attention because they hit flashpoints like class warfare. It's a Republican talk show host's dream.

The reason other Democrats don't say such things is because you don't win elections this way. In point of fact, of course, what Dean is saying is wrong. Most Republicans are not coupon-clippers -- they go to work and earn a day's pay like the rest of us. And hearing Howard Dean say otherwise not only offends Republicans, but also moderates and independents who have no taste for class warfare or the strident liberalism that Howard Dean is selling.

But that's not really the problem with Dean. In seeking the party chairmanship, he promised not to run for president. I'd be willing to bet that Howard Dean will be well out of the picture by the time November 2008 rolls around, having been replaced by someone with less of an appetite for insulting would-be voters and donors.
What is far more troubling is what Dean may not be doing, and what his counterpart, Ken Mehlman, almost certainly is. According to the latest reports, Mehlman and his RNC have outraised Dean and his DNC by a factor of about three to one: $42 million to $14 million. Three top DNC major fund-raisers have left in recent weeks, among conflicting reports as to whether their departures are routine aspects of the normal transition to new leadership or a sign of the move from a focus on large donors to the grass-roots small-donor base that Dean emphasized in his own campaign and has been talking up since.

The truth is that the Democrats must do both if they are to be competitive. It doesn't matter very much what the party leader sounds off about -- there are plenty of Democrats with bigger bullhorns than his. But he is the only one whose job is to put together the technology that the 2008 candidate will need if he is to have the ability to pull off what Karl Rove did in 2004, and then some.

Look for more such Democratic voices to sound the alarm in future months.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I would be remiss to quote Ms. Estrich without taking the opportunity to dust off this classic visual from the archives.

June 07, 2005

Howard Dean: Making Republicans' jobs easier since 2005

We don't even need a "nuclear option." Howard Dean will eliminate the threat of Democratic filibusters single-handedly. After another year and a half of crap like this, the Democrats won't have enough Senate seats to even think about launching a filibuster.

Howard Dean, January 29, 2005: "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."

Howard Dean, this week: "It's pretty much a white Christian party."

Gee, taken together, you could almost conclude Dr. Dean isn't so keen on white Christians. Maybe he's one of those self-loathing types, because he certainly hyped up his own Christian faith during the election. And Christ knows, he's white. I've seen albino Swedish agoraphobes who were less white than Howard Dean.

Well I guess I'd better find me a new party. Same goes for my only Republican friend here at my day job, who's an Orthodox Jew. Oy. Who knew?

He also takes the GOP to task for a troubling lack of diversity, calling it "a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same." I'm not so sure about this. I can name a dozen prominent, pro-choice Republicans off the top of my head without even trying. How many prominent, pro-life Democrats can Dr. Dean name? He then takes it one step further: "They all look the same." Right! I don't know about y'all, but I have a hell of a time telling Rush Limbaugh from Laura Ingraham in a dimly lighted bar. I can't even begin to describe the trouble and embarrassment this has caused me over the years.

By the way, this story breaks on the same day we learn that three top Democratic fundraisers have resigned amidst fundamental disagreements with current leadership. I'm beginning to think Dean is capable of providing enough fodder to enable this blog to go to an all-Dean all-the-time format. But that would get old after a while, and people would quit paying attention. And at the moment, that seems about the best the Democrats can hope for.

Another possible explanation

Another possible explanation is that Kerry was trying to hide this.

...newly released records show that Bush and Kerry had a virtually identical grade average at Yale University four decades ago.

In 1999, The New Yorker published a transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year.

Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D's in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years.

Heh, heh.

Keenly embarrassing, to be sure, for Mr. I'm-so-damn-much-smarter-than-that-smirking-Texas-chimp, but was keeping it hidden worth the price? Perhaps so, if he thought he could prevent this truly ghastly yearbook photo from seeing the light of day. Holy God, what a Goober!

(Hat tip: Althouse)

Explaining the inexplicable

Well, he finally did it. And John Kerry's military and medical records have been released.

And if initial reports are accurate, there is scant new information therein. In fact, there are a number of tidbits which would seem to undercut some of the Swift Vets' charges against him.

So... it begs the question. (Do I really have to ask?) Why? Why now? Why not then? Just, "why"??

Here's what we're being led to believe.

  1. John Kerry ran for president, making his military service the centerpiece of his campaign.
  2. His service record, quite predictably, came under increased scrutiny, and was attacked by a well-organized, well-funded group comprising many of his fellow Swift Boat veterans.
  3. Kerry refused to release his records, or was vaguely evasive on the matter, fueling speculation that he had something to hide, thus bolstering the Swift Vets' credibility, even though the contents of his file would likely have diffused the aura of suspicion.
  4. Now that the election is safely over, he belatedly decides to release the records anyway... and there's nothing damaging within.

Okay, someone want to explain this? Anyone? Bueller?

Was this truly some ill-conceived stand on principle? Was he reluctant to grant the Swift Vets "legitimacy" by acceding to their request? Did he oppose signing Form 180 merely because his opponent, President Bush, had not done likewise?

During the campaign I certainly heard more than one Kerry supporter defending Kerry's intransigence on these grounds. So I'm curious, do these Kerry supporters still feel that way? Or do they wish he'd simply released the damn things from Square One?

I know hindsight's 20/20, but unless there's more to the story than we're seeing now, this will no doubt go down as one of the biggest political blunders in American electoral history.

June 06, 2005

Okay, it's official

Clarence Thomas is now officially my favorite Supreme Court justice. Mock me if you want, but the man has shown a marked unwillingness to set aside the principles of federalism and states' rights just because they happen to conflict with the wishes of a president or a policy that he obviously supports. Today's unfortunate decision permitting federal prosecution of medicinal marijuana users is the latest case in point. O'Connor and Rehnquist joined Thomas in dissenting, and good for them, but I see this vote as more in keeping with Thomas's track record than with the other two.

Meanwhile, the decision is yet another disappointment for libertarians and limited-government conservatives, wherever such may still be found. And we can't even blame Bush for this one, since he has yet to make a SCOTUS appointment.

Questions about Gitmo

So the New York Times is following Tom Friedman's lead in calling for the military prison at Guantanamo Bay to be shut down.

Fine. I'm just back from vacation and not in an argumentative mood. But putting aside questions of the veracity of certain allegations of abuse, as well as the wisdom of releasing military prisoners before the end of hostilities, I have some questions of a more practical nature.

I think it's pretty clear the majority of these detainees do not belong in the American criminal justice system. I think it's equally obvious that repatriating them to their country of origin will likely mean an instant death sentence for many of them.

Given that, what do the AI types at the Times recommend we do with them, exactly? Also, what would closing the current detention system actually accomplish? It would necessarily be replaced by another battlefield detention system which would be equally prone to the same kind of allegations and rumor-mongering, would it not? We know that Islamist jihadists are trained to allege systematic abuse and torture at the hands of their captors. If we cave in and shut down Gitmo based on the admittedly unproven allegations of the AI crowd, what reason is there to believe that the same pattern won't repeat itself with the inevitable acquisition of future battlefield detainees?

These are questions that need to be answered before we raze Camp X-Ray in a knee-jerk response to the administration's critics. I'll admit I'm inclined to take Tom Friedman's recommendation a bit more seriously than that of the editorial staff of the Times. The Times' editorial can be easily dismissed as merely the latest installment in its reflexive, ankle-biting carping and bitching over every single initiative the Bush Administration has undertaken from Day One. Friedman, on the other hand, has a proven track record of taking this war seriously. As a result, his proposal deserves to be taken seriously. Still, it seems to me that his proposal is based largely on emotion, and that he hasn't thought this one fully through.

I'm back

...although it may take a few days of catching up before I resume full speed. I just got back from North Carolina, where I nearly froze to death for a solid week. Now that I'm back up North, it's like a friggen sauna up here. Geez....