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November 30, 2005


...so screams a headline for this Reuters story on Drudge.

Do you suppose that maybe it's because he's... anti-abortion?

Don't know about you, but that'd be my guess. That would mean that he and I disagree on at least one issue. As I've said before, however, I don't give a rat's ass what his personal views on abortion are, so long as they aren't instrumental in determining how he rules on abortion-related issues.

As I've pointed out here and here, Alito has demonstrated to my satisfaction that he is capable of ruling on the matter without subordinating his jurisprudence to his personal beliefs, whatever they may be. I think even his critics would have to give him that. And that's good enough for me.

So he's pro-life. So what?

(BTW, I apologize for the light blogging of late. Today was an exceptionally busy day, work-wise. With any luck the storm has passed.)

November 29, 2005

Bolton at the U.N.

For all those people who couldn't understand why we conservatives were so enamored of sending John Bolton to the U.N.? This is why:

Following intense US pressure, the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday issued an unprecedented condemnation of Monday's Hizbullah attacks on northern Israel.

This condemnation--slamming Hizbullah by name for "acts of hatred"--marked the first time the Security Council has ever reprimanded Hizbullah for cross-border attacks on Israel. The condemnation followed by two days a failed attempt to get a condemnation issued on Monday, the day of the attack, when Algeria came out against any mention of Hizbullah in the statement.

When asked what changed from Monday to Wednesday, one diplomatic official replied: "John Bolton," a reference to the US ambassador to the UN. Bolton lobbied vigorously for the passage of the statement.

There's more about the man who made George Voinovich cry in today's Wall Street Journal too.

What has confounded John Bolton's abundant detractors, both American and foreign, is how little he has lived up to their caricature of him as the fire-breathing, unilateralist, neo-conservative pit bull during his first four months as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

"He's an intelligent person," says Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, a Bolton opponent on any number of issues, most critically now over U.N. management reform. "He's articulate, and he's a tough negotiator. As far as I'm concerned, he's quite okay."

Mr. Akram then pays Mr. Bolton the greatest compliment possible from within the ranks of diplomats deeply suspicious of his motives for wanting the U.N, job in the first place. "I have no reason to believe he's here to destroy the institution," the Pakistani envoy says. "I can work with him."

That said, Mr. Akram and others remain far from viewing Mr. Bolton as their salvation, though that well may be what he represents. His appointment to the U.N. was the rough equivalent of Richard Nixon's visit to China, as he is determined to provoke needed change and has the hard-line credentials to sell skeptical congressmen on any agreed-upon reforms.

Senior U.N. officials "expect me to be is the U.N. ambassador to the U.S. and that isn't going to happen," Mr. Bolton says, in an interview. Yet he recognizes that he is the man most trusted by congressmen who have drafted a bill aimed at withholding 50% of U.S. funding for the U.N. if it doesn't make itself more effective and transparent. "If we have a good story on reform, I'll tell it to the Hill. If we don't, I'm not going to spin it. What they know is that I am is a tough negotiator for U.S. positions."

That's why I supported the guy, and that's why I'm glad he's there. Bolton may well be the first ambassador to the U.N. since Jeanne Kirkpatrick who actually understands what his role is.

A congressman resigns...

...and likely faces prison. One down and 434 to go, I guess.

November 28, 2005

Some common sense on Wal-Mart

Over the holidays, some of my in-laws were, for whatever reason, musing about the household incomes of the average Wal-Mart shopper versus the average Costco shopper. You'd think that would be a fairly obscure bit of data to track down, right? But I did some Googling and, lo and behold, ot only did I find that very datum right off the bat, but it was embedded in a column from today's Washington Post that I think represents some of the clearest wisdom on the subject of Wal-Mart that I've ever read.

There's a comic side to the anti-Wal-Mart campaign brewing in Maryland and across the country. Only by summoning up the most naive view of corporate behavior can the critics be shocked -- shocked! -- by the giant retailer's machinations. Wal-Mart is plotting to contain health costs! But isn't that what every company does in the face of medical inflation? Wal-Mart has a war room to defend its image! Well, yeah, it's up against a hostile campaign featuring billboards, newspaper ads and a critical documentary movie. Wal-Mart aims to enrich shareholders and put rivals out of business! Hello? What business doesn't do that?

Wal-Mart's critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.

These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart's "every day low prices" make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.

Read the whole thing.

More inequity in France

Hey, it's been a tough year all around, but recent weeks have proven especially injurious to one of the American left's most cherished and enduring notions -- the myth of France as egalitarian utopia.

The latest indignity to befall our more enlightened brethren across the Atlantic is the freezing deaths of the city's homeless.

Still, sacred cows die hard, and this is probably not a fatal blow. A way will be found to blame Bush for even this (probably involving Kyoto and global... er... "warming..." or something) and then the liberals can all heave a collective sigh of relief and Paul Krugman can pen yet another op-ed piece about the inherent superiority of the French social system and all will once again be right with the universe.

Fahrenheit 1861

It's always fun to browse about on Google Video when you're bored. You never know what you're going to find. Check this one out, for example.

(Hat tip: Dean)

What did I miss?

I'm back, but it will probably take me a while to ramp up to full blogging speed.

Meanwhile, what did I miss? Obscure news items as well as harrowing personal tales of surviving family and in-laws are both welcome.

November 21, 2005

Thanksgiving open thread

So what's the deal with "open threads," anyway? Aren't all threads more or less open? I suspect it's blogger-speak for "I'm too lazy to think of something to post right now, so I'll just punt and call it an 'open' thread."

Well this one's a little bit different. I'm going out to the Left Coast for Thanksgiving this year, and I'm leaving tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn. I'll probably spend much of the rest of the day trying to get ready for the trip, so I probably won't be blogging here until after Thanksgiving weekend.

I hope everyone has a terrific Thanksgiving. I'll talk to you when I get back.

Walk the line

If someone had told me a year ago that Joaquin Phoenix would play Johnny Cash in a major theatrical release and do his own singing to boot, I would not have known whether to laugh or to cry. See, I have been a huge Johnny Cash fan for literally my entire life. Some of my very earliest memories are of hearing his music and watching his television show. He was so distinctive in voice and style and manner that it's a daunting prospect to try to capture his essence on film. Handled badly, it could almost become sacrilege.

Even after reading a number of positive reviews, I approached the movie with trepidation. I need not have. "Walk the Line" was the most pleasant cinematic surprise since "Lord of the Rings." Phoenix positively channeled Cash's distinctive style and voice. And I have a whole new respect for Reese Witherspoon as well. She became June Carter, as anyone who remembers her from those pre-Johnny days can attest. Mother Maybelle was also uncannily accurate in both look and speech. It was almost like seeing an apparition.

If you're not a Johnny Cash fan, you should go see the movie anyway, simply because it's a great film. But if you are a fan, I can pretty much guarantee you'll get chills.

November 20, 2005

Birthday reflections

I tend to treat birthdays as personal New Years -- a time to take stock of the year that just passed and to set goals and plans for the one to come. I don't mind getting older so long as I feel that I've made sufficient progress during the preceding year.

I was prepared for a downer of a birthday this year, since I hadn't accomplished as much in terms of the "big" goals (career, writing, etc.) as I had the previous year. But this morning, my wife asked me what my favorite memory of my last year had been. I started thinking about the good times, and I realized they were too numerous to list them all, let alone pick a favorite.

So it's going to be a great birthday after all. I'll try to accomplish more in the year to come, but meanwhile, I'm going to settle back and enjoy being one of those ages that people write songs about.

November 19, 2005

Iraq and Vietnam

Professor Owens offers a timely history refresher on Vietnam in the days after Tet.

Americans and South Vietnamese scored major military successes against the North Vietnamese from 1968 to 1971, helping to stabilize the political situation in South Vietnam. This, combined with economic improvements, was solidifying the attachment of the rural population to the South Vietnamese government.
Their approach was no mere holding action, but a positive strategy for ensuring the survival of South Vietnam. They knew that U.S. forces would be withdrawn eventually, so they employed diminishing resources in manpower, materiel, money and time to maximize the ability of the South Vietnamese to defend themselves before the American withdrawal was complete.
Abrams' approach was vindicated during the 1972 Easter Offensive -- the biggest offensive push of the war, greater than either the 1968 Tet offensive or the final assault of 1975.

As the Northern forces pushed south, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) held on -- fighting well (with the inevitable failures on the part of some units) with massive American air and naval support. Then, having blunted the communist thrust, they recaptured territory that had been lost to Hanoi.

So effective was the combination of the ARVN performance during the Easter Offensive and following operations (Colby's Phoenix Program and LINEBACKER II -- the so-called Christmas bombing of 1972) that the British counterinsurgency expert, Sir Robert Thompson, concluded that U.S.-ARVN forces "had won the war. It was over."

But while the war was being won on the ground, it was being lost at the peace table and in Congress.

First, the same sort of domestic defeatism that is endangering our effort in Iraq today impelled President Richard Nixon to rush to extricate the country from Vietnam, forcing South Vietnam to accept a cease-fire that permitted the People's Army of Vietnam (the North Vietnamese) forces to remain in South Vietnam.

Second, the Watergate scandal changed the makeup of Congress -- which, in an act that still shames the United States to this day, then cut off military and economic assistance to South Vietnam.

Finally, President Nixon resigned over Watergate -- and his successor, further constrained by Congress, defaulted on promises to respond with force to North Vietnamese violations of the peace terms.

In short, Iraq is no Vietnam, and it will not become Vietnam unless and until Bush's enemies succeed in weakening him politically to the point where we will be forced to cut and run, and abandon Iraq to terror and chaos. Sadly, there are quite a few legislators on the Hill who are working overtime to make sure that's exactly what happens.

The final vote count

So CRB doesn't have to watch C-SPAN any more, the Iraq troop resolution was defeated by a vote of 403 to 3. The three stupidest members of Congress are now officially:

Cynthia A. McKinney, D - GA
Robert Wexler, D - FL
Jose E. Serrano, D - NY

Democrats cried foul because the resolution's language differed from that of Murtha's. The Republican resolution called for an immediate withdrawal, and was calculated to get as many no votes as possible. It was no more tendentious than Murtha's resolution, however, which was so vaguely worded that President Bush could have supported it, and was calculated to get as many yes votes as possible. Welcome to the world of politics.

November 18, 2005

Be careful what you ask for

The day after "conservative" and "hawkish" Democrat John Murtha made headlines by calling for a troop withdrawal, the House leadership decided to bring the idea to a vote.

How did Democrats react? Here's a sampling.

"A disgrace," declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

"The rankest of politics and the absence of any sense of shame," added Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.

"You guys are pathetic! Pathetic!" yelled Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass.

"It's a pathetic, partisan, political ploy," said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

Added Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.: "It's just heinous."

Translation: "We want to beat our chests and bray about a troop withdrawal in order to damage the president, but it's 'heinous' and 'pathetic' to ask us to, you know, actually vote on it."

CRB, I'm glad I'm not watching it. Just reading the AP report was enough to send my blood pressure through the roof.

Someone Please Stop Me

I'm doing it again, watching C-SPAN waiting for them to vote on removing the troops from Iraq. Forty minutes to go until they vote on the resolution, I'm listening to these jackasses and my head is about to explode.

Dennis Kucinich is speaking now. Please help me.

Where's the party of fiscal discipline?

In yet another baby step in the right direction, the House narrowly passed $50 billion in spending reduction. And when I say narrowly, I mean narrowly! It passed by one vote.

That's pathetic, people.

And you know what else is bad? Every Democrat voted against it. Every. Single. One. This is reminiscent of my recent list of a mere handful of Senators who had earned a modicum of respect on the issue of spending -- out of the 13 senatorial "heroes" I identified, only one was a Democrat.

Now let's be clear about this: The Republicans suck on the issue of fiscal discipline. They suck long and they suck hard, and that's one of the reasons why their poll numbers are in the shitter, and that so many fiscal conservatives like myself are feeling alienated and disaffected.

The Democrats would love for us to believe that they're prepared to assume the mantle of fiscal restraint, but with voting records like these, how can they have any credibility on that score? They can't. They don't. That's probably a big reason why no matter how low the GOP's poll numbers go, the numbers for congressional Democrats are still slightly worse.

A fellow disaffected Republican recently asked me, "Don't you feel like the Republican Party has left you? You know, like the Democratic Party left Ronald Reagan and Phil Gramm?"

Well, yes. I do feel exactly like that. The big, depressing difference, however, is that Reagan and Gramm had somewhere else to go.

Required weekend reading

Believe it or not, Haaretz has found a Frenchman who speaks with some common sense about the recent uprisings there. Even more surprising, he's erstwhile lefty intellectual Alain Finkielkraut. Here's what he's saying now.

"In France, they would like very much to reduce these riots to their social dimension, to see them as a revolt of youths from the suburbs against their situation, against the discrimination they suffer from, against the unemployment. The problem is that most of these youths are blacks or Arabs, with a Muslim identity. Look, in France there are also other immigrants whose situation is difficult -- Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese -- and they're not taking part in the riots. Therefore, it is clear that this is a revolt with an ethno-religious character.
"We tend to fear the language of truth, for 'noble' reasons. We prefer to say the 'youths' instead of 'blacks' or 'Arabs.' But the truth cannot be sacrificed, no matter how noble the reasons. And, of course, we also must avoid generalizations: This isn't about blacks and Arabs as a whole, but about some blacks and Arabs. And, of course, religion -- not as religion, but as an anchor of identity, if you will -- plays a part. Religion as it appears on the Internet, on the Arab television stations, serves as an anchor of identity for some of these youths.
"Imagine for a moment that they were whites, like in Rostock in Germany. Right away, everyone would have said: 'Fascism won't be tolerated.' When an Arab torches a school, it's rebellion. When a white guy does it, it's fascism. I'm 'color blind.' Evil is evil, no matter what color it is. And this evil, for the Jew that I am, is completely intolerable."

Those are just a few excerpts. I recommend reading the whole thing. It's lengthy, but worthwhile.

Woodward pisses off the world

I haven't yet written about the latest Bob Woodward revelations for a simple reason: I had no idea what to make of them. I still don't.

But tell me, am I the only one who's begun to wonder whether Bob Woodward is in fact a closet Republican? He surely disappointed the entire "BUSH LIED!!" crowd with his book Plan of Attack, in which he portrayed a skeptical president convinced of Iraqi WMD evidence by George Tenet, who assured his boss it was a "slam dunk."

Woodward has also been very publicly critical of Robert Fitzgerald and his entire Plamegate investigation. Scooter Libby's defense team will have to be pleased with this new information. It doesn't exonerate Libby outright, but it can easily undermine Fitzgerald's case against him.

But the big question is, why now? Closet Republican or not, I think Woodward has managed to piss off pretty much everyone in the world by his dreadful timing, if nothing else. The Kos Kids are pissed off because this might ultimately help Libby, and they'd probably prefer he'd kept his mouth shut. The Bush team and Fitzgerald himself have to be pissed off because he waited so long to talk. Joe Wilson's just pissed off, period, and so are a bunch of other reporters.

Once again, I feel like we're right back at Square One, and it seems like nobody knows a damn thing.

November 17, 2005


Count me in.

Hitch weighs in...

...on the "Bush Lied!" meme. My favorite bit:

[T]he Iraq Liberation Act, during the Clinton-Gore administration, in 1998... which passed the Senate without a dissenting vote -- did expressly call for the removal of Saddam Hussein but did not actually mention the use of direct U.S. military force.

Let us suppose, then, that we can find a senator who voted for the 1998 act to remove Saddam Hussein yet did not anticipate that it might entail the use of force, and who later voted for the 2002 resolution and did not appreciate that the authorization of force would entail the removal of Saddam Hussein! Would this senator kindly stand up and take a bow? He or she embodies all the moral and intellectual force of the anti-war movement. And don't be bashful, ladies and gentlemen of the "shocked, shocked" faction, we already know who you are.

Read the whole thing, though.

And keep at it. Don't let up on this.

San Francisco repeals Second Amendment

There was an interesting aspect to this month's elections that was largely lost in the coverage of the Democratic "tsunami" in which the party was able to retain two governorships that it already had.

Still, I think it's pretty big news. By a comfortable margin, San Francisco voters decided to ban the sale and/or manufacture of firearms or ammunition within their city. Moreover, private citizens will no longer be allowed to keep handguns in their own homes, and will have until April 1 to surrender their guns to the authorities. In short, it's pretty much the most draconian anti-gun measures this country has ever seen, and the ACLU, which purports to defend the Bill of Rights, is nowhere to be found.

It's hard to understand why. I remember back in 1987, when Florida first voted to allow "concealed carry" permits. There was, of course, all the expected hyperventilation and hysteria about how Florida would become Dodge City, and there'd be mindless, rampaging shoot-outs in the streets.

Well that didn't happen, of course, and in the years since there has been a quiet revolution underway, as other states followed suit. Thirty-five states, a solid majority, now have some form of "shall issue" law for concealed weapon permits. (In addition, we should probably throw in the state of Vermont, which always allowed concealed handguns, even before they became trendy.)

Note that this revolution has coincided with the most dramatic reductions in violent crime rates of our lifetime. Now I'm not going to claim a causal relationship there, but that indisputable fact devastatingly undermines the gun grabbers' claim that liberalized handgun laws breed violence.

But for some reason San Francisco never got the memo. By preventing the sale of firearms and ammunition through legal channels, and by forcing law abiding citizens to voluntarily comply with the surrender ordinance, the city thus guarantees its criminal element (who will not surrender their guns) that their prey will henceforth be defenseless.

It's hard for me to understand how that can be a recipe for less violent crime. Time will tell, of course, and I may be wrong, but I am not at all optimistic about this.

I can't resist

Normally I try to keep my family out of this blog as much as possible, but I can't resist sending a shout-out to my brother-in-law, who won the National Book Award for his novel Europe Central last night.

Congratulations, Bill. I wish I could write half as well as you. I'll drink a pint or three in your honor today, and I look forward to sharing one with you in person next week.

November 16, 2005

3% less Corzine, Lautenberg

Uh, guys? Here's a bit of unsolicited advice. If your goal is to marshal public opinion to stem global warming by making dire predictions, you might want to identify other potential threats besides, you know, shrinking New Jersey.

I want a new drug

And Jonah's found it for me.

(PS -- As with any drug, make sure you thoroughly read all the listed side effects before taking.)

Feynman on ID?

The older I get and the more years I spend as a student of politics, the more convinced I become that there is absolutely nothing new under the sun. The basic idea behind Intelligent Design is a case in point. It's been reformulated over the years, but at its core, the essential notion has been kicking around at least since Thomas Aquinas set forth his fifth proof for the existence of God.

The argument can be seductive -- what are the odds that certain highly complex structures and mechanisms could evolve as a product of random chance? It's reminded me of a great quote from one of my all-time heroes, the legendary physicist Richard Feynman. He was giving a lecture in Seattle once when someone employed the same fallacy, albeit in a different context. Feynman responded, "I had the most remarkable experience this evening. While coming in here I saw license plate ANZ 912. Calculate for me, please, the odds that of all the license plates in the state of Washington I should happen to see ANZ 912." Think about it.

A terrific money-making idea

Walking through the East Village last night, I saw a guy with a tattoo on his forehead that read, "Fuck you!" and one on his chin that read, "I'm from New York." I presume the two comprise a single message.

Anyway, I was thinking. If Splogging doesn't work out for me, maybe I should spend the next couple of years getting trained in the technology of laser tattoo removal. Something tells me that five years from now, I'd have more business than I could handle.


Did Porkbusters claim a scalp? It's being reported that the Senate is defunding the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere."

It would be a mistake to attach too much significance to a single earmark, a mere vapor droplet in an ocean of red ink, but movement in the right direction, even baby steps, is a welcome thing.

A handy reference

Hey, guess what? Norman Podhoretz is not dead. Not only that, but he has penned an extremely helpful piece debunking the whole "Bush Lied!" lie.

I wasn't going to link to it initially, because many of his points have already been belabored on this site ad nauseum, but he has done such an amazing job of compiling all the facts into a single, concise essay that I'd encourage everyone to book mark it. We've got to keep on message, because there's a lot of disinformation out there.

I'm still disappointed that it's taken so long to mount a concerted response to this slander. My guess is that the White House thought it preferable not to keep the whole WMD issue front-and-center in the national debate, and therefore elected not to fight back. If so, it was a strategic miscalculation, and much damage has already been done.


And I used to think Duke basketball fans were hardcore.

Loyal 10 Spot readers will recall an item a few months back about a Welsh rugby fan, Geoffrey Huish, who vowed to cut his testicles off if Wales upset England and then followed through. Well, the 31-year-old Huish is out of the psychiatric unit and now telling his story to the Sun. The tale, it seems, has gotten no less strange with the passing of time. Our favorite part: "Geoffrey, who says he has no history of mental illness, insists he was sober when he performed the DIY castration in his bathroom." We shudder to think what Huish is capable of when drunk. The account's most cringe-inducing detail is the fact that the self-castration took 10 minutes ("there was quite a lot of pain -- but I just kept going") because the cutters Huish used were dull. That hurt just to write.

November 15, 2005

Fighting back

I like this ad. It doesn't contain anything really new or surprising to those who have followed the whole story, but the effect of watching the compilation of all these clips back-to-back is damned powerful. My only question is...


Belated or otherwise, I'm glad our side is finally fighting back. I just hope they keep it up. Bloggers are great and all, but we need our political leadership to lead on this issue. Adam over at Sophistpundit has the right idea, I think. Let's hold their feet to the fire.

November 14, 2005

The secret of a great politician

Everyone knows the secret to being a successful politician is ti... ti-MING... TI-ming... timing.

Okay, it's an old Steve Martin joke that was never that funny to begin with, and falls even flatter in written form. But still, he's got a point, and you gotta feel a bit sorry for this guy.

The last time I remember Al Gore making a serious policy statement on global warming, it was up here in New York, and it was about a kajillion degrees below zero, if I remember correctly -- metric. I remember my teeth were chattering on my way to work that day and my family jewels were hiding so far up near my tonsils that I wondered if I'd ever see them again.

Now his latest statement on the topic, in which he opines that global warming is a greater threat than terrorism, appears right on the heels of a horrifying suicide bombing that claimed 57 lives... in Jordan -- a target that isn't easily explicable by the conventional wisdom of either left or right. The death toll would have surely been much higher but for the fact that one of the suicide bombers failed to detonate properly.

That's astonishing, isn't it? Now pause for just a moment to reflect on how close Al Gore came to being our president on 9/11. Honestly, when Bush was running against Gore in 2000, I really didn't give a shit who won at the time. It's a good thing I didn't know then what I know now. If I had, I probably would have required Xanax to survive 32 days of the recount fiasco.

Slow start to the week

It's already lunchtime, and I've only managed to muster one new post since Friday. My weekend was exhausting, and it's taking me some time to get back into the swing of things. There's going to be a lot I have to say this week, but it's going to take me a while to get back up to speed, so please bear with me.

He was wrong

John Edwards, that is. He said so himself in yesterday's New York Times.

I was wrong.

See? Told ya. He's talking about the Iraq war, of course, and how it was a mistake to have voted for it like he did.

Now I happen to think that John Edwards is about as slimy as they come, and no there's no doubt that this was a calculated, self-serving piece, and I (obviously) disagree with much of it.

Still, you have to give him credit for a few things.

  • It's always refreshing to hear a politician admit he was wrong. Most of them usually are.
  • He accepted responsibility for his own vote. He did not (for the most part) try to argue that "Bush lied" about WMD, and that gullible Senate Democrats were duped into going along for the ride.
  • He did not try to re-write history (as did John Kerry, for example) by downplaying his Senate vote and trying to claim (quite implausibly) that he had always been against the war.

Again, I disagree with most of what Edwards says, but I do believe he has hit upon a potentially successful formula for Democrats who have felt trapped on this issue. The American people admire this kind of candor among their leaders, and their capacity for forgiveness is nearly unbounded, given that a politician requests it with the proper mix of forthrightness and contrition.

So why is John Edwards the only Democratic critic who's chosen the "take responsibility" route over historic revisionism? Perhaps because he's unemployed and feels he has less to lose. Perhaps the thought of this kind of public mea culpa is too frightening for seated, Democratic congressmen who will be seeking reelection at the end of their current terms.

November 11, 2005

It's about time...

...that the president say stuff like this instead of leaving it to a bunch of dumbass bloggers like myself.

"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," the president said in his combative Veterans Day speech.

Defending the march to war, Bush said that foreign intelligence services and Democrats and Republicans alike were convinced at the time that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

"Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and mislead the American people about why we went to war," Bush said.

He said those critics have made those allegations although they know that a Senate investigation "found no evidence" of political pressure to change the intelligence community's assessments related to Saddam's weapons program.

He said they also know that the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing Saddam's development and possession of weapons of mass destruction.

"More than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate who had access to the same intelligence voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power," Bush said.

The president, at his nadir in the polls, has realized it's time to fight back, and to come out swinging hard. Keep at it, Mr. President. The stakes here are too important to allow the revisionists to frame the debate.

A sensitive topic

Maybe the most passionately divisive subject in American discourse today is neither abortion nor the war in Iraq. Maybe it's Wal-Mart. Anyway, next week will see the release of two competing DVDs on the subject. You can get some sense of the controversy by reading the reviews for both -- lots of "one stars" and "five stars" for each. Yep, we're a polarized nation.

Honestly, I don't enjoy shopping at Wal-Mart, and I do my best to avoid it whenever possible (although where I come from, it's one of the few places where you can still get an honest-to-God Icee.) But frankly, I don't understand all the ruckus.

To borrow an argument from the abortion debate: You don't like Wal-Mart? Don't shop there. Seems pretty simple.

Dear God in Heaven

Nicole Richie has a "novel."

Help from Israel

Haaretz has an interesting piece about how the Pentagon reached out to the IDF to solicit help in getting a handle on the IED problem in Iraq. The article itself is interesting and well worth a read, but this part pissed me off no end (emphasis mine):

Officially, Centcom (U.S. Central Command) is barred from talking directly to Israel -- it is supposed to do so only through Eucom (European Command) or Washington.

Unbelievable. Have we learned absolutely nothing during the past four years?

This is nice

Here's some nice news from my hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts made a promise while he was a federal appeals court judge that he would judge a law student competition at Wake Forest University. While he has a new job, he's staying true to his word.

Roberts, who was confirmed to the U-S Supreme Court in September, will be one of three people who will judge a mock case involving two Wake Forest law students, who will pretend to be lawyers arguing before a federal appeals court. Two other appeals court judges will join Roberts.

Without making more of this story than it deserves, I'd just like to say that I find Roberts' attitude here refreshing. And yes, it does make me a bit more favorably predisposed to the man on a personal level. Kudos, Judge.

Message to Dover, PA

If there was any doubt that you did the right thing by rejecting an "Intelligent Design" school board, let me dispel those doubts with this.

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.

All eight Dover, Pa., school board members up for re-election were defeated Tuesday after trying to introduce "intelligent design" - the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power - as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."

Uh huh.

Now listen. Whether or not the universe contains complexity of such a nature that cannot be explained via conventionally accepted mechanisms is a valid, scientific inquiry. My belief is that no outside intelligence is necessary to explain the observable universe, but I'm certainly not opposed to exploring the question. If we do, in fact, find aspects of reality that can't be explained by our current models of evolution, we need to know about that. Such a discovery could usher in a new and greater scientific understanding of the world we live in, much like the exploration of black body radiation anomalies led to the discovery of quantum mechanics.

But here's the problem. The ID movement has become hijacked, for obvious reasons, by creationists. For every researcher out there asking valid, scientific and philosophical questions, there are umpteen religious conservatives who are simply using the movement as a stalking horse to legitimize their agenda of shoehorning religion into the teaching of science.

The people of Dover rejected that, and bravo for them. Let the legitimate ID researches continue to ask their questions and publish their findings in peer-reviewed research journals. In the meantime, however, let's keep the hucksters and charlatans out of our schools, the way they did in Pennsylvania.

Veterans Day

To all who served, or are serving now (I know some of you read this site, for whatever reason) I'd like to express my heartfelt thanks for all you've done.

November 10, 2005

Jen's corner

By popular demand, CN presents more biting and insightful political punditry from Jennifer Aniston.

So how about those elections? (Democrats won some stuff, right?) Maybe now we can eliminate racism and inequality so we can be more like France.

And then there's the war in that country that didn't even have BMWs. Nice job, Mr. President... NOT!!

In the ruins of her ice water mansions

...when the waves...and the seasons...bring out their... dead... wait, how does that thing go? This isn't really a propos of anything, but today is the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

I know you've got to see Lake Superior in person to fully understand, but I've always been fascinated that a ship that freakin HUGE could sink... in a lake.

Oh well. Some of the underwater pictures of the wreckage give me the creeps. Like this one.

November 09, 2005

A cool (but probably boring) book

It's amazing the stuff you can find on Amazon sometimes. Should I add this one to my Christmas wish list, or wait for the movie?

Is Alito a betrayal of conservatives?

Some lefties are genuinely puzzled as to how conservatives, who turned so ferociously against Miers, can continue to support Alito almost monolithically, given his track record and his recent positive comments regarding Roe v. Wade.

This never fails to amuse me. Liberals are so devoutly outcome-oriented when it comes to matters of jurisprudence that they really don't understand that (principled) conservatives tend to be more process oriented. In judging Alito, thoughtful conservatives will be less concerned with Alito's vote on a particular matter than the legal reasoning he used to get there. This is such an alien concept to the liberal mind that they're honestly mystified.

Zappin' the family jewels

I'm glad to see some long-overdue advances in the field of male contraception.

Men in Serbia are lining up to have electric shocks delivered to their testicles as part of a new contraceptive treatment.

Serbian fertility expert Dr Sava Bojovic, who runs one of the clinics offering the service, said the small electric shock makes men temporarily infertile by stunning their sperm into a state of immobility.

He said: "We attach electrodes to either side of the testicles and send low electricity currents flowing through them.

"This stuns the sperm, effectively putting them to sleep for up to 10 days, which means couples can have sex without fear of getting pregnant.

Meanwhile, in international news...

The French "Department of Bribing Minorities Not to Commit Crimes" is enacting some tough new reforms.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin unveiled a raft of social and economic measures designed to improve conditions in France's tough, low-income neighbourhoods that have spawned unrest raging across the country.
The intiatives are:

  • the creation of an anti-discrimination agency with special officials appointed to be in charge of certain regions, and making the fight against discrimination a national priority;

  • 20,000 job contracts with local government bodies or associations paid a minimum wage would be reserved for those in the suburbs struggling to find work;

  • an extra 100 million euros (120 million dollars) for associations that work in the neighbourhoods;

  • 5,000 more teaching assistant posts in the 1,200 schools in districts designated as troublespots;

  • the creation of 15 more special economic zones that provide tax breaks to companies that set up inside them as an incentive to boost local employment.

Vive le surrender....

In national news...

...Democrats last night seized control of the White House and both houses of Congress, appointed nine new justices to the Supreme Court and ratified a new Constitutional amendment outlawing Republicanism forever.

Or at least that's what you'd think from reading the media coverage. Actually, I thought it looked like a status quo election to me. "Night of the Democrats" was really more like "Night of the Incumbent Party."

As I've said before, I think the Republicans will need to suffer a significant electoral spanking if they are to be jolted out of their current malaise. Last night, however, wasn't it (although it might have been if there were more significant races at stake.) I guess we'll have to wait until next year for that.

But for now, a few comments: New York voters have finally convinced me that they understand, once and for all, the impossibility of returning to a pre-Giuliani style of "governance." Mark Green was smart enough to understand that, and he almost won. He would have won, in fact, had fate not intervened with 9/11 and Giuliani endorsement of Bloomberg. Ferrer, by contrast, doesn't get it. He would have happily returned to the city to the glory of the Dinkins era, and voters wisely and soundly rejected him.

In New Jersey, Slimeball A defeated Slimeball B. No surprises here. I never bought the story of how Slimeball B "closed the gap" in the election's final days. That's pretty much status quo here too, although it did serve the useful function of removing Slimeball A from the U.S. Senate. (Note to the New Jersey GOP: Can we please get another candidate to represent Republican interests in New Jersey besides Slimeball B? Please?)

Virginia was the GOP's biggest disappointment last night, not because it represented a turnover, but because the Republican candidate frittered away a substantial lead and suffered defeat in a solidly red state. Given the strong Republican victories in the lieutenant governor and attorney general races, I'd say the gubernatorial race was probably more attributable to Mark Warner's personal popularity than to any intrinsic GOP weakness in the Commonwealth, however.

November 08, 2005

Election results

In a crushing defeat for the GOP, Democrats have managed to win hang on to... two governorships that they already had... or something.

Anyway, doesn't matter. The important thing is that it's a devastating loss for the Republicans and a huge, stunning victory for the Democratic Party, which will ride this wave of momentum to its permanent status as America's majority party. It's like a... juggernaut, or... uh... a tsunami... or something.


...if you feel like it.

The truth is, if you haven't voted yet and you don't intend to and you need some dumbass blog to "remind" you to exercise your franchise, then you're probably better off just staying home.

Seriously. A 100% turnout rate is a fine goal, if you have a well-informed populace. But we all know better than that, don't we? Tell me, what virtue is there in urging people to vote who lack the motivation to urge themselves to the polls? What are the chances that these people will cast their ballot in a thoughtful and informed fashion?

That's what pisses me off about these periodic "Rock the Vote" or "Vote or Die" campaigns. It's not exactly like MTV or Madonna or P. Diddy are actually spending the four years preceding an election trying to, you know, inform young people about current events, or urge them to read a goddamn newspaper. No. Instead they spend four years tacitly encouraging America's youth to sit on their collective ass and huff solvents and watch "MTV's Beach House" or "The Grind" or whatever the hell excuse MTV has for not showing actual videos these days. Then, every four years, just like clockwork, they try to convince Beavis and Butt-head that it's imperative for their future to go out and cast a vote in absolute ignorance.

Sorry, but I'm not buying it.

If you want to vote? Great. Go vote. That's what makes democracy work.

But if you're uninformed or (for whatever reason) not inclined to do it? Then please, do us all a favor. Stay home. You have an absolute right as an American to be politically ignorant and apathetic. But with that freedom comes responsibility -- to stay home.

I'm back, you bastards!

Dang, my website was down just now!

I blame the same, sinister cabal that disenfranchised me this morning.

Fight back, people! Don't let them silence the Truth!!

"Crime" me a river, François

Yes, that headline makes no sense, I know. It's an inside joke.

Anyway, the French are whining about (are you ready for this?) negative coverage in the global media.

Damn, that must suck. Wouldn't know what it's like, of course, but it must suck.

What is Ralph Peters smoking?

Or, as a friend of mine might ask, has anyone checked his teeth lately?

I really don't get it. I agree with almost every sentence in Peters' latest column on the French riots, and yet I draw a violently different conclusion than he makes in the last paragraph.

Peters argues that France is the most virulently racist country in all of Western Europe. That's an inflammatory comment, to be sure, and such factors are hard to quantify, but it's also difficult to dispute.

When I moved to Paris in 1991, I had (believe it or not) pretty much bought into all the conventional wisdom about how the French, despite their other shortcomings, were much more "tolerant" and "enlightened" than their American counterparts, especially concerning issues of race and ethnicity.

Boy, was I in for a shock. I was honestly surprised to see such widespread racism and anti-Semitism hidden just beneath the surface of French culture -- and sometimes not hidden at all. The French, for example, like Arabs just fine as long as they're blowing up Jews in the West Bank, but tend to like them much less within the borders of their own country. The top levels of French government, business and academia are shockingly lily-white for a country with such a diverse population.

Even more striking, in my opinion, is the amount of class consciousness in France. America is by no means perfect, and we often fail to live up to our ideals, but one thing that makes this country great is that talented people, with a lot of hard work and a little luck, can achieve great things, no matter who their family is or where they came from. Not so in France. They continue to attach huge importance to one's family name, class and station in life, and children are routinely shut off from opportunities before they're even given a chance.

Ralph Peters is pretty much on the money with all that, and these factors and the hopelessness they instill in the French underclass no doubt play a role in what's going on now. But Peters' final paragraph is just simply astonishing:

Meanwhile, every American who believes in racial equality and human dignity should sympathize with the rioters, not with the effete bigots on the Seine.

I had to read that twice before I convinced myself that it really said what it did. Look, God knows I have my share of problems with the French government, but this is no different from the kind of mindless, blame-the-West leftism that's plagued our struggle against jihad from the very beginning. The French can be pompous, insufferable, effete, and yes, "bigots," but I have to pull for them on this one, as should everyone who thinks Western civilization is worth fighting for. The stakes are just too high to do otherwise.

This is just pathetic

I may be one of the few people who voted Libertarian today, but apparently I'm not alone in thinking that Corzine and Forrester both... well, suck. Far from it, actually. According to the final Marist poll, I've got plenty of company. Here's how the favorable/unfavorable numbers break down for the two candidates.

Corzine: 46/49
Forrester: 44/50

That is pathetic, people. Absolutely, ass-suck pathetic. We need to ask ourselves why we so often end up in this position -- being forced to choose between two candidates whom practically no one likes.

And people have been asking me how I can "throw my vote away" like I did. Well, this is why. The candidates we have been "given" by unelected political parties are crap. But as long as we keep playing their game, it merely encourages them. So long as we keep plodding into the voting booths like blind sheep and pulling the lever for the "lesser of two evils," nothing will ever change. Why should it?

You know, I would love to vote for a candidate who promises to fight the corrupt New Jersey political machine and to drastically reduce this state's exorbitant property taxes. The problem is, I have zero confidence that Forrester will actually do either. The guy's honestly a bit slimy, in my opinion, and he tailors his opinions depending on whom he's speaking to. I find it frankly unacceptable that the New Jersey Republican Party can't field a better candidate than this perennial annoyance.

Corzine, of course, is out of the question. He's the worst of all possible worlds for me -- an economic liberal who, at the same time, is bought and paid for by corporate interests and corrupt party machinery. Where have all the Paul Wellstones gone? I don't think there are anymore, frankly. Not in the Senate anyway. I often disagreed with Wellstone, of course, but I think he was a man of conviction and principle and not just some pathetic corporate whore.

Anyway, here's another bold prediction, New Jersey:

Your next governor will suck.

Reports of disenfranchisement beginning to surface

...and it's me! I've been disenfranchised! I moved from Hoboken to Weehawken recently, and although my name was on the voter roll, I wasn't in the signature book yet, so I had to vote a provisional ballot.

I was disenfranchised!!! They're stealing the election!! This isn't America anymore! This is a systematic attempt to suppress the middle class white vote in this country!! There is a "whiff of fascism" in the air!! I'm being repressed!! Come see the violence inherent in the system!!! Diebold, Diebold!!!!

Bold election predictions

Early exit polls seem to indicate... ha ha, just kidding. I'm sure it's only a matter of time, though.

I boldly predict Michael Bloomberg will eke out a reelection victory. I further boldly predict that any Democratic victory (but especially Kaine in Virginia) will be loudly trumpeted as a harbinger of a resurgent Democratic party, heralding a "turning of the tides" after years of Republican hegemony. Kos has probably already written the post, and is just itching to press the "submit" button.

Election day

So I did my civic duty today, and voted in New Jersey. I voted for Jeff Pawlowski for governor. Maybe he'll win, ha ha ha.

New Jersey governors are like miniature potentates, so I also voted "yes" on an initiative to create the office of lieutenant governor. I figure it can't hurt to have at least one state official who's elected by the people instead of appointed by the governor.

November 07, 2005

My hero

Heh. Jon Corzine supposedly "lives" in Hoboken. Problem is, Hoboken's a small town, and I've spent all day every day there for the past three years, and I've never once seen the fucker. My guess is he spends most of his time schmoozing with lobbyists in our nation's capital.

But there's nothing like a looming election to flush the politicians out of their hidey holes, right? Tonight, a friend of mine whom I'll call "Dave" actually met Corzine, lonely and alone on Election Eve, shaking hands with commuters in front of the PATH station.

"Can I shake your hand?" Corzine asked, palm extended.

"No thanks, I think I'll pass," Dave replied.

Dave is my new hero.

A modest proposal

I think I might have a solution for the current "unrest" in France.

What we need is a "Road Map" for peace. Then we need a whole series of U.N. resolutions condemning France as a "racist" country guilty of heinous and systematic war crimes.

Then, of course, we need France to withdraw from the "occupied territories" and give the oppressed population its own state. This wouldn't even set a precedent, since the French have already come to terms with having Monaco inside its borders.

Spinning the Parisian intifada

Some liberal acquaintances of mine want to know why the "right wing" has such an interest in "hyping" and "inflating" the Paris riots story. This question is exactly backwards. The question should be, "why is the Western left downplaying the riots, which are already beginning to spread outside the borders of France?"

Here's the short answer: Unable to construct a credible narrative in which Muslims and the French are both blameless, the only alternative is to deny what's currently happening.

For obvious reasons, the left doesn't want to admit that the French uprising has anything at all to do with the greater, global culture war between the West and the Islamist/Arab nationalist axis. There's no way to blame it on Bush, and France has done everything "right" up until this point. Even though the connection is difficult to deny, with the rioters using the language of intifada and jihad (e.g., "occupied territories," "Allah Akbar!"), deny it they must.

But stripped of any trappings of religious or cultural war, the narrative devolves into a simple story of social injustice on a massive scale. If there is a large French underclass of such hopeless desperation that they're willing to burn down the city, then the cherished notion of France as an enlightened, egalitarian paradise gets flushed down the bidet.

So there is no viable alternative -- the Western left must minimize the story. The problem is, they're setting themselves up for one hell of a climbdown, because it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Unfortunately, the only thing surprising about the current crisis is that it took so long to ignite. I fully expected the recent headscarf ban to trigger a conflagration, for example. (For more on why the current spate of violence should come as no surprise, take a look at Theodore Dalrymple's City Journal article from 2002.)

For those who don't already know, I lived in Paris for almost three years during the early 90s. Unlike their American "counterparts," who are confined in the inner cities, the Parisian underclass is relegated to the outlying suburbs. I often viewed these troubled neighborhoods from a commuter train, and they were depressing, bleak and terrifying even back then. They were characterized by huge, soulless, high-rise "project" housing, grim and austere as a Stalinist nightmare. By comparison, The Bronx's Co-op City might as well be Malibu.

In short, they were scary places, and it seems they've only gotten worse in the meantime. I'm sure there's a large and growing number of French people (and other Europeans) who are positively terrified these days.

Now I'm going to make another not-so-bold prediction, and once again, I'd like to be wrong. But I'm going to predict a resurgence of the French far right. Remember that in the first presidential election after 9/11, the extreme right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen earned a place in the election run-off, and that was without the impetus of the internal turmoil we're seeing now.

As I said, I hope I'm wrong. We'll see.

Bush's latest disaster

A tax code overhaul was going to be one of the more ambitious elements in Bush's second term domestic agenda. It sounded like a great idea for me, and long overdue, even though I knew that any significant restructuring was going to be an uphill battle. Nevertheless, if Bush's proposal looks anything like what his advisory panel recommended, I'd much prefer that he drop the whole thing.

Ideally, overhauling the tax code would result in massive simplification. That's kind of the point, see? In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing the income tax replaced altogether, by something like this, for example.*

No such luck. Bush's commission's proposed plan (astonishingly) leaves the existing nightmarish tax code largely intact. There are a few (very minor) rate reductions, added almost as an afterthought. The bulk of the committee's effort was clearly aimed at the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).

The AMT is as insidious beast, and I'm all for getting rid of it. But the cost of doing so, according to this plan, comes at the expense of some very politically important deductions -- namely, mortgage interest and local taxes. In other words, the committee recommends eviscerating some of our most cherished tax deductions in order to stave off a threat that most people probably don't even know exists. Politically, this is very, very stupid.

What's worse, we'd end up with a tax code that is no simpler and no more manageable than the existing mess. Now I know there are legitimate arguments for eliminating most, if not all, income tax deductions, including mortgage interest. But the only way such a move can be made palatable is if it leads to a massively simplified tax code -- a completely flat tax, for example.

I think what Bush should do is simply ignore the commission's report and start over from scratch, with his own economic advisors, although that's something he's probably unwilling to do. Shy of that, he should simply and quietly shit-can the whole idea. The worst-case scenario would be to try to kick this political dog home, knowing it's a dog, simply so that he can chalk it up as a legislative victory, shades of Bush's disastrous Medicare bill. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

*The only compelling argument I've heard against scrapping the income tax altogether in favor of a consumption tax is that Congress would later resurrect the income tax, making us worse off than before. That's a legitimate fear, but if we allow ourselvs to be paralyzed into inaction by such a fear, it makes any meaningful reform essentially impossible.

Not a bad idea

Dan Savage (yes, the gay sex columnist) is proposing a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to privacy.

Why not? We seem altogether unable to arrive at a national consensus on the whole constitutional right to privacy thing, and this single, unsettled question lies at the heart of the perennial battles that have attended every significant judicial appointment in recent years.

Wouldn't it be best just to go ahead and clarify it, once and for all? Put it in there explicitly, and there will be no room for argument. I honestly believe that if such a proposal were carefully drafted, it would be almost impossible to oppose by enough people to prevent its ratification.

The Constitution hasn't been amended in, what, more than 30 years? We're probably due. And an amendment that actually recaptures the tradition of guaranteeing individual rights would be refreshingly welcome.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

November 04, 2005

A question about the Paris riots

Is it safe to conclude that a national policy of playing kiss-ass with Islamist fanatics and militant Arab nationalists has proven ineffective at engendering goodwill among the Arab/Muslim population?

Kelo chickens continue to roost

Remember the New York Times' horrifically lame editorial defending the Kelo v. City of New London travesty? I don't want to pay for access to the archives, but the gist of it was this: unable to defend such an abomination on its merits, yet still unwilling to party company with the Court's liberal wing, the Times essentially urged us not to worry, things won't actually change much in practice.

Well it's becoming more and more clear they were wrong. Fortunately, however, help may be on the way.

This just in!!!!

Breaking news from the AP:

Wilma Damage Leaves Floridians Homeless

Boy, is this news media on top of things, or what?

Well, it's a start

Thanks to Jack Schaffer, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof's was finally forced to issue a correction, of sorts, to his infamous May 6, 2003 column which laid out the whole Joe Wilson/Niger/uranium narrative as we know it today.

As others and myself have tirelessly pointed out, the narrative as presented by Kristof is fraught with error. Now Kristof himself has had to (grudgingly) admit as much... if you know where and how to find his correction. The whole process resembled oral surgery, and Kristof and/or the Times seems to be going out of their way to avoid having anyone actually, you know, see the correction, half-assed and grudging as it is. Fortunately, Mickey Kaus and Tom Maguire are on the case.

Progress. Baby steps.

November 03, 2005

Beirut on the Seine

Sky News has some amazing pictures.

More Plamegate goodies from the WSJ

Honestly, if the CIA didn't make any more of an effort than this to protect Plame's "cover," isn't their manufactured outrage more than a bit disingenuous? (emphasis mine)

First: The CIA sent her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger on a sensitive mission regarding WMD. He was to determine whether Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake, an essential ingredient for nonconventional weapons. However, it was Ms. Plame, not Mr. Wilson, who was the WMD expert. Moreover, Mr. Wilson had no intelligence background, was never a senior person in Niger when he was in the State Department, and was opposed to the administration's Iraq policy. The assignment was given, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, at Ms. Plame's suggestion.

Second: Mr. Wilson was not required to sign a confidentiality agreement, a mandatory act for the rest of us who either carry out any similar CIA assignment or who represent CIA clients.

Third: When he returned from Niger, Mr. Wilson was not required to write a report, but rather merely to provide an oral briefing. That information was not sent to the White House. If this mission to Niger were so important, wouldn't a competent intelligence agency want a thoughtful written assessment from the "missionary," if for no other reason than to establish a record to refute any subsequent misrepresentation of that assessment? Because it was the vice president who initially inquired about Niger and the yellowcake (although he had nothing to do with Mr. Wilson being sent), it is curious that neither his office nor the president's were privy to the fruits of Mr. Wilson's oral report.

Fourth: Although Mr. Wilson did not have to write even one word for the agency that sent him on the mission at taxpayer's expense, over a year later he was permitted to tell all about this sensitive assignment in the New York Times. For the rest of us, writing about such an assignment would mean we'd have to bring our proposed op-ed before the CIA's Prepublication Review Board and spend countless hours arguing over every word to be published. Congressional oversight committees should want to know who at the CIA permitted the publication of the article, which, it has been reported, did not jibe with the thrust of Mr. Wilson's oral briefing. For starters, if the piece had been properly vetted at the CIA, someone should have known that the agency never briefed the vice president on the trip, as claimed by Mr. Wilson in his op-ed.

Fifth: More important than the inaccuracies is the fact that, if the CIA truly, truly, truly had wanted Ms. Plame's identity to be secret, it never would have permitted her spouse to write the op-ed. Did no one at Langley think that her identity could be compromised if her spouse wrote a piece discussing a foreign mission about a volatile political issue that focused on her expertise? The obvious question a sophisticated journalist such as Mr. Novak asked after "Why did the CIA send Wilson?" was "Who is Wilson?" After being told by a still-unnamed administration source that Mr. Wilson's "wife" suggested him for the assignment, Mr. Novak went to Who's Who, which reveals "Valerie Plame" as Mr. Wilson's spouse.

Sixth: CIA incompetence did not end there. When Mr. Novak called the agency to verify Ms. Plame's employment, it not only did so, but failed to go beyond the perfunctory request not to publish. Every experienced Washington journalist knows that when the CIA really does not want something public, there are serious requests from the top, usually the director. Only the press office talked to Mr. Novak.

Seventh: Although high-ranking Justice Department officials are prohibited from political activity, the CIA had no problem permitting its deep cover or classified employee from making political contributions under the name "Wilson, Valerie E.," information publicly available at the FEC.

Smith on Alito...

... that right-wing ideologue:

Alito, back in 1971, also called for an end to discrimination against homosexuals in hiring.

"If these are his views today -- and there is no indication they are not -- it's a hopeful sign that may provide some insight into his philosophy," said David Smith, the policy vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates gay rights.

Libby/Clinton comparisons

The Libby indictment has, of course, invited a lot of comparisons with the charges against Bill Clinton by Ken Starr. Also interesting, and perhaps more pertinent, are the comparisons with Hillary Clinton.

Deborah Orin reminds us that Special Prosecutor Robert Ray, after investigating Travelgate, found that Hillary had made seemingly false statements under oath no fewer than eight times. Coincidentally, that's the same number of conflicting statements Fitzgerald attributes to Libby.

In the end, Ray decided not to prosecute because, in part, no underlying crime was committed -- the White House had the right to fire the travel office staffers if they wished.


The "Bush lied!" lie

The Wall Street Journal has a welcome editorial today addressing the disturbing "Bush lied us into war" revisionism that's become so ubiquitous these days. Some salient points:

  • In July 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan 500-page report that found numerous failures of intelligence gathering and analysis. As for the Bush Administration's role, "The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," (our emphasis).
  • The Butler Report, published by the British in July 2004, similarly found no evidence of "deliberate distortion," although it too found much to criticize in the quality of prewar intelligence.
  • The March 2005 Robb-Silberman report on WMD intelligence was equally categorical, finding "no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. . . .analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments. We conclude that it was the paucity of intelligence and poor analytical tradecraft, rather than political pressure, that produced the inaccurate pre-war intelligence assessments."
Still, Harry Reid and his Democrats are determined to hold even more hearings, although one wonders why, since Harry Reid seems to already have drawn his conclusions:
"The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions," Reid said.
Libby's indictment "proves" nothing of the sort, of course, and the fact that Reid's assertions about pre-war intelligence are totally at odds with the facts troubles him not at all. It should trouble the rest of us, though. How can he get away with spouting that kind of crap?

This topic is too important to allow them to get away with rewriting history. Back to the WSJ piece:

In short, everyone who has looked into the question of whether the Bush Administration lied about intelligence, distorted intelligence, or pressured intelligence agencies to produce assessments that would support a supposedly pre-baked decision to invade Iraq has come up with the same answer: No, no, no and no.

Everyone, that is, except Joseph Wilson IV. He first became the Democrats' darling in July 2003, when he published an op-ed claiming he'd debunked Mr. Bush's "16 words" on Iraqi attempts to purchase African yellowcake and that the Administration had distorted the evidence about Saddam's weapons programs to fit its agenda. This Wilson tale fit the "lied us into war" narrative so well that he was adopted by the John Kerry presidential campaign.

Only to be dropped faster than a Paris Hilton boyfriend after the Senate Intelligence and Butler reports were published. Those reports clearly showed that, while Saddam had probably not purchased yellowcake from Niger, the dictator had almost certainly tried--and that Mr. Wilson's own briefing of the CIA after his mission supported that conclusion. Mr. Wilson somehow omitted that fact from his public accounts at the time.

He also omitted to explain why the CIA had sent him to Niger: His wife, who worked at the CIA, had suggested his name for the trip, a fact Mr. Wilson also denied, but which has also since been proven. In other words, the only real support there has ever been for the "Bush lied" storyline came from a man who is himself a demonstrable liar. If we were Nick Kristof and the other writers who reported Mr. Wilson's facts as gospel, we'd be apologizing to our readers.

Given the extent to which this "Bush lied!" meme has taken hold, I think we need to have the hearings that Reid wants. We need to have them loudly and publicly. A lot of people besides president Bush are going to have some explaining to do.

Mr. Wilson has once again become the Democrats' favorite mascot because they want him as a prop for their "lied us into war" revival campaign. They must think the media are stupid, because so many Democrats are themselves on the record in the pre-Iraq War period as declaring that Saddam had WMD. Here is Al Gore from September 23, 2002, amid the Congressional debate over going to war: "We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."

Or Hillary Rodham Clinton, from October 10, 2002: "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. . . ."

Or Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who is now leading the "Bush lied" brigades (from October 10, 2002): "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. . . .We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction." If Mr. Bush is a liar, what does the use of the phrase "unmistakable evidence" make Mr. Rockefeller? A fool?

The scandal here isn't what happened before the war. The scandal is that the same Democrats who saw the same intelligence that Mr. Bush saw, who drew the same conclusions, and who voted to go to war are now using the difficulties we've encountered in that conflict as an excuse to rewrite history. Are Republicans really going to let them get away with it?

Let's hope not.

Alito's record

Drudge has two links up that really underscore the difficulty the Left will have branding Alito as a right-wing extremist, not that they won't try.

The first contains a lot of information I've discussed previously, but observes that Alito has ruled on the "pro-choice" side in three out of four abortion-related cases. Now I really don't like the idea of viewing judicial opinions through such a narrow prism, but the point is that Planned Parenthood, NOW, NARAL and the other usual suspects are going to have a tough row to hoe in getting their fear-mongering tactics to gain traction here.

The other piece highlights some of Alito's very early writing, in which he came down on the "liberal" side of several hot-button issues, including gay rights, privacy, and sodomy laws.

I know it would be a mistake to read too much into these two articles. Nevertheless, if I'd predicted a month ago that Bush would appoint a nominee with this kind of track record, people would have told me I was delusional.

My honest advice? All the liberals who are wringing their hands over this guy need to count their blessings, ask their senators to confirm the guy, and shut up.

I know this is old news...

...but just in case you haven't seen the highly selective editing the New York Times performed on a letter from a dead soldier in Iraq, you really should check it out. Shameless. I guess all that patriotic talk about supporting the war just wasn't "fit to print."

November 02, 2005

Trick question!!

And I was sure I had the answer to it. Ah well. It was interesting. I was wondering how that whole switcheroo thing with Roberts actually worked.

Rocky Mountain High?

Sorry for the title, I just couldn't resist.

Anyway, it looks like voters in Denver Colorado have voted to essentially legalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana.

Sounds like progress to me. Let's see if the feds actually let 'em get away with it.

Handicapping Alito

I've certainly been wrong before, but from where I sit, it appears you might as well go ahead and swear the guy in already. As I argued yesterday, it will be all but impossible for Democrats to credibly spin Alito as some pro-life zealot -- or any kind of a zealot, for that matter, and his credentials and his resume are, of course, impeccable. Barring any unforeseen revelations, Democrats will have to search long and hard for a legitimate reason to oppose him.

The hard-core senators from True Blue states will figure out a way, of course, legitimate or not, but it's hard to imagine they could actually block the nomination. Check my math on this, but nineteen of the Democrats who voted to confirm John Roberts will have to switch their votes to oppose Alito even to sustain a filibuster. Frankly, I don't see where those nineteen votes would come from. That's all the Democrats but three. Honestly, I don't see it happening. For what it's worth, TradeSports seems to agree.

Well that was interesting...

I wonder if Harry Reid and his boys had fun in their Double Super Secret Spy Club yesterday? I wonder whether girls were allowed in the treehouse? Did Barbara Boxer get a decoder ring too?

Alas, we'll never have the answers, because this was a secret session, and Congress takes classified information very, very seriously! So there will be no leaks whatsoever. None. I'm pretty sure about that.

November 01, 2005

Rule 21

All right, I leave my desk job to go pound a few brews in the bar, and when I come back Drudge is sirening:

Yes, that's it, thank you.

Harry Reid has invoked "Rule 21," and the U.S. Senate is now closed, for the first time in... well, I don't remember this ever happening.

So what is the purported reason?

Yeah, this is the way to win friends and influence people. My God, does any current political leader have worse political instincts than Harry Reid?

It's not often...

...that I agree with the editorial views of the Village Voice. But when they get one right, they get it right. I wholeheartedly agree with their endorsement of Cindy Sheehan for president. Now where can I send money to ensure that this actually happens?

Ferrer's other ad

This one is considerably more tasteful than the one I wrote about this morning... if equally mystifying.

Fifth night of "unrest" in Paris

...and they're still calling it "unrest". Why not just call it "intifada?"

Alito rant of the day

One of the Kossacks is a bit, er, "upset" about the Alito nomination in general, and in particular about the "Italian-American" angle (emphasis in the original):

...I will be God Damn Fucking Dead And In a Hole In The Fucking Ground before I let you claim "Italian American" OR Roman Catholic as a fucking code phrase for batshit conservative reactionaries whose dismissal of womens' rights, civil rights, worker rights, and pretty much everything else that has made America great make it clear they think all those things are akin to something they would normally scrape off their shoes.

There's nothing fucking "Italian American" about being an ultra-far-right conservative jackass. You will not drag my heritage into this like you shoved Alito's well-groomed hand up Rosa Parks' corpse, or I will bury you, you loathsome little egg-humping fucker.

O-kaaaayyyy. (backing slowly away...)

(Hat tip: lgf)

Spinning Alito

Much media attention has been given to Sam Alito's "pro-life" ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which he upheld Pennsylvania's spousal notification law for abortions.

The media has given much less attention (and in some cases none at all) to Alito's "pro-choice" rulings: overturning New Jersey's partial birth abortion ban and upholding Medicaid funding for abortions in certain instances.

This skewed media coverage may not be altogether fair, but it's not unexpected. After all, alarmism sells. More disturbing to me is the media's attempts to infer from these decisions some indication of Alito's personal views on abortion.

The problem is that a Supreme Court Justice's job is not to issue rulings based on his personal beliefs, but to determine whether an existing law is compatible with the Constitution and established precedent. There is too much misunderstanding already about the proper role of the Supreme Court without the media contributing to it.

Alito's "mixed" record on abortion seems to indicate that he understands that his job is not to be a "pro-life" judge or a "pro-choice" judge, but to consider each law based on its legal merits, period. It would, for example, be a mistake to infer from the Casey ruling that Alito personally supports spousal notification. Rather, he merely issued his opinion that the requirement, with its numerous exceptions and exemptions, did not constitute an "undue burden" on the patient. It's also worth noting that Alito cited the opinions of Sandra Day O'Connor in arriving at his inclusion -- the very same Justice O'Connor whom liberals are now insisting be a role model for the next justice.

In short, the abortion rights absolutists who will try to portray Alito (who was confirmed to the Court of Appeals by a unanimous Senate) as some rigid, pro-life ideologue will only reveal themselves to be fundamentalist fanatics and nutcases.

More significant to me is Alito's decision in United States v. Rybar, a dissent that's sure to generate controversy in weeks to come. In this case, Alito demonstrated that he refuses to regard the Commerce Clause as a license for the federal government simply to regulate whatever it likes. For me, this was a bare minimum of what I was willing to accept from a Supreme Court Justice. It's perhaps unkind to say, but I was unconvinced that Harriet Miers even knew what the Commerce Clause was, much less that she possessed a philosophical predisposition to oppose its expansive interpretation.

This case is also significant in that it shows Alito is not hostile to individual gun rights. The fact that Rybar was, on its surface, about scary sounding "machine guns" might have been enough to spook a lesser judge into tossing federalism out the window. Not so Judge Alito.

I'm sure we'll learn much more during the weeks ahead, but so far? The more I read, the more I like.

What do you do when you're down by 30 points?

If you're Freddy Ferrer, you release an ad that portrays your opponent giving a handjob to the president.

Bloomberg wears a suit. Bush sports a cowboy hat, a plaid shirt and a holster with a gun. They are bobbing up and down.

Then Bloomberg's right hand, which holds a wad of cash, moves up and down in a rhythmic motion below Bush's belt, as a grin crosses the president's face, and his arms and legs quiver momentarily.

Bloomberg then gives the money to the president -- and Bush's pistol goes off in celebration.

The Bloomberg campaign cried foul, charging the commercial clearly shows the mayor performing a sex act on Bush.

Oh, hurray!

It's a watered down Security Council resolution comdemning Syria. I guess Bashar Assad is crapping his drawers right about now.